From an academic pedagogical perspective, there’s nothing wrong with a course that has a reading list emphasizing quack medicine. This is the view that people outside of the university don’t understand. They appear to want to prevent students from ever learning about, or discussing, the anti-vax movement and how to deal with it.Orac took this personally and responded in a post of his own [On teaching pseudoscientific controversies in universities…].
They are wrong.
Those of you who read the articles and have seen talks by supporters of science-based medicine like Steve Novella and myself will recognize this for the straw man that it is. We never say anything like this, that we want to prevent students from learning about or discussing the antivaccine movement. That is an assertion that is unsupported and, quite frankly, downright risible. So you should understand that I was more than a little pissed off when I read this part of Moran’s post. We never say that we don’t want alternative medicine to be taught or antivaccine views taught. (Indeed, I really wish that pediatrics residency programs, for instance, would do a better job of teaching antivaccine views, so that they don’t catch pediatricians by surprise when parents start expressing them.) What we complain about is the uncritical teaching of these topics, the teaching, for example, of alternative medicine modalities as though they had scientific merit. This is a massive problem in medical academia. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reiterated this very point going back at least a decade.We agree. I wasn't referring to people like Orac who understand how universities should work. I was referring to those people outside of the university community who really do want to ban any mention of alternative medicine at universities. I guess I didn't make that clear.
I'm pretty sure that Orac knows about this crowd. They are totally opposed to the idea of teaching the controversy. They have some very strong views on what's right and what's wrong and they firmly believe that the only views that should ever be expressed in university classes are the ones they agree with.
In the end, my little fit of pique over Prof. Moran’s condescending and dismissive attitude towards those of us who were so outraged by this course being offered by U. of T. aside, we actually (mostly agree). Moran supports “teaching the controversy” with respect to evolution and with respect to alternative medicine. So do I. Where we disagree is over what “teaching the controversy” actually entails. Can Prof. Moran can honestly say that he wouldn’t be the least bit upset if his own department were to offer an entire course on “controversies in evolution” taught by Ken Ham, Casey Luskin, and a Discovery Institute fellow to be named later? That he would approve of such a class as a great way to “teach the controversy”? If he can, I’d say there’s a problem. If he can’t say that, I congratulate him. That’s the correct reaction. In that case, I also point out that he has no business being so contemptuous of our anger over a homeopath teaching a course in alternative medicine as a way of “teaching the controversy.”As I said in my earlier post, the problem wasn't that an anti-vaccine point of view was being discussed in a university course. The problem was that the course was being taught by someone who wasn't qualified to offer a university course that encouraged critical thinking. That situation has been rectified.
I would love to invite Casey Luskin to come and give a few lectures on Intelligent Design Creationism to my students. It would be far better for them to hear the other side directly from the horse's mouth than filtered through me.