Respectful Insolence

I happen to be fortunate enough this year to have taken the Friday after Thanksgiving off, and it is a very good thing indeed. However, this morning, having indulged in the American tradition of stuffing myself full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and various other most excellent and hearty foods, all accompanied by some hearty ale. What that means is that I’m still suffering some of the after effects of food coma. What that further means for the blog is that I don’t feel up to tackling something that will require me to exercise my neurons too much. So, in my food-induced haze, I asked myself: What topic would be light-hearted but yet not require too much intellectual firepower to throw a little Insolence at?

Homeopathy, of course!

Remember how I had some fun with a haplessly clueless homeopath named Dr. Charlene Werner about a month ago? Well, thanks to Science-Based Pharmacy, I’ve found more of the same!

The man is John Benneth. The website is The Science of Homeopathy, and the results are pure Your Friday Dose of Woo material!

I love how Benneth starts out by saying he has “another stunning piece of information for you” and claiming that the “material sciences have taken a growing interest” in homeopathy. I’ll grant Benneth that that is “another stunning piece of information,” mainly because it would indeed be stunning if real scientists took a “growing interest” in homeopathy. However, I suspect that what is really going on is that real scientists (unlike homeopaths, who are as “real” a bunch of scientists as the homeopathically diluted remedies and “memory of water” they like to promote) take an interest in homeopathy as an example of how to do science about as wrong as it can be done. It’s rather the same way that some of us skeptics take an interest in homeopathy as pseudoscience and, more importantly, as a test case of showing the limitations and flaws of randomized clinical trials for discovering whether a particular treatment works or not. Indeed, given the pure magical thinking behind homeopathy, including the concept derived from ancient myths of sympathetic magic that “like cures like,” the idea that diluting a substance to the point where it is highly unlikely that even a single molecule remains above normal background, and the more recently postulated “memory of water” to which homeopaths point as an explanation for how homeopathy “works” even though there’s no pharmacologically active ingredient left in most homeopathic remedies, homeopathy makes an excellent example in teaching how magic can be cloaked in “science-y”-sounding terms to fool the unware. It’s an even better example of how otherwise intelligent people can believe in pure magic.

Oh, wait. That wasn’t Benneth’s “stunning piece of information.”

Benneth actually goes on to point out that science–yes, science!–is showing that homeopathic remedies are full of–are you ready for this? (yes, I’m repeating what Benneth said)–”nanocrystalloids”! Well, that explains a lot, doesn’t it? He then further claims that these nanocrystalloids are made from extracts of plant, animal, and mineral substances and that these fantastical structures “transform the background radiation into specific electromagnetic signals that act on a cellular and even molecular level.” Oh, goody. I can’t wait, especially since Benneth goes on to claim that he’s going to explain the physics of homeopathic medicines, an oxymoron if ever there was one. More interestingly, it both resembles and conflicts with Dr. Werner’s “explanation.” It resembles it in that there’s woo a’plenty with lots of science-y-sounding terminology. He also whines about how homeopathy has been “grossly and intentionally misunderstood form of medicine” (I would argue that it’s not medicine and that the only persons grossly and intentionally misunderstanding it are homeopaths), after which he proclaims:

The dilution and succussion process that is used to make homeopathic medicines creates self-replicating hydrate clathrates. These are crystalloid polymers that appear as nanobubbles that are emitting electromagnetic radiation transformed from the natural background radiation. The cells of the body pick this up and react to it.

Sure they do, Mr. Benneth. Sure they do. I love this. Clathrate hydrates are real chemical structures. They are real science. The University of Pittsburgh describes them thusly:

Clathrate hydrates are solid cages of water that form around small gas molecules such as methane, hydrogen, or carbon dioxide when the appropriate conditions are met. Methane hydrates are of interest as a s potential energy source. It is estimated that the amount of methane in hydrates is equivalent to twice that of all other fossil fuels combined.

Of course, most research interest in clathrate hydrates is based on the potential to release methane or other hydrocarbons that may be trapped in these structures. However, as homeopaths always do, Benneth misuses and abuses real science to fit it into his beliefs. Of course, he cites Rustum Roy, a formerly respected materials science of late has gone woo, using all manner of bad arguments, bad science, and pure nonsense to try to show a physical basis for the magic of homeopathy and destroying his formerly highly respected reputation in the process. In any case, Benneth goes on to claim that the dilution and succussion process is forming “polymorphic nanostructures that are or are analogous to clathrates, crystalline cages” and that this is how homeopathy works.

Benneth then goes on about “nanobubbles” that are supposedly hydrogen-bonded polymer “ice cages” that contain the magic (my term, of course, not Benneth’s) of the homeopathic remedy. In Benneth’s view, homeopathic remedies are clathrates, in which the host molecules are water and the “trapped” compound is the “seed tincture” (which is what homeopaths sometimes call the original substance they are succussing and diluting. He then goes straight into chemical woo by claiming that the seed tincture is going from an “orthodox molecule” to a “super molecule of gas in one step of dilation and then collapsing in another becoming an ever-increasing rarified gas, eventually becoming a hyperproton.” Apparently, a French applied physicist Roland Conte called a “white hole,” whatever that is.

