“The Memory of Water?” – Journal Club roundup and submissions for publication

September 14th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in homeopathy, journal club | 20 Comments »

Many thanks to everyone who took part in the Homeopathy Journal Club. The standard of commentary was very high and I think a fair amount of this stuff deserves the chance to be published in the journal itself. I know a couple of people have already submitted their work as letters, but just in case, the correspondence address for the journal is:

Ms. Tanya Wheatley
Elsevier Ltd.
The Boulevard
Langford Lane
Kidlington
Oxford
OX5 1GB
United Kingdom

Better some say better to use this:

For folk submitting stuff to Homeopathy, I would suggest using Elsevier’s electronic submissions system. This worked for me, and the comment has been assigned an editor.

The downside is that it’s a bit of a faff, but if you’ve gone to the trouble of writing something it’s probably worth doing.

It is possible they may also accept letters for publication on journal@trusthomeopathy.org but that is not certain.

Adrian Gaylard has performed the truly heroic task of going through and summarising the work that was done on the papers. If there is anything you feel is missing, including from forums elsewhere, then do perhaps let me know and I will append. It’s an interesting read, and can I especially encourage anyone who is on this list to consider submitting their work, either in its current or modified form, to the journal some time soon?

I think it’s genuinely worth engaging on this issue, and more than that, it’s worth taking academic effort which invites critical appraisal at face value. Thanks again to Peter Fisher and Elsevier for giving us the papers. Send more soon, and thanks again to Adrian for rounding up!

Homeopathy Journal Club

Memory of Water

These posts could (with some additional work) form the basis of letters to the Journal.

General comments on the papers as a whole.

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-15902

Author: wilsontown

Summary: Not addressing the memory of water, rather how various impurities might affect its structure.

Key words: logic.

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-16037

Author: bazvic

Summary: In macromolecules solvent-solute structures depend strongly on temperature. Hence if water memory was true then changing the temperature would alter the information.

Key words: temperature dependence

Paper: Chaplin, M. F. “The Memory of Water: an overview
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 143-150.

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=491#comment-15930

Author: wilsontown

Summary: Irrelevant examples.

Key words: logic.

Paper: Thomas, Y. “The history of the Memory of Water” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 151-157.

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-15905

Author: ayupmeduck

Summary: Problem identified with the handling of a reference. Over-selling it’s support for the authors argument.

Key words: References

Paper: Teixeira, J. “Can water possibly have a memory? A sceptical view” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 158-162.

Post:

Author:

Summary:

Key words:

Paper: Vybíral, B. and Voráček, P. “Long term structural effects in water: autothixotropy of water and its hysteresis” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 183-188.

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-15975

www.badscience.net//?p=497#comment-15974

Author: apgaylard

Summary: Interesting paper on rheology. Paper has no evidence of water structure, but comments on “clustering” as though they have. No relevance of time-dependant rheological properties of water (actually weak aqueous ionic solution) and water memory. Effect shown to depend on the presence of ions – not supportive of homeopathy. Intense stirring or shaking removes effect – would not survive homeopathic sucussion.

Key words: rheology, logic.

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=497#comment-16354

Author: bazvic

Summary: Photo-decomposition of organic impurities could be the mechanism here.

Key words: Experimental Method.

Paper: Rao, M. L., Roy, R., Bell, I. R., and Hoover , R. “The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 175-182.

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=496#comment-16370

Author: wewillfixit

Summary: purity of ethanol used questioned.

Key words: Experimental Method.

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=496#comment-16075

Author: AnotherJohn

Summary: Critique of spectrographic results. Noted the inclusion of an irrelevant figure (nanobubbles on a hydrophobic surface).

Key words: FTIR, Raman.

Paper: Rey, L. “Can low-temperature thermoluminescence cast light on the nature of ultra high dilutions?” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 170-174.

