Wikipedia on Homeopathy: Problems with Metaphor

A series of posts examining some of the statements made on Wikipedia regarding Homeopathy. (These comments derive from a 2012 edition of the Wikipedia article. I will not quote the entire article but will quote only those statements which should be corrected.)

Paragraph three:

Wikipedia: “Modern advocates of homeopathy have suggested that ‘water has a memory’—that during mixing and succussion, the substance leaves an enduring effect on the water, perhaps a ‘vibration,’ and this produces an effect on the patient.”

First, this is the “some-people-say” rhetorical tactic used commonly by faux news organizations when they want to imply something without an actual interview or quote taken in context. (And isn’t citation Wikipedia’s thing? Why quotes with no citations?) Just because “modern advocates” have said it does not mean their statements have been embraced by the profession.

For example: “Modern advocates of allopathic medicine have suggested that eugenics might be a good approach to reducing cretinism in the population.” Some doctors have said things like this. Most have not. And even though the profession did debate the merits of such an approach many years ago, this attitude is hardly representative of current conventional medicine.

Likewise, some have speculated that water might have something like “memory.” Others have not, and no one’s theorizing changes the actual data, which suggests that something in these solutions is able to stimulate a reaction in human bodies.

Second, “vibration” is a loaded word from the 1960s meant to suggest touchy-feely-ism. The proper word is “resonance,” and every material substance in the observed universe has resonance, as the Wikipedia writers surely know. The question in this case might be whether water can transmit the resonant frequency of another substance. Since we now have tools to measure the resonances of different types of solutions, I think the writer is being semantical and maybe disingenuous.

In case you’re wondering, the most recent basic science research suggests that the mechanism of the homeopathic solution has to do both with resonant frequencies and with nano-particles.

Wikipedia: “However, nothing like water memory has ever been found in chemistry or physics.”

As in the rest of the article, whenever the authors get down to making a concrete statement, they are usually not being straight with us. There are several ways of measuring the energy output and resonant frequency of a solution, and they have been used to show a difference between a homeopathic solution and plain water. For decades now, we’ve had solid evidence that something is happening in these solutions. We have not shown exactly what is happening, but the homeopathic solutions are measurably different from plain solute. If this doesn’t qualify as “memory,” perhaps the Wikipedia writers will propose a less metaphorical term.

Wikipedia: “Furthermore, the claims of homeopathy contradict pharmacological science, which shows that higher doses of an active ingredient exert stronger effects.”

Back to the crux of the Wikipedia argument! It’s all about the size of the dose, which these folks clearly have never studied and do not understand.

Homeopathy does not claim that toxic doses of chemicals do not “exert stronger effects” on the system as a whole. Clearly, poisoning someone exerts a very strong effect, a toxic effect, at the systemic level. What homeopathy claims is that larger doses of toxic substances inhibit normal cellular activity. In fact, this inhibition of cellular activity is one of the things that causes the toxic effects you see when someone has been poisoned.

This is completely different than the hormetic effect of a homeopathic (or nano-) dose on cellular activity. The theory of hormesis, which is often cited by homeopaths but which is not a homeopathic theory, states that minute doses of active substances stimulate cellular activity. Medium-sized doses are removed via the elimination pathways. And large, toxic doses suppress cellular activity.  Again, we’re talking about cellular activity, not a systemic effect, and the theory of hormesis is a well-known part of physiological science that was not proposed by a homeopath.

(The edition of the Wikipedia page that we are examining existed sometime during 2012. We will not attempt to keep up with the page edits since then.)


2 responses to “Wikipedia on Homeopathy: Problems with Metaphor”
  1. Unknown Avatar

    You deliver such quality thoughts. Good job. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Homeopathy Clinic in Panchkula

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