The silence must be broken. The tyranny of ignorance must be challenged. This paper is written in response to the BBC’s program titled “Enemies of Reason” presented by professor Richard Dawkins. The main concern of this program is Dawkins’ effort to discredit homoeopathy as a valid medical system. The contents smack of prejudice, ignorance and irrationality rather than based upon evidences in support of his assertion. I would argue that Dawkins’ program was based primarily on his personal prejudice against homoeopathy rather than scholarly inquiry, therefore, his claim to reason is fraudulent.
The problem with Dawkins’ claim is, first, its questionable credibility in his argument – his so called evidence to discredit the validity of homoeopathy relied more upon personal beliefs and hearsays than is supported by reason and evidence. Second, the contents of his presentation are as irrational as is aptly captured by his own words – “mumbo jumbo”.
Unlike our childhood games, if we declare first that we are the “good guys,” then, the others on the opposing side must be the “bad ones,” Dawkins needs to shoulder the burden of proof in disputing the efficacy of homoeopathy. Or the least one would expect is that professor Dawkins possesses some most basic knowledge of homoeopathy if not well versed to provide some credibility to his assertion. Yet, both are conspicuously absent. Dawkins allowed his prejudice against homoeopathy to get the better of him; his claim to reason is based upon the interviews carried out with few professionals – medical doctor and psychologist who expressed their personal opinions (based on ignorance) can hardly constitute as the necessary credible evidence.
He speaks of the allopathic medical practices (orthodox medicine) to be the only credible healthcare modality, the others, lumping homoeopathy, kinesiology, hands on healing, as well as astrology, clairvoyance, etc., to be lacking scientific evidence. It is very convenient for professor Dawkins to dismiss all of the above in one fell swoop. His cavalier attitude in itself is contra-scientific.
The flaw in this program is Dawkins’ flimsy argument and unsubstantiated scientific claims against homoeopathy – trial by ignorance and “mob rule” of the intellectual elites. In that, he comically dropped a “solution” into a water tank, a swimming pool, then, proceeded to put a drop into the ocean supposedly to discredit the homoeopathic principle of potentised remedies and the implausibility of such practice. Dawkins’ action is a declaration of his ignorance in the most basic tenets of homoeopathy. He confuses dilutions with potencies – grossly misrepresenting homoeopathy. As such, one hesitates to guess the purpose of Dawkins’ act, which may just well be aimed at providing comic relief rather than scholarly refute. Homoeopathy never uses dilutions only potentised remedies. What Dawkins has revealed in his demonstration is laughable if it is not so tragic.
The tragic nature of this stunt is that Dawkins’ program is not only far from the spirit of science but also reflects the same practice throughout human history used to stamp out “opposition” – to mock and ridicule those who followed a far grander vision than the well trodden paths of tradition. Although the program is carefully masked as presenting reasonable arguments against those practices that Dawkins considers to be the “enemies of reason,” it is nevertheless a form of persecution based on personal prejudice.
As human beings, every one of us is capable reacting irrationally when new thoughts, new ideas and innovations challenge the boundary of our comprehension. In order to allay our internal dissonance we react with charged emotions – discrediting, silencing, destroying, or bullying the “opposition” into “submission” or preferably extinguish them out of existence without given the due process of critical evaluation. Our irrational reaction, at the same time, reflects back to us of our own limitation in understanding. If Dawkins was not so blinded by his own prejudice, he would have acted more like a man of science and explored all of these practices (e.g. homoeopathy, kinesiology, etc.) with more honesty, impeccable integrity, impartiality, as well as incorporated creditable scientific evidence and reasoning instead of resorting to the old trick of subtle persecution in the name of “reason and science.”
Lamentably, if humanity could be impartial with more thoughtful self-reflection when facing our own limitations, our history would not have been strewn with all kinds of persecution from imprisonment (Galileo) to burning and drowning of “witches.” Professor Dawkins ought to hang his head in shame – his ignorance of how homoeopathy works is no excuse for his lacking in integrity by discrediting a well established medical system with deplorable language and less than honourable intentions. His arrogance, accentuated by his ignorance of homoeopathy, is that while indulging in his personal bias against homoeopathy, he insulted the intelligence of millions of people around the globe who seek homoeopathy (and other energetic healing practices) to be their primary healthcare modality.
The premise for this paper is the Right of Reply, as the less informed may misconstrue homoeopathy to be lacking credibility by our silence.
The right of reply:
Ignorance and spiritual blindness are the two afflictions that underpin life’s greatest tragedies personally as well as collectively. Ignorance has nothing to do with one not possessing university degrees but has everything to do with close mindedness and a dogged refusal to be open to other possibilities. Spiritual blindness is the lack of vision to see the infinite potential for humanity to expand knowledge far beyond the present day boundary. Our ability to expand our vision, have the courage to experiment with new ideas and concepts, learning by experiences, etc. are precisely the way we evolved out of the primitive state to the civilising process.
