Unsound science or…?

Unsound Science...?

Geoff Johnson Vet MB MA MRCVS VetFFHom PCH

Published 1 March, 2018

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Homeopathy – Unsound Science or Hundreds of Years Ahead of Its Time?

200 years ago

200 years ago Homeopathy predated the cutting-edge advances of modern medicine. These concepts are individualised medicine, the ability of emotional distress to cause serious chronic disease, like treats like, epigenetics and the Vital Force.

This demonstrates that the RCVS Council does not understand what science is...

On the 2nd November 2017 the RCVS Council issued a statement asserting that homeopathy is not based on 'sound scientific principles'. This demonstrates that the Council does not understand what science is, namely: observation of phenomena; hypothesis; predicting; testing, experimentation and data-gathering; refinement and alteration; expansion or rejection; theory (1).

This is exactly how the principles of homeopathy were realised, and why it expanded to become the second most widely used medicine in the world (WHO - 2).

It is not 'Science' to say that phenomena that do not fit the accepted paradigm should be rejected; that is anti-science and stifles progress..

We do not actually understand most of our universe. Consider basic questions such as why do we sleep, how do animals migrate, how do paracetamol and many anaesthetics work, and how did life begin? We have theories but are short on answers. We don't know what makes up 80% of the matter of the universe – the so called dark matter. After spending trillions we may be beginning to get a glimmer of how the most obvious thing in the world works, namely gravity.

It is ridiculous to say 'It is not sound science because we don't know how it works'. The fact that 'science' has yet to understand the mechanism of homeopathy is likely to be due to two things: homeopathy lacks the billion-dollar profits of the pharmaceutical industry for research, and it works by an advanced mechanism, as yet undetectable by 21st Century Homo Sapiens.

To quote Brian Cox:

“I'm comfortable with the unknown - that’s the point of science. There are places out there, billions of places out there, that we know nothing about. The fact that we know nothing about them excites me, and I want to go out and find out about them. That's what science is. So I think if you’re not comfortable with the unknown, then it’s difficult to be a scientist. I don’t need answers to everything. I want to have answers to find.”

Professor Brian Cox

The establishment has routinely turned on those who go against accepted dogma.

Copernicus and Darwin are obvious examples, among many. Another is Einstein who turned the Victorian materialist universe on its head. His concepts were so revolutionary that much of the scientific community initially rejected them as being too outlandish.

The comparison of Einstein to Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, is totally valid.

Hahnemann was probably the most extraordinary genius in the history of medicine, and his ideas were far ahead of his time, also in many areas outside of homeopathy, such as in the compassionate treatment of the insane. His homeopathic theory was original and revolutionary.

Homeopaths are criticised for returning to the work of a man from 200 years ago, but physicists delight in studying Einstein. Geniuses are in short supply. Fortunately there are a few working currently in homeopathy, which has enabled it to undergo great advances in the last 30 years.

The five homeopathic concepts were initially ridiculed, but subsequently all of them except one are now accepted by modern medicine, which has only caught up with two of them in the last few years.

Homeopathic principles in the 18th and 19th centuries

1. Individualised Medicine

This is a medical procedure that separates patients into specific genetic groups. Medical decisions, practices, interventions and products are then tailored to the individual patient, based on their predicted response to or risk of disease. To quote Professor Johnson, chief clinician, Cancer Research UK:

“Personalised medicine is the most exciting change in cancer treatment since chemotherapy.”

Unlike 'conventional' medicine from the 18th to the end of the 20th Century, Homeopathy was always about the individual. There is no such thing as a homeopathic remedy to treat chronic arthritis in a dog. Each individual dog may require a different remedy. The choice will be based on the exact objective symptoms, character, behaviour, phenotype and a detailed history. This is why homeopathy is not suited to unsophisticated double blind trials. Future conventional medicine won't be either.

2. Serious Chronic Disease is Caused

by Mental Stress 

It has been accepted for a few years in human medicine that stress is an important factor in the development of chronic disease, and recently the veterinary world is beginning to come on board.

However in 2010 the Veterinary Times published a case of osteosarcoma successfully treated using homeopathy, leading to annoyed letters being sent by some vets wondering why the character of the dog and the stresses it had experienced were relevant. One author described the possibility of homesickness causing osteosarcoma as 'farcical'. At that time few people knew about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). These demonstrate an association of stresses experienced as a child with health problems when an adult. This has been a notable landmark in epidemiological research, and has recently produced more than 50 scientific articles and 100 conference and workshop presentations. (3,4,5)

Crucial in the choice of remedy

Hahnemann had realised very early on in his homeopathic practice that understanding mental stress and emotional history was crucial in the choice of remedy. There are no drugs in conventional practice that take into account the physical pathology together with the mental and emotional state, which may be why this area has been poorly explored by modern medicine.

