Download Lectures on Biostatistics (1971).
Corrected and searchable version of Google books edition

Download review of Lectures on Biostatistics (THES, 1973).

Latest Tweets

Jump to follow-up

The first major victory in the battle for the integrity of universities seems to have been won. This email was sent by Kate Chatfield who is module leader for the “BSc” in homeopathic medicine at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).

from Kate Chatfield…

Dear All,

It’s a sad day for us here at UCLan because we have taken the decision not to run a first year this year due to low recruitment. The course will be put ‘on hold’ for this year and next until we see what happens with the general climate. Fortunately our masters course is thriving and we have been asked to focus upon this area and homeopathy research for the time being.

Of late UCLan has been the subject of many attacks by the anti-homeopathy league. Colquhoun et al have kept the university lawyers and us quite fruitlessly busy by making claims for very detailed course information under the Freedom of Information Act. The latest demand is for 32 identified lesson plans with teaching notes, power points, handouts etc. The relentless attacks have taken their toll and it appears that they have won this small victory.

The university has been very clear that this decision has been taken solely on the grounds of poor educational experience and is nothing to do with the current furore. They continue to be supportive of us and our efforts.

Best wishes

Kate and Jean

There is some background here. In July 2006 I made a request to UCLAN under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, in which I asked to see some of their teaching materials. I appealed to UCLAN but Professor Patrick McGhee, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), also turned down two appeals. A letter sent directly to Professor Malcolm McVicar, vice-chancellor and president of UCLAN, failed to elicit the courtesy of a reply (standard practice I’m afraid, when a vice chancellor is faced with a difficult question). (Ironically, McVicar lists one of his interests as “health policy”.) So then I appealed to the Office of the Information Commissioner, in November 2006. Recently the case got to the top of the pile, and a judgment is expected any moment now.

Kate Chatfield’s letter to her colleagues is interesting. She describes a request ro see some of her teaching materials as an “attack”. If someone asks to see my teaching materials, I am rather flattered, and I send them. Is she not proud of what she teaches? Why all the secrecy? After all, you, the taxpayer, are paying for this stuff to be taught, so why should you not be able see it? Or is the problem that she feels that the “alternative reality” in which homeopaths live is just too complicated for mortals to grasp? Perhaps this attitude should be interpreted as flattering to the general public, because somewhere deep down she knows that the public will be able to spot gobbledygook when they see it. The revelation that the University of Westminster teaches first year undergraduates the “amethysts emit high yin energy” didn’t help their academic reputation much either.

Much credit for this decision must go also to the pressure from the many good academics at UCLAN. When it was revealed recently that UCLAN intended to open yet more courses in forms of medicine that are disproved or unproven, they naturally felt that their university was being brought into disrepute. Opposition to plans to introduce new “degrees” in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine were exposed in Times Higher Education recently. It particular, great credit must go to Dr Michael Eslea from UCLAN’s Psychology department. His open letter to his vice-chancellor is an example of scientific integrity in action.

The abandonment of this degree in medicines that contain no medicine is a small victory for common sense, for science and for the integrity of universities. Sadly, there is still a long way to go.

It is my understanding that ‘bringing the university into disrepute’ is a serious offence. Please note, vice-chancellor.

A few more judgments like that to suspend your homeopathy degree could work wonders for your reputation.

The follow-up

Watch this space.

The Guardian was quick off the mark -this story appeared on their education web site within 3 hours of my posting it “Homeopathy degrees suspended after criticism” by Anthea Lipsett. My comment there disappeared for a while because the Guardian legal people misunderstood the meaning of the last sentence. It’s back now, with blame allocated unambiguously to the vice-chancellors of the 16 or so universities who run this sort of course.

UCLAN’s web site seems to need some updating. The “BSc” in homeopathic medicine is still advertised there. as of 28 August.

UCLAN’s best ally. Dr Michael Eslea, has had some publicity for his attempts to rescue his university’s reputation. The story appeared in the “High Principals” column of Private Eye (Issue 1217, Aug 22, 2008). It also appeared in his local paper, the Lancashire Evening Post.

The Lancashire Evening Post catches up with homeopathy suspension story, two days after you read it here. But the UCLAN web site still advertises it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

77 Responses to University abandons homeopathy “degree”

  • Muscleman says:

    Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah?

    One for you David, one for all those who saw sense and didn’t apply for the course and the last for UCLAN for perhaps seeing the light.

    I agree with you, if someone is impressed enough with your materials you send them. Not to do so says you have something to hide, or sell. Watch out on ebay for: homeopathy course materials, unused, only slightly soiled.

  • gimpyblog says:

    Of late UCLan has been the subject of many attacks by the anti-homeopathy league.

    David, I hope you wear your spandex jumpsuit when representing the anti-homeopathy league. Are they a league of superheroes or supervillains? It’s rather depressing that Ms Chatfield feels the need to dehumanise academics who object to BScs in anti-scientific subjects by suggesting they are a collective body. It is a technique beloved of the CAM world that when confronted with awkward arguments they make allegations of a conspiracy out to get them rather than refute the thrust of the arguments.

    The university has been very clear that this decision has been taken solely on the grounds of poor educational experience…

    Perhaps I have misinterpreted this, but is it not a damning indictment of the course? I know many academics who would be humiliated if their course was described as such.

  • Dr Aust says:

    Congratulations, David. A notable victory for intellectual honesty and a reward for all the work.

    I suspect “low recruitment” is the final tipping point here – if the course makes money, yer average Vice Chancellor these days will be disposed to keep it. But if it is not making, or indeed is LOSING money…

    The campaigns, both external and internal (take a bow Mike Eslea), clearly have had a salutary effect, which is a lesson for all Bad Science campaigners. Again, you would imagine that once the issue got enough publicity that prospective students in other (notably real science) degrees and their parents began to hear about it, the days of the B.Sc. (Hons) Alt Reality were numbered.

    I wonder if the Universities of Salford and Westminster are twitching?

  • Teek says:

    This is another feather in your undoubtedly weighty cap, Sir! following the news that prescriptions for homeopathic ‘medicines’ are on the way down, this is also a small step towards eradicating the apparent legitimacy of woo. good result, let’s hope the course stays off the curriculum for good.

