Homeopathy, Comparisons, and Meyers Briggs

April 12, 2010 at 12:33 am (Making Sense of Things) (, , , )

If you don’t know much about homeopathy then you should probably read the WP article. I first heard of homeopathy when I read Voodoo Science by Robert Park. On the beach with my parents last New Year I found out that my sister had once been treated with homeopathic remedies.

She was given the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) and developed a rash and fever. Further medication only worsened her state. My mother was told by a homeopathic practitioner to stop all conventional medication and to instead administer ~7 homeopathic remedies at various times each day. Within five days my sister was cured.

My mother proceeded to embrace the Post Hoc fallacy by insisting that since my sister was cured, it was because of the homeopathic remedies. I suggested that perhaps her body simply needed the calm afforded by the placebos that were labeled as homeopathic remedies, as the only “medicine” involved were sugar and water.

Nonsequitor: http://friendlyatheist.com/2009/08/12/this-is-why-its-tough-for-an-atheist-to-date/

My mother and I don’t see eye to eye on most issues, that being just one example. Perhaps it is the strong disparity in her Cold War USSR upbringing and my no-war US childhood, but I can’t help but revert to MBTI thinking. I’m an INTP. My mother always compares me to my sister, who Ive talked to and found is an ESFJ. I’m introverted, she’s ex. I’m intuiting, she’s sensing. I think and perceive, she feels and judges. All of those come with their strengths and weaknesses, but all of my sister’s strengths are my weaknesses. She’s in HR, I’m in physics/programming. She went to a huge school, I went to a small one. She makes her situation while I mold mine as it comes.

MBTI has helped me view what my mother perceives as faults instead as alternatives. My biggest reveltation has to do with my perception of time. Rather than taking the “do today what you can do tomorrow” approach, I find myself procrastinating until the last minute. The rare times that I do work early, it comes out shoddy. When I put it off however, I spend my mental downtimes (restroom, shower, falling asleep, waiting in queues, walking to places, etc) immersed in useful thought, often about the very things that I’ve put off until later. When I finally sit down to do them, I’ve had many hours of mental planning, planning which I wouldn’t have had without procrastinating. And to think, procrastination is very common in TP individuals!

If only children all took Myers Briggs early on in the educational system, and schooling was tailored to the children’s traits.

Back to the beginning: I sometimes wonder if my lack of belief in placebos and homeopathy diminish their psychosomatic effects. Perhaps however, my strength of resolve helps keep my stress levels low, contributing to a reduced frequency of illness (my worst this past year has been influenza, which I suffered for only two days during which I dosed advil, filtered half a dozen cans of soup, and slept for 19 hours each day, after delaying the effects for several days with Vitamin C until the weekend). Yeah, I think knowing is better than being ignorant, irrespective of which one brings you happiness.

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2 Comments

  1. Jorge Cervantes said,

    (I apologize ahead of time for how long this comment is… my only excuse is that I was bored.)

    It’s funny… I actually have a very similar set of issues with my own mother. Perhaps it has something to do with how common superstition and the need for faith are compared to true critical analysis (especially when different eras are taken into consideration). I suppose it also has a lot to do with why people are always so surprised when they are first taught that correlation is not equal to causation and all that it implies.

    But I digress. My own mother is a believer of certain forms of New Age Medicine, ESP, and magic/witchery. She carries many of the superstitions that her own mother had when it comes to the care of a child. And she has a tendency to believe in the supernatural or assign events and phenomena to the supernatural without critical analysis.

    Of course, when I first found out about this, I found myself faced with a dilemma. Should I attempt to argue, correct, and inform? Bring her around to a more scientific way of thinking? Or should I simply let be happy in her ignorance? I’ve always been of the opinion that I’d rather know… but was I fit to make that judgement for another person?

    In the end, I let it be… and I did so because I came to realize two very important things:

    One, she listens to expert advice. That is, even when she assigns a superstitious reason to something, she’s more than willing to act on the advice of those who have studied it critically and scientifically. The end result is that her important decisions are based on logic (even if it isn’t always her logic). And while she will try things like homeopathic medicines on her own time, she’ll also go to the doctor the first chance she gets.

    And two, she does not try to proselytize. She keeps her beliefs to herself and doesn’t try to push them on you. Such that, while she occasionally urges me to talk to my “guardian angel” to help me with my problems, she never pushes when I smile it off.

    I relate this story because many active atheists or agnostics don’t put much weight on the concept of a “harmless believer”. Someone that very nearly goes out of their way to avoid applying the scientific method to their thinking, yet manages to make the right decisions.

    I happen to have lived with one for 18 years. And while she occasionally attributed the dissipation of a fever to the application of a wet string to my forehead, she also never tried to force me to go to church, always advocated expert medical aid, and raised me to come to my own conclusions about how life works.

    One of those conclusions was: false beliefs are not necessarily harmful (though they often are). And happiness is hard enough to come by in this world. So long as your happiness doesn’t involve some sort of harm (direct or indirect) to others, then you’re welcome to it. Of course, it’s also important to fight those beliefs that do result on harm (such as the belief in New Age medicines to the exclusion of seeking professional help). For me, knowing brings me happiness, even if what I know doesn’t make me happy (if that makes sense).

    Also, I highly recommend that you watch Penn & Teller: Bullshit. The show manages to be hilarious, irreverent, and informative all at the same time… and while I don’t necessarily agree with them on every point, they promote that same for of critical thinking and analysis we both praise so highly (even if they cuss like sailors while doing it).

  2. Yuriy Zubovski said,

    Always glad to have your comments. I was reminded of this post when I read a new blog post by Pharyngula about Homeopathic Bombs. A hilarious thought experiment.

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