How might homeopathy work?

New research suggests that water may be an information ‘superhighway’ and a tape recorder of molecular signalling, WDDTY November 2013
McTaggart’s article contains only one reference within the last three years,  a conference presentation by Luc Montagnier that is not peer-reviewed. A quick review of the papers referencing this work includes: Beyond the fringe: when science moves from innovative to nonsense, Simon Silver FEMS Microbiology Letters 2013 (DOI: 10.1111/1574-6968.12289). The balance of it amounts to a statement that because Lynne McTaggart believes in Benveniste, so the refutation of his work (and Ennis’ refuted claimed replication) should be ignored and thus the debunked claims reinstated.

The sources are mainly conference abstracts and other low-grade material. None of the sources amounts to a good quality peer-reviewed paper in a top-tier journal, and none of the sources comes close to addressing the spectacular refutation and withdrawal of Benveniste’s headline paper in Nature.

The “new” claims date back to 2009 and, whether or not they are valid (and it is unlikely), it is clear that they do not validate homeopathy. The effects observed by Montagnier are most likely to be experimental error, but in any case there is no evidence of persistence; measurements on durations of ordered structure in water show they have a lifetime measured in femtosecond|femtosecondsW.

This is an intellectually dishonest article which presents only the minority side of a story where the majority side has received substantial coverage, and has survived the test of scientific debate. The claim that this represents “new research” is mendacious. None of the research is new, and the claims themselves have been known to be false for some years.

New research suggests that water may be an information ‘superhighway’ and a tape recorder of molecular signalling

Many scientists debunk the idea of homeopathy because it doesn’t seem to conform to the natural laws of science. If solutions with active substances are diluted to the point where there’s virtually none of the original substance left, as they are with homeopathy, the only way such a medicine could work, so the argument goes, is if there’s both a special quality to water and an ability by molecules to leave behind essential ‘information’ as a ‘memory’. Now, increasingly, scientists believe that both these requirements may be true.

There is a lot of Wrong packed into that short paragraph.

Scientists debunk homeopathy for three reasons:

  1. There is no reason to suppose it should work, as like does not cure like. The basis on which this was asserted is that the symptoms of cinchonism are “like” malaria therefore cinchona bark cures malaria because of like symptoms; in fact cinchona contains quinine which kills plasmodium falciparumW, the malaria parasite – even if the symptoms of cinchonism were similar, which they usually aren’t, the purported symptom matching as a mechanism is simply wrong. There is no provable connection between “remedies” and the diseases they purportedly treat, the “proving” process begins with the assumption of like cures like, it does not validate it.
  2. There is no way it can work. No remotely plausible mechanism has ever been proposed, and the claims of Hahnemann that there can be no amount of matter so small it does not retain its essential character, is simply wrong – it was refuted by the discovery of the atom and is absolutely refuted by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
  3. There is no proof it does work. No observation has ever been provided that is incompatible with the null hypothesis – placebo effects, expectation effects, natural history of disease, regression to the mean, observer bias and all the other things that randomised controlled trials were invented to exclude from the equation.

If there were a special quality to water, it would not prove or validate homeopathy. You’d first have to show that this is universal for all substances, that it carries the essential magic symptomatic ingredient, that the magic symptomatic ingredient is indeed connected tot he diseases it purportedly treats, that it is persistent, that it can be transferred via evaporation to a sugar pill, that it can be transferred thence to a human, and that it can have a therapeutic effect. All of this is part of the necessary chain of cause and effect for homeopathy to work, and none of it is supported by any evidence whatsoever – crappy or otherwise.

Scientists are not “increasingly” believing in water memory. Scientists accept good quality scientific evidence. The existence of nanostructures in liquids is well-known, they are transient, that is the definition of liquid. The idea of persistent effects due to these transient structures enjoys virtually no mainstream support, and homeopathy is still considered nonsense by scientists – and will need massively better evidence before that changes..

In all aspects of life, molecules must speak to each other. When you’re excited, your adrenals pump out more adrenaline, which tells specific receptors to get your heart beating faster. The usual theory— called the Quantitative Structure–Activity Relationship (QSAR)—is that two molecules that match each other structurally exchange specific (chemical) information, an energy transfer that happens when they bump into each other. It’s rather like a key finding its own keyhole (which is why this theory is often also called the key–keyhole or lock-and-key interaction model).

That’s one way, yes.

Biologists still adhere to the mechanistic notions of Descartes that there can only be reaction through contact involving some sort of impulsive force. Although they accept gravity, they reject any other notions of action at a distance. If these contacts are due to chance, there’s very little statistical hope of their happening, considering the universe of the cell.

