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

Just when I thought I had received all the insults that one can possibly invent – including that I falsified my qualifications (!) – there comes a new one that nobody has ever thought of.

Like all my books, the new one (this one is in German) is dividing opinions sharply. That has to be expected in the realm of so-called alternative medicine, I suppose. Even though I had hoped to avoid such divisions by discussing the 20 best and the 20 most concerning modalities, there seems to be very little middle ground.

We already discussed the review of our regular Heinrich Huemmer. It was withdrawn by Amazon presumably because it was too offensive and later replaced by his second attempt. Now we have a new review which arguably is even more insulting:

Edzard Ernst ist ein verbitterter, älterer Ex-Wissenschaftler, der in seiner nachuniversitären Ruhestandszeit die Privatfehde mit seinem Erzfeind Prince Charles, wie im Film “Und täglich grüsst das Murmeltier” wieder und wieder aufarbeiten muss. Das letzte traurige Ergebnis gibt’s jetzt hier.

Here is the translation:

Edzard Ernst is an embittered, elderly ex-scientist who, in his post-university retirement, has to rehash the private feud with his nemesis Prince Charles over and over again, as in the movie “And Every Day the Groundhog Greets.” The latest sad result is now available here.

The review was posted on 21/3/2021 by an anonymous person who had not bought or read the book. As it might also be withdrawn by Amazon for being offensive, I thought I better keep it here for posterity. I find it quite nice because it shows the lack of reason that shines through so often when my critics try to form a coherent argument.

So, please allow me to do a quick analysis:

  • I cannot very well judge whether I am embittered. Those around me would deny it, however.
  • Yes, I suppose I am elderly; the same age as Charles, actually. If ‘elderly’ is used in a derogatory sense, it gets rather unpleasant, if you ask me.
  • I am not an ex-scientist. I still do quite a bit of science which, by any standards, makes me a scientist.
  • I don’t think I have a ‘private feud’ with Charles. A feud is an argument that has existed for a long time between two people or groups, causing a lot of anger or violence. If anything I am a critic of Charles’ actions related to SCAM. He has never argued back which means that this does not amount to a feud. If it were a feud, it would also not be private. I have always made my criticism public.
  • Is Charles my nemesis? Someone’s nemesis is a person or thing that is very difficult for them to defeat. Charles would indeed be very difficult to defeat because he never discusses with people who are not of his opinion. So, perhaps this point is correct? Yes, except, I never expected to ‘defeat’ Charles; I would be entirely happy to make him realise that some of his notions are ill-conceived.
  • Do I really have to rehash whatever it is over and over again? I fear that here the book reviewer is mistaken. Charles is one of the world’s most influential proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). I am one of the leading experts in this field. Therefore it is only to be expected that I regularly come across his activities.
  • “The latest sad result is now available here.” This implies that my new book is full of mentions of Charles. The truth is that Charles or his activities are not mentioned even once (at least I did not find anything when checking just mow).

Boring trivialities?

Not really!

I do find the book review quite revealing. It shows that there must be some (I fear many) people out there who are not willing to even consider an argument deemed to be contrary to their conviction. They close their eyes and ears in motivated ignorance. The funny thing is that this happens even in relation to a book in which I really did try to show some positive sides of SCAM.

In other words, even when I evidently write about the positive aspects of SCAM, the opposition remains stubbornly, closed-minded, and accuses me of closed-mindedness.

Not without irony, that!

8 Responses to “Edzard Ernst is an embittered, elderly ex-scientist…”

  • It shows that there must be some (I fear many) people out there who are not willing to even consider an argument deemed to be contrary to their conviction.

    This is an observation that I can confirm. Once people committed themselves to a particular thing they believe to be true, they will often staunchly defend it, regardless of actual evidence.

