A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

“Memory of Water” Issue of Homeopathy

This page aims to provide a reference to the many critical posts and letters generated by the infamous “Memory of Water” issue of the journal Homeopathy. It’s a work in progress, so if anyone spots any worthwhile comments I’ve missed please let me know.

The issue of the journal is available here (paywall) and via Ben Goldacre’s journal club, which ran at Bad Science.

The journal club generated quite a lot of well thought-out criticism.  Others have commented as well.  Here is a selection of my favourites.

General Reviews

Philip Ball
ars Technica

Paul Wilson

WhiteCoat Underground
Resepectful Insolence
  • Orac’s comments on Anick, Weingärtner and (mostly) Milgrom.
Live Science
Skeptiker

Useful Critiques of Individual Papers

The Memory of Water: a scientific heresy?
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 141-142
Peter Fisher

The Memory of Water: an overview
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 143-150
Martin F. Chaplin

Chaplin’s paper has been criticised by Paul Wilson.  His critique was published in Homeopathy, along with an inadequate reply.  Wilson has responded to this riposte.

See here for the relevant part of the ars technica review.

The history of the Memory of Water
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 151-157
Yolène Thomas

An excellent explanation of the work that Thomas seeks to ‘build’ on here, Benveniste’s de-bunked water memory experiments, is provided by Francis Beauvais,a co-author on the infamous 1988 Nature paper.  Thomas notes problems with repicating their work; the balme is put on environmental influences.  In a letter to Homeopathy Beauvais points to problems with blinding in Benveniste’s work:

“[...]The main issue was that in some circumstances, “effect” and “no effect” were randomly distributed regardless their origin (negative or positive samples) [...] the results of blinded samples were almost always at random and did not fit the expected results: some “controls” were active and some “active” samples were without effect on the biological system [...]“

Enough said?  It should be; but of course it won’t.

See here for the relevant part of the ars technica review.

See here for a comment on the use of a reference in the paper.

Long term structural effects in water: autothixotropy of water and its hysteresis
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 183-188
Bohumil Vybíral and Pavel Voráček

I provided a critique of this contribution.  This has been published in Homeopathy, along with a reply from the authors.  My views on this reply are to be found here.

The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 175-182
Manju Lata Rao, Rustum Roy, Iris R. Bell and Richard Hoover

This was an eagerly awaited paper; mostly due to the presence of Rustum Roy as a co-author.  In the end it turned out to be deeply flawed.  It was discueed at some length on a JREF thread.  As a result Kerr et al had a letter published in Homeopathy.  The lead author made a wholly inadequate reply; this has been examined by Paul Wilson.

Can low-temperature thermoluminescence cast light on the nature of ultra-high dilutions?
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 170-174
Louis Rey

See here for the relevant part of the ars technica review.

Criticised for “…a lack of controls, a failure to assign the peaks to the relaxation of particular excited states and a disturbingly arbitrary approach to radiation intensity selection.”

Comment on alleged replication by R. van Wijk et al. (German readers are also directed to Ulrich Berger‘s blog)

The ‘Memory of Water': an almost deciphered enigma. Dissipative structures in extremely dilute aqueous solutions
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 163-169
V. Elia, E. Napoli and R. Germano

A short commentry on the logic of this paper was posted on the WhiteCoat Underground blog.

The possible role of active oxygen in the Memory of Water
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 196-201
Vladimir L. Voeikov

This speculative theoretical paper has not attracted much attention.  The Sceptiphrenia blog offers this insightful comment.

The silica hypothesis for homeopathy: physical chemistry
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 189-195
David J. Anick and John A. Ives

See here for the relevant part of the ars technica review.

Adverse comment on the sensitivity of NMR for Si detection at low concentration and the temporal stability of any silicate based structures. (small correction)

The octave potencies convention: a mathematical model of dilution and succussion
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 202-208
David J. Anick

There is a  dissection of this paper on the Good Math, Bad Math blog.

The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 220-226
Otto Weingärtner

Philippe Leick’s excellent letter published in Homeopathy deals with Weingärtner’s use of the so-called Weak Quantum Theory (WQT).  A freely available version can be found here.

I have also made some comments on this paper.

Conspicuous by its absence: the Memory of Water, macro-entanglement, and the possibility of homeopathy
Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 209-219
L.R. Milgrom

Lionel Milgrom’s ‘quantum mechanical’ interpretation of homeopathy has prompted a lot of adverse comment.  An excellent series of posts on the ‘quantum mechanical’ content can be found on shpalman’s blog.  These mostly refer to a paper published in the journal  Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM), but are highly relevant to the Homeopathy paper.

Philippe Leick provided an excellent critique of both Milgrom’s and Weingärtner’s use of the so-called Weak Quantum Theory (WQT) which was also published in Homeopathy.

Both Milgrom and Walach were each afforded the chance to reply in a one-sided ‘debate’ article in Homeopathy 97(2) 2008. Leick has published several replies on a JREF thread. His position is that Milgrom is still offering inconsistent rhetoric, rather than science. He sees more merit in Walach’s reply, “Walach’s contribution to the debate actually makes a lot of sense. His key point is that our “debate” is not about data, but about beliefs and world views.”; but he takes issue with Walach’s characterisation of his motives. It seems that neither Milgrom nor Walach welcome close scrutiny of their ideas, but would rather have them sheltered from criticism: the very antithesis of scientific values.

I criticised Milgrom’s philosophical assertions; my critique was published in Homeopathy, as was his response.  I have also commented on Milgrom’s response.

See here for critical comment on Milgrom’s referencing and handling of Kant and Hume.

See here for the relevant part of the ars technica review.

6 Responses to ““Memory of Water” Issue of Homeopathy”

  1. pleick said

    Lionel R. Milgrom and Harald Walach have replied to my letter (Homeopathy, Vol. 97, Issue 2). Unfortunately, their letters are not freely available. I have, however, posted some comments here:

    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=112312

    While these letters raise some valid points, I see no reason to retract anything that I’ve written in my letter.

  2. apgaylard said

    Philippe,
    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve included your comments on the page; please correct me if I’ve not summarised your position correctly.

  3. pleick said

    German readers may want to check out my summary of the whole story in Skeptiker 2/08. The article is online and can be found here: http://www.gwup.org/skeptiker/archiv/2008/2/media/wasser_gedaechtnis.pdf

    I’ve drawn on some material from the various letters published in Homeopathy and have included some points first made on this blog. Therefore, Acknowledgements to AP Gaylard for helpful discussions.

  4. apgaylard said

    Philippe,
    Thanks for the acknowledgement. I’ve added your new reference to the page.

  5. [...] It’s like all the unbelievably thoughtful criticism by Gaylard, Shpalman and Wilsontown never happened, even though it was published in a homeopathy journal. HolfordWatch suggest that the [...]

  6. [...] Some interesting blogs/websites germane to homeopathy Edi: added 15.28 GMT on Februay 26 2012: http://apgaylard.wordpress.com/memory-of-water-issue-of-homeopathy-critical-resources/ http://thegearheadskeptic.com/2011/02/17/homeopathy-challenged-around-the-world/ [...]

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