But I wasn’t always this way. I used to like loads of hippy shit. I spent £1 buying 2p once, because I was told the two pence piece had special properties that would prevent my mobile phone giving me cancer. I had my tarot cards read, got pricked with acupuncture needles when I hurt my back and dragged my husband to a palm reader very early on in our relationship when he was still polite enough to let me.
“Not a lot of people pick the death card three times.”
The palm reader told me my parents were very happy together. When I interjected that they’d been divorced almost as long as I’d been alive, she added: ‘Yes, that’s what I mean. They are very happy. Separately.’
I think I just liked all that ‘Gemini’s are great people’ guff because it was a pat on the back. The tarot card reader told me I was a legend and she was excited because not a lot of people pick the death card three times. (Apparently it’s a good thing). I paid her £50.
But thanks to the influence of certain thinkers in my life, I began to leave all that stuff behind in favour of books that made my mind buzz with science, fact and the beauties of the universe. Books like Bad Science, The Magic of Reality (aimed at kids – I can just about grasp what he’s going on about) The Psychopath Test, Trick or Treatment and It’s Not Rocket Science. I implore you to read them all and anything else Amazon suggests when you pop these in your basket.
For about five minutes after reading these books, I’m a fountain of knowledge. But then, the fact that I spent my entire student loan on super strength weed means that by the sixth minute, I can’t remember the vital, startling, eye-opening facts I just learned.
Out for dinner with a friend of mine who is ever so smart but loves a bit of nonsense, she happened to mention that she’s a sucker for homeopathy.
Homeopathy, FYI, is: A system for the treatment of disease by administering minute or non-existent doses of natural substances which in large amounts given to a healthy person would produce the same symptoms.
My heart broke a little bit, for two reasons. One, I didn’t want her thinking homeopathy was going to solve any of her problems when I knew from my readings of books I’d forgotten, that it wouldn’t. And two, inextricably linked, that I couldn’t remember any of the facts I longed to recall at that moment in order to be able to tell my friend all the things I’d learned that would stop her wasting her time and money.
I did my best. ‘I think homeopathy has been proven not to work,’ I said, cautiously, because I didn’t want to be aggressive about it.
‘But there is an NHS homeopathy centre up the road,’ she protested.
Which stunted what little I did have to say on the matter. Because the NHS, funded by tax payer’s money, wouldn’t indulge in something that’s been tested extensively and been proven not to work, would they?
I let it go. I can’t argue with the NHS.
Once home, I did a Google. Love a little Google, me.
My friend is right. The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital was but a stone’s throw from our restaurant.
As if wearing a self-imposed dunce hat, the NHS website itself states:
Homeopathy is a ‘treatment’ based on the use of highly diluted substances, which practitioners claim can cause the body to heal itself.
A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are ‘scientifically implausible’. There has been extensive investigation of the effectiveness of homeopathy. There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.
Not sure what I love most about this paragraph. The ‘treatment’ in inverted commas. The admittance of homeopathy being ‘scientifically implausible’. Or the fact that this is all on the same NHS webpage which tells me that in certain areas of the country, like sunny Bristol, NHS organisations are practising homeopathy. With my taxes.
As I said, I used to believe in all this bollocks so I have to have some empathy for people who do. But what I can’t understand is why the NHS is pouring any money at all into something that has been proven to be scientifically implausible. It’s fine if people want to take their hard earned cash and choose to spend it on a gypsy with a crystal ball. But the National Health Service? With my money? And your money. You earn it. You give it to them. They spend it on this.
Homeopathy is nonsense. I have beside me Trick or Treatment, from which I now paraphrase. Don’t want you thinking I suddenly know what I’m talking about by memory alone. That would be magic and I think we all know where I stand on magic.
What astounds me about homeopathy is that the Very Special Ingredient – be it ground-up bees, wolf milk or plant leaves, is, by order of the founder of homeopathy, Dr Hahnemann, diluted over and over again: the weaker the solution, the stronger the remedy, he believed. So the mother tincture is dissolved in nine parts water. Then after a shake, one part of the first dilution is mixed with nine parts water again. This happens again and again, only being administered to a patient once it’s been diluted hundreds of times.
Homeopathic strengths of 300 are common. The original substance has been diluted by a total factor of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
That’s a lot of noughts.
“The chances are one in a billion billion billion billion. That’s pretty god-damn slim to none.”
In fact, it’s more noughts than there were molecules in the mother tincture, so basically, there are not enough molecules to go around and the chances of the solution you are given actually having any of the thing you are paying for in it, are slim to none. According to the book I’m thumbing like a bible, the chances are in fact one in a billion billion billion billion. That’s pretty god-damn slim to none.
It’s water. The NHS is building buildings to house doctors who give out water. In fancy jars and sugar pills.
One might argue that homeopathy works thanks to the placebo effect. The placebo effect is one of the most interesting concepts in medicine, but it’s certainly no reason to fund a bunch of charlatans spunking good money up the wall.
Homeopaths will of course argue about memory. The water remembers the original tincture, see. But, as is beautifully put across in the following clip, does the water not remember all the other stuff it’s visited by along the way, like poo and wee?
I love that poem. Tim Minchin has succinctly said exactly what I’d have said, if only I had the articulation and recall.
I’ll have to make do with saying ‘I don’t think that’s quite right,’ then scurrying home to check my facts, before writing a piece about how I WAS RIGHT.
So, dear, clever friend of mine. I beg of you, don’t waste your time on homeopathy. Choose cold, hard scientific facts instead. Because the only way you’re going to get results from homeopathy is thanks to the placebo effect, which only works when you don’t know it is a placebo. And now you do.