BBC TV Horizon programme on homeopathy
22 December 2017 (online)
The possibility that the homeopathic method of preparing medicines leaves an ‘imprint’ on water molecules, on which the Horizon programme spent so much footage, is only one speculation as to how very high dilutions may work. To throw doubt onto one theory (not universally held by homeopaths) does not discredit the whole of homeopathy. Two distinguished scientists reported positive results in regard to the possible ‘memory’ of water, Horizon did not. Two to one!
The principle of homeopathy is to treat like with like. Use of very high potencies is a refinement of this but not essential to it. Many homeopaths use material quantities of preparations.
It is preposterous that ‘Nature’ (and later the Horizon programme) should have chosen a conjuror and self-proclaimed showman, James Randi, with no knowledge of science, to discredit two distinguished scientists. Mr Randi turned the original investigation in Benveniste's laboratory into a farce by doing conjuring tricks during the investigation! The choice of Randi immediately suggests the possibility of deception and sleight-of-hand. Do these obviously sincere scientists stand accused of fraud and if so by whom—this conjuror Randi?
Scientific measurement and assessment have limitations. Presumably to a pure scientist, music is just a series of different notes and painting only blotches and lines in a variety of pigments—but there is more to it than that! Professor Ian Kennedy said in the Reith lecture some years ago ‘human beings have been reduced, through impeccable scientific skills, to ambulatory assemblages of parts’—we are more than just different bits held together with skin! We should not be misled by the scientist's attitude of ‘if I can’t understand how it works then it doesn’t’.
Mr Randi is offering $1 million to anyone who can prove that homeopathy can work. If Mr Randi ‘sat in’ on a National Health Service homeopathic hospital outpatients for a session or two (he would have to promise not to do any conjuring tricks), he would most certainly have to hand over the money. The Horizon programme mentioned the placebo effect. The vets’ experiences should have been considered much more than they were. Babies, animals and the very old respond well to homeopathic medicines. Presumably Mr Randi thinks that homeopathy is an enormous confidence trick foisted onto gullible patients by unscrupulous doctors. The growing world-wide public demand reflects the huge benefits that millions of people experience from it. I used it for nearly 30 years in my National Health Service general practice and found it exceedingly useful and very effective.
There is a great deal that we do not know about homeopathy and much more research must be (and is being) done, but Horizon's attempt to debunk one speculation as to how some of our medicines may work does not discredit the body of this important, popular, effective, inexpensive and much-needed therapy.
Finally one might consider that homeopathy addresses that huge dimension of healing which is not always possible to measure with scientific instruments or analysis. It perhaps emphasises the important role of medicine as both an art as well as a science.