Letters to the editor

Homeopathy is quackery, cry experts. Plus: Are liberals wrong about guns? George W. doesn't have what it takes.

Published March 21, 2000 5:00PM (EST)




The article on homeopathy by Debra Ollivier was both ill-informed and irresponsible. It all but completely ignored the mass of scientific research that shows homeopathy to be complete bunk. None of the major critics of homeopathy were even quoted or mentioned. Not that finding a critic is hard to do. A quick Web search will show tons of information about homeopathy and its ridiculous claims.

The author's handling of science terminology was atrocious. She created analogies that were entirely fictitious and totally unrelated.

I hope in the future your reporters will do a better job of looking into extraordinary claims, especially when misinforming the public about matters of health. In the meantime, ask yourselves why none of the homeopathists will take up the James Randi Educational Foundation's offer of $1 million for proving homeopathy works. (The American Physical Society has agreed to conduct the tests.)

-- Andrew Harter,
researcher, James Randi Educational Foundation

Your article is a disgrace. Homeopathy is delusional practice. The idea that its mechanism resembles vaccination is silly. Vaccines contain measurable amounts of substances that, when injected into the body, produce a measurable immune response. The dilute form of homeopathy does not contain measurable active ingredients and does not produce a measurable immune response within the body. Accurate information is available at Quackwatch.com

-- Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Debra Ollivier's happy article about the joy of homeopathy in France did not mention the work of Jacques Benveniste. Benveniste is, as he would be the second to tell you (apparently I am the first), the world's leading scientific expert on the subject. Benveniste has discovered new principles of nature that most scientists have been unable, and perhaps for that reason unwilling, to see. His work has already earned him two Ig Nobel Prizes. Benveniste's most recent finding is that you can tap into the memory of a glass of water, and transmit that information over telephone lines or over the Internet. I, for one, am most eager to see what new watery discoveries he will announce in the new millennium.

-- Marc Abrahams,
editor, Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
and master of ceremonies of the annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony

The fact that homeopathic cures worked on one child with an ear infection is an unconvincing argument for the procedure since most childhood ear infections do not require the use of any drugs (either antibacterial or homeopathic) for their treatment. The body is adequately prepared to fight them on its own.

-- Daniel Hertzman

Your article claims that homeopathy "works." That's certainly not my impression. Yes, there have been some poorly designed studies that support homeopathy, and better designed studies that show homeopathy is no better than placebos. For details, see the valuable Web site Quackwatch.com or ask physics professor Bob Park, whose forthcoming book was discussed a few days ago on Salon. Most alternative medicine is pretty dubious, but homeopathy is downright ludicrous. Of course, there are lots of people who believe in homeopathy. Lots of people believe in astrology and in dialing the psychic hotline, too.

-- John W. Farley,
professor of physics,
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

For years the medical establishment has been trying to suppress the healing properties of little vials of water to further its own nefarious ends. Now with the truth out, we will all be able to partake of the miracle healing properties of little vials of water, unadulterated with dangerous "active" ingredients. Kudos to you, Salon, for taking a brave stand against the establishment, making it safe for all humanity to benefit from the healing powers of little vials of water!

-- Ben Cooley

Homeopathy is bullshit. Only very, very diluted. It's completely safe to drink.

-- Peter Dorn

It perplexes me that suddenly trendy scientists who fancy themselves debunkers of myths keep jabbing at homeopathy. It works -- countless patients have confirmed this. Sure, the relief they experience may well be due to the placebo effect, and so what? The mind exerts more power over the body than we know or care to admit. Be it visualization, faith healing or simple placebo, the truth is that to an extent, one can heal oneself without drugs. Western medicine, with its reductionist approach to disease and its patriarchal disdain for patients' feelings, is not only unable to describe or to cure many chronic conditions affecting us, it is also foolishly creating a plague with its over-use of antibiotics. With that in mind, it seems to me we had better be a bit more humble and not attack what we fail to understand.

-- S. Marlaud

When liberals lie about guns


Thank you for the first rational article I've read on the gun-control hysteria. My concern has always been that most of the laws fit H. L. Mencken's statement: "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong." The gun solutions proposed and enacted merely address symptoms of problems at best. They provide little or no help in solving the underlying systemic problems.

As an Episcopal priest, I grieve any death -- of a small child at the hands of another child abandoned and living in a crack house, of innocent victims caught in the crossfire of gang-bangers and their feuds, of children shot by finding a gun around their house. But responsible shooters are not the cause of these problems, and laws that encroach on their freedoms, but don't touch the perpetrators of crime don't make sense.

