The Futility of Finding Physical Explanations for Homeopathy

800px-Hydrogen-bonding-in-water-2D

From the very first decades of homeopathy’s existence in the early 19th Century, mainstream scientists have dismissed its claims for one simple reason: the extremely dilute nature of the remedies. As Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked in 1842 “So much ridicule has been thrown upon the pretended powers of the minute doses”.

Today’s modern understanding of the atomic nature of matter makes the homeopathic principle of dilution appear nonsensical. Many remedies are repeatedly diluted to the point that not a single atom of the main ingredient remains. What is remarkable is that debates about the dilution problem continue into modern times.

And Wendell Holmes’ arguments sound remarkably resonant to those still going on today,

But so extraordinary would be the fact, that a single atom of substances which a child might swallow without harm by the teaspoonful could, by an easy mechanical process, be made to develop such inconceivable powers, that nothing but the strictest agreement of the most cautious experimenters, secured by every guaranty that they were honest and faithful, appealing to repeated experiments in public, with every precaution to guard against error, and with the most plain and peremptory results, should induce us to lend any credence to such pretensions.

Of course, the dilution problem is just one of the many implausible aspects of homeopathy, and I do not intend to cover all those today.

Why I choose to write about this now – and much of this has of course been written before – is that, as I reported last week, a prominent homeopath, John Benneth, gave a talk at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, at the invite of Nobel Prize winner Brian Josephson, on his ideas about how the dilution problem can be overcome. But as Benneth is now taunting in the commentson my blog in his own inimitable manner that I cannot refute his hypothesis, I thought I had better put some thoughts down.

But I would suggest Benneth is neither here nor there. What is so incredible is how a respected solid state physicist can entertain such dubious science. Perhaps, more interstingly, Josephson could respond to these following points.

So what are the problems with physical explanations for the dilution problem?

What set of data are we trying to explain?

The most implausible treatments can appear effective to the unguarded or ignorant.

The first problem is that is is not obvious what set of data any new theory must explain. Homeopaths themselves most often resort to saying that the only evidence they need is their ‘cured cases’ over two hundred years. But anecdotal evidence such as this has been the underpinning of all false medical beliefs. The psychological reasons why someone can be fooled into thinking a treatment has worked when it is simply inert are well understood and nothing more is required to explain such beliefs. The  most implausible treatments can appear effective to the unguarded or ignorant.

Treatments can however be shown to be effective through clinical trails where the biases that infect direct observation can be minimised. Evidence from carefully controlled trials can be very powerful evidence of efficacy. But despite the claims of great superiority for homeopathy, the accumulated trial data is very disappointing. Yes, indeed, the majority of trials do tend to show an effect over placebo, but when the trials are weighted for factors such as quality and size, the better trials tend to show no effect whereas the weaker trials – the ones subject to greater bias – tend so show the larger effects. This is precisely the pattern that we would expect when large numbers of inferior trials are performed on an inert treatment. An objective evaluation of the totality of clinical data, combined with the prior improbability of its claims, can only result in the conclusion that homeopathy is an ineffective treatment.

But even if the trial data could be shown to show a consistent effect for homeopathy, this would still lend no light on explaining the mechanism of action.

For that, we must look to basic laboratory tests of homeopathy.

It is worth noting at this point that this ideas flies in the face of both common sense and well established chemistry.

Homeopaths make several basic claims about the nature of dilution – in particular, that the potency (a somewhat ill defined term) increases with repeated dilution. Given that, we should expect that we could show a ‘dose-response’ curve where some property of the remedies increases as the dilution level increased.

It is worth noting at this point that this ideas flies in the face of both common sense and well established chemistry. Homeopaths repeatedly empty a container of the solution, add new water/solvent, shake and then repeat. Homeopaths call this dynamisation or potentisation. Other people call this ‘washing up’.

In two hundred years, homeopaths have been unable to produce any experiment that consistently produces anything like such a curve. If homeopathy is a science, then it is the only science subject where students cannot product a laboratory experiment that replicates one of the essential foundation results of their subject of study. That ought to be a damning enough fact in itself. It is exactly what we would expect from a pseudoscience.

All these experiments have failed to demonstrate a most important result: that under blinded conditions, the experimenters could distinguish one remedy from another.

Now homeopaths do claim that there are laboratory experiments that support their claims. Various types of experiment covering a range of physical measurement techniques have claimed to show differences between potentised solutions and controls. All appear to be characterised by a lack of adequate controls, lack of independent replication and lack of coherence with other experiments. The most often cited  include Rey’s thermoluminescence experiments, which had a lack of proper controls, and Roy’s Raman spectroscopy experiments on ethanol that failed to source control solutions from the same stock bottle.

All these experiments have failed to demonstrate a most important result: that under blinded conditions, the experimenters could distinguish one remedy from another. My Simple Challenge would be easy to win if this was so.

So, any theory of homeopathic dilutions is hampered by a lack of consistent and reliable data that needs explaining.

What is the nature of the homeopathically active entity?

Since homeopathic remedies can be given in material doses – where material from the original ingredient is present – and ultra-dilute doses – where all material is no longer present, the active ingredient in remedies must be something other than the named ingredient. Homeopaths claim that the effects of the remedy do not alter in form, only in degree, as dilution increases.

The well established understanding of physics and chemistry would suggest that no such entity could exist – and I shall explain why here.

But this does not stop homeopaths hypothesising what this entity might be. Candidates have included such things as the silicates from the glass preparation vials, stable water structures bound by hydrogen bonds and clathrates, to more esoteric entities such as Quantum Coherence Domains, which are supposedly stable quantum entities that can form from groups of water molecules.

