Homeopathy proven? Yeah Right!

By Michael Edmonds 31/01/2011 7

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.

7 Responses to “Homeopathy proven? Yeah Right!”

  • The argument about how homeopathy might or might not work is a red herring.

    The real question is “does homeopathy work”. When it is compared against an equivilent placebo in a randomised double blind trial, homeopathy does not work any better (or any worse).

    That’s enough for me to say it doesn’t work.

  • Given the disturbingly high incidence of Nobel syndrome, in my opinion, the more Nobel laureates take up a theory after receiving their honours, the LESS likely that theory actually is to be true.

  • Skeptics in the Pub are taking part in this years 10:23 Campaign[1]. As part of this in Christchurch we’re going to be running a double blind, placebo controlled randomised trial. We’re making a homeopathic hangover cure out of beer and testing this against a placebo. In order to get it right though I asked him on twitter (@homeopathicdana) if he’d point me at suitable instructions.

    He was either unable to help or was unable to. Either way, he didn’t and claimed he only worked with “respected scientists”.[2]

    Personally I just think he didn’t want yet more evidence that proves it’s no better than a placebo.

    [1] http://1023.org.uk/
    [2] http://bettween.com/unifex/homeopathicdana

  • Really, read what you have written here in response to the article…is very week.
    The points you make are theoretical and do not refute Ulman’s conclusions.
    Science never proves anything. I mean really!! Here we are getting told that there a tiny “filaments” in String Theory, we are told there is Darkmatter!!! Both totally imaginary and everyone’s all excited at the prospect…and spending millions of dollars chasing it….But then Homeopathy, a modality that actually cures people, for what ever reason being not understood… and the witch hunt is on.
    This really is when adults act like children…. “NO!! my imaginary friend is better than yours!!!” …. Look what works, works…. and an individual has the right to choose… full stop.
    I am interested in your response to Myth #3: “12C is like one drop in the entire Atlantic Ocean.”
    The funny thing is that Homeopathy is stronger than ever even with the smear campaign against it…. why? Because it helps people. Considering most Pharma drugs “dont work on most people” http://www.badmed.net/bad-medicine-blog/2012/10/most-drugs-don-t-work.html-0 … If homeopathy is imaginary, (which it isn’t) I’d rather take an imaginary substance that is safe than an imaginary med that is grossly toxic thanks.

    • “Considering most Pharma drugs “don’t work on people”
      “Homeopathy, a modality that actually cures people”

      These sorts of statements seem to be repeated by supporters of homeopathy, seemingly on the basis that if you say what you want to be true enough times then it will become true.
      This is not correct and it is not science – there is plenty of evidence to show that most pharma drugs do work (penicillin, aspirin being two obvious examples) whereas there is no evidence that homeopathic “remedies” do work.
      I keep asking homeopathy supporters where are the homeopathic remedies for septicaemia, diabetes, asthma, angina and HIV infection, along with evidence that it can cure these diseases and all I get in response is whining about how mean scientists are.

      Please put up or shut up

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