Extra needle

September 9, 2010

I write to protest the article that cited David Colquhoun on systems biology and traditional Chinese medicine ("A bridge too far? Western life science and Chinese medicine 'ludicrous' bedfellows", 26 August). It features an ignorant attack on scholarship and science written from a philosophically vulgar position.

There is no particular reason why Colquhoun should understand the complexities of the history and scientific validity of Chinese medicine, but he does not let his ignorance stand in the way of making a sensationalist point that denigrates respectable colleagues in the academy.

The University of Westminster has built an active programme in complementary and alternative medicine studies that is both popular and rigorous. In recent years it has benefited from the leadership of one of the world's pre-eminent scholar-practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, Volker Scheid.

His career has been devoted to both clinical practice and historical and anthropological scholarship. There is no more contradiction in this than there is for the many medical doctors who write literature and study the cultural history of medicine. He certainly does not deserve Colquhoun's scorn.

The article is a one-sided attack on what are valuable instructional and research programmes at Westminster and elsewhere.

Judith Farquhar, Department of anthropology, University of Chicago.

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