Framing, much? Yes, all of science is essentially mechanistic because observation shows that nothing happens without some impetus – this is in essence the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. Mechanistic does not mean deterministic of course (nuclear decay is stochastic and defies exact prediction).

Field theory replaced the idea of action at a distanceW as it is used here; this began with the understanding of magnets and electricity. True action at a distance is allowed for in quantum theory but it’s very, very specific, rather small and requires quantum entanglement. If you have worked out a way to cause entanglement using dilution and twerking, then I am sure the physicists will be all ears. Except Brian CoxW, who will be all teeth (his ears are hidden beneath suspiciously good hair).

In the average cell, which contains one molecule of protein for every 10,000 that, in turn, resonates with the next molecule or group of molecules in the next stage of the biological reaction. This would explain, in Benveniste’s view, why tiny changes in a molecule—the switching of a peptide, say—can have a radical effect on what that molecule actually does.

This is a non-standard statement of the action of peptides. It sounds more like morphic resonanceW than biology.

It can’t begin to account for the speed of biological processes triggered by anger, joy, sadness or fear. The late French biologist Jacques Benveniste carried out countless studies decisively demonstrating that cells don’t rely on the happenstance of collision, but on electromagnetic wave signalling at low frequencies (less than 20 kHz). The electromagnetic frequencies that Benveniste studied correspond to the audio range, even though they don’t emit noise that we can detect.

No evidence is presented at all that speed of biochemical pathways in the body is insufficient to account for these things.

According to Benveniste’s theory, two molecules can be attuned to each other even over long distances and so resonate at the same frequency.

But Benveniste’s theory is wrong, which is why it’s no longer in the literature.

These two resonating molecules then create another frequency that, in turn, resonates with the next molecule or group of molecules in the next stage of the biological reaction. This would explain, in Benveniste’s view, why tiny changes in a molecule—the switching of a peptide, say—can have a radical effect on what that molecule actually does.

But this theory is not backed by credible science, and is considered refuted.

This idea is not so farfetched considering what we already know about how molecules vibrate. Both specific molecules and intermolecular bonds emit specific frequencies, which can be detected billions of light years away by the most sensitive of modern telescopes. Yet, although such frequencies have long been accepted by physicists, few have paused to consider whether they actually have some purpose.

This argument is not only far-fetched, it’s as facile as suggesting that telepathy is supported by the existence of radio waves. Nobody has considered whether the same mechanism applies in stable biological molecules because there is no evidence they are emitting electromagnetic radiation, which is how we detect distant objects. There is a very clear understanding of how particles moving form one state to another can emit photons. The arm-waving speculation here is nowhere near consonant with that.

Although other scientists have conducted extensive experimentation on electromagnetic frequencies in living things, Benveniste’s contribution was to show that molecules and atoms have their own unique frequencies by using modern technology to record those frequencies and then using the recordings to accomplish cellular communication.

No, his unique contribution was to pursue belief over evidence. Like Blondlot.

In extensive tests carried out in the early 1990s, Benveniste demonstrated that he could transfer specific molecular signals simply by using an amplifier and electromagnetic coils. Over thousands of experiments, Benveniste recorded the activity of the molecule on a computer and replayed the recording to a biological system sensitive to that molecule. In every instance the biological system was fooled into thinking it was interacting with the molecule itself and acted accordingly, initiating a biological chain reaction just as it would have in the presence of the actual molecule.1

This is what he claims to have shown. The consensus is that he hasn’t.

Reference 1 (a): FASEB J, 1996; 10: A14791;  Title and authors untraceable. Conference abstract only, not a peer-reviewed publication.

Reference 1 (b):  J Immunol, 1993; 150: 146A Molecular signaling at high dilution or by means of electronic circuitry, Aïssa J, Litime MH, Attias E, Allal A, Benveniste J.

Neither of these references is available in the current archives of either journal.

Despite the virtually universal derision of Jacques Benveniste’s results by the scientific and medical Establishment, reputable research slowly began to appear elsewhere. In 1992, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) held a symposium, organized by the International Society for Bioelectricity, to examine the interactions of electromagnetic fields in biological systems.2 Numerous other scientists have also replicated the high dilution experiments,3 while others have endorsed and successfully repeated tests using digitized information for molecular communication.4

Reference 2: FASEB J, 1993; 7: 272–81 – a symposium on novel research, not a peer-reviewed publication. The exact presentation is not identified.

Reference 3 (a): Immunol Today, 1985; 6: 234–5 – Activity and chronopharmacology of very low doses of physiological immune inducers, Bastide M, Doucet-Jaboeuf M, Daurat V.

