Scientific Research

The Principle That Makes Homeopathy Scientifically Possible: The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts


1. Why should the popular conception of what is and is not possible in science be so wide of the mark?

Because, the common scientific outlook is wedded to materialism, despite all the evidence to the contrary of the past 100 years, and despite its being firmly negated by many important and essential aspects of quantum theory and quantum field theory – correlations, vacuum fluctuations, virtual transitions, and renormalization.

2. More specifically, what fundamental principle which scientists and science have taken for granted, is being so spectacularly violated?

Answer: that for any system, the whole is only equal to the sum of the parts implying that only the matter and energy constituting such parts can cause any observable effects. In fact all many body systems violate the principle because of information contained in correlations between their subsystems.

3. Which scientific theories violate the principle? Is it valid or invalid?

All theories of many body systems violate the principle that the whole is equal to the sum of its parts because of correlations between subsystems. Of particular interest are quantum theories of correlated virtual fluctuations since they apply to many chemical systems. All quantum field theories do so because of vacuum fluctuations and other, correlated transitions, giving rise to similar fluctuations. More generally, renormalization of the quantum field theory, in which the bare, unrenormalized, vacuum state becomes the physical, renormalized, vacuum state, does so. Vacuum fluctuations give rise to observable transitions between states (the renormalization process is crucial in theories of critical points and is central to the new theory).

Since quantum theory is the fundamental language in which all physical theories of any and all systems ultimately have to be expressed, this means that no real physical systems at all satisfy the old principle. It is completely unfounded and subscribing to it an absolute error (it is worth reflecting for a moment how this reflects on our educational system, that such a simple fact about scientific systems should so completely have escaped notice).

4. If it is invalid, what correct principle can replace it?

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts: the principle that defines the meaning of the term holistic, and which contemporary physics finds to be valid throughout the observed universe, showing it to be holistic in nature and to have the potential to support every aspect of the Perennial Philosophy [26-31]. Woe betides those who deny this principle to be the case, so infinitely poverty stricken becomes their world-view, drowned in the slough of despond of scientific materialism!

5. How do the new theories conform to the new principle?

The different proposed approaches to understanding homeopathy embody the new principle in different ways. In Torres work [9], the fact that critical regions are proposed means that cooperative phenomena will be present, guaranteeing that the new principle holds. Similarly for Weingartner [10], the requirement that the TAI obeys a non-trivial scaling law is equivalent to invoking criticality and cooperative phenomena. In the case of Milgrom [11-15], the ordering by which the whole system is no longer equal to the sum of its parts, but is actually more than it, results from quantum correlations between the states of the subsystems, patient, practitioner and remedy. Milgrom expresses these in terms of super-positions of wave functions, without invoking the more complex aspects of the system. Even in the work of Walach [33], who succumbs to materialism and professes not to believe in a TAI, the effect of his symbolic content produces hidden information that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.


These examples illustrate a new criterion for the validity of any proposed theory of homeopathy: all such theories must incorporate in their physics the principle that, ‘The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts’. Any theory that does not achieve this must inevitably be wrong.

Interestingly, this is a slightly more sophisticated restatement of an idea first proposed by Hyland [34,35], namely that any physics of holistic medicine must incorporate the physics of complexity i.e. sciences like cybernetics, systems theory, and far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics. Hyland’s proposal agrees with the analysis of Bateson [36], who placed the sciences in two mutually exclusive classes, logical / mathematical and qualitative / holistic, which he termed pleroma and creatura. According to Bateson [36] holistic medicine, being in the creatura category must depend on sciences in the same category. This is precisely what Hyland indicates – valid theories of holistic medicine can only result from scientific theories with a similar holistic vein running through them. Cybernetics, Systems Theory and Far-From-Equilibrium physics (coming under complexity) all have the right quality. In all the systems to which they apply, the principle that, ‘The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts’ is satisfied.

So, are the whole of physics and chemistry as we now know them, false? Clearly not. It is only that the wider possibilities inherent in their further reaches have not yet pervaded the scientific mindset, still less the popular mind. What is false is the supposed limitation that popular materialism imposes on what it considers scientific. The new theory of biological regulation, critical regulation [16], shows that homeopathy is certainly ‘scientifically possible’. So are many other supposedly unscientific phenomena associated with life and living systems, and complementary and alternative medicine (vide [16,21]).

The real lesson we as scientists must learn is never to deny the scientific nature of a phenomenon because we do not, or can not, yet understand it. As Jobst has put it: ‘So what if there is no immediate explanation?’ [37], and as Wootton comments [38], ‘For the truly open-minded scientists, nothing is implausible.’ It is time to cast aside the veil of illusion that science sets limitations on what can be scientifically understood. Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions [6] clearly indicates otherwise.

