Accolades & Quackolades


"There are ~20 published reviews of my book, but this one must be THE BEST! THANK YOU."
Edzard Ernst

"Best blog of the day IMHO."
Simon Singh

"This blogpost is simply brilliant."
Mark Burnley

"You are a rude argumentative bully. You are a typical "skeptic" - not sceptical at all."
Andrew, anti-vaxer

"Your piece about House of Commons Science and Technology sub-Committee’s ‘evidence check’ on homeopathy was one of the best I’ve seen. Strength to your elbow."
Tony

"...an individual calling themselves ‘scepticat’ or ‘sceptikat’- a highly volatile dictatorial site run by a wannabe megalomaniac. A truly disturbed person with a anger management issue venting via their little site to their own personal herd of sycophants."
Centella, one of Dr Andrew Jones personal herd of sycophants.

"Excellent report, which I can vouch for completely."
Jack of Kent

"The ludicrous nature of the complaint, and some of the responses by Dr Ranj and the BBC, has already been expertly documented on the Skepticat UK blog".
Dean Burnett

"Choke on your own vomit and die in agony..."
r wesley edwards, aka @CommonCormorant, author

"A very good rebuttal…"
Anna Watson, anti-vaxer Arnica UK

"A staggering amount of pathological disbelief allied with a staggering amount of arrogance."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"I just love this blog, and this post is a fine example of it’s content – ‘Inside the spine wizard’s den’ – Skepticat. Why do some of us feel that we are above challenging argument and peer review? I just wish that I could write as well as some of these bloggers!"
Jonathan Hearsey, osteopath

"Skepticat is a particularly venomousness (sic) skeptic, a humanist who lives by the "golden rule", she refused to let me follow her on twitter because I am "bonkers" which may endear her to many in the chiropractic profession..."
Richard Lanigan, chiropractor


Facebook image helpfully captioned by Sandra A Hermann-Courtney (@brownbagpantry)


"Die Die die die!"
r wesley edwards, aka @CommonCormorant, author

"Loved that article. It really shows what chiropractors are really all about. What I call the "chiro show" Exposing people to totally unnecessary X-rays should be criminal. Thank you!"
mt

"I think skepticat is plain mad at not having children of her own. Hatred projected out to the world. It's sad to see someone with so much self hatred, destroying themself internally without even realising it."
Bebo, chiropractor (Note: In fact I'm the proud mother of two brilliant children, whom I mention frequently. Glad of the excuse to do so again.)

"Hooray for Reason! Just want to thank you for writing this. Even though the arguments presented are tired, and played out, they still must be refuted."
Elijah

"I understand that you have been traumatised by your experience and that this is your way of coming to terms with the emotional scars."
Stefaan Vossen, chiropractor

"All you really seem interested in is banging your repetitive drum and preaching to the converted."
Rick, osteopath

"All the entries I’ve read are excellent. I’ll be coming back to read more. Love the cat logo as well."
Derrik

"Research in Homeopathy Conference - Skepticat's hilarious account. She went to it."
David Colquhoun

"Her site is Skepticat UK... she wouldn’t know a punchline if it raped her. Or maybe she’d thank it."
Scott Cappurro, comedian

"I rather love the lunacy of the anti-Homeopathists, such as yourself."
James Pannozzi, acupuncturist & would-be homeopath

"Good blog from a skeptic which examines the "science" of Homeopathy in a very detailed way. Skeptics will love this. Proponents of homeopathy? Not so much."
SidDithers

"I really shouldn’t waste my valuable time with someone who obviously has at the very least a borderline personality disorder."
Erika Alisuag, homeopathist

"I’m finding it difficult to come up with some suitable words to say how good and interesting your stuff is. So, in the absence of suitable hyperbole can I say what a very well written and presented blog you have here. Really well thought out and researched. And passionate about it too! Complimenti!"
pv

"You’re whole life is worthless because you lack reason."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"Great stuff Skepticat."
Lifelinking

"When you have learnt some big words and also studied your history books you’ll find that the world was once thought to be flat…by people just like you."
Sarah Hamilton, homeopath

"Thanks for keeping the banner of reason flying high."
John Willis Lloyd

"This is just a general comment. I love this well-written an unfussy little blog (I don’t mean little in a derogatory way, but in the sense it’s not bombastic, self-important and posturing). Excellent material and a worthwhile focus, keep up the good work."
xenophon19

"Her website is a temple to diatribe – I have no sympathy for the homeopaths, etc, with whom she battles, but she clearly gets off on confrontation."
JF Derry

"Skepticat is strictly logical and attacks in unparliamentary words what she deems to be “quackery” – or suggestions that she sounds a little strident."
Andy Reporter

