Homeopathy & Science
Homeopathy & Science
The position of homeopathy as a science is a hotly debated topic. There is an urgent need to establish homeopathy as a science in its own right. I would like to give my personal view by placing the discussion in a wider framework. After an initial look at ‘science’ itself, we will consider homeopathy as a science and what that might mean for its further development.
That is science really? Many different definitions have been put forward. Essentially, it comes down to the idea that science is the search for universal truths. "Science is theory, based on facts" (Chalmers). Davies says "Science is a structure based on facts". There are two aspects to these definitions. The first is the aspect of theory. Science is deas, theories, models, thoughts, structures, hypothesis. It's the generalizing aspect. The second aspect refers to truth. The ideas have to be true, in accordance with some reality. This is the aspect of knowledge. In brief, science can be defined as "True ideas".
The Recognition Of Homeopathy:
The recognition of homeopathy as a science by the scientific community is problematic. The materialism paradigm, the paradigm that only material, physical and chemical things can be object of science, is blocking it’s recognition. The materialism paradigm though, is unnecessary for science as such, is even blocking it’s own development.
When adversaries of homeopathy are attacking it one of their first remarks is that “there’s nothing in homeopathic remedies”. And in a sense they are right: there’s “no thing” in it. Homeopathic remedies are chemically not very interesting. But they have that in common with many things in our culture like, books, magnetic cassettes, CD’s and DVD’s. CD’s are chemically all the same, but we use them for many different purposes like music, movies and software. The similarity is that all are interesting for the information that is on the carrier. In books ink is spread on paper in such a pattern that in contains information. On cassettes magnetic fields are impressed in special patterns. On CD’s little holes are burnt in a special pattern. In homeopathic remedies a pattern is impressed on the water and lactic sugar.
Homeopathy As Science:
Homeopathy as a science is almost as old as modern physics. During the early years, between 1800 and 1870, homeopathy progressed enormously. From 1900 until 1970, it was sailing in more tranquil waters before entering another stormy phase of development. Apart from the most recent developments, homeopathy for the most part is in the first scientific stage, that of generalizations.
Stage 1: Generalization
By far the greatest part of homeopathic knowledge consists of drug pictures. Their symptoms tend to be generalizations, such as ‘Sulphur loves sweets’ and ‘Pulsatilla is yielding’. The bulk of homeopathic literature consists of Materia Medica and repertories, which contain this kind of information.
The information comes from provings and clinical experience. Provings are methods of induction. Clinical information is a form of confirmation. Recently more sophisticated forms of using clinical information have been tried. One is using a single case in a time line (Kramer). Rutten suggests using the likelihood ratio. The predominant research form of regular medicine is the Randomized Clinical Trial, formerly also called double blind studies. An example is the research of Reilly on hay fever.
Confusing Fact And Generalization:
Confusion emerged in homeopathy between stages 0 and 1, between fact and generalization as we can see in our earlier Materia Medica’s. They consist of enumerations of facts, of symptoms, that the provers experienced during the provings. But they have been presented as generalizations, as general symptoms of the remedy. We encounter this error again and again in homeopathic literature. Kent writes in his ‘Lesser Writings’ that homeopaths must not move away from the ‘facts’: ‘Throw aside all theories and matters of belief and opinion and dwell in simple fact’. Shepperd expresses this in even fewer words: ‘Homeopathy is based on facts, not theory’. There is a desire to remain ‘factual’ (Shepperd): "Theory is usually the product of the impatient intellect, of the desire to get rid of the phenomena". Hahnemann confused fact and generalization. In §138 of the Organon he states that by definition each symptom or occurrence during a proving belongs to the remedy. In this way he gives each symptom general value and avoids the difficult problem of induction.
Stage 2: Classification
Over the last decade, homeopathy has shown new developments of classification. This has brought homeopathy its rapid development. But it’s not new. Hahnemann drew up his classification of Psora, Sycosis and Syphilis. Farrington and Leeser discussed themes and pictures of plant families. Vithoulkas listed the general characteristics of all the Kalis (Morrison).
The modern ways of working with classification are much more systematic. Mangialavori works with families. Sankaran has developed the classification of kingdoms, family themes and the miasms. Scholten classified all the remedies from the mineral kingdom through group analysis and the theory of the elements (Minerals, Elements) and plant family themes.
