Respectful Insolence

… are here.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that Paul quite understands how homeopathy supposedly works. He’s gotten the claim that dilution and succussation make a substance more potent right, but I think he’s misinterpreted the homeopathic principle of “like cures like.” (As I’ve pointed out before, this concept is no more than an adaptation of sympathetic magic.) Instead, he’s generalized in homeopathy that the diluted substance causes the opposite of its usual effect. This is not quite the full story. In homeopathy, the cure for a symptom or illness is indeed usually something that causes the same sorts of symptoms. The problem is that vitamin C doesn’t cause any symptoms like those of scurvy–or any symptoms at all except at extremely high doses. Under the principles of homeopathy, that would make it in essence useless as a homeopathic remedy. Also, since scurvy is caused by the lack of vitamin C, it’s hard to see how homeopathic vitamin C can cure it. Remember, in homeopathy, symptoms are all. There is no concept of biochemical mechanisms by which disease can occur; consequently in homeopathy what vitamin C does at a biochemical level is irrelevant to determining whether it can be an effective remedy. Only the symptoms it can cause (or not cause) matter.

I could be wrong in my interpretation, though. The whole “like cures like” bit in homeopathy is so ridiculous and prone to so many different interpretations that I don’t always know if I’m getting it right.

Perhaps my readers could come up with better examples of how to be a homeopathic terrorist. I’ll start.

Take magnesium citrate or, even better, Go-Lytely. Dilute it homeopathically to 30C with proper succussation. Because these are both purgatives that will cause diarrhea in a person who is not constipated, under homeopathic principles, we would expect that homeopathic dilutions of these substances would be the cure for a patient suffering from diarrhea. In a healthy population, though, this would be a disaster. Everyone would become seriously constipated and “toxic” from their constipation. If they didn’t get colon cleanses forthwith they’d all become sick and many would die.

Damn. I have to be careful. So do you, as the power is in your hands to come up with more examples of how to be a homeopathic terrorist. I just hope this post doesn’t result in the FBI knocking on my door. Just in case, though, I’ll end by saying: Guys, it’s a joke. Go find out what homeopathy is and you’ll see why.

Comments

  1. #1 _Arthur
    April 21, 2008

    But, Orac, homeopathic nostrums never have any side effect, or any undesired effect for that matter. Why ? Well, it is just so.

  2. #2 N.B.
    April 21, 2008

    High doses of capsaicin cause a burning, painful sensation. Therefore, homeopathically diluted and succussed capsaicin in the water supply should result in opioid-like bliss, totally shutting off the productivity of the American workforce!

  3. #3 Kapitano
    April 21, 2008

    If homeoterrorists flooded the water supply with homeopathically diluted H2O…everyone would die from dehydration.

    Or from swollen brain tissues. I’m not sure. Maybe both.

  4. #4 blf
    April 21, 2008

    Kapitano beat me… I was also going to suggest making homopathetic H2O and using that to …at which point he breaks down in hopeless giggles as the whole thing is so fecking dumb

    Hum… how about homopathetic beer? Take your favourite tipple, dilute it to the 30C level or whatever, and drink very small shots to avoid alcohol poisoning. (Actually, that, or at least the dilution part, sounds rather like most mainstream USAian beers.)

  5. #5 N.B.
    April 21, 2008

    blf: We have already determined, without a shadow of a doubt, that Bud Light is the homeopath’s beer of choice.

  6. #6 clheiny
    April 21, 2008

    since scurvy is caused by the lack of vitamin C, it’s hard to see how homeopathic vitamin C can cure it.

    Hah! The paucity of your imagination does not place limits on the power of homeopathy. Here’s how you do it…

    Dissolve 40 grams of off the shelf vitamin C in some distilled water. Use that as a basis for preparing a 30X homeopathic product. I’m sure that you will cheerfully admit that this end product is totally lacking in vitamin C, right?

    So you use a jug of this Vitamin C deficient end product as the active ingredient in the preparation of another 30X homeopathic product. So now, what you’ve got is a homeopathic remedy that has the “memory” of having been prepared from something deficient in vitamin C. It should be obvious even to a BigPharm(tm) shill such as yourself that this is just what you want for the homeopathic treatment of vitamin C deficiency.

  7. #7 Orac
    April 21, 2008

    I bow to your superior homeopathic wisdom. And your wisdom is indeed homeopathic. ;-)

  8. #8 miller
    April 21, 2008

    I don’t pay much attention to homeopaths, but my impression was that the principle of “like cures like” goes like this: Some substance gives you negative symptoms, but you eventually get better, implying that it also gives you positive symptoms in the long run. Through dilution and succussion, all negative effects are diluted out while positive effects are simultaneously strengthened. Wacky, huh?