But what is a white hole? I had never heard of it before. The concept is that a white hole has no matter but emits tritium radioactivity; it’s even actually a real concept in physics but far more theoretical. Indeed, the concept of white holes has been used to suggest the possibility of existence of wormholes that would allow one to travel in time and space, although it’s also been pointed out that white holes can’t exist because they violate the second law of thermodynamics. In any case, supposedly these nanobubbles break up and form new nanobubbles with each step of dilution and succussion. Benneth then asks: What is homeopathy? He answers his own question: Radioactivity! Thanks to white holes, apparently! More specifically, Benneth claims the mechanism of homeopathic medicine is radiance being emitted from polymeric crystalloid nanostructures. He likens homeopathic remedies to liquid crystals that act like little radio transmitters that are self-replicating and generate electromagnetic signals that organisms can pick up and respond to.

Truly, this is most excellent woo! But to get the full effect, you really do need to watch the full video. Even better, peruse Benneth’s website, the Science of Homeopathy, which could potentially provide blogging material for me for Fridays on end, which is why I’m not even going to discuss it right now, other than to point out that Benneth’s claim that homeopathy was used successfully to fight the 1918 flu pandemic is purest nonsense, particularly his hyperbolic lie that medicine’s reaction to the 1918 pandemic was “genocidal manslaughter.” (Maybe it’s worth another blog post at a future time to explain why.)

Particularly hilarious, though, is Benneth’s reaction to criticism of his video in the comments. One commenter quite rightly points out that Benneth’s appropriation of chemistry and physics terms to justify homeopathy is akin to Star Trek technobabble, pointing out that “beta scintillation detectors detect beta particles (high energy electrons) not electromagnetic radiation.” Others have also had fun taking Benneth to task for his abuse of physics, and you can too if you want. Let’s just say that, even if these “nanobubbles” existed and did emit electromagnetic radiation, there’s no evidence that the body “responds” to such radiation therapeutically. Boiled down to its essence, you can simply substitute “qi,” humors, or just plain magic for Benneth’s use of “electromagnetic radiation.”

All I can say is that this isn’t a case of something that makes baby Jesus cry. It’s a case of a torrent of nonsensical stringing together of real scientific terms in a manner that sounds impressive but means nothing. It makes Albert Einstein cry, wherever he is.

Comments

  1. #1 warhelmet
    November 27, 2009

    I’ve now seen quite a few of Benneth’s videos and it he claims to be a genius and visionary as well as having ADD. Some of the other videos are slightly more disturbing in that they give more of an impression of mental derangment.

  2. #2 David N. Brown
    November 27, 2009

    This reminds me of something I read about: If I recall correctly, someone claimed to have found a 4th state of water, and called it “polywater”. Only, it was just a precipitate.

    It’s my strong impression that homeopathy started out with a good idea, or at least canny observations. That large doses may be harmful is obvious. Based on relatively modern information, it’s also fair to say that they can desensitize the body and make subsequent treatment proportionately less effective. But homeopaths have clearly long since gone off the deep end, and many alternative health practitioners go to the opposite extreme with “mega doses”.

  3. #3 My Lord!
    November 27, 2009

    I love at how, at 2:06 into it he says, in continuing his education piece on Clathrate Hydrates, “just google Hydrate Clathrates.” Then the next sentence he starts with “Clathrate Hydrates are technically…” Which is it? Figure it out yourself before espousing it silly man.

  4. #4 Jan Stradowski
    November 27, 2009

    It is funny indeed, but take this one! I’ve got an e-mail from Polish Association of Clinical Homeopathy (what an oxymoron anyway!) claiming that this pseudoscience was proved right by Nobel laureate Luc Montaigner (Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci (2009) 1: 89-90 Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures). Did you hear about it? The press release is a standard homeobabbling, but there are journalists able to believe it, I’m afraid…

  5. #5 My Lord!
    November 27, 2009

    Either are or are analogous to Clathrate Hydrates, which? Kinda important no? Structural cages made out of water and a gas. Which gas? If they are mixing water and onion juice, to cure watery eyes, then what gas is in the cage to make it effective? Onion gas? If it were mustard gas then I would fully support homeopathy for true believers. Sure, sure, just drink this, its full of mustard gas, don’t mind the burning, you’ll soon be dead.

  6. #6 dt
    November 27, 2009

    Whatever the supposed mechanism, I cannot figure out how the water “just magically knows” which of the thousands of different non-water molecules it contains are required to be the chosen ones for that particular remedy.

