Homeopaths believe that “like cures like,” but that this only works when the substance in question has been diluted repeatedly. The more times the substance is diluted, the more powerful the preparation. Some preparations may have a few molecules of the original substance present, but those are only the mild ones. The more powerful homeopathic preparations have none of the original active ingredient present and may not have for several iterations of the dilution process.
Make sense? No? Of course it doesn’t, but here’s the theory behind how it works.
The first step is finding a substance that causes the same symptoms as what is being treated. For example, an itchy rash might be treated with an extract of poison ivy, heartburn might be treated with a food acid like vinegar or citric acid and eye irritation might be treated with something like hot pepper extract, since that would normally cause irritation. To the homeopath, the underlying cause does not matter, only the symptom. An itchy rash, for example, might be caused by an allergic reaction, a bacterial infection, an irritating substance or any number of other things. To a mainstream doctor, the cause is important, as that is what will determine how the condition is treated – antibiotics would clear a bacterial infection but would be useless for allergies. But for homeopaths, this is not an issue of concern. It’s only the symptoms.
The homeopath now selects a substance that produces the symptoms in question. The substance often has a cryptic or exotic sounding name. For example, if treating insomnia with caffeine, the homeopath won’t use “caffeine” but rather “Coffea Cruda” which is just a coffee extract, the active ingredient being caffeine.
A small amount is then added to water to make the preparation. It can actually be added to other solvents, such as alcohol, but that would make this even more nonsensical, since that has effects of its own and also would have to figure out which substance was the solvent and which was the solute. Thus in this example, we’ll just use water.
The substance being used for the homeopathic preparation now somehow communicates its properties, especially its physiological properties in humans (or whatever species is being treated) to the water molecules. It’s not clear whether the substance communicates only its physiological effects of the species being treated to the water molecules or if it communicates all its properties for every species, and the water just decides which one to use when it gets to its host. In either case, the water remembers the properties. Homeopaths claim that the water is somehow “energized” or that “information” is stored. It would look something like this.
Not only is the water good at remembering things, it is also very concerned with who it will listen to. In any sample of water, there are bound to be some other chemicals, if only in trace amounts. Even the highest analytical grades of water will pick up a tiny amount of environmental contamination when exposed to the atmosphere or placed in a new container. The water knows better than to bother with them.
Notice, however, that the water has only remembered the properties of the substance added, but has not actually started to oppose the effects it has in the body. That’s because it’s not dilute enough. One dilution will not do it. So the preparation is then diluted into another container of water.
Each time the water is diluted, it caries the information about the substance it had been exposed to several dilutions back. The original molecules may not be in the new sample, but that’s okay, because the new ones always remember the information and are sure to pass it on. After a few dilutions, however, they don’t only remember the information, they start to decide to do something with it.
However, the potency of the waters response is low. This is because it has not been diluted enough. The preparation gets more and more powerful with each dilution.
The water continues to get stronger and after a given number, the homeopath decides the preparation is powerful enough. Too many dilutions and the preparation might not just help one fall asleep, but it could put you into a coma and we would not want that! Note that the water has a very good memory and never messes up the information. With humans, a rumor can be passed between six or seven people and by the time it gets to the end, it sounds nothing like the original story. Water does not have this problem. The information remains totally accurate throughout the preparations.
(This goes on and on but you get the idea)
Now that the preparation has gone through enough preparations, the individual with the health problem simply drinks the water (or places it on a rash or drizzles it onto pills and then lets it evaporate and takes those pills) Once in the body, the water knows what to do and is not stopped by the fact that it may not have the chemical properties or molecular structure to do so.
Yes, this is really absolutely exactly what homeopaths claim happens in order for their preparations to work. They may not believe that the water molecules actually have conversations with each other, but they do believe that they are able to pass on information and understand its implications in this way. The explanations range from “electrical interactions” to quantum mechanics. Quantum effects are a great way to explain this, since most people know absolutely nothing about quantum physics other than it involves strange and seemingly nonsensical things, which homeopathy certainly is. In reality, quantum physics may be a bit weird and counter-intuitive, but it’s not THAT weird and wacky.
The quantum world of subatomic particles may be strange, but homeopathy is just stupid.
This entry was posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009 at 1:47 pm and is filed under Bad Science, History, Misc, Not Even Wrong, Obfuscation, Quackery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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