Earlier this year I attended a talk entitled "Bad Science in the Developing World" presented at the newly dubbed Leeds Atheist & Humanist Society by Martin Robins (researcher and science writer). It was pretty good and if i may, I shall provide a quick and somewhat terse summary/response. Here goes:
There aren't adequate medical supplies, education, staff or money in developing countries for them to have real healthcare (shocking news i know).
In these countries, witch doctors, homeopaths and (increasingly) Chinese medicine pretty much are the health service.
Obviously these methods are bogus (except for giving a placebo effect) and the practitioners don't exactly make a killing, despite treatments costing a week's worth of pay to these people.
Some of the homeopaths etc. do some good work such as running orphanages etc. But they are also spreading pseudoscientific bullshit and, as these people claim to be able to cure AIDS, they sometimes tell the few patients lucky enough to receive real medication from real doctors that this medication will counteract their "superior" treatment.
As there is unfortunatly no (immedicate) alternative for these people, what would you do?
If there was a button to press which made all the homeopaths etc. go away, would you push it?
What should we (First world countries) be doing?
Leave them to it. It's giving them hope?
Fight against their bullshit teachings?
Try and subtly make their practises better by influencing them to do more good and less harm over time. Even though what they are doing isn't what they claim it to be?
The exact same question can apply to religion...
You can view Martin Robbins' column at the Guardian here.