Strip a man naked

Strip a man naked and ask him what he has got in his pockets. Most people will agree about the answer: nothing. He doesn´t have any pockets. Now, imagine having a million men stripped naked. Claim that all of them carry something in their pockets (which they don´t have) because one of them once used to know a guy who carried something in his pockets. That´s the sort of thing homeopathy claims.

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Homeopathy claims that a water molecule would remember its contact with other molecules (or light, or “energy” or “vibes“). They claim that, somehow, a water molecule could carry information around and yet still be just a water molecule.

A bare water molecule is: two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.  A water molecule that has had an interaction with another molecule, has only two options:

  1. It is not a water molecule anymore, but something else. For instance, after stirring a lot of sugar in water, some new molecules might be formed which no longer are just two hydrogen atoms and one oxyen atom, but something more. (I´m not a chemist, but I am sure you can look it up somewhere: I guess it will be a molecule containing X hydrogen atoms, Y oxygen atoms and Z carbon atoms.)
  2. It is still a water molecule, possibly moving in a different direction, with a different speed, than before the interaction. For instance, in boiling water, the water molecules move faster.

Neither of these processes does in any way involve the “memory” of a water molecule, in whatever free metaphysical way one would want to define “memory”.

If talking about homeopathy, one first has to stress, and restress, and then again stress the overly underrated concept of … the PLACEBO effect. The problem with this concept is that people inevitably overrate their own resistance to it. In other words, people think they are too clever to fall into that trap. But they are not. You are not. Even I am not.

There are actually two types of placebo effects, and they can be explained the easiest way with medical examples:

  1. Someone is sick will get better, even without taking medicins. Although, e.g., drinking a glass water will not directly cure a cold, in the long term a cold will disappear and people might think this was due to drinking that particular glass of water (or cutting a frog in two, boiling a goat´s head in menstruation blood or chanting to the moon).
  2. Someone is sick but is somehow made to believe that a certain type of medicin (drinking a glass of water, eating potato skin, sleeping in a cow´s bladder) will help. The actual belief makes him feel better and might actually help curing him. This, of course, is especially effective in imaginary deceases.

These effects can be tested and have been tested. These tests consist of the following basic scenario. Take 1000 people and do something to 500 of them. Do something else to the other 500. Then compare the difference. This has been done for homeopathic medicins. 500 people were given the homeopathic treatment. 500 other people were told they were given the homeopathic treatment but effectively were given a glass of water (which is especially funny since cientifically speaking homeopathic treatments themselves are nothing more than drinking glasses of water). None of these tests never have shown a significant difference in between the (placebo) test group and the homeopathically “treated” group.

If you don´t believe that outcome, try some common sense. If I would pour one cup of tea in a swimming pool filled with water, would any kind of mumbo jumbo be able to make you believe that you could still taste that cup of tea? Now, use that same cup of tea, but now think of 10, 100, sometimes 1000 swimming pools. These are the dilution factors used by homeopathy. Dilute one cup of tea in 100 swimming pools, and then “shake thoroughly”. The shaking bit is especially important according to the homeopathy experts, because this way “all water molecules will remember the contact with the healing molecules”. Apparantly, homeopathic “doctors” are able to do something no nuclear or atomic physicist have ever been capable of: discover a water molecule with a human brain.

Obviously, there is much more to it that this. There are whole libraries full of books on statistics on the one hand, atomic physics on the other hand, and human psychology on the third hand (oh well, if you believe in homeopathy, you might as well believe in three hands) that give mind staggering evidence against this particular form of modern quackery. I am sure I´ll come back on this. But one of the most interesting thing for me is: why do people believe this nonsense? What is it that makes people drive into pseudo-science, pseudo-politics, pseudo-medicin, pseudo-knowledge?

Well, all these pseudo-theories have at least one thing in common: they put human personal experience at the center of their worldview. They go back to the populist, pre-scientific, medieval doctrine that the human being is the centre of the universe and this perceptions therefore have any significance in the description of the world and the entire universe.

Imagine two ants on the Titanic, going down. Mickey and Minnie. The ship is sinking, and the two ants are stuck in a kitchen cabinet, in a sugar put which is already overtaken by large waves of water.
Mickey: “What´s going on? All the sugar has gone wet!”
Minnie: “There is water everywhere!”
Mickey: “I told you! It´s all your fault! You didn´t say your prayers last night!”

Yes, Mickey, you´re right. The Titanic went down because Minnie the ant did not say her prayers the night before.

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5 thoughts on “Strip a man naked

  1. Pingback: Un millón de hombres desnudos « Dinzo!

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