The awe of similars
Samuel Hahnemann’s “law of similars" is one of the foundations of homeopathy and the notion that “like cures like.” That is, a substance that produces certain symptoms in a healthy person should be able to relieve those same symptoms in an unwell person.
For example, a person drinking a cup of strong coffee for the first time is likely to experience some or all of the effects of caffeine: racing thoughts, palpitations, increased urine production, shaky hands, excitability and restlessness (which is admittedly why many coffee drinkers consume the stuff in the first place).
According to Hahnemann’s law of similars, coffee should do just the opposite in a sick person already experiencing these symptoms. For example, a homeopath (someone who practices homeopathy) would treat a hyperactive child or an insomniac with a preparation of “coffee cruda,” or unroasted coffee beans. According to homeopathic hypothesis, the caffeine in the cruda would calm the kid and help the insomniac sleep.
Such notions are widely disputed, to say the least. There is very little empirical evidence, broadly accepted, that homeopathic remedies are effective treatments for any specific condition. Indeed, some homeopathic notions, such as medicinal concoctions in which the “active ingredient” has been diluted to the point of no longer actually existing in the concoction, fly in the face of scientific logic and reason.
But this blog post isn’t about celebrating the law of similars but rather the awe of the same. Many, many objects and phenomena in nature appear remarkably alike in appearance, but are, in fact, completely different or unrelated in function or purpose.
Take the two images above: The one on the left is a scanning electron micrograph of different human circulatory system cells: dimpled red blood cells, bumpy white blood cells, called lymphocytes, and disk-shaped platelets. The image on the right is a scanning electron micrograph of diverse pollen grains magnified many times.