"LOVE the badass attitude! Seriously...KEEP IT UP!"
HelpIzOnTWay

"You were a playful little diversion for a. moment, but I do have better things to do with my time than waste more than half an hour of it stooping down to play your ego supporting self delusional mind games……"
Susan Elizabeth, homeopathist

"An excellent read, thanks for taking thr time to compose it."
Alan C

"You need to do a course in anger management."
katenut, nutritionist

"FWIW I think you manage your anger rather well...mostly by focusing it into a thin, narrow beam of incisive rage which you then use to inscribe words on screen. ;)"
Despard

"Excellent description of the events."
Simon Perry

"You seem to be of probably well-meaning, but bigoted and fundamentalist disposition, just parroting slogans from others without any really knowledge or insight yourself."
Neil Menzies

"Superb, as usual"
phayes

"You seem only interested in ranting against an enemy which you are apparently still struggling to come to terms with “fifteen years” later."
Rick, osteopah

"Bravo, great post!"
RBO

"One day if you are not very careful you will be left behind in the dark ages. I’m sure this will not be printed..but hope it is read by you poor little scaredy cats."
Sarah Hamilton, homeopath

"Brilliant piece!"
crabsallover

"While you babble on like a total airhead about Myhill, you ignore the real doctors who are a danger in the UK".
struck-off doctor, Rita Pal, 'NHS whistle-blower'

"I sincerely hope I never get to your stage of wilful ignorance. You know absolutely diddly squat about the subject but you think your opinion is the only opinion."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"Keep up the spin, you manky old chicken's foot."
JB, chiropractor

"I am forced to conclude you are blogging on behalf of a specific entity that does wish to remain anonymous."
Antony J Palmer, homeopath

"The person writing all this negative press on homeopathy must be getting a big fat check from one of the pharmaceutical companies who would dearly love to push homeopathy off the map."
Erika Alisuag

"Such reporting lands you clearly in the realm of fundamentalist extremism–much noise, no substance, and money from those who have something to sell. It is so unfortunate that your listening skills are in need of repair."
Tanya Marquette, homeopath

"She seems to revel in presenting the many insults that she has attracted as a column of “Quackolades” on her site, as if war wounds on display,"
JF Derry, self-publicist

"Oh shut up SK. You write hot air and spew rubbish as usual."
Rita Pal again.

The importance of being Ernst

Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, has always struck me as a sweet and mild-mannered German teddy bear of a man, yet the quacks hate him with a passion that makes them look even uglier than they are already. It’s no longer a surprise to me that quacks ignore the science and prefer instead to vilify their critics – they don’t have many proper arguments, after all. But it was a bit of surprise that someone sent me a link to a post on the ironically named ‘Truth Will Out’ blog entitled, Edzard Ernst is a fake-3. As that post is a particularly vacuous attempt at character assassination, I assume it was sent to me so I could give it the treatment it deserves.

The writer is one Chris Holmes, a hypnotherapist and author of a self-published book about nicotine. Edzard evidently winds Chris up so much that he spent some 2,000 words (and that just on part 3) huffing with resentment and pushing a monstrously fallacious argument, which amounts to this:

P1. To be a professor, you must be a “qualified expert”;
P2. To be a qualified expert you must have professional experience as a practitioner;
P3. There is nothing that says Edzard has ever been a professional CAM practitioner;
C1. Therefore Edzard shouldn’t be a Professor of Complementary Medicine.

I’m sure anyone who can get all the parts of their brain working together as a team, can agree with P1 and can see that P2 is arrant nonsense; it follows that P3 – whether true or not – is irrelevant and that the conclusion and all the bluster that accompanies it is false. (In fact, in his book Edzard mentions that he is “an insider who practised medicine for many years, including some alternative therapies,” but this doesn’t suit Chris Holmes’s purpose so he disregards it. If he can’t find the hard evidence with Google, then it can’t be true.)

To anyone who can’t see that P2 is nonsense, I guess with a big weary sigh that I’ll have to spell it out for you. First, here’s a question: do you think that a Professor of Theology or of Comparative Religion isn’t properly qualified unless he’s done a stint as a bloody vicar?

Here’s Chris Holmes’ killer argument:

The least they would require, if they were looking to find the ideal candidate for a Professor of History – for example – was that the person was at least an historian. Any Chair in the field of Mathematics, naturally you are looking for a mathematician.

The fundamental flaw in Chris’s argument lies with his unstated premise that CAM is an academic discipline. History, mathematics, philosophy, and all the various branches of the biomedical sciences are established academic disciplines. Complementary medicine – like religion – is not. Complementary medicines – like other quasi-religious beliefs and practices – are phenomena to be investigated academically. This is why the Chair was created in the first place and why the Peninsula Medical School’s Department of Complementary Medicine’s stated objectives are:

• To conduct rigorous, inter-disciplinary and international collaborative research into the efficacy, safety and costs of complementary medicine.
• To be neither promotional nor derogatory but to struggle for objectivity.
• To promote analytical thinking in this area.