  • Helen says:

    I believe a certain high-up at UCLAN once told a pro-science lobbyist that they would happily run a degree in tiddlywinks if that would make money. Thereby missing the point: tiddlywinks being a real game with verifiable outcomes.

  • wilsontown says:

    Does seem like good news.

    I can’t understand why it would be a problem to give out the course materials. It’s hardly as if they’re secret: presumably the intention is that they get given to an entire class of students…

  • Mojo says:

    A very odd email. Complaints about “attacks by the anti-homeopathy league” and the FoI requests, and the statement that “the relentless attacks have taken their toll and it appears that they have won this small victory”, followed by a claim that the suspension of the course “is nothing to do with the current furore”.

    So why mention the “furore”?

  • Helen says:

    Either she got the points in the last paragraph the wrong way round or the university has insisted she make clear to any recipient of the email that the university hasn’t “backed down” in the face of science?

  • Mike Eslea says:

    Yes! I am certainly happy to be a UCLAN lecturer today! Cheers to DC and Lindy and everyone who has kept up the pressure 🙂

  • Mojo says:

    There are other inconsistencies. In the first paragraph she blames “low recruitment” (which presumably means that the course had become uneconomic), in the last we find that the university has said that “this decision has been taken solely on the grounds of poor educational experience”. What exactly do they mean by “poor educational experience”?

  • seenoevil says:

    Good news. Loving the spin and sulks in the statement!

  • jdc325 says:

    Excellent news, and well done to all involved.

    “Is she not proud of what she teaches?”
    Clearly not.

    Kate Chatfield: “Colquhoun et al have kept the university lawyers and us quite fruitlessly busy by making claims for very detailed course information under the Freedom of Information Act.”
    Lawyers? If the course was worthwhile, then there should have been no problem at all in simply providing the information that had been requested. Which is, of course, the point – the course was more BS than BSc.

  • Lindy says:

    This is great news, and many congratulations to David for his persistence.

    It is odd, though, that ‘Kate and Jean’ seem to be so confused about the reasons for the first year course being cancelled. Do ‘poor educational experience’ and low uptake of the course not set any alarm bells ringing? Nor cast even a minute doubt somewhere?

    However what is more important is that there is a chink in the armour. What this highlights for me is that it is very very important that there is total rejection of the recommendation in the Pittillo report (on regulation of Practitioners of Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, etc.) that all such practitioners should get degrees in their discipline in order to protect the public from poor practice. If this particular recommendation were to be accepted it could give a green light for an epidemic of pseudoscience degrees. The promised Department of Health consultation on the proposals in the Pittillo report has still not materialised, but when it does there should be plenty of scope for responses. As Dr Aust says, campaigns can have an impact……….

  • Acleron says:

    Nice one, Dr Colquhoun. I think we can draw our own conclusions on the quality of the educational experience at the UCLAN Complementary Medicine Unit from the clarity of Kate Chatfield’s writing.

    But what a mess at UCLAN. Kate Chatfield appeared to be in charge of the degree course and she is only part-time. Dr Eslea notes that when he complained about the course, he was told it was approved by the SoH. Who just happens to be on the Research and Research Ethics committees at the SoH? Surprisingly, it’s Kate Chatfield!

  • apgaylard says:

    Very good news. I did like the complaint that asking for course materials had kept, ” the university lawyers and us quite fruitlessly busy”. I’d have thought that a couple of hours, a photocopier and a big enevlope would have been all that was required. The only way that this could have generated work for the lawyers was if they have been resorting to legal means to resist a quite reasonable request.

  • apgaylard says:

    Unfortunately the Masters they offer (via e-learning) is an MSc.


  • lecanardnoir says:

    Apparently, UCLAN began life as the “Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge”. How far it has come since its philanthropic findings. Maybe it is turning back to its roots again now.

    The founding members of the college made a pledge to never drink alcohol again. Maybe the homeopaths and their magic water/alcohol drops were falling foul of some charter?

  • charybdis says:

    Perhaps what we need is an Anti Homeopathy League. Then Kate’s paranoia would have a tangible basis – but then again being a homeopath she doesn’t need anything tangible.

    I think that it’s time to take the gloves off.
    Kate and Jean are clearly ‘bringing the university into disrepute’. I have made a formal complaint to Malcolm McVicar about their conduct and requested that he take action.

    I’m not holding my breath, but ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’

    Keep up the good work David

  • Dr Aust says:

    Nice reminder of “conflict of interest” from Acleron. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”, and all that.

    In the same vein, did we ever work out who the external examiner for UCLan’s course was? I seem to recall that Westminster Univ’s bluster and obfuscations about how their “B.Sc in Homeopathy” was really, really scientific were rather undercut when it turned out that the External Examiner was not a scientist, but the Chair of the Society of Homeopaths.

    The thing about the requests for info stalling the Univ brought a wry smile to my face, remembering the saga of DC, Ann Walker and the Provost of UCL. It is a thin excuse, whoever is using it.

  • Robert Estrada says:

    Perhaps we give them too little credit for consistency. Homeopathy is based on “like cures like”, correct? So if you want to cure ignorance you take foolishness and apply it after diluting it to an extreme degree with a solvent. They appear to have chosen magical thinking as the solvent. I wonder how they success the homeopathic knowledge?
    P.S. Sorry I do not think spandex would suit Professor Colquhoun.

  • Muscleman says:

    “Sorry I do not think spandex would suit Professor Colquhoun”

    Have you seen modern running gear? Chariots of fire it ain’t.

  • Mojo says:

    Robert Estrada wrote, “I wonder how they success the homeopathic knowledge?”

    Peter Bowditch recommends succussing the head twice on each side with a brick:


  • Homoeopathic farmer says:

    I see you’re all chuffed to have participated in closing the Homoeopathy course at UCAL.
    Presumably equally chuffed that your mates at The Guardian were so quick to catch your story with it appearing on their education web site within 3 hours of your posting it here! However, given their normal subservience to anyone saying nasty things about homoeopathy that is not surprising.

    I see your website has reference to an “alternative reality” in which homoeopaths live (and) is just too complicated for mortals to grasp? It’s not hard to grasp at all if one has the enquiring mind needed by scientists.

