The Telegraph: Back in 2010 a series of academics warned that proposals to increase university fees “will drive whole fields of knowledge into decline”.
Alas it has come to pass, as this paper reports:
Degrees in complementary medical therapies are being cut from universities in the wake of rising tuition fees, a decline in applications and campaigns by scientists.
From this year, it will no longer be possible to study homoeopathy to degree level in a British university.
The number of bachelor and masters degrees in subjects such as reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture and homoeopathy has halved since 2007, from more than 40 to 21. Many of the surviving courses are under review.
In a shrinking job market, prospective students are returning to “traditional” degrees such as physics and chemistry.
Derby University has confirmed that this year its complementary medicine department is to be scrapped. The University of Westminster, which used to be the leading provider of complementary medicine degrees, is to drop nearly all of its courses for this year after applications dropped by half.
Five years ago, Westminster offered 14 BSc degrees in seven types of complementary medicine. Students this year will be offered four degrees in two subjects — acupuncture and herbal medicine.
It’s like the closing of the Athens schools all over again – a light has gone out and Britain will no longer be a world leader in quackery.
For once the liberal-Left won’t mourn the cuts, homoeopathy being something of a bête noire for the Skeptic Movement, which campaigns against “fads and fallacies”, mumbo-jumbo, pseudoscience and other anti-rational pursuits. While I share their concerns, I do wish some Skeptics had the imagination, and courage, to fight against less obvious and comical, but more insidious fads and fallacies that have infiltrated academia.
When I studied Social Anthropology briefly in the 1990s we were taught things that are factually, empirically untrue, but which fitted the ideology of that subject, which was to promote Franz Boas’s idea that all cultures are equal. All notions were merely subjective, so that what we called western science was only a culturally specific form of ethnoscience, not a universally valid way of verification. Richard Dawkins once quoted an anthropologist, who told him a tribe which believed that the moon was an old calabash tossed into the sky could claim as much scientific truth as we could. “They are brought up to see the world in another way. Neither way is more true than the other,” he told Prof Dawkins. One can only imagine the great man’s facial expression at the time.
Although the post-modernism that dominated academia before the millennium has abated somewhat, political quackery still permeates lots of areas. Much of criminology, for example, is effectively junk, as Theodore Dalrymple has often ruminated on, a way for intellectuals to use sophistry to prove what is clearly untrue to be true.
And among the subjects being taught by the academics quoted earlier are Race and Cultural Studies and Women’s Studies. Gender Studies, which looks at the “social and cultural constructions” of masculinity and femininity, is certainly at least a borderline pseudo-social science, based on an idea briefly popular in the late 20th century, that male and female differences are largely confined to the physical bodies. The vast majority of research suggests that this is untrue, yet an idea that has been debunked continues to be taught as fact.
I’m not even sure the teaching of this subject advances female happiness or progress; instead the narrow strand of Marxist feminism found in Gender Studies helps to put people off feminism in general, even among intelligent, educated, working women who should identify as feminists. Most people are feminists in the broader sense of wanting to create a society where women can choose their life paths, and where social pressure is exerted on men to behave in a less selfish, aggressive and predatory way (although, sadly, liberal policies often have the opposite effect and favour aggressive, polygamous alpha males). But the state-funded teaching of a strand that sees gender as socially constructed, against all experience and evidence, discredits the F-word (at a time when a depressing number of women aspire to be glamour models or WAGs).
To understand why this is so, one only has to look at the case of Larry Summers, the Harvard Professor who was hounded out of his job for suggesting that men and women have different-shaped bell curves in mathematical abilities; people said it was deeply offensive, and if something is deeply offensive, how can it be true? It’s a good thing Charles Darwin never had to face the American academic establishment.
Homeopaths, whatever their faults, don’t get people sacked, nor accuse their detractors of hate-thought. And people in the media who matter don’t know many homeopaths and so won’t lose any friends by making fun of them; in contrast many have made heavy investments in the quack ideas that are bandied around as cures to society’s injustices.