The 1023 Campaign will be launched early in 2010 with the aim of uniting skeptics across the UK in activities to highlight the belief in magic which underlies homeopathy.
Although the organisers haven't yet disclosed the true meaning of the number 1023, those who know something of the bizarre theory behind homeopathy may be able to guess.
Homeopathy, relies on two distinct principles, both of which contradict pretty much everything we know about the natural world. The first principle is that a small quantity of any substance that causes an illness can act to stimulate the body to fight it. In other words, if you have an illness caused by substance X, then a very small quantity of X will be a form of treatment for the illness.
The second principle is that if you put that very small quantity of X in water and then dilute it 1:100 multiple times, commonly 30 or more times, then the resulting liquid will have its curative properties vastly enhanced. In other words, the process of dilution increases the potency.
The first of these principles does not even fit the simplest of poisons. A small quantity of arsenic does not assist someone who has arsenic poisoning – it makes it worse. A small amount of sugar does not help a diabetic suffering from a hyperglycaemic coma, it simply speeds their way towards death. The principle is quite simply wrong.
The second principle, the notion that you can dilute a substance to such an extent that there is not even a single molecule remaining in the water and yet still have something with curative potency, is contradicted by everything we know about modern chemistry, physics, and biology. It relies on some notion of water having a memory, which has been repeatedly shown to be incorrect. Some supporters of homeopathy get involved in tortuous distortions of quantum theory in a desperate bid to plead for some sort of scientific respectability, but the truth is that the theory is plain rubbish.
It is high time that we left this sort of magic and superstition way behind, but it is still possible in the UK to pick up a B.Phil. degree in Homeopathy in the remarkably short time of just 18 months of home study. Real universities in the UK have now stopped issuing such nonsense degrees but there are still some US universities which issue degrees with a focus on homeopathy, often mixing the courses with botany or some real science.
The result, though, is people claiming degree status based on the study of non-phenomena, claiming to be able to treat people using methods that wouldn't have satisfied even eighteenth-century doctors.
We can only hope that a similar campaign takes off in the US as well as the UK and that people wise up to some simple facts. Just because people believe something, that doesn't mean it works. Just because there's a market, that doesn't mean the product does what it claims.
It does sometimes seem that the US has plenty of people willing to go along with supernatural causes, magic medicine, and fanciful theories of how the human body works, but we have to hope that those who think rationally will prevail. Unfortunately the increase in health insurance coverage of alternative medicine techniques calls that into question. Some folks don't seem to mind premiums being pushed up to pay for consultations with practitioners treating patients with magic.