Yesterday, I received the following interesting tweet from my friend Natalie Grams:
Edzard, YOU are just influenced by ideological biases (they told me so yesterday – so it must be true;-)
If I understand it correctly, Natalie was a guest in a public discussion about homeopathy somewhere in Austria during which my name must have been mentioned, and some homeopath or homeopathy-fan made the above allegation about me. Sadly, I was not present (but it is typical that allegations against me are rarely made to me in person) to discuss it further.
I am very much used to allegations against me and, in a strange way, have even grown to enjoy them. Here are some of my favourites:
- I have undeclared ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
- I am incompetent or not even qualified.
- I was employed at Exeter to ditch alternative medicine.
- I have never done any original research.
- I sit in the ivory towers of academia.
- I have no clinical experience.
- I am basically a liar.
Even though they have been repeated ad nauseam, all of these accusations are untrue and have been refuted so often that I do not want to go into them again (for those interested, see for instance here, here, here and here).However, the allegation that I am ‘influenced by ideological biases’ is a new one, at least to me. And therefore, it might deserve some serious consideration.
Let’s start by getting our definitions straight:
- An ideology is a system of ideas and ideals.
- Bias is an inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.
Now let’s see how these two terms apply to me and my work.
- According to the definition above, I am clearly influenced by an ideology. Yes, I do have ideals! For instance, I believe in science, want to see sound evidence, hope to improve healthcare, insist that patients deserve the best treatments available, and feel that ethics are of paramount importance in healthcare.
- To make things worse, I am even proud of this ideology and I pity those who do not share it.
- What about bias? Do I hold a grudge against one person or a group of people? As I just stated, I pity those who do not share my ideals, and if I am brutally honest, I do not like charlatans, liars or entrepreneurs selling false hope.
- The question is whether this attitude is unfair. Personally, I do not believe it is, but I have to not deny that this is merely my perspective. There may be – and clearly are – other viewpoints.
So, to conclude this somewhat rambling post, I ready to admit that the Austrian homeopaths might have had a point:
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A CHARLATAN, I PROBABLY DO SEEM TO BE INFLUENCED BY ‘IDEOLOGICAL BIASES’.