Today, I read a post on homeopathy written by Girish Shahane here [^], and then also wrote a comment in his blog. The comment actually began as a short writeup of a few lines but soon expanded enough to be a separate post all by itself. So, here, I reproduce my abovementioned comment. Of course, I may perhaps edit/expand the write up here in a few days’ time (or else I will at least delete this line).
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Homeopathy didn’t work when I myself tried. But it did work for a few people, some very close personal friends. I don’t think I have good reasons to question the kind of rigour of observations that they exercised, at least in this matter.
This second-hand experience is apart from those (admittedly rare) documented cases of homeopathy showing its efficacy(in both good and bad ways) with animals and infants.
It would take a series of full articles about the nature of homeopathy and of its theorization as taught to the homeopathic doctors, and also about the intellectual quality of most of its practitioners. Currently I have no time; just jotting a few points.
Objections beginning with Avogadro’s number are logically weak, even if on a somewhat correct track. Atoms/ions indeed are structural entities, but you cannot say that the process of identifying structure stop at a particular scale of observation and with a particular way of making those observations. Indeed, structural features have been observed to exist at as fine a scale as we have been experimentally able to go.
More important here: there can be other kind of structural features that aren’t observed only by “zooming in” (though this can be necessary or helpful) but rather, in a way, also simultaneously by “zooming out,” by understanding the fine, perhaps spatially gradual, changes in the longer-range correlations or interactions between the water or sugar powder body.
Fine changes like these can perhaps play a critical (“chaos”-theoretic) influence on the biochemical processes of organisms (the latter being considered as “complex” systems). There is a fine mathematical physics hidden behind that almost hippy terminology of “chaos,” “complex,” “nonlinear,” etc.
BTW, in talking about longer range correlations in water/matter, I was not specifically suggesting quantum entanglement (I don’t think it even exists in the form usually suggested), but just indicating longer range interactions in general. (“Clusters” proposed by some homeopathy researchers provide but one example, but aren’t necessarily the thing.)
Clinical evidence is not a bad thing—our ancestors had hardly anything more than that. Analytical explanation sharpens and expands the efficacy. This does not mean that in its absence, clinical evidence is to be thrown out.
Double-blind testing protocol, in the form usually practised, isn’t suited to test homeopathic claims. The objection is not to the “double-blind” aspect of it, but to the form of the practise. It should be possible to evolve protocols better suited to test something like homeopathy. To my knowledge, this has not been undertaken.
By and large, homeopathic practitioners in India have poor intellectualization skills, and as such, though I don’t consider homeopathy a witchcraft, in general, it would be my third choice—after allopathy and (the better part of) Ayurveda.
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BTW, I had written a bit about homeopathy earlier in this blog too. Then and now, I don’t find the time to settle down and write a long essay or a series of short articles about what I think of homeopathy, the possible reasons it might work, etc.
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A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “sajanawaa bairee ho gaye hamaar…”