    By this interpretation, homeopathic terrorism is impossible, because homeopathy can only be a force for good. Just like prayer.

  9. #9 PalMD
    April 21, 2008

    NB said:

    High doses of capsaicin cause a burning, painful sensation. Therefore, homeopathically diluted and succussed capsaicin in the water supply should result in opioid-like bliss, totally shutting off the productivity of the American workforce!

    This explains why bloggers subsist on a diet of habaneros and beer.

  10. #10 Regan
    April 21, 2008

    Honestly, when I saw the title the first thing that leapt to mind was Dorothy pitching the bucket of WATER on the Wicked Witch of the West.

    But I suspect that you had something else in mind.

  11. #11 Shawn S.
    April 21, 2008

    I asked that up on Yahoo Answers. Someone said that it wouldn’t work because of the sugar in orange juice. So you would have to use pure vitamin C. Others were confused as to how I could possibly think I could cause scurvy with Vitamin C. :)

    Oh the mystical mind!

  12. #12 blf
    April 21, 2008

    N.B.: Diluting Buf Laff means you’re starting with homopatheic dihydrogen monooxide. The result would be, I dunno, a mini black hole or something; a negative amount of alcohol.

  13. #13 Annie
    April 21, 2008

    The Assn. of Healthcare Journalists is reporting that Arizona allows physicians whose licenses to practice medicine have been revoked to practice homeopathic medicine. Link at my name.

    John Dickerson of the Phoenix New Times investigates the Arizona Homeopathic Board of Medical Examiners. The board has secured medical licenses for out-of-state doctors whose M.D. or D.O. license had been revoked, allowing them to practice homeopathy in Arizona.

    Homeopathic doctors can get the D.E.A. authority to prescribe the same drugs an M.D. or D.O. can prescribe, and are allowed to perform “minor” surgeries which have nothing to do with homeopathy.

    Among other findings, the investigation revealed that:

    One-fourth of Arizona’s homeopaths have lost their conventional M.D. or D.O. licenses.
    The homeopathic board has licensed at least five convicted felons, whose crimes range from tax fraud to mail fraud.
    Some doctors use their Arizona homeopathic licenses to perform face lifts, breast augmentations, liposuctions, and other surgeries that homeopaths aren’t allowed to perform.

    The story is part of Dickerson’s series, “Prescription for disaster.”

    Ooh woo!

  14. #14 natural cynic
    April 21, 2008

    Haven’t we already had, and are continuing to have homeopathic bioterrorism? Somebody really diluted the LSD and started to introduce it into the water about 8 years ago. How else would you explain pResident Bush? I hope they aren’t diluting another batch.

  15. #15 hibob
    April 21, 2008

    After looking at the source’s source for the origin of homeopathy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Hahnemann
    I think I understand now: back in 1792, 9 times out of 10 the placebo effect plus water was actually much better medicine than what other doctors were prescribing: at least it didn’t poison people. Digitalis was getting investigated about that time; I’d rather get a homeopathic dose of that instead of an eighteenth century doc’s guesstimate of an effective dose.

  16. #16 Sastra
    April 21, 2008

    A good example on how to be a homeopathic terrorist?

    Sure. Print this up and distribute it all over:

    TODAY it seems to me providential

    It’s the first 5 words of Mein Kampf. It’s diluted, and Like cures — or creates — Like. That tiny little dose should therefore inspire and create an entire slew of murderous, bomb-throwing, terrifying neo-nazis.

    Oh, wait — you mean BIO-terrorist?

    Never mind.

    (Come to think of it, to create terror you’re trying to “cure” tolerance and acceptance. Maybe instead you should print and distribute the first few words from a Unitarian Universalist treatise or a book of Hallmark poetry. Except that that’s still just going to be plain old terrorism, and not bio-terrorism, isn’t it? Darn. Science is hard. Carry on.)

  17. #17 LC
    April 21, 2008

    Tsk…such a limited outlook. Why, with my Evil Plans(tm) I will have the entire US economy at my mercy.

    Homeopathic gasoline! By using a 30C solution of fuel I can drive my car 50 billion miles on one tank and destroy the petro-dollar/Big Oil(tm) conspiracy! And to destroy the value gold reserves, I am feeding people a solution of 30X gold. So in a short while everyone should be crapping solid gold bricks, though I am still working out how to prevent the proctologists from profiteering from this.

