Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Just One Drop of Pseudoscience

On Thursday, October 11, 2017, Dr. Eugenie Scott and I scoped out the pro-Homeopathy movie “Just One Drop” at the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF). There was another showing on the following Saturday and one of our goals was to determine whether a public protest was warranted. We’d previously crafted and sent a letter (via both e-mail and snail mail) to the Executive Director of the film festival expressing our concern but did not receive a response.

Just One Drop: Poster for the pro-homeopathy Film "Just One Drop"Just One Drop: Poster for the pro-homeopathy Film “Just One Drop”The movie is what we expected, although better produced (it took 8 years to make). The narrative goes something like this:

  • Nobody knows how homeopathy works.
  • There are skeptics.
  • But it works, and we’ll prove this with some anecdotes.
  • It’s been around for a long time and many people use it around the world.
  • There’s scientific evidence that it works, but the medical and science establishment won’t acknowledge it and don’t want you to see it.
  • Summarizing: “It’s magic that works”

A few notable points:

  • The film makers do a reasonably transparent job of explaining homeopathy (often this is obscured as “natural” remedies – not here). They acknowledge that “there’s nothing in it”, but stick to the claim that it works.
  • Even homeopaths don’t know how it works (they say this repeatedly in the film). It’s also claimed that many homeopaths go to work every day as “skeptics” (but are converted by the end of every day).
  • The film is packed with anecdotes and questionable historical accounts (like Samuel Hahnemann curing an entire town of cholera). The film starts and ends with an anecdote about an autistic child being “cured” with homeopathy.
  • There’s an in-depth section of how the Australian government (NHMRC) commissioned a counter examples (which are never addressed in the film). Clinical studies that supposedly support homeopathy are referred to in a general way.

Of the approximately 60 attendees of the screening who stayed for the Q&A (most attendees), only 3 hadn’t heard of homeopathy prior to the movie and only 5 (including the 2 of us from Bay Area Skeptics) identified themselves as “skeptics” when asked by the director. Clearly almost everyone in attendance was a dedicated advocate of this practice. The Q&A made it abundantly clear that the crowd was predominantly homeopathy advocates – at which point we knew that there was no point trying to educate the handful of people in the audience who came in to learn. The director explicitly stated that she put her “thumb on the scale” when trying to ensure balance in the film.

In an odd choice, “Just One Drop” was preceded by the short film “Unspoken” about a young autistic girl (with no mention of homeopathy), begging the question “why didn’t they just give her the homeopathic remedy featured in “Just One Drop”?

The recommendation to Bay Area Skeptics is not to protest further showings of the film (some future showings may be outside of MVFF). If skeptics would like to attend, we suggest asking questions during Q&A, etc., but anything more is unlikely to sway the dedicated advocates who attend and support this film. Additional publicity may well work against us in promoting it.After attending the film and Q&A, our recommendation is NOT formally to protest for a few reasons:

  1. The vast preponderance of attendees were (and likely will be at future screenings) homeopathy enthusiasts -. With most of the crowd being “believers”, it’s unlikely that we’ll be swaying opinions or performing a public service by disseminating information.
  2. The film does a very good job of explaining homeopathy (that it’s dilute beyond logic, that there’s nothing in it). The film is clear that not even homeopaths understand how it works (but they claim it works). Refuting efficacy is a more detailed and difficult job to people who already believe this is a plausible approach to health.
  3. With limited showings and mostly pro-homeopathy attendees, a protest would likely only bring more attention to this film.
  4. With regards to our local screenings, air quality in Mill Valley at the time of the showings were at an all-time low due to fires in Marin County. It’s certainly more dangerous to inhale particulate matter than water without active ingredients, and we love our #SkepticFamily.

We’d encourage other skeptical groups across the country to keep a close watch on the film and contact us if they have questions or additional comments on this film.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *