One of the things that homeopaths will do to justify their craft is quote various scientific papers which “prove” that homeopathy has a scientific basis. Typically when these papers are tracked down the “proof” for homeopathy is distinctly lacking.
A recent blog in the Huffington Post by Dana Ullman, a well known advocate of homeopathy demonstrates this tactic rather well. Looking at his evidence I immediately spotted two references I was familiar with, and from which I had drawn rather different conclusions to Mr Ullman.
In 2009, a paper titled “Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate approach” published in Homeopathy, describes how nanoparticles of metals can be extracted from 6C, 30C and 200C homeopathic remedies and detected using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and quantified by inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES).
Mr Ullman believes this paper supports homeopathy. However, if one reads the paper more carefully the conclusion of the researchers is that these nano particles may form nanobubble complexes with the metal particles, so that when dilution occurs the extracted 1 mL contains a substantial amount of the active subtance. Or to put it more simply, the dilution step is not being carried out effectively, because it allows concentration of the active ingredient in the sample that is removed for further dilution.
Further analysis of the other papers which Mr Ullman purports to support homeopathy continue to disappoint. Nobel prize winner, Prof Luc Montagnier’s paper on “electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences” is quoted however this has been substantially challenged elsewhere.
Mr Ullman also quotes Brian Josephson, another Nobel laureate, who has developed an interest in the paranormal, as follows:
“Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.”
Now while this excerpt from a letter to the editor in New Scientist does seem to admonish scientists for discounting the possibility of homeopathy working it does overlook one point. For scientists to accept that homeopathy works, evidence of such a mechanism akin to liquid crystals needs to be demonstrated. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and it is up to those making such claims to provide the evidence.
And homeopaths have had 200 years over which to work on finding such evidence. However, despite flirtations with quantum entanglement, clathrates and water having memory, no mechanism has been elucidated. Homeopathy continues to be a belief system with no established mechanism, and despite Mr Ullman’s claims, unsupported by scientifically valid experiments. This statement, of course, is one I will happily retract if it can be demonstrated for example that Prof Montagniers research is duplicated by other researchers and shown to demonstrate an effect that supports homeopathy.