Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homeopathy as Higher Ed. Scumbaggery and Snake Oil via Ben Goldacre and Cara Santa Maria

here, I excerpt from, of all places, a Huffington Post piece on homeopathy that actually engages in the area from the point of view of scientific skepticism ISYN [see 001., below]; then, I share web pages of a university I personally experienced that is engaged in pushing homeopathy as "science" and it is quite the example of 'higher education scumbaggery and snake oil endorsement' [see 002., below]:

001. Cara Santa Maria [CSM] interviews Ben Goldacre [BG] in Talk Nerdy to Me's "Homeopathy & Medicine: Does It Dilute Science, Research, Higher Education?" (2012-08-27) [vsc 2012-08-27; my comments are in unquoted bold]:
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CSM: "do you have any homeopathic treatments in your medicine cabinet? [...] I think you'd be surprised to find out what homeopathy is really all about [...]";

the more homeopathy is looked at the faker, ironically, it turns out to be.

BG: "homeopathy is about taking very very very high dilutions of any kind of  natural substance or unnatural substance [...] the idea is that the more highly diluted it is the more powerful it becomes [...] a dilution that is so profoundly diluted that it's roughly the same as, and I'm not making this up, one molecule of the original substance in a sphere of water whose diameter is the distance from where I am in London to the edge of the sun [...] there's obviously no trace of the original molecule in there [...it's a] placebo [...a] dummy sugar pill [...] sugar pills with no medicine in them [...] ";

really.  Never mind that the video doesn't show a sphere but an ellipse.  My other regret here is that BG, in paraphrasing what a placebo is, doesn't specifically point out when he says "they get better" and "that's the power of the placebo effect" how little patients in studies taking placebos get better in actuality in terms of physical, tangible illnesses as opposed to self-reported more subjective, and say participatory, psycho-emotional complaints.

CSM: "Novella [...] wrote a scathing report in a recent issue of Skeptical Enquirer entitled 'Pseudoscience in Our Universities' (here).  In it he describes the disturbing trend of complementary and alternative medicine departments cropping up in institutions of higher learning across Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States including those that teach homeopathy as a legitimate medical practice [...]";


yeah.  

BG: "I think it's really important to have university departments subjecting alternative therapies to fair tests to see if they work or not [...] the idea that you would train people up and endorse cherry picking badly designed studies in order to help people flog pills to their patients I think is an extraordinary act of scumbaggery on the part of universities [...] when you walk into a university science department it is actually much more difficult to tell that what you are being fed is untrue"; 

you said it brother.  Reminds me of naturopathy school.

CSM: "an institution of higher education is a sacred place where students learn to learn, to problem solve, to question the status quo and to make reasonable evidence-based decisions about the world around them.  To present snake oil as science is an utterly contemptible violation of trust [...]";

well, I'm not sure sacred is the best word here.  There is that sentinel-type role that higher education holds as an institution of knowledge and such, in trust.


Note: at that above home page, we're told: "contact [...] University of Bridgeport, Division of Health Sciences, Office of Admissions, 126 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604, email: lproctor@bridgeport.edu phone (toll free): 1-888-822-4476, fax: 203-576-4941."  Yes, science subset naturopathy is the claim.

002.a.  UB:

has a whole page explaining their mandatory and elective courses in homeopathy (here).  Also, homeopathy is required to be practiced in their clinic in order to graduate and homeopathy is on the national examination in order to be licensed.  Talk about scumbaggery and snake oil endorsement: that North American NPLEX licensure exam falsely labels homeopathy a "clinical science."

002.b. and:

here's a collection I've compiled of UB labeling naturopathy subset homeopathy as overset "science."
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