All such candidate explanations suffer from two major objections – which we shall come to. But it is first mentioning that there is a range of plausibility in these explanations. No-one doubts that tiny particles of glass may be added to solution during remedy preparation. No one also doubts too that water is a complex and unusual solvent and that structure can form from the hydrogen bonds between the molecules. However, stable water clusters are doubted to exist on their own beyond a few picoseconds due to the thermal forces at work in the liquid. Benneth’s favourites, clathrates, can indeed form in solution and persist – the stability of the hydrogen bonded structure is then facilitated by the enclosed  molecule. Other quantum explanations can, at best , be described as ‘highly speculative’ and probably more reasonably as ‘inconsistent with what we know about quantum coherence’.

But all of these explanations, on their own, can be discounted as they do not show how the dilution problem can be overcome. If the initial molecules of the remedy do create other stable entities in solution, then these new particles or structures will be diluted out of solution even faster than the original molecules.

Such structures make the dilution problem worse not better.

Take Benneth’s clathrates. If the original molecule is surrounded by a lattice of hydrogen bonded water molecules, then we are left with a much larger supra-molecule. But large molecules will be diluted out faster than small molecules. Such structures make the dilution problem worse not better.

For the homeopaths who are paying attention and have read this far, imagine a dustbin full of marbles. Take 90% of them out and fill with water. Now take 90% of the remaining marbles out and repeat. With, say, 10,000 marbles in the bin originally, after 5 dilutions, we can be sure we have no marbles left. Now repeat with tennis balls (clathrates). There may be only room for a few hundred tennis balls originally now and 2 or 3 dilutions will get rid of them all. Bigger structures dilute out faster.

The second objection is also quite simple. If the remedies do contain such novel structures, then it ought to be possible to measure them. But as we have seen, we have no data to support any novel entity in the homeopathic remedy that behaves in the required way.

Substituting one entity (the original molecule) with another hypothesised structure or entity does not in itself solve the dilution problem. Indeed, it may make the problem worse.

Does homeopathic succussion come to the rescue?

Homeopaths will quite rightly at this point point out that remedy preparation is not just about repeated dilution – it is also about succussion, the repeated banging and shaking of the remedy between dilutions. Traditionally, this has to be done on a leather Bible.

Can the process of rapid shaking do something that rescues the remedies from oblivion?

Benneth will claim that very high pressures are formed during the shaking. Is this true and does it do anything?

Whatever is going on during succussion, then its action must be to overcome the dilution of the active entity. If some structure has formed in the water as a result of the presence of the original molecule, then succussion must do something to multiply the numbers of the entity so that the subsequent dilution does not remove them all. What is more, that multiplication must be done so that the new entities are not dependent on the original molecule.

If clathrates are the answer then new clathrates must be formed that no longer have a central guest molecule. But without their guest, they are not clathrates anymore – their are just empty cages of water, very loosely bound by hydrogen bonds,  that will vanish in thermal noise as quickly as any other temporary hydrogen bonded structure.

These newly created structures must also be capable of self-replication. As dilutions progress beyond the Avogadro limit, then all that is left is the new entities, without the original molecules and these new entities in themselves must replicate in order to overcome the unrelenting forces of dilution.

This in itself appears to be highly implausible and unprecedented in material science.

However the problem is even worse.

The rate of replication must be finely tuned.

Commonly, homeopathic dilutions are 1 in a 100. So any multiplication during succussion that creates fewer than a 100 replicas is doomed to be diluted out – maybe more slowly than the original molecule, but it will not be able to account for the homeopaths increase in potency created.

But multiply too fast and the solution can quickly become saturated as the structures grow exponentially. This too is also fatal for the homeopaths, as once saturated, the solution can no longer change its character to account for increased ‘potentisation’. And the range of dilution factors that must be gone through without saturation is vast – some remedies have been serially diluted thousands of times.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations would suggest that is multiplication factor must lie within a very small range of values if the claims of homeopaths are to be accounted for. But since the nature of dilution and succussion is not standardised in the world of homeopathy – huge ranges in dilution factors and amount of succussion exist – then any finely tuned process would not be occurring under most real world homeopathic conditions. Worse, these multiplication rates must be similar for all types of starting molecules – from plant extracts, minerals and salts to more exotic and complex remedies such as hyena saliva and the ‘nosodes’, such as puss and blood containing infectious agents.

The anthropic principle cannot rescue homeopathy.

To me, this is fatal. Even if we were to find some entity that was created under homeopathic dilution and succussion, then it appears to have to exist in near ideal circumstances for it to play any role in the therapeutic process.

Unlike other fine tuned processes in nature, the anthropic principle cannot rescue homeopathy as it is a human invention and not a fundamental part of our existence.

But then again homeopaths may claim that it is – and this will no doubt lead us into the more mystical nature of their claims – an area, I feel, that may provide more fruitful ground for coming up with explanations for their beliefs.

In order for succussion to rescue the dilution problem, we must assume a significant number of implausible and finely tuned processes that could not possibly play a role in the ad hoc world of homeopathic remedy preparation.

And another thing

If, despite all this, my reader is still clinging to the hope that physical explanations can solve the riddle of homeopathy, then there are, of course, still many more plausibility problems to solve. I will not go into detail on these – it is late – but it is worth listing some of them for the sake of completeness.

So, after repeated dilution and succussion, the resultant solution is often dropped into a vial of sugar pulls to ‘take’ the remedy. The solution of water, ethanol will evaporate. How do the sugar pills then carry the homeopathic active entity? Does sugar then take on the structure? A whole new range of material science problems then ensue.

