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Tags homeopathy , education

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Old 22nd March 2007, 01:13 AM   #1
Badly Shaved Monkey
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Unscientific degrees- homeopathy again!

http://www.nature.com/news/2007/0703...l/446352a.html

David Colquhoun also was also on the Today programme (BBC Radio 4) this morning confronting the usual mealy-mouthed defence of teaching this tosh as if it is true.
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Old 22nd March 2007, 01:24 AM   #2
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Quote:
Nature contacted the universities of Westminster, Central Lancashire and Salford for an official response from the institution on whether they think the BSc tag is justified for their homeopathy courses. All declined to comment.
Grrr... now there's a surprise.

Good to see you back, BSM.
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Old 22nd March 2007, 05:25 AM   #3
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I’m close to someone who – to her misfortune in many different ways - did one of these degrees at one of those universities. I’m about to bang on a bit about it, but first a disclaimer: I’m reporting my views and my perceptions of this person’s views, not her own views. I can’t speak for this person, only she can. All observations about the courses are based on what I’ve heard, in some cases seen, and occasionally read.

Anyway, obviously, we’ve done a lot of talking about this. One point is to say that actually, these degrees do contain ‘science’: pretty much as a pre-requisite for the BSc label, people studying homeopathy, at this particular institution at least, actually sit in various classes such as physiology, taught by proper scientists, usually sitting in with students from other courses such as Biomedical Sciences, etc. In fact, the ‘proper science’ bit is enough to be considered acceptable to certain high-level biomedical courses, based on degree transcripts.

But.

But, but, but.

These classes are one thing; but of course, a major component of the course is, well, rather different.

The homeopathy element of the course is often, as you might expect, in direct opposition to the proper scientific aspects of the course: I’ve heard tales of staff in the homeopathy dept. directly undermining the mainstream teaching, giving surreal and absurd ‘alt. histories’ of medicine (which grossly misrepresent the historical role of homeopathy), imparting nonsensical and plainly wrong biological, medical, psychological, chemical, and philosophical information, &c. &c. &c.

This is probably as you might expect. But there are more problems, beyond the poor teaching, fictional subject matter and confusing dissonance between modules. For instance, from what I gather, students on these courses are blatantly misled about what they can do with their degree once they have them, from the word go.

Many come onto these courses believing that they will be able, once qualified (and ‘licenced’), to work in the NHS as a homeopath. They are told that their degrees are equivalent to a MBBS or similar, and that it’s only an historical hangover that they are not yet allowed to be addressed as ‘doctor’. They are told time and again that they are ‘medically trained’, ‘trained in research’, ‘licenced to practice medicine’, and so on.

What it comes down to is, that the majority of people enrolling on these courses are victims of the same charlatans, and in a very similar way, as are the ‘patients’ of homeopaths. Young minds are lured with misinformation and false promises, onto a course the main part of which is more like indoctrination than learning.

Through our discussions, I’ve reached a conclusion that the Homeopathy BSc. is essentially a Joint Honours degree, though mislabelled. The scientific element is just enough to be able to call the degree a BSc., whilst the other element is, of course, anything but. The major difference, of course, between this and a normal Joint Honours degree, is that the non-science part sets itself in direct opposition to the science part, thus creating a lot of Very Confused Graduates.

And I’ve also come to the conclusion that the degree is hard, challenging, and does actually enable the student, if they are so inclined, to develop some useful clinical skills, with the emphasis on ‘holism’, communication, empathy, etc. which can all be transferable skills.

The person I know who did this course is very intelligent, and can be quite dazzling with her critical skills when she wants to be; but she found herself on the degree at a time when she feels she was a bit lost, and, like a religion, this degree seemed to offer answers and solutions. I can only speculate that many, many people are in a similar position.

She herself finds that, as she is now some time down the road, her feelings and opinions are still unresolved. Her ambivalence and confusion, whilst changing in colour, have never really left; though she has amazed me with her strength of character to be able to confront some of these issues head-on.

What to do?

On the one hand, we have institutions that should know better peddling nonsense and calling it a degree, presumably for financial purposes.

On the other, we have intelligent people being bamboozled by this system, and investing their lives and minds into something which is at best mis-sold to them.

Obviously, these courses should be ended, and quickly. But whilst I fervently hope that happens, I also hope that it is born in mind during the process that the students of these courses are not to blame; and that whilst the courses should be denounced, and the universities vilified, the graduates themselves should be given the credit they deserve.

