Marvellous… homeopathy

24 10 2008

Homeopaths are definitely on to something.

If you visit one, you will find a caring & honest person. They will look at your problem holistically, and explain how western medicine has been corrupted by money & big pharma, and has been blinkered so successfully it cannot see the big picture. They may explain perhaps that “just like the universe, the body acts as a living open self-organizing system susceptible to entropy yes, but also chaos and new order,” (I quote the tenacious Marty from a homeopathy blog). So hence modern science, which is really about pigeon-holing everything, is not really up to the job of working with the real system.

Now, there are many critics. What exactly is their issue? What on earth do they have against this clearly beneficent endeavour?

Anti-homeopathy rants are two-a-penny on the blogs, and they are very interesting to analyse. They argue that science cannot quantify/comprehend/explain the effect of homeopathy, and therefore, clearly, homeopathy is all poppycock. Fine, no point in engaging with them, they are ‘stuck in their own paradigm’.

But much more interesting is the question: what motivates of these nay-sayers?

Well, the blogosphere has its theories. One that crops up often is the suggestion that significant opponents must be aiming to hold back the good news from the public so they stay trapped in the western way, taking expensive drugs that never clear up their problems completely and therefore leave them financially trapped, but ignorantly grateful. Good for the capitalist systems that run our world, no?

Does this add up? Could all those who denigrate homeopathy really have something to gain from its demise? Another suggestion is that these folks have invested too much in the western system of understanding the universe, which has gone down a blind alley, and they are desperately holding on…

What a lot of bollocks.

The reason people keep popping up who despair at homeopathy is because a certain fraction of the population just happen to grow up with the ability (and desire) to only ever believe things that they fully understand.

Some of those people go on to study science, and they go on to see the marvellous wonder of nature, all the more wondrous because it make sense. It adds up. It is logical.

Science can predict solar eclipses, it can make your satnav work, it can even allow you to talk to someone in New Zealand (they are nice folks, after all).

Even the stuff that sounds like hocus pocus – such as Quantum tunnelling, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, quarks, photonic crystals or wave/particle duality – is quite understandable. Yes it may take years of nerdy concentration, but these theories, while complex, are consummately understandable.

Energy is an interesting example. It’s hard to pin down, even scientists can’t give a good account for what it is. A few hundred years back there were plenty of theories, but the application of logic has sorted the wheat from the chaff, and now, although science struggles to define it, they know where it is, how to measure it, how it flows, and even how to use it. But people confuse these proper energy flows (electricity, nerves) with things like acupuncture meridians and leylines and the like. People who think for themselves can quickly spot when things like energy are being used logically, and when it is being used nonsensically.

Now these people, these thinkers, will, if unlucky enough, come across homeopathy. Attractive at first: lots of proponents, lots of jargon, and above all hugely promising. At first things go well. Any really smart student of a new subject will experience the frisson of the unknown, the new, and with good intention will go with the flow, like a foreigner trying to a pick up a new language.

However, as time passes, while usually, with other subjects like language, or quantum physics, it all slowly starts moving into place, homeopathy simply stays at arm’s length. It still ‘sounds’ good, as do other ‘sensible’ subjects, but it never reduces to complete sense – the complete sense where every cause is linked to every effect via an unbroken chain of explainable steps.

So these people, these thinkers-for-themselves, these take-nobody’s-word-for-nothing types, eventually realise it is all a sham.

But sadly, they can also see exactly how others, more trusting, may take it in, hook, line and sinker, so much so they really believe it, feel it & trust it.

They do so because it works.

Yes, that’s what I said. The proof is in the pudding. Those who try it, report that it works.

So what does that smug group of logical smarti-pants have to say about that? Well, they will happily explain that the benefits are real, but are rather due to:

  1. The placebo effect
  2. Regression to the norm
  3. The simple attention of another person
  4. And others you can read about if you are one of those nerds, who wants to be convinced, like me.
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One response

2 11 2008
Mutus Bellator

Yep, long live homoeopathy. Hospitals have been
built around this system of medicine, some of which
are still in operation today.

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