In a feature-length episode of Rosemary and Thyme titled The Memory of Water, I wrote a scene in which one of the characters – a fully-qualified anaesthetist, and like everyone else in a ‘tec show a potential suspect – explains over coffee in her kitchen a number of suspicious-looking phials that she keeps in her refrigerator.
Katie’s examining the medicine bottle in the light.
It’s for the children’s little ailments. I make it up myself. Do you know how homeopathy works?
You take a heavily diluted form of something that causes the same symptoms as the disease?
Ah. You’ve done a study.
Just what I read in the magazines.
Of course, when they set the dilution levels, they failed to realise that you’d need to drink eight thousand gallons of the stuff to get one molecule of the additive. So then they came up with the Memory of Water.
I was never that good at science.
They say it doesn’t matter if the additive’s long vanished. The water (gives the bottle a shake) remembers it. Now, when I make up medicine for the children, I take that one stage further. I just show the additive to the water. And then the water (shake) imagines it.
You… don’t believe in any of this, do you?
I do believe in the placebo effect. The power of suggestion. And I don’t imagine plain water ever did much harm to anyone.
So, just to recap… a form of medicine that goes one better than homeopathy, where instead of the water having to ‘remember’ the nonexistent ingredient, you just show it the ingredient and the water ‘imagines’ it.
Of course, you do something like this, only to find that life outstrips art. A friend who’s a science lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire told me, “I was on a course with a biologist and he’d met a bloke who insisted that all you needed to do was write the name of the chemical structure on a piece of paper and put it under the glass. And the water then reads the chemical structure and puts it into the solution. At the time I said you couldn’t make this stuff up – seems I was wrong!”
The University made the headlines earlier this year. They’d been offering a BSc Honours degree in Homeopathic Medicine. Not as a rigorous dissection of a pseudoscience in which philosophical conclusions are transmuted into invented principles, but as “a recognisable academic and professionally recognised course for people interested in pursuing a career in homeopathy.”
UCLAN is a former Polytechnic that was awarded university status and has been steadily raising its game to merit the name. Many of the staff were horrified to discover that the course was on offer. Now, as a result of “relentless attacks from the anti-homeopathy league“, the course has been suspended.