If You’re a Homeopath, Why Do You Sell Anything?

I want to do my part to spread the word about World Homeopathy Awareness Week, but it’s difficult to think of anything interesting.  (WHAW is a very real event put on by homeopaths for the purpose of telling everyone about homeopathy.  Check the link.)  I’ve written on here before about the terrible consequences of trusting your and your loved-ones’ health to this pseudoscience, so I have little to add in that respect.  Also, there isn’t much I can add to the arguments and analyses provided over at Science-Based Medicine.  The most I can do is offer a brief explanation of homeopathy, embed a couple of well-known videos put out by homeopaths that purport to explain the mechanism of homeopathy, and raise an issue that seems obvious and which has always bugged me, though I don’t pretend that it’s original.

First, homeopathy is supposed to be a medical treatment.  It is based on the idea that “like treats like,” also called the “law of similars.”  This is the idea that, if you want to cure something, you need something that is similar to your ailment.  Something that causes an ailment in large doses will cure it in small doses.  For example, popular homeopathic sleep remedies contain highly diluted caffeine.  Caffeine causes sleeplessness, so it can cure it as well.

This brings us to the idea of dilution.  That’s how homeopathic remedies are supposed to get their power, by diluting it with water, and succussion, which is just shaking the diluted substance forcefully.  Not only is the substance diluted, but the more diluted it is, the stronger it is.  Most homeopathic remedies are diluted to such a degree that not a single molecule of the original substance remains.  Water is supposed to have a memory, so that’s not a problem for the homeopath, however.  Something of interest is that one popular homeopathic remedy for the flu, Oscillococcinum, is supposed to be diluted by 1 part per 10−400.   To give you an idea of just how diluted this is supposed to be, there are an estimated 1080 atoms in the whole observable universe.  Doing the math, that would require there be 10320 more universes to simply have one molecule in the final substance (pointed out by Robert Park in his Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science).  Now that’s diluted!

That, then, is the rundown of homeopathy.  You take something that is in some “like” your ailment, dilute it to the point that it no longer exists, and this cures you because the water in which you diluted it has some kind of “memory”  that allows it to retain the healing powers of that substance…but only when it’s not there.

If you’re shaking your head at this and wondering exactly how this is supposed to work, I can do no better than to post videos from homeopaths themselves.

I’m hoping those of you reading this know enough basic science to understand the complete absurdity of the claims in those videos, because they are just nutty.

So, here’s my question, then.  If water is able to remember all the substances that it dilutes long after no molecule of that substance remains, then, as the water we drink has had all that stuff in it at some point, we should be able to drink tap water and get all the healing effects one would find in any homeopathic remedy they purchased.  For example, if I were suffering from insomnia and wanted a sleep aid, I should be able to drink tap water as it certainly is merely the result of sophisticated filtering processes that remove substances that were in it, and lots of caffeine has been poured down drains, so that water should have the memory of the caffeine.  If homeopathy is correct, I should never suffer from sleeplessness at all.  That goes for all the other remedies as well.  All that stuff has been in the water that eventually gets to my tap at some point, and it has been diluted to such a point that no molecules of those substances exist.  That should make it perfect for everything.  I should be in perfect health as long as I drink water from the tap regularly.

What’s funny about that is that homeopaths should know this.  Hence, there is absolutely no need for them to sell anyone anything.  As such, even if they are not hucksters in the sense of trying to sell you a product that does not work, they certainly must be in that they are trying to sell you a product of which you already have an ample supply.

If homeopathy is correct, then we don’t need homeopaths at all.

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19 Responses to “If You’re a Homeopath, Why Do You Sell Anything?”

  1. CW Says:

    Homeopathy is ridiculous. I think it’s why I have rarely had to discuss it. Either people have never heard of it, or they already know it’s bunk.

    There’ve only been two occasions where I encountered people who believe in homeopathic treatments. I thought I’d share two assertions – in the event you ever come across them as well.

    1) The dilution of the active ingredient is very important. Thus, the tap water example (which I have used as well) does not work with them because their response is that the ingredients in homeopathic medicine are smaller (and more diluted, and more pure).

    2) It’s not just the active ingredient, but also the water involved in the dilution process. They told me that homeopathic manufacturers “energize” or “excite” the water Of course, they can’t explain what this process is – but they’re response is “well, I can’t tell you how they build nuclear bombs either, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do that either.”

