5X5 Episode 31

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5X5 Episode 31
Digital Homeopathy
4th August 2008

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5X5 30 5X5 32
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
M: Mike Lacelle
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Digital Homeopathy 20 years after Benveniste[edit]

Voice-over: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide 5x5, five minutes with five skeptics, with Steve, Jay, Rebecca, Bob and Evan.

S: This is the SGU 5X5 and tonight we are talking about homeopathy. This is 20th anniversary of the seminal scientific paper in 1988 written by Jacques Benveniste and published in the journal Nature, which has sparked a tremendous amount of controversy within scientific circles.[1] The study did not convince the scientific community that homeopathy – which is the dilution of remedies beyond the point of there being any original substance left behind – did not convince them that homeopathy worked or was plausible. What it did do was reveal a great deal of poor science and even fraud in Jacques Benveniste's lab.

R: Yeah, and the sad thing is that even though there was a whole team of scientists and James Randi who went out there and figured out what was going on in the lab, which was that lab assistants were affecting the– changing the samples. Even though it was thoroughly investigated at the time and proven to be a faulty experiment, it still has inspired so much crap! People still buy into homeopathy.

J: I was surprised that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, that's brought some incredible innovations to the world of the military and, of course, home consumers, they even studied some of these claims and they came to the conclusion, there's a quote here: "Our team found no replicable effects from digital signals"[2]

S: Yeah, that was one of Benveniste's real legacies is that he came up with this idea that you could digitize homeopathic remedies and then email them across the world through the internet and then the healing power of the remedy will be – of the digitized remedy – could then be transferred into fresh water at the other end. That takes the ridiculous to whole new levels.

E: A digital homeopathy sufferer kit costs about a thousand dollars. And you can start treating yourselves and others if you go ahead and buy this kit and start making up your own homeopathic remedies. Just a way of, a modern way of, selling a very old idea using the web and the internet to come up with just a new scheme of making money.

S: Uh huh. Right.

J: A thousand dollars!

S: I love the diagram they have on this one website about digital homeopathy.[3] It's supposed to illustrate how it works.

Step 1: The remedy or substance is placed into the chamber.
Step 2: Vibrational energy travels to the amplifier.

S: Vibrational energy!

E: Vibrational energy.

S: (continues quote)

Step 3: Amplified signal is sent to the computer and for using a computer sound card and software the vibrational signature is saved as a sound file.

M: Step 5: Profit!

S: And then all you have to do is...

J: Hah, hah, hah.

S: Yeah and step five is extract money from wallet!

E: Cash check

S: Uhh, unbelievable. It is just magic. It is pure and simple magic, but they couch it in scientific sounding terminology.

M: You could take this to the next level and instead of pharmacies you'll have digital pharmacies. You get your Plavix though your iPod or something like that.

S: Uh huh.

M: It's just, it's kind of silly. Obviously. You could just even take it to the next level and get some pizza through your USB port. Which would be pretty awesome!

R: Homeopathic pizza? Not so good.

S: Homeopathic pizza, yeah. So this is part of a new category of marketing scams. I mean, who doesn't want to sell electrons? Right? For money! You're selling people just digital files. They cost you nothing to make or reproduce. So if you could sell just the idea that with sound waves or specific sights or sounds that you could have a healing effect, or some kind of magical effect. Man, that is the ultimate pay day for scam artists because they don't even have to have a physical product.

J: Bits, not atoms.

S: That's right.

E: Now, where does an organization, like the Food and Drug Administration or somebody, step in and look into this? And try to put a stop to it?

S: Well as long as they use enough weasel words and don't specifically claim to treat or cure a disease the FDA has no jurisdiction. The Federal Trade Commission can go after them for false advertising. But, again, they just have to be careful in how they say it. Oftentimes, FTC fines amount to a slap on the wrist to the cost of doing business. They have been more effective recently, trying to crack down on stuff like this but the scam artists can easily just stay a couple of steps ahead of them. And there are just so much profit to be had selling nonsense and false hope that the existing regulation is just not adequate to deal with it.

E: So what's to stop us, Steve, from announcing that all of a sudden we're going to start to broadcast homeopathic transmissions on AM carriers. And all you have to do is turn in, tune in your AM radio to a specific frequency at a specific time, hold a glass of water next to it and there you go! You'll have your homeopathic remedy. Is there anything stopping anybody from doing something like that?

S: Uhh... ethics?


S: The fact that we are not evil, comes to mind.

J: So why not cut out the middle man, listen to it directly and have it imprint on the copious amounts of water in the human body?

S: Well that's what they're doing, you put the headphones on and heal while you relax. To a digital homeopathic tune.

E: We have entered the Twilight Zone.

S: SGU 5x5 is a companion podcast to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a weekly science podcast brought to you by the New England Skeptical Society in association with skepchick.org. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Music is provided by Jake Wilson.


  1. Davenas E, Beauvais F, Amara J, et al. (June 1988). "Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE". Nature 333 (6176): 816–8. doi:10.1038/333816a0. PubMed abstract
  2. Jonas, W. B., Ives, J. A., Rollwagen, F., et al. (2006). "Can specific biological signals be digitized?". The FASEB journal, 20(1), 23-28. PubMed abstract; Full text
  3. StreamingRemedies.com Digital Homeopathy (scroll down to "How are remedies digitized?" for diagram)
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