Water memory is the claimed ability of water to retain a “memory” of substances previously dissolved in it to arbitrary dilution. No scientific evidence supports this claim. Shaking the water at each stage of a serial dilution is claimed to be necessary for an effect to occur. The concept was proposed by Jacques Benveniste to explain the purported therapeutic powers of homeopathic remedies, which are prepared by diluting solutions to such a high degree that not even a single molecule of the original substance remains in most final preparations.
Benveniste sought to prove this basic tenet of homeopathy by conducting an experiment to be published “independently of homeopathic interests” in a major journal. While some studies, including Benveniste’s, have reported such an effect, other re tests of the experiments involved have failed to reproduce the result. The concept is not consistent with accepted scientific laws and is not accepted by the scientific community. Liquid water does not maintain ordered networks of molecules for longer times than a small fraction of a nanosecond.These research teams reported that solutes subjected to sequential physical processing and dilution show biological effects different from those apparent using just the water employed for the dilutions. The subject has drawn a lot of controversy with many scientists simply rejecting it outright without studying the evidence Although there is much support for water showing properties that depend on its prior processing (that is, water having a memory effect), the experimental evidence indicates that such changes are due primarily to solute and surface changes occurring during this processing.
The experimentally corroborated memory phenomena cannot be taken as supporting the basic tenets of homeopathy although they can explain some effects he central principle of homeopathy is that like cures like. So homeopaths seek out dangerous herbs and other ingredients that produce symptoms of disease (such as nightshade, arsenic, and strychnine) and use these in their preparations. Since this would normally kill the patient, the homeopath uses a series of dilution procedures, known as succussion, to dilute the solution so much that any given sample will not contain any of the original ingredients.While most people realize that diluting decreases potency, the homeopath claims the exact opposite – that the more diluted the preparation is the stronger it is. This potency-increasing dilution also magically removes the side effects of the original poison. Homeopaths have failed to prove the efficacy of their treatments after many experimental attempts. Given the complete and utter failure of experimental evidence, many have turned to trying to create mechanistic explanations for how homeopathy could work.
These “proof of principle” ideas revolve around finding an explanation for how diluting a solute can increase its effect.The current vogue idea is “water memory”: the homeopath believes that their dilution process somehow transfers the properties of the solute to the water molecules themselves, then those molecules of water transfer it to new water and on and on. They propose this as the explanation for the a priori belief that diluting increases potency.
Homeopaths, true to form, have not really tried to prove that there even is such a thing as water memory. One cogent example of this is that James Randi has offered his million dollar paranormal challenge money to anyone that can prove water memory exists.No major homeopathic practitioner or company has taken him up on the offer – with the exception of Randi’s involvement with the Benveniste case in 1988, which was partially funded by the French Homeopathy Council.
However in 1999, Madeleine Ennis of Queen’s University of Belfast had claimed to have replicated Benveniste’s miraculous findings (those debunked by John Maddox and James Randi a decade earlier). In 2002 the BBC pop science program Horizon did an on-air test replicating this work with Randi to attempt to win the prize.The replication failed completely, with the documentary concluding “Homeopathy is back where it started without any credible scientific explanation. That won’t stop millions of people putting their faith in it, but science is confident. Homeopathy is impossible. ” Since the starting premise in most research on water memory is that it is a fact, an explanation must be sought.
There are no analogous situations in the natural world, so unique lines of reasoning have been developed to explain a phenomenon that has never been proven to exist.With no actual data on water memory or how it behaves (since they haven’t even proved it exists! ), researchers can make up whatever they feel like as long as it sounds nice and not have to be worried about testing or making predictions. This is a big reason why this fraud is the epitome of pseudoscience. Nature’s attempted debunking exercise failed to find evidence of fraud, but concluded that Benveniste’s research was essentially unreproducible, a claim he has always denied. From being a respected figure in the French biological establishment, Benveniste was pilloried, losing his government funding and his laboratory.Undeterred, he and his now-depleted research team somehow continued to investigate the biological effects of agitated, highly dilute solutions. The latest results are, for biologists, even more incredible than those in the 1988 Nature paper.
Physicists, however, should have less of a problem as their discipline is based on fields (eg gravitational, electromagnetic) which have well-established long-range effects. If Benveniste’s claims prove to be true – which is far from certain – they could have profound consequences, not least for medical diagnostics.Benveniste’s explanation starts innocuously enough with a musical analogy. Two vibrating strings close together in frequency will produce a “beat”. The length of this beat increases as the two frequencies approach each other. Eventually, when they are the same, the beat disappears.
This is the way musicians tune their instruments, and Benveniste uses the analogy to explain his water-memory theory. Thus, all molecules are made from atoms which are constantly vibrating and emitting infrared radiation in a highly complex manner.These infrared vibrations have been detected for years by scientists, and are a vital part of their armoury of methods for identifying molecules. However, precisely because of the complexity of their infrared vibrations, molecules also produce much lower “beat” frequencies.
It turns out that these beats are within the human audible range (20 to 20,000 Hertz) and are specific for every different molecule. Thus, as well as radiating in the infrared region, molecules also broadcast frequencies in the same range as the human voice.