    A light-hearted example that I like to use: if you add a molecule of spaghetti sauce to a bowl full of past noodles, it doesn’t mean you have spaghetti. This example came to me, because my wife is very stingy with the sauce – and so I refer to her spaghetti as “Avogadro Noodles” (shortened from Noodles w/ Avogadro Sauce).

    • Jim Says:

      I guess I would push on point 1 since the ingredients in tap water look to be as diluted as most homeopathic remedies. That is, I can’t find even one molecule of most of the stuff that’s been in the water. Also, since it’s diluted, the idea of “purity” of the original substance does not make sense. That looks like it’s, well, diluted.

      As to point 2, that doesn’t appear in most of the literature I’ve seen, but, even so, I guess I would push on that as well. I might not need a complete breakdown or mechanism, but I would need some explanation of what “excite” means, since it’s entirely possible that process is duplicated in getting my water to the tap as well.

  2. Steven Hawkings Says:

    I’m just glad she got my name right.

  3. Billy B. Says:

    I work doing web-promotion for several alternative health practitioners; Several of my clients have been professional homeopaths, and I’ve studied & used homeopathy myself for about 20 years. Your comments identify you as aligned with “establishment” medical thought in the sense that only things “ultimately explainable” via “scientific” means are appreciated or approved: Homeopathy falls outside of this model, so you don’t appreciate or approve of it. If your attitude was “enforced” through the ages, we’d still be blood-letting.

    Your comment about the water overlooks the fact that 200 years ago “clean water” came from unpolluted (relatively virgin) springs. Nowadays, pharmaceutical prepared homeopathic remedies use distilled water (that would lose all of the many noxious elements that straight municipal tap water might contain, as you suggest). There’s no problem with the water used in modern homeopathy.

    If your disposition inclines you to seek out problems/short-comings in homeopathy… don’t bother interrogating the “science” (homeopathy’s 200+ year success suggests that your own favored ‘medical system de-juer’ will ultimately lose that contest), instead focus on the “professional practice” of homeopathy nowadays.

    For consumers/patients of homeopathy seeking out professional care, the biggest challenge today is the prospect that their big investment of time & money will go to waste. This isn’t (IMHO) any factor of inherent deficiencies in “homeopathy”, but instead deficiencies (of adequate perceptions) in their particularly chosen homeopathic practitioner. These contemporary practitioners ply a trade radically different than their mainstream/establishment brethren… yet, they assert billing modalities essentially identical to these adversaries: “Sit in my office for X hours… I charge you X $… irrespective of ultimate results”.

    When an establishment practitioner charges a patient for a service… the delivery of “value” is always obvious: You get a pill (that makes you better, or obviously makes you sicker), or you get a surgery (that cures you, or kills you), or you get something obvious.

    When a homeopathic practitioner charges a patient for a service… they sit and chat for 2 or 3 hours, then the practitioner gives (or prescribes) a “remedy” (that comes with all of the doubts echoed here and everywhere else). If this remedy results in a cure, or even a noticeable amelioration of symptoms, the patient/customer will probably be happy. In too many cases, however, nothing happens: The remedy has no effect at all. It’s easy to point to the “obvious ridiculousness” of homeopathy to explain this… but the fact that a very large population of sick people have been cured using homeopathy through the ages suggests something else going on here… quite simply… their practitioner didn’t get it right (s/he “stinks”)… Out of the thousands of prospective homeopathic remedies to choose among, s/he selected/prescribed the wrong remedy.

    An optimal solution to this situation would be a change in the way professional homeopath practitioners charge their patients: Don’t tell me (as a patient) that’s it’s not your fault that you selected the wrong remedy for me, after I’ve paid you X$ for X hours… You have my money… I want the correct remedy!! Either figure out the correct remedy for me (at NO additional charge to me!) with however many extra hours it takes you… or give me my money back… after all Mr. Practitioner – you’ve wasted my time enough… Give me my correct remedy (keep trying), or give me my money back!

    This isn’t the way things work today. I see very large quantities of paying patients leaving professional homeopathic practitioners hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars poorer – without their correct remedy. This is a much bigger… much more practical… complaint/fuss about homeopathy than questioning/interrogating the esoteric “science” in such practices…

    I could imagine a “medical service” delivering on this promise… we guarantee results, or your money back. The establishment doesn’t promise or deliver such results… but as the poorer cousin to mainstream contemporary therapeutics, homeopathy is held to a much higher standard… so that it may one day swap positions.

    That day is coming as sure as the day follows the night.

    Billy B.

