Homeopathy under scrutiny

Thu, Sep 27, 2012, 01:00

Sir, – Aine Nolan (September 25th), in seeking to defend her scepticism of scientific evidence – and thus clinging to her faith in homeopathic remedies – asks the naysaying Dr David Roberts Grimes (Opinion, September 20th) how he would have responded “when the most eminent scientists of the day proclaimed the earth to be flat”. Unfortunately for Ms Nolan’s argument, there was never a time when scientists held this belief.

The roundness of the earth was well known to the ancient Greeks, as it was to educated Romans, Arabs and medieval Christian monks. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the 13th century, took for granted that his readers would already be familiar with this fact: “the same scientific truth belongs to different sciences: thus both the physicist and the astronomer prove the earth to be round.” All this is, of course, well before the advent of “science” in the current sense of the word. The era of modern science is generally accepted to have begun around the beginning of the 17th century, with the work of Kepler, Galileo and Newton – who would all have been as familiar with the roundness of the earth as we are today. – Yours, etc,

COLM KELLEHER,

PhD Candidate in Physics,

New York University,

New York. US.

Sir, – The fact that many educated people still believe in the efficacy of homeopathy is dispiriting.

The research is unambiguous however – there is zero untainted evidence that shows a homeopathic benefit that is distinguishable from the placebo effect.  Why is it that the believers are unhappy with health gains achieved via placebo and instead look for explanations beyond science?

Aine Nolan (September 25th) even repeats the tired canard that homeopathy works on animals and children and therefore can’t be placebo. There are a number of alternative explanations for what’s happening here – such as the simple fact that the treatment is not having an effect at all and it’s the practitioner’s perception that’s improving.

For those who seek to deride conventional medicine, they would do well to note that the scientific method is open-minded – when new evidence emerges, science changes its position. Belief in homeopathy is faith-based – no amount of evidence seems to make a difference. – Yours, etc,

FERGUS MCCANN,

Burgage Manor,

Blessington,

Co Wicklow.