How is this homeopathic entity then used by the body? How does it know that this is a healing structure? How does this entity carry the information about the original molecules that cause the symptoms that are supposed to be cured?

And on and on.

After writing this, I feel that it is all for nothing. Homeopathy is not a rational belief system. Supporters will not engage in serious debate of the issue – with few exceptions. Objections will be ignored by the vast majority of its practitioners. I am debating a faith system with physics. No good can become of it. But homeopaths hijack physics to give undeserved legitimacy to their claims. And the only possible response is to show that this is an abuse. People with little knowledge of physics may benefit from knowing that the appropriation of the subject is the action of intellectual imposters.

And people like Benneth are obvious imposters. We should not lend any credence to such pretensions.

51 comments for “The Futility of Finding Physical Explanations for Homeopathy

  1. October 11, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Great post. The NDs / NMDs here in North America label homeopathy on their international board exams a “clinical science” and a “branch of medical science.”

    Still [perhaps this will be always].

    -r.c.

  2. October 11, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Brilliant! Thanks for taking the time.

    One typo worth correcting: ‘Does sugar then on the structure?’

  3. Ash
    October 11, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Excellent post. This sums up perfectly the reasonable objections to homeopathy. I just don’t see how the fundametnal contradiction between homeopathy’s proposed mechanism of action and fundamental chemistry and physics can be hand-waved away. Of course, as you touch upon, the mechanism of action would also require a new form of biology to develop.

  4. October 11, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Yeah, brilliant, Dimwit. If liquid aqueous structuring can’t nucleate around anything but solid matter, then how do you explain “gas hydrates,” synonomous for the inclusion complexes also known as . . CLATHRATES?
    (I’d suggest that before anyone follows this clown over the next cliff, they check it out for themselves on any one of a hundred thousand mentions on the web the defnition for clathrates and gas hydrates)
    Gas hydrates, specifically METHANE CLATHRATES, were the cause of the BP clusterfuck in the Gulf of Mexico this last year. Just as gas hydrates blew up in BP’s face, clathrates are blowing up in the faces of gthe anti homeoapthy clusgterfuck.
    It alone is reviving the stonecutting business. And yet here’s Dimwit, trying to convince everyone he’s now the new expert on clathrates.
    What a dope!
    Listen to the lecture again, Dimwit. I will teach, you will learn: Succussion brings atmosphere (bubbles) into self assembling cybotactic regions around which they nucleate. Air nucleation (gas hydrates)replace ionic (solid particulate)nucleation through serial dilutions.
    Now if that’s too complicated for you and you still want to believe that hydrogen bonding requires solid matter around which to create liquid aqueous structuring (LAS) then pour yourself a big glass of water and explain to me and everyone reading this what accounts for water surface tension? You know, the elastic like film over the surface of the water. What is it? What are you going to invent as the reason for that?
    Tick tick tick, time’s waiting, ding! You lose again, dimwit!
    You and James the Amazing Rectum Randi, Colquhoun the Loon, Psimon Psingh the Pseudoscientist, Reichmeister Ernst, Ben Dover Assacre, Michael Happy Face Killer Shermer, and the rest all of you clowns are speechless now regarding supramoleculars.
    It just came out of nowhere, didn’t it?
    Hey, those bubbles you’ve been blowing? You know what creates those? Hydrogen bonding! LOL! Of course! Pardon me while I take the rest of the week off laughing my guts out.
    How does it feel, dimwit? OMG, You’ve been taking all these cheap shots at people, and now it’s coming back to bite you in the ass, isn’t it? And now YOU’RE the target of ridicule. LOL!
    Maybe you could rent youself out as a clown for birthdays. Tell ’em I sent you.
    Uh oh, somebody call a bobby, put Andrew Lewis on suicide watch. Take all the sharp objects aaway from him. But let him still have access to the Internet, okay?
    Especially Google and Weakapedia.
    You should have listened to my advice, dimwit. If you had, you wouldn’t have gone off the rails.

    Hello . . HELLO? Andy? DIMWIT WAKE UP! Its Christmas! I’m handing you the only argument left here. You have to forget about what Coquhoun the Loon and all the others said about transient bonds and dismiss LAS on the grounds that it’s irrelevant. It’s your only out! Okay? So erase the blog, before anyone else sees it, and start over.
    Oh, and by the way, I know one life error is enough for a day, but you’re also wrong about the criteria for trials that demonstrate verum having less value than those that don’t. The Witt review of 2007 grades six different types of biochemical tests on homeopathics. One category, basophile granulocyte testing, lists 25 successful degranulations of basophiles by homeopathics, and three unsuccessful. The successful replications outscore the unsuccessful by a wide margin.
    Now, if anyone wants to challenge me over the results of Hirst and Guggisberg, read the results first: Hirst reported a negative conclusion because they had no covalent theory and were ignorant of supramoleculars; Guggisberg had positive results but reported a negative conclusion becuase their results, although successful degranulations, did not consitute a replication of a previous test.
    What I’m trying to point out to you here, dimwit, is that you don’t have theses in your case against homeopathy, you have feces. Get it? Got it? Good!

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      John – thanks for your carefully worded response.

      It is worth pointing out that solid, liquid, gas are properties of bulk matter – not of host guest molecules within clathrates. You may want to rethink your arguments.

      • October 12, 2010 at 1:11 am

        Keep writing, Dimwit, you’re showing more and more of your ignorance, and anyone can verify online that the guest is on the inside, the host is on the outside. The clathrate hydrate is an inclusion complex, what looks like a cage or lattice work, made up of host H2Os that surround the guest.
        Give it up, stop digging, your grave is deep enough.

      • Le Canard Noir
        October 12, 2010 at 7:58 am

        Corrected – but my argument still stands. Will you now address your own fundamental error?

