Tide turning: Getting complementary therapies out of university education system

Complementary medicine courses in universities: how I beat the varsity quacks

The teaching of complementary medicine has no place in British universities, says David Colquhoun.

What would you think if your child went off to university to be taught that amethyst crystals “emit high yin energy”? Or that cancer can be cured by squirting coffee up the fundament? What if they were told in a lecture that the heart is not, as medical science has believed for centuries, a pump for circulating blood around the body but instead “the governor of our rational thought and behaviour”? Well, you’d probably want your tuition fees back for a start.

For more than a decade, “facts” such as these have been peddled by more than a dozen fully accredited, state-funded British universities: the above examples come from the University of Westminster and Edinburgh Napier University. Indeed, since the mid-1990s, such ideas have been presented and taught as if they were real medicine.

The teaching of “complementary” (that is, non-evidence-based) medicine is something about which scientists and rationalist campaign groups have been raising havoc for years. It may seem harmless and even a welcome alternative to traditional perspectives. But teaching people that homoeopathy is evidence-based when it isn’t, and encouraging students to distrust the scientific method, not only runs counter to reason, but can be dangerous.

Tip: @senseaboutsci

This is an excellent piece at how the tide appears to be turning on treating these subjects as legitimate medical subjects. He also credits bloggers and campaigners for prompting the change. I doubt it will stop them from being taught, since practitioners make money doing it, but removing them from universities does increase the gap between medicine and complementary treatments in the eyes of the industries they support and the public as well.

UPDATE (6-Feb-2012) This dispute makes it across the world into the New York Times.
The universities contend that these courses are in demand and to teach them (science-based, of course) will result in a better education overall. Yet, there are many inherent problems with that. The courses are not scientific based because the science for many of these subjects is lacking. They either have no scientific basis (homeopathy, chiropractic) or the data is poor to support their efficacy (iridology, reflexology).

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