Milgrom [8] suggests the root of the problem lies in education: ‘While physicists benefit from up-to-date and sophisticated ideas based on modern quantum mechanics, relativity and complexity theories, these have yet to fully inform the biomedical sciences, whose theories are largely steeped in the over-simplistic determinism of the 18th and 19th centuries.’  Surely this is why ‘mainstream medical science feels outraged by practices it perceives to be a travesty of scientific understanding’ [3] – inappropriate, as Ryan [39] comments: ‘It is a foolish world that neglects the richness of traditional systems and even wishes to destroy them.’

Now is the time to bridge the gap between CAM and biomedicine with new understanding and new science: ‘New theories, particularly apparently implausible theories, demand appropriate methods developed with honesty and integrity’ [38]. All physical systems satisfy the new principle at a microscopic level. Some complex systems do so at a macroscopic level too, so violating every aspect of the old naïve principle, the basis of materialism. Holistic medicine may require holistic theories, but they are there in abundance.


Contrary to popular belief, the idea that ultra-diluted chemical solutions can have a physiological effect does NOT violate all laws of science, only materialist prejudice. Materialism posits that no effect can occur without a material cause. Quantum systems behave differently. Virtual transitions give rise to Van Der Waals forces and the Casimir Effect, while virtual fluctuations in the quantum vacuum are held to ‘stimulate’ spontaneous transitions. In chemical systems, parallel effects are possible and occur.

Materialism tacitly subscribes to the general principle that ‘The Whole is (only) Equal to the Sum of its Parts’. All correlated systems satisfy the principle that ‘The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts‘. This points to the solution to the problem of homeopathy. The advantages of expressing the solution in terms of a change in underlying principle are many:

1. The principle formalises the definition of holistic, and shows how to provide it with a quantitative definition in inequality (1).

2. In doing so, it refines Hyland’s important insight that understanding Holistic Medicine requires complexity physics [34, 35]: holistic physical theories involving correlations satisfying Eq. (3) are required.

3. It thus presents a criterion that any physical theory must satisfy for it to be applicable to homeopathy or other aspects of holistic medicine.

4. The problem of the impossibility of homeopathy disappears – though the challenge of precisely formulating the correct theory still remains[3].

With regard to ‘the whole of physics and chemistry having to be rewritten’, Vickers [3] opines, in statements of extraordinary prescience: ‘It is quite plausible that homeopathy could add to, rather than replace, existing knowledge, as a newly understood phenomenon following previously undiscovered physical laws. … Even if homeopathy were to cause fundamental changes in scientific understanding, this would probably not entail that existing knowledge ‘be thrown away’ ‘.

Generally, in all physical systems, ‘The Whole is greater than the Sum of its Parts‘, because of their underlying quantum nature. To emerge onto the macroscopic level, control theory and correlation producing complexity physics must apply as well – which is why cooperative phenomena like critical instabilities and phase transitions, are central to the new theories. When these apply, science can still ‘have its physics and chemistry’ in a world in which homeopathy is scientifically possible – and true!

I should like to acknowledge conversations with Drs Bruce and Marianne Curtis, Brian Josephson PhD, Richard Bentall FRCSEd., Lionel Milgrom PhD, Cyril Smith PhD, Noah Clinch PhD and Harry Pilcher MSc. I would also like to acknowledge the generosity of Richard Bentall, Harry Pilcher and Deborah Wright which has made the writing of this paper possible.


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Alex Hankey PhD
Hethe House, Hartfield Road,
Cowden, Kent TN8 7DZ, UK


[1] Normally, a quantum field is observed when it produces an observable transition in macroscopic matter, by means of its (material) energy.  In contrast, a quantum field of instability fluctuations can only be ‘observed’ by a highly coherent system such as occurs in an unstable material in a critical state. Close to critical points with their potential for coherent long-range macroscopic fluctuations, the right physical situation arises, but actually to be observed, these more subtle fields require far-from-equilibrium systems where fluctuations have associated energy thruput, so they can effect macroscopic transitions.  This property under these special circumstances enables quantum fluctuation fields to provide the missing concept linking the subtle aspects of a potentised medicine to gross aspects of the patient’s physiology.

[2] More generally, such energy shifts are part of a general process known as renormalisation, of fundamental importance in quantum field theory. Only those quantum field theories which can be renormalised are acceptable, those which cannot be are rejected. For 40 years, this criterion has been used to identify acceptable unified field theories including string theories.

[3] This will be the subject of future publications

About the author

Alex Hankey

Alex Hankey

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