If we trace the roots of the many atrocities committed throughout human history, we will find that ignorance (the cause of fear reaction) and spiritual blindness are the primary cause of profound human sufferings. Make no mistakes they are very much alive in today’s twenty-first century. Often, when these characteristics are found in a person or in a group membership they are shielded by the banners of “freedom of speech,” and “healthy scepticism.” First, the right to freedom of speech comes with responsibilities. When responsibilities are absent, “freedom of speech” is subject to gross abuse instead of being a right or a privilege. Second, there is nothing healthy about such scepticism when it is not supported by an enquiring mind and openness.
The word scepticism, in today’s context, gives license and legitimacy to dismiss a body of knowledge (e.g. homoeopathy) or any individuals whose ideas, theories, or concepts, that challenge the existing boundary of knowledge and tradition, despite the conspicuous absence of evidence or chain of reasoning. Scepticism, for instance, employed in the context of discrediting homoeopathy, is used as a tool to hinder the wider acceptance of homoeopathy from the general public and subjugate the practice of homoeopathy as a profession. Such action constitutes the essence of “mob rule.” As such, scepticism can either be a euphemism for ignorance or a subtle form of persecution, or both, depending on the intellectual clout or weight carried by the group membership of “sceptics.”
A disturbing phenomenon is that the deeds of subtle persecution are often obscured when the banner of scepticism is held up before the general public. The odious nature of this is that the so called “sceptics” have free reign in their effort to stamp out the “opposition” and potential progress. An individual’s academic career could be destroyed owing to the destructive element in such pack mentality and the cowardly behaviour disguised as scepticism.
According to Professor Dawkins, the only legitimate healthcare modality is allopathic medicine. After all, it gave us vaccinations that eradicated small-pox. Other healthcare systems outside the main stream (the orthodox medicine) are classified as unscientific. Dawkins attributed the eradication of small-pox disease to the success of vaccination program without an ounce of understanding in the creation of health and disease, and have not even gone to the trouble to critically evaluate any evidence to the truth or falsehood of his statement. Following this, the logical conclusion to what the professor was saying is that the healthcare system that gave us vaccination is the only credible one, the others are considered to be the “enemies of reason.”
Dawkins’ claim to “reason” is based primarily on his understanding of body as a bio-machine (reductionist materialistic oriented view), based on Newtonian physics, that can be beaten into submission by drugs and cut out the offending parts. His inability to comprehend the body as a dynamic energy system – the interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit – gives rise to his simplistic and uncomplicated view on the eradication of a “killer diseases” with a few vaccinations. If this were so, humanity now ought to be sitting in paradise garden, resting on the laurels of the achievement of vaccinations. Yet, reality tells a very different story – there are increasing autoimmune diseases ravaging our health, and the exponential increase of cancerous and autistic manifestations in the young, not to mention the potential epidemic and pandemic infectious diseases constantly threaten our sense of well being. Dawkins might have noticed the changed health conditions in our children and adults alike, over the past three decades, if it were not for his blinkered view.
Ability to reason comes from knowledge, understanding, and the desire to seek truth. Dawkins “reason” for opposing homoeopathy is premised upon his misinformed beliefs – lacking knowledge and lacking understanding of homoeopathy. Assertion is still just that, at the end of the day, hollow assertion, even if it is dressed up in pseudo scientific garb. He cites the publication that supposedly discredited homoeopathy in the Medical Journal Lancet as his “scientific proof” (please refers to ECCH website for the response to Lancet meta analysis). To the uninformed and the ignorant, Dawkins’ presentation wears the mask of “intelligence and rationality.” However, one would seriously question the soundness of mind, and the state of rational and reasoning self, when discrediting a whole profession based purely on hearsay without possessing an ounce of the basic knowledge or the faintest idea of how homoeopathy works.
Tyranny of ignorance not only strip a rational minded individual of reason but also turns the external world into the replica of his unknown face – irrationality – hearsay or mistaken the popular beliefs to be the cardinal truth. While disputing the validity of a discipline or a branch of study is a personal prerogative, repudiating it publicly without plausible explanation for his charge is indeed ignorance. Astrology was central to the development of civilisations and the emergence of astronomy as a separate branch of scientific inquiry. It was the first science of the cosmos – the Sumerians began their observation of the sky at 6,000 BC, given that it was imbued with magic, it was nevertheless a science. The Chaldeans developed the zodiacal system, which is still in use today by astronomers. Although astrology is no longer applicable in its ancient form to the modern day societies, often misappropriated by charlatans, it is far from being enemies of reason. Like all knowledge, astrology, over its long journey of thousands of years, also evolved with time and with the development of human consciousness.
