Your Friday Dose of Woo (on Wednesday): A homeopath “explains” energy

Damn you, PZ!

Not only are you muscling into my territory (what, aren’t creationism and atheism enough?), but you had to subject me to the most mind-numbing example of why homeopaths are the most clueless purveyors of pseudoscience there are! Behold, Dr. Charlene Werner, an optometrist (apparently) and a homeopath. I warn you, however. If you have any understanding of physics or chemistry whatsoever or if you’ve ever read (and liked) Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (or anything else he’s ever written), sit down now. Take a deep breath. Heck, crack open a bottle of wine and down at least half of it before you watch this video. I’m serious. You’ll need it. You might need to lie down, too. In fact, you might need to lie down with a cool washcloth across your eyes.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

Truly, the woo doth flow. Like a river. Like the energy from a supernova. From Bozeman, Montana, where, apparently they don’t have enough woo and have to import it from Texas. Now do you see why I couldn’t wait until Friday to give Werner a tiny taste of my characteristic not-so-Respectful Insolence? I haven’t seen such a mangling of physics and chemistry worthy of Your Friday Dose of Woo in a long time.

I really like how Werner starts out by asking the audience if they’ve all had chemistry or physics classes. Truly, if anyone there said yes and didn’t immediately see her talk for the hilariously rank pseudoscience that it is, he should demand his money back from whatever school or schools he attended. Either that, or he should go back for remedial physics classes; obviously whatever he learned didn’t stick.

Werner then asks everyone if they know what H2O is and who Einstein is. Now, I know why a homeopath would mention water. After all, homeopathic remedies are nothing but water. But what did poor Albert Einstein do to deserve this? (I know, I know, what did any physicist do to deserve such abuse of science and his good name by homeopaths?) Get a load of this:

You know that when light is energy, right? OK. And he [Einstein] gave us the theory that energy equals mass times the speed of light. E=mc2. OK. If we take that formula, and we think that there’s a lot of mass, right? OK. If you collapse all the mass down into the universe, so that there is no space between the mass, do you know how much mass there is in the entire universe? You think you’re a lot of mass, right?… Well, the whole universal mass can be consolidated down into the size of a bowling ball. That’s all there is in the whole universe. So, how much mass are you? That’s right, an infinitessimal amount.

I bet you’re wondering where Werner is going with this. So was I. But I was afraid. Very afraid. Yes, I wasn’t sure whether she was right about being able to collapse the entire mass of the universe into the size of a bowling ball. My memory of my physics classes doesn’t tell me if it’s a bowling ball, or something considerably bigger, but still less than moon-sized. I get the point, and for purposes of this discussion it doesn’t really matter, actually. What matters is the mind-numbing ignorance of what Werner says next:

So if you take that formula, E=mc2, you can almost cross out mass. So the formula ends up being “energy = the speeed of light.”

Arrrrghhhh! The burning stupid assaulted my neurons! Help, help, I’m being made more stupid just by looking at this video! Talk about a math fail. First off, if you remove the mass term, what are you left with? Zero! No mass, no energy! Even if you could just drop the mass term, you wouldn’t be left with “energy = the speed of light.” What happened to the squared term? Moreover, Werner completely misunderstands the nature of the equation. c2 is the proportionality constant for how much energy is present in a given mass. It’s a huge number, meaning that a small amount of mass contains a lot of energy, if that mass can be completely converted to energy. The point of the equation is not that mass is unimportant, rather that it’s very important indeed! That’s why I have a new equation:

S = mair2 * c4

where S = stupidity; mair = the mass of the air necessary to speak a Werner sentence about science; and c = the speed of light.

That’s right. Werner’s stupidity could power the universe. (Yes, I know that the units don’t quite work out. Either that, or the units of stupid are energy squared. Just go with me on this.)

But it gets better. Look at what Werner says next:

That’s why the visual system is so important, because we have lots of photorecptors that receive light. But when Hahnemann died, the scientists didn’t fall in his camp. OK. And, um, the pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit well together.

Actually, the pieces of homeopathy never fit together when Samuel Hahnemann was alive. It was woo then, it’s woo now. The only difference is the science-y gloss that its practitioners try to put on it with quantum mechanics and mangling of physics and chemistry. But wait, there’s more:

So God in his infinite wisdom sent us another Einstein called Stephen Hawkings. Stephen Hawkings gave us the string theory. And what he discovered is that there are other “energetic particles” in the universe, and they’re shaped like little U-eys, and what they do is they work by vibration. So our body is so wonderfully designed. We have light receivers, and we have ears. Vibratory–they pick up vibration. So if we added to that theory–Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=mc2, but mass is crossed out–and strings, vibration. But that still doesn’t tell us the whole picture, because what is a cell, right.

Alright, now stop right there. How much technobabble can one woman fit into a single talk? How much mangling of physics can one woman accomplish? Truly, I fear to know the answer. It was at this point that I started to wonder whether I should back out now. Just say no. Stop watching. the mind-destroying horror was too great. I could feel my neurons crying out in pain. Orac could feel his circuits overloading, his multiple colored lights blinking a little more multiple coloredly in distress. But, no. The things I do for this blog. I looked at what Werner said next:

The cell has a cell wall, a cell membrane, cytoplasm. Is that mass? Not very much, really. So what are they? You can break down the cells into tiny pieces of energy called electrons, protons, neutrons, right? So the whole body has an infinitessimal amount of mass, but what is the remainder? Energy. So, I am energy; you are energy.

