Quackery Unmasked/Chapter VI
HOMŒOPATHY CONTINUED. TESTIMONY IN FAVOR OF HOMŒOPATHY CONSIDERED—–DIFFERENT KINDS OF WITNESS REQUIRED TO PROVE DIFFERENT MATTERS—–WITCHES, ETC.
I am told that there must be some truth in Homœopathy, or so many intelligent people would not patronize it. This is an erroneous conclusion. If this were the rule of evidence, it would establish as true all the false schemes in medicine and religion that have ever been put forth. By this rule, Paganism, Mahometanism, and Mormonism, would at the same time be proved true; and by this rule Perkinsism, Thomsonism, and Chrono-thermalism, would each be established as the best mode of medical practice. Each one of these has enjoyed the patronage and support of numerous intelligent and respectable individuals. If it is claimed that the followers of Samuel Hahnemann are more numerous than the followers of Samuel Thomson, and therefore Homœopathy should have the preference, I answer that the number of competent judges who support the regular system of rational medicine, compared with those who support Homœopathy, is at least a thousand to one of the latter, and therefore by that rule Homœopathy must surely fall.
It may be well to consider the worth of popular testimony. In law and reason, a good witness is one who is both able and willing to testify correctly. To be competent, the witness must understand the subject upon which he is to give evidence. If the question to be decided regard the purity of a certain piece of metal, then the goldsmith, the chemist, or mineralogist, is the proper witness. If it regard the genuineness or value of certain bank notes, another set of witnesses will be required—the president and cashiers of banks, brokers, and other business men, may be the most competent. If it regard mechanics, a different class of witnesses will be necessary. But if it is a question of law, none of the foregoing witnesses are worth anything; they may all be very honest, but not being learned in the science of law, they are incompetent, and their opinions are worth nothing; such questions must be settled by lawyers and civilians.
Now Homœopathy does not gain proselytes by teaching its true principles. Such a course would be suicidal, and soon exterminate the sect; but it is propagated by other means. It is obvious that the public are always desirous for something new in every department of science and business. They see that all the means which have hitherto been employed for the restoration of the sick, often fail; the healing art is acknowledged to be imperfect; the sick bed, with all its medical appliances, is a subject of dread. Every one would prefer to be treated by remedies more agreeable and more sure, and Homœopathy, like every other species of quackery, promises all this. It points to the improvements that are continually being made in mechanics, and beguiles the patient with the notion that Homœopathy is a new discovery, which compares with regular medicine as the most perfect machine does with the rudest ancient model. Such are the considerations which induce many intelligent persons to try this kind of medical practice. They are assured that the medicine is powerful to cure, but always perfectly safe, and can never do the least harm. It is easy to take, and subjects the patient to no inconvenience. If true, it is the kind of medication which every one would choose. The patient has neither the time nor the means of examining the principles of the proposed method; but believing it to be something new, he concludes, of course, that it must be an improvement upon all former methods. Here is where the mistake is made—instead of being new, Homœopathy is at least half a century old; and instead of being an improvement known only to homœopathists, the whole has long been known, examined, tried and rejected by all competent judges throughout the world. It is not a system founded upon actual discoveries, for its originator never made a single new discovery; on the contrary, every particle of knowledge which its practitioners possess (when they have any at all) has been derived wholly from that system of rational medicine which they pretend so much to despise. Homoeopathy itself is as destitute of all truth and of everything that is valuable, as Sahara is of herbage. In itself, it is a boundless desert; without a single oasis—having neither flowers, nor fruits, nor springs of water, to refresh the fainting traveller.
If it is still insisted that the number and respectability of the supporters of Homœopathy are proofs in its favor, we might urge, with much more propriety, the truth of Divination, Sorcery and Witchcraft. The believers in these delusions have been far more numerous, and their attestations far more imposing. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, all Europe brooded over the doctrine of Witchcraft. All ranks and conditions of men, from the mitred prelate to the humblest cottager, and from the king upon the throne to the beggar at his gates, all were firm believers in this terrible infatuation. Judicial tribunals became courts of inquisition, and thousands of the innocent and unoffending were suspected to be guilty, and put to death. For more than two centuries, this monstrous delusion sat like a mighty incubus upon all the civilized world; and more than a hundred thousand persons fell victims to its rage. The whole amount of testimony in support of Homœopathy, compared with that which supported Witchcraft, is little more than a single grain compared with the amount required to reduce it to the thirtieth attenuation; and if the present testimony in favor of Homœopathy proves that there is truth in it, then Witchcraft was proved by evidence more than a million times as strong. This state of things had scarcely passed by, when Hahnemann came upon the stage. Germany had been the theatre upon which this dreadful infatuation had played its direst pranks. In that devoted country, thousands perished annually; victims bled every day; the sun rose and set in blood, and the earth drank it in like water. This blood had scarcely dried up—the witchfire had scarcely gone out—the wailings of the victims still echoed among the mountains, when Hahnemann was born. The first air he breathed was pregnant with fanaticism, and his first lessons were ghost stories. Superstition had filled the lurid atmosphere with spirits of witches, ghosts, hobgoblins, and devils of a thousand forms, and the wildest frenzy took possession of all minds. Is it strange that, under such controlling influences, Hahnemann should have become a visionary maniac?