Several people have sent me messages of despair lately. They’re working in universities which, like every university in the country, is struggling with tight budgets and declining support from the state government, and a citizenry that seems to be a sucker for every pseudoscientific scam some scoundrel will sell, and what is the academic administration doing? They’re joining in the con!
Look here at the University of Maryland School of Medicine: they’ve opened something called the Center for Integrative Medicine, where prospective doctors can go to learn how to gather Qi, or how to relieve back pain by twirling little needles. It’s complete quackery operating under the imprimatur of a respectable university, and I guarantee you it’s better at gathering grant money from the privileged quack corners of our federal grant system than it is at finding any magic Qi.
The University of Michigan Health System is also propping up an Integrative Medicine department. Their big obsession is Anthroposophy, one of the bastard mystic cults spawned in the early years of the 20th century, and yes, it is total loony wackitude. We actually have institutions of higher learning promoting Rudolf Steiner? Madness.
Now if I were truly shortsighted, I could take some joy in the fact that competing universities are scuttling their intellectual credentials with this crap, except that the University of Minnesota is just as bad. We have a Center for Sprituality and Healing that teaches nurses how to diagnose and treat disease by waving their hands over their patients, and brings in speakers like Deepak Chopra and the Dalai Lama to say “Woooooooo” to large audiences. It’s a disgrace and an embarrassment.
One thing Americans can take pride in is the fact that we have a prestigious university system that draws in students from around the world — something that Obama even mentioned in his state of the union address. It is still true, and I can attest to the quality of the faculty at our universities (although I will refrain from jingoism — the United States is not unique in possessing great minds). However, what I also see is rot setting in. Universities are being starved by the government, and they’re abandoning rigor and standards of excellence to pander.
Pay heed. This can’t last. We can’t pretend to be world leaders in science and knowledge while our best schools are turning their back on reason and evidence to sell magic charms and superstition to the populace.
Aaargh, it’s international! Take a look at what the Science Museum in London is doing — whitewashing homeopathy.