News - November 8, 2011

Studium Generale lectures come under fire

Studium Generale should put an immediate end to ambiguous lectures on biophysical medicine, demands the Dutch Society Against Quackery.

The society (in short, VtdK in Dutch) has sent a protest letter on this matter to rector magnificus Martin Kropff. It criticizes the series of lectures on biophysical medicine organized by Studium Generale, the first of which was given last Tuesday.
According to the VtdK, biophysical medicine is an alternative branch of medicine based entirely on pseudoscientific fantasies. 'The university should not offer an outlet for such silly ideas', writes chairperson Catherine de Jong to the university.
'The pseudosciences which you are exposing the patrons of Studium Generale to are an insult to their intelligence; they can lead less critical minds onto the wrong track.'
Rob van Haarlem, organizer of the lecture series, is annoyed by this. 'It's complete nonsense that we are promoting pseudosciences. That's not true at all. Studium Generale offers a platform for various scientific and community developments. Biophysical medicine is based on a number of theories drawn from scientific research. Take, for example, the effects of bio-photons and electromagnetic radiation. Of course, it's still open to discussion whether such issues come under science.'
Simon Vink, spokesperson for the Executive Board, admits that biophysical medicine is a trend which runs far from conventional scientific concepts. 'The VtdK has its reasons for frowning on such concepts, which aren't featured within the research and education programme of Wageningen UR either.'
'But such concepts do exist in society', adds Vink. 'Therefore, it's appropriate that Studium Generale organizes events to discuss these. They have to take on this function. This is allowed and is appropriate in the academic world. Studium Generale does not offer any value judgement, but merely brings the issue under the attention. It's different from actually supporting the concept; they do not take sides with the phenomenon itself.' Van Haarlem thinks that the patrons of Studium Generale are mature enough to draw their own conclusions independently. 'It appears that students are very critical about the matter, judging from their opinions about the first lecture.'
Extra lecture
The series comprises three lectures. The Wageningen professor of immunology Huub Savelkoul is scheduled to give an 'intermezzo' this evening (Tuesday 8 November). He will talk about how low frequency electromagnetic fields affect the immune system. Savelkoul is, in any case, not an adherent of biophysical medicine. Vink feels that the letter from VtdK should not affect the programme in any way. 'But perhaps an extra lecture could be added, given by the VtdK. Anyway, I'm not going to go into that.'