I’m quite proud, under most circumstances, to be affiliated with the University of Minnesota: it’s an excellent university (and the Morris campus is the best within the system, although some of the other campuses argue about that), we’ve got great students, and we are a secular public institution dedicated to giving an affordable education to anyone. However, there is also one thing about the University of Minnesota which causes me great shame, and which I consider a betrayal of reason and evidence.
I am speaking, of course, of the Center for Spirituality & Healing. Center for Bullshit & Quackery is more like it. It’s the cesspit of the university, where all the pseudoscientific fuzzy-headed crap that fails is excreted, polished, gilded, and held on high as a beacon of New Age light to lead the gullible into a sewer of feel-good futility. If I were president of the university (only possible if genies are real), my first act would be to shut down the whole institution and send the dishonest rascals running the show back to their profitable nostrum-peddling, crystal-gazing, finger-waving tea rooms and sideshow tents.
What prompts my crankiness this time is that the CSH is offering a workshop, Homeopathy Acute Care Workshop.
Homeopathy? At my university? In the health sciences building? The stones of that building should writhe in revulsion and vomit forth the participants.
Stones can’t rebel, but the faculty and staff can. One scientist here wrote a short note in response to the organizer of this shameful nonsense.
Homeopathy is a completely bogus therapy. I am astounded that you are presenting this misinformation here at the university.
This is a disgrace, and an insult to the real work being done at the U of M.
And he got a reply!
I have taken a few days to sit with your hostile and critical email, as I wanted to give it a fair evaluation time.
I was quite stunned by the vehemence of your note, and must question exactly how much you know about Homeopathy, and where you learned that.
It is my role as faculty advisor for the IHEAL to support the student’s interests, and help them in finding resources and information. As a CHIP committee, IHEAL is a student group for sharing interdisciplinary interests in integrative healthcare–that includes exploring other systems of medicine and other approaches to healing from those they are exposed to in conventional medical education. We encourage all of our students to be explorers. They should investigate unknown areas with curiosity as well as academic rigor. I am proud and impressed by the initiative this year’s IHEAL group in seeking out and organizing the educational opportunities they desired–including Homeopathy. The faculty they have brought in to present on this topic are both top notch practitioners and teachers–bios attached.
I do not know what the basis is of your rigid judgment, but would like to offer the opportunity for there to be increased understanding and awareness, if you are interested. I will not, in this venue, go into trying to explain or justify the practice of homeopathy, but I have attached two documents summarizing some significant research publications that may be useful to you (the brief list, and the complete one.) I also would refer you to the free, on-line book by Dr. Jacob Mirman, MD (graduate of UMN medical school) http://bookonhealing.com/component/content/article/46/137.html
I would also recommend “Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine” an introduction to homeopathy, a primer for both patients and students.
Many physicians and scientists reject Homeopathy without any knowledge, because they say there is no plausible mechanism that can explain HOW it works, regardless of experiences and studies that have shown its impacts. Remember that we don’t know how the majority of biomedical interventions, including drugs, work. Additionally, at one time we didn’t know about germs and didn’t believe that hand-washing had a mechanism of action that could explain how it impacted stopping the spread of disease–so it was fought against for decades. True, science has not yet created the technology to explore homeopathy in a way that can be understood. That doesn’t mean we stop asking the questions.
This may be a long-winded answer to your comment/accusation, but I hope that you find it enlightening.
Yours in academic rigor,
Faculty Advisor, IHEAL
She’s wrong in many things. One is that we reject homeopathy without any knowledge; we certainly do have knowledge of homeopathy and its principles, and that’s the reason it is rejected! There is no mechanism for highly diluted substances to work as they claim, and the principle of treating like with like is simply medieval sympathetic magic. It doesn’t work.
There are no significant studies that show any real effect, either. If there were a consistent pattern of homeopathic remedies doing anything, then we’d be interested; instead, we’ve got lots of studies that show no statistical difference between homeopathic solutions and water. At best, the proponents can cherry-pick all the studies done for ones that are either methodologically weak or that show a chance variation in their favor.
Which always raises a question in my mind: if homeopathy is so difficult to assess using those reductionist techniques of modern science and medicine, how the hell do homeopaths know they work? That’s one of the fundamental principles of science, that you can’t just get by on assertions — you have to be able to explain how you know something, and homeopaths can’t. They just pluck some magical association out of their butt and prescribe it…and then after the fact, they claim that it works for their patients. But if it actually works for their patients, then it would be amenable to clinical trials.
They can’t claim that it works, and simultaneously that it doesn’t work when examined rigorously.
Even when they’re trying to argue that there is evidence for homeopathy, they always seem to begin with a lot of waffling about how science can’t really examine their discipline.
Homeopathy is not a modality or therapy, but an entire system of medicine, with its own paradigm of understanding health and illness. That paradigm directs the process of evaluation and treatment. Therefore, in order to accurately assess the effectiveness of the intervention, researchers need to design studies that are congruent with the way homeopathy is practiced clinically.
This means that the gold-standard, biomedical research model for drug interventions (one disease or symptom, one drug, double-blind, placebo-controlled, prospective trial) is not an ideal research process for homeopathy.
That kind of noise just enrages me. I want to grab that person by the collar and demand, “Well, then, asshole, how do you know your magic pills work?”
I know. They use wishful thinking, instead. In a description of a weak study that showed a small improvement of homeopathic remedies over placebos, they get to write “Homeopaths felt clinically had they been able to prescribe the individually matched remedy to each case, the recovery rate expected would have been as high as 90%”. Well, sure, and if they’d been following my magic procedure of hopping up and down on one foot while taking their pills, I believe the recovery rate would have been 105%, therefore proving the effectiveness of monopedosaltopathy.
The screwball giving the workshop in homeopathy, Jacob Mirman, offers his own case for homeopathy. Again, it opens with superstitious bullshit.
Read Ben Goldacre instead. It’ll be better for your mind.
I would also like to point out that President Bruininks of our university has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. His prognosis is good, because he will get the best possible medical care using the scientific methods of his own institution…but not the superstitious spiritualist nonsense of the Center for Spirituality & Healing. He will get real medicine; how he can tolerate this parasitic quackery riding along on our university is a mystery. Is it OK for the stupid and gullible people to get worthless treatments, if they want?