Classification Of Remedies:
Remedies can be classified. The most obvious way is the chemical and biological classification. The principle of Perfinity (see Classification and Perfinity) predicts that the best classification on one level (the material world) will have a high chance of being the best classification at other levels (remedy pictures). That explains the success of the use of botanical and zoological families. Many family pictures have been made by Mangialavori, Sankaran and Scholten. And many remedy pictures have been predicted successfully.
With Bayes' theorem the probability of these theories can be ascertained. An example of the Element Theory (Homeopathy and Elements) makes this more explicit. The experiment is a case of a patient with severe tinnitus, where the theory of the Elements leads to the successful prescription of Cadmium carbonicum. The chance of finding this remedy with the old theory is very low, let’s say 1 in 4000 (one out of 4000 remedies). The chance of finding this remedy with the Element Theory is moderate, let’s say 50%. The probability of the Element theory is low before being tested, let’s say 1/1000, "almost unbelievable". From this we can calculate the new probability of the Element theory:
P (Theory Final) = P (Theory Initial) * P (Experiment New) /*
P (Experiment Old). P (Theory Final) = 1/10000 * 50% /* (1/4000) = 0,2.
With the above experiment, the value or truth of the new theory has increased from 0.01% to 20%. With each successful experiment the value of the hypothesis increases quickly.
Classification Of Pictures:
The pictures of remedies in our Materia Medica’s are a set of unrelated symptoms. They are like colored spots on a painting that have no connection at all. No real picture arises.
For computers that will suffice, but humans are not good at remembering encyclopedias. Humans think in pictures. The need for meaningful pictures has found expression in many ways. For the last twenty years, homeopathy has been moving towards transforming remedy pictures into genuine pictures. The old proving pictures with rows and rows of unrelated symptoms are being changed into coherent, relevant pictures. Vithoulkas developed his ‘Essences’, Sankaran his ‘Basic delusion’, ‘Situational material medica’ and ‘Vital sensation’, Mangialavori developed his ‘Themes’, Scholten his ‘Concepts’ and ‘Essences’. It’s a process of abstracting from the symptoms. The goal of this process is to develop a central theme, from which all the symptoms can be deduced logically. It makes remedy pictures shorter and more understandable. The trick is to do it in such a way that no essential information gets lost.
Advantages Of Stage 1- Provings And Clinical Information:
They can be used where no remedy picture or essence is available at all, in a kind of "no man's land".
Advantages Of Stage 2 – Classification:
- The first advantage is the generalizing as such, raising the scientific level.
- Classification enables the prediction of remedy pictures. It is possible to describe remedies without going through the lengthy processes of proving and clinical cures.
- It also means that the pace at which new remedies are added to our armory has been accelerated considerably.
- Classification reduces the number of essential symptoms. The sub-divisions within the classifications make a good classification of symptoms both necessary and possible. The pictures become much easier to understand.
- Classification expands the number of possible symptoms and possible expressions enormously. More cases can be understood.
- Classification makes differential diagnoses clearer and simpler.
- A greater number of remedies become easier to handle and to remember.
Coalescence With Remedy Classification:
The classification of remedy pictures goes together with the classification of remedies in families. For the comparison of remedy pictures a more abstract level of looking at symptoms and syndromes is needed. The goal is a framework of symptoms and syndromes. This is achieved in the ‘Element theory’ of Scholten, where the possible field of symptoms is found in the periodic table of elements.
Obviously, homeopathy is based on the general scientific paradigms, such as order and truth. But homeopathy does not conform to the materialism paradigm of the mainstream of our culture. Already Hahnemann’s ‘vital force’ and ‘dynamis’ are not compatible with the materialism paradigm. Homeopathy cannot be restricted to the material world. Emotions and thoughts are at the core of its field of research. The worlds of emotions and thought are different from the material world and cannot be restricted to that world. They refute the materialistic paradigm.
The development of homeopathy as a science is necessarily a development towards more generalization. I say 'necessarily' because every science develops towards increasing generalization. The increasing generalization makes predictions possible. The result is that homeopathy has suddenly progressed very fast. The development of Family themes and the theory of the Elements show that very clearly. In a short time, the quantity of homeopathic remedies has increased considerably, while the understanding of the remedies has deepened. Practice has been greatly simplified through the proper understanding of the remedies. That does not mean that the methods of the first scientific stage, such as provings and cured cases, have become redundant. But compared with the picture formation and classifications of the second scientific stage, they are slow and restricted. The scientific aspects of homeopathy have progressed particularly through the pursuit of generalizations. This adds coherence to the older fragmented information and makes homeopathy more accessible to scientists from other disciplines.