Tuesday, March 17, 2015

#1319: David Anick

I think this picture is pretty old

David Anick is an MD, mathematician and researcher into homeopathy and, in particular, water memory. The level of crackpot pseudoscience in his contributions is pretty impressive, and his supposed mathematical model for why homeopathic dilution works and for why the standard dilutions are correct, as described in his paper “The octave potencies convention: a mathematical model of dilution and succession,” is torn to shreds here. Rarely has mathematics been more badly mangled than here. To put it briefly, mathematical modeling may be tricky, and at the very least it requires abstracting the properties of a real system that you want to model, finding a model that matches observations, developing the model, and then validating it against tests. And Anick’s paper manage to get all those steps as wrong as one can conceivable get. Of course, the paper was published in a rather well-known pseudojournal: Homeopathy. To put it diplomatically, Homeopathy is not a place to turn to for medical information.

In short, David Anick is apparently completely incompetent at what he is doing, which is – to begin with – one of the most ridiculous branches of quasi-religious pseudoscience there is. But here is the thing. David Anick was, at the time of writing the paper, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital (currently he’s at the Marino Center for Integrative Health), and he does have a PhD in mathematics. Accordingly, many commentators took his paper to be a hoax, which it apparently it wasn’t (Anick has written other papers for the same journal as well, including “The silica hypothesis for homeopathy: physical chemistry,” with John A. Ives, the Senior Director of the Center for Brain, Mind, and Healing at the Samueli Institute, who also has a history of making efforts to change the standards of scientific evidence to make homeopathy come out efficacious). The whole situation is, in other words, rather sad. Anick is apparently still working on a mathematical modeling of homeopathy.

Diagnosis: Breathtaking pseudoscience. Utterly breathtaking. Yet people apparently fall for this shit (Anick has received a pretty substantial German Wikipedia page, for instance).

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