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=495#comment-16035

Author: DoctorLoctor

Summary: Criticisms of the science would be a lack of controls, a failure to assign the peaks to the relaxation of particular excited states and a disturbingly arbitrary approach to radiation intensity selection.

Key words: Experimental Method.

Paper: Elia, V., Napoli, E. and Germano, R. “The ‘Memory of Water’: an almost deciphered enigma. Dissipative structures in extremely dilute aqueous solutions” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 163-169.

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=494#comment-15923

Author: gnu

Summary: Poorly constructed paper missing many key data points usually seen in a peer-reviewed journal paper.

Key words: Methods.

Paper: Voeikov, V. L. “The possible role of active oxygen in the Memory of Water” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 196-201.

Post:

Author:

Summary:

Key words:

Paper: Anick, D. J. and Ives, J. A. “The silica hypothesis for homeopathy: physical chemistry” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 189-195.

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-15896

www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-15897

Author: DoctorLoctor

Summary: Comments adversely on the sensitivity of NMR for Si detection at low concentration and the temporal stability of any silicate based structures.

Key words: NMR, Experimental Method

Paper: Anick, D. J. “The octave potencies convention: a mathematical model of dilution and succession” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 202-208.

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=500#comment-16634

Author: Dr Aust

Summary: Links to excellent critiques in other blogs.

Key words: blogosphere

Paper: Weingärtner, O. “The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 220-226.

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-16145

www.badscience.net//?p=503#comment-16144

Author: apgaylard

Summary: Begging the question. Citing a reference and ignoring evidence contrary to the author’s view (contamination). Can WQT justify the “Q” without Planck’s constant?

Key words: References, logic, WQT.

Paper: Milgrom, L. R., “Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 209-219.

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-15892

Author: j

Summary: Takes the author to task on interpretation of Kant and Hume.

Key words: philosophy

Post: www.badscience.net/?p=490#comment-15907

www.badscience.net//?p=502#comment-15910

Author: apgaylard

Summary: Author uses naïve inductivism as a straw man, rather than engaging with the actual philosophy of science.

Key words: philosophy

Post: www.badscience.net//?p=502#comment-16004

Author: Philippe Leick

Summary: Identifies a mis-quoted reference. Asserts that WQT explanations of homeopathy are not science. Cites an article the poster wrote for the german magazine “Skeptiker” (3/06) about Weak Quantum Theory (WQT) and its application to the question of Homeopathy.

Key words: philosophy, WQT.

[The best critique of the “quantum” concepts used in WQT that I’ve seen has not been posted to the blog: shpalman.livejournal.com/tag/lionel+milgrom]

 

Incidentally, this is not a good thread to post general rants against homeopathy, plenty of space for that elsewhere eg here, like I said before:

As you already know, I’m very much against censoring the unusually well-informed brand of internet childishness which happens in the discussion on this blog, but on this occasion, since I’m posting academic papers, and since they’ve graciously given us the papers to post and discuss, it might be good to be marginally more journal clubby about it.


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20 Responses



  1. apgaylard said,

    September 14, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Thanks to Ben for his kind words about my summary. I’d just like to point out that this selection represents my personal assessment of the key posts.

    My apologies if I’ve missed anyone out or misconstrued the post. This is the work of an ordinary physicist turned engineer.

  2. Dr Aust said,

    September 14, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Wilsontown

    From your professional location, I wonder if you have any people nearby who are familiar with the low-temp thermoluminescence method? It is used in dating of archaeological and geological materials.

  3. apgaylard said,

    September 14, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Wilsontown: Nice one. Having given the Vybíral and Voráček paper a good look a relevant comment for your letter may be that as the rheology of their “water” changed with time, without any external stimulus, any asserted “information content” of their “water” was changing with time. This is more akin to the process of making something up rather than remembering.

