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

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” (Bill Vaughan)

Any New Year resolutions?

As far as my blog is concerned, I can think of a few:

  1. Be more polite to people whose opinions differ from mine. I have to admit that I sometimes find it hard to respond politely to offensive or offensively stupid comments. I will try to improve in this respect.
  2. Try harder to keep an open mind (while being careful that my brain does not fall out in the process).
  3. Avoid technical lingo so that all people understand what I am trying to say.
  4. Try to enlarge the readership of my blog (not quite sure how to do this; perhaps by sticking to my resolutions?).
  5. Cover more areas of alternative medicine. I have always strived to include even the most exotic modalities; the problem, however, is that most are not supported by evidence, and in the absence of evidence I don’t know what to discuss.
  6. Report more positive results; the problem is that there are very few sound studies with positive findings – but I will try.
  7. Have fun.

11 Responses to Any fine resolutions for 2019?

  • One trouble being that- as with the ‘Truth About Cancer’ site, as with no- dealers in the Brexit debate, any polite request for evidence is normally met by complete silence or aggression and abuse. I know you’ve experienced this( certainly in the early days).Any dissent is often met with accusations of ‘anger’ and ‘aggression’.You have, as far as I remember, been called a ‘wanker’ by a qualified doctor( this seems so bizarre that I feel I imagined it), and I have been called similar, including ‘twat’ and ‘idiot’. Being told that I am in the pay of Big Pharma( I’m not), and should get an education( I have a pretty advanced one) are pretty mild in comparison. How to deal with such people?

    • The downside of being in Canada (and there are very few!): you never get called a twat or wanker. And that’s a shame.

      If you want *real* abuse (where the haters come in all shapes and sizes and, along with their scornful comments seem to ooze out of the woodwork), offer an opinion that supports transgender issues. Then duck.

  • @ Prof. Ernst,
    First: Happy New Year!
    Since you are reflecting about the way on how to address people with different opinions, may I ask for your opinion on the concept of “street epistemology”, as suggested by Dr. Peter Boghossian, and if it could be applied when talking to CAM believers? Seems to be quite effective for other forms of belief.

    • I am afraid I do not know this concept

      • No worries.
        Street epistemology is e.g. explained in Dr. Boghossian book “Manual for Creating Atheists”, but it is not limited to religious belief.
        It basically applies a Socratic approach to promote skeptical thinking and (very briefly) is based on questioning the reliability of the METHODS that a person used/uses to conclude that a belief is true, rather than providing FACTS that contradict the belief. I find this method very interesting, because in my experience, providing facts pretty much never changes the opinion of a believer.
        You can find many examples of this method online, if you are interested, I suggest the videos from Anthony Magnabosco
        https://www.youtube.com/user/magnabosco210
        and
        Reid Nicewonder
        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiWKxPMKUBFjN3Ny_VxpkYw

      • To illustrate “street epistemology (SE)” with a fictional example, let´s say a person strongly believes in homeopathy.

        Instead of lecturing him/her about the facts (few or no molecules of the putative remedy left after dilution, no plausible mode of action, no reproducible RCT, etc.), a SE way of arguing (usually based entirely on posing questions) could begin like this:

        Question: “How confident are you that homeopathy works (on a scale from 0 to 100%)?”
        Exemplary answer: “95%”
        Question: “Why do you believe that homeopathy works?”
        Exemplary answer: “I was introduced to homeopathy by my parents and from my personal experience, I know that it works, e.g. for treating a common cold.”
        Question: “Would you say that personal experience is a reliable way to come to true conclusions about the effectiveness of medical remedies?
        Exemplary answer: “Yes”
        Question: “Imagine that another person recommends aromatherapy, instead of homeopathy, for treating cold symptoms, because she has made very similar personal experiences with aromatherapy. How could we decide which one of you is correct? Is personal experience really a reliable method if it can lead persons with the same illness to very different treatments?
        (And so on…)

        I hope that this fictional example illustrated that the aim of SE is guiding people in critical thinking about the way/method that a supernatural belief was formed and is maintained. If a person realizes that the belief was formed on an arbitrary, unreliable basis, this can have a strong impact.
        To practice SE, it is not necessary to be an expert on the facts of a believe, but just promote critical thinking. Since you are an expert on CAM, I doubt that SE would be a thing for you, but maybe it would be a strategy for people less educated in CAM, that want to promote critical thinking.
        I intend trying the SE approach in my next discussions which persons holding supernatural believes (religion, CAM, ghosts, etc.) and would be interested in what you think about this concept.

  • Yours is the best, most rigorous, vigorous and enjoyable blog of its kind. Always interesting and perspicacious….Meaning your blog-articles and insights. Many of your detractors posts, not so much. I’m sure many of us would agree you are typically MORE reserved in your responses than many of the blog-respondent(s) deserve.
    I suggest occasionally (or more) posting excerpts from your books to demonstrate how much of what is posted as retorts has already been addressed and obviated within your published works. I especially enjoy the explication and explanations regarding improper research methods and flaws you define in your books. I’m sure that the VAST majority of your detractors are unaware of the real-facts regarding the (bad) research their preferred woo promulgates and refuse, constitutionally to read & educate themselves in that regard.
    Please keep up the excellent work through the next 12 months, you have many fans.

  • Maybe you could make your blog more interesting by writing more about EBM, good research practice and good clinical practice in general, in a non-ranting way.
    I think there is really more to say about the subject than the umpteenth rant against some obscure homeopath.

    I already know that homeopathy is bollocks, no need to remind me every other day. I would be more interested in (for instance) your views on what healthcare should look like, what is the most effective way for healthcare practitioners to refute nonsensical beliefs held by patients (coming from CAM-practitioners or otherwise), stuff like that.

  • I don’t know much about blogging but maybe you should ask for Ben Goldacre to give you an audit and review. His (now essentially abandoned) badscience.net blog originally got me interested in this sort of thing and eventually led me here. I know a lot of his were for a newspaper publication, but he may give some insight in how to expand your readership.

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