Reply to Lionel MilgromThis letter is a rebuttal of the review by Lionel Milgrom of my book, A New Physics of Homeopathy, which appeared in the January 2003 issue of Homeopathy.
27 December 2017 (online)
In order to make some sense of my comments, I should initially explain the structure and content of my book. Essentially, it is composed of some new and original thoughts on scientific philosophy, together with consideration of points in homeopathic technique and pharmacy which have hitherto received little attention. These include the apparent irrelevance of impurities, why tap water can be used for potentization (Skinner centesimal fluxion), why the molecules of the vessel wall are not recorded (nor, indeed, the diluent molecules themselves), the nature of molecular memory (often referred to restrictively as ‘water memory’), the influence of the various scales of potentization upon that memory, and how remedies interact with the living organism. As far as homeopathic pharmaceutics and molecular memory are concerned, mathematical models are developed within the text to both illustrate the principles involved and to provide the substance for future experimental observations. Another mathematical model is developed which concerns the fundamental structure of the world around us, part of which explains how subconscious and conscious influences of those involved in therapy or experiment can influence their outcome. Those who watched the November 2002 BBC2 Horizon programme will realize that the consideration of such matters is of prime importance if there is to be any future in homeopathic research. Milgrom's review, however, gives no inkling of these points, being more in the realms of rhetoric than responsibility, as I shall show below.
Milgrom states ‘A New Physics of Homeopathy is, in my view, merely a collection of self-opinionated ramblings that ultimately do homeopathy no good and those who practise it, no good whatsoever’. Interesting that he delivers this conclusion at the beginning of the review, before allowing the reader to understand why it has been made. He is perhaps right to dissuade the reader from going further, since it is apparent that seeking justification for his faulty arguments becomes a great struggle.
Milgrom relates the sad tale of the Conte affair, and his involvement in it as a visiting expert. This he apparently includes because ‘the more I read of Lessell's work, the more I feel the past coming back to haunt me’. He mentions, of course, that the experiment was flawed because of ‘an unseen artefact produced by the type of glassware [Conte] had used’. He also implies that the mathematics was invalid. Now, what this has to do with me is anyone's guess, since my theories and those of Conte are not in the slightest related. The inclusion of this saga seems, therefore, to be utterly irrelevant. Milgrom then states ‘It isn’t so easy to dismiss Lessell's ideas because nowhere does he suggest ways of verifying them’. The second part of this statement is simply untrue. Proposals for practical experiments are made on pp. 31–32. Other experiments also follow logically from the text, such as the possible use of anhydrous sugars for potentization. This leaves us with only the first and telling part of his statement: ‘It isn’t so easy to dismiss Lessell's ideas’.
Milgrom apparently cannot distinguish between scientific philosophy or ‘theorizing’ (of which there is much in my book) and practical science. Philosophy is never provable, whilst science should be. Am I expected to achieve the impossible by proving my philosophy, which, by its very nature, is only there to make sense of the observed facts? It is too easy to ignore the fact that Newton's philosophical view of gravitation was of a sort of alchemical union, and that Einstein believed in an unstructured space with a variable geometry. Whilst, in the end, it is only supportable mathematics that counts in the world of pure practicality, its philosophical base is a valuable aid to conceptualization for those less mathematically inclined, if not for mathematical physicists themselves. Rather similarly, but not in the same league, I suggest a basic philosophy, which I support with pharmaceutical mathematical expressions of a predictive potential which fit the observable facts. These, in turn, can be subjected to experimental validation in the future. Milgrom, again confusing me with Conte, suggests that my basic philosophy should be subjected to rigorous mathematics. That it heavily relies upon, and is consistent with, the principle of General Relativity, the mathematical aspects of which are already well known, seems to me all that needs to be said.
Neither is Milgrom beyond contradiction. On the one hand, we have ‘I find Lessell's opinions … to be an uncritical procession of mental meanderings garnered from a variety of popular physics and fringe sources’. On the other, we have ‘Lessell appears to be working in a vacuum.’ Most would find the two ideas logically irreconcilable. The ‘mental meanderings’, seem to refer to the development of new philosophical ideas, with which, he seems to have great difficulty. As far as my sources are concerned, the lesser writings of Einstein, for example, can hardly be called either popular or fringe, nor, for that matter, my numerous conversations with senior pharmacists.
