Lady Margaret Hall has come under fire from scientific groups for agreeing to host a conference for homeopathy over the Easter Vac.
Michael Marshall, Project Director of The Good Thinking Society, attacked the college’s decision to host the conference. Speaking to The Independent, he said “It’s pretty clear the Society of Homeopaths is seeking venues with a connection to science and learning, to academia and prestige. They are using them to add gloss to their pseudoscientific event.
“Lady Margaret Hall should think twice before lending credibility to such groups.
“We urge them to filter out events that promote disproven and potentially dangerous quackery that run directly contrary to what their college is all about: learning and intellectual rigour.”
The Good Thinking Society, a charity set up to challenge dubious scientific arguments such as homeopathy, called on LMH to “think twice” before agreeing to host the meeting.
Homeopathy, a practice that involves seeking ‘alternative’ medicines from more natural sources, has some high-profile supporters including Prince Charles and Cher. It has no proven scientific benefits.
In 2010 the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee called for the NHS to stop funding the practice as there was no evidence for its utility beyond a placebo effect. Organisations including the British Medical Association have since followed suit.
The conference, an annual general meeting of the Society of Homeopaths, is being held on the 18th of March and will see homeopaths from across the country converge on Oxford.
“We urge them to filter out events that promote disproven and potentially dangerous quackery.”
One of the headline guests, Alize Timmerman, will – according to the programme for the conference on the Society of Homeopaths’ website – “look at the Orchid family and their connection with vitality and self from a spiritual and sensation perspective,” which she will use to “explain how we can use emotion to lead us, and the patient, back to a place of belonging, and where vitality has no beginning and no end.”
The Society – which is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority, the government body that regulates health and social care organisations in Britain – claims to be the largest organisation registering homeopaths in the UK.
Mark Taylor, chief executive of the Society, has previously been in conflict with the Good Thinking Society. In September last year they suggested they would bring a judicial review against the Charity Commission after it refused to remove homeopathy-supporting charities from its register.
In reaction to this, Taylor said that, “This publicity stunt by the Good Thinking Society contains the usual concoction of half-truths and innuendo. Homeopathy is effective, safe and valued by patients.”
A spokeswoman for LMH said: “Lady Margaret Hall, in common with many universities and colleges, occasionally rents space for other organisations for private conferences. This is a purely commercial arrangement.
“The act of renting space obviously does not imply that LMH in any way endorses the organisation. We do not lend it ‘credibility.’
“The income from this hospitality business is important to the College to sustain its academic activities.
“It is impractical to cancel the booking for the Society of Homeopaths. The Principal, Alan Rusbridger, is happy for our governing body to re-examine our approach concerning the hospitality wing of the College and see whether it needs revising in the light of concerns, but also taking into account the erosion of free speech on university campuses.”
Lady Margaret Hall is a former womens-only college in North Oxford. Its current Principal is Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, and Emma Watson is a Visiting Fellow. Alumni include Nigella Lawson, Michael Gove and Ann Widdecombe.