Tuesday, August 10, 2010

They're back! Homeopathy Hoaxsters Haunt Hampshire

Yes, it's that time of year again.  Even as the summer winds down and we begin to gear up for new academic activity, we are reminded that the struggle is a tough one—and that we ourselves sometimes send a mixed message.

Hampshire College has no real academic summer term and therefore rents its space to other groups. That makes good financial sense, but I really wish that we could generate our own programs, which would pair the income generation with presentation of our distinctive talents and educational philosophy.  There has been some general talk of this (even some very interesting proposals), but no concrete action, so far.  I wish, at the very least, that we would not lend our space and name to groups whose values are inimical to our own.

Homeopathy is hokum, and Hampshire should have none of it.  Would we host the Flat Earth Society? Provide a forum for creationists?

It is disconcerting to see an institution simultaneously boasting of its scientific-pedagogical prowess and hosting pseudoscientific hoaxsters.  Ironically, on one of the days when I drove past this frightening sign, I was reminded of just how good we really are.   A colleague tweeted the news that she had just been listening to a podcast of a recent  talk by another colleague from the "Academic Minute" series on Albany Public Radio (WAMC)

Professor of chemistry Dula Amarasiriwardena there explains how he uses Laser Ablation Inductively  Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry  (LA-ICP-MS) to analyze the 7000-year-old hair and teeth of mummified dead from Atacama for clues to diet and toxins.

Science can do many amazing things. Unlike God, though, it cannot choose to suspend its own laws. If only the homeopaths understood that.


Richard said...

Be sure to remind the sign painting pranksters of today of the great tradition they follow in, that once there was a proud group of fools who repainted the Hampshire sign to read "Dartmouth College." Glad to pass the torch to a new generation.

Citizen Wald said...

Sadly, no, I should have been clearer. Homeopathy is a hoax, but the sign is all too real.

Though it's true: the Dartmouth sign (before both our times) was a great prank.

Where are the "Merry Pranksters" of today?