Reference 3 (b): Med Nucl Biophys, 1992; 16: 135–45 Modifications des remps de relaxation RMN à 4 MHz des protons du solvant dans les très hautes dilutions salines de silice/lactose, Demangeat JL., C.Demangeat, P.Gries, B.Poitevin, A.Constantinesco

Reference 4 (a): FASEB J, 1994; 8: A400 Transmission of hormone information by non-molecular means;  Conference abstract only, not a peer-reviewed publication.

Reference 4(b): FASEB J, 1995; 9: A392 Hormone effects by electronic transmission;  Conference abstract only, not a peer-reviewed publication.

Do these papers back the claim being made? No. They are old, they are early and somewhat speculative, and they have not led to meaningful or useful discoveries. The most likely explanation for this is the usual effect of early discoveries being wrong. It’s possible that a genuine effect was simply misattributed. Whatever the explanation, these sources are now mainly cited by crank homeopathy papers.

Professor Madelene Ennis of Queen’s University in Belfast joined a large pan-European research team with hopes of showing, once and for all, that homeopathy and water memory were utter nonsense. Her consortium of four independent laboratories in Italy, France, Belgium and Holland, led by Professor M. Roberfroid of the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, carried out a variation of Benveniste’s original experiments. The experiment was impeccable. None of the researchers knew which was the homeopathic solution and which was pure water. All the solutions had even been prepared by labs that had nothing further to do with the trial. The results were coded, decoded and tabulated by an independent researcher who also had no connection to the study. In the end, three of the four labs found statistically significant results with the homeopathic preparations.

Ennis’ work also failed the test of independent replication.

Professor Ennis still didn’t believe these results and put them down to human error.

This was probably correct.

To eliminate the possible vagaries of humans, she applied an automated counting protocol to the figures she had. Yet even the automated results arrived at the same conclusion.

See above. This failed independent replication. Nobody knows why she got the result she did, but it is not reproducible.

High dilutions of the active ingredient worked regardless of whether the active ingredient was actually present or the water was so diluted that none of the original substance apparently remained. Ennis was forced to concede: “The results compel me to suspend my disbelief and to start searching for rational explanations for our findings.”5 The mystery of water What is the role of water in all this? Water is among the most mysterious of substances because it’s a compound made up of two gases (hydrogen and oxygen), yet is liquid at normal temperatures and pressures.

No, they appeared to work, but the effect could not be independently replicated.

Reference 5: Inflamm Res, 1996; 45 [Suppl 1]: S33–4 Analysis of immunosuppressive activity of serial dilution of histamine on human basophil activaiton by flow-cytometry; Sainte-Laudy J, Belon P

Two Italian physicists at the Milan National Institute of Nuclear Research, the late Giuliano Preparata and his colleague Emilio Del Giudice, demonstrated mathematically that, when closely packed together, atoms and molecules exhibit collective behaviours and from what they termed ‘coherent domains’. They were particularly interested in this phenomenon as observed in water, and published a paper demonstrating that water molecules create coherent domains much as a laser does.6 Light is normally composed of photons of many different wavelengths, like colours in a rainbow, but photons in a laser have a high degree of ‘coherence’, rather like a giant single wave of just one intense colour.

A model, not an experimental finding.

Reference 6: Phys Rev Letts, 1988; 61: 1085–8 Water as a free electric dipole laser, E. Del Giudice, G Preparata, G Vitiello

As Del Giudice and Preparata theorized, and other scientists went on to investigate, single wavelengths of water molecules appear to become ‘informed’ in the presence of other molecules—that is, they tend to polarize around any charged molecule—storing and carrying its frequency so it can be read at a distance.7 This suggests that water can act like a tape recorder, retaining and carrying information whether the original molecule is still there or not.

Theorised. As in: speculated.

So vital may water be to the transmission of energy and information that Benveniste’s own studies actually demonstrated that molecular signals cannot be transmitted in the body unless it’s done through the medium of water,8 and rigorous shaking (succussion) of the containers, as done in homeopathy, may serve to speed up the process. In Japan, physicist Kunio Yasue of the Research Institute for Informatics and Science, Notre Dame Seishin University in Okayama, Japan, also found that water molecules have the ability to organize discordant energy into coherent photons—a process known as ‘superradiance’.9 Benveniste found that water seems to ‘memorize’ the unique signature frequencies of molecules. In his studies, when water was exposed to a chemical, then diluted to the point that none of the original molecules remain, the water sample could still be used in place of the chemical to trigger a reaction.

Again back to Benveniste. Did I mention he was discredited and his work refuted?