You’ll have to excuse me if I can’t follow that logic. Maybe it’s because I understand that it’s crap! Come on! She completely misunderstands Einstein’s equations. The concept that the body is a small amount of mass does not mean that it’s all energy. True, there’s a whole lot of energy in the body’s mass, but, unfortunatey, to turn it into energy would not be pleasant for the person whose energy was being–shall we say?–released. That doesn’t stop Werner’s monumental misunderstanding of physics from leading her to try to use this line of “reasoning” to argue that homeopathy is real and scientifically supported:

Now if you go to study physics, we do not know how to create energy. But we don’t know how to destroy it, either. That is not humanly possible. So what we do is we take energy and we transform it from one state to another. That’s all we do. So if that’s all we do guess what the definition of disease is. It’s not mass. We have transformed our energy state into something different. That’s what the definition of disease is.

As a physician, I can most definitely say that Werner’s definition of “disease” is related to the real definition of disease only by her own delusions. Actually, it’s not related to the real definition of disease at all. What we’re really seeing is a form of primitive vitalism, where there is some sort of “life energy” that, when its flows are disordered, blocked, or otherwise messed with magically, then you have disease. Never mind those nasty microbes. After all, they’re just “mass.” It’s the same with those proteins whose function becomes disordered; that DNA that has abnormalities; or those cellular functions that go awry. All mass. So, by Werner’s logic, they must not be able to cause disease, or so it would seem. Instead, she thinks she can use light, sound, and homeopathy to fix these energy “imbalances.” But what is homeopathy?

Alas, Werner is too happy to tell us:

OK, so what is homeopathy? If nothing is really mass or an infinitessimal amount of it, and everything is energy, that means everything has a vibration to it. So what if I could encase some sort of energy for later use? So if I wanted to make a bomb and I took all these chemicals and I encased it in a bomb, and tonight my neighber let his dog poop in my yard literally, and I’m mad at that dog and my neighbor. I’m going to take this bomb and I’m going to get back at him. And I threw that bomb at his house, would he be happy about it? Because what happens now when that energy is released? It destroys something. It changes it…It changes its energetic state. Well, that’s what we can do with homeopathy. We take substances. And we put ’em in solution and we succuss it just like a bomb, we threw the bomb, to release its energy into this liquid. And then we take these little white pellets. We sprinkle them with that solution, and guess what we have just made? An energetic substance to be used when we choose to use it. So, how homeopathy works is, whatever your disease process is, it’s an energetic change. And if I can find the remedy that matches your state and give it to you when we so choose, what can we do with your energy system? Transform it to a previous better state. That’s how it works.

How simple.

Actually, Werner is right about one thing. Homeopathy is kind of like a response to a dog pooping on your lawn. Not only is it a major stinker, but one could use homeopathy to clean off the residue of dog crap from the lawn. It is, after all, water. In case anyone doesn’t know what succussion is, too, it’s what homeopaths do with their remedies between each step on the way of diluting them into nonexistence. Basically, it’s vigorous shaking. The way homepaths prepare their remedies is that they dilute them 1:100, succuss them, dilute them 1:100 again, and so on and so forth for however many “C” the remedy is ultimately to be. If the remedy is a typical 30C remedy, that’s 30 dilutions of 1:100, or a total dilution of 10-60, or 37 orders of magnitude greater than Avagadro’s number, which guarantees that there almost certainly isn’t a single molecule left of the substance used for the homeopathy remedy. Of course, in general, it’s not a good idea to succuss bomb components. Bombmakers who do that tend to lose body parts. Now, there‘s some vibration.

After I had picked up my brain off the floor, its having oozed out of my ears as I watched this, and forced it back into my skull, I wondered just who Charlene Werner is. Apparently, in addition to homeopathy, she is a practitioner of a woo that I’ve never heard of, namely behavioral or developmental optometry. If you wnat a flavor of what developmental optometry is, I’ll refer you to Dr. Werner’s own website:

We are a holistic based optometric practice dedicated to the highest quliaty vision care for your entire family. We believe that 70% of how you physically function is through the vision system. Therefore, when the vision system is improved or enhanced it also increases overall physical wellness and performance. Don’t take our word for it … ask our patients.

70% of how we physically function is due to our vision? Where did that number come from? Why not 100%? I do understand one thing that puzzled me before. Remember how at the very beginning she mentioned how our eyes can see light and vibration? Obviously, she was combining the woo that is homeopathy with her other favored treatment modalities, which–surprise, surprise–do not appear to be evidence-based.

In any case Werner’s website emphasizes testimonials over science and is full of claims that “behavioral optometry” can treat ADHD, dyslexia, and a wide variety of other conditions. Indeed, it can even treat problems associated with autism! Now, now, I know that it could be very difficult to do a vision evaluation in an autistic child and that correcting poor vision is a good thing in any child, but the results reported on Dr. Werner’s website are truly astounding. Well, why the heck not treat autism with “visual therapy”? Dubious practitioners try everything else out. No doubt Werner combines homeopathy with visual therapy to produce a one-two punch of woo. All she needs is chelation therapy now. In any case, if vision is 70% of our “physical functioning,” then what can’t it help? Of course, I do notice a disconnect between Werner’s claims that we are “all energy” and “infinitesimal mass,” then why does she even care about the physical functioning of everything in our bodies? Just make one of those homeopathic energy bombs and fix whatever’s ailing the patient!

The really sad thing about the video above is that it’s not the worst of arguments that homeopaths make. (For that, you need Dana Ullman.) Rather, Werner’s arguments for homeopathy are pretty much standard fare, although they are not nearly as entertaining as those of, say, Lionel Milgrom. What they do show is a perfect case of crank magnetism.

Just don’t let your dog poop on Werner’s lawn. You might find yourself at the receiving end of a homeopathic energetic bomb, and you know that the more she dilutes it the stronger it gets.