Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Farewell, the Enlightenment

The general idea of higher education is that claims are tested and either reinforced or discarded. The fundamental basis of rational humanism - especially the sciences - is that an idea which cannot be tested is not a fit idea. Things exist/happen, or they don't exist/happen. If they do exist/happen, we look for reasons why they exist or happen, and for the how.

Unless, of course, you're talking about 'complementary' or 'alternative' therapy (words which are metaphors for 'things that don't work but are very lucrative'. The Hegemon shamefully charges students a lot of money to shamefully award them a degree in things which are - as our American cousins call it - 'woo': reflexology and aromatherapy. Emphases are mine:

Complementary therapies (often referred to as complementary and alternative medicines, or CAM for short) refer to a range of treatments and approaches including: aromatherapy, reflexology, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy and reiki.
It is believed that CAM forms part of a holistic approach to health and well being. The disciplines are therapeutic and aim to maximise health. They are thought to restore the body's natural equilibrium and balance.
Within the School of Health and Wellbeing we have developed expertise in learning in two of these therapies; aromatherapy and reflexology.

They get a bit bolder here:

Reflexology is a therapy in which the therapist works on zones on the feet, hands, ears and face that correspond to organs in the body.
It is believed that by applying pressure to these zones using the fingers and thumbs only, therapists can help achieve balance throughout the body systems, leading to the optimisation of health and wellbeing.

That 'that' is purest, blatant bollocks. I could claim that my eyelashes 'correspond' to my ankles because they're linked by skin, but there's - and let's be clear - absolutely no scientific or medical justification for these lies.

The clue's in 'complementary': if they worked, they'd be 'medicine', and not an optional, chargeable extra. All these 'believed to' and 'thought to' refer to spiritual opinions: if I submitted a paper to a conference with the same kind of references, I'd be laughed out of the profession.

Unsurprisingly, universities offering these 'degrees' are a little shy about telling people what's taught on these 'courses', though I don't know if The Hegemon has been challenged (although the 'about complementary therapy' link is suspiciously broken, as is the only link to a claimed - dubious looking - reference).

Still, it's a career option for me: the 'Living Angel' shop next door to Vole Towers charges £50 per hour for consultations with your angels, which is much more than I charge to talk about books. Either this is a massive rip-off by a charlatan, or an amazing discount for discoursing with supernatural beings.

What is the point of teaching students to be sceptical, evidence-seeking explorers if elsewhere in the institution they're being told to accept vague, unjustified, untestable lies? I'm ashamed of them.

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