  7. #7 My Lord!
    November 27, 2009

    Sorry for the third post, I just can’t stand it. So even if the homeopothetic “medicine” was emitting electromagnetic radiation, obviously not in a wavelength that the eye can detect, then so what? How would this radiation effect any cells that can “pick up on it,” assuming they can????? How does a tincture of onion emit a signal that is different from a tincture of some other material and how does this different signal get translated by the body to produce the sympathetic effect that homeopathy claims???? ARRRRRG.

  8. #8 Harry
    November 27, 2009

    I thought Benneth was doing a satire on Homeopathy. Silly me.

  9. #9 Lulu
    November 27, 2009

    I love this blog and I think that homeopathy is bilgewater. As I watched the video, I was eagerly waiting to see the careful kind of deconstruction that I have come to expect here. Instead, I found only a summary of what the guy said, only supplemented by “mockery” “quote” “marks” and a general air of “Har Har what an idiot.” I am not a physicist or a chemist, so I would like to know what is FALSE in what he said. Maybe links to articles or something? Of course I’ll do my own research into but I only a lowly student I think you are more qualified to sift good research from bad.
    Thank you for your continued efforts in promoting real science.

  10. #10 BdN
    November 27, 2009

    I don’t get it. Even if it was remotely true, since clinical trials show that homeopathy doesn’t work, WHY SHOULD WE CARE ???

    Water structure is altered by temperature. As any ichthyologist claimed it gives fishes superpowers ?

  11. #11 Dangerous Bacon
    November 27, 2009

    I attempted to find something on the site to back up the nano-woo claims, but got bogged down in the farcically awful site design and sidetracked by Benneth’s hilarious flashes of insight, such as:

    “Every outspoken opponent of homeopathy is an atheist!”

    He’s found our secret! Drat and blast!!!

    And yes, it does drive physicians into a rage when they see their potential victims (of therapy for H1N1 flu) finding lovely effective remedies in the form of “sugar pellets” at the local drugstore for “a few rupees”.

    Curses! I didn’t want them to know, and now this guy has spilled the beans!

  12. #12 Jan Stradowski
    November 27, 2009

    @Harry – oh he was, he was! But probably not intentionally at all :-D

    @Lulu – you can find it even on Wikipedia… A solution diluted so many times has no chemical activity, because it does not contain the original “ingredient” (whatever it was). And any talk about electromagnetic signatures affecting cells is just fantasy, similar to telepathy or “bioenergotherapy” of any kind. Lack of positive clinical trial results is the last drop.

  13. #13 Chris
    November 27, 2009

    Lulu, did you read this in the first paragraph:

    What that means is that I’m still suffering some of the after effects of food coma. What that further means for the blog is that I don’t feel up to tackling something that will require me to exercise my neurons too much.

    Good grief, give the poor plastic box with the shiny blinking lights a break during the holiday weekend!

  14. #14 bigjohn756
    November 27, 2009

    Is it possible to go beyond woo? I didn’t used to think so until I listened to this. I rate this video as a demonstration of woo².

    But, his presentation is so sincere and detailed with scientific fact that, perhaps, it is all really true. Does acting ability count for truth? Sure does, just like physical beauty qualifies one to be a presidential candidate.

  15. #15 bigjohn756
    November 27, 2009

    @Lulu
    After you study homeopathy, think about your bilge water comment. What powerful medicine that stuff must be! Cure anything, it would!

  16. #16 warhelmet
    November 27, 2009

    Benneth is wrong in his assertion that outspoken critics of homeopathy are atheists. OK, the ones on teh interwebs maybe but I’ve read enough Christian tracts that condemn homeopathy because of its occult aspects. Yes folks, any healing that homeopathy delivers is the result of Satan and is designed to lure Christians into the occult.

  17. #17 SirBedevere
    November 27, 2009

    Anyone who could look at the “Science of Homeopathy” web site for even a moment and not immediately recognize it as the work of a crackpot is… well, sadly, probably just the kind of person they’re looking for.
    As a side note, I just nominated that web site for “Daily Sucker” at http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com

  18. #18 muteKi
    November 27, 2009

    I left a comment similar to this one on the video.


    For the sake of argument, let’s accept that this explanation is correct. If this is a legitimate defense that homeopathy has science behind it, it still raises some questions:

    1. Why does the product become more powerful when diluted? Would it be more potent if it were diluted further? In other words, why is this phenomenon only found in heavily diluted mixtures, and not in something that is a 50/50 mix of water and the substance in question?

    2. I’m used to hearing that “like cures like” as an explanation for how homeopathy works, like using a heavily diluted amount of the venom to treat a poisonous snake bite. If the active ingredient is some form of electromagnetic radiation, then why does it matter what substance is used? Can’t I just, say, grab an antenna and tune it to a specific frequency? Won’t that serve to bring it to reach the cells?

    3. What does the electromagnetic radiation do, anyway? I mean, every substance is radioactive, which is (basically) why objects can be seen to absorb, produce, and reflect light. Can’t I just sit under a heat lamp to get the effect, then? Should I, like how I wear a lead vest during an x-ray procedure, worry that homeopathy will leave me sterile, or like the radiation at the meltdown at Chernobyl, leave me very sick or dead?

