Recently “New Zealand’s best known homeopath” (I have never heard of her – perhaps I don’t watch enough television), Gwyneth Evans featured on Breakfast on TV One to respond to the criticisms made by Dr Shaun Holt that homeopathy only operates due to the placebo effect.
I would hope that the average New Zealander would watch this clip and not require a deep understanding of science or the scientific method to see homeopathy for what it is – wishful thinking.
While briefly explaining the underpinning framework for homeopathy, Mrs Evans says that it has been around for 200 years. The only comment I have in response to this is that I am pleased that due to modern medicines reliance on the scientific method, it has done away with bloodletting, the theory of four humours, and astrological influences on medicine.
However, rather than presenting a general critique of homeopathy (if you are interested then have a read of Dr Stephen Barrett’s article) I want to touch upon some of the things raised by Mrs Evans.
When asked about the efficacy of homeopathy, her reply is that rather than relying upon a crude physiological drug, there is a homeopathic energy or vibration that is retained in the substance that triggers the bodies own innate healing power.
As with most woo, once again ‘energy’ is presented as some kind of magical field or property (for which there is no scientific evidence of). To borrow the term used by Brian Dunning, energy is a measurement of something’s ability to perform work. It is not some all encompassing field that impacts upon vials of water sold as medicine or people, in this respect there is a distinct common misunderstanding about what ‘energy’ actually is.
Consider Einstein’s well known and little understood equation of E=MC2, mass can be expressed in grams and speed in metres per second. So simply put an objects energy equals the amount of work it takes to move a few grams a few metres in a few seconds. Energy is a measurement of work, not some bizarre made up energy field akin to the Force from Starwars.
With this in mind, it simply does not make any logical sense to say that the water retains the energy or the vibrations of original substance it contained and that it somehow interacts with the body’s ‘energy’.
Furthermore, if it did indeed trigger the body’s innate healing power, then this should be something that can be scientifically observed and I am still waiting on the evidence for this and the underlying theory about its mechanism.
While I am on this subject, further on into the interview Mrs Evans is asked about the scientific evidence for homeopathy, and she pulls out the old “it’s a different paradigm” card. What she means is that the homeopathic community has decided that the rigorous testing that science demands no longer applies to them as it has a different understanding of disease and health when compared to evidence based practises.
I would hazard a guess that the reason for such an attitude is because there is very little scientific evidence for her discipline, if the scientific evidence supported homeopathy, do you think that homeopaths would be saying that the positive results did not apply to them as their paradigm cannot be measured by science? On the contrary they would be quick to trumpet the results.
It is quite simple, there is no paradigm shift, homeopathy claims to cure people of illness and therefore its effects are measurable. Homeopathy claims to trigger an innate healing ability and therefore there is a physiological response, which requires a mechanism.