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"And it helps me": why so many people continue to believe in homeopathy
"And it helps me": why so many people continue to believe in homeopathy

The life hacker asked Vladimir Bliznetsov from the Society of Skeptics to explain the popularity of pseudoscience.

"And it helps me": why so many people continue to believe in homeopathy
"And it helps me": why so many people continue to believe in homeopathy

Scientists have proven that homeopathy is safe. The Prosecutor General's Office of Russia confirmed the Prosecutor General's Office: the use of homeopathy does not contradict the legislation of the Russian Federation, that the use of homeopathic remedies is completely legal. The results of the VTsIOM polls show the BOARON Index: the attitude of Russians to homeopathy, that 65% of Russians treated with homeopathy consider it effective.


There are many alternative healing practices: treatment of everything in the world with soda, charged water, fasting, laying on of hands, and so on. But none of them managed to gain a foothold in the mass consciousness of Russians as homeopathy. An unsinkable brand originally from the 18th century.

But if you thought that we decided to talk about the benefits of homeopathic pills, then you are wrong. Homeopathy still lacks any evidence of effectiveness. You can read more about this in Memorandum Memorandum No. 2 of the RAS Commission for Combating Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research "On the Pseudoscience of Homeopathy" No. 2 of the RAS Commission for Combating Pseudoscience.

Where does faith in homeopathy come from?

So why do people continue to stubbornly believe in the effectiveness of the homeopathic method of treatment? The fact is that homeopathy offers the conditional consumer a product that is very attractive from a marketing point of view.

After all, what do we want when faced with a disease? Heal. How do we want it? Fast, safe and preferably cheap. And homeopathy, as an experienced magician, perfectly creates the illusion of just such a medicine.

Centuries-old traditions, doctors' recommendations, availability of drugs in all pharmacies, no side effects, long friendly consultations with a homeopathic specialist and, most importantly, immense trust in personal experience without the ability to analyze it. Any of these points is enough to make the average person think that homeopathy is worthy of attention. And here a whole heap of bugs of our thinking is connected, each of which only strengthens the patient's faith in the miraculousness of this method of treatment.

People often start using homeopathy on the advice of friends. It's all about the "natural filter" in our head, which helpfully suggests that a friend is unlikely to cheat. But we are unconsciously more skeptical about information received from other sources.

If a gray-haired professor from the TV screen says that "homeopathy is a pseudoscience", but a friend claims that "it helped him", then they will rather believe a friend. After all, why should he lie, right?

Moreover, homeopathy also has no side effects. And this fact can also tip the scales in favor of useless sugar balls.

Let's take an example: you are not a doctor, you have two packs of medicines for the same disease in front of you. They tell you: if you choose the first one, then, of course, the disease will pass, but only a list of side effects is there on two pages (the head will ache, the hair will fall out, and even indigestion in the bargain). But if you take the second medicine, then you will be cured, and you will not receive any undesirable consequences. And if you do not have any additional information, the choice of the second option will be a completely reasonable and rational decision.


Trading in essentially alternative medicine, homeopathic pharmaceutical companies also successfully make money on those who, in case of illness, are accustomed to going to the pharmacy and buying "something for the common cold." Such a person may have a bad attitude towards village healers and the laying on of hands treatment, but he can easily buy homeopathic pills.

The fact is that pharmacies do not have a separate stand for homeopathy. And outwardly, it is extremely difficult to distinguish a pack of pacifiers from conventional medicines. Many do not even know that when they buy another medicine, they receive homeopathy (especially since some manufacturers have now even stopped writing “homeopathic remedy” on the packaging).

And by and large, people, as a rule, do not care. For them, it makes no difference what to take: dietary supplements, homeopathy, vitamins or aspirin.

If there is in the pharmacy, then there is a medicine. If the medicine, then, is effective, because how else did it get to the pharmacy?

Others see homeopathy as a kind of herbal medicine and refer to it as a "natural remedy" treatment. Still others do not consider homeopathy as an alternative practice at all. After all, “doctors with many years of experience” say about its effectiveness, and in some universities there are even courses for homeopaths.

Why homeopathy "helps"

“Okay,” says our invisible advocate of homeopathy. - Let it all be true. But how do you then explain that homeopathy helps? This is perhaps the most interesting question. The short answer is this: homeopathy doesn't help. But explaining why people believe that homeopathy helped them is perhaps worth it.

In general, the argument "And it helps me!" is the alpha and omega of any alternative medicine advocate.

A recent poll by VTsIOM showed Homeopathy and a healthy lifestyle: conflict or harmony? that, despite all the educational work of scientists and popularizers of science, the index of confidence in homeopathy among Russians over the past year has grown from 49% to 58%.

Homeopaths often like to flaunt such research in response to the claims of scientists that in scientific experiments homeopathy repeatedly demonstrates complete ineffectiveness. They seem to hint: “This bullshit is your science! People say that it helps them, which means that it is so!"

What is the mistake here? From a scientific point of view, the phrase “people think homeopathy helps” means that people really believe that homeopathy helps them. And from the point of view of a proponent of homeopathy, this phrase means "Homeopathy actually helps." Do you feel the difference?


Let's clear things up a bit. How often have you heard the story that your friend / his friend / friend's grandmother had a serious illness, the doctors gave up, but for a month they were treated with homeopathy and the disease passed? How can this be explained?

1. We overestimate personal experience

It is worth noting that in such cases we are always dealing with memories. And remembering is not reality, but an interpretation of reality. Most likely, such a narrator conveys only his own version of events (even if he is ready to swear on the holy book that this is how it really was).

In cases where such stories can be verified, it certainly turns out that the disease was not so serious, and the patient used homeopathy along with the usual treatment. Or he died altogether a month after he "got better."

The saying “lies as an eyewitness” was not born out of nowhere. It is not for nothing that in science personal experience is not considered proof at all. In the popular mind, everything is exactly the opposite.

2. We see a causal relationship where there is none

"After" does not mean "due". If a certain native danced and after that it started to rain, this does not mean that the dance causes rain. It seems to be a banality, but in practice people constantly forget about this simple rule. If you think you can distinguish unrelated events from related events by eye, then remember: the natives thought so too.

3. We do not take into account the placebo effect

The placebo effect occurs when a patient is given a pacifier instead of a real medication, and he begins to claim that he is feeling much better. But do not rush to believe in the healing power of self-hypnosis. The placebo effect is observed only on self-reported. This means that, according to the person, he is getting better. However, if you take tests from him, you will find that in fact the disease has not gone anywhere. You can learn more about how placebo works in a lecture by chemist and popularizer of science Sergei Belkov.

How to avoid becoming a victim of self-deception

Keep in mind that each of us has a certain “limit of adequacy” beyond which statements begin to seem silly and absurd to us. For example, now few people seriously believe that calluses can be cured with snot, a toothache with a rusty nail, and a sore throat with a frog with milk. But at one time all this was considered normal methods of treatment (yes, these are real recipes for traditional medicine). Why did people believe in such ridiculous means, you ask? Because it "helped"!

Think: if all that you can say in defense of your favorite drug is “It helps me!”, Then remember that urinotherapy and the conspiracy of Baba Nyura from the village of Krasny Lapot “help” in the same way.

And while homeopathy is much safer than most alternative medical practices, it still does not fulfill the main purpose of medicine - it does not heal.