Dilute it enough and it turns into science

There's something to be cherished in those moments when people in positions of authority decide it's time to make perfectly clear that they shouldn't be.

So I'm happy to report that one Lionel Milgrom, on the Board of Directors of the UK Society of Homeopaths, is now, officially and unquestionably, a whiny little liar.

I was going to e-mail him and ask him why he hasn't apologised for what I originally presumed to be, I don't know, an e-mail sent while drunk or something, but apparently all you can expect from him in return is abuse, so I think I'll give it a miss.

This isn't really news, of course. Professional apologists for orthodox homeopathy must, like professional apologists for young-earth creationism, be able to accept the complete wrongness, and indeed frank dishonesty, of the basic arguments they present, and yet come out swinging again the next day as if nothing has happened. Anybody with enough moral fibre that they can't stomach doing that is naturally replaced by someone who can. It's like politics.

(I ramble on about homeopathy here and here.)

2 Responses to “Dilute it enough and it turns into science”

  1. Ghengis Says:

    I hate how the term has been hijacked -- I mean, there are some herbs that clearly have proven medicinal benefits, but no sane person is going to believe they get more potent the more they are watered down.

  2. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Note that the watering-down thing is the absolute bedrock of orthodox homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies are, by definition, meant to be extremely diluted versions of substances (sometimes rather odd substances) which, in higher doses, are alleged cause the effects that the remedy is now intended to cure (even if they only cause those effects in some weird poetic sense).

    ("Bach flower remedies", by the way, are similar in philosophy to homeopathic ones. The only medically identifiable chemical constituents of Rescue Remedy are water (about 70%) and ethanol (about 30%). A shot of hooch under the tongue may well make you feel better, but plain top-shelf brandy is stronger and cheaper.

    Aaaaaanyway, "herbal medicine" and "homeopathy" are fundamentally separated by their basic principles - herbalists believe (with, as you say, some scientific support) that macroscopic amounts of whatever-it-is have beneficial effects, while homeopaths believe in administering infinitesimal-to-literal-zero amounts of different substances. Dose-response trials prove this approach to be useless every day, but homeopaths insist that their literally magical "potentiation" process makes all the difference.

    The definitions are, as you say, exceedingly fuzzy these days in normal consumer discourse. In particular, the word "homeopathic" gets slapped on various remedies that have real amounts of real medicines in them. This is in total opposition to what's taught in every "homeopathic college", though.

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