Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Enforced Quackery: the literature

As I've already noted, one of the pieces of "evidence" that they were given to read about homeopathy was this, with the somewhat ridiculous title of "An Overview of Positive Homeopathy Research and Surveys".

The other document, when I finally dug it out, was a print out of this page. So far as I can tell the main idea of the page is the idea that homeopathy is a little bit giving people vaccinations, which I guess is true, for sufficiently small values of "bit" - homeopaths give people a really really tiny amount of something that causes a disease and this makes them better. It then seems to claim that Pasteur therefore stole the idea of vaccinations from homeopaths.

Now, I'm not in a position to judge the historical accuracy of the document (although I can't help but find it somewhat suspicious - that's probably because I'm biased). But again, that's beside the point. The real question is, how is this in any way relevant to the applications of homeopathy in modern medicine?

If I'd gone up to a lecturer in my calculus II course asking for help on solving partial differential equations and they'd given me a link to some website which explained that Liebniz stole his theory of the calculus from Newton*, I would not have been much impressed - and I'm not even sure that analogy is quite ridiculous enough to explain how useless this document is to a medical student who wants to know more about how homeopathy works in practice.

Day 5 was today - I'll have an update sometime before the end of the week.

* NB - I'm not knowledgeable enough to have an opinion about that debate either, but at least it's an actual historical controversy.


mugsandmoney said...

The more I hear about this, the more I am convinced that it is a shoddy tick-the-box lashup by the medical school; the students are being short-changed big time.

Maybe the module works well for some students, but this is evidently a waste of their time and a waste of the taxpayer's money.

Keep on blogging!

Michael said...

I disagree slightly with mugsandmoney - while it might not be the opportunity to see real evidence-based primary care being carried out that they'd been hoping for, the students are being given a golden opportunity to give a well-crafted indictment of the science and literature being presented during this "placement".

Here's an absolute gem taken from the "overview of positive research":

A meta-analysis is a means of combining results from more than one trial to look for overall trends.
(NB! In general complicated research terminology such as OR, CI, and words such as significant or
randomized should only be used in communications with people who will understand such
terminology. Otherwise stick to what can be understood by all, e.g. a survey of all the high quality
research that has been carried out clearly shows that homeopathy is effective.)

Clear instructions to assume people are thick, and keep them that way.

I would be very glad to see this opportunity taken to ensure that all further placements are made in institutions where good scientific practice is promoted.