    • October 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

      I’m surprised you’ve not applied to claim James Randi’s $1m – surely it’d be easy money taken from someone you’d love to show up..?

      • Le Canard Noir
        October 11, 2010 at 10:19 pm

        He has. The problem is that he uses the feeble excuse of not believing the $1M exists to duck out of actually taking the test.

        Benneth could of course take my simple challenge. No money to quibble over. Just a simple deomnstration is required.

        Benneth – want to take my simple challenge? Can you tell six remedies apart (of your chosing) with the labels off?

        Wait for the excuses to start rolling…

      • October 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm

        Andy’s right for once about something, I did apply, 10 years ago. But as usual he’s wrong about everything else.
        Randi refused to set a trial date. Then it became evident he wasn’t going to sign the Challenge . . then it turned out he never signs the application. In other words, its set up for him to dismiss your application on whatever grounds he wants, becasue he’s never agreed to anyhintg . . although in this case he actually did. He said that if I could provde a method by which to identify verum from placebo, I’d win.
        After receiving over 70 emails from him, and about the same number back, I began to question the sincerity of the “offer.” So I called Goldman Sach’s office in Philadelphia and talked to Naomi Shapiro, the account manager for JREF. She refused to verify anything about it, even after I explained to her who I was and that Randi was publicizing GS involvement on his website.
        Randi later claimed that within hours attorneys from GS reportedly ordered JREF to remove their name from the website. Whayt I do know is that Randi went ballistic, claiming I had irreparably damaged JREF.
        I went clubbing that night and won first place at the Jazz Grotto for Best Dancer of the Year Award.
        Randi fled to China, had a heart attack and started selling pens dipped in “homeopathic gold” to pay for the operation. Homeopathic gold, Aurum, is the most indicated homeopathic remedy by heart problems. What a coincidence. And just after being diagnosed with intestinal cancer, Randi was seen drinking a cup of coffee laced with what he claimed was homeopathic arsenic, which once again, it just so happens, out of about 100 remedies for cancer, is once again the most indicated remedy by that disease.
        Check it out for yourself online if you don’t believe me, Google it, it’s all true.
        Materials science Prof Emeritus Rustum Roy of Penn State suggested to me before he died last month that I use their methods . . FTIR spectroscopy, which Andy the Dimwit Lewis Bowels once again tried but failed to debunk, using some flimsy theory that they didn‘t specify the right alcohol.
        However, FTIR scans are set for water content, not alcohol, and other studies of non homeopathic remedies detect supramolecular organization of water (Schaefer, U of Cincinnatti, clathrates alter taste in vodka) But more to the point, see Variation in Fourier Transform Infrared Spectra of Some Homeopathic Potencies and Their Diluent Media, SUKUL http://www.homeopathy.org/research/basic/acm-2005-11_11.pdf
        So in case you missed the bottom line, we now have studies showing that by using FTIR you can distinguish homeopathic remedies from their liquid vehicles, and according to Roy, between one another.
        So there you have it, class. I made my application, I’ve come up with 10 methods, one has been replicated by more than one modern lab under academic auspices, I’ve had verification by an academic, and as the Challenge now demands, I’m known in the media, I’ve lectured at the Cavendish on the subject . . LOL. So now where’s Randi? Hmm? Where’s JREF, breathin’ down my neck, waving’ all that money around? Where’s Richard Adams, the treasurer of JREF, the mystery man who they say alked in one day and handed Randi a check for one million dollars, to which Randi replied, “I’m going to give this to John Benneth someday.”
        A point of triva here: Richard Adams is the founder of UUNET. Yeah, that’s right, the founder of UUNET is the man who reportedly put up all the money for the Challenge. Ithink he’s a multi billionaire. SO whether there’s a million dollars in a bank account somewhere seems to me not to be the issue, as Lewis Bowels implies.
        So if you really think that the JREF challenge is for real, and you want to see somebody put homeopathy and JREF’s credibility to the test for the first time, then get on the phone and give JREF a call, and give them the URL for this website, and let them bug their eyes out at it for themselves if they don’t believe it.
        Ready when you are, Mr. Randi! Put up or shut about this stupid stunt that masquerades as science, or prove me wrong fair and square.
        See? This is why I say I’m your friend, your best friend, your only friend, because I’m guiding you to the light. Follow me and you shall see.
        Now for a little show. For those of you who are interested in the legal analysis of the Challenge, you might be interested in the following video by a most amazing man, my good friend Victor Zammit, attorney at law, in his analysis of Randi’s Challenge. I’ll let him explain to you why the Challenge is bogus.

        James Randi Challenge Exposed- A Lawyer Explains by Victor Zammit

        Of the ten points Victor makes in this video I’d say the most interesting is the one that requires the applicant to wave the right to legal action . . which according to Victor might well nullify it under most conditions of contract law.
        Randi has NEVER affixed his signature to it. I asked him repeatedly to sign it and return a copy to me, but he refused to do it, without explaining why. Well that’s why, because under the right . . or wrong jurisdiction, depending on who you are and where your at, it’s not really a proper, legal contract.
        And Randi calls homeopathy’s a fraud?
        Randi’s a fraud. A flaming fraud. If he’s not, prove it. Put my claim to the test under proper, fair and equal conditions.
        My attorney explained it as a greased pole contest. In such a contest the public is offered a large sum of money to climb a pole. But the pole is greased. When someone shows up with climbing spikes, the manager of the contest withdraws the offer. Likewise, Randi can withdraw his Million Dollar Challenge at anytime, as soon as it appears he may lose, or, as Victor says, simply refuse to pay.
        Where’s the good faith required in any real contract? Why should other contracts be subject to contract law, but not his one, unless of course, it’s not a contract.

