UCL News


Press cutting: Alternative medicine degrees 'anti-scientific'

22 March 2007

A leading pharmacologist today condemns science degree courses in alternative and complementary medicine as pseudo scientific or even "anti-scientific".

Prof David Colquhoun [UCL Pharmacology] says the rapid growth in "science degrees without the science" shows a sharp contrast with the closure of physics and chemistry courses at universities.

Homoeopathy has barely changed since the beginning of the 19th century and "is much more like religion than science", the professor says in the journal Nature.

"Worse still, many of the doctrines of CAM [complementary and alternative medicines] and quite a lot of its practitioners, are openly anti-science." …

In the UK there has been a marked rise in BScs in CAM. …

Prof Colquhoun says degrees in complementary medicine are harmful because they lead patients to believe that they are being treated by a scientifically trained practitioner. "Most complementary and alternative medicine is not science because the vast majority of it is not based on empirical evidence."

He says that 45 BSc honours degrees in complementary pseudo-science are now awarded by 16 universities. …

"Homeopathy is the most obvious delusion because the 'medicine' contains no medicine," said Prof Colquhoun. "Yet five of the 45 BSc degrees are offered in homoeopathy." …

Other CAM courses are in nutritional therapy, aroma-therapy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, reflexology, osteopathy, therapeutic bodywork, naturopathy, Ayurveda, shiatsu and qigong.

"None of these is, by any stretch of the imagination, science, yet they form part of BSc degrees.

"They are not being taught as part of cultural history, or as odd sociological phenomena, but as science."

He says that the BSc courses are "not science at all, but are positively anti-science". …

Roger Highfield, 'The Daily Telegraph'