Yesterday, I received a letter from the editor-in-chief of the journal ‘Homeopathy‘ informing me that I have been struck off the editorial board of his publication. As the letter is not marked confidential, I feel that I can reproduce parts of it here:
Dear Professor Ernst,
This is to inform you that you have been removed from the Editorial Board of Homeopathy. The reason for this is the statement you published on your blog on Holocaust Memorial Day 2013 in which you smeared homeopathy and other forms of complementary medicine with a ‘guilt by association’ argument, associating them with the Nazis.
I should declare a personal interest….[Fisher goes on to tell a story which is personal and which I therefore omit]… I mention this only because it highlights the absurdity of guilt by association arguments.
Peter Fisher Editor-in-Chief, Homeopathy
I do agree with Dr Fisher that guilt by association is absurd. However, I disagree with the notion that I used this fallacy in my post the full text of which be found here. After re-reading it several times, I still do not see that it employs a ‘guilt by association argument’. It merely recounts historical facts which are not well-known and therefore worth mentioning. Importantly, the post consits in essence of quotes from my previous publications on the subject. My motives for writing it could not have been clearer and are emphacised in the last paragraph:
So, why bring all of this up today? Is it not time that we let grass grow over these most disturbing events? I think not! For many years, I actively researched this area (you can find many of my articles on Medline) because I am convinced that the unprecedented horrors of Nazi medicine need to be told and re-told – not just on HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY, but continually. This, I hope, will minimize the risk of such incredible abuses ever happening again.
Perhaps a comparison might make it a little clearer why, in my opinion, Fisher’s is so utterly bizarre. Imagine an eminent researcher in the area of psychiatry who has been on the editorial board of a journal in his area for many years and contributed numerous articles to this journal. He then decides to research and subsequently write about the infamous Nazi past of German psychiatry. As a result, he is fired from his editorial board position because the editor feels that he has smeared the reputation of psychiatry.
I think most observers might find this odd and unjustified. Such a thing would not happen, I think, in a field with a mature research-culture. That it did happen in homeopathy might be interpreted as a reflection of the fact that homeopathy lacks such a culture.
So how precisely can we explain my dismissal? My article and my motives for writing it could have been thoroughly misunderstood – in my view, this is unlikely because I explained my motives in some detail both in the article and in the comments that follow the article. Here is my last of several posts clarifying my motives:
i am sorry that some have misunderstood the message of this blog and the reason why i wrote it.
i did certainly not want to engage in the GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION fallacy.
here is the truth:
i have had a research interest in nazi medicine and published about it.
in the course of these activities, i discovered that, contrary to what most people seem to assumue, alt med was involved as well. so i published this too many years ago.
this blog was simply and purely aimed at re-telling this story because it deserves to be re-told, in my view.
i regret that some people have read things into it which i did not intend.
Another explanation could be that Dr Fisher, who also is the Queen’s homeopath, lacks sufficient skills of critical thinking to understand the article and its purpose. Alternatively, he has been waiting for an occasion to fire me ever since I became more openly critical of homeopathy about five years ago.
Whatever the explanation, I think it is regrettable that the journal ‘Homeopathy’ has now lost the only editorial board member who had the ability to openly and repeatedly display a critical attitude about homeopathy – remember: without a critical attitude progress is unlikely!
Let me think…
Why would a publication called ‘Homeopathy’ want to get rid of someone with a sound medical and scientific background and credentials, with proven abilities to think critically and independently, who is not indoctrinated into the religion of homeopathy, who comes to conclusions based on the evidence presented, not on vested interests or preconceived notions…
Prof Ernst wrote: “Another explanation could be that Dr Fisher, who also is the Queen’s homeopath, lacks sufficient skills of critical thinking to understand the article and its purpose. Alternatively, he has been waiting for an occasion to fire me ever since I became more openly critical of homeopathy about five years ago.”
I suspect that Dr Fisher is worried that EE might thwart his ambition. See 2:20 in here:
Sir Peter Fisher anyone?
This represents a nett transfer of credibility from Fisher to you.
Sadly he is severely overdrawn at that particular bank, so it may take him a while to pay…
Are they mad? When you’re not ‘on board’ your criticism is going to become much stronger. THEY should know that.