    I do not afford you “credit for this decision” which you pile on “the many good academics at UCLAN”. It’s not credit-worthy

    Furthermore when you say that “the abandonment of this degree in medicines that contain no medicine is a small victory for common sense, for science and for the integrity of universities” you really do illustrate your erroneous thoughts. That you think “there is still a long way to go” as if its some sort of mission is sad. Very sad. Equally that your “science” is the only science you will put your name to.

    Now, why do I feel so sure that homoeopathy is effective, and worthy of a place in the medicine world?

    Because for 15 years I kept 500 animals that on my farm at any one time, of which 300 were milking cows. They did not lie for 15 years when 95% or so of their ailments were successfully treated homoeopathically? Alternatively, if it was sheer coincidence that they got better (Placebo style) then surely you and the other conventionally minded sceptics ought to be urging all vets (and doctors) to use the placebo route and ditch the drugs? What stops you?

    And if your hypothesis is correct, i.e. that homoeopathy does not work, then surely these placebo treated animals will just get better? I can tell you they don’t. To not treat them would likely result in me receiving a visit from someone who says you shouldn’t be mal-treating your animals by with-holding a treatment – be that whatever it may be, pharmaceutical or homoeopathic?

    Let us not forget, in case its does slip the mind, that there are thousands of farmers the world over, and a large percentage of them are conventional in every other way, who use and swear by homoeopathy for their animal’s veterinary needs. They are not scientists, just observing common sense bestowed people who know they are right, and don’t need some “scientist” to tell them. Worse they don’t need someone to tell them that what they have seen is wrong!

    Nor, strange as you may find it, do the homoeopaths working in the 5 NHS homoeopathic hospitals.

    I suppose both these facets are what we might call “An Inconvenient Truth” for those only prepared to see allopathic medicine as the solution.

    As for the mechanism by which homoeopathy works, which you cite as one of your reasons for rejection, this is a bizarre. Do you, and your “scientific colleagues” in whom you prefer to trust, understand how every single appliance in your home operates, your car, your computer, and further afield maybe nuclear power stations, the worldwide web, anything else you care to think of, and maybe even the soil-web of micro-organisms of which we have probably one discovered about 2% by identity and yet produce food for us daily? I doubt that not understanding any of these stops you using them or their produce. Or does it?

    Equally, when a magician completes a trick in front of your eyes, and you cannot see how he did it, do you call him a liar and say he did not really do it?

    Maybe you will reappraise your position. If not, I can only feel sorry for you – and that is not to be patronising – and all those who you by inference leave less likely to receive a simple and effective remedy for their malady.

    I wonder if I’ll get a thoughtful reply from those on this site, to the substantive points made, rather than dismissive one-liners or similar?

  • Dr Aust says:

    Sorry – anecdotal experience (so beloved of all homeopaths) has shown that dismissive one liners are the most effective way to deal with homeopathy enthusiasts, who are wholly impervious to arguments, no matter how “thoughtful”.

    A few one liners that spring to mind:

    “Equally, when a magician completes a trick in front of your eyes, and you cannot see how he did it, do you call him a liar and say he did not really do it?”

    No – we would call him “a magician” – his skill is to make us think we saw him do it. Like, for instance, James Randi.

    If, on the other hand, the magician insisted he did it by using supernatural psychic powers, then we would call him a liar.

    “As for the mechanism by which homoeopathy works, which you cite as one of your reasons for rejection, this is a bizarre. Do you, and your “scientific colleagues” in whom you prefer to trust, understand how every single appliance in your home operates….?”

    The point is, we DO know a great deal about how molecules in solution behave. For homeopathy to work, most of this stuff, the product of a hundred years of experimental research, consistent with the known laws of physics and chemistry and literally tens of thousands of different experiments, would have to be wrong.

    It is not that homeopathy is “beyond what we know”. It is that homeopathy flatly contradicts essentially all that is known.

    Equally, there are perfectly scientifically plausible, and likely, explanations for all the claimed effects of homeopathy – placebo, expectation, regression to the mean, spontaneous recovery, etc etc.

    Thus scientists’ description of homeopathy adherents as existing in a kind of “Alternative Reality” is – at least in my opinion – not just a dismissive one-liner. It correctly describes where such people stand in relation to what we know about how the universe operates.

  • lecanardnoir says:

    Homoeopathic farmer – your arguments in support of homeopathy are exactly the sort put forth by the majority of homeopaths. They are all fallacious and easily dismissed and would deserve a big fat F in any reasonable degree examination for being full of logical fallacies and poorly researched info. The fact that universities can award students an A for trotting out similar canards is exactly what is at stake here.

  • DMcILROY says:

    To homeopathic farmer, it just so happens that I recently read a testimonial to the efficiency of homeopathy by a dairy farmer in my local paper (Ouest France, if you’re interested). One point he spelled out was the financial benefit of homeopathic treatment – much cheaper than what I presume you would call allopathic drugs – so there is a big saving involved. Is this also true in the UK? If so, have you ever wondered whether your favorable impression of homeopathy might be biased by the financial side of things?

    BTW – A belated congratulations to DC, a victory for common sense and clear thinking indeed.

  • homeopathic farmer, don’t you agree that 95% of farm animals’ ailments get better by themselves without treatment? Much like humans, really.

    If not, do you have the data to prove it?

  • […] 0 ← University abandons homeopathy “degree” […]

  • latsot says:

    homeopathic farmer,

    I’m afraid that your comment doesn’t really deserve a thoughtful reply. Perhaps you aren’t aware of why anecdotal evidence is insufficient as a test for medicine or perhaps you don’t realise that your evidence *is* anecdotal. Either way, your 15 years of experience are not a sound basis for your conclusion that homeopathy is effective. You just don’t know what would have happened had you not ‘treated’ the animals.

    A properly conducted scientific trial would do precisely the same sort of thing as you do, but under conditions that eliminate bias and control variables. As a consequence, we can be sure that the results are accurate. If your claims are true, then such a scientific test would back them up.

    I don’t understand why you feel your brand of evidence is somehow the stronger and more reliable. It’s not that we ‘prefer to trust’ scientists, it’s that the evidence simply speaks for itself.

