In August, 2015, I contributed an article to the Research page of the Homeopathy Association of Arizona, which was an attempt to inform the attitudes of both practitioners and users of homeopathy about research in homeopathy, where I wrote the following:
“Research is done by humans who have egos and may also have individual and collective economic or political agendas. This includes not only researchers themselves, but also journal editors, peer reviewers and research funders, as well as the media figures who report research results to the public”.
This observation was neither new nor original, however, it is only rarely that we get a roadside glimpse of these kinds of processes in action. Below is a link to an article offering such a glimpse that includes part of an E-mail exchange between a lawyer who defends companies that exposed people to asbestos and a scientist formerly from Harvard University’s School of Public Health who was at the time working for a consulting firm. The E-mails illustrate how the scientist offered to publish a series of three articles in peer-reviewed medical journals “for a 10% discount” supporting a bogus theory that mesothelioma can be caused by tobacco as well as asbestos. The scientist also offered to use the theory as part of expert testimony he would provide in lawsuits against mesothelioma victims.
Aside from the morally repugnant nature of this story, what does it have to do with homeopathy? Well, it is a window into how science– which is supposed to be protected by checks and balances and which many people trust– can be compromised. It is not much of a stretch to consider that if information known to be false can so easily be included in scientific journals, then legitimate research can for similar reasons be excluded. In 1995, Dr. Jennifer Jacobs, a medical doctor and epidemiologist at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, conducted one of the more significant triple-blind studies of individualized homeopathic treatment of acute diarrhea in children. (A triple-blind study means that neither those receiving the treatment nor those receiving placebo knew which group they were in; but in addition, the researchers themselves were “blinded”).
Turns out her research, which showed statistically significant positive results for individualized homeopathic treatment, was actually published in the prestigious medical journal Pediatrics, but not without significant fallout. Here is a link to the abstract of this study:
For Dr. Jacobs’ story as told in her own words, take a listen: