Hartosh Bal Singh in Open:
A week ago, the front page of the country’s largest selling English newspaper, The Times of India, announced ‘IIT-B team shows how homeopathy works.’ The article then rather credulously went on to state, ‘Six months after the British Medical Association rubbished homeopathy as witchcraft with no scientific basis, IIT scientists have said the sweet white pills work on the principle of nanotechnology.’ This was a news report that obviously made it past the best procedure for vetting that exists in the newspaper; after all, it appeared on the front page. And if so, it is a reflection of the kind of material the media is willing to swallow and regurgitate without verification.
The newspaper quotes from a paper by a graduate student from IIT-B chemical engineering department ‘published in the latest issue of Homeopathy, a peer-reviewed journal from reputed medical publishing firm Elsevier’, titled ‘Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective’. The paper is available online and it claims that even at extreme dilution some nanoparticles of the original starting materials are found in the solution.
But consider what the newspaper has said, and compare what the IIT-B researchers claim in their paper, ‘We have found that the concentrations reach a plateau at the 6c potency and beyond. Further, we have shown that despite large differences in the degree of dilution from 6c to 200c (1012 to 10400), there were no major differences in the nature of the particles (shape and size) of the starting material and their absolute concentrations (in pg/ml).’ In other words, their claimed results show that across the range of ‘potencies’ (the more dilute a homeopathic medicine the stronger it is supposed to be) of homeopathic medicine the concentration of nanoparticles is the same. If so, relatively ‘weak’ homeopathic medicines should have the same effect as more ‘strong’ medicine. This actually invalidates the whole idea of homeopathy.