    Your ‘mechanism’ argument is just plain bizarre. For one thing, mechanism is only relevant if homeopathy is shown to work, which is very far from the case. Second, if I don’t know every detail of how my computer works, I am confident that the person who designed it does (because it can be reliably replicated) and more importantly that its operation does not violate large portions of what we know about physics.

    If properly conducted scientific trials reliably showed that homeopathy was more effective than placebo, then we would indeed have to abandon chunks of physics, but until that is shown to be the case, we are justified in our doubt and criticism.

  • SkepticalSally says:

    homeopathic farmer,

    “And if your hypothesis is correct, i.e. that homoeopathy does not work, then surely these placebo treated animals will just get better? I can tell you they don’t.”

    Please supply links to the properly-conducted, double-blinded scientific trials that support your assertion that homeopathy works better than placebo in animals.

  • Homoeopathic farmer says:

    The collective response to my post is staggering!

    Dr. Aust, perhaps the known laws of physics and chemistry aren’t complete yet? That homoeopathy contradicts what some know does not mean it invalidated, like any new understanding. And you fall back as do others on the placebo line. Spontaneous recovery etc. So, should I have left all those cases we did successfully treat with homoeopathic remedies to spontaneously recover? Would I have been prosecuted if they did not? Several responses to my post ignore the fact – yes, fact, that we successfully restored hundreds of ill animals to full health with homoeopathy. As I suggested, and Inconvenient truth. This also answers “Evening persons”question – but see the next one for a suggestion on how you may all benefit by seeing and talking to professionally trained vets, not me.

    Lecanardair says that my points “are all fallacious and easily dismissed and would deserve a big fat F in any reasonable degree examination for being full of logical fallacies and poorly researched info”. Would he like to come and spend a day with some veterinary surgeons who have been successfully treating animals with homoeopathy for many years, and who are also conventionally trained? Why not?

    I can also assure Dr McIlroy that we do NOT use homoeopathy for economic reasons. The remedies are not that cheap! Sorry to disappoint you!

    Then latsot suggests that “1 years of experience are not a sound basis for your conclusion that homeopathy is effective. You just don’t know what would have happened had you not ‘treated’ the animals.” Of course I don’t. But I do know what happened when many did not recover immediately and we switched remedy and had success, for example, Whoa, hang on, that must have been pot luck too. Now, how about you all come up with £1,000,000 – small beer to a pharmaceutical budget holder – and I find you a homoeopathic vet who will conduct you a trial, to suit your standards?

  • Homeopathic farmer: homeopaths have been given money to do good trials, both here and in the USA, But they just keep making excuses for not doing it properly, They manage to give a strong impression that they know, deep down, that they’ll fail the test.

    Other people, though have already done good trials now, and they have failed, when the proper precautions against bias are observed. What you are asking for has already been done.

    The sort of argument you are using is very much the same as conventional medicine used (a long time ago) to justify blood-letting, They really believed it worked, just as you seem to believe that homeopathy works. Once people got the idea that you needed good evidence, blood-letting vanished and progress was made.

    You make also the usual point about the laws of physics, It is quite common for homeopaths to suggest that these laws should be overturned ans science has got it all wrong. Somehow, though, they never want to overturn those bits of science that lie behind their mobile phone, their computer, their car, or even their tractor.

  • badly shaved monkey says:

    Homeopathic Farmer

    Unfortunately for your wishful-thinking, a number of trials have been done of homeopathy in farm animals and they showed exactly what one might expect, the course of disease in animals receiving placebo pills was indistinguishable from that in animals receiving homeopathic remedies.

    How does that square with your anecdotal experience? I cannot say for sure, but my experience of animal owners’ use of homeopathy shows that they do so in much the same way as they use it for themselves- mostly it is used for trivial and potentially imaginary illness, which appears to be treated successfully because it either would have got better anyway or was non-existent, but for serious illness they use real medicine, while persisting with the homeopathic sugar pills to ‘support recovery’ (or some similar platitudinous nonsense).

    I am intrigued by your 95% figure. Do the 5% get real drugs or just die?

    If farm animals had always died for every cough and sniffle that they suffer we would never have had economically viable farming in the pre-pharmaceutical era. There is a rational debate to be had about whether pharmaceuticals have been used to support unsustainable husbandry practices and just how little drugs need to be used if husbandry is good, but homeopathy has no part in good husbandry.

    At best homeopathy in animals is worthless, at worst it allows you the false impression that you are helping animals while excusing any deteriorations that occur as being part of the homeopathic healing process with its alleged ‘aggravation’s and so-called Hering’s Law.

  • badly shaved monkey says:

    p.s. It also bears pointing out to our farmer friend that if homeopathy was sufficiently robust to work in farm animals, this would contradict all the mealy-mouthed whingeing about how controlled trials lack the subtle power to discern homeopathy’s effects.

    The same remedies are used en masse. No cow is ever asked about its favourite childhood toy or whether it has dreams about flying.

    Indeed, agricultural homeopathy is itself a reductio ad absurdum as disproof of many of the central claims of homeopathy. As is so often the case with SCAM therapies, the worst danger to their credibility is to take their claims at face value and spot the internal inconsistencies. No need for controlled trials, the house of cards falls under its own weight.

  • homeopathic farmer, just saying that you have answered a question doesn’t mean you have answered it!

    And you didn’t answer my question.

    How do you know that those animals would not have got better if left untreated?

    Pharmaceutical companies are (by and large) not allowed to simply say ‘they wouldn’t have’. That’s why they are expected to carry out trials with control groups.

    On the other hand, homeopaths never ever claim anything but exactly what you are saying: ‘I say so, so it’s true’.

    Do you realise that your claim of a 95% success rate on hundreds of animals would make a spectacular scientific paper if it was done as a proper study? Which is exactly why no homeopath will ever do this.

  • Mojo says:

    They don’t want Nobel Prizes cluttering up their mantlepieces, now do they?

  • Dr-star-T says:

    [/rerail from troll]

    Excellent work DC. Here’s to more of the same.

  • Homoeopathic farmer says:

    Frankly you all seem a bunch of blinkered nutcases!