  19. #19 David E. Connolly, Jr.
    November 27, 2009

    I don’t know whether you are familiar with piezo electricity, or the interaction of crystalline structures with current, or compression. I also don’t know whether you are quite familiar with the frequencies associated with different energies, but you are showing an interest in this work, and it is indeed very interesting. At this point, the known facts are so few, and are so well dispersed, that one may find it challenging to start making any sense of it all. That is why scientists that break into new fields are often brilliant, and open minded.

  20. #20 guthrie
    November 27, 2009

    muteKi – your point 3 is unclear. Not every substance is radioactive, because radioactivity refers to the breakdown of the nuclear and release of particles or energy. Whereas light is at the level of the orbiting electrons.

  21. #21 Anthro
    November 27, 2009

    D. Connelly – What is your point? What does piezo electricity have to do with homeopathy?

    Lulu- I’m with you and I wish people would answer your questions rather that give defensive replies about Orac (who really should know better than to eat and drink himself silly). They don’t seem to understand that you can be very anti-woo and have basic science literacy, but not be able to directly refute statements made (even by obvious nutters) on websites, videos and books. Sometimes Orac does this, and I love insolence, but not when it gets in the way of presenting some basic information.

    I have mostly quit posting because I get very condescending replies.

  22. #22 Orac
    November 27, 2009

    Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick! I’m sorry if you feel that responses to you in the past have been condescending, but this time you deserve to have this question asked of you:

    Do I have to remind you that this is YOUR FRIDAY DOSE OF WOO, fer cryin’ out loud! It’s supposed to be light-hearted and hopefully humorous. It does not exist to provide a detailed explanation of why the chosen woo is, in fact, woo. In fact, one of my main criteria for choosing the woo for this series is because the target–I mean subject–of each installment is so mind-bogglingly obviously woo that it should need little or no explanation, and this case certainly qualifies. Would you have me explain why we don’t have twelve etheric strands of DNA, as certain woo I’ve featured in the past? Or why quantum homeopathy as espoused by Lionel Milgrom is utter nonsense? Or why the SCIO Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface is pure quackery?

    Get a grip, people, and loosen up!

  23. #23 Jackrabbit
    November 27, 2009

    Hilarious! This begs to be parodied by someone more talented than I. I kept thinking of SNL’s Pathalogical Liar: “Yeah, yeah, nanocrystalloids, yeah, that’s it!

  24. #24 muteKi
    November 27, 2009

    Guthrie: fair enough — but I think he was saying something about that in the comments which is why rather than worry too much about how I phrased it I just decided to go with that.

  25. #25 DLC
    November 27, 2009

    nice. some high quality woo there.

  26. #26 TennesseeParamedic
    November 27, 2009

    Thanks for the laugh, Orac. Your blog articles are always a hillarious and cynical insight into the public health crisis that is the Alternative Medicine Industry.

  27. #27 Dave Ruddell
    November 27, 2009

    Is it possible to go beyond woo?

    Two words: Time cube.

  28. #28 Phoenix Woman
    November 27, 2009

    I was wondering how long it would take the homeopaths to start tossing the prefix “nano” onto anything and everything.

  29. #29 IBY
    November 27, 2009

    That… guy… is… hilarious!

  30. #30 Lulu
    November 27, 2009

    I’m sorry to be so demanding. I know Orac does not owe me a daily doctoral thesis. I aspire to be an objective scientist, and so I would like to evaluate the evidence as best I can and then come to a conclusion, rather than beginning with a conclusion and dismissing any contradiction out of hand.
    If this does turn out to be true and homeopathic remedies do have these special properties that “ordinary” water does not have, they have taken their first step to proving that…I don’t know what. I agree with #10 – if it doesn’t work, why do we care?

  31. #31 Rogue Medic
    November 27, 2009

    @19 David E. Connolly, Jr.,

    I don’t know whether you are familiar with piezo electricity, or the interaction of crystalline structures with current, or compression. I also don’t know whether you are quite familiar with the frequencies associated with different energies, but you are showing an interest in this work, and it is indeed very interesting.

    Interesting?

    Maybe, but the correct word is irrelevant.

    At this point, the known facts are so few,

    Why confuse people with facts. Homeopathy dilutes facts down to the point that nothing is there.

    and are so well dispersed,

    Dispersed or diluted

    that one may find it challenging to start making any sense of it all.

    Challenging or impossible?

    Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

    That is why scientists that break into new fields are often brilliant, and open minded.

    Homeopathy is not a new field. Homeopathy is hundreds of years old. It didn’t work then. It doesn’t work now.

    The excuses used to try to explain homeopathy are sometimes new, but this is still the same old con game.

    The people promoting homeopathy are not scientists, because there is no real science to support homeopathy. Stuff like this nano theory sound may brilliant and open minded to some, but this is just misleading double talk.