    • Jim Says:

      I, as would almost all of the individuals who point out the problems of homeopathy, would be glad to hear what good reason there is to think that homeopathy does anything at all. If you think that science cannot provide this for some reason, I would be interested in hearing why that is as well, but, of course, even if science were somehow flawed, that would still not justify a belief that homeopathy works.
      You statement “If your attitude was ‘enforced’ through the ages, we’d still be blood-letting,” shows that you don’t get how science works. Blood-letting is not in any way a scientific practice. It was science that brought about the end of all such practices, that end resulting from the recognition that what is commonly called the scientific method is a remarkably successful way to determine how the world works. That method determined that blood-letting did not work, hence, it was discontinued. So, no, my attitude would never reinforce blood-letting. My attitude is precisely the kind of attitude that got rid of it for the simple fact that there is no good reason to think that such a practice works.
      You write that homeopathy has had a “200+ year success.” What success is that? Please be specific with your evidence.
      How can distilling water get rid of “noxious elements” if water has a memory? How can you tell the difference between that and the actual practice of homeopathy when both result in a product that has not a single molecule of the element in question left? What is it about distilling that makes water “forget” but which removing all trace of the element by way of dilution does not?
      You’ve misunderstood the criticism made against homeopathy if you believe that it is “held to a much higher standard” than science-based medicine. That’s not the issue at all. The issue is that no one has presented any reason to think that homeopathy is anything other than what it appears to be, namely water. Unfortunately, plain water isn’t the cure for much.

      • Billy B. Says:

        Hi Jim:
        All of the original homeopaths (the founder Hahnemann first publishing in ~1810, and other authors the next 100 years or so) were establishment-trained & licensed “MD’s”; So, despite the differences between the mainstream practitioners (the ‘allopaths’) and the homeopaths, these guys shared the same rigorous education, training & licensing standards (often attending the same medical schools and practicing in the same hospitals side-by-side). Homeopathy was then essentially an ‘extra’ specialization added onto an MD’s mainstream practice.
        It’s probable that MD’s through the ages have taken pride in asserting that their practices are based on strict scientific principles and methodologies: This has certainly been the case with the homeopaths… such ‘scientific’ principles asserted as strongly as the allopaths asserted their own ‘scientific’ principles (many believe much stronger asserted). Hearing this, you’ll likely challenge how anyone (especially an overly educated MD) can assert that a homeopathically-prepared substance ( especially those most exaggerated examples you mention… esoteric remedies prepared to be millions of times more dilute than one part in all the grains of sand (or stars) in the universe, etc) – can have any therapeutic value at all.
        What did these old-time homeopath MDs mean by their assertions of ‘scientific’ principles?
        Hahnemann was fluent in several languages, and was a prodigious reader of foreign & historic/ancient medical texts. At some point in his life he discerned an odd unexplainable phenomena appearing in many of these divergent texts from different cultures & different ages… the bit about “like cures like”: Where a particular substance given to a healthy person will cause a particular illness in this person… we can similarly find the cure for this ailment in using this same substance (medicinally prepared). The pre-Hahnemann authors (going back thousands of years) recognized and noted this oddity… but didn’t seriously investigate it.
        So Hahnemann’s eventually published assertion that ‘like cures like’ wasn’t a new idea… but he added a very significant twist to this old observation that changed everything… the bit about doing the ‘dilutions’ (and ‘succussions’) in preparing new remedy substances. He came up with a method of preparing remedies that effectively “potentized” (medicinally-empowered) their base/original substances: This is where the (sometimes radical) dilutions were first introduced.
        But what about any claims of ‘science’ here?
        So Hahnemann establishes a methodology (a ‘scientific methodology’) to discern what healing properties are present in a given substance. He performs what’s today called ‘a clinical trial’… he assembles a large group of healthy volunteers that agree to take this (homeopathically prepared) substance. As the large crowd starts taking the substance, many get sick! All of these illnesses are meticulously documented. A dozen people may suffer from diarrhea, a different (or similar) dozen suffer from constipation, another dozen can’t get to sleep, and another dozen can’t wake up… Each person’s particular expression of illness is meticulously documented. This clinical trial process was (eventually) repeated (up to the present day) for 3000+ substances. All of this huge information is distilled into manageable hand-books (greatly aided nowadays by our computers). Using these resources, a homeopath’s task is to extract as much pertinent information from an ailing person as possible… then compare this ailment symptomatology to the very rich (200+ years now!) remedy case histories. When a match is found (a given remedy previously caused most closely similar illness symptoms), there’s a high probability this remedy will cure this ailment.
        Given this brief overview, skeptics can still assail this ‘like cures like’ assertion. It probably takes a direct personal experience to help one finally “see the light”.
        My own personal introduction to homeopathy might serve some useful purpose in illuminating my relative enthusiasm here… Twenty five + years ago I worked in a downtown office doing computer programming work… I sat close-by to a staff of other programmers… I had an outbreak of warts all over my hands; it was awful & very embarrassing. I went to a (company recommended) establishment dermatologist/doctor in the neighborhood who prescribed weekly “freeze sessions” (he applied a highly targeted micro freeze spray from a can to each wart… which froze each wart… they then easily peeled off). After a dozen or so weeks of this, I asked him how much longer this therapy would be necessary… he replied “as long as your good medical insurance coverage continues”. We both laughed, and I asked him again… seriously… how long? He replied that there was no known remedy for this ailment (the ‘warts virus’), and that I would likely have this condition for the rest of my life.
        Being in my earlier 20’s, I quickly judged this character (and his particular establishment “healing” modality) to be full of s**t… I left his place, went down a few doors to the local health food store and asked the senior clerk there (a guy almost 30!) what he had for such warts. He looked over my hands, and quickly said “Ah! You need Thuja 30c (a common homeopathic remedy for this and many other ailments)… Here it is… $3.99 please” (the establishment dermatologist was charging my company about $100 a week… in the early 1980’s). I took the remedy 2x a day (as “prescribed”)… a week later, there was noticeable improvement… two weeks later, all of my warts were 100% gone. I stopped going to the establishment dermatologist.
        A few months later, the calls/voice-messages to me from his office started (“…it’s essential that you continue your treatments with us… there’s no other option for you”, etc, etc). Initially I just deleted his messages. Eventually, his office escalated their calls to the degree that they contacted my corporate medical department (this was a really aggressive/bad move on their part!)… my (Wall St) corporate bosses were being dragged into this private issue… bad news for sure!… I was really f**cking mad at that bozo dermatologist… So I called him back… the conversation went something like this… “Well Bill, you understand the previous discussions we’ve had about your incurable disease… You’ll need to continue seeing me weekly for the foreseeable future… don’t you understand that?!?” “Well Doc, I found the cure for my warts, and now they’re 100% gone. I don’t need your services anymore.” “I’m sorry Bill… I’m afraid you didn’t understand me, there is NO cure for your ailment… you’ll have this condition for the rest of your life, and you’ll need to continue my treatments for as long as you can afford to…” “I’m sorry to challenge you Doc… I found the cure for my ailment and I don’t require your services any longer. I don’t have the warts anymore, they’re totally gone for over 2 months now…” (Silence) “Well… what did you do? How did you address your ailment?” “I went down to the health food store, a few doors from your office, and the clerk prescribed a homeopathic remedy for me… are you familiar with homeopathy?” (Silence) “… Of course… Many of my patients have cured their ailments using Homeopathy… I don’t understand it… it doesn’t make any sense… but in many cases it apparently works…” “So Doc… why didn’t you tell me about it before?” “Look Bill… you’re a smart young guy… I’m not in business to loose business… I don’t ‘do’ homeopathy… I don’t tell my patients about this stuff whether it works or not… you’re a seeker… you found it on your own… Good Luck! I hope your heal continues… good bye…” That was 25+ years ago… I’m still cured of warts…