Reference 8: FASEB J, 1999; 13: A163  The molecular signal is not functional in the absence of “informed” water, Benveniste J, Aïssa J, and Guillonnet D.  Conference abstract only, not a peer-reviewed publication.

Reference 9: BioSystems [IF1.336], 1994; 32: 195–209 Quantum optical coherence in microtubules: Implications for brain function Mari Jibu, Scot Hagan, Stuart Hameroff, Karl Pribram, Kunio Yasue

This last is straight out of the “quantum consciousnessW” playbook.

In one study, Benveniste took a test tube of blood plasma and added water exposed to the ‘sound’ of heparin—an anticoagulant drug that prevents blood from clotting— transmitted via its digitized signature electromagnetic frequency.

This signature frequency worked as though the molecules of heparin itself were there: in its presence, blood was more reluctant than usual to coagulate.

This means that water, as the natural medium of all cells, may be acting as the essential carrier of a molecule’s signature frequency in all biological processes, and that water molecules organize themselves into a pattern on which wave information can be imprinted. Water appears to not only send the signal, but also amplify it.

That was Benveniste’s idea, but he comprehensively failed to prove it.

More recently, another group of Italian scientists, including Claudio Cardella of the Sapienza University of Rome and Laura de Magistris of the Second University of Naples, carried out three years of research that confirmed Preparata’s and Del Giudice’s findings that certain electronic resonance signals can create permanent changes in the physicochemical properties of water.10

Reference 10: Sci Exploration, 2001; 15: 501–18 Permanent Changes in the Physico-Chemical Properties of Water Following Exposure to Resonant Circuits This unindexed “peer-reviewed” journal is a promotional vehicle for fringe science. It includes papers by Russell TargW promoting remote viewingW. Impact factor is estimated to be below 0.4.

Unlike Lynne McTaggart, Luc Montagnier says his work does not validate homeopathy
Unlike Lynne McTaggart, Luc Montagnier says his work does not validate homeopathy

Benveniste’s radical ideas are also being vindicated by the work of French scientist and Nobel Laureate Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), who has carried out experiments showing that some bacterial and viral DNA sequences can induce low-frequency electromagnetic waves at high aqueous dilutions.11 In one dramatic experiment he showed that a virtually identical copy of a DNA fragment in one test tube could be “teleported” via electromagnetic signals to a second test tube containing nothing but pure water.12 As Montagnier concluded, “High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules.” Montagnier has accepted a position at Jiaotong University in Shanghai, China, at a new institute bearing his name to carry out further research into the phenomenon of electromagnetic waves produced by DNA in water.

The damage this nonsense has done to Montagnier’s reputation is obvious, the work is self-published and has not been independently replicated. He also stated, in response to CBC’s Marketplace journalists, that his work cannot be extrapolated to the materials used in homeopathy.

Reference 11: J Phys: Conf Ser, 2011; 306: 012007 DNA waves and water L Montagnier, J Aissa, E Del Giudice, C Lavallee, A Tedeschi and G Vitiello Conference proceedings, not a peer-reviewed publication. A fair statement of what Montagnier believes, but science does not go on what people believe, however eminent.

Reference 12: Interdiscip Sci, 2009; 1: 81–90 Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences Montagnier L, Aïssa J, Ferris S, Montagnier JL, Lavallée C. As the authors list and subject shows, this is basically a double-counting of reference 11.

If he and his colleagues are correct, the fact that water can serve as an information highway for all living things is extraordinarily significant when you consider that water is the basic component of the planet (70 per cent of which is water) and, indeed, the basic substrate of life.

That would be extraordinary, but it would not validate homeopathy. There’s no connection between remedy and illness, no evidence of persistence or transferability, and absolutely no evidence of clinical effect based on this work.

Water comprises approximately 70–80 per cent of animals and 90 percent of plants

And bullshit comprises approximately 90-100 percent of your article.

Why do doctors not tell you that recent research finally provides evidence of how homeopathy might work?

Because it isn’t true

2 thoughts on “How might homeopathy work?”

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    It’s McTaggart’s careful choice of language that’s telling – as if she doesn’t believe any of this shite either and is leaving herself room for a get-out. The obvious use of the words “might” and “may”, for example, in the manner of all speculative journalists who know they are being mischievous or malicious, or both.

    An explanation of how homeopathy “might” work is moot, because it incontrovertibly does not and cannot.

    ‘New research “suggests” that water “may” be an information ‘superhighway…’ is also moot for the same reason.

    Why would McTaggart use such language if she was convinced. Her tendency to mendacity and intention to deceive and manipulate seem clear to me.

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