One of the perks of researching alternative medicine and writing a blog about it is that one rarely runs out of good laughs. In perfect accordance with ERNST’S LAW, I have recently been entertained, amused, even thrilled by a flurry of ad hominem attacks most of which are true knee-slappers. I would like to take this occasion to thank my assailants for their fantasy and tenacity. Most days, these ad hominem attacks really do make my day.

I can only hope they will continue to make my days a little more joyous. My fear, however, is that they might, one day, run out of material. Even today, their claims are somewhat repetitive:

  • I am not qualified
  • I only speak tosh
  • I do not understand science
  • I never did any ‘real’ research
  • Exeter Uni fired me
  • I have been caught red-handed (not quite sure at what)
  • I am on BIG PHARMA’s payroll
  • I faked my research papers

Come on, you feeble-minded fantasists must be able to do better! Isn’t it time to bring something new?

Yes, I know, innovation is not an easy task. The best ad hominem attacks are, of course, always based on a kernel of truth. In that respect, the ones that have been repeated ad nauseam are sadly wanting. Therefore I have decided to provide all would-be attackers with some true and relevant facts from my life. These should enable them to invent further myths and use them as ammunition against me.

Sounds like fun? Here we go:

Both my grandfather and my father were both doctors

This part of my family history could be spun in all sorts of intriguing ways. For instance, one could make up a nice story about how I, even as a child, was brain-washed to defend the medical profession at all cost from the onslaught of non-medical healers.

Our family physician was a prominent homeopath

Ahhhh, did he perhaps mistreat me and start me off on my crusade against homeopathy? Surely, there must be a nice ad hominem attack in here!

I studied psychology at Munich but did not finish it

Did I give up psychology because I discovered a manic obsession or other character flaw deeply hidden in my soul?

I then studied medicine (also in Munich) and made a MD thesis in the area of blood clotting

No doubt this is pure invention. Where are the proofs of my qualifications? Are the data in my thesis real or invented?

My 1st job as a junior doctor was in a homeopathic hospital in Munich

Yes, but why did I leave? Surely they found out about me and fired me.

I had hands on training in several forms of alternative medicine, including homeopathy

Easy to say, but where are the proofs?

I moved to London where I worked in St George’s Hospital conducting research in blood rheology

Another invention? Where are the published papers to document this?

I went back to Munich university where I continued this line of research and was awarded a PhD

Another thesis? Again with dodgy data? Where can one see this document?

I became Professor Rehabilitation Medicine first at Hannover Medical School and later in Vienna

How did that happen? Did I perhaps bribe the appointment panels?

In 1993, I was appointed to the Chair in Complementary Medicine at Exeter university

Yes, we all know that; but why did I not direct my efforts towards promoting alternative medicine?

In Exeter, together with a team of ~20 colleagues, we published > 1000 papers on alternative medicine, more than anyone else in that field

Impossible! This number clearly shows that many of these articles are fakes or plagiaries.

My H-Index is currently >80

Same as above.

In 2012, I became Emeritus Professor of the University of Exeter

Isn’t ’emeritus’ the Latin word for ‘dishonourable discharge’?


17 Responses to ‘Ad hominem’ attacks: my life would be so dull without them!

  • Prof Ernst you give tooooooo much away. Inquiring and critical minds should do a little research. Probably something they have never done before!
    This cartoon says it all. One of my favourite from Gary Larson/Farside:

  • I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with accurate ad hominem attacks. I think that the way many make money from homeopathy is immoral, does reflect poorly upon them as individuals, and should impact upon the way in which claims they make are viewed. Equally, if Ernst had been shown to have faked past medical research, it would be fair to use that fact as an attack upon his current claims of expertise.

    None of that’s to say that I think the attacks upon Ernst are valid, but some talk as if criticizing the honesty and integrity of individuals is necessarily unfair, even if done with accurate claims about their past. I disagree.

  • A well turned insult can be a work of art. So alt-medders are not artists and neither are they doctors or scientists, so just what are they?

  • if you start off by belittling someone, calling them a quack or extracting the michael out of them in general, do you expect
    to have a civilised discourse of any kind. It’s over immediately. It’s a good thing you aren’t delivering your message in a pub
    or else people would either be hitting you or hugging you. The only thing left for people to do is put up photo-shopped images of you since you’ve already made a full disclosure above. That could really be a “knee slapper” !

    • The thing is, William, Edzard doesn’t “start off” like that. He starts off pointing out that, in spite of what practitioners and disciples may say, there is no robust evidence that x is effective for y. That’s when the personal insults and ad hominems against him start. Once people start responding like that, they demonstrate that they are indeed quacks who deserve to be ridiculed. If they don’t want to be called quacks and ridiculed, they should try engaging with the arguments like adults not like petulant infants.

    • if you start off by belittling someone, calling them a quack

      If the person is a quack, what’s belittling about giving them their proper title or designation?

      • If the person is a quack, what’s belittling about giving them their proper title or designation?

        Anybody can call anyone a quack. Just don’t expect a civilised reply. This blog is proof.

  • Surely everyone has spotted that you have not provided your birth certificate. This sneaky and underhand omission, made while protesting too much, proves that you are one of the “descendants of reptilians from the constellation Draco, who walk on two legs and appear human, and who live in tunnels and caverns inside the earth. ” (Source: Wikipedia so it must be even more true). And any birth certificate you show me is a sophisticated forgery. Indeed, how do we know you aren’t Barack Obama’s brother? Ad hominem. Ad schmonimen.


    From: pok
    Subject: stupid edzard

    Message Body:
    You are the most bullshit person i know who claim to be a good doctor by putting other professions down. you are a killer because of your false information.

  • Oh! Doctor, you shame me. I hardly get any Ad Hominem attacks. You inspire me to work much harder.

  • Just received a charming email:
    from: Dick
    Subject: [your-subject]

    Message Body:
    wow are you a fucking asshole…shill for the drug companies..

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