    Diseases we resolved include many forms of mastitis, scours in calves, pneumonia, New Forest Eye, breeding problems, calving difficulties and many more. Nothing trivial about those diseases.

    I note nobody has agreed to come and meet practicing homoeopathic vets to discuss this area. Indeed most of those who criticise what I say do not even refer to the animal issue, maybe because it would be an inconveneient flaw for their ciriticisms.

    Tite remarks about Nobel prizes demeans valid points, and is sad.

    Badly Shaved Monkey says “At best homeopathy in animals is worthless, at worst it allows you the false impression that you are helping animals while excusing any deteriorations that occur as being part of the homeopathic healing process with its alleged ‘aggravation’s and so-called Hering’s Law.”
    Well I can tell you its only worthless in YOUR mind. I used it for so long and so often as to know it had immense value – and no, it was not some fanicful “impression”. I’m sorry for you if you really think that this is not scientific enough, and thus invalidates the whole experience. I can well understand that it might worry you – threats to lifetime’s of deeply ingrained thoughts etc.

    I finish this again by suggesting you agree to come to farms where homoeopathy IS successful – there are many – and talk about it with trained homoeopathic vets, who have nothing to hide at all. I know it would cost you some time, and might challenge your preconceptions that homoeopthy cannot possibly work because the remedies contain “nothing”.
    I wonder how long I’ll be waiting for the list of attendees……….?

  • M Simpson says:

    HF, before we all decide to book time off work and travel to some farm somewhere to meet these vets, perhaps you could explain to us what sort of evidence we would be presented with when we got there. If all they could give us is ‘discussion’ then it’s not going to be worth anyone’s time.

    If your vets have evidence of efficaceous homeopathy, why do they need to present it in person on a farm rather than submitting it to a peer-reviewed veterinary journal? If they don’t have evidence, how would they hope to persuade anyone with a genuinely open, sceptical mind?

    What would be really useful is if you could persuade one of these vets, whom you evidently know well, to post here (or indeed anywhere) explaining how homeopathic treatment of animals fits into the principle of individualisation which is frequently cited by homeopaths as essential for the remedies to work and therefore a stumbling block for randomised controlled trials.

    If you have an outbreak of a condition within your herd, does your local homeopathic vet carefully study each individual for an hour or so and prescribe different remedies to each animal? Or does he/she provide a blanket remedy that will ‘cure’ them all?

    These are the sort of questions which it would be useful for you to answer, from your own experience, if you are to eventually persuade people. As it is, so far your posts here have been nothing but bluster and empty rhetoric which is rarely persuasive, especially in scientific debate.

  • badly shaved monkey says:

    “Diseases we resolved include many forms of mastitis, scours in calves, pneumonia, New Forest Eye, breeding problems, calving difficulties and many more. Nothing trivial about those diseases.”

    OK, let’s think about this a little further. It so happens that mastitis is one of the areas where some proper trials have been done.

    If you randomly substitute homeopathy remedy pills for placebo there is no difference in outcome between those treated homeopathically and those treated with pills that make no claim to have magic powers.

    I think we can draw a simple inference from this. The cows you treated that had mastitis followed exactly the same course that they would have done if you hadn’t used the homeopathic pills, but your anecdotal uncontrolled observations do not allow you to recognise this. Unfortunately you are so convinced of homeopathy that you seem not even to realise this error.

    Mastitis can resolve without antibiotics. You seem to have forgotten (again) that much of farming existed in a pre-antibiotic era yet not every case of mastitis led to the loss of a quarter or even to loss of a cow especially if standard management practices such as stripping out affected quarters are employed.

    However, some cows will lose a quarter, die or have to be culled due to subsequent poor productivity.

    You are implicitly claiming that mastitis would never resolve without drug treatment, though you choose to consider a homeopathic pill as the necessary drug instead of an antibiotic. But that is a false premise.

    No one is claiming that mastitis would never resolve without drugs, but it is more likely to resolve and that resolution is more likely to be complete with antibiotics. That’s how the licensed products managed to get their licences- a process to which no homeopathic manufacturer has ever dared subject their product.

    How to square this with your insistence that you subjectively perceived animals to be made better by homeopathic remedies? To put it bluntly, you are wrong. You have drawn a false inference. You have simply observed the natural time course of the disease and you have excused the loss of some animals’ quarters and probably the loss of some animals as simply being cases that were too far advanced for your magic sugar to treat.

    This is why people like you and your use of homeopathy are a serious threat to animal welfare. Homeopathy has given you a set of excuses that permit you to ignore the ill-consequences of your actions.

    “They did not lie for 15 years when 95% or so of their ailments were successfully treated homoeopathically?”

    I note that you ignored my question about what happened to the 5%

    “Alternatively, if it was sheer coincidence that they got better (Placebo style) then surely you and the other conventionally minded sceptics ought to be urging all vets (and doctors) to use the placebo route and ditch the drugs? What stops you?”

    I’m afraid that this simply reveals the muddled state of your thinking. I hope you read what I have said above about mastitis. But, for clarity: Few diseases kill all their victims. Some diseases kill a few victims. Drugs are used to push the odds in favour of survival with minimal damage. That is why drugs are used. That is what stops us “ditching” the drugs despite the fact that most diseases are not fatal to most patients. Homeopathic sugar pills do exactly nothing to alter the odds, except perhaps to make them worse by engendering a spirit of complacency in their users.

    As a final note, with respect to calf-scours, I do hope that you can confirm that you gave scouring calves oral rehydration therapy and did not simply rely on magic sugar pills.

  • loopylou says:

    Wish I’d found this site a while ago, but spotted the article in the paper yesterday and followed it up. It’s of particular interest to me as I have been studying nutritional therapy for the last two years or so – I’ve already got a science degree, but wanted to learn something new. Nutrition is quite a hot topic and one I’m interested in so it seemed like a good idea – especially as the course is validated by a university and the outcome is a BSc! After becoming disillusioned with the course content after a year, I’ ve swapped provider, still university validated and a BSc course. My gut feeling (how appropriate) is that I am wasting my time again. The lack of any real scientific evidence to back up some claims is shocking and there is almost a tone of ‘don’t worry you don’t need to know this in detail ‘ eg for biochemical pathways.
    One or two of the lecturers seem to have little experience in Nutritional Therapy other than having previously completed the same course – I’ve also had trouble finding peer reviewed published research for some of the stuff I’m expected to study.
    How these courses can be described as a Bsc defeats me. Now I know what dumbing down of education really means.

