Help! Help! I’m being repressed

(This is another archival repost of something written on the old blog a few years ago.)

I’ve been catching up with about a month of blogosphere this weekend, after travelling, and other distractions. I managed to catch a discarded copy of G2 with Ben Goldacre’s homeopathy article, so I was prepared for the torrent of boilerplate defences of homeopathy which came down the RSS feeds. The replies, I correctly predicted, would mostly consist of repeating the original claims, a little louder and more desperately than before, and pretending that Goldacre had not already refuted them. I therefore had no intention of participating in the cleanup, which has been provided by several other bloggers. But having caught up with these responses and counter-responses, I find there is one additional piece of advice that I think some of the apologists for homeopathy would benefit from. In a liberal newspaper like The Guardian, comparing your situation to homophobia makes you look like an whinging arse with an oppression complex, and will not do you any favours.

Homophobia, in case you wondered, is the idea that expressions of love between particular individuals is sufficient reason to exclude them from politics, exployment, and other parts of society, attack them in the streets, and kick them in the face until they die. Imposed by states, it ranges from exclusion from state provided services, through the murder of teenagers, to genocide. Inherited from confused herdsmen of 3000 years ago, it is coupled with delusional ideas of eternal life to threaten, blackmail, and drive teenagers into academic failure, depression, homelessness and suicide. It is ordered, systemic and systematic discrimination which infects even the most enlightened of nations.

Now, dear homeopaths. It has been pointed out that impartial tests consistently fail to indicate any efficacy for your woo. It has been explained that anecdotal evidence of recovery is not evidence of efficacy. It has been explained that merely creating a hypothesis is not the same thing as “doing science”. It has been pointed out that to claim a Kuhnian revolution, one requires extraordinary evidence. You have been told that if you wish to participate in a life-and-death profession you must conform to some basic professional standards. This is criticism. It is debate. It is a request for the justification that your profession requires (and medical practices require a lot more justification than, say, sexual preference). These are pretty standard things, which we apply equally to everyone in science, medicine, and quite a few other disciplines and professions. Most of us take account of criticism, participate in debate, and meet professional standards. We understand that criticism of our ideas or examinations of our competence are not meant as personal insults, discrimination or oppression.

You are not being discriminated against. You are not being oppressed. You are not being attacked with baseball bats or hanged by a mob with the blessing of the judiciary. Not even metaphorically. Comparing yourselves to people who are, for the sake of a cheap pun, is at best lame and its worst insulting.

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