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Commentary > Monday, January-31-2011

Ben Goldacre On Homeopathy

I don't generally talk about homeopathy on my own blog, mostly because everybody else is already talking about it.  But it is definitely a serious concern when people are being convinced to spend money on useless treatments, sometimes for serious conditions and often combined with a rejection of standard medical treatments that have been actually shown to have an effect.

My favourite quote regarding homeopathy comes from Ben Goldacre's book "Bad Science", in which he says:

How does a water molecule know to forget every other molecule it's seen before?  How does it know to treat my bruise with a memory of arnica, rather than a memory of Isaac Asimov's faeces?  I wrote this in a newspaper once, and a homeopath complained to the Press Complaints Commission.  It's not about the dilution, he said, it's the succussion.  You have to bang the flask of water briskly ten times on a leather and horsehair surface, and that's what makes the water remember a molecule.  Because I did not mention this, he explained, I had deliberately made homeopaths sound stupid.

Well, we certainly don't want to misrepresent anybody's arguments.  So make sure when you're explaining homeopathy to your friends and family that you mention the succussion - otherwise the whole theory might seem ridiculous.

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