New ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ combating pseudoscience in Australian universities

Posted on 24/01/2012


iridology pseudoscience quack

Iridology: who knew diagnosing cancer could be like spotting the shape of a bunny rabbit or a sailing ship in a cloud.

I previously posted examples of the horrific proliferation of Australian universities teaching accredited and Federally funded  science degrees in mumbo-jumbo and hogwash. Around Christmas there was a letter to the editor in The Advertiser from Rob Morrison saying that a group calling themselves “Friends of Science in Medicine” were starting up to combat exactly this sort of pseudoscience being taught in our universities.

It seems like things are starting to kick off with FSM, and a post by Rob on the Australian Science Communicators list explains a bit more about the group (since it’s a public mailing list with content published on the asc website I’m assuming he won’t mind me re-posting it):

The recently formed “Friends of Science in Medicine” (FSM) has quickly acquired 300+ members, including influential supporters from overseas,  and is growing fast.

FSM is hoping to influence universities (at least the reputable ones) to declare their support for science courses that are in fact evidence-based and adhere to accepted scientific methodology. It will then have a go at trying to influence the government, which helps fund these courses and uses taxpayers’ money to allow health fund rebates for “treatments” with these demonstrably ineffective pseudoscientific therapies.

19 out of Australia’s 39 universities now offer these pseudoscience degrees and courses as science or health science, including  Homeopathy, Iridology, Reflexology, Kinesiology, Healing touch therapy, Aromatherapy and ‘Energy Medicine’.

That is the sort of “science” we might be better off without.

Hear, hear. 19/39 is a depressing score – looks like they’ve got a battle against a lot of money-making courses on their hands. And the sooner someone gets hold of some really dodgy course material to embarrass them into closing the better (none of the 19 are here in SA).

Southern Cross university Homeopathy treatment clinic

A screen grab from Southern Cross University's website

I’ve also found an excellent ABC radio interview from yesterday explaining what FSM is doing, with a long list of alleged pseudoscience offenders, including RMIT, University of Queensland, Charles Sturt University, Macquarie University, Curtin, Edith Cowan, Murdoch, University of Newcastle, Canberra Institute and University of Sydney.

Having recruited (“Join us!“) a Prof-heavy list of supporters and started contacting the offending universities, it’ll be interesting to see what they do next and how much success they have. And universities justifying uncritically teaching pseudoscience should be named and shamed.

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Posted in: science, skepticism