  4. wilsontown said,

    September 14, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    This is interesting and useful:

    arstechnica.com/articles/culture/the-pseudoscience-behind-homeopathy.ars/1

    Dr Aust: I’m afraid I don’t know of anyone using thermoluminescence. I will see what I can find out.

    apgaylard: Ha! I like it. Good work with the summary, by the way.

  5. apgaylard said,

    September 15, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I asked Elsevier Customer Support for an e-mail address for submitting letters to the editor. They have just sent me the following:

    You can contact the Editorial Office of Homeopathy at the e-mail address provided below:

    journal@trusthomeopathy.org

  6. ayupmeduck said,

    September 19, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    apgaylard – surprised that my contribution had any value, but I’ll try and tidy up my rant as soon as poss and get it off to journal – I’m a bit overloaded right now…

  7. wilsontown said,

    September 19, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Comments on Chaplin have been submitted. I’ll keep you all posted.

  8. apgaylard said,

    September 20, 2007 at 9:49 am

    ayupmeduck – pointing out errors in handling references is always a worthwhile contribution in my book. Bad referencing spreads like a virus through the literature. It’s a particular bugbear of mine.

    I posted my comments on Milgrom’s paper (below)two weeks ago and have not heard anything. I’ve followed that up with an e-mail today. I’ll let you know what happens.

    “Straw Men and Black Swans: The Philosophy of Contemporary Science

    From the perspective of an ordinary practicing scientist, Milgrom [1] represents the logical structure of science in a way that does not promote an accurate understanding of modern science. I would have expected that a paper from a senior researcher, who claims to have sought advice on philosophy, published in a peer-reviewed journal might have actually addressed the philosophy of science in a meaningful way.

    Rather, the philosophical discussion takes aim at a “straw man” rather than real science. It criticises what it calls “science’s primarily inductive logical structure”. The example provided (white/black swans) is actually a common illustration of “naïve (or classical) inductivism” (see, for example, [2]). This philosophical approach had its limitations exposed a long time ago. No serious contemporary scientist would accept naïve inductivism as a realistic model for scientific endeavour. Therefore it is not science’s primary logical structure, as Milgrom contends.

    The concept of falsification, originally formulated by Karl Popper [3], would make a more realistic candidate for modern science’s primary logical structure. The “swan” example can be used to contrast these two approaches. Simply put, to “prove” the hypothesis that all swans are white the naïve inductivist has the impossible task of observing all swans through all time; however the observation of a single black swan would falsify this hypothesis. The move away from inductivism was driven, in large part, by Popper’s massively influential text “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” [3]. This work is actually referenced in the paper [Reference 14(a)], but as what seems to be an implied example of the Post-Modernist attack on logical positivism (Popper, of course, was not a Post-Modernist, but defined himself as a Critical Rationalist).

    The author’s apparent awareness of Popper’s work makes it very peculiar that he continues to attack the “straw man” of naïve inductivism, rather than engaging with the more relevant (and stronger) falsificationist position generally aspired to in modern science. (For example, as part of my education as a scientist over 20 years ago, I was made to study Popper as part of my physics degree. This, naturally, included an exposé of inductivism along with subsequent criticisms of the falsificationalist approach. I believe it was a second year topic.) Of course, this more realistic position makes a more difficult, but by no means unassailable, target (See, for example, [4]).

    Similarly, when the author outlines his view of the unwillingness of scientists to reconcile themselves to new observations that do not fit into current theoretical models he neglects to mention the seminal analysis of this issue by Thomas Kuhn [5]. It is from this work that we get the notion of “Paradigms” in science and “Paradigm Shift”. Whether the author would agree with the analysis or not (and it does have notable critics among scientists), it is of such importance in context of the debate he frames that to omit it is a serious flaw. (This was, again, part of my undergraduate training as a physicist.)