It is obvious to a vet taking a homeopathic consultation that animals are affected by specific emotional stresses, and subsequently develop disease in exactly the same way as humans. Their prescriptions reflect this. All remedies treat mental and emotional symptoms as well as physical. It is only recently that mainstream science has accepted that animals experience emotions (7). Animal emotions were never mentioned in my six years at Cambridge.

3. Like treats like

This had actually been a concept in medicine for centuries, referred to by Hippocrates and Paracelsus (8,9). However Hahnemann, through experiment and observation, was the first to develop a system that reliably employed the principle.

In 1790 he grasped the law of Like Treats Like, or the Law of Similars, when he observed that the symptoms produced by eating cinchona bark (containing quinine) were very similar to the symptoms of malaria. He postulated that this was likely to be why quinine could successfully treat malaria. He then conducted his 'provings' (experiments) on medicines. Groups of healthy volunteers took many different medicines and recorded the mental and physical symptoms they experienced with each.

These drugs were then given to patients displaying a similar symptom picture. These were the first systematic drug trials performed in the history of Western medicine. Nine years later, again through a process of observation, Jenner proposed vaccination.

While the principle is the same, homeopathy is only broadly similar to vaccination. Jenner used doses of a similar disease (cowpox) to prevent smallpox. Hahnemann used medicines which caused specific symptoms in healthy humans, to prevent and treat diseases with a similar symptom picture.

4. Epigenetics and Miasms

Epigenetics is the recent ground-breaking study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression, rather than alteration of the genetic code itself, and has transformed the way we think about genomes.

Darwin wrote in 'On the origin of Species' (1859) that species arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Previously in 1801 Lamark had proposed his theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which was later rejected. Modern observation and accurate recording has revealed that in principle Lamark had a point.

The environment (e.g. exposure to toxins or chronic stress) can cause epigenetic changes, and these changes can be inherited, at least for a few generations. Stress and disease in the mother or father impacts the health of their offspring before they are even conceived.

In one study, female rats were exposed to a fungicide (vinclozolin) and it was found that epigenetic changes that occurred in the first generation male offspring were faithfully passed on through at least four generations (10). Scientists now think epigenetics can play a role in the development of cancer. Uncontrolled cellular growth can result from epigenetic change that silences a tumour suppressor gene.

Another example is an epigenetic change that ‘turns off’ genes that help repair damaged DNA, leading to an increase in DNA damage, which in turn, increases cancer risk. (11,12)

To sum up

An individual's gene expression, health, and susceptibility to disease are changed by adverse conditions in the environment and these changes can be passed to subsequent generations in a non-Darwinian manner.

Epigenetics, or the equivalent in homeopathy, Miasm Theory, was fully understood by Hahnemann, and elucidated in his opus 'Chronic Disease', published in 1828.

Miasm theory was an attempt to find a cure (as opposed to simply suppressing symptoms using life-long medication).

Hahnemann came to his theory by spending years poring over his patients' case files. He observed many did well with acute problems but returned ill with chronic ailments. He discovered by detailed history taking and observation that the diseases to which his patients were susceptible, and the way each individual expressed disease, was determined by the illnesses that their parents and grandparents had suffered, especially if these illnesses were suppressed by medication. Using these observations, he developed a method of treating chronic disease. The story is a long one – Chronic Disease is 1600 pages long, but it was epigenetics 200 years ahead of its time.

Samuel Hahnemann – father of homeopathy

Samuel Hahnemann – father of homeopathy

5. The Vital Force

Homeopathy uses solutions which have been serially diluted one in a hundred many times, vigorously shaken at each stage. This means that in most remedies there is none of the original material substance left. Homeopaths understand these medicines contain an energetic pattern of the original starting substance.

Homeopathy states that in all living organisms the ultimate control of the functioning of the body and mind, including the immune system, lies with a dynamic energetic force called the Vital Force. To interact best with this force, an energetic medicine is preferable. The material body and all its chemical functions are simply the hardware. The Vital Force is the software, and is not detectable by early 21st century science.

However in one form or another this force has been assumed to exist by every race of humans as far back in history as we can determine, and is variously called the qi, spirit, astral and other bodies, soul, prana, ka, hun, atman and others.

That is unsound science.

I predict that the greatest scientific discovery of the 21st century will be the vital force. I wonder if homeopathy and Hahnemann will be acknowledged as the first to realise the action of this force in disease and cure? Somehow I doubt it, as although all the other cutting edge theories of Hahnemann have been completely vindicated by, and are central to, the most modern developments in medicine, the attacks upon homeopathy by the so-called sceptics continue. That is unsound science.