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Paradigms, Magickal Reality, Forum Farces (U)

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on February 10, 2010 | Comments (5)

Recently, a group of self-styled skeptics (that is, they’re actually debunkers) in New Zealand needed to do something to get some attention so they made a very public display of devouring “overdoses” of homeopathic remedies. According to this report, the result of this action “forced the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit openly that their products do not contain any ‘material substances.’ Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that ‘there’s not one molecule of the original substance remaining’ in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.”

For their decisive action and valuable revelation, I give the  NZ Skeptics and others who participated in this silliness my first “Duh!” award.

Homeopathic remedies, as I understand it, are based on two concepts. First, that “like cures like.” If you have a problem, say a cough, a substance that causes a cough can end up ending the cough that you have. And second, you don’t need to overwhelm a problem. The tiniest amount of a remedy can be effective.

Both of these things seem contradictory to what we “know.” But what we “know” isn’t the only possibility, it is simply something we have been brought up to believe. It’s a paradigm, the way we view the world which forms the basis for the theories of science we all know. The thing is, it is just a paradigm and not the only paradigm.

I gave those New Zealanders the “Duh!” award because if you ask any homeopath how much of a “material substance” is in one of their remedies they’d easily say, “So little as to be unmeasurable.” Those debunkers didn’t need a meaningless show to discover that information. But if there is no physical substance in the remedy, how could it work?

And that’s the point. Homeopaths work under a different paradigm than those pseudo-skeptics.* They believe that putting a substance in water effects the water, even after careful multiple dilutions to a point where there may only be one molecule of the supposedly healing substance in a gallon or more of water. It is literally unmeasurable.

So the question is, how could such influenced water work?

One possible answer might be found in the works of Masaru Emoto. Emoto published a book called The Hidden Messages in Water where he shows photos of water crystals and how they’re different when different thoughts are projected at the water just before it is crystallized. A peer reviewed, double-blind study seems to have confirmed these results, although I think the test was too small.

If we can adopt a paradigm, a way of looking at the world where thoughts can influence the structure of water, it’s not a stretch to say that substances—including those of homeopathy—can do the same.

Indian Astrology

This brings us to what may be the oldest, continuously practiced form of astrology in the world, the astrology of ancient India. Known as Jyotish (or inaccurately as Vedic Astrology), it has a complex system of remedies for problems indicated in an astrological chart. One of the types of remedies uses certain precious, semi-precious and similar gems.

Traditionally (and I think this “tradition” may have been started by a gem-selling relative of an astrologer!) you are supposed to use the largest and highest quality gems you can afford. However, common people often use tiny bits of very impure gems. Some people go a step further. They put the gems in a glass of water, and after a time, drink the water. Many people swear by these remedies, even though I doubt if any “material substance” from a chip of diamond can be found in any of the consumed water. Although homeopathy per se is only a bit over 200 years old, it is in harmony with a paradigm that goes back thousands of years.

A Little Goes a Long Way

It is believed by many people that certain herbs can help with keeping men’s prostates healthy and even return them to health. Recently, I heard a commercial claiming that their product has 3,000 times the potency of the typical herb. The assumption here is that if a little is good, a lot is better. This thinking is part of the typical Western paradigm.

But consider this: we need zinc in our diets. If you don’t get enough you can suffer from skin diseases, stomach ailments, hyperactivity, hair loss, loss of sex drive, loss of sensitivity of the senses, and many other symptoms. Everyone needs zinc. But if you get too much you can suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, urine retention, jaundice, seizures, fever and worse. A little is good. A lot is bad. Perhaps, then, a tiny amount of influenced water (homeopathic remedies) can have a positive result while an “overdose” will have no effect at all.

Keeping an open mind to the possibility of other paradigms is part of magickal reality. I believe it is the way a magickian should approach all aspects of life. This does not mean, however, that a magickian should accept everything as true. Rather, I believe that a magickian should be a true skeptic—have an open mind until the evidence is in. As it says in Crowley’s Book of the Law, “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much!”

And success has nothing to do with some showboating debunkers drinking water. It will come from double-blind studies. And that brings me to my next subject.

Farces on the Forums

Internet forums, where people should be able to discuss things, are a great idea. Or at least they should be. Unfortunately, many forums end up having a few bullies take over (often friends of the moderators) and woe be to anyone who dares challenge them!

The topic above was brought to my attention by a friend of mine, Charles, who frequents various forums under different names (in fact, Charles isn’t his name and he wants to keep his anonymity). Recently, he drew my attention to a forum that is supposedly about Paganism and magick where members were gloating over the “fraud” of homeopathy revealed by the debunkers. In my opinion (and my friend who posts there agrees with me), these were decidedly not Pagan or magickal attitudes. He pointed out that they proved nothing and that one of the prime supporters on the forum holding that position had a financial interest in being against homeopathy. One person posted a list of studies that supposedly showed homeopathy didn’t work. Charles told me he read the studies and they either said there wasn’t enough information, stated that homeopathy appears to work in some situations, or were not done well. He pointed this out on the forum. The result was that he was insulted and called names, a moderator sent him an obscene (and illegal) email, and when he continued to stand up to and disagree with the bullies, he was banned and told he should “learn civility.”