I’d have thought being removed from the editorial board of Homeopathy counts as an accolade…
I wonder if the doctor who wrote the foreword to this book understands that arguments from celebrity endorsement are equally absurd.
i see! the forword is by dr peter fisher!
Ah, you have come up against the Law of Belendz: The CAM value of opinion is increased by the dilution of medical expertise in celebrity credulity.
before fisher’s journal changed its name to HOMEOPATHY in the early 2000s, it was called BRITISH HOMOEOPATHIC JOURNAL. dr fisher seems to have forgotten that, in the BHJ, he published several of my articles which already mentioned the Nazi’s interest in homeopathy [they are not on medline but i have PDFs, in case anyone is interested]. why did he not consider this as GUILT BY ASSOCIATION?
How very, very interesting…and revealing.
i think this bit of history renders it less likely that fisher was truly concerned about any GUILT BY ASSOCIATION fallacy. it seems more likely that, grown intolerant of my repeated criticism of homeopathy in general, he had been waiting for an excuse to do what he did.
For those with access, Prof Ernst’s articles in Dr Fisher’s British Homeopathic Journal:
Evaluation of homoeopathy in Nazi Germany
Volume 84, Issue 4, October 1995, Pages 229
August Bier and German homoeopathy in the early 20th century
Volume 85, Issue 1, January 1996, Pages 49–52
thank you for posting these two. if my memory serves me right, i also published an article about the DONNER REPORT. donner was a homeopath who, during the third reich was involved in a huge series of tests of homeopathy which turned out to be all negative.
You also mentioned it in the final paragraph of this paper, bringing a couple of responses from Lionel Milgrom. The second one has a reply later on the same thread, reply to the first one is here, including references to a series of articles in Perfusion.
thanks of reminding me. milgrom is on the same level as fisher, it seems to me.
depends who you ask, perhaps.
However, by removing you from the editorial board, they have diluted your influence.. Isn’t it a tenet of homeopathy that this might only make your influence stronger?
They’d have to succuss him though ^_^
Was the promotion of homeopathy by the Nazi’s a mechanism to change the traditional medical profession in Germany which they saw as dominated by Jews. By embracing these alternatives they were able to shift the balance of medicine to a system based around natural methods and away from the Jewish dominated medical profession.
that might have been part of it. but mostly they embraced alt med because it happened to be populat at the time – not dissimilar to UKIP today, i fear.
would it also be using the GUILT BY ASSOCIATION fallacy to point out that other ed-board members http://avilian.co.uk/2008/08/scientific-research-and-homeopathy-malaria/ of HOMEOPATHY are associated with the promotion of homeopathy as a treatment of malaria and that the journal itself [when it was still the BHJ] was associated with this claim? http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0007078596801785 if someone did a bit of research around some other ed-board members, what might we find???
the ‘FACULTY OF HOMEOPATHY’ just published this pathetic announcement about the journal
The leading journal in the field of homeopathy research has announced a significant increase in its Impact Factor (IF) for 2017.
Homeopathy is published by the Faculty of Homeopathy and is the only Medline/PubMed indexed journal in this specialist branch of medicine. The new IF is 1.16, an increase of more than 50% on its previous assessment, which serves to consolidate the journal’s position as the world’s leading publication for scholarly articles on homeopathy.
Clarivate Analytics released the new IF when it published its latest Journal Citation Reports for information in peer-reviewed publications. An IF is used to determine the impact a particular journal has in a given field of research by measuring how many times on average articles published in that journal have been cited by other articles, and is therefore widely used as a measure of quality. The latest IF assessment for Homeopathy covers citations during 2016 to articles published in the previous two years (2014 and 2015).
Homeopathy’s editor-in-chief, Dr Peter Fisher, said: “This is an excellent result and reflects the work we have put in over the past few years to ensure that Homeopathy publishes the best of the homeopathic research from around the world.”
Published quarterly, Homeopathy is an international journal that aims to improve the understanding of clinical practice of homeopathy by publishing high quality articles on clinical and basic research, clinical audit, evidence-based practice of homeopathy and reflective case reports. It regularly features research and articles from many of the foremost scientists and practitioners currently working in homeopathy.