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The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.... Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals. physicist Albert. A. Michelson, 1894

13. HOMEOPATHY Previous | Next

It’s patently absurd, so why won’t it go away?

SIR John Forbes, the physician to Queen Victoria’s household, called it “an outrage to human reason.” Homeopathy’s claim is that you can take a substance of dubious properties, dilute it to the point where there are no molecules of the original substance left in the sample you have, and your sample will nevertheless have retained healing properties related to the original compound. There is no justification in all of science for this idea -- and yet there remains some slim evidence that homeopathy works.

The key word here is slim. But even the slimmest of evidence makes this scientifically tantalising. Are we missing something about the properties of water? Could there be ways to heal that involve ultra-dilution – possibly avoiding the nasty side-effects of certain drugs?

After months of investigation, my conclusion is a sour and muttered “probably not”. But even after a long journey into the heart of homeopathy, where I saw, among other things, a pharmacy whose shelves contained homeopathic remedies made from flapjack and musical harmonies, I still cannot be 100 per cent sure homeopathy is all bunkum. Part of the reason for that came as I sat in the botany library of the Natural History Museum reading a rigorous scientific analysis of the roots and efficacy of homeopathy, an analysis that might even be able to rescue homeopathy from the clutches of the cranks who currently run the show.

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Location:canada
Joined:14/08/2008
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#1 - Posted: 24/08/2008 14:14

my apologies - what is described above, under "rigorous scientific analysis" is not a double-blind study but a simple "controlled" and comparison study.  in order to do a double blind study, which eliminates the effect of placebo on the data, neither the patients nor the physicians would know which treatment was being be administered.  given the difficulties presented above, the only way i can see how this could be done would be that every case in a comparison study would have to have a full homeopathic assessment as well as medical one.  then both sides would draw up their treatment plans for each patient and the decision as to which treatment would be administered would decided randomly.  since medical and homeopathic treatments are sufficiently different in their application that both doctors and patients would fairly quickly know which treatment was actually being administered, thus introducing placebo bias, it would seem to me that both treatments should appear to be administered  to every patient in the study but that randomly one or the other would be a sham treatment, administered blindly of course. 

We can see how complicated, and expensive this whole process would be.  So no one is holding his breath waiting for this to happen, these studies will probably never be done as only mainstream medicine can afford to do them and they won't ever take that risk.   But when someone like Michael says he is waiting for the proper studies to be done, this is what we must face.   Or a simple double-blind controlled study using homeopathic medicines, without a comparison group receiving standard medical therapy – that might be better, but in order to administer it double-blind, who is going to pay for it?

If you keep saying we cannot accept homeopathy until we know how it works, then you didn’t read the earlier forum entries in this section, nor do you see the logic of this website altogether, which is about scientific anomalies.  You will simply always take the position that “it can’t work, therefore it doesn’t work.”  Very logical and very safe - as long current zeitgeist is on your side.

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