Dr Rupert Sheldrake and morphic fields

Last year, I wrote to Rupert Sheldrake, a fascinating man who developed the theory of morphogenetic fields and is the author of books such as 'Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home' and 'Seven Experiments That Could Change the World', both of which I recommend. I wanted to make him aware of the intriguing research that Luc Montagnier has been carrying out with water and DNA. He very kindly replied and agreed it was very interesting and threw up a lot of questions but he couldn't see on first glance how it could connect to his theory of morphogenetic fields. Here's my reply:

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Homeopathy and Ben Goldacre

Several people have talked to me in response to my article ‘A simple guide to how homeopathy might work’. Of them, most have been referring to Ben Goldacre’s book ‘Bad Science’ or his blog page, in particular the following article A kind of magic. I was interested to see what Mr Goldacre said on the subject of homeopathy. I knew that he thought it was no more than delusion, quackery and the placebo effect but I did want to find out what arguments he used to come to that conclusion.

Unfortunately, after reading the article, I felt he used some invalid methods to support his view. Although he did stress the importance of scientific research in establishing whether or not an actual physical mechanism is taking place - something I fully agree with - much of his article revolved around two key approaches.

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A simple guide to how homeopathy might work

Note: This is a long blog entry. If you'd like to read it as a pdf document, click here.

Extra note: This long blog entry now has its own web page here.

For some reason, a lot of people seem to get very worked up about homeopathy. They make comments like ‘if it’s only water, we can throw it in the sea and make everyone well!’ or ‘it’s just a placebo, you’re all being fooled!’ or ‘it’s quackery and should be banned!’ or ‘burn them! Burn them all and their test tubes and little boxes with ground up plants! Burn them!’ Perhaps I’m getting a little exaggerated on that last one but you get the idea.

The thing is, homeopathy does seem to work, at least for some people. Now, it is certainly possible that their improvements may be down the placebo effect; that the psychological effect of them taking a medicine has cured them rather than the medicine itself. The placebo effect does also work. The only problem with this idea is that vets have used homeopathic remedies on livestock with success. It’s hard to imagine the cows getting better through the placebo effect.

So if it’s not psychological, what is it? A sensible first step is to understand the rules and theory of homeopathy. With that under our belts, we can then start to investigate how that procedure and theory might fit with what we do know about how the body works.

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