A century of retrospection. It is a little over a century since James Tyler Kent left this world. Kent stands tall in homeopathy for his contributions to the healing art of homeopathy. He was a physician, a homeopath, and a philosopher with sharp analytical skills. We pay homage to him every time any modern repertory guides us to the simillimum, because his repertory provides the structure for nearly all modern repertories.
A century is a fairly good span of time to check the veracity and validity of concepts propounded by any scientific person. History is a harsh judge, even though it may not be an impartial one. It is said that history that survives is that which is written by the victors.
For example, Shakespeare wrote nine of his historical plays during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Queen did not encourage historical truthfulness, so Shakespeare’s plays were patriotic, and reflected the conviction that England was the best of all possible countries and the home of the most favored of mortals (1). One can rightly argue that Shakespeare was a playwright, not a historian, so he was entitled to juggle his information for the sake of effective stagecraft.
Can we say the same thing about science? We still imagine atoms in terms of Rutherford’s solar-system model, even though it is a flawed model. Yet all illustrations in our school textbooks show the solar-system model of the atom.
Similarly, beta-blockers were introduced by James Black. These drugs have been prescribed for the past four decades for heart disease and high blood pressure. However, an observational study has now confirmed that “the use of beta-blockers was not associated with a lower risk of composite cardiovascular events” (2).
In simple language – these class of drugs were found to have no beneficial effect at all. Yet, Sir Ernest Rutherford and Sir James Black who introduced these ideas, were awarded the Nobel Prize for the same theories! Indeed, the history of science is filled with far more incorrect ideas, than correct ones, and the pursuit of knowledge follows a darkened path riddled with dead ends.
Flat Earth theorist?
In present times when the world is struggling economically, politically and socially with a pandemic, it would be a good idea to take a second look at Kentian ideas. Kent held that germs and viruses are not the cause of disease. In his Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy, Kent states in the first Lecture titled “The Sick”,
“It is an insanity in medicine, an insanity that has grown out of the milder forms of mental disorder in science, crazy whims. The bacteria are results of disease. In the course of time, we will be able to show perfectly that the microscopical little fellows are not the disease cause, but that they come after, that they are scavengers accompanying the disease, and that they are perfectly harmless in every respect. They are the outcome of the disease, are present wherever the disease is, and by the microscope it has been discovered that every pathological result has its corresponding bacteria” (3).
Today, most people would laugh at Kent’s observations, and in fact people would ridicule and call a person advocating such ideas as a Flat-Earth Theorist. Where does the phrase Flat-Earth Theory come from? This term is used loosely and mostly as a metaphor in a derogatory way, and thus we do not realize its full import.
In true scientific terms and in consonance with historical facts, the concept of a “flat earth” was never the explicitly stated view in classical Greek astronomy. It was derived by implication at a later date by a few unscientific people. The classical Greek model of Thales and Pythagoras was that of an observer on a flat plane who perceives the movement of the celestial bodies on an umbrella-like celestial sphere, with the tip of the umbrella pointing to the Pole Star.
It made visualization and referencing of the relative position of the constellations of stars and the planets easy and meaningful. It did not state that the Earth was flat or spherical. It had its shortcomings, which were overcome by adding more layers to the umbrella, till this theory was replaced by a heliocentric view of the solar system.
But what is important to understand is that without understanding the flat-earth model it is impossible to build planetariums and teach astronomy, create ephemeris, predict the tides and even launch rockets. Therefore, we must follow the dictum – Never throw out the baby with the bath water! In other words, we must examine and evaluate Kent’s words with care and see what they mean in the light of current scientific understanding.
Our understanding of viruses and bacteria today
Some may argue that Kent would have held different views if he had known what we know today. So, what exactly do we know today that would lead Kent to revise his Lecture 1? To do this we need to look at various aspects.
“If all viruses suddenly disappeared, the world would be a wonderful place for about a day and a half, and then we’d all die – that’s the bottom line”. These are the words of Prof. Tony Goldberg who is an epidemiologist and a pathobiologist (4). His research focuses on the ecology, epidemiology and evolution of infectious disease. He comes to this conclusion after combining his knowledge gained from field and laboratory studies on how pathogens in dynamic ecosystems are transmitted among hosts, across complex landscapes, and over time.
Another good place to start would be the recent example of the SARS-CoV2 virus. All of us visualize this virus to be a coloured (usually grey) spherical object with spikes of glycoproteins sticking out of the outer surface (usually red).
Does the virus really “look” like this? For one thing, this virus cannot be “seen” with an optical microscope, and they are not coloured. So, it must be seen in the mind’s eye, i.e., imagined. Such popular pictorial representations are created by medical illustrators. Dr David Goodsell is one such world-class illustrator who makes water colour art to show us the interior of cells and viruses (5).
He is an associate professor of Computational Biology at the Scripps Research Institute and also research Professor at Rutgers University, New Jersey. His artwork is used by leading medical and science journals like Nature, Science, Atomic Evidence among others.
