MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Many people seem to be amazed at my continued activities (e. g. blog, books, lectures, interviews) aimed at telling the truth about homeopathy and other alternative modalities. They ask themselves: why does he do it? And sometimes I ask myself the same question. I certainly don’t do it because I receive any money for my work (as many of my critics have assumed in the past).

So, why?

Let me briefly offer just 7 of the most obvious reasons why I feel it is important to tell the truth about homeopathy and similar treatments:

1. The truth is invaluable

I probably do not need to explain this at all. For any responsible person the truth has an intrinsic value that cannot be doubted. In our book, we conclude that “the truth-violating nature of CAM renders it immoral in both theory and practice.”

2. Untruths make a mockery of EBM

If we accept that, in the realm of alternative medicine, it is permissible to apply a different standard than in evidence-based medicine (EBM), we make a mockery of EBM. Double standards are hugely counter-productive and not in the interest of patients.

3. The truth promotes rationality

If the proponents of a modality such as homeopathy promote concepts that fly in the face of science, they undermine rational thinking. Believing in a vital force or energy is just one of many examples for this phenomenon. Undermining rationality can have negative effects far beyond healthcare and reminds me of Voltaire’s bon mot: “Those who make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

4. It is ethical

Healthcare have the ethical duty to work towards patients receiving the best treatments available. If a therapy like homeopathy fails to be demonstrably effective, it cannot possibly fall into this category. Therefore, responsible healthcare professionals must help to improve healthcare by disclosing the evidence against homeopathy.

5. It might save money

The money spent on homeopathy and other ineffective alternative treatments is considerable. Disclosing the fact that they are not effective will help stopping people to waste their money on them. Telling the truth about homeopathy and similarly ineffective therapies would therefore save funds that can be used more efficiently elsewhere.

6. It might save lives

Because they usually are free of active molecules, homeopathic remedies are often seen as a safe treatments. However, homeopathy can nevertheless harm and even kill patients, if they use it as an alternative medicines in cases of severe illness. It follows that telling the truth about homeopathy’s ineffectiveness can save lives.

7. It could counter-balance the multiple lies that are being told.

We all have seen the multitude of untruths that are being told about the value of homeopathy (if you haven’t, you ought to read SCAM). The multitude of falsehoods seriously misleads many consumers into believing that homeopathy is a valuable therapeutic option for many conditions. I feel strongly that it is my moral duty as an independent expert to counter-balance this plethora of lies in order to minimise the harm it is doing.

13 Responses to Why is it important to tell the truth about homeopathy (or any other alternative medicine)?

  • And of course to uncover con-men.

    If you are still in Brazil you might have missed this interesting story:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/notorious-noakes-10m-guernsey-gcmaf-crook-imprisoned

  • When the World Wide Web came up, I was very optimistic because I thought that this new, powerful tool would help to spread humanity & scientific discoveries throughout the world, reaching even people that did not have access to this knowledge before, because they lived in an oppressive country, indoctrinated by religion or nationalism.

    As it has become increasingly evident, I was very naïve and far too optimistic, because I underestimated the potential of spreading misinformation and hate with this medium as well. I also could not imagine that most people seem to prefer living in a nice thought-bubble instead of having to face a potentially uncomfortable truth.

    Today, access to information is not the problem anymore in most parts of the world due to the WWW, but finding sources that are reliable has become exceedingly difficult.
    Your books and public talks are invaluable, because they represent one of the few reliable sources on CAM.
    Furthermore, your continuing promotion of science as the best method to evaluate the claims that CAM supporters make is much appreciated.

  • Of course its important to those of us who have had the good fortune to have stumbled onto your blog and purchased (and read) your books….and are also, like you constitutionally geared to truth-seeking. You make sure those in your purview get a comprehensive view of innumerable subjects reviewed from a perspective of experience and empiricism few can match.
    I recently finished your book SCAM and found it thoroughly engaging, well organized, systematic and comprehensive. Your frustration at many of the knucklehead-posters here becomes apparent after reading the books, as you have covered EVERY pseudo-argument and obfuscation tactic they throw around, 100 times to Sunday. But of course the believers-in-nonsense are unlikely to be truth seekers or book-readers….thus continue to rehash worthless ideas, discounted concepts and pointless rhetoric.

  • Given the sheer quantity of nonsense out there, every voice in favour of science matters.

    Your voice is a particularly valuable one. Which is why I read every post and every comment.

    Please keep up the good work.

  • Having personally witnessed a good friend of the family die from quackery, I strongly support your unrelenting effort to educate the world and stress the importance of honesty and truth, especially about some of the most important things in our life: our health, our sanity and our intelligence. In my opinion, quackery is not just about deception and potential health hazards, but it is also an insult to human intelligence: quacks literally sell fairy tales, illusions and lies to people. The only mitigating factor is that first and foremost, they deceive themselves — but that too is almost criminally stupid in this information age, with blogs like this explaining why they are Wrong; they really should know better.

