Homeopathy: nano-doses or mega-stupidity?

The hallmark of homeopathy is the belief that tiny doses of medicinal substances have big effects. It’s like insisting that the less salt you put in water, the more salty the water will taste. In other words, it defies common sense, is scientifically unfounded, and has been thoroughly debunked.

Even more inane than the concept of homeopathy are its proponents’ attempts to explain how it works. Homeopathy is, perhaps, the paradigmatic pseudoscience, and like most pseudosciences, it invokes science while at the same time ignoring the scientific evidence.

One of the best (and inadvertently funniest) examples can be found on today’s Huffington Post. Dana Ullman has written How Homeopathic Medicines Work: Nanopharmacology At Its Best.

Pseudoscience advocates have learned the benefits of clothing pseudoscience in “scientese,” language that sounds scientific but makes no sense. “Nano” sounds scientific, so Ullman insists that homeopathy is “nanopharmacology.’ As Ullman breathlessly explains:

Although the word “nano” also means one-billionth of a size, that is not its only definition. In fact, “nano” derives from the word “dwarf,” and “nano” is the only word in the English language that is used on common parlance as denoting extremely small AND yet extremely powerful.

Sounds cool and so scientific, doesn’t it? Just a few minor problems, though. First, nano does not mean powerful and has nothing to do with power. Second, there is a scientific discipline of nanopharmacology and it means something very different than what Ullman pretends it means.

According to Nanopharmacology.com:

Nanopharmacology is the use of nanotechnology for — discovery of new pharmacological molecular entities; selection of pharmaceuticals for specific individuals to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects; and delivery of pharmaceuticals to targeted locations or tissues within the body. Nanotechnology will generally be defined as the science of constructing and assembling objects on a scale littler than one hundred nanometers. The end results of nanotechnology may be miniature particles (in powders, lotions or coatings) or macro-scale objects with nanoscale modules and unique characteristics.

In other words, nanopharmacology refers to the size of the medication delivery system, NOT the dilution of the medication.

How does homeopathy work? Well, it doesn’t work; copious scientific evidence has thoroughly debunked homeopathy. Ullman ignores that point to speculate on various possibilities, each more ridiculous than the last.

Scientists at several universities and hospitals in France and Belgium have discovered that the vigorous shaking of the water in glass bottles causes extremely small amounts of silica fragments or chips to fall into the water. Perhaps these silica chips may help to store the information in the water, with each medicine that is initially placed in the water creating its own pharmacological effect.

Or, perhaps these silica fragments do nothing. Certainly it doesn’t help water “store information” since that is a chemical impossibility.

Or maybe it’s the bubbles:

Further, the micro-bubbles and the nano-bubbles that are caused by the shaking may burst and thereby produce microenvironments of higher temperature and pressure.

If it’s not the silica fragments or the bubbles, maybe it’s the waves:

Normal radio waves simply do not penetrate water, so submarines must use an extremely low-frequency radio wave. The radio waves used by submarines to penetrate water are so low that a single wavelength is typically several miles long!

If one considers that the human body is 70-80 percent water, perhaps the best way to provide pharmacological information to the body and into intercellular fluids is with nanodoses. Like the extremely low-frequency radio waves, it may be necessary to use extremely low (and activated) doses for a person to receive the medicinal effect.

Of course every self-respecting quack must invoke, and profoundly misinterpret, quantum mechanics:

Quantum physics does not disprove Newtonian physics; quantum physics simply extends our understanding of extremely small and extremely large systems. Likewise, homeopathy does not disprove conventional pharmacology; instead, it extends our understanding of extremely small doses of medicinal agents.

But quantum physics is involves sub-atomic particles of very small size, NOT small numbers of particles.

Homeopathy is nothing more than pseudoscience, and a particularly inane pseudoscience at that. It is not involve nanopharmacology. However, we can say that belief in homeopathy is evidence of mega-stupidity, best defined as startling gullibility combined with a profound deficit of scientific knowledge.