One of the most surreal medical institutions in our country is surely the College of Homeopaths of Ontario. This agency was set up by the provincial government in 2007 to accomplish a task roughly as useful to the future of humanity as the new Ether Studies Institute which Dalton McGuinty no doubt hopes to set up next, probably at York University. The College of Homeopaths has as its absurd goal the formalization and professionalization of a form of medicine which most sensible people realize isn’t real to begin with: homeopathy.
Homeopathy is a branch of medicine which advances the following claims. First, diseases are a result of distortions in the body’s invisible energy field, not viruses, or bacteria, or genetic mutations. Second, you can cure a disease by drinking a poison that causes the same symptoms as the disease — for instance, ground-up duck liver cures the flu. Third and finally, when you dilute these poisons in water, they get stronger — and the thinner they get, the stronger they get. As I’ve said before, this is like deciding that because your tea is too weak, you’re going to pour in a gallon of water.
Not just a gallon, though. To make a homeopathic preparation, you take one part toxin (duck liver, arsenic, caffeine, etc.), mix it with ten parts water, shake it up and down ten times, and repeat. This process is done anywhere from several dozen times to several thousand times (and each gets designated by a “X,” for instance, a 200X medicine). They needn’t bother. Once you dilute one part in 10 more than twenty-four times, there’s statistically very little chance there’s a single atom of a presence left. That’s not just basic chemistry; it’s basic math. Not a problem, homeopaths reply: water has quantum memory. What this means, and why it makes the thinned-down “medicine” ever stronger, even they cannot say.
Homeopathy doesn’t work. If it did work, it would be a Nobel Prize-worthy overturning of most of what we know about chemistry and physics, in addition to plain old common sense. So naturally, in Ontario, they’re creating a government-sponsored professional council to oversee it.
It’s important to begin by recognizing that Health Canada knows homeopathic medications are bogus. That’s why they require that homeopathic medications using dangerous poisons as their base ingredients must be diluted past “24X,” the point at which probably no atoms are left. If homeopathic logic was real, Health Canada would be effectively requiring homeopaths to strengthen their medications to potentially very dangerous levels. But since homeopathic logic is false, what they’re doing is that you can only sell homeopathic medicines if you dilute them past the point where they are chemically indistinguishable from ordinary water or sugar pills.
The College isn’t quite active yet. It’s been going through an extensive “consultation” process, presumably as its transitional council attempts to find some way of crafting homeopathy as something worth taking seriously. Eventually they will succeed in doing so, which is unfortunate, because it’s a lot easier to create an organization like this than it is to destroy one. Homeopathy is a minor matter — even less important in Canadian politics than creationism is — and so it’s quite believable that the Cabinet nodded this one through without looking at it very seriously. I want to believe that’s what happened. In any case, it’s pretty rich that the Ontario government wants to be one of the country’s leaders on climate and energy policy even while it is this scientifically challenged in its thinking.
But for the moment, we can at least be amused by what the Council is producing. For instance, one of the things which the Ontario Council of Homeopaths says would be grievous professional misconduct from a homeopath is the following:
Members should not make unverifiable claims about their remedies, products or services. An example would be to say that if one takes a particular homeopathy remedy one will not get six. An example of a reasonable professional opinion is to say that particular homeopathic remedy one has researched helps fight disease.
Um, isn’t the entire practice of homeopathy one big “unverifiable claim”? This is precisely the claim homeopaths make once you start probing them on exactly how diluted water “remembers” the magical properties of ground-up duck liver and uses those memories to “fight” the flu. That, or they start babbling something incoherent about quantum mechanics.
The members of the Transitional Council are listed by the Ontario Public Appointments Secretariat.