As a scientist, being balanced is important. Though not always successful, I do strive to see both sides of an argument.
But there are a few ‘theories’ or ‘doctrines’ out there that require no such circumspection. Homeopathy. I think everybody will be familiar with the concept. It has no molecular or physical basis for existing. Hence there is no good evidence to support it. A fact all too readily proved in the latest analysis of multiple clinical trials.
So why is it such big business? Well, that is also easy to answer: firstly because modern medicine doesn’t have all the answers. This is particularly true of common but less serious complaints. Medicine and science does try to focus on the areas of greastest unmet need, and conditions perceived as non-life threatening may be overlooked. So finding something available for a pain, an itch, a rash, a low mood, that doesn’t appear serious is clearly going to be attractive, when probably you’ll get a shoulder shrug from your GP. This is homeopathy as placebo. It might genuinely make people feel better. So what’s the harm in that?
Well two fold: cost is one. Homeopathy is not cheap. Secondly there is no way of predicting whether someone will genuinely feel better as a result, though it is very likely to be a minority of those who take homeopathic ‘remedies’ (yes I am going to keep using parenthesis when describing homeopathy in even the vaguest medical terms!). So most people will waste their money.
The second is of real concern: the prospect that people with potentially serious conditions revert to homeopathy rather than seek proper medical attention or fail to take their prescribe medicines. The could have serious medical consequences it goes without saying and although most homeopathic practitioners would not condone or promote homeopathy as a replacement for medicines with clear and proven benefit, there are some that do. But it is also about the minds of the patients too, that they might loose some of the benefit of their regular medicines, seeing them on an equal footing with homeopathy.
Homeopathy does, however, raise an important question for modern medicine. What is it that Homeopathy provides that patients perceive as beneficial, and why can’t medicine provide it? Likely patients do need a more holistic approach to their illness, more time with their health care practitioners, attention to non-serious symptoms which can still make people’s live miserable. There is something in that. Just nothing people should have to drink water to solve. Which is what homeopathy is.