    I’m still working on the scheme of homeopathic money – soak your empty wallet in a 20C solution of $50 bills, but initial results have been poor, probably as a result of it not being dilute enough. And the tests on homeopathic electricity have been delayed due to the research assistant being electrocuted…

  18. #18 Laser Potato
    April 21, 2008

    “And to destroy the value gold reserves, I am feeding people a solution of 30X gold. So in a short while everyone should be crapping solid gold bricks, though I am still working out how to prevent the proctologists from profiteering from this.”
    Make sure the alchemists don’t hear a word of this, LC! lol

  19. #19 LC
    April 21, 2008

    “Make sure the alchemists don’t hear a word of this, LC! lol”

    Not a problem. I’ll just put homeopathic Viagra into their drinking water, and there is a limited amount of blood in the human body….. ;)

  20. #20 Johnny
    April 21, 2008

    Homeopathic colloidal silver… if I throw a silver dollar into the Potomac river at Great Falls, the churning water should mix things up quite well, I’ll get several thousand C, and the entire population of Washington DC will turn blue overnight.

    Or would the woos cancel each other out?

    I know where I’ll be this weekend.

  21. #21 wackyvorlon
    April 21, 2008

    I submit that we are all homeopathic terrorists! Indeed, the things we do to cause terror are so minute and microscopic, that they are entirely homeopathic in scale. Homeopathically speaking, Osama Bin Laden is a healer and preventer of terror.

  22. #22 Art
    April 21, 2008

    As previously pointed out Lite beer is homeopathic beer. But being homeopathic beer would seem to mean if you slip lite beer into the water supply everyone would get knee-walking, commode-hugging drunk.

    With this insight I hear by declare that lite beer must be made a controlled substance. You will need a license to transport or sell it and certified training and registration to buy it. Buying a six-pack pretty much guarantees that your name goes onto a watch list.

    I have always felt more than a little suspicious of lite beer drinkers. Before this time I didn’t know why. Come to find out my instincts were entirely correct. Every lite beer drinker is a potential terrorist.

    Thankfully the alcohol content means that no Muslim could ever use this potentially devastating weapon. All part of the divine plan I guess.

  23. #23 robert estrada
    April 21, 2008

    In response to those posting about Habaneros.
    I was addicted to habaneros for several years, and yes it does much to explain my mental state. I would eat half a dozen or so a day. Two minced on a sandwich at lunch. The effect was similar to a runners high…or heroine. Endorphins!!!!! However when it got to the point that I was holding up the local farmers market regularly, I knew I had a problem. That and most of my coworkers started moving to distant cubes in fear of spontaneous human combustion. They might however cause the opposite of sweating or the feeling of heat. Can some one die from extremely dry skin?

  24. #24 DLC
    April 22, 2008

    Hmm.. so… Penicillin can be used to kill harmful bacterial infections, right ? So… if I take 1mg penicillin and dilute it 50c, with proper sucussion, I should achieve a potent toxin capable of wiping out all life as we know it ?
    See how easy Homeopathic Terrorism is ?

  25. #25 Liesele
    April 22, 2008

    Orac wrote: “And your wisdom is indeed homeopathic.”
    That may be one of the most perfect woo put-downs I’ve seen. I am going to be giving that phrase some serious work in the near future.

  26. #26 Orac
    April 22, 2008

    Just to be clear: I wasn’t seriously trying to put down clheiny. I was just looking for a snappy comeback to a clever jibe at my post. Note the smiley emoticon…

  27. #27 Liesele
    April 22, 2008

    No, I understood you were winking along with clheiny, not really meaning an insult there. It’s just such a well-turned phrase. I didn’t copy the emoticon, which was my fault.
    As I said, it’s a perfect woo put-down. Never, of course, to be used against Orac’s brilliant comment-writers. Teh stuped ones however are fair game.

  28. #28 Militant Agnostic
    April 22, 2008

    Liesele – I think that the “homeopathic wisdom” jibe will go right over the heads of most woos. Although, it may have a delayed effect which might make it even more effective.

  29. #29 Warren
    April 22, 2008

    Wouldn’t introducing distilled water into the water supply be the most devastating tactic?

    The rationale being that totally purified water would counteract the effects of chemically purified water, thereby allowing all manner of contaminants to surface and produce ills ranging from dysentery to anemia to the ague.

  30. #30 Liesele
    April 23, 2008

    Hey, I just realized: shouldn’t all those fish buffetted around in natural waters have caused world-wide starvation by now? I mean, food, succused and in such dilution, should obviously have a strong effect.

  31. #31 Elizabeth Reid
    April 25, 2008

    Homeopathic Valium? Since Valium makes people extremely calm, homeopathic Valium should result in widespread anxiety attacks and nervous breakdowns.