A FAVOURITE science blog of mine is The Science Bit which is written by health psychologist Brian Hughes.
In a recent entry he responded to a campaign poster for Homeopathy Awareness by outlining many of the things about which consumers should be aware regarding the sympathetic magic that is homeopathy. I planned to add my views to the theme in this article but was shocked into a sharp U-turn by an upcoming event advertised on the website of the Irish Society of Homeopaths.
On May 12th in the Clayton Hotel, Galway, Kelly Johnson will hold a training day on Treating Autism and the Cease method. Cease stands for Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression. The event is of interest for a number of reasons. First because autism has received wide exposure following Tony Humphrey’s article in the Examiner on February 3rd and the public outcry that ensued; second, because the Cease method contains some very controversial views on the causes and treatment of autism; and third because the attitudes of many homeopaths to vaccination is often quite hostile.
Most distressingly, homeopaths have provided homeopathic vaccines for a range of conditions from MMR to malaria. What you need to be aware of is that homeopathic vaccines contain nothing but the water or water/alcohol mix they were originally dissolved in. If your child received such a vaccine, s/he would not be immunised.
The Cease method was developed by homeopath Dr Tinus Smits who died in 2010. Smits said “autism is an accumulation of different causes and about 70 per cent is due to vaccines, 25 per cent to toxic medication and other toxic substances and 5 per cent to some diseases”. This view is not shared by modern science and is reminiscent of the Andrew Wakefield debacle in which autism was associated with the MMR vaccine – a claim now thoroughly refuted.
Smits claimed that in the treatment of children and adults “all causative factors (vaccines, regular medication, environmental toxic exposures, effects of illness, etc) are detoxified with the homeopathically prepared, that is diluted and potentised, substances that cause the autism”.
Homeopathically prepared, means taking a small amount of the substance presumed to cause autism – in this case let’s presume some MMR vaccine – and diluting it to truly unbelievable extents. The two presumptions of homeopathy are (1) “like cures like” – so if MMR vaccine caused your autism it will also cure it, but (2) only if administered in minute doses.
A common homeopathic dilution would be termed 30C. This means that a drop of the vaccine would be diluted to one part in one hundred and then a drop of this solution would be diluted to one part in one hundred and so on for thirty repetitions. The resulting final solution would be one part vaccine in 1 followed by 60 zeroes. A dilution of one molecule of vaccine in a volume the size of the entire universe would be 40C. Smits was working with dilutions to 10,000C. These figures are entirely meaningless.
To get such a dilution to have an effect it must be “succussed”, ie shaken vigorously after each dilution, and it “remembers” the original substance that the homeopath had introduced – hence the sympathetic magic.
The Cease website, cease-therapy.com, contains a range of disturbing claims. As well as implicating vaccines as a cause of autism, it is suggested that epilepsy, asthma, eczema, behavioural disorders, developmental disorders and many other "post-vaccination symptoms" are possibly caused by similar factors. The increase in autism in the US is linked to the introduction of MMR and hepatitis B vaccine.
At the end of that particular section it is stated that all autistic children should be detoxified using the homeopathically diluted remedies of the vaccines that have been administered to the child and that autistic children should never again be vaccinated. This is very worrying.
As is often the case with pseudoscience we are presented with technical sounding language, but without substance or scientific rigour. That the Irish Society of Homeopaths is promoting a presentation of this glaringly inaccurate nonsense horrifies, but does not surprise me. Too much of it seems so consistent with the world of homeopathy in general it would be difficult for them to reject.
If you choose to attend, please remember, caveat emptor!
Paul O’Donoghue is a clinical psychologist and founder member of the Irish Skeptics Society. email@example.com.