Brian Josephson changes his statement regarding the John Benneth lecture on homeopathy

The following is the latest explanation as to why Benneth was allowed to talk at Cambridge

The invitation to this speaker to speak on a scientific subject, which it must be stressed was not in any way an official invitation from the Department, in no way constitutes approval of the unpalatable videos he has posted on YouTube.  It may noted however that these videos appear to be the speaker's peculiar way of responding to equally unacceptable attacks on homeopathy, attacks that, to the extent that they were to achieve their aims, could quite possibly have adverse implications for the health of the nation (in the latter connection, one might note that two fairly senior colleagues of mine at Trinity, who have tried homeopathic remedies as a last resort, have felt that benefit had been gained from their use). 

Objections were received from some at having an amateur, unqualified speaker, to which one can only answer that amateurs may be perfectly able to study a subject and give a coherent review, as John Benneth in fact did.  The fact that in some places he was confused about the science does not mean the lecture was of no value, since a professional audience can determine where there are misconceptions and make the appropriate adjustments, and the speaker did competently dispose of some of the false objections that have been made to homeopathy. 

There were also objections on the grounds that by allowing the speaker to speak in the Mind-Matter Unification Project's seminar series we were 'giving a platform for his views'.  His view is that there are good reasons to suppose that persistent structures in water, a possible basis for homeopathic practice, exist. Is it wrong to make the arguments supporting this hypothesis more widely known, thereby opening them open for discussion?  Would it have been better instead to have suppressed discussion by not allowing the lecture to be given? 

I must finally address the 'pseudoscience' claim which is the other main reason why correspondents wished us not to hold this lecture in the department.  Here I will be brief, and simply make this statement: 

"Memory of water can be readily disposed of by any of several easy to understand, wrong arguments". 

The fact of the matter is that no argument is better than the assumptions on which it is based, and almost all arguments contain hidden assumptions.  It is obvious, is it not, that if chemical reactants are mixed the system will proceed monotonically to its equilibrium state?  And so everyone thought, until they were forced to accept by the evidence of their own eyes that oscillatory chemical reactions exist.  And so it is with arguments against memory of water; unsustainable assumptions are slipped in before believers' eyes, and not noticed, in a way that magician James Randi, also someone whose presentations might be thought problematic, would be proud of.  And, further: 

"belief that something is impossible, however strongly held, does not constitute proof that it actually is impossible".

On this theme…

3 Comments on Brian Josephson changes his statement regarding the John Benneth lecture on homeopathy

  1. To the black duck I have to say this:Have you forgotten your basic physics science classes, which state that matter cannot be destroyed? Something can never become "nothing". It can only be turned into something else. Ergo, a homoeopathic medicine is something – material from a mother tincture of a plant animal or elementary substance – that has been turned into something else. In the words of Einstein: E=Mc2. Thus I like to mention that the black duck is someone who, if anyone mentioned copper nitrate, would think he was talking about policemen’s overtime.

  2. Dear Kaviraj,It is not lightly that I have to say that you comment is perhaps the most stupid I have ever had on one of my blogs. If you really believe what you say, perhaps you would like to post to me a dilution of your wallet. Perhaps send 9/10 of the cash therein, shake the wallet and repeat, say ten times. This should not be a problem for you as, although your wallet may now appear to be empty, you can console your self that matter cannot be destroyed.

  3. Just came across by chance in a search. It’s strange to find someone in this day and age saying ‘Have you forgotten your basic physics science classes, which state that matter cannot be destroyed?’ when it’s been known for 100 years or so that matter and energy can be converted into each other. But schools take a long time to catch up with current research, and no doubt it is many decades since Kaviraj went to school.

    On the other hand, sometimes schools are ahead of the scientists. I recall our Geography Master in the early 1950s pointing out the fit of the coastlines of Africa and South America, and the hypothesis continental drift, at a time when scientists had not accepted this. Don’t believe all that scientists tell you!

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