Milgrom writes that ‘Even the more whacky notions entertained by today's physicists are rigorously backed up by self-consistent mathematics. Rigour is a feature entirely lacking in Lessell's hand-waving attempts to apply physics to homeopathy’. Not true. Chapter 3 has its own ‘self-consistent’ mathematics, and offers explanations for many other hitherto unexplained phenomena, such as Chinese pulse diagnosis, and quantum randomness and entanglement—all dealt with ‘rigorously’. Rigour, complete with mathematical models, is also applied to the matter of impurities in homeopathic preparations (Chapter 2). However, Milgrom has chosen to ignore these pharmaceutical ‘ramblings’. He also betrays himself and the cause of physics by suggesting that ‘whacky notions’ are fine provided they are supported mathematically. In that case, he should be only too happy to support my ‘whacky notions’ since he identifies not one flaw in my mathematics.
Milgrom states ‘one has to surmise that at some time in the future, when new observations could appear that are outside of the scope of this book, he will once again completely rejig his ideas and we will no doubt be entertained to An Even Newer Physics of Homeopathy’. Quite so! Obviously, Milgrom feels that a theory worth its salt should be unchangeable. Nonsense. If new and apparently inexplicable observations appear, then scientific philosophy must change to embrace them.
Milgrom also states ‘Lessell seems to think that this phenomenon [the memory of molecules] … is a property of the individual molecules that comprise a substance’. An interesting comment, given that the book contains a complete section on The collaborative action of water molecules (pp. 21–22). One would expect a reviewer, especially a rather hostile one, to read a book before reviewing it. Milgrom continues that I write on this subject ‘without bothering to offer any sensible explanation within the laws of chemistry and physics, as to what that memory consists of’. He might like to read Chapter 5, Breaking the code in molecular memory.
Milgrom further states that ‘modern complexity theory based on sound physical and chemical principles, chimes more with holism than do Lessell's ideas’. Here he has again ignored Chapter 3, which is devoted to the interrelationship of many and diverse things in the universe (including people and molecules), backed up by a mathematical model. He has merely stuck a more superficial label on these matters in his own jargon.
Milgrom objects to my idea that remedies do not pass into breast milk and that there is an electromagnetic interaction between mother and child. This, of course, would be easily subject to experiment using expressed milk. He appears to favour the view that a remedy in vivo is really a molecule of some sort (perhaps water), which I doubt. For, if that were so, we would find remedial action excreted in sweat and urine. Though this appears to be a minor issue, it is just another example of his false claim that my ideas can neither be proved nor disproved experimentally. A further claim is that ‘Clearly, Lessell has never heard of Occam's Razor’. I can assure Milgrom that Lessell has (but prefers sometimes to use the electric variety rather than to remain wet behind the ears).
Putting his blind eye to the telescope yet again, Milgrom then asserts ‘whilst Lessell seems to have concentrated more on the homeopathic remedy as an entity in itself, my explorations have forced me to also consider the remedy in the context of a tri-partite entangled (in the quantum mechanical sense of the world) relationship with the patient and practitioner’. At this point, I wonder why I ever bothered to write Chapter 3, which concerns this very matter.
Milgrom further objects to my use of English. He doesn’t like ‘occult’, an adjective I use in its medical meaning of ‘concealed’. (Had I used it as a noun, he might have had a case.) He doesn’t like ‘supradimensional’, even though modern science admits to the probability of the existence of higher dimensions. He doesn’t like ‘aura’, though I go to great lengths to explain that it is partially composed of the aggregate memory fields of water molecules in vivo. According to Milgrom, the use of such words will dissuade people from looking at homeopathy. I disagree. Those who are interested are interested, and the rest will never be persuaded, irrespective of language (as is obvious from the discussions following the recent Horizon programme—see www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon). Milgrom also apparently objects to the use of simile, presumably because he knows what a molecular orbital really looks like.
Reaching his second conclusion (the first having been given at the beginning), Milgrom states ‘In homeopathy, this means that we can only really know anything about remedies in the context of their prescription by a practitioner and their action on a patient’. Suddenly, he rejects the notion of a scientific base in favour of clinical observation alone. Not a bad idea, perhaps—but why then is he proceeding to write such papers as ‘Extending the quantum metaphor for homeopathy using molecular-orbital theory of chemistry’ (cited in the References to his review)?
Finally, I return to Milgrom's principal conclusion (which he presents at the beginning). It should be apparent by now that the word ‘self-indulgent’ means ‘having new ideas (different from those of others)’ and the word ‘ramblings’ means ‘philosophical discussions’. Indeed, had I not ‘rambled’, there would have been no justification for my statement that molecules are recorded by water (and other molecules) according to their weight/unit volume rather than molar concentration. Another example, it would appear, of a point wasted on this reviewer.