-- The Rev. Raymond E. Britt Jr.
Glencoe, Ill.

As a gun advocate I would suggest that while Young's comments on reasons for the decline in gun fatalities and violent crime are reasonable, she omits the one important factor for said decrease. Forty-three states have some sort of concealed carry permitted to law abiding citizens. This factor is an element that cannot be dismissed as inconsequential. Second, she dismisses the gun's effectiveness against government tyranny. I say if it were not for guns, America would be in the full grip of tyranny today.

-- Kelly Morris

Thank you for printing an objective piece of journalism, unmarred by the knee-jerk reaction to the tragic killing in Michigan. One thing left out however, was the astounding number of gun laws on the books that are being ignored and not prosecuted. Should we require people who steal guns to also steal gun locks? More gun laws will not solve any of these problems.

-- Tom Adams

Although there are several points worth taking from the article, it overall seems to be a rearticulation of fundamental pro-gun arguments. Yes, I am sure that there are some times when owning a gun might prevent a crime and it is delightful to know that Switzerland and Israel's citizens can own guns and not kill each other with them (although one might argue that Israel is hardly a model for a pacific life and that there are many Israelis who might happily give up their existence as an armed camp in exchange for a little more violence).

These arguments, however, ignore the fact that America's love affair with firearms is doing lots of damage to our culture. Our frontier traditions and embrace of vigilante justice, combined with our incredible wealth disparity have made us uniquely unable to live in harmony with personal firearms. Whether one can find examples where people can live together while owning guns is immaterial in face of the mounting evidence that we cannot.

-- Kristina Carey

As an educator whose brother was shot and killed with a handgun in New York, I am in sharp disagreement with Young in her assessment. She forgets the real people who live the horrors that make up these statistics. She has no understanding of the ripple effect on the families and communities of the victims of gun violence. She spouts glib statements on the issues as if it is perfectly acceptable that 32,000 people die yearly from gun violence. She doesn't understand that the firepower from semi-automatic weapons has contributed to scores killed in mass shootings every year in America's schools, churches and homes. If Americans want to live with these "sticks of dynamite" in their homes, they should at least be regulated. Ask any physician in a trauma ward, ask any therapist who treats victims or survivors of gun violence, ask any grieving mother or sister or child.

-- P.C. Murray

Does W. have a death wish? No.


Anthony York tries to explain how Bush does want to be president. But York shoots his own argument down by pointing out Bush can't seem to think for himself because he keeps listening to his advisors. Anyone who would be president should be able to stand up to his own advisors when he disagrees with them. York has made a good point about Bush -- the man is a puppet of his advisors. Do we really want a puppet to be president?

-- Michael Burgreen

Does W. have a death wish? Yes.


George W. Bush is destined for defeat in November. The main reason is that you can't beat something with nothing, and Bush is as light on substance as any national candidate since Dan Quayle. At the root of his business acumen is the fact that he had the good sense to be born to a rich and influential family. His political skill seems to owe much to the fat cats who hope to profit on a national scale as they did in Texas under his governership. Since John McCain will not get a chance to show what he can do, it is hard to work up any conviction that anyone's vote will matter this year. The only thing being decided is which pampered scion of privilege will enter the history books, and whose cronies will flourish for the next four years. As long as Alan Greenspan continues to manage the economy skillfully, the country will accept almost anyone as head of government. Clinton proved that. I predict that before the election, a large number of Republicans will wonder what the hell they ever saw in George W.

-- Shelton F. Lankford

I was a bad pornographer


As the Webmistress of one of the most popular adult fiction sites on the Internet, I got a good laugh out of Fiona Maazel's article. All intentional humor aside, I have to take issue with her implication that written porn is a "vacuum." Maazel seems to believe, mistakenly, that the average porn surfer is looking for stories that will, in her words, "dull the mind." The most popular stories on our site are consistently those with well-developed characters, a compelling plot and even humor. To be sure, people visiting an adult Web site are looking for writing that contains a little more "action" than your average Salon article, but that doesn't mean that they're a bunch of dumb, horny "simian brutes." As far as the story Maazel wrote about the incestuous paraplegic multi-orgasmic aunt, have her send me a copy and I'll see what I can do to get her career as a pornographer back on track.

-- Laurel
Webmistress, Literotica.com

By Salon Staff

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