    I experienced one quite recent example: during a convivial chat with a long-time business acquaintance, the subject of alternative treatments came up – and not just in a negative sense, but also with some examples of things that really work. At which point this person’s wife told me that she had suffered from osteoarthritis for many years, but that she had cured it with glucosamine and green-lipped mussel extracts (Perna canaliculus). After looking it up, I could not locate good studies confirming her experience, only a lot of anecdotal information which I found less than convincing.

    I told her these findings, explaining that other factors may have contributed to her getting better – regression to the mean, a decrease in mental and physical stress, hormones, changes in physical exercise patterns – but also that these supplements may have contributed to the overall positive effect. And of course that I was happy to hear that she was free of pain and discomfort.

    However, my cautious, science-based assessment was not really appreciated, and she insisted that she was certain that it must have been the supplements that did it. In fact, she almost insisted that I ignore the scientific research and embrace her point of view.
    Luckily, we managed to steer the somewhat heated discussion in another direction at that point, but I was a bit taken aback at how vehemently she tried to convince me, even though she is well aware of my views with regard to science and alternative treatments. This was not just an anonymous person on the Internet who simply didn’t agree with me, but someone whom I have been friends with for some 30 years now.

    It would appear that personal beliefs, even about something as trivial as alternative treatments with supplements, can quickly become quite dominant in even the best of circumstances. And even though in most cases, this doesn’t cause any real trouble, things can sometimes become really ugly, e.g. with people going down the QAnon rabbit hole, or when those Believers think that they actually know better how to cure people than real, highly trained doctors.

    • In my experience people like to believe that any decision that they have made is a good one, and get quite upset at the suggestion that they could have been mistaken. For this reason I always take other people’s recommendations for a vacuum cleaner, TV, car or whatever with a pinch of salt and try to find objective reviews. The exception is builders, where a personal recommendation is essential (nobody would recommend a builder who has made their life hell).

      When it coes to health feelings run even stronger, I suppose because in a way the person has entrusted their lives, or at least their health, into the hands of the person treating them, or at least the one responsible for producing their medicines. I have certainly felt a very strong and irrational gratitude towards any of my colleagues who have treated me personally, even though I know they are only doing their job and I would have treated them in exactly the same way if the roles were reversed.

      Irrational, I should clarify, but not undeserved.

      • @ Dr Julian Money-Kyrle

        I take your point – I too am always skeptical.
        But people’s view are often skewed by irrelevancies also. In my own line I was well aware of several GPs who were universally “loved” by many of their patients for whom they cold do no wrong. Yet their colleagues knew them to be dangerously out of touch with bizarre views and would often have to rescue patients from misdiagnoses and dangerous drug regimes or undiagnosed cancers and such.
        But such was their charisma and charm that all of this by-passed the patients completely.
        The local hospital despaired at having to pick up the pieces time after time yet still having to hear adulation heaped on these incompetents.

        I think this is often what skews people’s views of SCAMmers as well. they are sold on the “snakeoil” pitch and the charisma and time and “care” given by the individual. Also they are “selling” a line and they do it well. The clients buy that and miss the really important bit – that the underlying product has no substance.

        And this is true of all cons – whether selling MLMs, fake investments or whatever – it is the plausibility, charm, relatibility and believablity of the “front-man” that matters. He is someone you can trust, is on your side, cares about you.
        Once you can fake sincerity …….

  • Haters gonna hate!

    I think this counts as an ad hominem and not as a rational argument so it is a logical fallacy anyway.

    In any event it is Charles who is talking out of the incorrect orifice so what he utters is irrelevant anyway.

    I think the phrase attributed to Wolfgang Pauli also applies here – “Not even wrong!”

  • Such a review certainly reveals a lot about the reviewer…..

  • I find you very embittered towards the Prince, you mention him and Trump quite often in your blog. Your political views shine very well here, outside looking in. I still follow your site because love your work, learned to filter blogs and/or friends political bullcrap to side. Rational folks do that, it is actually quite easily done without alienating half your audience.

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