Hundreds of millions of people are followers of homeopathy — practitioners and patients alike. Are they all complete idiots? I don’t think so. They may be wrong in most things, but classifying them as idiots invites huge misunderstandings. This is just one of my “Confessions of a Homeopath” series where I explore how homeopaths may view themselves.
Is homeopathy a science? Her followers probably think so. So let’s use my “Discussing Science” diagram to explore this issue.
I am going to generously include Homeopathy in the “Science Communities” by definition in that they would call themselves a science. This is more of an anthropological labeling than a evaluative categorization. For example, in England’s Science community homeopathy is like #1 in my diagram. It belongs partially in Orthodoxy because homeopathic “medicine” is covered by the British National Health Service payments. Though this is a huge controversy in England, at present, Homeopathy is thus partially accepted in the edge of orthodoxy. Likewise in India, Homeopathy is recognized as one of its national systems of health with licensing required.
In The USA, however, homeopathy may be like #3 — well outside of orthodoxy, but sharing fields with some herbalists. However, many herbalists would flat out reject homeopathy. In 1900 there were 22 homeopathic colleges in the USA. Their success led to the rejection of bloodletting and purging used in orthodox medicine at that time. During the epidemics of the late 1800’s death rates in homeopathic hospitals were lower than conventional hospitals where orthodox treatments did far more harm than good. In this atmosphere orthodox medicine conspired to shut down homeopathy, not for scientific reasons but economic. And using the government as their weapon, Homeopathy was decimated in the USA.
It is these true stories that feed the lore of homeopathic sympathizers and nourish their self-image as a nobel science.
Now, let’s go through my “Properties of Science-Communities” and see if Homeopathy can be considered a science using that list. You will see that I will examine this list both from the perspective of the Orthodoxy followers and the Homeopathy followers.
- Explorative: Homeopathy began as revolutionary and very explorative in the years of its foundation. Even today, occasionally new remedies are “discovered”.
- Systematic: Homeopathy is intricately systematized. They organize their knowledge at many levels. Remedies, symptoms, psychological make-ups and methods are all tightly connected.
- Inviting Doubt: Here homeopathy is lacking. For the most part, they feel the truth about medicine is already discovered and there is no reason to doubt their methods.
- Inviting Correction: Homeopaths have different opinions of treatment methods. Some prefer to only do constitutional treatment while others may be content with symptomatic treatment — most mix these. There are varying opinions on the best dilutions. There are varying opinions on the descriptions of the constitutional characteristics of the remedies. All these result in different schools of homeopathy. So some would say there is still correction going on, but over all homeopathy is very closed to correction
- Hypothesis Testing: Homeopaths publish research to prove themselves to Orthodox medicine and so as not to be further excluded from access to patients via the reach of Orthodox hegemony. Articles using all the familiar research methods and statistics of orthodoxy are published — rarely in orthodox journals, however. The articles generally have very poor methodology and conclusions.
- Methodological Naturalism: American Homeopaths of the Kent school are Swedenborgian in that they think god’s essence flows through all things and that the remedies contain formative intelligence and is an agent through which god works. Teachers in other schools also have a rather mystical notions of the divine and how nature works. Almost all homeopaths consider nature as purposeful and good. This is not a methodological naturalism stance.
- Consilience: Homeopathy claims to be a “Wholistic” science because its theories intimately tie together the psychological temperament of a person with their physical suffering. Further, homeopathy pays attention to the smallest of particular symptoms which a patient may complain of whereas orthodoxy often ignores what it can not understand how to treat. But homeopathy is limited to medicine and does not reach out to relate to principles of other sciences.
Hopefully I have made it clear how followers of Homeopathy could see homeopathy as a science, while likewise showing where they are lacking in crucial properties which allow orthodoxy to reject them as a science. Also, I think it is important to see the tug and pull of the politics of these groups to determine orthodoxy and influence.