Sunday, February 5, 2012

Friends of Science in Medicine versus Naturopathy: MacLennan @ABC, Dwyer @NYT

here, I cite from two recent articles on 'science, pseudoscience and naturopathy / alternative medicine'.  First, there's an Australian ABC radio interview [see 001., below]; then a New York Times article [see 002., below]:

001. Professor Alastair MacLennan [AM] stated [from which I have excerpted] on Australian ABC radio (2012-01-23) [saved 2012-02-05]:

Host: "[regarding] the diminishing of standards applied to the teaching of science in our universities [...] are we seeing nonevidence-based courses coming into our universities?"

AM: "yes, 19 of our 39 universities offer nonevidence-based health courses in things like naturopathy, iridology, homeopathy, chiropractic, energy medicine [...] none of these are truly evidence based.  They're basically based on myths and are potentially dangerous at times [...e.g. chiropractic's] mythical subluxations or the naturopath's are giving them [children and babies] herbal medicines for diagnoses that are mythical."

Host: "how can this be taught at a university?  Are these serious universities?"

AM: "they're not serious anymore [...they] are all teaching nonsense courses, pseudoscience courses that hugely undermine their credibility.  Why should these universities ever have science funding from the government if they're teaching nonsense? [...] we don't mind universities teaching critical thinking about alternative medicines but if that's a subterfuge to give them a degree to practice iridology or naturopathy  [...] then that's not a appropriate imprimatur to say they can go out and basically mistreat the public."

Host: "iridology [...] how has this infiltrated our universities, our places of evidence-based learning?"

AM: "all the universities are cash-strapped at the moment"  [sounds like unfair trade to me, principally about money!!!].

Host: "what are some of the dangers of people coming out of a university with a degree in iridology?"

AM: "well, they begin to dilute the health dollar [...with] false diagnoses and false treatments [...causing] harms [...such as] delay in diagnosis [...the] waste of health dollar [...] side effects [...realization] that these things are mostly placebos [...regarding FSM] we have now 400 members."  

Note: I am in agreement with AM.

ABC has an accompanying post up too, "Mumbo Jumbo Medicine in Our Universities" [vsc 2012-02-05] which states:

"a new group called 'Friends of Science in Medicine' [...] formed to address what they consider the 'diminishing of the standards applied to the teaching of science in our universities' [...] what they call 'pseudoscience'  [...aka] 'courses in the health care sciences that are not underpinned by convincing scientific evidence' [...aka] 'so-called complementary or alternative medicine masquerading as, and sitting side-by-side with, evidence-based health related science courses' [...] the practices, the Friends of Science in Medicine say, have no 'scientific principles based on experimental evidence' [] energy medicine, tactile healing, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, chiropractic, acupuncture and reflexology."

002. the New York Times states in "Australian Universities Defend Alternative-Medicine Teaching"(2012-02-06)[vsc 2012-02-05]:

"[as reported by Liz Gooch] Friends of Science in Medicine, a recently formed group that includes more than 400 prominent scientists, doctors, academics and consumer advocates from Australia and overseas [...] outlined their concerns about what they called the 'diminishing of the standards applied to the teaching of science in our universities' and 'the increased teaching of pseudoscience' [...of] 'courses in the health care sciences that are not underpinned by convincing scientific evidence'  [...aka] so-called ‘complementary or alternative medicine’ [...] courses like chiropractic, homeopathy, iridology and reflexology [...] 'we take the view that those universities involved in teaching pseudoscience [...] give such ideologies undeserved credibility, damage their academic standing and put the public at risk'  [...] John Dwyer, co-founder of Friends of Science in Medicine and an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of New South Wales, said [...] 'for many of us, we’ve been concerned for a long time that in this most scientific of all ages, pseudoscience seems to be flourishing' [...] Mr. Dwyer said more than 50 scientists from Britain, the United States and Canada involved in similar efforts had expressed their support for the Australian group [...] David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London [...said] 'courses in alternative medicine are dishonest, they teach things that aren’t true, and things that are dangerous to patients in some cases.'"

Note: there is no mention of naturopathy in this NYT article!  Why does it get such a pass in North America?  But it's quite easy to find North American naturopathy web pages concerning homeopathy claimed as science, iridology claimed as science, and reflexology claimed as science.  In fact, NDs often call themselves the general practitioners of such alternative medicine.

003. some thoughts:

well, it's great to see this movement involving 'the truth about naturopathy' getting a head of steam.  I've been fascinated by the 'licensed falsehood' known as naturopathy for more than a decade.  In fact, this month is the ten-year anniversary marking when I QUIT naturopathy school here in Connecticut, USA.  Similar to what is currently happening in Australia, the school claims TO THIS DAY to be SCIENCE and yet the contents and the 'oathed-to' context is SCIENCE-EJECTED / NOT-SCIENCE.  I could say it is nice to be right, but I found all this out by being grossly financially harmed: false labels were used, lots of money was borrowed and that debt is with me for life, I was diverted etc.

I find the defense of these sCAMs quickly untenable: it is often the claim 'we are science' or minimally 'we've studied sciences'.  The letters-in-defense should be quite amusing.

Here's a quick little microcosm of naturopathy as I see it in North America: there's the overarching MARKETING and ACADEMIC claim and label of science-based versus the in-fact science-ejected beliefs and methods.
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