  32. #32 Rogue Medic
    November 27, 2009

    @30 Lulu,

    The science is claiming that by taking something similar to what made the person sick, diluting it well past the point of being a faded memory, then treating the illness with the faded memory. Magically, the patient is supposed to get better.

    Many illnesses are self-limiting, so this can appear to have cured something that was resolving spontaneously. This gives the appearance of a cure, but magic is not real.

    There are some illnesses that are appropriately treated by a medicine that is similar to the cause, but that does not mean that diluting something similar will work for everything, especially not when it is diluted past the point of nothingness. It is diluted to the point of meaninglessness.

    How does the water know what to remember?

    Does the homeopath whisper sweet nothings in the memory of an ear that the water once touched?

    Why doesn’t the water remember any of the bad things it has come into contact with?

    How does a memory cure anything?

    Why can’t a homeopath put some extremely potent pure water in the water supply and cure everything? Or use cures for all of the worst illnesses. State that you are going to do that, in one city, wait for a lot of the people who drink that water to get better, then offer to do this in other cities for a small fee. What about a mass healing for a large group of people with the same diagnosis? Once you make a cure for one illness, you really don’t have to do it all over again – just dilute it a few more times and it becomes even more potent. Just be careful you don’t overdose. If homeopathy works, you could be as rich as Bill Gates.

    If it works . . .

    Oh well, that is the fatal flaw of homeopathy.

    Apparently, homeopaths are too modest to do anything so ostentatious. Better to treat people one at a time. Let people suffer. Homeopaths aren’t exactly humanitarians, or scientists, or effective – so this would not work, no matter how many times you might succuss yourself on the head with a water bottle.

    Don’t worry, Lulu, you aren’t missing out on anything.

  33. #33 jolly
    November 27, 2009

    It seems strange that with all those ‘sciency’ words, it still doesn’t work. It reminds me of the old Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is teaching Linus about the world. She points out a small tree and says, ‘This is a palm tree, so called because you can wrap your palm all the way around it.’ If I recall, she goes on to say, ‘It grew from a tiny acorn and will be a mighty oak. Later, it will be cut down to panel a knotty pine den.’ Charlie Brown eventually asks her about these statements, she replies, ‘These are little known scientific facts.’ Charlie inquires, ‘If they’re so little known, how do you know them?’ Lucy leans toward him and says, ‘I just made them up.’
    So we have a modern Lucy VP.

  34. #34 Lulu
    November 27, 2009

    @Rogue Medic: Thank you for your explanation. You’re one of the nice ones!

  35. #35 Donna B.
    November 28, 2009

    heh… you don’t gotta be no scientific genius to figure this stuff out — you’ve just got have an electromagnetic affinity for snake oil.

    So, I’m thinking I can cure deafness with a bottle of nanocrystalloid homeopathic stuff and this audio accessory:

    http://www.lessloss.com/blackbody-p-200.html

    (Oh check out the power cables while you’re there!

  36. #36 CulturalIconography
    November 28, 2009

    I had to keep closing my mouth during the video, as my jaw kept dropping…

    People far wiser than I have done the critiques of the science or lack thereof in this video. After I got over my shock at the nonsense, I began to wonder–why does this guy keep looking off to his left? Is it possible that the mental health workers from the psychiatric hospital were waiting just off camera to take him back? Maybe they were very polite and were waiting for him to finish.

    Boy, talk about abusing your day pass.

  37. #37 Pareidolius
    November 28, 2009

    Okay, even if you’re a complete and total wingnut, the least you can do is look at yourself in the mirror before you make a video. Fix your collar dude.

  38. #38 TennesseeParamedic
    November 28, 2009

    @Pareidolius

    Obviously, you’ve never seen the videos of TimeCube.

  39. #39 Alex R
    November 28, 2009

    Right. Dr. Charlene had me cringing. This guy just made me laugh, hard.

  40. #40 Joe
    November 28, 2009

    @ #2, yes, around 40 years ago there was polywater. It was a hot topic worldwide until someone discovered it was contamination from the glass tubes it was in.

    @ #4 You can read about the Montaigner paper here http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2081 it has nothing to do with homeopathy. They are claiming the ability to detect DNA at very high dilution (but still molecules are present). The process looks dubious, and the paper is in a journal associated with Montaigner; so it probably isn’t truly peer-reviewed. Until it is independently confirmed, it will be viewed with suspicion.

    @ Lulu http://www.quackwatch.org is the single, best source for quackery on the web.

  41. #41 hat_eater
    November 28, 2009

    @Jan Stradowski:
    Perhaps the posts answering you contain links and were held for moderation as it sometimes happens. If it is so, just google “Luc Montaigner aqueous nanostructures” and follow the link to Andy Lewis’ Quackometer page (second from the top in my googleverse). You’ll find some interesting details about the Montaigner piece there. Near the end there’s also a link to the Harriet Hall’s post at Science Based Medicine blog where she does a competent deconstruction of homoeopath’s claims based on Montaigner’s work.

