Homeopathy conference at Oxford college ‘promotes quackery’

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

February 28, 2017
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month
Source: Alamy
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

A University of Oxford college has been accused of “inadvertently legitimising quackery” after it agreed to host a homeopathy conference next month.

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will stage the Society of Homeopaths’ annual general meeting on 18 March despite claims that it is helping to give credibility to a pseudoscience.

According to the Good Thinking Society – a charity established by science writer and alternative medicine critic Simon Singh – several members of the society’s board hold “dangerous” views on homeopathy, including advocating its use to treat HIV and Aids in Africa and autism in the UK.

Lady Margaret Hall, which is led by Alan Rusbridger, who employed Mr Singh and Bad Science writer Ben Goldacre while he was editor of The Guardian, denied that it was lending credibility to the Society of Homeopaths. It had a “purely commercial arrangement” with the society and hosting the event “does not imply that LMH in any way endorses the organisation”, it said.

However, Michael Marshall, project director of the Good Thinking Society, claimed that the college was “inadvertently legitimising quackery” by staging the event.

“Quackery often seeks the trappings of credibility,” said Mr Marshall.

“Learning institutions such as universities and science museums owe it to themselves and the public to ensure their hard-earned reputations and credibility are not extended to events and organisations that do not deserve them and can cause genuine harm to the public,” he added.

While recognising that such events generated significant funds for academic institutions, Mr Marshall said that it was “naive” to pretend that there was no reputational cost to the college, whose alumni include Edith Bülbring, the late pharmacology professor, and Baroness Warnock, the philosopher.

“Academic institutions can choose to decline such bookings or turn a blind eye and take the money – if they accept such bookings, with the cash comes a trade-off: the name and reputation of the institution inevitably adds gloss to the pseudoscientific event, while tarnishing the reputation of the university,” he said.

The booking is the latest controversy involving the use of university premises to promote controversial medical theories or pseudoscience.

Regent’s University London was recently the setting for a screening of Vaxxed, the anti-vaccine film directed by Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor who fraudulently claimed that there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the appearance of autism. Regent’s insisted that the nature and content of the event was withheld from it, and ended its 18-year relationship with the Centre for Homeopathic Education, which organised the event.

Since then, Regent’s has cancelled a planned £180-a-head homeopathy event due to take place on its grounds.

In a statement, Lady Margaret Hall said that it was “impractical to cancel the booking” but Mr Rusbridger was “happy for our governing body to re-examine our approach concerning the hospitality wing of the college and see whether it needs revising in light of the concerns but also taking into account the erosion of free speech on university campuses”.

However, Mr Marshall believed that it was wrong to conflate the controversy with freedom of speech given that attendees would not be challenged by critical voices.

“This is an all-ticket, closed shop, back-slapping exercise – this event is not about open debate,” he said.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (24)

