Monday, April 18, 2005

Benveniste could not reproduce his own experiments and water still has no memory

In 1985 Benveniste began experimenting with human white blood cells involved in allergic reactions, called basophils. These possess tiny granules containing substances such as histamine, partly responsible for the allergic response. The granules can be stained with a special dye, but they can be decolourised (degranulated) by a substance called anti-immunoglobulin E or aIgE. Benveniste claimed that he continued to observe basophil degranulation even when the aIgE had been diluted out of existence, but only as long as each dilution step, as with the preparation of homoeopathic remedies, was accompanied by strong agitation.

In 1988 he and colleagues managed to publish a paper in Nature (Nature 1988; 333:316-318) that appeared to demonstrate that homeopathically prepared antiserum for IgE could cause human basophil degranulation. This appeared to be clear evidence of the efficacy of a homeopathic remedy , since no placebo response was possible in isolated cells.

Benveniste could not reproduce his own experiments, that is fact. The only ones capable of repeating the experiment were first his assistant Davenas and later his assistant Jamal. Benveniste has even tried to get a paper published on the Jamal-effect, that would explain why nobody else could replicate the experiment. Like the parapsychologists explaining that paranormal feats can not be reproduced when there is a skeptic around. Benveniste apparently choose not to use Occam's razor, which suggests more likely explanations such as: Davenas and Jamal are not capable of carrying out a proper experiment, or they're not capable of making correct measurements, or they're not capable of handling the equipment or they have given Benveniste the results he wanted to please him.

Benveniste's own last public words before he died, suggest that he himself was unable to ever reliably replicate his own work. Here it says: After his own experience, Benveniste advises caution. "This is interesting work, but Rey's experiments were not blinded and although he says the work is reproducible, he doesn't say how many experiments he did," he says. "As I know to my cost, this is such a controversial field, it is mandatory to be as foolproof as possible."

Since Benveniste (or anyone else) could not reproduce his own experiments, homeopathy still appears to be an elaborate method for the manufacture of placebos.

Interesting links:
Experiments past and future
(the original, with tables, pictures and links)
Human basophil degranulation is not triggered by very dilute antiserum against human IgE
(A subsequent study by Hirst et al., duplicated the conditions under which Benveniste reported positive results and could find no effect of the treatment on degranulation (Nature 1993; 366: 525-527).)
Homeopathy: The Test - programme summary
Thanks for the memory
Icy claim that water has memory

See who links to your web site.