    I sometimes wonder where you find the energy to keep on doing this, day after day — and I wish I could support your work in a more tangible way than merely expressing my strong appreciation and admiration.

    • you are very kind; thanks

    • RichardR, you could start by telling us who you are – or why you will not.

      • You asked this on a previous occasion as well, and I’ll accede to your request by telling you who I am, except for my full name – my name won’t provide any more information than I’m about to give you here, and I’m pretty certain that it will cause certain people to harass me for my rather anti-alternative views and actions, as explained further on.

        So here goes: I’m a Dutch middle-aged guy who runs a one-man business in electronics engineering and translation services, the latter mostly on technical subjects. One notable detail: I translated some twenty “…. for Dummies” books into Dutch, e.g. Home Improvement for Dummies, Electronics for Dummies, and several others. I’m fluent in three languages, manage quite well in another three, which leaves two dead languages (Latin and Greek) that I once learned, but haven’t really kept up.
        As far as the electronics go, I’m specialized in biomedical electronics, but I do a lot of other stuff too – up to and including fixing tube amps for a small local guitar store, simply because I like variation, and because I’ve been playing in bands myself.
        I’m quite knowledgeable in physics, chemistry, and biology, and I’m also familiar with several medical subjects I researched and taught myself for the biomedical part of my business (physiology, immunology, a bit of neurology, and oh, some biomedical mechanics for bone implants). No, I don’t have any official credentials in any of those subjects. But I’m not so much a ‘Google scholar’ as a ‘PubMed scholar’, always ferreting out the actual scientific papers and any criticisms on those papers to base my opinion on. Let’s just say that I’m a self-educated layman with quite a bit of knowledge, but little enough to know that I’m not qualified at all to give medical advice, let alone pretend that I can treat people’s ailments.

        For the past fifteen years, my most prominent hobby has been alternative medicine, and I’ve been severely harassing homeopaths and people selling dangerous quackery (e.g. ‘MMS’) by filing reports with the Dutch Medical Inspectorate and consumer authorities. This has led to several dozen Web sites selling MMS being shut down, and several Web site owners now hating my guts for ruining their business. Unfortunately, my endeavours to do something about homeopaths haven’t been very successful yet, but I’m working on it. I’m especially after homeopaths who jumped on the antivaccine wagon, telling insecure parents that vaccines are bad for their child in order to sell them useless sugar crumbs in lieu of real vaccines – with moderate success, as I succeeded to make the Dutch consumer authority give them a slap on the wrist for advertising this rubbish. Unfortunately, the Health Inspectorate still refuses to take action, even though this situation has been recognized as a public health hazard by all involved.

        Well, this is most of it, I guess – and this is already way more than you would have found when Googling my full name and business Web site. If you doubt my sincerity: Prof. Dr. Ernst probably has access to my full e-mail address (and therefore Web site address), and could at least vouch for what I say about my business. Then again, all the details I provided shouldn’t make it too difficult to find the ‘real me’ anyway, although you’d need to do some translation into Dutch for that.
        So far, my alternative medicine hobby isn’t mentioned anywhere on the Internet in connection with my name, for reasons already stated (i.e. lots of quacks being angry with me), so you’ll have to take my word for that part (but hey, you see me turn up here regularly, so at least I’m doing something about it, er?).

        However, I am working on a book about the silly things that people believe (and why), and if and when that ever gets finished, I’ll be certain to publish it under my real name. The Chronicle Flask’s Kat Day has expressed her interest as a co-author, provided I find a publisher who is willing to pay normal writer’s fees. Which is a bit of a bugger these days, what with the continuing slump in the printed book business. Also, I have a business to run, so I’m taking it slow on this book project.

        Does this answer your question? And my apologies to the others for just talking about myself here — I could of course use the excuse that it’s important to tell the truth, but that would turn my crime of posting off-topic into an even worse crime of making off with Prof. Dr. Ernst’s subject title…

  • Thanks You Dr Ernst,

    it is heartening to know there are others out there countering the current schemes that peddle pseudo science. Once you start looking for it, you see it everywhere. it is like a multi level marketing scheme on the Internet. This junk gets republished and spread around by mass media too. The marketing is really deceptive, they use advertorials, and influencers to spread this nonsense. They prey on desperate and sick people who have been let down by conventional medicine, or the ones who can’t afford conventional medicine. I know of people who had real conditions like cancer, who sought out alternatives, after her physician dismissed her symptoms.

    Another acquaintance paid thousands every week for vitamin infusions, as she died from cancer. These practitioners are charming and know how to market their wares, they run in certain social circles, where they meet vulnerable, rich people, usually women.

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