I would hope that the event proceeds as planned. Students should be exposed to other health care options, then make up their own minds regarding their value, or not.
Of course, students should be given the opportunity to learn about one of the world's safest and most effective systems of medicine -- homeopathy. They should be able to make their own decisions about it free of the influence of those who don't understand it, have never used it and never studied it. I'm quite sure that they will be impressed by the fact that there are 25,000 volumes of cured case records supporting it. They will also be interested to know that it's been used by hundreds of millions of people around the world for more than 200 years and has an overwhelming safety record. Anyone who would like to see hundreds of contemporary case records of cures of chronic diseases from type 2 diabetes to Grave's disease to addiction to prescription drugs can find them by googling "homeopathy cured cases". These records are documented with photographs, CT scan, x-rays, blood work, histopathological reports and more results from objective tests plus comments by both treating physicians and patients.
@Brigette, I'm guessing you didn't read all the way to the end. “This is an all-ticket, closed shop, back-slapping exercise – this event is not about open debate,” he said. The students wouldn't be exposed to this. Also, the "value" of homeopathy is very well known in scientific circles. It doesn't work. Would you equally support classes (where the sort of exposure you're talking about *would* occur) on bloodletting to balance the humors or trepanation to let the demons out?
"Also, the "value" of homeopathy is very well known in scientific circles. It doesn't work. " Fallacy of false consesus (or James Randi fallacy). Some scientists can reject homeopathy based on prejudice, not on real data. Some examples of scientific research of homeopthy around the world: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043466617300236 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043466617300042 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0344033816306239 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16125589 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26988436 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27515878 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28163953 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26210222 www.nature.com/ijir/journal/v26/n1/full/ijir201312a.html www.journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1559325815626685 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16889990 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24030446 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23622259 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20599845 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16293983 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26369009 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20558607 www.journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118440 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1475491615000090 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229916302771 www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167732215312277 www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15368378.2015.1036072 www.link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40031-013-0035-2 www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jmv.24717/abstract www.journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0166340 www.journals.lww.com/neuroreport/Abstract/2001/02120/Neuroprotection_from_glutamate_toxicity_with.31.aspx www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043466616304690 www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01448765.2014.960451?src=recsys&journalCode=tbah www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18834714 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19371564
And despite this list the evidence showing homeopathy doesn't work beyond a similarly administered placebo far far outweighs it.
This list of evidence show physico chemical and biological differences between plain water and potentized solutions. Two papers clearly show the fraud of "Lancet paper". Four recently double blind randomized controlled trials show a specific effect over placebo. Gold "Unifezzzz"... similar attacks from Monsanto CSICOP trolls science 1995. http://gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/17462-folta-troll-attacks-gmwatch
"This list of evidence..." ...still doesn't overturn the massive pile of evidence that disagrees with it. You are cherry picking.
Perhaps they should offer a number of free tickets to Oxford to give to their medical students and lecturers. Add some "balance" to the discussion...
It is remarkable and sadly typical that this reporter only chose to interview extreme skeptics of homeopathy rather than a more diverse group of interested parties. It is interesting that this reporter ignored the fact that the World Health Organization has deemed France to have the best health care in the world and yet, according to a new survey published in FAMILY PRACTICE, 95% of French peditricians, dermatologists, and general practitioners incorporate homeopathic medicines into their practice. (Reference: Piolot M, Fagot JP, Rivière S, Fagot-Campagna A, Debeugny G, Couzigou P, Alla F. Homeopathy in France in 2011-2012 according to reimbursements in the French national health insurance database (SNIIRAM). Fam Pract. 2015 Aug;32(4):442-8. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmv028. Epub 2015 Apr 28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25921648 Further, despite the repeated lies and misinformation that asserts that there is "no research" confirming the efficacy of homeopathic medicines, there actually have been studies published in many of the best medical journals in the world, including the Lancet, BMJ, Pediatrics, Rheumatology, Cancer, Pediatric Disease Journal, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Chest, and many others. One would hope that this publication would work harder to present information more objectively rather than one that is hyper-biased.
Hell-th hath no fury like a non-scientist scorned.
"overwhelming safety record" Small amounts of tap water are indeed safe (well except to the wallet).
A translation guide from D.Ullman to English: "extreme skeptics of homeopathy": pro-science people "more diverse group of interested parties": people with a vested interest in an anti-science position "fact": Twisted view of reality "FAMILY PRACTICE": shouting make it more real "repeated lies and misinformation": Things Dana is unacquainted with. Hope this helps.
Ah nuts. "T500" is here. There goes any possibility of rational conversation. I'll leave their posts to speak for themselves. This commenter is seriously unhinged and just not worth the effort.
Homeopathy is used by the more educated in the population. It's obvious that doesn't include this writer. There are reams of scientific research backing homeopathy, but just because you choose one or two (and reword the results) does not prove evidence. Please go back to journalism school, Jack.
<blockquote>Homeopathy is used by the more educated in the population. </blockquote> An uncited assertion? Citation needed. <blockquote>It's obvious that doesn't include this writer.</blockquote> Pointless personal attack that adds nothing to the discussion. <blockquote>There are reams of scientific research backing homeopathy,</blockquote> There is an <strong>extremely</strong> small "ream" of good quality research. It is far outweighed by the good quality research that shows it doesn't work. This small pile of research only grows if you loosen the quality requirements of the research to be included. <blockquote> but just because you choose one or two (and reword the results) does not prove evidence.</blockquote> Really? There are many blog posts that clearly demonstrate that the opposite is the case. I'm not saying the pro-science side of this soapbox is perfect, but you should probably look to your own backers before throwing accusations like that around. <blockquote> Please go back to journalism school, Jack.</blockquote> ...and just to show your integrity you close with another personal attack.
note to self: html in posts here is not supported. :)
Homeopathy is used by the more educated in the population. It's obvious that doesn't include this writer. There are reams of scientific research backing homeopathy, but just because you choose one or two (and reword the results) does not prove evidence. Please go back to journalism school, Jack.
It seems rather obvious, looking at these rants against homeopathy, that claiming homeopathy is ineffective makes these pseudo-scientists' egos swell. Criticism and ridicule are poor replies.
Anytime you're able to show that the scientific consensus demonstrates that homeopathy works, we'll fight for it. Anytime. Just show us the majority of good quality research backs you position. I can see the conundrum though. The alt-med crowd regularly fight against and vilify actual medicine as a whole. If homeopathy worked, or is later proven to work, it would be incorporated into actual medicine *along with everything else that works*. What would they do then?
Interesting that the comments keep disappearing. Unifex is obviously astroturfing.
Nope, not me.
We have had to remove some comments as they contravened our terms and conditions. As evidenced from the above comments, we've allowed different parties to have their say, despite several using them as an opportunity to make unfounded, ad-hominem attacks.
Thanks for making that public Jack. Also, just a note; the reply links on other comments don't appear until you've made at least one comment on the story.
"Interesting that the comments keep disappearing. Unifex is obviously astroturfing." Actually, it was pointed out to the THE, by someone else, that some of the comments were defamatory. They apparently agreed.

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