Liam Farrell: Homoeopathy flies in the face of medical wonder

The older I get the more respect I have for the achievements of scientific medicine.

Today I saw a seven-year-old girl, who had her atrial septal defect (ASD) corrected some years ago. Go back a few decades and she would have required major heart surgery, back further and she would have been condemned to a life of progressive disability, but she is now as healthy and happy as any other seven-year-old.

Her ASD was closed by angiography; a simple statement, but just imagine for a moment the number of different technologies employed to make the diagnosis and perform the procedure.

Fibre-optics, ultrasonics, materials science and a myriad others - all these disciplines meshed unerringly together with the precision of a Beethoven symphony, all products of centuries of methodical experiment, laced with occasional flashes of genius and strokes of luck. Nature does not yield up her secrets lightly and the price has been high; this is knowledge that has been painstakingly earned, often in the face of persecution and prejudice.

These operations are now routine and we no longer marvel at them as we should; the miracles have become so commonplace that we take them for granted.

Even worse, we then have the infernal cheek to complain when science doesn't have all the answers, and then the charlatans of alternative medicine step into that lucrative breach.

Why medical science is particularly afflicted by this kind of voodoo isn't clear to me. Physicists, botanists, geologists, mathematicians, etc never seem to be undermined by whatever would be their equivalent of Mrs Magee who has a cure for shingles.

We yet await a credible alternative theory of quantum physics, for example subatomic particles are actually little white mice with their eyes on stalks, and the Hadron Collider at the CERN Institute won't work because the scientists haven't been using enough cheese.

We are also unlikely ever to see an airplane powered by homoeopathy, although at least we can be comforted to know that if it were to happen, once again, homoeopathy would be able to demonstrate an exemplary safety record, because the airplane wouldn't be able to get off the ground.


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