  42. #42 Sean Case
    November 28, 2009

    The physics of homœopathic remedies would basically be the physics of water, and that is quite interesting. We keep learning new stuff about how water behaves at the molecular level. Of course, none of it has vindicated the claims of homœopaths, and nor is it likely to.

  43. #43 Rogue Medic
    November 28, 2009

    @34 Lulu,

    I doubt that I am nicer than any of the other people who responded to your comment. I think that you would have received a more detailed response from each of them at other times. This blog does get more than its share of concern trolls, so legitimate questions can lead us to conclude that that is what we are reading. Concern trolls can cause any of us to be a bit brusque in our responses.

    You commented that you are accustomed to a much more thorough deconstruction from Orac. That is one of the great things about Respectful Insolence. Orac is so well versed in the material and so meticulous in his Monday through Thursday analyses, that we become spoiled. Having a casual Friday is a healthy way to ease into the weekend. If you search Science Blogs, or Respectful Insolence, you will probably find some detailed examinations of the problems with homeopathy. Some other people have posted some other excellent sites – Science-Based Medicine and Quackwatch.

  44. #44 sceptic
    November 28, 2009

    What really bothers me is that this Man promotes his diluted water as a remedy for the ‘swine flu’ – as seen on his badly designed homepage. That is not funny, that is dangerous to the public health.

  45. #45 Boris
    November 28, 2009

    Bathos rather than pathos, right? Right?

  46. #46 Uncle Glenny
    November 28, 2009

    Beyond woo? I propose the term ‘woogol.” If that is insufficient, there is the “woogolplex.”

  47. #47 Chris
    November 28, 2009

    Rogue Medic:

    I doubt that I am nicer than any of the other people who responded to your comment. I think that you would have received a more detailed response from each of them at other times.

    Also, I believe the tone of the responses reflected the tone of her comment. She should not have expected nicey-nice answers by accusations of ad hominems by saying:

    Instead, I found only a summary of what the guy said, only supplemented by “mockery” “quote” “marks” and a general air of “Har Har what an idiot.”

    Like you said, she came off like a concern troll, especially the more aggravating type who tell the blogger what to write about. Ignoring that there was a note in the first paragraph that this was a note of Orac’s state of mind.

    If she really wanted a good explanation of homeopathy she could have searched the archive (search box in the upper right of this page), where she would have found plenty of information and links to other pages that explain it more fully. Also, if she really did not know where to find the information she would have asked nicely like the ones who often ask “What do you mean by ‘woo’?”… which usually gets single link responses to pages with explanations (and a search using the box on the upper right brings this three year old blog entry on the first page.

  48. #48 Lulu
    November 28, 2009

    I use points from this blog as well as the others mentioned in order to get ammunition against proponents of woo. I asked for more information because I know if someone asked me to find fault with Benneth’s explanation, I could only say, “Well, it’s just…I’m mean it’s just…just listen to him, he’s clearly…(splutter, splutter)” rather than “He’s wrong about [this] and he doesn’t understand [this] and the experiment he refers to didn’t have proper controls, etc.”
    I did not mean an attack on any personal characteristic of Orac (as I understand the ad hominem fallacy to be) when I criticized the content of the post. I don’t really think it was such an attack, but if it was perceived that way, I apologize.
    And if I had a blog that had such a high readership, I would want to invite comments that are not just genuflection, and so I did not feel out of line criticizing the post.
    Maybe I went about this all wrong… should objections or requests for clarification never be posted (rude on principle), or is there a proper way to do this?

  49. #49 Chris
    November 28, 2009

    You could have tried “Why are nanocrystalloids not a way to show homeopathy works?”, or some other specific question without the additional judgmental bits.

    But still, you could have read the first paragraph and taken the whole thing in the spirit that was intended. Plus I have read the blog post more carefully (I tend to skim the Friday Woo posts), and noticed that if you had read the full content more fully, and followed the links that were provided most of your questions were answered. It is a pretty long bit of writing for someone in a post-Thanksgiving food coma (I did not do anything either, except to walk to where there was a blood drive and donate, making me even more tired!).

  50. #50 Interrobang
    November 29, 2009

    On top of all that, if you “aspire to be an objective scientist,” you need to learn how to do your own research. Orac and the commenters aren’t here to do your homework for you, and you’re not entitled to get shirty when perfect strangers don’t interrupt their day to take the time to answer your questions.

  51. #51 Lulu
    November 29, 2009

    Research: diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.

    This IS research! The only difference here is that I am asking knowledgeable people as well as knowledgeable websites.

    I am not entitled to answers to my question, but I do have reason to believe I will get them because (1) Orac and the commenters have spent a lot of time and energy looking into quackery and questions of this type are inside their province, and (2) Orac and the commenters engage in critical inquiry not only for personal amusement, but also generously in education of the public. You all are like profs, in a way: experts by C.V. and educators by willingness to speak.