      • Le Canard Noir
        October 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

        Benneth,

        I quote from Randi, nearly ten years ago,

        Now that I’ve spent some of my valuable time extracting a few of his more laughable claims from the mass of abuse he posted, I should handle them briefly. In doing so, perhaps I will reach readers who have wondered, as this one did, just why Benneth is so wildly disparaging and abusive. The reason is simple: he’s desperate, he’s obsessive, he does not have the evidence he wishes he had, and with the JREF challenge hanging over his head, he has no choice but to avoid it by claiming that it’s not legitimate. He does this by distorting and perverting our work and our intentions.

        You know full well that it is up to you to state your claim and make an application. Not for Randi to come to you. You are a hollow and abusive man.

        I should also add that I normally delete abusive comments. But you are your own worst enemy. Your comments are further evidence of your disreputable nature.

        Please be clear. If you wish to discuss the blog post above, you are more than welcome. I hope you have the insight to do so.

    • Moochie
      October 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm

      Mr. Benneth, your unrelenting recourse to infantile name-calling, ad hominems, and plain bastardry mark you as an individual who is bankrupt of morals, wit, and intellect. Indeed, labeling your behavior as puerile is insulting to infants and children, who can generally express themselves with more finesse than you’ve been able to accumulate in a lifetime.

      I would admonish you to “quit while you’re ahead,” but, alas, it appears to be far too late for that — you seem to have firmly established yourself as class clown/buffoon to the merriment of all concerned.

  5. October 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    @Benneth, wow – following the link to your borderline paranoid website would chase away even the most gullible in regards to “homeofakery”. That is if the flashing, shifting fonts didn’t induce an epileptic siezure first.

    Your statements are baseless, cherry-picked nonsense. In more than a century, the evidence against any remote efficacy for homeopathy has become overwhelming.

    Your bizarre, ad hominem diatribe is the sign of an intellectually weak argument and possibly an unstable personality. Homeopathy continues solely due to the desire of the consumer to take “harmless” cures and avoid facing up to possibly serous health concerns.

  6. JimR
    October 11, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    In the interest of dispassionate debate about homeopathy let me introduce some terms taken at random from physics.
    The arguments against homeopathy assume a wavicle state as the wave form passes without interaction through the brain of the supporter and the particle form resonates satisfactorily within a skeptic. Repeated replication via the scientifically validated cut&paste technique increases the strength of the arguments. The skeptical mind suffers cognitive dissonance (probably including some quantum disarray) which is resolved by one of two forms of denial: implicit as in WTF or explicit as in HA-HA.
    Homeopathy is based the clathratic religion and is worshipped in the clathredals of this sect where water and sugar pills are available for devotees. And Hahnemann said unto them, “Take that which is similar, purify it by diluting the hell out of it and give it to the gullible.” And the devotees chant, “Ipse dixit, ipse dixit.”
    The following list is included for search engine purposes only: quantum electrodynamics, string theory, multi-universe, bull hockey.
    It seems homeopathy’s vigorous supporters are its worst press.

  7. pv
    October 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Is Benneth on medication? Seriously. His comments on a couple of blog posts here really don’t indicate an individual in possession of anything but the shallowest intellectual capacity. Very troublesome. A stream of pseudo-science babble interspersed with abuse and ad homs isn’t a substitute for an evidenced argument.

    I only have one request (the usual one) for Benneth.
    Provide one properly evidenced and documented case where homeopathy has unequivocally cured a non-self-limiting condition. Complete citations and references please.
    Homeopathy has at this point existed for a couple of hundred years and homeopaths’ meticulously kept patient and medical records should reveal hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of such cases. They should be crawling out of the woodwork so to speak.

    Here’s an easier task. Provide one properly evidenced and documented case where homeopathy can be unequivocally shown to have cured a self-limiting ailment. There ought to be billions of them.

  8. October 12, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Is Mr Benneth taken seriously by anyone in the homeopathic community? If they’re hoping to present a reasonable face to the world, they must surely find his curious approach to engaging with critics to be a major embarrassment. If the world chose simply to ignore his outbursts and deny him the oxygen of publicity, would he actually be able to do any damage? Perhaps he is a troll who would be better off on a strict diet.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 12, 2010 at 7:50 am

      This whole episode has taken place because indeed Benneth appears to be taken seriously by other homeopaths. He was in the UK at the invite of local homeopaths to talk on the “new discoveries in physics underpinning homeopathy”. He is actually from Oregon and describes himself as a computer programmer by background.

      John then got himself invited to Cambridge as Josephson is a well known sympathiser with homeopathy.

      I really hope other homeopaths are deeply embarrassed by his behaviour, and in particular his homophobic and vitriolic rants. However, I fear, that many welcome his combativeness and like how he ‘takes it to the enemy’. Homeopaths have utterly failed to address the concerns that people have about how they practice and some of the dangerous things they do. They will not debate these things constructively. Benneth represents an alternative to them – to attack the people they perceive as pharma shills with aggression and bombast. It’s all they have.

  9. Charlotte Mulliner
    October 12, 2010 at 2:21 am

    LCN: “If clathrates are the answer then new clathrates must be formed that no longer have a host molecule.”

    John Benneth’s response: “If liquid aqueous structuring can’t nucleate around anything but solid matter, then how do you explain “gas hydrates,””.

    Apparently gasses are no longer composed of matter. Fascinating.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 12, 2010 at 7:35 am

      Benneth’s errors are quite interesting. He appropriates the language of modern materials physics but his internal worldview of how the world works is still 18th Century – unsurprising, I guess, for a homeopath.

