The course is taught by a homeopath

Apparently the University of Toronto thinks it’s fine to teach medical woo at a university, not as a meta subject but just plain as a subject. Jen Gunter is not amused.

Earlier this year, two groups of academics at the University of Toronto wrote letters of concern to the President of the University to protest an Alternative health course that fostered distrust of vaccines, cited Andrew Wakefield, and completely mis-applied Quantum Mechanics to explain a bevy of bizarre health claims. This week, the school finally addressed their claims; and the university’s response is both wholly inadequate and totally baffling.

The course, Alternative Health: Practice and Theory is taught by Beth Landau-Halpern, a homeopath. During week 9 of her curriculum, she addresses: “Vaccination — The King of Controversy.”

No medical, nursing, or basic biology/immunology textbooks or articles are referenced in the required reading, nor is any information from Health Canada or the World Health Organization. Instead, the required reading and additional information for the students includes Andrew Wakefield (who lost his medical license for falsifying data in a now beyond-infamous retracted study) and anti-vaccine propaganda sites.

Not for the purpose of analysis and criticism, but for the purpose of digestion and retention. Not “say what’s wrong with this” but “learn this.”

Regarding the use of Quantum Mechanics, scientists at the University of Toronto had issues with the following paragraph in the curriculum as well as the required reading:

We will delve into a quantum physics’ understanding of disease and alternative medicine to provide a scientific hypothesis of how these modalities may work. Quantum physics is a branch of physics that understands the interrelationship between matter and energy. This science offers clear explanations as to why homeopathic remedies with seemingly no chemical trace of the original substance are able to resolve chronic diseases, why acupuncture can offer patients enough pain relief to undergo surgery without anesthesia, why meditation alone can, in some instances, reduce the size of cancerous tumors.

Maybe Deepak Chopra is the department head?

The university has said there’s no problem. Jen Gunter is gobsmacked.

In my opinion, the response basically boils down to: “Oh give her a break, she’s new and it all sounds a bit new age and that’s really what people want, but we’ll have her make it a little more sciencey next time” when it should have been a “thank you for bringing this to our attention, we share your concerns and they will be addressed immediately. This instructor is now on probation and all course material related to medicine and science will need to be approved by a faculty member in the appropriate field.” Remember, this isn’t misquoting a study, a new field where there is little published work, or a published academic having an unpopular but scientifically plausible opinion in a field. The material presented about Quantum Mechanics and immunizations is wrong. It’s the equivalent of an “alternative geology” course teaching that the world is flat, with references from 1300.

Maybe the university figures we’re heading back to the technology of 1300 – once all the oil is gone – so we might as well prepare intellectually.


  1. jockmcdock says

    An addendum on Respectful Insolence (Orac’s blog)…

    ADDENDUM: Apparently Beth Landau-Halpern’s class is gone and she is no longer on staff:

    Not much in the post in that link hopefully we’ll learn more.

    Thank goodness!!

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