  • Lindy says:

    loopylou – I nearly fell into that trap some years back before doing a physiology degree (at an advanced age). Why not try the British Dietetic Association? http://www.bda.uk.com/ to find out about their training, which I would think would be scientifically rigorous and extremely useful!

  • Dr Aust says:

    I tip my hat to Badly Shaved Monkey for his lucid exposition of the fallacies in Homeopathic Farmer’s arguments. To me this seems precisely the sort of “thoughtful” response HF said he wanted. Can’t wait to see if HF has some response to make.

    I reckon Badly Shaved Monkey’s last post should be e-mailed to every vet who has ever practised “veterinary homeopathy”, and posted on the websites of the six UK vet schools, of the RCVS, and of the veterinary professional associations.

  • loopylou says:

    Lindy – thanks for your advice. I had a look at BDA training at the time but wasn’t feasible as all are attendance courses and I’m at home with kids- I think this may be why a lot of these alternative degrees are popular, because they allow a large amount of distance learning, which lets face it is a bit of a joke for a real science degree. A science degree with absolutely no practical work? other than client consultations and presentations…. mmmm. The ‘BSc’ tag made me think I was making a safe choice, but on reflection I was being naive.
    There’s plenty of talking up of employment opportunities for NTs too- but I’m beginning to doubt that aswell. The courses are certainly sold as a way to a new, presumable profitable career.

  • Dr Aust says:


    You can always take the course, get the degree, but NOT drink the Nutrition-balls Kool-Aid – it’s up to you. I can see why you’re disillusioned, since they have mis-sold you, as they have so many other people. But the way things are going, there will be jobs in “nutrition” that aren’t for dieticians, since the demand for nutritional advice seems never-ending and there will never be enough dieticians to fill it. Your spotting the scientific shortcomings in the course suggests you will make a far better nutritionist than the Holfie-groupies who fall hook line and sinker for all the rubbish Patrick’s acolytes feed them about “food intolerance” and the like.

  • John Hooper says:

    I was reading a comment badly shaved monkeynet made on another site and saw this quote from (presumably) a staunch advocate of homeopathy:

    “””””(FairDeal Homeopathic treatments are guaranteed as effective as all other homeopathic treatments. Treatment in no way implies “cure”.)””””””

    What on earth is that supposed to mean ?

    To me it seems to defeat the whole argument of the SCAM brigade. One lot of water is as useless as any other lot and we won’t necessarily cure you.

    As someone totally lacking in medical qualifications beyond Scouting first aid I admit to a significant gap in my understanding but I would have expected treatment and cure to go pretty much hand in hand – although admittedly treatment/cure can fail I suppose.

    Or was I just so irate that I missed something satirical ? Hard to tell sometimes.

  • […] the announcement that the University of Central Lancashire (Uclan) was suspending its homeopathy “BSc” course, it seems that their vice chancellor has listened to the pressure, both internal and external, to […]

  • […] trackback After the announcement that the University of Central Lancashire (Uclan) was suspending its homeopathy “BSc” course, it seems that their vice chancellor has listened to the pressure, both internal and external, to […]

  • […] Thanks to David’s relentless poking around, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) has abandoned its homepathic “medicine” degree.  The university blames “low […]

  • John Hooper says:

    I read the reference to amethysts emitting positive yin energy and idly browsed the web to see if amethysts could be used in lasers (like rubys are) or whether they could generate piezoelectricity if compressed.

    Found the following instead:

    “””””Tachyonized water is treated with special tachyonization process that does not alter its chemical composition, but with insertion of tachyons it causes its modification on subatomic level. Such water has an enormous vital potential. It enables entrance of tachyons into our physical body and thus accelerates detoxification processes, strengthens the immune system and increases bioenergy level. Tachyonized water should not be used concentrated. Rather dilute 5-10 drops of tachyonized water in a glass of ordinary water and consume daily. Store in cool place.””””””

    There seems to be so much quackery in that advert it can hardly be true – it even has shades of homeopathy. And such a bargain at only £25 per 2 litre bottle. Still price is not everything and you only need a few drops per day.

    Can anyone who understands what a tachyon really is comment on this ? Also could you let me know how easy it is to tachyonise water as I see a business opportunity here (or did I miss the boat).

  • Oh my heavens, don’t you just love the pompous page warning you about “fake tachyon products”

    The auras here really wild too

    “Los Angeles tap water — 70-120 percent
    Tachyonized water — 1,558,000 percent

    If you believe in vibrational medicine or healing, this is substantial evidence on the profound impact of the Tachyonized products. “

  • John Hooper says:

    Well I certainly wouldn’t want any fake tachyon products !

    The tachyon site I looked at was:


    To be honest this was the best laugh I have had in ages.

    It seems to be a fantastic way of selling a whole collection of tatty old rubbish for fifty times the price.

    On the upside all products “””include the 12-hour tachyonization process in the tachyon chamber””” so at least you are not getting ripped off.

    Seems good value to me. Obviously not scam artists or they would only give it a few minutes in the tachyon chamber.

    Plenty of other risible stuff there as well if you fancy an idle chortle.

  • John Hooper says:

    Can I ask a question of the medically trained commentators (I am a geophysicist/geomorphologist).

    Herbal remedies seem to be included in the SCAM category.

    I imagine some of them probably work and most probably don’t work.

    However, is not herbal medicine different from homeopathy and other quackeries exactly because some bits of it probably work TOO well.

    Something like deadly nightshade applied as a herbal quack remedy would presumably be remarkably efficacious – but maybe not in the manner intended.

    Is the issue with herbals that they are fundamentally untested in terms of what they are meant to be used against.

    One of the reasons for asking is the proliferation of “traditional” Chinese herbal clinics that seem to be springing up like mushrooms in shopping centres. Looking at some bumf in one of their windows I saw some remarkable claims (probably mostly remarkable for being wrong or misleading).

