As a recent beneficiary of homeopathy, I’m somewhat taken aback by the widespread cynicism surrounding it, sometimes to the point of fanaticism, so I was struck by a possible explanation, given as such, in psychiatrist Ivor Browne’s quite wonderful autobiography, Music and Madness (Cork, Atrium, Cork University Press, 2009).
The passage is from a chapter called The Frozen Moment, and his remark about homeopathy is an aside, but nonetheless arresting for that: Professor Gary Schwartz, who works in Arizona, has pointed out that in any communication between two things, A and B, a network comes into being and a ‘feed-back’ loop is created. A memory of the relationship is formed and ‘emergent properties’ arise. In this way permanent storage of information can occur, and this can circulate indefinitely. It is not in something or out of something but circulates between both.
This storage of information outside the brain happens in all kinds of situations, for example, between one person and another, between the heart and the brain, between cells and atoms, between a substance and the fluid in which it is dissolved. (This may, for the first time, provide a scientific rationale for how homeopathy can work. Sceptics say that by the time full dilution has taken place, nothing of the original substance remains in the fluid in which it was dissolved and therefore the remedy can have no effect.
But if a ‘feed-back’ loop between the substance and the fluid has been established, then the potion could be effective.) - paperback edition, page 285 So there you have it. You’re still entitled to be sceptical. Scepticism in the right context is a noble stance. It’s just that those who dismiss homeopathy as quackery without having experienced it are not being scientific themselves.
Doctors who include homeopaths in their team, on the other hand, have open minds and see clearly that it is complementary to their orthodox practice. The two can and do co-exist to the great benefit of sick people. Does homeopathy always work? Probably not. But I can tell you from long and bitter experience that neither do antibiotics.