    More recent philosophical positions that do not figure in this assault on the “straw man” of naïve inductivism include the work of Imre Lakatos [6], who proposed that the object of evaluation should be whole “research programmes” rather than individual hypotheses, and Paul Feyerabend [7,8] who objected to any single prescriptive scientific method. It is not my contention that these approaches are complete or flawless descriptions of modern science, but that they are so influential that a discussion of the philosophy of contemporary science is incomplete without them. By extension, any critique of science that ignores the major philosophical analyses of science is fatally flawed.

    The author then states: “Consequently, positive results from even the highest standard scientific trials are rejected by those who will not accept homeopathy’s claim that remedies diluted out of molecular existence might have any effect. For black swans, read homeopathy.” This is an odd assertion. First, the author goes to some lengths to challenge the suitability of what would generally be considered to be “the highest standard scientific trials” (double blind RCT’s) for assessing homeopathic interventions. If the outcomes of such trails are just being ignored this would seem to be unnecessary. Second, this very strong assertion is not backed up by any references. Finally, as previously discussed, the real scientists actually look for “black swans”.

    References
    [1] Milgrom, L. R. “Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy”
    [2] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductivism
    [3] Popper, K. (1959) “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” Basic Books, New York
    [4] Cartwright, N. and Frigg, R. “String Theory Under Scrutiny” Physics World, September 2007, pp 14-15, IOP Publishing Limited.
    [5] Kuhn, T. S. (1962) “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” University of Chicago Press,.
    [6] Lakatos, I. (1978). “The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes: Philosophical Papers Volume 1”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [7] Feyerabend, P. (1975) “Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge” Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press.
    [8] Feyerabend, P. (1979) “Science in a Free Society” Routledge.”

  9. nekomatic said,

    September 20, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Comment on the Homeopathy ‘memory of water’ issue by Philip Ball in this month’s Chemistry World, the member’s magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry:

    www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2007/September/ColumnThecrucible.asp

  10. wilsontown said,

    September 20, 2007 at 10:24 am

    For folk submitting stuff to Homeopathy, I would suggest using Elsevier’s electronic submissions system. This worked for me, and the comment has been assigned an editor, for all the world as if it’s a proper journal.

    The downside is that it’s a bit of a faff, but if you’ve gone to the trouble of writing something it’s probably worth doing.

  11. apgaylard said,

    September 21, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    wilsontown is spot on. Contrary to what Elsevier Customer Support said the postal option does not seem to work.

    The electronic submissions system looks like the best route.

    Also, I have got a confirmation that the e-mail route is working, so that’s a viable option to.

  12. Ben Goldacre said,

    September 21, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    can someone keep an eye on this, maybe get back in a few weeks and jolt us/me/email to check if anyone’s had anything back? just a thought. i get the vague impression people are hearing nothing, but time is slow for these things always

  13. Dr Aust said,

    September 23, 2007 at 2:26 am

    I wouldn’t hold your breath given our previous experience with OUP’s ECAM (“Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine”) over Lionel Milgrom’s quantum idiocies there.

    (past thread?? can’t remember which)

    My suspicion is that the Alt journals will only publish comments if the comments “engage” with them on their own turf, i.e. they will be happy to discuss “alternative quantum mechanisms” for how mystery memory structures may form in water. But if you merely point out either:

    (a) the methodological failings are such that you can’t draw any conclusion about anything in a paper; or

    (b) there’s no point in modelling as real a process that there is no evidence for and a boatload of evidence against;

    - I think it’s short odds that they will simply not print it.

    The point is that the CAM journals are “past” that scepticism thing. They are busy in their own parallel reality in which you can happily attribute things to ludicrously implausible mechanisms and ignore the obvious “confounding” ones, like placebo effects.

  14. apgaylard said,

    September 24, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Dr Aust. There is some hope. Even eCAM did publish several letters critical of Milgrom’s work (though the one they did not was certainly contained the best criticism). I also got one published on a very silly pyramid-power type paper.

    If we do find that we can’t get good quality, seriously written observations published perhaps we should keep them somewhere online. This could grow into a useful evidence base?