    I have had enough of tachyons – it’s a bit like drowning kittens in a barrel.

  • I think that is just about right. They are mostly just not tested properly. And none are standardised so even when they contain an active ingredient, you don’t know what dose you’ll get, with obvious consequent dangers. The problem of standardising things like digitalis was solved by pharmacologists in the 1930s but herbalists haven’t got there yet.

    There is an excellent summary of what’s known about particular plants in Trick or Treatment by Singh & Ernst.

  • Lindy says:

    I am rendered speechless (well, almost) at the range and quantity of quackery that keeps appearing.
    I wonder if the aura pictures relating to the tacky water were taken by this firm:

    I understand they specialise in pictures of auras of all kinds and you can buy their special cameras and all the gear.

  • John Hooper says:


    Try finding out how much the aura camera costs !

    I looked and I have been unable to see how much it costs. As most online sellers are keen to establish their low prices immediately this sets off alarm bells in my head.

    Even the page on “Payment and Financing” does not tell you the prices.

    Call me cynical (please) but I wonder if the page on “Aura Equipment Profitability” gives the game away.

    I can do my cheap “Aura Imaging System” for £49.95 if you are interested. (on the other hand there is a DIY version available consisting of a tatty old digital camera and the Microsoft Paint “Aura Imposition Technology”(TM).

    Instructions are simple to follow:
    1.) If subject looks happy set spray can function to yellow.
    2.) If subject looks sad set spray can function to black
    3.) If subject looks angry set spray can function to red.
    4.) For other moods set spray can function to appropiate colour as defined in Aura Chromatographic Index.
    5.) Spray.
    6.) Sell aura picture to gullible moron for £25.

    As an earth scientist I also have a collection of crystals should you want to boost your yin energy (also raises harmonic yang energy as well). £45 each. Also available as tachyonized fossils and minerals which combine the power of tachyons with all the ancient energetic levels of the earth and probably also ley lines (due to stock problems only belemnites are currently available as these are all I could find at Lyme Regis).

    Between this camera, sugar pills and tacky water/crystals/fossils I am going to be rich.

    PS – don’t get speechless, get angry.

  • Lindy says:

    Thanks JH, but I think I’ll just stick with my old SLR for now!

    And don’t worry: I have been angry for many many years and still am – about many things!

    I wish more people would be angry enough to make more noise (as DC does) about all this quackery, in particular because it so often preys on people’s fears and makes them pay out large sums of money, which they can ill afford and when they are probably not even unwell in the first place. I also see it as part of a wider ethos of ‘anything goes’, where politicians can get away with telling huge untruths…..

  • John Hooper says:

    Funnily enough I was just thinking exactly the same thing.

    It seems to me that people by and large get short shrift from their (proper) doctors. My last doctor was unable (apparently) to deal with more than one thing at a time – so when I went to see him for the first time in about seven years he did not seem capable of dealing with onset osteo-arthritis in my knee and a detached retina. (He did find time to lecture me on drinking and smoking though).

    With most (proper) doctors you get a few minutes in which they try to identify the most appropriate drug in the shortest time possible. Move them in and move them out.

    It seems to me that so many “illnesses” and “complaints” nowadays are general malaise issues. Things like:

    – yuppy flu
    – I feel out of sorts
    – I am tired all the time
    – I dont have any energy
    – I have lost my libido
    – my get up and go got up and went
    – I always have headaches
    – blah blah blah whinge whinge whinge

    I imagine people with these general malaises probably get short shrift from their GP.

    Instead of doing some exercise and eating a decent diet they turn to quacks for a “medical” solution in the form of a pill or medicine.

    The quacks will almost certainly give them time, consideration, tea and sympathy along with a “cure” (insert homeopathy, crystals, reiki, tachyon bollox etc).

    In a nutshell the quacks probably make them feel good and the “medicine/treatment” rapidly clears up what was not actually a real medical problem in the first place.

    This would pretty much account for the anecdotal evidence that quacks can help you and would probably explain why people return to quacks time after time.

    So apart from the placebo effect is there not also some sort of “therapeutic effect” at work.

    I am sure this has been looked at by proper doctors but as I said above I am a rock basher so not immersed in the medical literature.

    It seems a bit narrow of you not to open your mind to my tachyonised energetic ancient life forms imbued with 230 million years of the earths energetic yin (or is that yang – I forget).

    (Yours for £25 – I have a sale on.)

    Whilst there have been no real trials on my products I can assure you that the anecdotal evidence for their efficaciousness is very sound !! My brother can confirm this for you (He gets half of the wedge). In any case tachyonised energetic bling is not amenable to study.

    Maybe politicians need to do to quacks what they have done to that other bunch of fraudulent crooks and bloodsuckers (clairvoyants, mediums etc) and force them into some form of regulation which makes them clearly spell out what they are doing. How many people would walk through the door of a quacks nest if a sign said “The cures available here have no clinically proven basis and may not make your illness better”.

  • John Hooper says:

    *** CORRECTION ***

    NOTICE FOR creationists, intelligent designers, diverse believers in mumbo-jumbo and other religious fundamentalists.

    Geo-magnetic tachyonised ancient life forms imbued with the earths natural energy are also available in a special 6000 year old Usher Version.

    (Note: Not approved by Richard Dawkins)

  • Dr Aust says:

    The Alternative Medicine lot definitely “key” their messages to all the things the worried well feel they DON’T get from their conventional doctors.

    A good example of this is the Society of Homeopaths’ page on “What is Homeopathy?” It is written to hit every “hot button” that leads people to be dissatisfied with conventional medicine (doctor too busy / doesn’t listen / treats me as a disease or diseases not as a person / doesn’t think I’m really ill / gives me pills w. nasty dangerous side effects etc etc).

    The whole page is worth reading in this respect – quite instructive – but just as a taster:

    [italics added for emphasis]

    What happens when you see a homeopath?

    Your homeopath understands that establishing good health involves treating both mind and body, so time is taken to listen to your emotional and physical symptoms. To stimulate your body’s own healing process, a remedy closest to your individual symptom picture is prescribed. Healing begins from within your body, strengthening your health and immune system, without any danger of damaging side effects.

