Meryl Dorey and the Magic Water

Meryl's latest absurd scrawlings concern homeopathy, and take as their theme the skeptical dismissal of this modality as "magic water". Meryl, it seems, is somewhat resentful of our stance on homeopathy, and she explains this. She then goes on to spin us a yarn based, apparently, on the experiences of a "friend" whose husband apparently had a miraculous recovery thanks to some sugar pills bathed in almost pure water. A friend-of-a-friend tale in the classic vein.

I have a tale too, Meryl.

When I was a young lad of perhaps ten years old, my parents took me to see the great Paul Daniels at our local theatre. I watched wide-eyed as Daniels proceeded to perform wonders - including, if my memory doesn't fail me, a take on the classic "sawing a woman in half".

I gazed on as Paul Daniels cut Debbie McGee in half, and afterwards I lined up for his autograph and said a quick, bashful, overawed "hello" to both Paul and Debbie. Debbie, intact and, to my eyes, quite radiant.

How was this possible?

I saw it with my own eyes. He really cut her in half. It must have happened, right?

Well, no.

It's a trick, Meryl. Quite a classic trick, but a trick nonetheless. It takes our everyday human perception and uses it against us. Contortionists can "dodge" the blade. The table can be tricked up. The box can be bigger than we think it is. The saw can be gimmicked. There are lots of ways to perform this illusion. At no point is the woman actually cut in half.

And so it goes with homeopathy. The trick of homeopathy relies on several flaws in common human perception, including.

  • Correlation versus Causation - two events appear connected in time even though no causal link may be present - post hoc ergo propter hoc
  • Confirmation Bias - it is expected to work, therefore confirming evidence is privileged over disconfirming evidence. This is often known as "selective memory"
  • Placebo effect - a not fully understood effect, but one which contains a heaping helping of reporting bias. The patient reports feeling better even though objective measures of the condition may remain unchanged

It's just a trick, but you have to think carefully to see through it.

Unfortunately, some people seem to think you can really saw the woman in half, and that's where it gets dangerous, even tragic.

Take, for instance, the case of Penelope Dingle. Penelope was convinced by her homeopath - and to a certain extent, her husband - that homeopathy could cure her rectal cancer. Here are some quotes from the coronial inquest.

"I am human and open to mistakes and the catastrophe that happened around Francines treatment was perhaps the biggest mistake I will ever make in my life.  That is easy to see in hindsight but not so easy when you’re in it and don’t know what is going on" - Dr Peter Dingle, husband of the deceased


"The events which followed highlight the dangers associated with persons relying on non-science based alternative treatments and  the importance of placing reliance on reliable information. "

Make no mistake about it. Fancine Scrayen, the homeopath, Peter Dingle, supposed health expert and Penelope Dingle, the victim, all thought you could really saw the woman in half.

Penelope Dingle climbed compliantly into the box. And the woman died. In agony.

I encourage you to read the inquest finding. Make yourself a cup of tea, sit down for a while. And read it.

Worse still may be the cases of two children, Gloria Sam - who died when her parents decided homeopathy could treat her severe eczema - and Isabella Denley, whose parents tried to treat her seizures with homeopathy and failed.

At least Penelope Dingle was an adult, presumed by society to be able to make her own decisions. Children cannot decide for themselves and should be protected from charlatans who think that they can saw the woman in half for real.

These three cases are all Australian and recent, and Meryl should be fully aware of them, though she's clearly filed them away in the "don't talk about this" box.

In each of these cases, the victims died of disease, but it was homeopathy that killed them.

There are many more. Browse here for some examples.

Meryl Dorey's adherence to the absurd and long debunked fraud of homeopathy is just another reason why she must be stopped.

posted @ Sunday, December 18, 2011 1:25 PM


Comments on this entry:

# re: Meryl Dorey and the Magic Water

Left by Deb at 12/18/2011 2:47 PM
I think it also needs to be pointed out that Meryl Dorey knows the Denley family. Her confirmation bias is so strong she can ignore such a close death, while accepting a friend of a friend 'success.'

# re: Meryl Dorey and the Magic Water

Left by Michael W at 12/18/2011 4:43 PM

There is another Australian case of death attributable at least in part to homeopathy - 14 year old school boy, Hamidur Rahman who died from an anaphylaxis attack following treatment by a homeopath instead of doctors for his food allergy.
To quote the coroner in2005:

Dr Bartos had, over the years, referred Hamidur to a number of specialists in an effort to understand and manage his severe medical conditions. The last referral was to a specialist who may have successfully diagnosed the extent of his allergies, however his parents did not follow through with the referral instead seeking the assistance of Mr Nakad.

Mr Nakad trained as a homeopath for three years. It appears Mr and Mrs Rahman had a great deal of confidence in him and his treatments. Mrs Rahman refers to him a Doctor Nakad, but he clearly is not a medical practitioner nor does he hold himself out to be one.

Mr Nakad stressed in his evidence the need for his treatments to be undertaken in conjunction with conventional or traditional medicine. The evidence is very clear that once Mr Nakad was consulted, no other clinicians played a part in Hamidur’s treatment. Mr Nakad must have known that as Hamidur’s mother consulted him on every aspect of her child’s health.

This, sadly, was a critical error.


# re: Meryl Dorey and the Magic Water

Left by Andy at 12/19/2011 1:02 AM
"I am not a homeopath and am not qualified to give a professional opinion on this issue."

If only that would stop her lecturing on vaccination.
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