Regulating quackery

BBC: Regulation plans for homeopathy

A range of complementary therapies such as homeopathy and aromatherapy are to be regulated by a new body.

At face value, it sounds sensible that anyone practicing any sort of therapy—even totally bogus ones like homeopathy and aromatherapy—should be regulated in some way. Certainly herbal remedies (which, unlike homeopathy, involve actual, active ingredients) should be regulated, as should acupuncture (for no other reason than it involves sticking pins into people).

But exactly how impartial and, well, scientific is this new regulating body, the Natural Healthcare Council, going to be? Its very name made me suspicious: natural is one of those specious, pseudo-scientific words beloved of alternative therapy voodooists, such as holistic, complementary, balance, harmony, energy and crystal. My scepticism grew when I read that this is not a government initiative; it's being set up by the Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health (oops! forgot integrated—that's another of their buzzwords). Our future king is well known for his pseudoscientific credentials (and, credit where it's due, his expensive yet excellent blackcurrant preserve).

But my main misgiving about this move is that setting up a body to regulate quackery lends it an even more scientific air than it already (fraudulently) claims. Hell, it might even improve the placebo effect behind these therapies because there is a pseudo-scientific body regulating it!

You just can't win, can you?

I wonder if I should apply to become a registered rixologist.

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