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The Miracle of Molecular Medicine

Reductio ad Absurdum

Kyle Hill

May 30, 2013

The germ theory of disease revolutionized our view of the small organisms that plaster our planet, inhabiting every corner of the continents and our bodies. It allowed modern science to dissipate the harmful miasma that pre-modern medicine sought to remedy. But the organisms that can make us sick are nowhere near as dangerous as a world where every particle might be poison. It’s a world where homeopathy works.

If homeopathy worked, its tenets would carve out new medical, ethical, and economic landscapes. Like would cure like, water would have memory, and extreme dilution would flip the potency curve of chemicals 180 degrees. You could become your own doctor, but you could also drop dead without warning.

A Disease For What Ails You

Forget placebos, a world where homeopathy works is a world without disease.

Homeopathy strives to find remedies that produce the same symptoms as the ailment of the patient, meaning that all disease would be a potential cure for itself. Allergy problems? Make a remedy out of outside allergens and drink it (what do you do for irritable bowel syndrome?). Problem solved, in a world where homeopathy works.

When homeopathy is a medical reality, diseases and cures are in constant tension, like the struggle between anti-matter and matter. The unstoppable force and the immovable object; the Joker and Batman. Each malady is a potential miracle. If a cure were just an anti-disease, medicine would encounter an enormous ethical obstacle. With all the potential cures available in our bodies, herb gardens, and duck livers, the question is no longer how should we treat, but who should we treat. To meet the demand of an ailing population, enormous storehouses of homeopathic tinctures would need to be erected. Like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault does for the world’s seeds, tincture vaults would safely store cancer cells, allergens, viruses, and other anti-diseases.

You are your own doctor, your own specialist, to the delight of holistic healers, when homeopathy works. Homeopaths advise you on potencies, but medicine would basically be in your hands. Recipes are free for all to see and make. With this knowledge shift, entire academic medical institutions would shut down their learning programs. Medicine as we know it falls out of favor when a decade of traditional medical school is abandoned for homeopathic educations. The crippling debt of US medical students flows back into the economy, maybe to be spent on the massive demand for Oscillococcinum.

What Is Water’s RAM?

Our ancestors lived in a “middle-world.” The objects and interactions that they had to worry about were middle-sized, moving at a middle-speed, changing in middle-time. Our evolved perception of a middle-world is partly the reason why staring up at the night sky can be so evocative, or why looking into a microscope and seeing life can be so moving.

Because of our middle-perception, it’s hard to handle the fact that there are more molecules in a cup of water than cups of water in all the world’s oceans. We can’t accurately conceptualize the idea that you have had molecules in you that were in dinosaurs, and in Hitler, by probability alone. And we would have trouble accepting that in a world where homeopathy works, where water has memory, water knows more about you than Facebook.

If water remembered what was diluted in it, your DNA-imprinted excretions would quickly circle the Earth. Following the water cycle, your water-diluted DNA flows through meters of intestines, eventually into a toilet, into a water treatment plant, and finally back into a body of water that shares its molecules with the sky. Considering all the things that water could remember—dinosaur pee, Genghis Khan’s morning tea—homeopaths could access whatever memories they want in a world where their theories are correct. Aiding police and investigation agencies around the world, homeopaths could access anyone’s DNA in wastewater. New databases would spring up. Cold cases could be closed. Homeopathic detectives would shame psychic ones.

Soon, water memory purifying machines would be engineered. When any molecule of water that passes through you could speak volumes, privacy protection goes to the nano-scale. With such power residing in water’s RAM, infrastructure around the world would have to be rerouted as people increasingly refuse to drink water that somehow retains its fecal quality. The Clean Water Act would have to be completely redrawn.

When homeopathy works, when a pool could “know” precisely who peed in it, current technology like memory-foam has nothing on memory-water.

Less is More

A remedy doesn’t need an active ingredient when homeopathy works. Nearly anything could be diluted into watery oblivion, flipping each and every dose-response curve for every drug known to man a full 180 degrees. An uphill curve becomes a downhill slope. Potency would be measured in atoms, not milligrams. To cope with the reversal, engineers would have to innovate the most sensitive scales ever devised. We have experimented with yottagram resolution scales—able to measure individual protons—and these would be sensitive enough, but they first need practicality and then mass production.

The dark side of homeopathic potency is that any dangerous chemical, any particle of poison, is grim death. Ultra-filtered gas masks would become part of the national uniform, because inhaling even a few atoms of lead would lead to a neurotoxic demise in a world where homeopathic principles are true. The old medical adage that pretty much everything is carcinogenic at some level would dominate new information campaigns about safe breathing habits. Would-be poisoners would become the most devious of murderers when a lethal dose of arsenic is measured in yottagrams.

Drunkards would have the time of their lives in a world where homeopathy worked. Ethanol diluted in water in any amount makes the drink a spirit. The lower the alcoholic content the better. You would need a microscope to find a drunkard’s flask.

When the remedy revolution comes, the economics of medicine would radically shift. Companies that exist solely for shipping medicine can now pack their planes and trucks with a million times more material. Shipping costs plummet and medical costs soon follow. If one molecule or less can have some effect on health, a cup of acetaminophen could treat the entire human population a billion times over.

Instead of a revolution on par with the germ theory of disease, homeopathy—in complete opposition to everything we know about biology and medicine—isn’t recommended for any clinical use. You know how the world would change if homeopathy really worked, now what do you see?

Kyle Hill

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Kyle Hill is a science writer who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. He writes for the Scientific American Blog Network at his blog, But Not Simpler. Hill also contributes to Slate, Wired, Nature Education, Popular Science, and io9. He manages Nature Education's Student Voices blog, is a contributor to Al Jazeera America’s science show TechKnow, and you can follow him on Twitter under @Sci_Phile.