Richard Dawkins is hosting a series in the UK: The Enemies of Reason. He targets alternative medicine, mysticism, and psuedosciences. Here’s a review of the new show.

Alternative Medicine is modern snake oil. There is no critical review, no double blind experiments, and no evidence for their effectiveness. The entire concept of alternative medicine takes advantage of people’s ignorance of biology, wishful thinking, and irrational distrust of a mythological beast called “Big Pharma.”

Worse, this general ignorance lowers the public’s trust and understanding of science and engineering.


Prof Richard Dawkins caused a furore with a stinging attack on religion. Now the evolutionary biologist has turned his wrath on “new age” alternative therapies, describing them as based on “irrational superstition”.

Prof Dawkins says that alternative remedies constitute little more than a “money-spinning, multi-million pound industry that impoverishes our culture and throws up new age gurus who exhort us to run away from reality”.

Penn and Teller did a few episodes of Bullshit on alternative medicine. Alternative Medicine, in short, is filled with internal contradictions and the complete absense of evidence. Magnet therapy, reflexology, detoxifying are all nonsense. And of course, they will flush “toxins” from your system. They do not describe what these toxins are or how their alternative medicine flushes them out.

My favorite is homeopathy, in part because it is so absurd yet is the largest branch of alternative medicine.

The general idea of homeopathy seems to come from the idea of vaccines but twisted by metaphysical nonsense. Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to specific alien bacterial DNA so the immune system will build antibodies in advance to eliminate the disease. Homeopathy does nothing of the sort.

Homeopathy is based on the idea that like heals like. It finds a herbal remedy that mimics the sympotoms of your disease, which will somehow instruct the body how to heal. This small amount is diluted in water. The water, defying all known physics, retains a “memory” of molecules in it. So, according to homeopathy, the more you dilute something in water, the more powerful it becomes. This heals your vital forces and soul and all that. The homeopathy quack doctors charge their victims a large sum of money for this sevice.

So let’s do a little experiment? I will take one millimeter of vodka and drop it into one gallon jug of water. I’ll stir it up and drink it all. Not only will it get me as drunk as a full gallon of vodka, but without the bad side effects too!

I don’t have the time to deal with every bizarre claim by alternative medicine advocates. So here’s a brief list of debunkers:
Skeptic’s Dictionary on Alternative Medicine
Two articles from CSICOPs
Magical Thinking in Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Alternative Medicine and the Laws of Physics

I believe alternative medicine is one of the worst of the psuedosciences. It actively discourages people from taking evidence-based medicine and grossly scams sick and vulnerable individuals.

Most alternative medicine advocates claim it is a “holistic” medicine (meaning spiritual nonsense) and is an ancient cure (usually not). They attack “Big Pharma” for whatever paranoid reasons. Or that doctors are too reductionist to cure anything.

In defense of Big Pharma: it’s why you’re alive today, you asses. Industrialized mass research and production meets the needs of billions of individuals, and it does so through rigorous self-criticism and testing of evidence.

I’ve developed a simple heuristic that tests for bullshit: the word “holistic”

If they say holistic, they are full of bullshit.

Oh and for the record, Dawkins’ new Atheist T-Shirts are the most retarded things I have ever seen.