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The day after “Science degrees without the Science“ appeared in Nature, the University of Westminster issued a statement . In my view, their statement provides the strongest grounds so far to believe that the BSc is inappropriate.

Let’s take a look at it.

“The BSc (Hons) Health Sciences: Homeopathy is a fully validated degree that satisfies internal and external quality assurance standards.”

Well, since the University has so far refused to release any of the documents, it is hard to judge that that validation is worth. The validation documents will, no doubt, appear eventually. Watch this space.One mechanism that is intended to maintain the standard of degrees is the external examiner. Their identities, like almost everything else, are kept secret. In the case of the Westminster BSc in homeopathy, however, we are in luck. According to the Teaching Quality Information (TQI) site, their external examiner is the “Chair of the Society of Homoeopaths”. Since April 2004, that has been Andy Kirk RSHom, a homeopath in private practice, with no degree and no scientific qualifications. He, I imagine, is not likely to question the bizarre homeopathic doctrine that the smaller the dose you give, the bigger effect you get.Correction (4 April 2007). It seems that Westminster supplied wrong information to the TQI site, and the external examiner is not Kirk. They refuse to say who it is. But watch this space.

“The University’s stance received the backing of the Society of Homeopaths,
the UK’s largest register of professional homeopaths”.

Yes, I’m sure it did. The Society of Homeopaths is an organisation for homeopaths who have no medical qualification. Their scientific credentials can be judged from this quotation from their web site.

“If they are so dilute, how can they work?
After each dilution the mixture is vigorously agitated in a machine that delivers a calibrated amount of shaking. This is called succussion. It is thought that this process imprints the healing energy of the medicinal substance throughout the body of water (the diluent) as if a message is passed on. The message contains the healing energy.”

This is pure gobbledygook. The word “energy” is being used in a way unknown to science. It is mere armwaving in an attempt to ‘explain’ a phenomenon that almost certainly doesn’t occur anyway.

“In fact there is considerable evidence demonstrating the clinical effectiveness of homeopathic treatment, including a large outcomes study published in 2005, of an analysis of over 23,000 outpatient consultations at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, in which more than 7 per cent reported clinical improvement,”

(Notice the Freudian slip. That should be 70%)

The study to which they allude here has to be the worst paper ever published. It is the infamous Spence (2005) study. Oddly enough, this paper is one that Westminster students were asked to assess critically. Sadly, though, it hasn’t been possible to see any marked answers.

The fact that this is the best evidence that the University can produce in response to criticisms is, perhaps, the best reason ever to think that the material being taught is not, in any sense, science, and is not appropriate for a BSc. It seems that they are hoist by their own petard.

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