Friday, November 16, 2007

Deny

Ben Goldacre, once again, clearly explains why homeopathy is nonsense (thanks HughG).

One thing I've realised, though, is that the very people who should read and understand this article are the sort who would struggle to get through a couple of paragraphs without getting bored and reaching for Celebrity Quick Chat Tea Break Now! magazine.

Most people can't get their head around what the homeopathic 30C and 100C doses imply. To look at the labels you would think that 100C is, in fact, the stronger dose (a stronger dose of nothing, remember). But that is explained succinctly thus:

The typical dilution is called "30C": this means that the original
substance has been diluted by 1 drop in 100, 30 times. On the Society of
Homeopaths site, in their "What is homeopathy?" section, they say that "30C
contains less than 1 part per million of the original substance."

This is an understatement: a 30C homeopathic preparation is a dilution
of 1 in 10030, or rather 1 in 1060, which means a 1 followed by 60 zeroes, or -
let's be absolutely clear - a dilution of 1 in
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

To phrase that in the Society of Homeopaths' terms, we should say: "30C
contains less than one part per million million million million million million
million million million million of the original substance."

At a homeopathic dilution of 100C, which they sell routinely, and which
homeopaths claim is even more powerful than 30C, the treating substance is
diluted by more than the total number of atoms in the universe. Homeopathy was
invented before we knew what atoms were, or how many there are, or how big they are. It has not changed its belief system in light of this information.
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