I’m sure that some of you have seen this video, posted on YouTube in 2009.
In it a woman who we are told is a homeopath, attempts to provide an explanation for how Homeopathy works. I won’t delve too deeply into what she says except to say that nowhere in her ‘lecture’ does she say anything that even approaches reality. In many cases, the video is actually painful to watch – I feel badly for her that her inability to comprehend even the most basic principles of science is now the stuff of internet legend. For those of you who either don’t want to watch the video, or can’t follow what the hell she’s saying in it, I’ll do my best to summarize the important ‘philosophies’ that guide the Homeopathic practice.
Homeopathy follows what its practitioners refer to as the ‘Law of Similars’ which, in general terms, claims that ‘Like cures Like’. In other words, if you have a fever (regardless of the cause), the homeopath will determine what kind of fever you have (not its underlying cause), and based upon his identification, will give you a remedy: Sulfur for Hot, dry fevers, Belladonna for violent deleriums, or maybe Gelsemium, if you suffer from a ‘dull, stupid, apathetic’ fever. (Health.hpathy.com) Since a healthy person taking sulfur will suffer from symptoms which include fevers, clearly taking sulfur if you are sick with a fever will cure it, right? How does that make any sense whatsoever? But it gets better.
Once the homeopath has determined which compound can, when introduced to the patient, cause symptoms similar to the ones currently being expressed, the homeopath then must prepare a ‘Homeopathic Remedy’ and it is in this phase that the arguably greater level of quackery ensues. In addition to believing in the ‘Law of Similars’, homeopaths also believe that water contains properties which grant it a form of ‘memory’. How exactly this happens is generally explained away in vague terms that often invoke ‘Quantum Theory’, or as a peculiarity of the way in which Hydrogen atoms and Oxygen atoms bond to form water. (Here is an attempt to explain how this works – even though it doesn’t.) Neither of these explanations are anything of the sort; neither explanation offers up any discernible mechanism by which water is able to do what homeopaths claim – that is to be able to retain an ‘imprint’ of the ‘essence’ of any substance that has been properly dissolved in it. What does ‘properly dissolved mean’? I’m glad you asked, as it’s step three in our cavalcade of quackery.
Now that the proper remedy has been identified, and the homeopath has obtained the pure, un-memoryficated water, they must now properly dissolve the compound into the water – but wait! One cannot simply add the compound, stir it in, and serve it up; that’s just crazy! Everyone knows that if you simply dilute a compound in water it gets weaker! If you ‘succuss’ it however, then the opposite happens. It makes perfect sense! When you add the compound to the water, you must then shake the mixture in a very particular way, or it won’t work. The paper I linked to above, as well as the video at the top attempt to explain this mystery (and fail). The process of succussion allows the water to somehow retain the ‘essence’ of the compound, even after the dilution has reached the point where there is literally no compound remaining. What exactly is this ‘essence’? Good question, the homeopath responds. They don’t really know, but it probably has something to do with Quantum.
I’m serious; they actually say that. It seems that more than one homeopath has come to rely on ‘Quantum Mysticism’ in order to try to explain how the mystical things they claim to do actually work. More on Quantum Mysticism here —> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mysticism. The problem of course is that many people, after failing to find a conventional explanation for how their particular brand of New Age Crystal Energy Homeopathy Voodoo works, will simply claim ‘well, Quantum theory will probably explain it now or in the future’. They hope that since they can’t understand what quantum theory is or how it works, you won’t either.
Homeopathy is, in short, magic. It attempts to treat the outward symptoms of an illness, with no understanding of its pathology by using a non-existent amount of material diluted in a water medium which somehow retains a memory of the compounds ‘essence’, because it was shaken the right way. And it works because of Quantum (or because of some process which is as yet unknown to science but, if discovered, would fundamentally alter our understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology).
This is not how we ought to be thinking in the 21st century. We are lucky to live in one of the most developed nations in the most developed regions of the world; we have at our disposal the entire spectrum of modern medicine – one of the crowning successes of human development. Our medical knowledge has cured billions of people the world over; it has eliminated polio, measles, and small-pox from our day-to-day concerns. Our lifespans have increased from a mere 48 years on average in 1900, to almost 80 years in 2010, and much of that time is spent in a state of health undreamed of by our ancestors. We are in fact, so healthy now that we have the luxury of worrying if we are healthy enough.