Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Something's very wrong when they can't tell the difference

Take a cup of consecrated host and another cup of unconsecrated ones. Pour their contents into a jar, put the lid on and mix well. Now ask the Pope, cardinals, and bishops to sort the wafers. Quite patently, they won't be able to. Both chanted over and untransubstantiated crackers look, feel, taste, weigh, and test exactly the same.

Take ten new empty vials from the same production batch and in a class 1 cleanroom fill nine of them with triple distilled water. Using the same batch of distilled water, using new and ultra clean beakers/flasks and pipettes/droppers, and in the same clean 1 room, proceed to make a 30X homeopathic remedy. Doesn't matter what type so long as you end up with a 30X dilution (that is, the amount of active ingredient is 1 part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). In a double-blind test have homeopaths determine which vial is the homeopathic dilution. They can use whatever instrument, equipment, machine, and laboratory they want. Have this test performed many times. You can bet that as more trials are done, homeopaths' performance will converge toward 1X--they will get it right 10% of the time, which is the probability of being right by chance alone.

Being a fan of James Randi I naturally tend to look at weird and pseudoscientific claims from the perspective of testing them in a controlled fashion. Prof. Chris MacDonald on the other hand looks at homeopathy from the point of view of business and consumer protection. Although he doesn't believe it to be so, for the sake of argument he assumes that homeopathy actually works. He then asks,
How do we detect phoney homeopathic preparations? In order to protect consumers, we need to be able to detect fake remedies — fake versions (sold by counterfeiters) that are really just inert look-alike copies of genuine remedies. In an age of international trade and Internet-based pharmacies, phoney pills are a big problem. So, is there any way to test a homeopathic preparation to verify that it is genuine? If I buy homeopathic tablets, is there any test that can be done to see if they’re real or counterfeit? If authorities suspect a criminal organization of selling fake homeopathic tablets, how can they tell the difference between the criminal organization’s tablets and those manufactured by an honest homeopathic pharmacy?
I'd very much like to hear the dilutionists' answer to this as well.

No comments: