While it is good to see individual scientists educating the public about pseudosciences such as homeopathy, it is even better when professional organisations take a firm position against pseudoscience.
The New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, which represents about 1000 members has just produced the following press release about homeopathy to coincide with the International Year of Chemistry and the 10:23 campaign.
Press Release regarding Homeopathy — New Zealand Institute of Chemistry
2011 is the International Year of Chemistry and the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) will be involved in a series of activities to educate New Zealanders about, and entertain New Zealanders with, chemistry. This will include providing the media with information on chemistry-related issues. This press release covers the NZIC’s view on homeopathy.
The NZIC is aware that there is some confusion by the public over homeopathic remedies and would like to help clarify several points. Firstly, herbal medicines (many of which do actually work) are not the same as homeopathic remedies. The main feature of homeopathic remedies is that they have been enormously diluted, often to the point where no active ingredient can remain. Homeopathic products are based on the belief that repeated dilution of homeopathic solutions makes the solutions more powerful. A dilution of 1 in 100 is termed ‘C’, and it can be shown that a 14C solution (14 successive dilutions of 1 in 100) contains none of the water molecules that were in the original solution. Given that some homeopathic solutions range from 30C to 200C, it is certain that none of the original ‘active’ ingredient remains in such solutions. Furthermore, homeopaths believe that such remedies are activated (or ‘potentised’) by simply shaking them, and that they ‘work’ because the water in the diluted solution retains a memory of the original ‘active’ ingredient. The NZIC considers these to be highly implausible ideas, which defy basic principles of chemistry, and common sense. Moreover, clinical investigations have shown that homeopathic remedies work no better than placebos.
While most homeopathic remedies are, in essence, harmless solutions containing only water, the NZIC would point out that when homeopathic remedies are used to replace conventional and effective medicines there is the potential for harm. Deaths and serious illness from cholera, meningitis and even eczema have occurred when homeopathic products have been used to treat these conditions. It should be stressed that there is no such thing as ‘alternative’ medicine. There is only medicine.
The New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) has around 1000 members, including university academics, researchers, teachers, managers and other professionals with a background in chemistry.