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Debunking Catholic Pseudoscience

Published: June 23, 2011

Last month the Union of Catholic Physicians (UCP), a German organization that affectionately refers to itself as the “Voice of the Catholic medical community,” announced that they have discovered several therapeutic options in the treatment of homosexuality. While the Union of Catholic Physicians continues to iterate that homosexuality is not a disease, they are proudly offering these treatments, claiming that they can help keep homosexual inclinations at bay. These treatments are to include: religious counseling, psychotherapy, Globuli (sugar) pills, and homeopathy. Yes, homeopathy.

I think we just hit the quack-doc jackpot.

Where do we begin to explain what is wrong with this picture. Let’s start off with the fact that the UCP is offering treatment for a disease that, as they have admitted themselves, isn’t really a disease.

For many years homosexuality was actually listed in the World Heath Organization’s International Code of Disease. It wasn’t until January 1st, 1993 that the WHO removed homosexuality from this listing. This decision came far, far too late into our modern era. The damage was already done. Despite the official WHO recognition, there are many organizations who still believe that homosexuality can be cured, or at the very least, managed. The Catholic Church, including the UCP, seems to be one of these groups.

Despite their self-admission that homosexuality isn’t a disease, the UCP still finds it necessary to “treat” homosexual inclinations with pseudo-medical therapies. I believe the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which brings me to my next point, the fact that using homeopathy (no matter your intentions) isn’t going to fix anything.

Let me give a brief overview of what homeopathy actually is.

Homeopathy was first introduced to the world by a doctor by the name of Samuel Hahnemann around 1807. Hahnemann based homeopathy on what he called “The Law of Similars.” This hypothesis (despite it’s name it is not actually a law of nature – those must be proven empirically) is based on an incredible and unproven notion of, “that which harms you will cure you.” A mild example of the Law of Similars would be if someone suffering from hay fever were to intentionally ingest pollen. The pollen causes the hay fever, and the pollen will likewise cure it. How does this work, you ask? Well, homeopaths factor in a second principle to their work, which they claim is the actual mechanism of action. This second principle is the idea of dilution and succession, essentially diluting the substance in question to an infinitesimally small amount in order to “potentize” it. The idea behind this is that a trivial amount of a harmful substance will stimulate your body’s “vital force” (their words, not mine) in order to help facilitate natural healing and the expulsion of the cause of whatever disease it is you are trying to cure. The best analogy I can find in actual medicine – other than the whole vague concept of a “vital force”-would be the vaccination of people with attenuated virus strains. This vaccination stimulates their immune system to produce anti-bodies for when they encounter the real thing. Unfortunately homeopaths generally distain vaccination because it’s not “natural,” whatever that means (last time I checked, viruses were actually a natural phenomena, complete with proteins and DNA of non-synthetic construction), so making this comparison is sure to irk them.

Worse still, unlike vaccinations, homeopathic dilutions have no base in science. What I mean by this is, at the dilutions prescribed by homeopaths, zero molecules of the original substance remain. This isn’t just a generic assumption, this can be shown mathematically. When Samuel Hahnemann was first imagining his new pseudoscience, he invented a scale to describe the dilutions of a homeopathic remedy called the centesimal (C) scale. Each degree of C represents a 100 fold dilution of the “active” homeopathic ingredient. Let’s take a look at the chemistry behind this.

Let’s use platinum for our sample calculations, because that is the homeopathic substance the UCP is using to treat homosexuals. If we were to start with a pile of platinum weighing 195 grams, we would have approximately 6.022 x 1023 molecules (technically atoms) of platinum. If we were to make a homeopathic dilution of 12C using the C scale invented by Hahnemann, we would take this pile of platinum, and add it to water or a sugar solution. We would then perform a set of serial dilutions until our homeopathic remedy was diluted to a concentration of 1:1024, containing a grand total of 1 platinum molecule. Just one. Unfortunately for homeopaths, the science gets even more ridiculous from here.

You see, I chose to run my hypothetical dilution at 12C, to wind up with a nice even number of 1 atom of platinum. Most homeopaths, however, consider 12C to be “low potency” or rather, not dilute enough. Hahnemann himself recommended dilutions of 30C, and the popular homeopathic flu remedy Oscillococcinum, is diluted to 200C. There is simply not enough matter in the universe to dilute something to this extent. Often in medicine, people talk about proposed mechanisms or enzymes or complex interactions that we can sometimes observe by looking at its byproducts etc. etc. This leads to research and academic debate, and ultimately more research. Unfortunately for homeopaths, discussion of homeopathy as “medicine” is not an academic debate; it is a fundamental error in mathematics.

Ok enough with the hypothetical dilutions. Let’s look at a real life example, the allowable concentration of arsenic in drinking water. Arsenic is a poisonous element, deadly to all multi-cellular life. Still, arsenic, being a natural element (what was that about natural being safe?) can be found in many places, including our drinking water. The maximum allowable concentration of arsenic in drinking water is about 1:108 or 4C. This means there are more molecules of a deadly poison in your average sip of water than there are molecules of active substance in a homeopathic solution.

Keeping in mind Hahnemann’s Law of Similars, I guess it’s all the dilute arsenic in the water that we have to thank for keeping our kidney’s going, as kidney failure is caused by arsenic poisoning.

Which brings me back to the Catholic Church and the Union of Catholic Physicians.

Let’s assume for a moment that the laws of the universe came to a halt and homeopathy actually works as intended. If the UCP was actually curing homosexuals by the use of homeopathic preparations of platinum, it would mean – by Hanhemann’s Law of Similars – that platinum causes people to be gay.

I think I’ll just end it there.

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about homeopathy, I found this incredibly helpful website: www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/