      His error in thinking some molecules/atoms are ‘solid’ whilst others are ‘gas’ demonstrates his language is just a veneer on his deep ignorance of modern science.

  10. Practical Homeopath
    October 12, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    As some one on the fence over this issue, I find Benneth’s use of personal insults, straw man and non-sequitur arguments, along with his apparent over-weighting of his personal beliefs when compared to standard scientific understanding to be most convincing.

    It is only logical that non-scientific arguments aimed at undermining science are most strenuously objected to by scientists. That they do so with such fervency seems like further proof that scientists themselves are trying to suppress the real truth.

    Benneth’s mad ranting is additional evidence, as only the most dilute and potent homeopathic substance could cause such apparent psychopathic behaviour.

    Also, his assertion that clathrates (which we now understand as the cause of all homeopathic action) form as standard at room temperature and pressure by simple agitation of water holds hope for us all – because then no original starting solute is required. Simply shaking a vial of tap water is as efficacious as purchasing expensive pre-prepared remedies and could lead to the curing of all known disease. People who argue against homeopathy obviously don’t want diseases cured.

    • Wen
      October 13, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      I am unclear exactly what point you are making here. Perhaps you would clarify?

      My personal view is that John Benneth’s behaviours (out-of-control; boundariless; aggressive to a point of bullying; abusive; self-aggrandisement; pretence of knowledge; insistence on belief; weighing belief above knowledge or evidence; and that his own belief is more important than anyone else’s) do look mad, just as you say.

      For me he represents the extreme stereotype of the whole homeopathic community. Since you are a Practical Homeopath I will point out that ‘Robert Davidson’ is a similar stereotype. In that they do meet the actual behaviours of the homeopathic community they are very real (rather than parody).

      Mike Bridger commented that he thought that homeopathy in Britain contained the seeds of delusion and was repressive. John Benneth’s behaviours certainly conform to that.

      I would also observe to you, as a Practical Homeopath, that the list I gave is associated in some areas of homeopathy with carcinogenesis. If I say that I now view homeopathy as a cancer that is spreading and harming, in Africa, for example, you will understand how I reach that conclusion.

      (NB for others :Practical Homeopathy always prided itself on operating outside regulation and legislation. They do have outlets in Africa selling their remedies.)

      • JB
        October 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm

        You may be struggling to spot the very very obvious humour in “Practical Homeopath’s” post…

  11. Dana Ullman
    October 13, 2010 at 1:45 am

    There is a simple reason that no one is interested in trying to claim James Randi’s $1 million prize, Randi has shown himself to be a promoter and defender of “junk science,” as was evidenced by the BBC’s television junk-science study. Randi is not a scientist, and he is not a reliable evaluator of science (heck, look at his views of global warming!).

    Further, Randi has been informed that the BBC’s “study” was NOT a replication of ANY study ever conducted, and it certainly was not a replication of the Ennis study:
    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/view,55 (here’s Ennis’ statement about how this “study” differed from hers and why this study was complete junk …and this same study was used by ABC-TV’s 20/20 program…and James Randi stood behind both of these “studies.” He has not yet acknowledged any problem with these studies and has actually defended them! (Because the people at quackometer like to provide critique of studies, consider using your “talents” on these junk trials…I dare ya!)

    Here’s the written protocol used by the BBC and 20/20…and by the way, it was designed and conducted by a man who had no graduate degree, has NO history of publication in any peer-review journal, and THIS study was NEVER published anywhere (to date).
    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/view,130

    And consider reading other evidence at this site on the nature of “television science” (c’mon, I dare anyone to defend this science!)

    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/by_category.jsp?id=37

    Case closed.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

      Ullman – you are like Benneth. The Randi prize is hanging over your head and you have no response. So, the only action left to you is to disparage the man and the organisation. Shameful nonsense as always.

      This thread is not a forum for discussing the prize. There are plenty of places where that is done. Any further commentary will be considered “off topic” and treated as such.

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      October 13, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      Dullman

      Take the Black Duck’s simple challenge and prove us all wrong.

      http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/12/simple-challenge-to-homeopaths.html

      Benneth claims to be the expert on the physical nature of the remedies so perhaps you could work together.

      You spend a lot of time on the internet repeating the same false claims and misrepresentations but choose not to take this simple practical step. Why is that? I think we can all make an accurate guess.

  12. Vicky
    October 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Randi is not a scientist, and he is not a reliable evaluator of science (heck, look at his views of global warming!).

    You know, being wrong about one thing doesn’t mean being wrong about everything, just as being right about one thing (or even being awarded a nobel prize for it) means that from now on you’re infallible.

    AFAIK the protocol to the BBC Horizon test was agreed on by all parties beforehand, so it must have been acceptable to the “pro homeopathy” side then. It’s pretty much like saying that one knew Peter Fisher’s study on arnica for muscle soreness couldn’t have worked after one knows it didn’t.

    Also, there are a lot of scientists (“”reliable evaluators of science”) agree that homeopathy isn’t only implausible but the current studies confirm that there’s no effect above placebo. Over the years, many people (some of which are scientists) have discussed this with you on various blogs, fora, wiki talkpages, … and given some inside view on the studies “in favour of homeopathy” that you like to wave around, yet you prefer to ignore them and stand by your reading of those studies, so you yourself aren’t what I would call a “reliable evaluator of science”.

    We both know that you (and with you most homeopaths) will never accept that homeopathic “remedies” are inert sugar pills, and will praise weak “positive” outcomes while brushing away all the negative outcomes(by the way: “inconclusive” is also a negative outcome), so please don’t pretend to be a fighter for good science.