Newton, the founding father of classical mechanics, was recorded saying that “his reason for attending Cambridge University was ‘to find out what was true in astrology’” (Gauquelin, 1980:60). And ‘when the astronomer Halley, of comet fame, made a slighting remark as to the value of astrology, Newton gently rebuked him thus: “I have studied the subject, Mr. Halley; you have not” (1980:60). As such, professor Dawkins, consider yourself invited and challenged to participate in the process of a homoeopathic drug proving, then, you will be able to inform the general public what it is like with a little inside knowledge.
Dawkins, throughout the program, allowed his prejudice to obscure his ability to reason. A medical Doctor and a psychologist suggested, while being interviewed by Dawkins, that the good results from homoeopathy were owing to the placebo effects and to homoeopaths being terribly nice people – they spend a lot of time with their patients. The inference from these statements is two fold.
Placebo effect is a known medical phenomenon, which provides evidence to the power of mind in healing – as in spontaneous remission of cancer. Two questions would follow. To begin with, hypothetically, if the good results from homeopathy were owing to the placebo effects, then, why would professor Dawkins be so objectionable against homoeopathy? Surely, the main purpose of a sick person is to find ways to regain their health even if this is achieved through homoeopathy and not allopathy. This bias is in itself irrational unless one has other invested interest. If the placebo effect works so well for the homoeopaths, then, the second logical question to ask is: “why not the medical doctors placebo their patients to better health?” This would save billions of dollars on drugs and drug research projects as well as easing patients’ financial burden and save the governments from subsidising the increasing health cost. However, if the medical doctors lack the power to placebo their patients to better health, then, we must appeal to higher authority. “Does that mean God favours homoeopaths over the medical doctors?”
Another statement made by the Psychologist that I am taking issue with is his assertion: patients get better while under homoeopathic care could be because “homoeopaths are terribly nice people they spent a lot of time with their patients.” It is true that we do spend time talking with our patients in case taking so to understand them holistically and, admittedly, we are also terribly nice people. One could only assume from this statement that Dawkins believes that patients do not recover while under allopathic medical treatment, is because the medical doctors are not nice people?
Personally, I think neither of these inferences could even be remotely true, if not down right moronic. Then, there must be another variable that affects the outcome of homoeopathy in its favour. The internal logic of homoeopathy, however much, might escape professor Dawkins’ mind to comprehend – could it possibly be that Homoeopathy actually does WORK!!!
Science – the god of modernity?
Given the irrational element underlying many of Dawkins’ statements, one most offensive sentiment is that it has a distant echoing in the Spanish Inquisition and the witch-hunts. It is hard to believe that the core impulse for the act of these past atrocities is still alive, kicking and thriving in our so-called enlightened twenty-first century, and in the heart of those who lack a broad knowledge base though adorned with many accolades. Although the attempt to persecute is carefully masked with the word “unscientific”, the power of today’s “science or scientific enquiry,” in the minds of the public, equals that of God in antiquity. It is quite “blasphemous” should one be accused of being unscientific.
How do we define science? What means to be scientific? The word “science” defined by the Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: “knowledge is ascertained by observation and experiment, critically tested, systematised and brought under general principles of a department or branch of such knowledge or study.” Or it simply is “possession of knowledge as distinguished from ignorance.” Accordingly, homoeopathy is as scientific as science could possibly be. Homoeopathic laws are ascertained by observation and experiment, critically tested, systematised and brought under general principles of homoeopathy – “like cures like.”
Arguably, if one looks at the western scientific development, there is enough evidence to inform us that the outcome of any scientific enquiry is always in working progress and the result is only as good as the questions asked – the hypothesis. The questions set the direction for the researcher to find answers and to explore the unknown territories. The divided legacy of Western medicine into Homoeopathy (holism of Empiricism) and Allopathy (reductionism of Rationalism) can be attributed to their differential hypotheses.
Homoeopathy came into being because of, its founder, Samuel Hahnemann’s keen observation, and the questions he asked that led to the birth of the fundamental homoeopathic laws. One most decisive question: “How can a medicinal substance be curative without doing harm?” The answer is the potentised remedies. In this, it was Hahnemann’s concern for patients’ well being that led to his inquiry, as the reality of his time was that patients were more likely to be killed from the medicinal drugs given to them and the medical practices of the time rather than the diseases they contracted.
It took one man’s vision, inquiring mind, knowledge and the true spirit of science to give birth to a medical system that can heal gently without doing harm. Two hundred years later, there are still people whose close mindedness and ignorance surpasses their intelligence and their level of consciousness to even begin to ask a most basic question – “How does it work?”
