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:

  1. 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.
  2. They claim that I falsified my qualifications.
  3. They state that I am a killer.
  4. 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.
  5. They claim that I am not adequately qualified to do what I do and unqualified or unwilling to judge the evidence fairly.
  6. They write that I am dishonest and fabricate data.
  7. They claim that I have violated medical research ethics (more details here).
  8. They specifically claim that I do not have a clue about the homeopathy of Hahnemann.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. They claim that I am paid by ‘Big Pharma’ almost on a daily basis.
  13. 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’).
  14. They send me hate-mail. On this blog, I have written about the many ‘love letters’ I receive (see for instance here and here).
  15. 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).
  16. 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!

9 Responses to How do proponents of so-called alternative medicine react to criticism?

  • The vast majority of “They/Them” ignore you. Those that get upset are the self-selecting set that you become aware of. You cant generalize about all of “they/them”. Probably no more or less sensitive to criticism than any heterogeneous group of people.

  • Talking about SCAM-critical voices: just saw a very good documentary about homeopathy on the German TV.
    Highly recommended!

    It was just priceless to see how “Dr.” Michaela Geiger, 1st chairwoman of the DZVhÄ (German central association of homeopathic doctors) was unable to name even a SINGLE example when repeatedly asked for any significant progress that homeopathy made since it´s invention 200 years ago. Hilarious!
    If you want to have a good laugh, see the video from 38:00 onward.
    In case that you do not understand the German language, never mind! Rest assured that the words that she utters do not make any sense for German-speaking people as well..
    If I can stop laughing, I will make a translation later…

    • Ok… let me share the wisdom of Dr. Michaela Geiger, who apparently (and surprisingly) holds a PhD degree and is the spokesperson for the DZVhÄ.
      Disclaimer: I tried to translate the interview as accurately as possible. Please do not blame me if her answers sound like utter nonsense.
      Well, here we go.


      Which milestones have been achieved in homeopathy, what concretely has changed over the last 200 years?

      Dr. Geiger:
      There is further -well, for us, from the core- further developments that one, well, looks further into the scientific impulse, well, what in basic science, what in clinical science, care science is present, that one further develops… that’s a given.

      But what progress is there precisely, very concretely, since Hahnemann. What has changed fundamentally, in the way you conduct homeopathy?

      Dr. Geiger:
      Well, I think it continues, too… I think it is further important to develop the basic science to -let me say- further advance the non-molecular principle…

      You now look into the future. But the question is: we look back 200 years, when we look back at 200 years of development. Which concrete milestones have been achieved?

      Dr. Geiger:
      I think from the scientific character it really should continue to develop further, be it -as already said- in terms of basic science, care science, clinical science… fact is: the demand is higher than ever, and to do justice to this balancing act, we have to proceed… and there always is enough room to improve, well, it is really important to go ahead.

      But: concrete milestones of the scientific development in homeopathy are so far absent?!

      Dr. Geiger:
      Important is that one really looks how it now has developed, and if one -in a medical sense- has to handle the different treatment options, you have to literally welcome this to further develop this in a therapeutical setting.

      Wow… this was quite painful.
      But at least we now know all about the concrete progress that homeopathy made since it´s invention.
      You can´t even blame Ms. Geiger – probably nobody could have said it any better.

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