He created the paintings of HIV, Ebola and other molecules for journals and textbooks. He says his job is to give armchair scientists “an intuitive sense of how these may look”.
A good analogy would be the London Tube map created by Harry Beck in 1931. This “map” has guided millions over the years, but it is only a schematic representation – it is far removed from the geographic reality. The London Tube map is functional and explanatory no doubt, but not the reality.
The same analogy applies to the pictorial representation of the SARS-CoV2 we see in journals, newspapers and TV shows. The problem is, such icons may survive for decades, with the risk that they tend to close off other avenues of inquiry, as was shown with the iconic solar-system model of the atom.
One of the most infamous viruses in recent times, and one that has been around for a few decades is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Prof. Peter Duesberg, a renowned molecular biologist states that “There is no virological, nor epidemiological, evidence to back-up the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. Instead, the virus is biochemically inactive and harmless, and AIDS is not behaving as a contagious disease. HIV is a ‘harmless passenger’” (6).
Another authoritative source is Prof. Gordon Stewart, who was advisor on AIDS to the World Health Organization and emeritus professor at Glasgow University. In his essay Limitations of the Germ Theory in The Lancet, he stated:
“The germ theory is a gross oversimplification and has become a dogma because it neglects the many other factors which have a part to play in deciding whether the host/ germ/ environment complex is to lead to infection” (7).
Prof. Stewart cannot be taken lightly – in the year 1991 and 1992, his prediction numbers of AIDS cases in the UK were accurate within 1.6% and 2.5% while all other predictions were off the mark by anywhere between 200% and 1,000%. He was perhaps unknowingly, echoing the thoughts of Kent’s Lecture 14 on susceptibility.
It is interesting to note that even Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo who led the teams that discovered HIV, have at various times since the epidemic began suggested “HIV might be a co-factor in AIDS, not its exclusive causative agent” (8).
A More Holistic View of Pathogens
Dr. John Paterson and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Paterson, who continued the work of Dr. Edward Bach in the development of Bowel Nosodes, gave us a more mature understanding of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Paterson said, “It must now be accepted as scientific fact that specific germs, in many cases of disease can be isolated and identified”, and went on to question, “But is it a true conclusion that the specific germ is always the cause of the disease?” (9). He found that in a state of health the germs in the intestinal tract perform a useful function – a fact confirmed a century later by Prof. Tony Goldberg.
Paterson discovered that when the intestinal mucosa is healthy the B. Coli was non-pathogenic. Any change in the host which affected the intestinal mucosa would upset the balance and would be followed by a change in the habit and the bio-chemistry of the B. Coli, which could then be said to become pathogenic.
He went on to state that, “It should be noted that the primary change, i.e., the disease, originated in the host, which compelled the bacillus to modify its habit in order to survive”.
He later made another startling discovery through experiment and observation. He found that even the action of a potentized remedy, which sets up the process of an “artificial disease”, causes changes in bowel flora.
This was followed by appearance of bacilli associated with typhoid and paratyphoid, but the person remained perfectly healthy – in fact better than before. The appearance of the pathogenic germs was the result of the disturbance in the Vital Force caused by the potentized remedy and importantly, presence of the bacilli did not cause disease.
Hahnemann had cautioned us that homeopathy is not theoretical medicine – it is one of the few medical disciplines that is based on principles of observation and a philosophy. So, would Kent be justified to change his view that viruses/ bacteria are a product of disease (harmless passenger) and not its cause? Many scientists like Stewart and Duesberg are echoing the views of Kent, as did the experiments and observations of Paterson.
Using Old Models for New
Kent in his Lectures states that, “Allopaths say that science of medicine is based on the consensus of opinion”. Not much has changed in this regard. Current medical literature considers Evidence Based Medicine to be a “process of consensus generation through use of experts to scientifically deliberate on carefully selected relevant literature” (10).
Best evidence of this phenomenon can be found at the Cochrane library where most meta-analyses end with no conclusion due to lack of consistent evidence. This arrangement may be acceptable to draw guidelines for “best practices”, but certainly do not conform to the rigorous standards of scientific reasoning and hypothesis.
This matter has been highlighted by Dr. John Ioannidis, who is Professor of Medicine/Health Research & Policy/ Biomedical Data Science/ Statistics, Stanford University, and whose work has been cited more than 334,000 times. In a paper that is considered foundational to the field of metascience, Ioannidis states that, “It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false” (11). Most medical research papers contain results that cannot be replicated or reproduced. This has serious implications because reproducibility, a major principle of scientific method, forms the basis of therapeutic interventions.
Do Kent’s views qualify as a scientific hypothesis? Hypotheses must be testable, falsifiable, logical and amenable to inductive reasoning. Kent may not have achieved all the above during his lifetime, but the few examples quoted above would support Kentian thought.
Evidence Based Medicine must test hypotheses on the basis of experiments and controls and carefully avoid bias. Let us take the case of the measles vaccine development. We all take it for granted that this vaccine, used worldwide for the past many decades, must be meeting the “gold standard” of controlled experiments.