Now, given that the stated objectives are neither to teach the practice of nor to deliver any CAM therapy but, rather, to investigate scientifically whether they are of any benefit, what real advantage would clinical experience of delivering, say, acupuncture, bring to the role? Is the idea that an acupuncturist would be better able to design clinical trials or survey systematic reviews better than somebody who only held a Chair in a biomedical science? Given their penchant for cherry-picking poor quality trials, I’d say the idea that your typical quack can meet the all-important requirement of objectivity, is a pretty much a non-starter. As for the notion that a CAM qualification equips one to conduct scientific research into any CAM therapy…anyone who’s read any of David Colqhoun’s posts exposing the content of these courses, will find that suggestion screamingly funny.

As Edzard himself says, good quality evidence can only be obtained if

well-trained scientists (rather than CAM enthusiasts with a mere veneer of science to hide their biases) conduct the research.

The suggestion that, just as CAM therapies should be delivered by professional CAM therapists, so scientific research should be left to professional scientists, might not seem particularly controversial but it sent Chris Holmes scurrying for the stupid pills. Here’s his response:

Oh, really? That’s assuming that even well-trained scientists might lose their scientific objectivity if they have any enthusiasm for what they are studying, is it? Tell that to NASA. Or is it just a swipe at CAM enthusiasts particularly, a sort of Catch 22 that if you are a CAM enthusiast you cannot possibly be a well-trained scientist?

(I know – the stupid, it burns!)

No, Chris, it isn’t assuming that “well-trained scientists might lose their scientific objectivity”. The assumption is that well-trained scientists will retain their objectivity, whatever their enthusiasms. Edzard neither states nor implies that a CAM enthusiast can’t be a well-trained scientist; he will have read studies led by such people and perhaps marvelled at how even well-trained scientists can conduct trials that are badly methodologically flawed. (Fortunately, most well-trained scientists understand the need for replication and peer review and some are even prepared to admit sometimes that they get things wrong, as did Klaus Linde, whose 1997 homeopathy meta-analysis contains the most cherry-picked sentence in the history of homeoquackery, much to Linde’s dismay.)

Actually Chris Holmes goes further than decrying Edzard’s supposed lack of qualification. On Planet Holmes, Edzard is dismissed as “a pathological skeptic with a mere veneer of scientific objectivity,” and bewails his “17 years of over-zealous CAM-bashing posing as objective scientific enquiry using the badge of the university to give it credibility”.

It’s amazing how many people there are shrieking with indignation at what must be the most transparently stupid canard their tiny minds can come up with: ‘Altmed works and if the science doesn’t show that it’s work, the science is wrong and the scientist biased.’ As there is no danger of Chris Holmes letting us in on which of Edzard’s hundreds of papers he thinks isn’t objective and how it fails to be so, his unflattering description of Edzard can be disregarded as the mindless rant of an embittered ignoramus who wouldn’t recognise scientific objectivity if it sat on his face and sang Hello Dolly.

What I find fascinating are the more inventive canards people come up with in order to smear the character and impugn the motives of Edzard and of skeptics in general. First Chris gives us the usual one that

he doesn’t give a toss about the public, that is just a pose. He is, and always has been attacking Complementary Medicine with all the relentless determination of the self-righteous zealot, whilst turning a blind eye to all the sufferings and damage caused by so-called “evidence-based” medicines.

To this Chris adds his own eccentric twist

if Ernst really did have public interest at heart, and simply didn’t want valuable resources spent on things that (he says) don’t work, then he would happily agree with the Truth Will Out call for Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to be dropped by the NHS on the grounds that the long-term results are clearly no better than placebo (see Evidence section of this site).

Chris Holmes doesn’t have a clue what Edzard thinks or knows about NRT yet he proclaims that Edzard

seems quite happy for valuable resources to be squandered on drug-company products that don’t work, kill people or half-kill them..(which) seriously undermines Ernst’s credibility”.

I’ve lost count of the number of times the ‘no credibility’ ad hominem has been flung at just about every high profile skeptic by just about every no-profile quack. Undermines his credibility in the eyes of whom? Some jumped up quack of a nicotine-denialist?  I’m sure we’ll all lose loads of sleep over that.

The argument that ‘if you don’t speak out about the evils of orthodox medicine, you don’t care about the public good’, is as common as crabgrass even though it’s a red herring repeated by those who really don’t care about the public good. Let’s face it, if they cared about the public’s well-being, they wouldn’t be attacking people who expose worthless therapies and the charlatans who promote them and they wouldn’t be defending therapies that that are biologically implausible and scientifically unsupported.

