Lionel Milgrom Of all the complementary therapies, homeopathy is arguably the most controversial, primarily because its remedies are so diluted, little or nothing of the original substance remains. Yet in the teeth of conflicting objective data at best, homeopathy still manages to enjoy consumer-led demand. Its lack of general acceptance, however, can be blamed not only on difficulties in obtaining consistent empirical effects in conventional medical trials, but also on the absence of any overall theory to explain its results. In fact, homeopathy is unique in medical history for being only weakly supported by experimental facts, yet highly endorsed by circumstantial and anecdotal evidence.
So how could it work? Since Benveniste’s controversial work, the memory of water hypothesis has been cited as a possible ‘local’ cause for homeopathy's effects, and this is an on-going research area. Yet while suggesting new physical and biochemical insights into the nature of water, it is not obvious how to extrapolate from water memory effects to a pharmacological explanation of homeopathy. This is because modern pharmacology’s ideas about ‘cure’ are deterministically based on the notion of actual drug molecules interacting with protein-based cellular receptor sites, leading to measurable biological responses.
Homeopathy is therefore burdened with having to provide convincing evidence of ‘nothing doing something’ within bio-medicine's deterministic local reality paradigm, and via its accepted trials methodology. The result is ideological stalemate.
Breaking this dead-lock may require the assumption that homeopathy is just not explicable in deterministic bio-medical terms, and that perhaps the search for theoretical models should be conducted in areas of science where non-locality rules, such as quantum theory and complexity theory. Such theoretical models are now taking shape. Lionel was guest speaker at the x-change held at the Dana Centre in April.