My own solution, were I charged with sorting out this mess, would be to make the universities write to every graduate of these courses with an apology, a full explanation, and an offer: keep your existing BSc.; opt for recertification as a Joint Honours Degree, perhaps in Biomedical Science with Alternative Medicine; or return to university for a top-up course to receive a full BSc. in a science subject (all fees and expenses paid by the offending institutions, obviously).

Unprecedented in academia I think, yes, but then this is as far as I’m aware an unprecedented debacle in the first place.
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Old 22nd March 2007, 06:02 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Nucular View Post
...these degrees do contain ‘science’: pretty much as a pre-requisite for the BSc label, people studying homeopathy, at this particular institution at least, actually sit in various classes such as physiology, taught by proper scientists, usually sitting in with students from other courses such as Biomedical Sciences, etc. In fact, the ‘proper science’ bit is enough to be considered acceptable to certain high-level biomedical courses, based on degree transcripts.... the degree is hard, challenging, and does actually enable the student, if they are so inclined, to develop some useful clinical skills, with the emphasis on ‘holism’, communication, empathy, etc. which can all be transferable skills.
It'd be nice to think that BSc courses in homoeopathy would turn out graduates who knew exactly why homoeopathy is bogus and could argue the case. I guess that's not the idea though. You're right, young undergraduates are likely to accept what they are taught without being too critical about the information. I know my critical skills didn't develop until long after graduation.

Yuri
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Old 22nd March 2007, 07:20 AM   #5
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The BBC also reported on this today

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6476289.stm

Edit:

Quote:
The Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, a group set up by Prince Charles to promote complementary therapy, said there was increasing evidence alternative therapies worked and where there was no proof it did not necessarily mean that there would never be.
I wonder what evidence they are talking about.
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Old 22nd March 2007, 08:05 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Nucular View Post
My own solution, were I charged with sorting out this mess, would be to make the universities write to every graduate of these courses with an apology, a full explanation, and an offer: keep your existing BSc.; opt for recertification as a Joint Honours Degree, perhaps in Biomedical Science with Alternative Medicine; or return to university for a top-up course to receive a full BSc. in a science subject (all fees and expenses paid by the offending institutions, obviously).
A written, formal apology will never happen. That would be inviting a lawsuit.
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Old 22nd March 2007, 08:08 AM   #7
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There's an piece in 'The Independent' today about this too. You can read it online here: http://education.independent.co.uk/n...cle2381073.ece

The Independent's medical section usually takes a credophile view of alternative medicine, this article is in the education section.
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Old 23rd March 2007, 12:21 AM   #8
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Catch David Colquhoun on the Radio 4's "Material World" within the next 7 days;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/...ialworld.shtml

Also comment here;

http://www.badscience.net/?p=387
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"Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment; you must also be right." (Robert Park)
Is the pen is mightier than the sword? Its effectiveness as a weapon is certainly enhanced if it is sharpened properly and poked in the eye of your opponent.
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Old 23rd March 2007, 12:39 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Badly Shaved Monkey View Post
Catch David Colquhoun on the Radio 4's "Material World" within the next 7 days;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/...ialworld.shtml

Also comment here;

http://www.badscience.net/?p=387
Material World is my favourite programme. I have just 'listened again' because I missed it yesterday afternoon and was interested to hear James Randi quoted at the end of the discussion on homeopathy and degree courses.

I wonder if Quentin Cooper is a member of this forum? He probably hasn't time, but he'd be a great asset!

By the way, for anyone who is interested - I was quoted on last week's programme, 15th March! In the second half of the programme about Euler, QC said, 'We've had an e-mail from one of our listeners, Susan Buckingham, a teacher, about the Knight's Move square..' and they went on to talk about it. Quite exciting!!
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Old 23rd March 2007, 05:55 AM   #10
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See here for a ca. 5 minute snippet (look for "New degrees criticised") of a discussion between David Colquhoun and the Peter Fisher clown.
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Old 23rd March 2007, 04:54 PM   #11
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I found this in the comments on the Daily Wail's coverage of the story:
Quote:
I am studying a BSc course in Homeopathy. I have a triple digit IQ.
Is that really unusual enough to be worth mentioning?
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Old 23rd March 2007, 07:19 PM   #12
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Yes, the mean is 100. That's got 3 digits in it,innit? Even better than 11.
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