Tag Archives: Jeremy Hunt

Why teaching rational thinking is so important….(Homeopathy yet again)

11 May

DoseOscillococcinum

The undergraduate programme of which my rational thinking course is a part is being revised, and from September my course will change from being one semester long to being a year long. In preparation for this change I’ve been reviewing my existing material, and this week I happened to be looking at my lecture on homeopathy.

I’ve written previously about what a great vehicle for teaching rational thinking homeopathy is, but having looked at my material I did think that I needed to update it a little. One particular point that I thought needed updating was my use of a 2007 House of Commons Early Day motion as an indication that the UK Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, supported homeopathy. Now, I’m no great supporter of Mr Hunt, but I did think that using something seven years old to attempt to define his current views was pushing it a bit. I’d settled on the idea that I would email the Health Department to ask for the minster’s current views, when I came across a startling newspaper story.

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The Guardian’s story ‘Jeremy Hunt sent homeopathy studies to chief medical officer’ suggests that the minister recently asked the government’s Chief Medical Officer to studies of homeopathy. Two things worry me about this, one quite nerdy and the other rather fundemental. Firstly, the two studies in question wereĀ cosponsored by Boiron, a leading homeopathic manufacturer. It might seem reasonable for the minister to pass compelling new evidence to the Chief Medical Officer for advice, but surely obvious vested interest is unlikely to be’ compelling’. My second, much more basic point, is that the minister seems to completely either overlook (or not understand), hat in asking the Chief Medical Officer, ‘Does homeopathy actually work’, he’s actually asking her to admit that everything medical science currently knows is wrong. To put it bluntly, if homeopathy works then science has got something very basic, very wrong. Given that I suspect the minister isn’t completely anti-science, what could possibly be going on here.

I genuinely haven’t had time to think about the answer to that question yet, but at the very least my homeopathy lecture will remain next year, and Jeremy Hunt has reinforced my belief in the importance of the stuff I teach !

My next job is to update my correspondence with Dr Nancy Malik (See the comments section of this post). Should be interesting šŸ˜‰

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The Irrationalists have landed. Another Americanism crosses the Atlantic !

19 Sep

A few week’s ago I wrote about cultural differences between the US and the UK, and talked about the Texas Republican Party’s decision to try to outlaw critical thinking. The subtext of much of the writing about this bizarre position (including my own writing !) was ‘we Europeans are much saner than those odd Americans’, but a couple of things that I’ve read over the last week make me think that the irrationalists may well have crossed the Atlantic and established a bridgehead in the UK Government.

Last week’s Government reshuffle in the UK led to the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health, running one of the worlds largest employers with a multi-billion pound budget. Things become interesting if you delve a few years to an Early Day Motion put before the House of COmmons in 2007. EDM 1240 stated :

‘That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets’

It is worrying enough that 206 MPsĀ supported this motion, but amongst those MPsĀ was Jeremy Hunt. We thus now have the slightly odd position of the British National Health Service being run by someone who doesn’t think ‘Science’ is the best approach to medicine. There is an interesting postscript to this, in that one of Hunt’s constituents wrote to him to question his support for EDM 1240, and received the following response :

Dear Mr Ellis,

Thank you very much for your letter regarding EDM 1240 in support of Homeopathic Hospitals. I appreciate that you are disappointed that I added my name to this motion, and read your comments on this issue with interest.

I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is “patient-led” it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient.

I am grateful to you for taking the time to write with your concerns. I realise that my answer will be a disappointing one for you, but I hope that the letter helps to clarify my view.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)

Jeremy Hunt Member of Parliament South West Surrey

You’ll notice here that Hunt’s has moved slightly from suggesting there is evidence supporting homeopathy to suggesting that ‘because people want it the NHS should pay for it’. You can find more of this story in an excellent summary written by Tom Whipple

The man charged with running the NHS being an advocate of homeopathy is worrying enough, but a second recent story suggests that ‘irrational’ thinking may well be spreading across the UK.

As part of the UK’s move towards state-funded schools being run by private organisation a number of new ‘Free’ school are due to open shortly. Amongst these are schools run by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship. Steiner already run an academy in Hereford where some disturbing evidence has appeared. The Hereford Academy has written to parents seeking permission to treat students using homeopathic medicines (including for burns !!!) and uses a Science textbook that questions the Darwinian explanation of evolution.

For anyone who might be imagining that this is a party-political point, it’s worth notingĀ that theĀ 206 MPsĀ who signed EDM 12040 came from all three major political parties including some who really should know better (Vince Cable). ‘Irrationalism’ doesn’t seem to be associated with a particular political view.

(Just as I was about to post this pieceĀ live seen Mitt Romney’s ‘47%’ speech. Maybe the UK still has a way to go to reach the USA level of ‘Irrationalism’ !!!)

All of this seems to me to suggest that the ‘irrationalism’ that looks rampant in the USA is spreading to this country. It makes me even more convinced that universities need to be producing a generation of graduates who are equippedĀ with theĀ rationalĀ cognitive skills to fight back !

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