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Where is Your Definition Tonight? Dana Ullman on the Virtual War in Wikipedia over Homeopathy PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Do You Know Where Your Definition Is Tonight? Dana Ullman on the War over Homeopathy in Wikipedia

Summary: According to this fascinating and eerie account from homeopath and author Dana Ullman, MPH, "anti-homeopathic fundamentalists have hijacked the Wikipedia information on homeopathy." Ullman asks if anyone else in the complementary and integrative medicine world has encountered similar issues. (Do you know what is being said about your field?) In a time when more of us are relying on quick searches for information, the virtual battleground of Wikipedia is a place where many hearts and minds are being formed, if not won and lost. Take an inside look at Ullman's account of this battle over homeopathy in the Wikipedia world. Do you know who your definition is hanging out with tonight?
Send your comments and information about other virtual conflict zones
for inclusion in a future Your Comments Forum.

wikipedia and homeopathy, virtual war
Battleground for hearts & minds
Imagine an international, participatory process for clarifying the appropriate boundaries of a Palestinian nation. Oh, that's right, we have a process, of sorts. Achieving consensus has proved, and is proving, challenging.  Now imagine a process, involving all interests in medicine and health care, to clarify the appropriate definitional boundaries for homeopathy. Oh, actually, we have one. It's called Wikipedia. Consensus has proved as elusive.

Homeopath Dana Ullman, MPH - author most recently of The Homeopathic Revolution  - sent the Integrator the following account of the boundary dispute over homeopathy inside Wikipedia. Invisible to the Wikipedia newcomer with an innocent curiosity about homeopathy is that they are entering a placid, flat face that conceals a war zone. Sign-posts are been knocked down and new ones lifted, daily. To Ullman's account,
references are cordoned off or disappear altogether, virtual parallels to the desaparacidos who opposed military governments in South America in the 1970s. Gone. Vanished. Not to be considered.

Asserts Ullman:
"Anti-homeopathic fundamentalists have hijacked the Wikipedia information on homeopathy." He asks if anyone knows of any other such disputes. Is your field turf that someone is seeking to "take" in this virtual war over the future of American health care?


The Battle over Homeopathy in Wikipedia

- Dana Ullman, MPH     

As much as I love the website,, there are obvious and significant problems when there is a participatory body of information on certain controversial subjects.  Such is the problem with Wikipedia's listing on homeopathic medicine.

It is time for someone to report on the fact that the quackbusters and anti-homeopathic fundamentalists have hijacked the information on homeopathy on Wikipedia.

wikipedia abttles, CAM, homeopathy, virtual wars
Dana Ullman, MPH
The site on "homeopathy" at Wikipedia was for a long time held in formal "dispute" because neither side (pro and con) considered the information to be accurate.  Now, however, the anti-forces has increased in number and in sophistication, and they immediately change whatever pro-homeopathy information is provided, often times within moments. 

Because wikipedia allows anyone to edit any article, many people edit the homeopathy article anonymously.  No one knows if these people work for Big Pharma , if they are a conventional physician who simply hates homeopathy (and who either doesn't read research on homeopathy or simply doesn't believe it could be true), or if they are simply 20-year-old college students with too much time on their hands and have a profound antagonism towards certain alternative therapies. 

 "The anti-homeopathy bias
is so strong that these
people do not even allow
links to any national or
international not-for-profit
homeopathic organizations."

- Dana Ullman, MPH

The anti-homeopathy bias is so strong that these people do not even allow links to any national or international homeopathic organizations (the non-profit ones) nor to any of the professional or academic journals (one of our journals is published by Elsevier, the same company that publishes the Lancet, and yet, the anti-homeopathic cabal doesn't allow and will delete any references to this or any other homeopathic journal).  The anti-homeopathic forces claim that homeopathic organizations are "biased," though these same people ignore the biases of the many anti-homeopathic organizations that they list and that they protect from other people deleting their links. 

Every other CAM therapy has links to leading organizations and to professional journals, except homeopathy.

This type of censoring of access to information about homeopathy is intellectually dishonest, and this censoring disables people from accessing resources that may educate them about a subject. 

The above censoring of links is strong and palpable evidence of an anti-homeopathic bias, but this bias is also shown in the writing of the article on homeopathy.  In the third paragraph of the explanation for homeopathy are truly outrageous statements such as, "The ideas of homeopathy are scientifically implausible."  Whenever anyone seeks to change this statement by referencing articles published in leading physics, chemistry, or basic science journals that describe plausible theories about how homeopathic medicines may work, these references are immediately deleted. There has been many arguments at the "discussion" page on why the words "scientifically implausible" are totally inaccurate because the term "plausibility" does not mean that scientists "know" how homeopathic medicines work; it only refers to the possibility that modern theories about homeopathy may be accurate.  However, the antagonists to homeopathy are rigid, even fundamentalist, in their attacks on this natural medicine and its theory, its research, and its practices.

I will be curious if other people in CAM have had similar experiences at the listings on Wikipedia. 

  "People should be warned
that quackbusters have
taken control of certain
articles on Wikipedia. The
best solution here is if
people who advocate for
integrative therapies take
a more active role in correcting
the misinformation."


Please know that I do not wish to change the participatory nature of Wikipedia, but I do need to warn people that certain controversial subjects on Wikipedia have strongly biased information and misinformation. 

I don't know whether to be honored that the quackbusters are so threatened by homeopathy that they have targeted it with their considerable censoring or if I should instead be concerned that a 1984-type of censoring information is hijacking certain sources of information for the public. 

In either case, people should be warned that quackbusters have taken control of certain articles on Wikipedia, and the best solution here is if a growing number of people who advocate for some of these integrative therapies take a more active role in correcting the misinformation. The best treatment for "homeo-phobia" is knowledge, and efforts to mute this knowledge must be responded to with vigor.

: One way to read Ullman's article is as a call to engage in a virtual war over hearts and minds that are increasingly shaped by virtual realities such as Wikipedia.
Ullman's question is a good one: In what other areas of the complementary and integrative medicine definitional discussion are such battles taking place? Chiropractic? Naturopathic medicine? These are among the lightening rods against which conventional medical fundamentalists rail. (CAM fundamentalists have their own targets.) He raises the question: Do you know where your definition is tonight?

It serves those who working to open Western medicine to new approaches to show vigilance in these emerging, virtual zones. The time needed to parry and counter-parry is of course an issue. Perhaps the best way to be vigilant is to follow a customary practice in war: get the young to fight it for you. You teachers out there - assign your students to stand watch over pieces of this terrain.

Send your comments and information about other virtual conflict zones

for inclusion in a future Your Comments Forum.

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