Scientific Research

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

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


This paper examines the materialist, scientific view that homeopathy is necessarily contrary to all known laws of science, and shows it not to be the case. Recent theoretical advances contradict it. They indicate that systems involving correlations at both microscopic and macroscopic levels provide appropriate models. Materialism posits that no effect can occur without a material cause, failing to take into account the more abstract concept of information. It effectively holds that, for all systems, ‘The Whole is (only) Equal to the Sum of its Parts’. However, systems exhibiting correlations between subsystems possess hidden information, so that:

‘The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts’

a principle for which a quantitative definition is given. The principle is well known and applies widely – for a system to be holistic, it must be true. To avoid violating scientific laws, theories of homeopathy must satisfy it – Holistic Medicine can only be described by appropriately holistic physics. By way of illustration, it is shown how the principle applies to the analysis of homeopathy itself, and to various theories of homeopathy.


It is often said that the possibility of physiological action of potentised homeopathic medicines is ruled out by modern science. Editors of top medical journals refuse to publish articles on them [1]; invited editorials say they “cannot possibly produce any effect” [2]; the debate does not conform to normal scientific standards [3,4]; “The medical and scientific community has generally dismissed homeopathy because of a lack of plausible mechanism”, and despite properties of complex systems [5]. There is every indication of an incipient scientific revolution [6].

Dylan Evans expresses the general misconception in his book, Placebo [7], as follows,”There is no place in our current scientific theories for any possible mechanism by which homeopathy might work.” Again, “either homeopathy is simply a placebo, or the whole of physics and chemistry as we know them are false.” Milgrom [8] quotes Ennis similarly: “if the findings of the pan-European experiment (Ennis) was part of, were repeated, the whole of physics and chemistry might have to be rewritten.”

In point of fact nothing could be further from the truth.  Recent advances indicate that the therapeutically active ingredient (TAI) of a homeopathic remedy has a quantum form connected to critical points. Torres [9], shows that critical points on networks provide suitable systems; Weingartner [10], that the TAI must obey scaling laws. In a heroic series of articles [11-15], Milgrom derives many known aspects of homeopathic medicine from his intuition that the TAI is a quantum wave function.

Recently, a new model of cellular regulation has been used to show how an ultra-diluted solution of a toxin can reactivate a physiological system, deactivated by the original toxin – a scientific derivation of the principle underlying homeopathy [16]. The new theory of cellular regulation uses a new physical concept, critical regulation, based on well-known work by Prigogine [17], who pointed out that critical instabilities necessarily occur in biological control systems.

The theory suggests that such instabilities can be dynamic attractors on which regulation becomes centered. The TAI is then identified as quantised critical point fluctuations since they can cause transitions in critically regulated systems. Significantly, there are reasons why such fluctuations can be activated by dilution and succussion – a theory emerges in agreement with the work of Torres [9] and Weingartner [10], consistent with Milgrom’s intuition [11-15].

That the work of four separate scientists, pursuing quite different lines of approach to the problem of the TAI should result in a single self-consistent theory suggests that a genuine scientific theory of homeopathy may soon be completed. It appears to be a quantum theory of cooperative phenomena at far-from-equilibrium critical instability points. The mere possibility of such a theory, however, raises important philosophical questions:

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

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

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

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

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


Answers indicated by the proposed theory of homeopathy [16], derive from the anomalous physics it entails. It uses unusual properties of physical systems: critical points where matter is unstable [18,9], such as occur in regulatory systems of living organisms [17]; that critical instability fluctuations obey scaling laws [19,10]; that in far-from-thermodynamic-equilibrium systems, instability fluctuations can induce phase transitions [20]; and the highly anomalous nature of the quantum fields of chemical instability fluctuations in the physiology [11-16,21-22], which thus have the power to induce observable phase transitions[1].

All these elements of the theory possess properties contradicting common sense materialist science. Materialism posits the idea that all effect requires a material cause: without matter or energy, there can be no cause and effect. To the materialist, if all matter is removed, and a vacuum created, no effects can result from that lack of matter – it can have no action. Quantum theory and quantum field theory, however, are well-known to violate the mechanical materialist outlook; critical instabilities do so because they produce long range correlations so that different elements of the system are no longer independent of each other – independence of parts is a general supposition of the materialist perspective (see (2) below).

First consider quantum systems: the necessity of material causes seems true in the macroscopic world, and remains true in the early quantum theories of Bohr, Heisenberg and Schroedinger, but it is not true in quantum theories of complex systems, because of the correlations pointed out by Einstein [23]. Nor is it true of quantum fields. In quantum field theory, the vacuum state itself is regarded as an infinite superposition of the ‘bare vacuum’ together with all possible ‘vacuum fluctuations’, consisting of all possible transitions from vacuum to vacuum with a virtual something in between. Virtual transitions, including vacuum fluctuations, virtual though they may be, are well recognized to produce real effects in matter and energy around them. They result in the famous Lamb Shift, in which two quantum states of the Hydrogen atom of otherwise equal energy are shifted relative to each other. If virtual transitions become correlated with similar virtual transitions in neighbouring systems in the environment, further energy shifts take place. Van Der Waals forces between non-polar chemical molecules, and the Casimir Effect, in which two parallel, uncharged conducting plates exert a measurable attractive force on each other, both arise in this way. The lowering of energies increases when such systems are closer to each other, giving rise to the forces between them[2].  In the Casimir effect, the cause may be visualised: tiny fluctuations in electrical polarisation in each plate spontaneously become correlated because this lowers their energy. The mechanics is clearly identical to quantum theory’s use of correlated virtual transitions, as outlined above, since quantum transitions are required to produce the tiny polarisations in each plate, and correspondingly virtual transitions to produce fluctuating polarisations.

In the case of the quantum vacuum, spontaneous emission of quanta from any system, such as light from an atom in a light bulb, can be considered an effect of the vacuum and its fluctuations. This is seen most clearly from the theory of lasers. A state of n photons stimulates photon emission multiplying its probability by a factor of (n + 1). The extra 1 in the (n + 1) means that when no photons of the field are present, the vacuum state still has a stimulating effect. ‘Spontaneous emission’ can be attributed to stimulation by a residual potential in the vacuum state – its fluctuations, consisting of virtual, vacuum to vacuum, transitions.

If all this is known and understood, what is the problem with homeopathy?

If a quantum nothing, the quantum vacuum, can create effects by inducing transitions, why shouldn’t homeopathic remedies, similar kinds of nothing, in the form an ultra diluted solutions, also create effects inducing transitions in the physiology? The answer according to the new theory [16] is that they do, but the problem with accepting this possibility is two fold: first, the naïve materialism of popular scientific outlook, and second,  the difficulty of seeing chemical systems in quantum terms. In fact, the new theories [11-16] adopt the latter perspective, but the first may still blind a person from seeing it.

The problem lies in the apparent objectivity of what is being diluted. We think matter is ‘real’ because we can reach out and touch it, we can see it, taste it and smell it, all in a self-consistent way. We know matter is made of atoms, and therefore tend to think about them in exactly the same way, despite the fact that as scientists, we know equally well that they can only be adequately described by quantum theory with all its anomalies compared to the classical physics of the macroscopic world. We still tend to think of atoms as little, real, objects of the kind we see on the table in front of us – which they are not. As quantum entities they are not objectively real [24]. They have very different properties, and behave in surprisingly different ways. Naïve materialism fails to take this into account.

About the author

Alex Hankey

Alex Hankey

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