    This line of conversation is not very important, I admit. I am driven by some vain pursuit of self-justification…

    In any case, this dialogue has been illuminating and if I ever comment again, I’ll be sure to communicate the humility that accompanies a request.

  52. #52 Chris
    November 29, 2009

    Lulu:

    This IS research!

    No it isn’t. This is entertainment. It is like a conversation in a pub, with laughter and fun. So when someone comes back with a quip like:

    I’ll be sure to communicate the humility that accompanies a request. … the usual response is to turn your back on that person and ignore them for the rest of the evening.

  53. #53 Chris
    November 29, 2009

    Blockquote fail… If someone at the pub acted like you did, everyone would turn away and ignore you.

  54. #54 James Pannozzi
    November 29, 2009

    I have no opinion on the cute little nanobubbles but….

    Perhaps some comments from a supporter of Homeopathy who is a trained chemist might be apropos – Dr. Lionel Milgrom:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/homeopathy/ucm0402.htm

    The criticisms of the unstated assumptions of “evidence” based medicine, the excesses involved in promoting such a seemingly rational attitude, and the negative implications for the “evidence” for standard medicine, should the same standards be applied, does not bode well for Orackian wooism on Friday or on any other day.
    I rather liked the term “scientistic fundamentalism”, an apt description of such viewpoints. See section 5 of the memo regarding the Memory of Water idea.

    Interesting video no matter which side you’re on, thanks Orac!

  55. #55 Deen
    November 29, 2009

    Hydrates are real enough. They just don’t happen at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.

  56. #56 DrFrank
    November 30, 2009

    Reading about Milgrom bitching about double-blind trials puts a smile on my face.

    Homeopathy is pure magical thinking: there is no reason that it *should* work, and no evidence that it *does* work.

    Complex procedures (where it is virtually impossible to separate the therapy from the context in which it is delivered e.g., CBT, homeopathy, etc) do not readily lend themselves to the DBRCT

    Bullshit. When Milgrom claims that it’s hard to test homeopathy in a double blind trial he is talking undiluted bollocks: you can simply get the homeopathist to do whatever the hell he wants to in terms of patient interaction, and then give the magical water he actually prescribed afterwards or just a placebo to the patient. Don’t start crying when it shows your pet woo to be worthless.

  57. #57 Tracy W
    November 30, 2009

    David Connolly:

    I also don’t know whether you are quite familiar with the frequencies associated with different energies

    There are no frequencies associated with different energies. Energy is the ability to do work in the physics sense, most obviously in the ability to learn something. Frequency is simply the number of times a specified periodic phenomenon occurs within a specified interval and need not be a measure of energy. Energy fields can change in a way that we can partially measure using the concepts of frequency, but the frequency is not associated with that energy in particular, for example the reason that radios, cellphones, TVs, etc can all operate at the same time is that the electrical energy needed can theoretically be transmitted at any frequency, including with a frequency of zero, as is done in DC power (there are various practical issues limiting the range of frequencies used, eg above a certain frequency point raindrops become a serious source of interference).

    At this point, the known facts are so few, and are so well dispersed, that one may find it challenging to start making any sense of it all.

    This statement is wrong. The known facts about energy and frequency are well collected at your local electrical engineering school, and probably also in the relevant subsection of the physics department, and as someone who has a degree in electrical engineering, trust me that there are lots and lots and lots of known facts about energies and frequencies.

  58. #58 Prometheus
    November 30, 2009

    When I saw Orac mention a website called “The Science of Homeopathy”, I half-expected to see “Error 404″ when I went to it. No such luck, however.

    I especially liked the “it’s a clathrate – no it’s LIKE a clathrate” wobble. I can see his dilemma – if homeopathy works through the formation of clathrates, then it has to explain two MORE things:

    [1] How do the homeopathic clathrates form at room temperature and atmospheric pressure (hint: most clathrates require elevated pressure and low temperature)?

    [2] How do non-gaseous homeopathic remedies (MOST, if not all are not readily vaporised) become part of a clathrate?

    Of course, the answer to these question – and many others about homeopathy – is that homeopathy DOESN’T really work, so there is no need for an explanation of HOW it works.

    Prometheus

  59. #59 rob
    November 30, 2009

    if dilution and succussion produces nano crystals, then how do these nano crystals build up in number despite continued dilution? the more water you add, the more cyrstal you get, but the fewer there are cause it is all diluted. makes no sense.

    he tosses out terms like radioactivity, electo-magnetic radiation, tritium radiation, beta waves etc without seeming to understand what they are. he says at one point that his clathrates emit tritium radiation. then at another it is electromagnetic radiation. tritium decays via emitting elecrons. electomagnetic radiation is photons. again, which is it? electrons or photons?

    his explanation that the crystals absorb background radiation and emit tuned electromagnetic radiation flawed too. what background radiation does he refer to? blackbody radiation? cosmic microwave background? naturally occurring radioisotopes like radon? uranium? zero point energy? fairy farts?

    his explanation that the crystals absorb radiation and re-emit violates the second law of thermodynamics. you cannot absorb some broadband background radiation and re-emit it in some narrowband form tuned to specific frequencies of atoms/molecules like he says. to do so requires an external source of energy.

    essentially it is all mumbo jumbo sciency term regurgitation without any understanding of the underlying science.

