This happens with such a regularity that I have decided to write about it; in fact, I shall do that in the form of an ‘open letter‘ to all concerned.


A person or group of persons compose a complaint about my work in which they allege that I am engaged in a decade-long vendetta specifically against their particular form of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). This letter is sent to me, or to a publisher of my articles/books, or to my peers at the university, or to anyone else they consider appropriate. Such interventions can at times be quite entertaining or even hilariously funny, but if they occur too often, they are also mildly irritating and wasteful. Foremost, they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding that might be worth clearing up with this …

 Open Letter

Dear advocate of the specific SCAM in question,

Dear professional organization of the specific SCAM in question,

I am sorry that my lecture/article/blog post/book/interview caused concern and led you to feel that I am running a long-term campaign or vendetta against the specific SCAM that you advocate. This letter is to assure you that your feeling is entirely erroneous: I am in no way targeting your specific SCAM.

If you have a look at my most recent book, for instance, you will see that, in it, I discuss a total of 202 different forms of SCAM and that – with good reason – I am highly critical of the vast majority of these methods. Imagine what it would mean to run a vendetta or campaign against all of these specific SCAMs. I would need a sizable team of co-workers involving lawyers, researchers, administrators, etc. to manage the task. I would also need plenty of funds to support the campaign, and I would most likely have more legal cases going than I have hair on my head.

The truth is that, since my retirement ~10 years ago, I do my research with no assistance whatsoever, I get no financial support or compensation for my work, and I am in contact with lawyers only when they ask me to serve as an expert witness. There simply is no evidence for the campaign that you feel does exist and you evidently misjudge my motives for criticizing your specific SCAM.

My aim is not to defame your specific SCAM or SCAM in general. I have no reason to do this. My aim is simply to inform the public responsibly and to prevent vulnerable people from getting harmed or ripped off. As I have studied the subject systematically for three decades, I feel I am competent, entitles, and duty-bound to try and do this.

I sincerely hope you are able to see the difference: you seem to think that I am destructively out to get you or your SCAM, while in truth I am constructively doing what responsible healthcare professionals (should) do.

Now that this misunderstanding has been cleared up, I thank you for reconsidering your position and stopping to claim things about me that are not true.

Best regards

Edzard Ernst

12 Responses to My ‘OPEN LETTER’ to all advocates of so-called alternative medicine who feel like complaining about me and my work

  • I totally agree, and thank you for all your efforts. But good luck with “reconsidering your position and stopping to claim things about me that are not true”. Since at the very root of their position is the fact that they are claiming things about their particular form of SCAM that neither are nor can be true, I doubt they will even remotely understand your words.

  • I think that the general problem here is that those people believe in their favourite SCAM, making them impervious to rational arguments – because it is mentally impossible to think of something you really believe in as being wrong.
    It is literally unthinkable for those people that they might be wrong, and any facts and arguments that undeniably prove them wrong are ignored in a very fundamental way.

    • Interesting point that “the general problem here is that those people believe in their favourite SCAM.” I have often wondered about that matter in terms of psychics and clergy actually believing their preachings I have many doubts that they do and I expect that to also be generally true of SCAM medical/wellness advocates. My own sincerely held belief on the matter is that such folks, for the most part, are bright and cynically know that they are peddling delusion, but I have no way to prove it.

      • Regarding clergy:

        The Clergy Project (TCP) is a nonprofit organization based in the United States that provides peer support to current and former religious leaders who no longer believe in a god or other supernatural elements. The group’s focus is to provide private online forums for its participants, career transition assistance (including career coaching grants), and subsidized psychotherapy sessions in partnership with Recovering from Religion‘s Secular Therapy Project.

        • Thanks, Pete. Now if only those hawking quack cures and psychic predictions would follow suit.

          I don’t know as fact that this is true, but my suspicion is that the clergy, in general, are far more well meaning than the other professors of mystical cures and powers. It is no surprise to me that there is an effort to address the situation, first with the clergy. Psychics and medical quacks will never be repentant until behind bars.

          • Britt Marie Hermes … is an American former naturopathic doctor who became a critic of naturopathy and alternative medicine. She is the author of a blog, Naturopathic Diaries, where she writes about being trained and having practiced as a licensed naturopath and about the problems with naturopaths as medical practitioners.

            Hermes’ writings deal with the education and practices of licensed naturopaths in North America, and she is a noted opponent of alternative medicine. Hermes has been dubbed a whistleblower on the naturopathic profession and a “naturopathic apostate”.


            The following article is well worth reading in its entirety:

            The Unpersuadables
            Harriet Hall, MD, 2014-09-02, Science-Based Medicine

            We are creatures of illusion. To be human is to be “unpersuadable,” at least to some degree about some things. We can’t escape the limitations of our prehistoric brains, but we can learn to constantly remind ourselves that no matter how right we feel, there is a possibility that we might be wrong.


      • @Ray Haupt

        My own sincerely held belief on the matter is that such folks, for the most part, are bright and cynically know that they are peddling delusion, but I have no way to prove it.

        I tend to disagree. Yes, there are of course false believers out there who are willingly and knowingly tricking people – but from what I see, most alternative practitioners and proponents genuinely believe in what they do. This belief often started out as a revelation-type personal experience(*) for which they actively sought confirmation, yet ignored any conflicting data (which is a very human thing to do).
        And the more time, effort and money they (both practitioners and customers) spend on this belief, the harder it becomes to abandon or even doubt.

        Here’s a pretty horrible example of someone who chooses to believe so strong in something that he is willing to abandon fundamental human intelligence in the process:

        *: Much like how Hahnemann came up with his law of similars (‘like cures like’) of homeopathy, based on exactly one striking personal experience. And this ‘law’ is still promulgated by virtually all homeopaths, even though there is not a shred of evidence for its viability.

  • Dear Edzard,
    I read your posting every week and of course I agree with every one of your judgements. In fact it gets a bit tedious as irrespective of the SCAM the is always an empty space for any evidence to support the claims of the SCAMer.
    I think we all agree that the moon is not made of cheese irrespective of whether it’s Stilton, Brie, Cheddar, Parmesan or Mozzarella. Feta may be a better cheese, if bought from Waitrose, rather than the crater of Aristotelese

    • Clearly not Brie or Mozzarella. And yet the moon does sometimes appear to have distinctly blue patches so can we rule out Stilton? I like to keep an open mind about such matters.

      But alternative medicine? Nah.

  • So what if you WERE waging a vendetta against any or all of them? Why should any rational person sit by and ignore them? Why would any responsible health care professional not do whatever (s)he can do alert people to SCAM?

    Other than the word vendetta (an odd choice) I would agree with them–for instance if they said it was a “war”. I consider my own small efforts to be exactly that, a just war against ignorance and grift.

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