To understand an illness from the reductionistic medicine (orthodox) is to perceive the body as machine made up of separate parts and systems – each can be replaced or taken out when it no longer functions properly. Symptoms of disease, in allopathy, form the diagnostic criteria to classify diseases into categories, e.g. bronchitis. As long as the diagnostic conclusion is reached the doctors are able to give all the patients who suffer from the same category of illness the same drug without differentiating individual susceptibility or pattern of illness – mass oriented.
Homoeopathy, from a holistic stance, looks at illness as process and understood it in terms of interaction patterns from the mental thoughts, emotional expressions, and physical manifestations. Each is interconnected and affects the others. Environmental factors (e.g. microbes, pollution) have an impact on our health and vitality but they are not the only causes. As such, homoeopathy considers that symptoms of disease are the individual expressions of the life process and interactions with our environment. Two people may both suffer from bronchitis, but their life interaction patterns differ from one another, and this difference determines the remedies they each may receive for their healing – individually tailored approach.
These two medical systems based on philosophies that are diametrically opposing each other – one materialistic (orthodox/allopathy), the other vibrational/energetic (homoeopathy). Therefore, the problem with the present scientific enquiry into the validation of homoeopathy is that the methodologies used are fundamentally premised upon a paradigm of materialism – perfidiously inapt. Just as we can no more quantify human emotions with a plastic container than we could measure the efficacy of homoeopathic medicine with the existing instruments or a few test tubes.
More importantly, as quantum physics advances there may yet evolve a scientific methodology that is fitting to truly explain “why” homoeopathy works because we already know homoeopathy works just from the millions of successfully treated and documented cases over the past two hundred years.
Having said this, my understanding is that each medical system, homoeopathy and allopathy, possesses knowledge and practices that the other lacks. Every medical and healing practice has its limitations as well as strength of application. The warring state of allopathy against homoeopathy needs to be halted especially when our focus ought to be on the health and wellbeing of humanity rather than the dominance of one over the other. Continuous attempts to discredit homoeopathy on baseless evidence while hijacking science to satisfy individuals’ beliefs is just as childish as the childhood games that artificially divide us into “good guys and bad ones.” Perhaps, it is time for some serious and honest self-reflection to take place and for humanity to mature so that we have room in our personal development to accommodate both – the explainable and the yet to be explained – time is a great leveller.
Additionally, the rapid development in quantum physics over the past decades has already left behind a strictly materialistic view of the universe, human body, and life on earth. “If, as human beings, we could only know and entertain those ideas that have been tested and proven by science, then, there is no room in the universe for our growth in consciousness, in soul evolution.” (Dossey, cited in Talbot, 1992).
The most significant turning points in the development of civilisation, in terms of scientific discoveries, technological advances, and changing consciousness, are resulting from the effort of a small number of unique and brave individuals who possessed profound understanding and visions of far greater possibilities than the already well tested and proven knowledge. Their courage to speak their truths against all odds – persecutions, powerful oppositions – during their life time has eventually changed the then accepted thoughts and dogmas. They changed the course of history, expanded our consciousness, and made a difference to the way we live, think, acquire knowledge, and understand.
More importantly, history has shown many times that the esteemed scientific theories and the proven facts have been over turned as we continue to advance. This is evident most strikingly in the field of physics, in a short period of a few hundred years, evolved from the classical mechanics to the quantum mechanics. For this reason, we are in continuous need of new models of reality and new visions to fire our creative spirit and imagination of what is possible.
One most beautiful example that illustrates my point happened on the 13th September 1765.
“People in fields near Luce, in France, saw a stone-mass drop from the sky after a violent thunderclap. The great physicist Lavoisier, who knew better than any peasant that this was impossible, reported to the Academy of Science that the witnesses were mistaken or lying. The Academy would not accept the reality of meteorites until 1803” (Microsoft Bookshelf Basics).
For Professor Dawkins, the millions of people around the world who utilise and benefit from Homoeopathic Medicine and treatment, as well as from other forms of complementary health modalities and energy healings, must look like the peasants of France back in 1765 – they couldn’t possibly know better than the great physicist himself.
However, if professor Dawkins is passionate about truly discrediting the healing modalities he speaks of in the program, then, the challenge for him is to put himself through the trouble of acquiring some basic knowledge (if not in depth) of the practices he so flippantly dismissed as “mumbo jumbo”, he may expand his knowledge boundary by far. Then, should his conviction and prejudice still remain, a more scholarly presentation will more likely to be in place than just shooting blank statements espoused like the esteemed physicist Lavoisier more than two centuries ago. The true enemies of reason are not the modalities, e.g. homoeopathy, but the narrow and close mindedness refusal to reason, to understand, and to be impartial.
Ai-Ling Su Makewell