Evaluating the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's position on the implausible effectiveness of homeopathic treatments

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Abstract

In 2009, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) conducted an ‘evidence check’ on homeopathy to evaluate evidence for its effectiveness. In common with the wider literature critical of homeopathy, the STC report seems to endorse many of the strong claims that are made about its implausibility. In contrast with the critical literature, however, the STC report explicitly does not place any weight on implausibility in its evaluation. I use the contrasting positions of the STC and the wider critical literature to examine the ‘implausibility arguments’ against homeopathy and the place of such arguments within evidence-based medicine (EBM). I argue that the STC report undervalues its strong claims about the mechanistic plausibility of homeopathy because it relies on a misunderstanding about the role of mechanistic evidence within EBM. This is not a conclusion for a revision of the role mechanistic evidence plays within EBM, however. It is a conclusion about the inconsistency of the STC report’s position towards implausibility arguments, given the evidential claims they endorse and the atypical situation that homeopathy presents. It provides a further example of the general point that mechanistic reasoning should not be seen as providing categorically lower quality evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-352
Number of pages18
JournalTheoretical Medicine and Bioethics
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Homeopathy
  • Mechanisms
  • Evidence-based medicine

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