We had a good laugh over that.

It would seem that on that particular forum Paganism has been overrun by closed-minded materialists who were unwilling to admit that their paradigm was not the only paradigm. I want to go on the record in saying that although there are closed-minded people out there, such attitudes are not the majority of magickal people and not what Paganism is all about. Unfortunately, you may find such people on internet forums. Look closely; there really aren’t many of them although they are often prolific in their posting.

My paradigms and beliefs are not the only ones. Neither are those of the New Zealand Skeptics, Charles, or the bullies who haunt internet forums and think theirs is the only way.

In a recent talk, I described how Paganism had evolved into many paths and that we can find strength and unity in our diversity. But we can only do so if we agree to acknowledge the paradigms of others as valid and “agree to disagree” rather than insisting, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”

As Rodney King, whose beating became the focus of riots that took place in Los Angeles in 1992 said, “Can’t we all just get along?”

UPDATE: No sooner had I posted this than I found a wonderful article on the case for homeopathy, including concepts debunkers won’t touch (such as homeopathy’s successes with certain epidemics and with animals) and links to studies supporting its effectiveness. I also support the article’s statement that “advocating for or using homeopathic medicines does not preclude appreciation for or use of selective conventional medical treatment.” You can read the entire article here.

* A true skeptic is a person who waits until all information is in before making up his or her mind. A “pseudo-skeptic” claims to be a skeptic, but has actually already made up his or her mind to dispute anything that disagrees with the paradigm by which they live their lives. True skeptics don’t care whether you agree or disagree with them. “Pseudo-skeptics” seem to be highly uncomfortable with anyone who dares to disagree with their paradigm and, like some dogmatic religions, strongly oppose any disagreement.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Gold
on February 11th, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

Recently, a group of self-styled skeptics (that is, they’re actually debunkers) in New Zealand needed to do something to get some attention so they made a very public display of devouring “overdoses” of homeopathic remedies.

It appears to have worked. It’s prompted a rather extensive post from you.

According to this report, the result of this action “forced the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit openly that their products do not contain any ‘material substances.’ Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that ‘there’s not one molecule of the original substance remaining’ in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.”

For their decisive action and valuable revelation, I give the NZ Skeptics and others who participated in this silliness my first “Duh!” award.

You may have applied a ‘Duh’ award but the purpose was to bring the lack of active ingredients to the public’s attention.

Pharmacy Today reports that 65% of Kiwis have used homeopathy. They also report that 94% of those that have used it were unaware that there was no active ingredient left in the remedy.
Ref:http://www.pharmacytoday.co.nz/news-details?objId=16F087C0-1C0C-4DAC-96FE-68CD1BC93D51

Homeopathic remedies, as I understand it, are based on two concepts. First, that “like cures like.” If you have a problem, say a cough, a substance that causes a cough can end up ending the cough that you have. And second, you don’t need to overwhelm a problem. The tiniest amount of a remedy can be effective.

Do you think this could also be applied to aliments that are not susceptible to to the bodies own healing mechanism? Would you take a homeopathic remedy for meningitis or ebola? These do exist.

Your example of the cough is a minor thing that, more than likely, would clear up on its own. That is was homeopathy relies on and claims credit for.

One possible answer might be found in the works of Masaru Emoto. Emoto published a book called The Hidden Messages in Water where he shows photos of water crystals and how they’re different when different thoughts are projected at the water just before it is crystallized. A peer reviewed, double-blind study seems to have confirmed these results, although I think the test was too small.

Contrary to what you have written here, Emoto’s work is largely dismissed by the greater scientific community due to it’s ludicrous claims and inability to be repeated due to him not sharing the methods of the experiments.

He has also refused to accept the Million Dollar Challenge from the JREF.

* A true skeptic is a person who waits until all information is in before making up his or her mind. A “pseudo-skeptic” claims to be a skeptic, but has actually already made up his or her mind to dispute anything that disagrees with the paradigm by which they live their lives. True skeptics don’t care whether you agree or disagree with them. “Pseudo-skeptics” seem to be highly uncomfortable with anyone who dares to disagree with their paradigm and, like some dogmatic religions, strongly oppose any disagreement.

Your definition of a true skeptic is flawed. This is the best description I have found to date.

“A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.” – Dr. Steven Novella of The New England Skeptics and The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast.

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#2 
Written By Kyle
on February 13th, 2010 @ 12:36 am

I agree about online bullies and “non-magical” behavior.

