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James Randi Explains - Homeopathy

Thanks to Anand for the link.

The subject of homeopathy is so far removed from medicine that works, from reason and rationality, that we must stand in awe of the fact that a billion-dollar industry still thrives by peddling something that a good friend of mine defined as, “An infinitely thin slice of nothing, with the crust trimmed off and the center removed.”

A single sentence should be enough to further define homeopathy by stating the bare facts about one of the most common concentrations of remedy that homeopaths use, mentioned above: A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth.

No, that’s not an exaggeration at all, it’s a simple fact, and homeopaths are not at all embarrassed to use the term “dilution” when explaining their firm delusion that their “art” – it’s certainly not a science – is a legitimate branch of the healing arts. The concept is simply ridiculous. I won’t trouble you with writing out the other dilution, which would require 60 zeros…

Homeopathy claims to be a form of medical practice that's based on the "like cures like" notion. Given any set of symptoms, a homeopath will decide upon an herb or chemical that causes similar symptoms when ingested by a well person, or will look it up in a homeopathic pharmacopeia. A predefined ritual will follow, the homeopath performing a series of dilutions of that substance that continue well beyond the point where there should be even a molecule of it left. The final solution that is administered to the unfortunate patient is supposed to have “remembered” what was once present, though it’s nothing more than well-shaken water.

Years ago, to illustrate a point about homeopathy during my public lecture, I developed an on-stage visual metaphor. A popular homeopathic sleep-aid lists as its main ingredient, “caffeine.” Caffeine to induce slumber? Don’t be too surprised at this, because we’re deep into nonsense territory here, and logic is scarce. The dilution of this ingredient is so astronomical, that if I wanted to consume enough of these tablets to ensure that I’d taken in at least one molecule of caffeine, I would have to down sixteen average swimming-pools full of them!
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