Homeopathy's Mystery: Not knowing how something works has nothing to do with whether it does. Homeopathy's Mystery: Not knowing how something works has nothing to do with whether it does. Photo by Luc Viatour. Creative Commons license.
by Heidi Stevenson One of the most common arguments against homeopathy says: It can’t work, therefore it doesn’t. Another throws out the challenge to explain how it works. Neither is a fair argument, since they do not care about evidence showing its efficacy, but only attempt to demean both homeopathy and the person who believes it works. These same people do not place the same burden on their own belief in allopathy. Let’s pose that question to an anesthesiologist, Michael Alkire of the University of California School of Medicine, who is recognized as an expert in his field. Surely he knows the answer. His response is in a quote from the Encyclopedia of Consciousness: How anesthesia works has been a mystery since the discovery of anesthesia itself. Do those who keep attacking homeopathy care that no one understands how anesthesia works, either? Oddly enough, that never seems to come up. Why do they hold homeopathy to a different standard? Not knowing the mechanism behind how something works is hardly a legitimate argument that it doesn’t.
Spiderweb by Mike Baird. Creative Commons license. Do we understand how electricity works? Outside of observations of its effects, we do not. It is a subatomic phenomenon, and that field is in extreme flux right. In a world in which things do not exist unless they are observed, as postulated by modern physics—and not having the slightest idea how this can possibly be—we cannot possibly claim to know how electricity works. So, is it legitimate to suggest that electricity cannot work because it consists of particles that, quite impossibly, exist only when they’re observed? The real world is a very complex and mysterious place. Though we certainly must make determinations of what is and is not real, isn’t it best to do that based on experience and observation, rather than presumptions of what can and cannot be? Did the sun suddenly come into being the day we humans were finally able to theorize a means by which it shines? Must we give up anesthesia because we have no idea how it works? How can rational people make the claim that homeopathy doesn’t work simply because we don’t know how? The argument that it can’t work, therefore it doesn’t, is based solely on the idea that no one knows how it works, so it’s simply a corollary of the demand that how homeopathy works be explained—not a different argument.
The Allopathic View What is going on here? If homeopathy simply didn’t work, why would the allopathic world attack it so strongly? Other alternative approaches to healthcare are accepted, and some even encouraged. How many doctors advise their patients to pray? Where’s the explanation of how that works? Homeopathy’s concepts and holistic view of people and the human body are entirely counter to the allopathic approach. It requires a complete rethinking of the nature of health and medical care. Is it not, therefore, only reasonable to test it on its own terms? Most trials of homeopathy have been done as if the remedies were equivalent to allopathic drugs. That most assuredly is not the case. In homeopathy, one cannot apply a single remedy on the simple basis of a single symptom or diagnosis. Each case must be taken on an individual basis. The remedies that are effective in different people with the same diagnosis may not be the same, especially in chronic illnesses. In fact, they most likely won’t be. Rather than viewing symptoms as the problem and trying to suppress them, homeopaths see them as attempts to heal. Until recently, allopaths treated fever as if it were the problem, so they routinely advised taking drugs to bring it down. The reality is that fever is one of the body’s primary means of trying to attack infections, by creating a heated environment in which microorganisms cannot survive. Even with this awareness, allopaths still often tell worried parents to give drugs to bring down fevers that are not high enough to be dangerous. Allopaths view symptoms as if they were the disease. Thus, the usual goal of mainstream medicine’s treatments is to suppress them. The long term view is generally not taken. The connections that homeopaths see between common drugs and disease are ignored and denied, until the evidence can no longer be suppressed.
Allopathy’s Suppression of Homeopathy
Spiderweb by France House Hunt. Creative Commons license. Allopathy applies its method of suppression to homeopathy. The approach seems to start with the view that the existence of homeopathy is a problem, rather than a symptom of a medical system that’s gone awry. Therefore, much as all other symptoms are treated, the method of dealing with homeopathy is an attempt to suppress it. What does mainstream medicine fear from homeopathy? If it truly can’t work, then why try to suppress it? Won’t it simply fade away if it’s ineffective? Clearly, people must experience benefits, especially when homeopathic treatment generally requires money out of pocket, as it’s rarely covered by either insurance or national health plans. Rather than denying the truth of stories by people who claim they’ve been healed by homeopathy—especially those whose conditions are considered untreatable or irreversible in the allopathic world—why not do large population studies, rather than placebo and randomly controlled trials? Though such trials are currently called the gold standard of science, they are far from the only technique available—and there is only the claim of their effectiveness behind them, not any proof.
Spiderweb by Erik Schepers. Creative Commons license. The only conclusive test is experience, the results of large numbers of people over a long period of time. Within modern medicine’s allopathy, we have only to look at the disasters of the drug Vioxx, which killed tens of thousands, and hormone replacement therapy, which has proven to cause the very diseases it had been purported to prevent. In spite of legions of placebo and randomly controlled trials trotted out by modern healthcare, the truth is that those allopathic treatments have failed miserably. If anything is responsible for the unnecessary iatrogenic deaths of thousands and millions, it is the reliance on placebo and random controlled trials, the so-called gold standard of modern evidence-based medicine. Those people who wish to demand that homeopathy be explained should first get their own house in order. Even if an explanation for how anesthesia works is discovered, it won’t resolve this issue. The fact will remain that those who have demanded an explanation for homeopathy do not make the same demands of their own medical paradigm—and that says it all. The real issue for those people isn’t that homeopathy makes no sense to them. The real issue is that its very existence is perceived as a threat. It’s either a challenge to their perception of how the world works or it’s seen as a risk to their profession.