Saturday, April 02, 2005

Homeopathy advertised in The New Scientist

The New Scientist talks about "The 13 things that don't make sense". Some of the 13 items are at least questionable. For example, it seems to me pretty one-sided to claim that the experimental case for cold fusion is 'bulletproof'. Bob Park has a much less positive view of the issue, for example here. Also, after reading Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos, I thought that inflationary cosmology gave a good explanation for the 'horizon problem'. According to the New Scientist, "In scientific terms, the uniform temperature of the background radiation remains an anomaly." The third item that I am quite skeptical about is number 4 - the Belfast homeopathy results:
"MADELEINE Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen's University, Belfast, was the scourge of homeopathy. She railed against its claims that a chemical remedy could be diluted to the point where a sample was unlikely to contain a single molecule of anything but water, and yet still have a healing effect. Until, that is, she set out to prove once and for all that homeopathy was bunkum.

In her most recent paper, Ennis describes how her team looked at the effects of ultra-dilute solutions of histamine on human white blood cells involved in inflammation. These "basophils" release histamine when the cells are under attack. Once released, the histamine stops them releasing any more. The study, replicated in four different labs, found that homeopathic solutions - so dilute that they probably didn't contain a single histamine molecule - worked just like histamine. Ennis might not be happy with the homeopaths' claims, but she admits that an effect cannot be ruled out."

I am looking forward to more results that show that homeopathy works. However, scientists and editors and journalists alike should keep in mind that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I have a feeling that New Scientist's free advertisment for homeopaths was a bit too early and unnecessary.


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