I was in and out of an online forum. I’d post (what to me) were good question on theory or practice of magic, but would get some snarky responses sometimes (not helpful, just snarky). Meanwhile, debates on whether you could use magick to make fireballs and other such non-issues were debated quite openly. (in all fairness, this wasn’t a totally useless forum; there was, and is, some great info on there, but there was a lot of dredge, too).

Fair enough, but then someone started inquiring about “Nazi magick” and went into a whole screed about how Jews brought the Holocaust onto themselves and that Hitler was actually a great guy. Only one person called him out on it, but then the others got mad at the one who confronted the poster, saying he was infringing on his right to free speech (as a side note, I was for moderating any comments that were 1) very off topic, or 2) extremely offensive. Free Speech is a protection against federal or state laws (1st and 14th amendments, respectively). one is under no burden to entertain speech he doesn’t like in his home or on his webpage. that was just my opinion, they chose to disagree, which was fine). When I jumped into the fray stating my objections, I was yelled at since “I shouldn’t get so worked up over the Holocaust anyway.”

Not only did that strike me as ethically wrong, but it made me think, we as magickians are supposed to be on a journey to find our inner selves, G-d, etc., but if we can’t feel empathy for our fellow man, or we shouldn’t get “worked up” over slavery, oppression, genocide, standing up for the weaker wo/man, then what are we on this journey for? making fireballs?

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#3 
Written By Christi Plemons
on February 13th, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

I believe the point of the article was that we all have to understand that as we would like others to respect our individual path… we should do the same. There are hundreds of paths to choose, and each is valid to the one that chooses it. That is what I got from the article.

The point of Peganism is that we want to have the right to choose how we connect with the “Light” or the “Source”. So to have that right… we should give that right to others.

Just a thought…

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#4 
Written By Victor
on February 14th, 2010 @ 3:01 am

Unfortunately most debunkers do not realize that debunking is predicated upon a preconceived notion. If you deliberately set out to debunk something, you are not approaching the subject scientifically. To be a scientist you must test the validity of claims and be willing to accept the outcome, no matter what.

Educated as a mathematician with an interest in physical mathematics, I find that most debunkers have their own agenda to promote. They don’t really give the proverbial tinker’s damn about searching for truth; they’re looking for falsehood.

Skepticism is good. Skepticism demands that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. But the conditions needed for proof must first be agreed upon and those conditions must meet the claims. If I claim that an elixir I have can cure a cough and you demand proof but have no cough, what good will it do you to drink my elixir?

Debunking isn’t skepticism. Skeptics don’t search for falsehood; they seek the truth.

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#5 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on February 14th, 2010 @ 11:27 am

Hello, Gold, and thanks for your comments.

First, as the writer of this blog, I get to see the email addresses of people who post to it, and yours identifies you as being closely involved with the skeptic group that received my “Duh!” award, although you chose not to mention this. I think it’s fair to point this out.

I would like to point out that you have written from the viewpoint of a strict materialist intent on defending that philosophy rather than being open to other possibilities. This is exactly what I have written about some people who define themselves as “skeptics.”

Your comment about homeopathics having no “active ingredients” shows this philosophy. I clearly pointed out that homeopathics have no physical ingredients other than water. Homeopaths acknowledge that, too. It’s why the NZ Skeptics received my award.

What I also pointed out is that homeopathic remedies work on a different paradigm, one that works on energetic qualities, not physical substances.

I would also point out that you seem to be following a pattern that attempts to divide people rather than bring them together. You question whether I’d take a homeopathic remedy for meningitis or ebola, implying that I would take that INSTEAD of allopathic treatments. In direct answer to your question: You bet I would! But I happen to believe not in the idea of “alternative” medicine, but rather, in the idea of “complementary” medicine. I would take naturopathic, allopathic, and any other treatments that as a result of my research indicate that they have effectiveness.

You claim that Dr. Emoto’s work has been “largely dismissed,” but give nothing to support that claim. You point out that he doesn’t want to be involved with the JREF contest (science it put forward by double blind tests under scientific conditions, not in contests, and especially in contests which, as a rule, state that they people holding the contest can record it and do anything with the recording and the person victimized by this can do nothing about it).

I would point out that “my definition” of skeptic is NOT flawed as you falsely claim. It is my definition. On the other hand, the definition you have supplied is one given by a skeptic and intended to make self-defined skeptics (i.e. debunkers) feel good about themselves and does not appear in any long-established dictionary.

Finally, I would point out that the amount of money spent on homeopathics is miniscule when compared to the billions spent every year on ineffective or even deleterious over-the-counter remedies and even prescription drugs. I would respectfully suggest that you’re attacking gnats (with questionable logic) while ignoring the nuclear-tipped missiles that are supported by governments and the mass media.

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