Why cling to such a silly belief in the face of death?

If you are reading this anywhere other than on the conundrum, then this post is stolen.

I just saw a story on the news about a baby who had died from eczema.  Her father is a homeopath and was treating her as a patient.

Now I don’t know all the details here, only what’s been reported in the media.  I have read enough articles, read enough books, heard enough doctors and scientists speak about homeopathy, to convince me that it does not work.

What I don’t understand is, even if you did believe in homeopathy enough to become a homeopath.  Even if you ignored all evidence  contrary your belief in it’s benefits, how can you ignore the fact that your baby girl is dying before your very eyes?  Even if you still clung to the belief that homeopathy works, wouldn’t  you still try anything to save her?  Wouldn’t you take her to a hospital?

If anyone can explain such bizarre  behaviour, I’ll be interested to hear.

Some further reading:

http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.html
http://www.weirdsciencecolumn.com/site_weirdsciencecolumn/weirdscience-HOMEOPATHY093004.htm
http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/108/

I can provide further references if anyone is interested.

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5 thoughts on “Why cling to such a silly belief in the face of death?

  1. Are you implying that human being are (or should be) rational beings?

    Have a look at this: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/04/the_feeling_and_1.html

    Schneier is a security expert, and he writes as one. But what he says can be carried across to other areas of human experience: We may pretend to be rational, but more often than not we assess risks in an emotional rather than a rational way (the odds of winning Tattslotto are something like 8 or 9 million to one, but still people play: More people die from car accidents than from plane accidents, yet people don’t bat an eyelid while getting into the car and get very nervous when flying: We are terrified of sharks and yet more people die of the flu than of shark attacks: etc.).

    And when you add belief to the equation . . . let’s just say that things can quickly get out of whack. Belief is, after all, a conviction that some thing is one way, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

  2. I regularly do graphic work for a local homeopathic massage centre, so I get to read all the guff they fill their brochures with. There are naturopaths, ‘Bowen Therapists’ Remedial Masseurs and Homeopaths. The funny thing is they all put their credentials after their names such as Dip Rem Mass, or NLP Prac. Cert Feng Shui. They take it seriously. Like Carlos said very succinctly above, these people BELIEVE in what they’re doing. Proof, facts and repeatable scientific experiments just don’t come into the equation.

    Gods, angels, aliens (and homeopathy) exist in some peoples minds so solidly, so factually that nothing will shake them out. Never underestimate the power of belief.

    But remember not to get to riled about it all Crystal. It takes all kinds to make a world, and let those that aren’t a little crazy in their own way cast the first stone.

  3. Thanks guys, both of you provided some great food for thought. Exactly the kind of interesting, thought provoking comments I was looking for.
    Carlos, thanks for the link. I have skimmed it, and will read it properly when I’m feeling more alert (It’s late, and I need sleep). I’ve been reading stuff along similar lines in a book called ‘Irrationality’ by Stuart Sutherland.

    Pete, I’m not riled. I think ‘incredulous’ is probably a better word. I don’t think anyone can be completely rational. Some just come down more heavily on one side of the scale than others.
    I guess it’s hard to understand why people would cling to a belief so strongly in the face of such damning evidence.
    There are some people who don’t want to listen to reason, they have no interest in looking at evidence and are perfectly content to believe in magic and make-believe. (I have encountered such people who have called me closed-minded. I would call someone who doesn’t consider – even rejects – all the evidence, closed-minded.) That’s all fine with me, as long as they don’t harm anyone because of it.

    I think it’s healthy that we have discussions like this. I find it interesting, and I learn stuff. I hope other people do too.

    Any additional comments are more than welcome.

  4. Ah yes, the old “You are too close-minded” argument. It’s what The Believers throw at you when they have no evidence to back up their arguments.

    How’s this:I am willing to accept anything is true – god, angels, astrology and so on – as long as you can show me repeatable proof.

    Look at the world around us, and the ever-growing amount of things that are discovered every year that we would never have thought possible; extra-solar planets, invisibility cloak, cloned animals, the Flores ‘Hobbits’, the iPhone 🙂 It’s all amazing and enriching, and it’s REAL. All these things are proven by reams of solid scientific repeatable evidence.

    Tell this to the people that just have ‘faith’ in their particular thing and they’ll point you to their own little library of ‘proof’ – the books, pamphlets and videos that support their beliefs, that are nothing more than self-fulfilling propaganda written by people just like themselves, people who’s need to believe, and protect their stance, is stronger than their ability to question.

    Question everything, believe nothing and draw your own conclusions.

  5. Pete, I couldn’t agree with you more. There’s enough in the world to be amazed about without making stuff up.

    That last line sounds like a perfect motto to me. Perhaps someone should design a logo. 🙂

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