        In the interim (as the years passed for me), I faced a huge amount of stress in my life somewhere in my 30’s, and I came down with a case of debilitating shingles all over my legs… approaching a cancerous state (I got my diagnosis from an establishment practitioner)… I couldn’t walk (or leave my house) for months. I headed to one of my homeopath practitioner buddies… again… I was cured within a matter of two months. There is no question in my mind that if I had followed the establishment route to “cure” here… I’d be a pharmaceutical drug addict by now… with loads of “unexplained” (secondary) illnesses bought on by all this ineffective establishment therapy. I’m starting my 50’s here… I’m as close to 100% healthy as possible… I give my life style & homeopathy 49% credit for this… the other 51% credit goes to my life attitude…
        Working with professional homeopaths for 20+ years, I’ve been very close/privy to many successful cures besides my own.
        About Blood Letting…
        Are you into the history of ‘establishment/mainstream’ medicine? Do you understand the historic role that blood letting served in this history? To suggest that blood letting was some ‘un-scientific’ modality is probably clueless on your part. Blood letting was a VERY scientific practice in its day… man THE scientific practice! (think of that long time preeminent scientific medical journal still big news today… entitled “The Lancet”)… Your science didn’t bring about the end to blood letting… homeopathy did!! Homeopathy’s success brought down blood letting… One might have to dedicate too much of his life researching this to actually accept the notion… so it’s probably reasonable/practical to just believe the opposite…
        About water’s “memory”… The ultra Jews have this thing where they can’t say the word of G_d… (see?), because man can’t adequately comprehend what G_d is… what G_d means… Can you fathom this concept? I’m not a Jew… nor do I subscribe to any establishment (human interpreted) “religions”… but I honestly believe that water (maybe I should spell it “wa_er”) comes as close to “G_d” as anything we know on Earth… The bit about waters ‘memory’ that you’re presently transfixed on (properly so) can be explained in this overly simple example… if you take a fallen snow flake (photograph it closely) on a prepared surface and allow it to melt into a drop of water (look at this drop with the most technically advanced microscope on Earth… there’s nothing there except a drop of water)… then quickly re-freeze it… this drop crystallizes into the exact same pattern it previously exhibited as a snowflake (you’ve probably read that no two snow-flakes in all of history have ever been alike?… as many pebbles of sand in the universe, as many stars in the sky, etc, etc)… this is probably the easiest example in support of any statement asserting a “memory” property of water… Nobody gets overly excited about this child-like observation… but it’s a big deal. The odd-ball properties of water go far beyond this basic example. The mechanics of Homeopathy probably latch onto these qualities… but none of the best known homeopaths spend time (waste time) focusing on this, or attempt to explain it, over the years… The ‘water has memory’ folks are referring to atomic (maybe sub-atomic) crystalline structures (such as exhibited in the snowflake example)… not that the water was once comingled with other substances to constitute a beer, or a coffee, or a glass of wine. Being the intelligent person you obviously are, it’s probable you once read some clue-less person’s mis-guided assertions on this topic.
        You said “Unfortunately, plain water isn’t the cure for much”…
        “Hydrotherapy” has been a big deal much longer than even homeopathy… spring baths, water fasts and things of the like(via the old Greeks & Romans… and probably peoples before them)… Here in the States, there was a big movement of ‘Natural Cure’ people in the mid 1800’s that advocated the use of pure clean water for practically every ailment… Their prescriptions of giving up (abstaining from) all unhealthy habits (practically everything… effectively fasting) were very effective (compared to the favored establishment/mainstream therapeutics of the day)… To people of my ilk, your comment is equivalent to asserting that “Unfortunately, plain G_d isn’t the cure for much”… If you’re a pure/certified 100% atheist, surely this is true (this is YOUR ‘religion’)… but for many others, it’ too brazen and unfair an assertion…
        You challenge me on the calculated fact that some homeopathic remedies are diluted to such an extreme degree that “not a single molecule of the element in question (is) left”… How can this possibly be explained/rationalized? This illustrates an essential distinction between homeopaths and mainstream practitioners… Before you consider the end result (the successful curing of ailments and disease for 200+ years), you instead insist on interrogating the methodology… to determine whether this fits within mankind’s presently known grasp of reality, within our presently available models of the world, the universe… Homeopaths assert that this kind of thinking (insisting on first explaining the mechanics of cure in terms that our present technologies completely understand) is useless and obstructive. The purpose of the MD (the healer, etc), is simply to cure the ailing… not to posticulate about this or that theoretical construct far enough detached from the patient as to be practically useless. It’s possible/probable that many of the therapeutic actions exhibited by homeopathic remedies are decades/centuries away from human understanding (does your belief system allow for the possibility that our present level of knowledge may not be the ultimate… that given decades, centuries… radical new things might surface?)…
        Most homeopaths don’t give too much attention to these outrageous examples you quote… because when it comes to actually healing patients, all these extreme observations/contradictions-with-our-known-realities don’t count for much, because they’re routinely eclipsed.
        In your way of thinking (only do the practice once you thoroughly/completely understand the underlying mechanics of therapeutic action)… homeopathy is surely many years ahead of itself. Should this mean that we suspend or abandon its practice at this time until we ‘understand it’s underlying principles’?
        All homeopaths vote on this question is a resounding NO!! We don’t really care that our contemporary science can’t comprehend or adequately ‘scientifically’ explain these therapeutic actions… The fact that it works in many cases, and over 200 years has produced many excellent cures is proof enough for us.
        Thanks for your good challenge of these (by now engrained) beliefs of mine!

