The British Medical Journal for 10 December 2010 carried a real classic, Integrative medicine and the point of credulity (it is no longer behind pay wall).
The subtitle was
"So called integrative medicine should not be used as a way of smuggling alternative practices into rational medicine by way of lowered standards of critical thinking. Failure to detect an obvious hoax is not an encouraging sign "
Two common reactions when reading about various sorts of magic medicine are "You couldn’t make it up" and "If you believe that you’ll believe anything". One way to test just how much a true believer will believe is the spoof paper. This was used to devastating effect by Alan Sokal, to demolish the pretentious nonsense of postmodernism.
John C. McLachlan of Durham University put the idea to the test, with hilarious results. He responded to one of those spam emails that invite you to speak at a conference, in this case “The Jerusalem Conference on Integrative Medicine.”.
"I have discovered a new version of reflexology, which identifies a homunculus represented in the human body, over the area of the buttocks. The homunculus is inverted, such that the head is represented in the inferior position, the left buttock corresponds to the right hand side of the body, and the lateral aspect is represented medially. As with reflexology, the “map” responds to needling, as in acupuncture"
"Unfortunately, this novel paradigm may meet with closed minds and automatic rejection. Patience and understanding of “closed” mindsets is essential in order to advance this new discovery in a way commensurate with its importance."
The helpful diagram (above) explained all. Unbelievably, he soon got an answer.
Dear Prof. John C. McLachlan,
You have sent a proposal to the The (sic) Jerusalem International Conference on Integrative Medicine. We are happy to inform you that the Scientific Committee has reached it’s (sic) decision and that your paper has been accepted and you will be able to present your lecture.
The scientific committee?
How did universities come to employ the sort of brain-dead people who could take something like this seriously? No doubt they have nice suits and ties, but lack something between the ears.
London South Bank University recently advertised at a salary £66,000 to £74,000 "London South Bank University is delighted to announce this new full time post of Professor of Integrated Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine". This makes a heartbreaking contrast to brilliant postdoctoral fellows on short insecure contracts, doing wondeful science for half that pay.
There is too much intellectual corruption in universities and vice-chancellors defend it rather than root it out, If the London South Bank school of quackery wants to save some money in the presnt financial crunch, it’s obvious where they should start. More details on this when they respond to my Freedom of Information requests.