Last week I was in Prague for a lecture which was great fun. On this occasion, I was interviewed by 5 different journalist. One of them asked a question that I had not often heard before: ‘how do they react to criticism?’
What he was inquiring about was the responses I get after publishing results, articles, interviews or blog posts that do not live up to the expectations of proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). I think the journalist was taken aback by the detail of my response:
- They denounce tell lies about me. I have written about some of such lies on my blog. But this was just the tip of the iceberg; if you go on the internet, you could find much, much more. Here is a nice example: Prof. Ernst has published little original primary research. His clinical trials have nearly all encountered severe methodological criticism and have often been published in low impact journals.
- They claim that I falsified my qualifications.
- They state that I am a killer.
- They say that my research was sub-standard: the reviews and evaluations he publishes have often met with substantial methodological criticism. In situations where reviews were conducted simultaneously by other research groups, other scientists frequently came to entirely different, and usually more positive, conclusions.
- They claim that I am not adequately qualified to do what I do and unqualified or unwilling to judge the evidence fairly.
- They write that I am dishonest and fabricate data.
- They claim that I have violated medical research ethics (more details here).
- They specifically claim that I do not have a clue about the homeopathy of Hahnemann.
- They sue me and people who work with me. The BCA famously sued Simon Singh. I have also had numerous legal actions against me from various SCAM advocates/entrepreneurs.
- They file complaints with my university. I remember about a dozen such actions but, as I failed to keep a record, there could have been even more.
- They try to get me struck off the medical register. That happened thankfully only once, yet it was one of the most unpleasant experiences of them all.
- They claim that I am paid by ‘Big Pharma’ almost on a daily basis.
- They stop inviting me to their conferences. Since the publication of TRICK OR TREATMENT, I have rarely been invited to SCAM conferences (before, this used to be almost my ‘daily bread’).
- They send me hate-mail. On this blog, I have written about the many ‘love letters’ I receive (see for instance here and here).
- They threaten me with physical violence or death. At one stage we had to call the police because there were threats of letter bombs coming my way (more details here).
- Some have even used their influence to close my department. Yes, I almost forgot Prince Charles in this long list of opprobrium.
So, how do they react to criticism?
In a word: badly!