    Anyway, I’ve had the receipt of my letter (by email) confirmed. I’ll post what happens.

  15. apgaylard said,

    September 24, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    I have also submitted a second letter on:

    Vybíral, B. and Voráček, P. “Long term structural effects in water: autothixotropy of water and its hysteresis” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 183-188.

    Used the online system. It’s very clunky and asks for info more suited to a paper than letter contribution.

    “Going Beyond The Evidence

    Vybíral and Voráček [1] present some interesting, though incomplete, data on the bulk rheology of weak aqueous solutions of unidentified ions (referred to as “water” in the title of their paper). However, they draw conclusions that go far beyond what their data can support.

    Most strikingly, the paper is replete with references to “clusters” but contains no evidence to support the existence of any particular structure. The authors own data are measurements of specific bulk rheological properties of the fluid samples. Therefore reference to “clusters” in this paper represents both speculation and assumption on the part of the authors.

    One consequence of this is that they see conflict where none exists. For example, they state: “Currently two diametrically sets different of results supported by serious observations exist concerning the duration of structures in liquid water. According to one, molecular clusters in water have a duration of less than one hundred femtoseconds. According to ours, clusters grow to webs on a time scale of days” Here they show confusion about two particular issues. First they have no observations on the durations of any structures; just a time- (and shear history) dependent change in viscosity. Second, Cowan et al. [2] comments on hydrogen bonded structures in “pure” water rather than effects due to low concentrations of ions, as examined in this paper.

    This confusion leads to a failure to compare like with like: “Moral: If two different observations seem to be mutually incompatible within the frame of an established theory, the most probable explanation is not that one of the observations is wrong, but that the theory is wrong or at least incomplete, and that the observations merely discovered that it was not self-consistent.” This is just muddled thinking; there is no incompatibility between their observations and those of Cowan et al. [2]. The authors demonstrate that their observations are the result of low concentrations of ions present in the water. Whereas Cowan et al. [2] address the highly transient nature of hydrogen bonded structures in “pure” water.

    Given the determining role of aqueous ions in their observations it is surprising that the obvious questions are not addressed, such as: What species of ions are responsible for this effect? How does this effect vary with ionic concentration? Where are these ions coming from (silica leaching from glassware or the decomposition of organic impurities in the water, for example)?

    Finally, what emerges from the actual evidence contained in this paper is of little discernable relevance to either homeopathy or the idea of water memory. The effect measured depends on an actual concentration of ions and disappears when they do. The autothixotropy appears over time with no external input. Therefore, if it is possible to regard the time- (and shear history) dependent change in viscosity they observed as “information” (quite a stretch!), the “information” content of the “water” is increasing with time in the absence of any input. This is not a memory mechanism, but rather one of invention.

    [1] Vybíral, B. and Voráček, P. “Long term structural effects in water: autothixotropy of water and its hysteresis” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 183-188.
    [2] M.L. Cowan et al., “Ultrafast memory loss and energy redistribution in the hydrogen bond network of liquid H2O”, Nature 434 (2005), pp. 199–200.”

  16. wilsontown said,

    September 25, 2007 at 11:47 am

    apgaylard:

    Excellent stuff. Just one thing: you quote the authors as saying “Currently two diametrically sets different of results supported by serious observations exist concerning the duration of structures in liquid water”. Is the original quote really so garbled? It wouldn’t surprise me if it was, but it’s as well to check…

  17. apgaylard said,

    September 28, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    wilsontown:
    It’s really that bad!

  18. Philippe Leick said,

    October 6, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    I sent the following letter to Homeopathy this morning. It’s rather long, but some people have encouraged me.

