Shaken, not stirred.

A recent comment by Skeptico in response to my earlier post on Oscillococcinum has forced me to re-think the whole homeopathy[1] thing:

Of course, by doing nothing at all they would still “enjoy all the benefits of homoeopathy”. With the added advantage that the fees would also be reduced to a homeopathic magnitude.

Well, yeah, but … that’s not quite playing the game, now is it? I had approached the matter somewhat in the spirit of those intrepid adventurers who spent long careers in search of the perfectly dry martini:

One might prepare a martini by waving the cap of a vermouth bottle over the glass, or observing that “there was vermouth in the house once.” Winston Churchill chose to forgo vermouth completely, and instead simply bowed in the direction of France, while General Patton suggested pointing the gin bottle in the general direction of Italy.

After exhaustive research on the subject of homeopathy, the one principle I have been able to pull out of my assembled references[2] is that we do not make homeopathic remedies stronger by doing nothing, we make them stronger by asymptotically approaching doing nothing.[3]

For all these reasons then, and against my better judgment,[4] I offer the following (also available as a pdf for your personal wall-defacement):

Boojums Quick Reference to Homeopathic Dosages

Standard Strength:    Take a homeopathic remedy.

Extra Strength:       Be in the same room as a homeopathic remedy.

Industrial Strength:  Think about homeopathy.

Maximum Strength:   Don’t think too hard.

[1] In deference to our buddies in the UK, who treasure and support this zaniness at least as well as we Murcans, I will alternate between “homeopathy” and “homoeopathy.”

[2] Did I hear someone say “subliminal, my assembled references”?

[3] Whatever does not terminate me (urp), but causes me asymptotically to approach doing nothing, makes me stronger.

[4] “Judgment” it has been written, “comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment.”

6 Responses to “Shaken, not stirred.”

  1. Brian Says:

    Oh, the things I didn’t know. Potentisation. Higher Dilutions. I’ve had to read more about homeopathy just to get a handle on what you’re poking fun at. Treating a problem by creating a similar set of symptoms? Yikes! I wanted a treatment recently for nighttime calf muscle cramping. Knowing nothing at the time about homeopathy, I found a homeopathic treatment at the local drug store and bought it. Afterwards, I looked up homeopathy, and promptly pitched the bottle of pills in the trash. No cramps since!!

    It’s now my second favorite remedy, after Professor Harold Hill’s “Think” system.

  2. Prof. Bleen Says:

    Milford Poltroon, in his book “How to Fish Good,” describes how to make the world’s dryest martini. Briefly, empty a bottle of vermouth into a stream, and collect it five miles downstream, by which time it has been properly diluted. Freeze the diluted vermouth into ice cubes, place a couple in a glass, and discard just before filling with gin.

    By homeopathic standards, this represents a very mild dilution. I suppose that placing the vermouth cubes into a glass and pouring gin into a different glass might be closer to achieving the proper homeopathic effect.

  3. Eli Rabett Says:

    Of course, what you have to understand about homeopathy and related 19th/early 20th century methods, is they worked better than the then existing medical cures. As I recall it was about 1900 before you were better off seeing a quack than waiting whatever it was out. Even in 1950 this was true for a number of things.

  4. site admin Says:

    Excellent point, that. It is true that medicine was not widely practiced as a science until, as you say, around 1900. Europe got the jump on the US in this respect, with the Pasteur and Koch institutes, founded in 1888 and 1891 respectively. In Titan, his biography of John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow describes the dismal state of American medicine in 1897:

    The country’s medical schools were mostly commercial operations, taught by practicing doctors who picked up spare money by lecturing on the side. Standards were so abysmal that many schools did not even require a college degree for entry. Since these medical mills had no incentive to undertake serious research, medicine hovered in a twilight area between science and guesswork.

    Chernow also notes that

    It was deeply ironic that Rockefeller retained a residual faith in homeopathy even as he financed the world’s most sophisticated medical research operation. Periodically, he had spasms of irritation, firing off letters on the need to save homeopathy, but these outbursts quickly passed. Through his philanthropies, Rockefeller did more than anyone else to destroy homeopathy in America, and in the end he seemed powerless to stop the scientific revolution that he himself had largely set in motion.

    Today, placebo-based therapies such as homeopathy survive both because there are many conditions for which medical science has no good treatment, and because many ailments go away on their own. Want to make a pile of money? Market a homeopathic back pill. According to an 1998 article in Scientific American, 80% of adults suffer from back pain at some point, and the great majority of those cases spontaneously remit.
    “Take this; you’ll feel better in a couple of weeks.” You probably will — and at least it won’t hurt. But the sufferer could save money by going directly to #4 on my chart.

    Unrelated remark: Your comment was temporarily lost after a database crash. I restored it from e-mail, both because it was a good comment and because I get so few real comments that I can’t afford to lose even one.

  5. Dr Timothy Lim Says:

    Energy medicine like homeopathy, acupuncture, Reiki are the medicine of the future. We use some homeopathy in our office, and all we can comment for our treatment of back pain , neck pain or headache, homeopathy is a great adjunct to our therapies.

  6. site admin Says:

    I don’t know if you’re a spambot, Dr. Lim — but if you’re not, I hope you don’t mind my de-linking your advertisement. Well, not de-linking, exactly…