In the latest issue of Nature, there’s an exciting article about the attempt to stop British Universities from offering a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Alternative Medicine or Homeopathy:
“Many scientists and advocates of evidence-based medicine feel that giving homeopathy scientific status is unjustified. Aside from the fact that there is no known mechanism by which this treatment could work, they argue that the evidence against it is conclusive. …But homeopaths involved in the university courses â€” those that were willing to speak to Nature, at least â€” argue that they teach students scientific principles, including the critical analysis of evidence.”
Hurray! Several different scientists have asked to see course materials, and been refused, and two universities refused to comment on the article, or to share details of the degree. In a commentary article by David Colquhoun, a pharmacist, he makes a stirring call for accreditation bodies to stop the awarding of BSc degrees. Because the commentary is probably only open to subscribers, I’ll reapeat some of the highpoints:
“In December 2006 the UK Universities and Colleges Admissions Service advertised 61 courses for complementary medicine, of which 45 are BSc honours degrees. Most complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is not science because the vast majority of it is not based on empirical evidence….What matters here is that degrees in things such as golf-course management are honest. They do what it says on the label. That is quite different from awarding BSc degrees in subjects that are not science at all, but are positively anti-science. In my view, they are plain dishonest. “
Unfortunately, the Nature article concludes that the regulatory bodies have little interest in forcing a change:
“The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the body charged with safeguarding academic standards, also says that it does not get involved in questions about what constitutes science, and that universities are entitled to set their own courses. ”
As a scientist, my mental reaction to that statement is just….WTF? Are you serious? Just calling it something makes it so?
I may be missing for a few weeks, because clearly I need to move to England and start a magikyl therapy school for hands-on-healing of young nubile men and women. Get your BSc in just 6 weeks!
Or, perhaps this guy will start a school on the science of blood drinking and kabobing your enemies.