Friday, March 25, 2011

TFTD - DFTD, Belief , Superstition.

Here's one of those Thoughts For The Day.  Well, a thought I had anyway.

Devil Facial Tumour Disease is a nasty, heartbreaking, horrible thing.  For those who don't know, it is a disease about which not enough is known.  If affects Tasmanian Devils, causing terrible facial tumours.  It is spread by biting (which they just do ALL the time naturally to each other) and it as always fatal.  90% of the population is already dead or infected - doomed.  I'm not going to show you a picture of the effects, because it really isn't necessary.  And it is, as I said, heartbreaking.

This one is happy and fine.  Really, they're just like that.

So, some of you may know that for a spell in my past I was part of an enterprise researching, manufacturing and marketing homoeopathic products to treat plant diseases, or more correctly soil and plant problems.  It ended badly, but we don't need to go in to that right now.  But for sure, you're aware of the basic principles and controversies surrounding homoeopathy, yes?  No?

A quick primer, just to be sure then.  Homoeopathy as first devised by a dude called Samuel Hahnemann is a form of medicine that proposes that 'like can cure like'.  That what can cause a disease can also cure a disease.  Hahnemann followed a hypothesis of potentisation, whereby substances from nature (more on this in a minute) are finely divided (ground up) and diluted minutely.  Imagine putting a drop of substance 'Z' into a litre of water, shaking it up a lot, taking a drop from that litre, putting it into another litre, and repeating this process many times.  This is essentially how you create what is called a homoeopathic 'remedy'.  The more diluted, the higher the 'potency' is said to be.  So an example of this 'like cures like' would be that a substance that causes vomiting may, when given at the correct dosage to someone who has chronic vomitous problems, cure them, very broadly put.  An important point to keep in mind is that Hahnemann 'proved' his remedies by causing illnesses in his students by giving them potentised doses of these remedies.  The remedies supposedly can cause sickness, when used outside of a correct diagnosis.  Hahnemann's methods of diagnosis we won't go into here  that's a whole encyclopaedic subject on its own.

Of course, since such remedies cannot really be scientifically measured as even existing, they are so diluted, there is no way to prove a method of action.  Nor it seems can Hahnemann's exhaustive batteries of tests on his legions of students and patients be replicated to produce his stated results; and as a result modern science staunchly rejects homoeopathy as basically akin to voodoo.  Makes a mint in the pharmacy though, doesn't it?

So, the remedies are derived from nature.  Hahnemann used parts of plants mainly, but also minerals and later on he began to experiment with the concept of nosodes.
(Disclaimer: all this homoeopathic knowledge stuff is coming from my frail, flawed, and very human memory alone - so there may be factual errors - just sayin').
So, yes, nosodes.  These are where a remedy is made from the expression of an illness itself - for example a rabies remedy is made from the saliva of a rabid dog.  The original vaccines, in a way.  Very targeted things then, you'd think.  In our venture back then  we used calcined snails (dried, burned and ground) in an attempt to create a snail-repellent effect.  There were, let's say, varied results.

Pretty much anyone who's ever heard of or thought about homoeopathy has made their own call on whether it's a mysterious and inexplicable yet valid and effective form of medicine, or a load of utter codswallop.  Belief, or superstition, if you will.

So there I was, seeing the poor lumpy face of a Tassie Devil on the TV ad appealing for research fund donations, and suddenly I wondered what would happen if you made a nosode of the tumour expressions, and set about treating the entire population?  Of course, to treat the whole population, the very best and simplest way to ensure coverage would be just to use a crop-duster - spray all of Tasmania's forests by air.  Simple!  But I wasn't wondering what would happen to the Devils - I have no idea.  And I'm not suggesting it seriously either.  But let's imagine some eccentric wealthy individual decided as a public service to undertake this task for the good of all mankind, at no cost to the taxpayer!  I'm wondering what the humans would do with such an idea.

Let's revisit our two camps then.  Those who are believers in homoeopathy and its effects would understandably be concerned about possible negative effects on themselves, or perhaps other animals or entities in the ecosphere, but of course that would be ameliorated (as is homoeopathic lore) by having available a different dosage of said remedy to 'antidote' anyone thusly affected.  So, no problem, and the Devil Facial Tumour Disease could marvellously and miraculously be eradicated forever!  The pooh-poohers of course would just laugh.  Wouldn't they?

I think perhaps not.  I'm willing to bet that there would be a substantial proportion of the folk who firmly believe that homoeopathy is bunkum as it a) cannot be scientifically even shown to exist and b) cannot be reliably proven to even have any effect on subjects beyond the placebo effect would also feel really quite a bit squirmy about the prospect of being lightly sprinkled with a little bit of aerosolized 'special water'.  I think there'd be a big push back, along the lines of not being able to prove there would be no side effects (from what science assures them is simply water).

So, in the end it would not be allowed to happen because of the superstitions of those who dismiss such rubbish as superstition.  Or am I wrong?  Golly gee, I'd like to see that tried.

Mama Devil says "Don't y'all make me open this can o' whoop-ass!"

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