        Billy B.

        • Jim Says:

          Well, Billy, there’s quite a lot going on here. We have a radical misunderstanding of the nature of science itself throughout you entire response, a strange account of Hahnemann making dozens people sick that is supposed to show “like cures like,” a story of an incompetent and rabidly unethical dermatologist, not-so-subtle hints that you’re some successful businessman, I guess to demonstrate credibility, even less subtle jabs at my personal integrity and intelligence, factual inaccuracies involving things like water forming identical snowflakes and homeopaths ending blood letting, an equating of God and water, a bizarre assertion that atheism is a religion, a condemning of science-based medicine by means of an absurd strawman, and even, in the last sentence, an admission of outright dogmatism on your part.
          What can I say, Billy? You kinda sound like a nut.
          I’ll note that at no point did you offer what was asked of your, namely good evidence that homeopathy does anything at all. You offer no double-blind studies, no mechanism, no anything beyond a difficult-to-believe anecdote about warts. One would think that with 200+ years of success that there would be more than that.
          Neither did you offer any explanation as to how it is that distilled water is different in kind from tap water in its ability to forget those elements that have come in contact with it. Not that such is surprising.
          I asked a couple of simple, straightforward questions, you failed to answer them in anything resembling a satisfactory manner, and your conclusion is that your faith has survived the challenges levied against it. You’ll forgive me if I am unimpressed by that.

          • Billy B. Says:

            Hi Jim:
            I got a big smile out of your latest retort… it’s very good… particularly to succinctly (and fast!) make clear your set thinking about these contentious issues of science & truth. I apparently offended you in several parts of my last post… if my alleged nastiness is true and not a figment of your imagination, then the thinking types among our readers will recognize this and hold that against me… so… I’ll strive to shape-up and stop such ugly manners lest I loose any further points here… You’re doing a good job of standing up for yourself (though revealing so much of your ruffled feathers is a bit of a narcissistic over-share)… so I’m sure you don’t require any sort of girly-boy apologies from me…

            I haven’t directly addressed many of your charges/demands for a few reasons: I don’t perceive your blog here to be a formal venue requiring citations (well… for everyone other than me apparently); I didn’t think it necessary to “reinvent the wheel” in laboriously describing well-known descriptions of homeopathy procedures, issues & discussions covered extensively elsewhere on the web; I’m not in the field of professional medical science research, so I’m not personally conversant to provide you the level of detailed technical documentation you’re demanding of me (are you in this field? Are you technically competent to adequately comprehend these sorts of medical science articles?)…

            I’m curious as to where on Earth you are… what country, what neighborhood? Is homeopathy illegal or prohibited there? Here in the US, many homeopathic products are for sale over the counter, particularly in ‘health food’ stores. Most health curious people here will quickly learn about the existence of homeopathy, but they’re usually led to initially believe (like I did) that it’s a form of ‘Herbalism’. In this neighborhood, if you work in a shop or office with lots of people and you start asking around whether anyone’s familiar with homeopathy, often someone will directly admit using homeopathy themselves, but you’ll always get many people who “know someone” that uses homeopathy. So, homeopathy is relatively big here in the States… a lot of people use it, and it’s been around almost as long as the country (~200 years).

            Given this reality… what’s your problem with seeing that many people get something out of homeopathy? …that there’s something to it? I offered you my own two most life significant incidents involving successful cures using homeopathy, and you dismissed these as difficult to believe and “allegorical”… It would have been more in keeping with your direct nature (certainly more brutally honest… a forte of yours) to assert that I’m a liar or a dup conned by ‘the placebo effect’ in curing my psycho-somatic ailments (I’m open to this possibility).

            We’re both trying to shape the dialogue here to meet our own purposes – You’re loudly professing that the lack of decent/respectable scientific-proof (and common sense) to adequately explain Homeopathy obviously/totally proves it’s a con, a fraud… that its materially ineffective – I’m ignoring your aggressive charge and avoiding arguing with you on your terms… that I don’t admire or see fit to serve any useful purpose…

            Could you elucidate for me the reason for your passion in debunking homeopathy? Are you an establishment medical practitioner who’s upset about losing business to homeopaths? Are you a mainstream medical student hopeful to impress your professors with your anti-homeopathy ranting? Are you a subject of a repressive regime that prohibits homeopathy and you need to convince your leaders of your patriotic fervor? Any of these is a reasonable and good excuse.

            In my case I’ve already explained my pro-homeopathy passions… personal healings, my business (promoting practitioners on the web), and to these I add a sense of charity to promote the availability of lost-cost/free homeopathy for poor & under-privileged communities here in The States. These are good decent social/civil purposes.

