New Zealand Green Party Member of Parliament, Steffan Browning, has recently caused a stir by supporting a petition appealing to the World Health Organisation to use homeopathy in the treatment of the deadly disease ebola. Browning later posted his support to Facebook. The petition was launched by the controversial Australian homeopath, Fran Sheffield, on the change.org site.
New Zealand Green Party co-leader Russell Norman said that the action of his colleague in signing the petition was “unwise”. Browning’s support for the use of homeopathy to treat ebola was dismissed as “barking mad” by New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key.
Homeopathy is a well-respected system of alternative medicine that has enjoyed a long history. It dates back to before 1796, the year when the principles of homeopathy were laid down by Samuel Hahnemann. There are many prominent people around today who have used homeopathic medicine for various ailments and found it to be effective.
In the practice of homeopathy, “remedies are prepared by repeatedly diluting a chosen substance in alcohol or distilled water . . .
. . . dilution usually continues well past the point where no molecules of the original substance remain” – Wikipedia. This means that if pure water is used as the dilutant, the final liquid is actually purer than tap water.
I find it hard to believe that anyone could have suggested using this method to prepare a remedy for any human ailment other than thirst.
Sheffield claims that homeopathy is effective in curing a range of diseases including viral, bacterial and protozoan infections and that “appropriate homeopathic medicine is likely to be just as effective against the ebola virus”, an opinion shared by other homeopathic practitioners.
In 1988 there was an attempt to provide some explanation of how homeopathy might work. The findings of Jacque Benveniste and the work of others in the field suggested that water seems to have a ‘memory’ for minute amounts of substances that it comes into contact with. The suggestion was that this ‘memory’ possessed by water may offer some explanation of how homeopathic preparations could have a biological effect.
The existence of this special property of water, suggested by Benveniste, has never been proved unequivocally despite scientifically rigorous work done to achieve this by teams of scientists in the Horizon studies. I believe that it is significant that these studies were fiercely rejected by the community of homeopaths.
How much does the power of belief play in the apparent successes and subsequent support that homeopathy has garnered over the centuries? How much does the weight of authority play in how this belief persists?
The professional body of homeopaths seems to support the action of Fran Sheffield and condones the distribution of a petition (that also solicits donation of money by way of sponsorship) through a posting on the Internet. Why else would such a petition remain online? Apparently it has gathered over 5000 signatures and counting. Thank goodness scientists are condemning this type of action as irresponsible.
By the way, I use a PC to publish my posts. I might just as well claim that
if I connect the mouse, keyboard and screen to the box that the PC was
first packed in and then connect it all to the Internet, it works fine and