  • Lindy says:

    JH, I feel that one problem with regulation is that it is likely to mean that some of the relevant quacks will be appointed to a board, draw up a code of conduct (or use the one already drawn up by the ‘Society of Wotzits’) and tell their ‘therapists’ how to behave. So the chances of a regulatory body giving any judgement on the efficacy or honesty of what is being offered are almost nil.
    So all that happens is the therapy is given an official stamp and creeps into the mainstream by the back door. As DC has pointed out in his posting on the Pittillo report (and here), the trading standards legislation (in theory at least) is sufficient to challenge the claims made by CAM practitioners. But we need to make the challenges at every opportunity. Then we might see engender the application of some scientific rigour. I just wish we didn’t even have to have these discussions when real science is so startlingly wonderful.

  • John Hooper says:

    I know a lot of you have been at this for a while but as a relative novice (to this site – not to skepticism) I just cannot believe some of the stuff you fellow doubters have referred me to.

    Perhaps the most amazing was a reference to a site where some lunatic does proving on various things and did one on a shipwreck in Wales.


    This really takes the biscuit (a version of which is probably available from Helios along with the mutts nuts)

    Until I read the common sense here, on BGs site etc I assumed HY (cannot be arsed typing the whole thing out) was based on a similar concept to vaccination. I never knew about all the rubbish like banging and shaking.

    I almost don’t mind the charlatans and con merchants and their tacky water, crystals etc. At least you get something to drink and something which looks quite nice (although at a fair old price) and fools and their money were always likely to be parted.

    However, this arrant nonsense from someone who is clearly deranged nearly made me fall of my chair.

    Apparently if you “prove” a shipwreck you get “blocked”. This does not just apply to your intestinal tract, nose but also applies to the UK transport network. I quote:

    “””It even went as far a being physically blocked, which I found the most surprising:

    P7 – “ I was late because I kept getting blocked by impassable vehicles, diggers etc”

    P3 – “the weather was awful – so gave up trying to get to Watford – traffic a nightmare, total gridlock

    P6 – “take the tube and got on the wrong branch of the Northern line”

    P5 – “excessive problems getting to work. Trains broke down, buses broke down, traffic congestion”””

    The prover states in the introduction “””please be kind enough to respect that this work took months to collate and was conducted in a caring professional manner”””

    So firm proof that HY can affect the underground, the roads, South West Trains and JCBs (plus the weather).

    Case proved I would say ! Errrrr, hang on, is that what I actually mean.

  • John Hooper says:

    There is a cracker on the Quackometer site.

    Proof that perhaps not everybody at UCLAN is a charlatan.

    Peter Fisher replied to the sumitted paper and said that:

    “”From the scanty details supplied, two possible conclusions can be drawn, and both
    may be true””

    Which you have to admit sounds like a HY practititoner – especially the scanty details bit.

    In theory Fisher should have rejected the paper on the grounds that there was too much substance in it for a 30C dilution.

    And how does he know it wasn’t banged and shaken to potentise it along quantum cavitiation lines.

  • Dr Aust says:

    After a while, John, one comes to the feeling that the only appropriate response to homeopathy is to take the p*ss.

    Ringing denunciation and withering sarcasm are also both satisfying at times. But I have concluded that taking the mickey is the best indication of my considered view on precisely how seriously homeopathy ought to be taken.

    Of course, far more erudite gents than I have previously reached the same conclusion:

    Stir the mixture well
    Lest it prove inferior,
    Then put half a drop
    Into Lake Superior.

    Every other day
    Take a drop in water,
    You ’ll be better soon
    Or at least you oughta.

    Bishop William Crosswell Doane (1832–1913): Lines on Homeopathy.

  • […] “The benefits and risks of Homeopathy” – Lancet article Saved by chrisc38 on Fri 19-12-2008 University abandons homeopathy “degree” Saved by kanookle on Mon 15-12-2008 Homeopathy For Pets Saved by elpelon on Tue 09-12-2008 […]

  • […] whole thing has taken so long that the course at which it was aimed has already closed its doors last August (and blamed that, in part, on the problems caused by the Freedom of Information Act). UCLAN […]

  • […] and I still haven’t got the stuff but that hardly matters now, because the course in question shut its doors. In any case, plenty of stuff from similar courses has leaked out […]

  • […] documents for their "BSc" degree in homeopathy (this degree no longer exists: it was abolished in 2008). A year later, UCLAN shut the rest of its courses in alternative medicine, after an internal […]

  • […] Hons homeopathy course at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN). Entry to this course was closed in 2008 and, after an internal review, UCLAN closed almost all of the rest of its courses in alternative […]

  • […] alone (plus heaven knows how much in staff time) to prevent us from seeing what was taught on their now defunct “BSc (Hons) homeopathy”. This does not seem to me to be good use of taxpayers’ money. A small sample of what was […]

  • […] Homeopathy has been criticised as ‘unscientific’ by some academics.  The University of Central Lancashire said the decision to puts its BSc course on hold was, “due to poor recruitment”, and, “nothing to do with the current furore”, although David Colquhoun of University College London called it, “a small victory for common sense, for science and for the integrity of universities” in his blog, ‘DC’s Improbable Science’. […]

  • […] uczelni powodem miały być „nieustające ataki ligi anty-homeopatycznej”. Prof. David Colquhoun, farmakolog z University College w Londynie, stwierdził, że jest to najpoważniejsze […]

  • […] uczelni  powodem miały być „nieustające ataki  ligi anty-homeopatycznej”.  Prof.  David Colquhoun, farmakolog z University College w Londynie, stwierdził, że jest to najpoważniejsze zwycięstwo […]

  • […] University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) was the first to see sense. In August 2008 they announced closure of their “BSc” degree in homeopathy. They then set up an internal review of their other “BSc” degrees. On September 2008 […]

  • […] tid mellom hvert innlegg, men mini-bloggen er alltid interessant. Og tidligere i uken bragte han en gledelig nyhet: Homøopatiutdanningen som skjemmer ut University of Central Lancashire vil ikke ta opp nye […]

  • […] name will be familiar to anyone who’s been following David Colquhoun’s campaign against quackademia (snigger). She still leads an MSc course at Uclan but it’s only in homeopathy by e-learning, […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.