            What good social/civil purpose (if this counts for anything with you) do you hope to further with your fervent denial of homeopathy’s apparent usefulness to countless numbers of ill persons?

            One of my clients, a professional homeopath, recently published a ‘scientific paper’ on a good cure he achieved healing a case of MRSA (‘mercer’). See:

            http://www.homeopathicservices.com/HTML/MRSAjournal.pdf

            This article was accepted & published (by a liberal-minded medical journal here in The States). I’m not an expert in these matters, but to my un-trained eye this article seems to document a treatment that follows a reasonable ‘scientific process’ in achieving a good cure using homeopathy. This practitioner in NYC (Pierre Fontaine) has hundreds of similar successes in his ~15 year career.

            I solicit your commentary on this article. I’m particularly curious as to your opinion on the degree of ‘scientific’ discipline exhibited within.

            I don’t think that this article, or even hundreds of similar ones (documenting, describing successful cures using homeopathy), will be effective in impressing you as to homeopathy’s large degree of realness, of usefulness. But I’m tantalized to bring that prospect closer to reality…

            I’d really like to shake you a bit off of your set (in stone) anti-homeopathy pedestal… for a good social/civil purpose (not to pick on you, or to put you down, or to make you a loser, or any other negative purpose), but instead… to get that fervent kick-ass attitude & mouth of yours over here… over to our side of this dispute!!

            You’re a treasure worth fighting for… or at least paying for… ha-ha!!

            Billy B.

            PS: You keep going on about soliciting answers from me concerning the distilled vs tap water memory bit… I’m not sufficiently informed about the particulars surrounding this issue or controversy to contribute anything useful here. I’ve tried to explain previously that serious homeopaths don’t advocate (or care) one way or another on this and similar esoteric issues… It’s not a concern of ours, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about or discussing this (it has absolutely nothing to do with the practice of homeopathy)… your desire to force me into this discussion is essentially off-focus & off-topic. If you want to start a new/separate thread about this esoteric issue (separate from this “Validation/Invalidation Of Homeopathy” type thread you & I are doing here), I’ll share with you the limited things I’ve heard or read about this odd topic… or anything else that bugs you about homeopathy or other holistic/alternative healing modalities…

          • Jim Says:

            No, Billy, you didn’t offend me. I found your small jabs as humorous as I find your new ones now. Your continued suggestions that I’m some ideologue in terms homeopathy while stating explicitly that such a description is apt for you is quite amusing.
            As to your P.S., it’s quite odd that you would suggest that the issue of tap water having the memory of all that’s passed through it is “off-focus & off-topic,” as such is the explicit concern of my post. On the contrary, that is exactly the topic. Perhaps you should reread the post.
            As to the issue of this blog requiring citations, such does not apply merely to this blog. In any discussion with anyone, if you’re going to claim there is good evidence for something, you should be able to back that up. You’ve claimed there is good evidence for homeopathy, and I’ve asked you to produce it. That’s it. Surely you aren’t so naive as to think that someone telling you a story on the internet qualifies as evidence of anything, are you? Of course you aren’t. All I’ve asked you to do is to produce what you’ve claimed is there. Again, that’s it. The kind of argument you’re attempting to put forth here by suggesting that I’m in some way being over-demanding by asking only what you’ve claimed to have is a red herring. But I have no desire to get sidetracked on what genuinely is off-topic. You’re making an empirical claim, so I’m asking for empirical evidence. If such exists, I and all others would certainly like to see it as no one has been able to produce anything of the sort as of yet, not in 200 years.
            As to your concern about my motives, that too is a red herring meant to distract from the topic. Funny enough, the answer to your question is right here on this site, easily discoverable should you only click the obvious links featured prominently on the top of this blog labeled “About” and “Authors.”
            As to the paper provided, it is only 1200 words long, and that includes an Introduction and description of homeopathy that don’t make up the content proper of the paper. Even including all 1200 words, this is still shorter than I require of students in my Phil 101 course, and I’m considered a fairly easy teacher. As to the content itself, it might benefit you to actually check out the sorts of papers that get published in respected peer-reviewed journals. I think you would quickly discover that they bear no resemblance to the paper in your link. Explore, the journal in which this paper appeared, is not a respected journal.
            You are explicit that you think my position is “set (in stone),” but no such thing is true. I am wed to no position. I only care about getting it right (as opposed to being right, for which I care nothing). It would be easy to sway me. All I require is good reason to do so.