  60. #60 Dr. Nancy Malik
    December 22, 2009

    Physics of Homeopathy

    http://excalibur.110mb.com/physics.htm //physics behind homeopathy
    http://lewfh.tripod.com/electromagneticinfectioninhomeopathy/id4.html //physics behind homeopathy

  61. #61 Chris
    December 22, 2009

    “Dr” Malik, a link to Sir Quacksalot with a new revised link to “Yer Queen is a Witch and Quack??!!” is pretty much proof positive you are a ‘bot.

  62. #62 SRM
    March 30, 2010

    The physics of homœopathic remedies would basically be the physics of water, and that is quite interesting. We keep learning new stuff about how water behaves at the molecular level. Of course, none of it has vindicated the claims of homœopaths, and nor is it likely to.

    Posted by: Sean Case

    That’s the ‘spirit’ Sean, contradict your own statements on the science and physics of water by eliminating the continual progress of science to comprehend, interpret, and expound upon the science and physics of water.

    I know that I’m a late poster here, but I’ll add my scientific two cents as a chemist. Biophysics, nanopharmacology, and related newer disciplines such as the study of quantum(mechanics, chemistry, and physics) are well but not fully understood subjects of science. Newer meaning primarily the last 40-50 years. If these scientific modalities were well developed than perhaps we would have already figured out curative means for chronic and acute illness states across the medical spectrum and would have readily addressed the means of accurately circumventing the obstacles of mammalian epigenetic complexity, biochemical individuality, and adaptive physiology as is corresponds to health and disease management. Scientific progress and the scientific method if practiced ethically and with the pursuit and desire to root out sense from nonsense, must pioneer at times to the extreme of our observable scientific threshold, if not beyond it in due time as has been done over the last two to three hundred years. Nature is wholly indifferent as to how much we argue over it’s laws, but it offers it’s laws for us to investigate and discover. Assumptions, personal attacks, and baseless assertions make a repugnant scientist, since our beliefs on either end of the spectrum will never be facts or science.
    Just to clarify the PHYSICS OF WATER actually has absolutely nothing to do with the action of a homeopathic remedy or product. Water or the polar solvent alcohol act as a carrier as would be the physical adsorptive properties of a sucrose/lactose pellet. Frequency spectra are unique from substance to substance as has been readily verified. Radio waves, television broadcasts, X-rays, microwaves, and infrared transmissions are all electromagnetic radiations whose essential attributes can be defined and identified by the frequency or amount of radiation each type produces. Thus not all can be seen by the naked eye. A claim as to frequency spectra of homeopathic remedies thus is not a great scientific leap especially with material existent dilutions, however the spectroscopic method of analysis in years past could not afford a precise measurement of what was assumed to exist in high dilution preparations. The only issue is whether a process exists by which to enable a transfer of electromagnetic information through a medium which can maintain emf stability and emit it’s information to another medium and be utilized by it. Chemistry and physics majors, masters and phd’s included should examine unbiasedly the science of high dilution spectra, and the recent contributions to the scientific literature which can be found in the CRC HANDBOOK OF BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS. A starting point although just in it’s infancy is the application of TESLA NMR studies on homeopathic dilutions. A true scientist extends emotional maturity when observing or researching a phenomenon, especially as science has always had considerable missteps, mishaps, and assumptions made along the way. Science has no emotions, pay it the honour of extending a little of the same toward it. SCIENTIFIC REFERENCE:

    http://hpathy.com/homeopathy-scientific-research/homeopathic-potencies-identified-by-a-new-magnetic-resonance-method-homeopathy%E2%80%94an-energetic-medicine/

  63. #63 rw23
    April 11, 2010

    @SRM #62

    Your wall of text is bullshit. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

  64. #64 Katy
    April 11, 2010

    “Water or the polar solvent alcohol act as a carrier as would be the physical adsorptive properties of a sucrose/lactose pellet”

    Sucrose/lactose pellet? So that would be a sugar pill…?

  65. #65 Militant Agnostic
    April 11, 2010

    A starting point although just in it’s infancy is the application of TESLA NMR studies on homeopathic dilutions.

    Tesla was a bit eccentric, but he didn’t deserve his fate which was to become the patron saint of woos in perpetuity.

  66. #66 Hooded Healer
    April 19, 2010

    Some people are trying to make an honest living and seeking investors:
    http://www.investmbsireland.wordpress.com

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