For me, Christmas came early this year, in the shape of a Guardian ‘Response’ piece by Rustum Roy, of all people.
The fact that water can have so many different structures is interesting, but in terms of homeopathy it doesn’t really get us any further forward. To demonstrate even a theoretical justification for homeopathy, Roy would still need to show that the hundreds of different homeopathic remedies could all create different structures in water; that only the specific remedy, and not any other impurities in the water, causes this structuring; that water with different structures has different biological effects, and that the strength of that effect could increase as a solution is further diluted. So far
Roy also states that Prof Martin Chaplin of South Bank University has, in the journal Homeopathy, “discussed how water could retain a ‘memory’”. In fact, Chaplin has done no such thing. He has simply demonstrated that water has a lot of unique and interesting properties, something which is not in dispute. He doesn’t show how the structure of water in a homeopathic remedy could be influenced by substances that are no longer present. I will have a critical letter to the editor of Homeopathy published shortly outlining this point in more detail.
Roy says that the placebo effect is ‘without doubt present in every homeopathic intervention’, but goes on to say that ‘it is far more powerfully present in orthodox medical pills because they are advertised so widely in billion-dollar campaigns’. I’m not aware of any evidence that this is the case, although I’m certainly not an expert in this field. It seems unlikely because orthodox medicines are usually trialled for efficacy and safety before they come on the market. But in any case it seems like a confused argument. If the placebo effect ‘works’ and it is more powerful in ‘orthodox medical pills’, isn’t this evidence that orthodox medical pills are better? The central point is that the clinical evidence shows that homeopathic remedies have no more benefit than a sugar pill, while orthodox medicines do. But