          • Worm Poker Says:

            I’ll give you good reason: worm poking.

            I’ve been a worm poker all my life. When I poke worms, I feel better. I feel rejuvenated. My ills are cured and my ails soothed. There is a long history of worm poking, not to be confused with worm squeezing. Why can’t you just accept that? Just agree that worm poking is the secret we have all been looking for. Why, I’ve even been cancer free all my life! This MUST be the worm poking! My friend didn’t poke any worms, and he died.

            Set and match.

  4. Clouser Says:

    I don’t know a whole lot about homeopathy, but as you frame it here, it seems completely absurd.

    Now, what I knew previously to reading this suggests that homeopathy’s philosophical basis is sound, even if the practice is so thoroughly asinine as you propose.

    If memory serves (yes, I know that I can confirm with Wikipedia or something, but I don’t feel like it), the founder of homeopathy decided, for some unfathomable reason, to take a massive dose of quinine. The effects of doing so felt much like malaria, which is treated by quinine.

    Now, the perceptible symptoms of illnesses are often caused by the body trying to get rid of the disease, not directly by the bug (e.g. fevers). Knowing this, this guy figured that one can be healed of particular sicknesses by lower doses of substances that cause the body to react in the way that it does when fighting the illness in question.

    That sounds pretty reasonable to me, even if it could be potentially dangerous, without adequate research into what substances were actually doing in the body, rather than what it felt like they were doing. I mean, gout and the flu both can make your joints ache but for entirely different reasons (and in the case of gout, pain in the joints is caused by the problem itself, not by the body’s attempts to fix it).

    It sounds like modern homeopaths are mostly numbskulls, though. That lady seems to be suggesting that we can hear vibrations from the strings (yeah, the String Theory strings) with our ears.

    • Jim Says:

      I guess I don’t see what’s reasonable about thinking that because some drug used to treat a disease gives one discomforts similar to those experienced by those suffering from the disease, then things that make you feel something similar to when you have an illness can cure that illness. Your gout and flu example seem to illustrate the issue perfectly. Because such examples can be generated with incredible ease, it seems pretty clear that the story suggested in homeopathy is seriously flawed. Also, I don’t see how you can get from there to the idea that water has some kind of memory that allows it to retain the “vital essence” of the substance that caused the illness-like symptom long after the substance itself can no longer be detected, which is exactly what Hahnemann, the inventor of homeopathy, said was the case.
      Seriously, nothing about that sounds reasonable at any step along the way.

    • Liza Says:

      I think I understand your point, and I think I agree with it. Let me try rephrasing: If we know that certain symptoms are the body’s way of fighting off a disease, then it is not unreasonable to think that taking something to induce those symptoms might cure the disease. So, for example, if we know that fevers fight bacterial infection, and we know that someone has just been infected with harmful bacteria, we might induce the fever preemptively to kill off the bacteria as soon as possible. Of course, the fact that inducing the symptoms might cure the disease is not a good reason to induce the symptoms, especially if the symptoms are more painful/destructive than the disease itself. Plus, as you point out, there are lots of instances in which what appears to be the symptom is actually the disease. And of course, the whole mixing tiny amounts of the symptom-inducing substance with water to make it more powerful is just absolutely absurd. But sure, there might have been a grain of truth somewhere in the confused and ridiculous reasoning that lead to homeopathy.

      • Jim Says:

        Except that such wasn’t Hahnemann’s reasoning. He wasn’t looking at something like fever and attempting to induce it via some other means. Rather, he was a vitalist who thought there was some shared vital force causing the symptoms to be similar. He was attempting to tap into that vital force, not find another means to induce an effect that was known to treat an illness.

        • Clouser Says:

          If someone had asked me what homeopathy was before I read this post, I probably would have framed it rather favorably. I have always had doubts as to the efficacy of all of the thousands of homeopathic remedies sold at hippie hangouts, but I honestly believed that the theory behind the practice was the one I outlined above.

          All of this water stuff seems really unlikely. What Wikipedia tells me about Hahnemann verifies the quinine story, though Hahnemann’s interpretation of why it works was obviously not nearly as scientifically grounded as I had believed. The ludicrous ideas about water seem to have nothing at all to do with the initial source of homeopathic philosophy. I wonder how the connection was made?

  5. Ian Pulsford Says:

    Ha ha, yes! I’ve known for a while that I am immune to the negative effects of aluminium, leaves and bird shit because I drink tank water from the roof of the house. I never thought to expand it beyond that.


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