A German virologist, who discovered the maritime virus Ectocarpus siliculosus in algae in 1987, found during his research that there was no medical literature available for isolation of the virus and controlled trials of measles vaccine. He made inquiries at the Koch Institute where the research had been conducted but did not get a reply confirming that controlled trials had ever been conducted.
To highlight this matter, he offered a reward of € 100,000 to anyone who could prove the existence of the measles virus. One person claimed to have the evidence and went to Court to claim the reward. The matter was finally settled by the Supreme Court and the final ruling upheld the claim of the German virologist (11).
Kent on Nosodes
This brings us to nosodes. Kent’s words can serve as an eyeopener. In his lecture on Tuberculinum, Kent says, “… in certain places it prevails and is taught that anything relating to syphilis must be treated with Syphilinum; and anything that relates to tuberculosis must be treated with Tuberculinum. That will go out of use some day; it is mere isopathy, and it is an unsound doctrine. It is not the better idea of Homoeopathy. It is not based upon sound principles. It belongs to a hysterical Homoeopathy that prevails in this century. Yet much good has come out of it. It is hoped that provings may be made so that we may be able to prescribe Tuberculinum on the symptoms of Tuberculinum just as we would use any drug” (13).
In view of Kent’s advice, should we be viewing nosodes of every epidemic through the restricted window of finding a panacea for that specific disease? Rather, such nosodes should be investigated so that they could be used as we use any other remedy.
False Positives, False Negatives and Placebo
The current crisis of Covid-19 has taught many lessons and requires Kent’s thoughts to be re-examined. Let us examine the philosophy of determining sickness and disease by the RT-PCR testing of Covid-19. I shall not be going into the merits and demerits of the testing methodology or its suitability for Covid-19 but let us assume that it is both suitable and valid.
The RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 are reported to give false negative results in 27% of nasal and 40% of throat samples, and false positive in 95% (13). Even for a test with 99% sensitivity and specificity, 16% of positive results will be false (14).
What does this say? It means 16% of the people with the test detecting the virus are not diseased. Further, if we add the false negative cases, we find that 27% of the population tested with nasal swabs are having the disease but are virus free. So, that means the virus is a “harmless passenger” only (6).
If we look at the effect of placebo, once again Kent’s views are relevant today. For years, a placebo effect was considered a sign of failure, or rather an embarrassment in a drug trial. How placebos work is still not quite understood.
Researchers have often discovered that the placebo is 50% as effective as the real drug (15). If any drug is indeed anti-viral or anti-bacterial or anti-parasitic, how does a sugar pill cure? Once again, we are forced to review Kent’s statement about viruses/ bacteria being mere accompaniments to the disease, and not necessarily the cause, a thought that has been repeated by later day researchers.
We all accept that the world is not flat, but in a sense, it is no longer “round” either. It is being “flattened” by multiple trans-disciplinary, trans-national information exchange. Therefore, instead of being embarrassed by Kent’s thoughts on the non-causal relationship between virus/bacteria and disease, it should be re-examined by homoeopaths. That would be the best way to pay homage to James Tyler Kent on his death anniversary.
|1.||Utah Shakespeare Festival. [Online]. Available from: https://tinyurl.com/shakespeare-usf.|
|2.||Bangalore S, Steg G, Deedwania P, etal. β-Blocker Use and Clinical Outcomes in Stable Outpatients With and Without Coronary Artery Disease. JAMA. 2012; 308(13): p. 1340-1349.|
|3.||Kent JT. Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy New Delhi: B jain Publishers (P) Ltd; 2005.|
|4.||Nuwer R. BBC Future. [Online].; 2020. Available from: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200617-what-if-all-viruses-disappeared.|
|5.||Rinaldi A. More than meets the eye. EMBO Reports. 2012 October; 13(10): p. 895-9.|
|6.||Duesberg P, Mandrioli D, McCormack A, etal. AIDS since 1984: no evidence for a new, viral epidemic–not even in Africa. Ital J Anat Embryo. 2011; 116(2): p. 73-92.|
|7.||Stewart G. Limitations of Germ Theory. The Lancet. 1968; 291(7551): p. 1077-1081.|
|8.||Papadopulos E, Turner V, etal. A critical analysis of the HIV-T4-cell-AIDS hypothesis Duesberg P, editor.: Kluwer Academic Publishers; 1996.|
|9.||Paterson J. The Bowel Nosodes London: Nelsons; 1950.|
|10.||Sop A. Medical Literature and Scientific Consensus. Journal of Orthopaedic Case Reports. 2015; 5(2): p. 1-2.|
|11.||Ioannidis JP. Why most published research findings are false. PLoS Medicine. 2005 August; 2(8).|
|12.||Lanka S. Wissenschafftplus. 2015: p. 38-44.|
|13.||Kent JT. Lectures on Homeopathic Materia Medica New Delhi: Jain Publishing Company; 1971.|
A lovely and thoughtful essay. Thank you!