In the previous issue, there were some interesting responses to Jan’s column. A point, which particularly caught my attention, and obviously the attention of several readers, was Jan’s following comment: “physics and chemistry lack the scope to explain homeopathy.”
I could not help but spare a thought for Democritus (460-370 BC), a Greek philosopher, who developed, with his mentor Leucippus, a theory of atoms as ultimate matter particles. His discovery, unfortunately, did not fare well among his contemporaries and ended up languishing in the underworld of indemonstrable scientific theories for a very long time. He, and we, had to wait until the beginning of the 19th century for the English chemist John Dalton to demonstrate that, indeed, matter consists of elementary particles: the atoms.
So, it took nearly two millennia for scientists to devise experiments capable of proving his formidable intuition!
Democritus’ theory had also to contend with the authorities of the time, namely Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle. The latter exerted such an immense influence on his time and on the centuries to come that despite being flawed, his four elements theory prevailed.
This situation strangely resembles the one homeopathy still experiences, albeit on a shorter time span; Science cannot prove the workings of homeopathy. Before going further, an important distinction must be made. Democritus’ theory was based on reason alone. His method was what is called an a priori or deductive method. He could think an atomic theory but could not say to his detractors, “look, I have divided matter as much as it can possibly be done, and here is what is left; an atom.”
Homeopathy is in an inverse position for it can say: “Look, I have given Belladonna to this agitated patient with a pounding headache, a red face, dilated pupils, and cold extremities and, ten minutes later, his symptoms have completely disappeared.” It cannot, however, explain how these little pillules can have such a healing effect. To present our case, we are using an a posteriori or inductive method; going from the effects to the cause. Our main problem is that we cannot from practice induce a correspondent theory. Science has not yet found the means to explain that which can be readily observed. Nevertheless, we have an important advantage on Democritus: we have our cake and anyone who wants to check if it tastes good, can.
This, of course, is not the whole story. While Democritus had his own problems with the authorities of the time, homeopathy has the problem of facing a very active faction of the scientific community, which, when it is not wasting its time pouring scorn on ‘the quacks’, continues to confront us from the macrocosmic point of view of Newtonian physics, and insists that we meet them on their limited ground. Fortunately for us, something crucial happened at the beginning of the 20th century: Quantum physics burst onto the scene and threw a big boulder into the scientific pond, which made waves (I could not resist the pun) the ‘old physics’ – as Hahnemann might have called it, had he been alive – can neither predict nor explain. From its microscopic point of view, it demonstrated that the laws which govern the Great Machine do not function in the same way when applied to the sub-atomic level. In other words, Quantum physics showed that Newtonian physics, on which principles conventional medicine still relies heavily, while valid within its limits, is not comprehensive enough to explain all the world’s phenomena.
“Very well,” you might say, “but what does this all mean for homeopathy?” Space being a concern, even for editors, I invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions on this fascinating and promising subject. To be continued in the next edition…
I leave you with a quote from the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, one of the founders of quantum mechanics. To Einstein’s lament : “Alas, our theory is too poor for our experience.” Bohr replied: “No, no! Experience is too rich for our theory.” Meanwhile, I hope you will enjoy this month’s very interesting and extensive contributions.