    Letter to the editor: Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3 “The Memory of Water”

    L.R. Milgrom: Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy (p. 209-219)
    O. Weingärtner: The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions (p. 220-226)

    The two central problems of homeopathy are the absence of studies that clearly demonstrate the superiority of homeopathic remedies over placebos in randomized, controlled double-blind trials (RCT) and the implausibility of the claim that dilutions beyond Avogadro’s limit can have any specific effect linked to the properties of the original substance. While the first problem is located within the domain of the medical sciences, the second one is much more fundamental and, if solved to the satisfaction of the adherents of homeopathy, probably will revolutionize physics. With this in mind, the decision of the editor of “Homeopathy” to focus on the key issue of the Memory of Water and to invite contributions from proponents and critics of this idea has to be applauded.

    Since it has been well established that neither classical nor quantum mechanics (QM) offer a plausible explanation for the alleged specific effects of high dilutions, it seems logical enough to look for alternative physical theories to explain this effect. Most prominent in this line of thought is “Weak Quantum Theory” (WQT) [1]. Based on WQT, both H. Walach [2], O. Weingärtner [3] and L.R. Milgrom [4] have developed models of homeopathy. I have criticized Walach’s model previously [5]; Weingärtner’s and Milgrom’s models essentially have the same flaws as Walach’s.

    First and foremost, it is not at all clear whether there is something to explain. Walach, Weingärtner and Milgrom take the “fact” that high potencies have specific effects for granted. Thus, the real test of both models is not whether they explain previously known features of homeopathy, but whether they can be used to improve the design of experimental tests of homeopathy’s core hypothesis that high dilutions are different from appropriately prepared placebos. Unfortunately, all three models fail this test. Walach argues that due to entanglement, “clinical trials […] are a bad investment of time, money and effort” [6]; Milgrom asserts that “[…] the observational procedure of the RCT may ‘collapse’ the three-way entangled state, leading to the loss of the underlying homeopathic effect, a therapeutic equivalent of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle” [4]. However, if the gold-standard of evidence-based medicine (randomized, double-blind trials) is rejected, another way to account for the (surprisingly powerful!) placebo effect needs to be proposed. None of the suggested methods – essentially, trials with lower standards of placebo control [2], [6] – would impress critics in the event of a positive outcome.

    Second, while WQT itself is a legitimate mathematical framework for scientific theories, its application to homeopathy relies on leaps of faith and unconvincing analogies to proper quantum mechanics. The basic idea of WQT is to use mathematical models similar to algebraic quantum theory to describe a wide range of phenomena (not restricted to physics; see [6] for an interesting example from the realm of psychology). But, as even one of the authors of the original WQT article concedes, “it has yet to be determined whether homeopathy is a good application of generalized quantum theory” [8]. The most striking difference between the WQT models of homeopathy and proper QM concerns the use of mathematics. While QM has always relied heavily on mathematics and impressed even its most prominent critics by its ability to predict the results of experiments with unmatched precision, and while WQT is defined as a set of mathematical axioms, mathematics are conspicuous by their absence in the WQT models of homeopathy!
    The crucial feature of quantum mechanics that needs to be generalized for the WQT models of homeopathy is entanglement. As there are no clear and unambiguous (mathematical) definitions of the relevant systems, states and operators, the proponents of these models speculate freely about the properties of their entangled states. The fact that entanglement is easily destroyed in proper quantum mechanics is used to explain the failure of homeopathy in RCTs, as the blinding procedure is thought to “[…] ‘collapse’ the three-way patient-practitioner-remedy entangled state in a way analogous to that by which observation collapses a particle’s wave function […]” [4]. The fragility of entangled states would seem to indicate that great care needs to be taken in the preparation, storage and administration of the homeopathic remedies, but this concern is only discussed in the case of the “homeopathic ritual” [2] (preparation). Finally, what is typically referred to as an entangled state in quantum mechanics is a maximally entangled state. If the homeopathic remedy and the set of symptoms are entangled, how is it that there are no limits on the potencies of homeopathic remedies? And how is it that two so fundamentally different concepts as a remedy (a material object) and a collection of symptoms (an abstract idea generalized from individual observations) can be entangled at all? Proper quantum entanglement is only possible if all parts of the system have common properties that can be described within the same mathematical framework.
    Surprisingly, positive outcomes of RCTs can also be used to confirm the model, as “[…] some trials of non-individualised homeopathic remedies have generated positive results [which] could be due to some surviving relic of entanglement from the production process […]” [4].

