Homeopathy and science


Sir, – Gerti McGrath (Letters, April 1st) seems to criticise scientists and doctors for not giving homeopathy credit as a phenomenon merely because its proposed mechanism of action contradicts our understanding of the laws of chemistry and physics.

She compares our understanding of homeopathy to our pre-Newton concept of the phenomenon of gravity.

This would be a technically valid argument save one flaw; gravity is a phenomenon demonstrable in orchards throughout the land.

The Australian study of homeopathic effectiveness that began this thread of letters – which was concerned with efficacy rather than mechanism – highlighted the lack of effect or effectiveness of homeopathy, ie, that there is no phenomenon. And here the argument, like the proverbial apple, falls down.

The simple fact is that if well-controlled trials demonstrated a homeopathic phenomenon that was positive in the clinic, then lack of understanding of a plausible mechanism would not prevent this “alternate medicine” becoming “medicine”.

Many drugs have at least an incompletely understood mechanism of action, or were a complete mystery in terms of their mechanisms when first used.

It is their consistent demonstrable effects that earns them acceptance in the medical and scientific communities – and not our understanding of their mechanisms of action. – Yours, etc, Dr NEIL BARRETT University of Cambridge.