    • Dana Ullman
      October 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

      Vicky, you are wrong, dead wrong. Peter Fisher NEVER saw the protocol. He, like everyone else, assumed that the protocol was the SAME as that used by Ennis because the producer & narrator asserted that…but THAT was a lie. The fact that I have proven that this is a lie and that this lie has been CONFIRMED by Ennis (who was never previously shown the protocol until I sent it to her).

      Is it interesting that NO ONE here has committed on the experiment that the BBC conducted??? Is it interesting that you folks become deaf/dumb/blind whenever evaluating research that is negative to homeopathy??? Why then do ANY of you consider yourselves real defenders of “science?” You are all “medical fundamentalists” who are worse than the religious fundamentalists because you are much more arrogant in your ignorance.

      Unless you provide the same degree of methodological analysis to the homeopathic studies with negative results as those with postivie results, you will remain DENIALISTS, not serious scientists.

      • Le Canard Noir
        October 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

        That is rich coming from the man who claimed that homeopathy is good for mastitis on the basis of a study that said it was ineffective. And that homeopathy is good for depression on a similarly flawed trial.

        http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2010/09/can-homeopathy-cure-mastitis-in-cows.html

        Perhaps we can take you seriously when you admit your own flawed reasoning. Despite it being pointed out to you, you do not have the intellectual honesty to admit your mistakes.

        Anyway, Dana – last warning – on topic, or deleted next time.

  13. Richard Rawlins (FRCS)
    October 13, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    An open letter to Mr Benneth.

    Dear Mr Benneth,

    You surely are aware that many people find your approach to science, philosophy and metaphysiscs as peculiar and unusual.

    How is you have been able to have the insights you clearly have, but which seem not to be shared by anyone else, except on a basis of “faith”? Though faith in what I am unclear.

    Have you had a divine visitation?

    Studied elementary particle physics at university?

    Applied your imagination as L. Ron Hubbard did?

    In otherwords – whence cometh your help?

  14. Dana Ullman
    October 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    For those FEW people here who are seriously interested in real science (rather than medical fundamentalism and denialism), consider reviewing the writings of Professor Martin Chaplin, a world renowned expert on water: http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/homeop.html and http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/memory.html

    With several thousand references to research on the mysteries of water, it is time for the denialists to step out of your ignorance and learn a thing or two about the magnificient mysteries of water.

    Further, an impressive review of articles on homeopathy and hormesis (low-dose effects) was published in the journal, Human and Experimental Toxicology, July 2010:
    http://het.sagepub.com/content/vol29/issue7/
    To access free copies of these articles, see: http://www.siomi.it/siomifile/siomi_pdf/BELLE_newsletter.pdf

    Mr. Duck, as YOU know, virtually every study can be described as flawed in some way or other…and one has to be careful in generalizing from each study.

    However, some studies are terminally flawed, as was the case in the BBC’s “television study,” and I’m still waiting for someone to comment on the quality of THIS study.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 13, 2010 at 7:06 pm

      Ahhh. Dana’s other trick – bombard with thousands of refs (via Chaplin) – but none of them will be relevent.

      Can you say how any of Chaplin’s facts answer the problems I spell out in my blog post? Is there anything relevant there?

      No.

      Thought not.

      And do you think is an a honest stance to ignore you own shortcomings until unspecified other people comment on an arbitrary study of your choosing? Its just a fig leaf to hide your embarrassment – that is if you ever feel any.

      • Dana Ullman
        October 13, 2010 at 8:44 pm

        Cool…I’m glad that you acknowledge that there are “thousands” of references from Chaplin (and others) that support what we observe in homeopathy. Therefore, when you and others say that the mechanism for homeopathy is “implausible,” such statements simply verify your ignorance of the subject or just a direct lie. Such is what I expect from a duck…

      • Le Canard Noir
        October 13, 2010 at 9:07 pm

        As I would expect from you Ullman. No direct answer to a direct question.

        So to repeat: how does Chaplin’s work answer the questions I have posed above?

        Specifically:
        1) What set of data are we trying to explain?
        2) What is the nature of the homeopathically active entity?
        3) Does homeopathic succussion come to the rescue of the dilution problem?

        A short summary will suffice.

        As always, your answers should be backed up with evidence.

        waiting…

      • Dana Ullman
        October 15, 2010 at 12:03 am

        A group of highly respected scientists working for Harvard, the American Armed Forces, and the U.S. Geological Survey, confirmed that water acts to dissolve constituents from glass vials, and show that the solutes derived from the glass have effects on enzymes in the resultant solutions (Ives, Moffett, Arun, et al., 2010). Enzyme assays demonstrated that enzyme stability in purified and deionized water was enhanced in serially succussed dilution (SSD) solutions that were prepared in glass containers, but not those prepared in plastic. The increased enzyme stability could be mimicked in a dose-dependent manner by the addition of silicates to the purified, deionized water that enzymes were dissolved in.

        Reference: Ives JA, Moffett JR, Arun P, Lam D, Todorov TI, Brothers AB, Anick DJ, Centeno J, Namboodiri MAA, and Jonas WB. Enzyme stabilization by glass-derived silicates in glass-exposed aqueous solutions. Homeopathy. 99,1, January 2010, 15-24. doi:10.1016/j.homp.2009.11.006

      • The Founding Mothers
        October 15, 2010 at 10:32 am

        So Dana, you’ve established that there is far more glass in any given homeopathic remedy than active ingredient.

        Precisely how does that affect the “memory” of the active ingredient in the solution? Just how much “memory” does water have? If I whisper something saucy to the vial, will this displace the memory of the dissolved glass, or the memory of the active ingredient?

