There’s bullshit and then there’s professional bullshit

Dominic Lawson quotes the Department of Health replying to an MP complaining on behalf of a constituent about ‘psychic surgery.’ (Yes, psychic.)

“We are currently working towards extending the scope of statutory regulation by introducing regulation of herbal medicine, acupuncture practitioners and Chinese medicine. However, there are no plans to extend statutory regulation to other professions such as psychic surgery. We expect these professions to develop their own unified systems of voluntary self-regulation.”

Other professions? Other professions? Psychic surgery is a profession? In what sense? If psychic surgery and acupuncture are professions, are divination and palmistry and astrology also professions? If so, what distinguishes a profession from just messing around?

Last week, in fact, the Department of Health published the report which outlines the regulation hinted at by Lord Hunt. It is called the Report to Ministers from the Department of Health Steering Group on the Statutory Regulation of Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and other Traditional Medicine Systems Practiced in the United Kingdom…Acupuncture is at the most respectable end of the alternative health spectrum – its practitioners would be affronted to be lumped in with psychic surgeons. Yet what, really, is the difference?…Pittilo and his band of “stakeholders” have come up with their own way of “regulating” the alternative health industry – which the Government has welcomed. It is to suggest that practitioners gain university degrees in complementary or alternative medicine…

Ah, right – so if you get a degree in Magical Dentistry, then you have a profession, and your profession is regulated, and hey presto, Magical Dentistry fixes your teeth.

David Colquhoun read the report.

The report is written by people all of whom have vested interests in spreading quackery. It shows an execrable ability to assess evidence, and it advocates degrees in antiscience…This steering group is, as so often, a nest of vested interests. It does not seem to have on it any regular medical or clinical scientist whatsoever…You can read on page 55 of the report

“3a: Registrant acupuncturists must:

understand the following aspects and concepts for traditional East-Asian acupuncture:

– yin/yang, /5 elements/phases, eight principles, cyclical rhythms, qi ,blood and body fluids, different levels of qi, pathogenic factors, 12 zang fu and 6 extraordinary fu, jing luo/ meridians, the major acupuncture points, East-Asian medicine disease categorisation, the three burners, the 4 stages/levels and 6 divisions

– causes of disharmony/disease causation

– the four traditional diagnostic methods: questioning, palpation, listening and observing”

That’s embarrassing. Or as Colquhoun puts it, “Anyone who advocates giving honours degrees in such nonsense deserves to be fired for bringing his university into disrepute (and, in the process, bringing all universities and science itself into disrepute).”

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