    As a side note, the apparent understanding of quantum physics of Walach, Weingärtner or particularly Milgrom does not inspire much confidence. From various papers, Daniel Chrastina has compiled a list of errors and inaccuracies on his blog [9], some of which may be trivial, some of which would shame a second year physics student (such as the claim that quantum mechanics is non-deterministic or giving the units of Planck’s constant as [J/s] in [10]). Continuing in this vein, it should not go unnoticed that regarding WQT, Milgrom writes “Complementarity and indeterminacy are epistemological in origin not ontological” [4], which is a serious misquote of the original paper, where it says that “[...] there is no way to argue that complementarity and indeterminacy in weak quantum theory are of ontic rather than epistemic nature. [...] one would expect them to be of rather innocent epistemic origin in many cases.” [1] The difference between the two versions cannot be emphasized enough, as quantum effects such as entanglement are due to the ontic nature (i.e. not simply to our incomplete knowledge) of complementarity and indeterminacy! In classical physics or in daily life, there are trivial – epistemological – examples of “entanglement”. For example, two identical candles being lit at the same time and then separated will still burn at the same rate. Thus, an observation of one candle also reveals the state of the other one. But this epistemological kind of entanglement is too trivial for Walach’s or Milgrom’s models of homeopathy, as it lacks many of the required features.

    To summarize the above criticisms, it can be concluded that in their present states, the proposed applications of Weak Quantum Theory to the problem of ultra-molecular dilutions in homeopathy are not science, but rhetoric. There is simply no compelling evidence suggesting that a generalized form of quantum entanglement might be a useful concept in the discussion of the mode of action of homeopathic remedies. Unfortunately, with vocabulary borrowed from physics, referenced journal articles and scholarly discussions, journalists and lay readers may get the impression that there is a controversy about or even a cutting-edge-physics explanation of the mechanisms behind the action of ultra-high dilutions.

    References

    [1] H. Atmanspacher, H. Römer, H. Walach: Weak Quantum Theory: Complementarity and Entanglement in Physics and Beyond, Foundations of Physics 32:3, 2002
    [2] H. Walach: Entanglement Model of Homeopathy as an Example of Generalized Entanglement Predicted by Weak Quantum Theory, Forschende Komplementärmedizin und Klassische Naturheilkunde 10, 2003
    [3] O. Weingärtner: The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions, Homeopathy 96, p. 220 226, 2007
    [4] L.R. Milgrom: Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy, Homeopathy 96, p.209-219, 2007
    [5] P. Leick: Die „schwache Quantentheorie“ und die Homöopathie, Skeptiker 3/06 (in German)
    [6] H. Walach: Reinventing the Wheel Will Not Make It Rounder: Controlled Trials of Homeopathy Reconsidered, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9:1, p. 7-13, 2003
    [7] H. Atmanspacher, T. Filk, H. Römer: Quantum Zeno Features of Bistable Perception, Biological Cybernetics 90, p. 33-40, 2004
    [8] H. Römer, P. Leick: Letters to the editor, Skeptiker 4/06 (in German).
    [9] D. Chrastina: shpalman.livejournal.com/tag/lionel+milgrom, accessed 30.09.2007
    [10] L.R. Milgrom: Journeys in The Country of The Blind: Entanglement Theory and The Effects of Blinding on Trials of Homeopathy and Homeopathic Provings, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 4(1), p. 7-16, 2007

  19. shpalman said,

    January 12, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Volume 97 issue 1 of Homeopathy is now online at www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/14754916

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