      • le canard noir
        October 15, 2010 at 10:35 am

        I find that when someone throws a paper at me without explaining why it is relevant, they are usually bluffing.

        Dana – you are guilty of the most extreme intellectual dishonesty. You have banded around this silcates paper before and it has been carefully explained why it says nothing about how homeopathy might work.

        Let me highlight a few key passages,

        As such, it is unlikely that silicates in homeopathic preparations are significantly more concentrated than in any other pharmaceutical or food product.

        Such low concentrations would be negligible once introduced into a biological system with highly concentrated solutes.

        The paper recorded exactly the same result from homeopathic and non-homeopathic samples – it fails my tests that I set out above. Worse, the paper is really showing how false positives might arise in in vitro homeopathy experiments if careful controls are not made.

    • phayes
      October 13, 2010 at 9:30 pm

      “With several thousand references to research on the mysteries of water, it is time for the denialists to step out of your ignorance and learn a thing or two about the magnificient mysteries of water.”

      Including, in the footnotes on the 2nd page, a reference to another illustrious crackpot’s glaringly bogus superconducting state analogy.

      What would be your recommendation for those seriously interested in learning about gravity? Tom Van Flandern’s web pages? Lionel Milgrom or Deepak Chopra for the budding quantum mechanics? Michael Behe for the biology students?

      What a moron.

    • jplechago
      October 16, 2010 at 2:10 am

      Amazing! I am not a scientist but I can still smell the bull!
      I can sense when someone is trying to dazzle me. When words like “magnificent” and “mysterious” are used to make a scientific point, I get very suspicious. Yes, I looked at the webpage. It says nothing. I do not need to be “convinced”. I need evidence that is convincing.

  15. October 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    If ancient languages such as Hebrew and Sanskrit, once spoken, can create a vibrational frequency that can move matter into sacred geometrical patterns then Homeopathy frequencies can move the World soul anima mundi into a state of greater self healing. Whatever the mind of man can conceive it can achieve, thy shall be done!

  16. pv
    October 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Still waiting for Dullman to provide the fully documented, incontrovertible case of homeopathy curing anything. Been waiting for some years but Dullman can’t do it – just like every other bullshitting charlatan.

  17. Bryan Tookey
    October 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Very interesting post, thanks.

    Mr Benneth, it is hard to examine each and every one of your arguments as there are so many of them and rather randomly structured.

    However, let me try to replay one of them: you said “Air nucleation (gas hydrates)replace ionic (solid particulate) nucleation through serial dilutions,” which I think means the memory of water is retained in each dilution as the clathrates have the ionic guest molecule (the homeopathic ingredient) replaced by a gaseous molecule as the guest (e.g., O2).

    So my three questions are:
    – Is there evidence that clathrates are formed for molecules other than gaseous molecules at room temperature and pressure?
    – Do you agree that clathrate hydrates require an guest atom or molecule to exist to survive beyond a few pico seconds before thermal action makes the clathrate cage dissemble?
    – If so, how can the gas molecules diffuse into all but a small fraction of the volume of the water and reach the clathrate before thermal action breaks up the weak hydrogen bonds?
    – And finally, how does the clathrate remember the original ionic molecule if it now has an O2 molecule (or other molecule from the air)?

    Also may I ask you what qualifications you achieved in standard academic circles (O-levels, A-levels, Degree, etc.) While these are not always great indicators of intelligence, they are often useful for establishing how well someone understands the basics of argument.

    Thanks.

    • Bryan Tookey
      October 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm

      obviously basic arithmeitc was not something I excelled at – 4 questions not 3

    • jplechago
      October 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm

      Bryan,
      You are being very kind. Obviously you have a grasp of chemistry and physics. I would love for you to extend your questions to the sugar pill part of homeopathy. It seems that everyone is talking about water memory. What about Sugar memory? How does that work?
      I enjoyed your questions, and am eager to see what the responses will be. I’m sure, they’ll be very creative.

      • Bryan Tookey
        October 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm

        Thanks!

        I fear my questions came too late and homeopaths are no longer reading the thread.

        You are right that the sugar pill part of homeopathy is also confusing. My heads hurts trying to come up with some method that it survives, so I don’t know where to start with further questions (beyond, how does that work?)

        A third confusing area is how the human body uses the intact water memory to cure an ailment (intact despite the sugar pill) given that the pill is broken down in the stomach and then partially absorbed into the blood.

      • Mojo
        October 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

        They usually tell you to dissolve the pills inder your tongue rather than swallow them.

  18. Beatis
    February 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

    @Charlotte Mulliner,

    “…Apparently gasses are no longer composed of matter. Fascinating.”

    Interesting you should mention this.

    I happened to have had a discussion the other day on “matter” with an acquaintance who makes a living as a homeopath and a psychic. She told me that things like wood, stone etc and anything you can get your hands around are what constitutes “matter”. Hard things or things you can squeeze, she said. When I asked her if she thought water was matter, after some thinking she said: yes, because it can freeze.

    I tried to explain, but to no avail.

    And this person gives medical advice.

    • stefafra
      May 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      You should introduce this aquaintance to the marvels of dry ice .
      Dry ice is perfect stuff for this demonstration, as it sublimates from a hard and very “stone like” stuff (ok, squeeze it wearing warm gloves…it’s hard, very “material”) to a gas, invisible and for your friend I suspect very non-matter-like.
      Available at any lab next to you, ask around.

  19. February 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Tired of seeing these so-called remedies in stores? You can still do something about it. The JREF petition to get homeopathy out of stores is still available for signing here: http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-retail-pharmacies-to-come-clean-about-homeopathic-products

    Please take action. Every signature helps.

Leave a Reply