UofT, homeopathy, self-pity and arguing with crazy

Yesterday I noted that the UofT instructor who taught a course that vilified vaccines and praised homeopathy... well, she isn't working for the UofT anymore and the course is no longer offered. I was pleased, if a little disappointed that the UofT did not take a firm stand against homeopathy.

Today I have found that there is a lot more to the story. I will attempt to summarize it here and (somewhat against my better judgement) do a bit of editorializing something which could be called "arguing with crazy." 

It starts with the fact that, although the instructor is no longer with the UofT, and the course is no longer offered, the UofT investigation concluded that the course "was not unbalanced because students “have already seen the other side” of the vaccine debate in other courses."

There is so much wrong with this statement that it is hard to know where to start. First off, there is no "debate," there is only fear and misinformation. Vaccines work- period. Vaccines do not cause autism - period. And homeopathy is a load of rubbish - period.

Second, one does not present a "debate" by only showing evidence for one side because it is assumed that everyone knows the other side. Both sides should be presented equally and impartially, and the evidence should be discussed and judged. This course did not do this.

And third - and this blows my mind - by saying that "the other side is presented in other courses" the UofT is explicitly stating that this course *must* be unbalanced else there would be no need to balance to come from elsewhere. 

The UofT makes itself look even worse because the instructor in question is actually married to the Dean of the UofT Scarborough campus, and thus there is an explicit conflict of interest between the person being investigated and the institution doing the investigating. At the very least, a neutral third party should have been brought in right away.

Now, this has brought on a huge and scornful response, including this article on "Quackademia at the UofT," and this rightfully contemptuous article at Gizmodo. No, these are not academic articles, but they do give a sense of the disrepute that the UofT has brought on itself.

But that is not all. No, that is not all at all.

It appears that the instructor in question has resurfaced, posting a blog post wherein she moans about the big bad mainstream and social media mob that so unfairly picked on her. Read it if you must, but it's really not worth it.

About the only thing that I got out of it was her statement "Hundreds of studies prove the efficacy of homeopathy." This, of course, resulted in howls of "show me the studies." 

It turns out that there is a source for this statement. Not a great one, but a source nonetheless. It states "Up to the end of 2014, a total of 104 papers reporting good-quality placebo-controlled RCTs in homeopathy (on 61 different medical conditions) have been published in peer-reviewed journals." Granted, the list of references only lists 38 randomized controlled trials, but hey - it's something.

Sadly (for homeopaths) a 2007 study concluded that most of the research is so poorly designed as to be useless. And unless homeopathy comes up with very definitive proof of effectiveness it cannot be expected to overturn conventional medicine.