I’m reminded of the bunch of desperado chirotrolls who hang around Zeno’s blog whining that if Zeno was really motivated by concern for the public, he would be attacking osteopaths as well! Here’s my favourite:

The “osteopathic lesion”sounds much like subluxation to me…This goes to show how vexatious this attack on the chiropractors really is and begs the question why was osteopathy never mentioned in Singh’s article in the guardian,why did he choose to single out the chiropractors?

Is there a link between Singh, Ernst and the osteopaths (or is too much of a conspiracy theory idea)?

The answer, of course, is that that Simon’s article was written for the ‘chiropractic awareness week’, which was an initiative of the British Chiropractic Association. But don’t you just love the idea of Simon and Edzard being in cahoots with osteopaths to discredit chiros? LMAO! Equally revealing are the nasty comments directed at Zeno by several chiros who repeatedly accuse him of sycophancy, bigotry and discrimination because he’s currently focussing on the quacks whose representative body decided to make a lot of noise and draw attention to themselves, rather than having a go at some other bunch that were content to fly under the radar. In order not to be accused of bigotry and discrimination, Zeno should be a broad-minded democrat and attack everyone equally, it seems.

Which brings me back to Chris Holme’s blog post and his motives in writing it. The post is a load of cobblers and I suspect Chris Holmes knows it is and that’s why he resorts to hyperbole and falsehood: puff out a thick enough smokescreen and you’ll divert attention from the painful fact that 17 years of academic research funded by someone who was keenly interested in CAM has unearthed negligible benefits. And from the equally painful facts that Edzard co-authored a fascinating and accessible book about it and that his co-author, Simon Singh, has had the temerity to stand up to a bunch of quacks aka the British Chiropractic Association, who thought they could bully him into shutting up, but who have instead succeeded far better than Simon did in attracting public attention to the bogus claims made by their members.

It must be so, so scary for those quacks who have for years been happily promoting bogus therapies for which there isn’t a jot of evidence to see what is happening to chiropractic and homeopathy in this country – the phrase “loss of credibility” springs to mind, funnily enough. But what quacks like these are too stupid to see is that ignoring the totality of available evidence while attacking the character and motives of their critics, doesn’t do much for their credibility either.

75 Responses to The importance of being Ernst

  • “The assumption is that well-trained scientists will retain their objectivity, whatever their enthusiasms.”
    lol

  • “But many say the drug industry has gained wide control of how doctors evaluate its products. These ties, according to The New York Review, “affect the results of research, the way medicine is practised, and even the definition of what constitutes a disease.”

  • Methinks you must be slipping ‘fed up’ a backhander to come here and illustrate your point. 😉

  • WHAT CAUSES SCIENTIFIC FALSIFICATION?
    Why would a person that is considered top in his/her field fabricate results or falsify data? This is a hard question to answer.

    Pride may be a primary motivator. Perhaps the researchers pride is such that they just have to be right. It may be that they so believe in the hypothesis and believe that it should be an accepted theory that they are willing to risk their career on it.

    Money is also a huge motivator, funding is normally based on results, unfortunately. If the researcher feels that funding may be cut if the results cannot be proven in the favor of the financier of the project this may promote dishonesty in reporting.

    The researcher may perceive that falsifying data may not impact the overall study. It may also be perceived that falsifying evidence that supports the actual outcome does not actually impact the outcome and is not truly dishonest but more of a means to amp up the actual findings.

    There may even be instances where the researcher is dependent upon assistants for valid reporting and this information may be falsified. If the head researcher doe not check the data as presented and uses that data to report the findings, and the data is not accurate, this too is considered scientific falsification.

    Ultimately it is up to the author to be sure what is being reported is accurate and not based on falsified information.

    Scientific falsification goes against everything that the scientific method stands for. It is unethical, immoral and dangerous. It is one of the worst acts that anyone in research can commit. It is severely punished.

    Read more: http://www.experiment-resources.com/scientific-falsification.html#ixzz0jIiXUdgz

  • NASA didn’t put a man on the moon by being enthusiastic, they did it through hard work and conservative design based on solid research and a conventional evidence-based understanding of how the world actually works. It is insulting to aerospace professionals to equate their enthusiasm for their work with the giddy wishful thinking of CAM practitioners.

  • What the heck do you think any of your comments have to do with my blog, fed up? Are you accusing anyone in particular of falsifying data?

  • Excellent post, as always, Skepticat. On the subject of Edzard Ernst’s detractors it’s well worth viewing the two short video segments that have been posted here:
    http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=5757289&postcount=144

  • This quack doesn’t hate Ernst!

  • In that case I’m not sure you can fully qualify as a quack, Jonathan. Sorry.

  • Jonathan, I’m with Skepticat; I think your insight into the limits of what your therapy can do (and claim) disqualifies you from membership of the Faculty of Quackery (or “Fac-o-Quack” for short).

    Sadly the same is not true of the osteopath advertising in our local free-sheet, who claims to be able to “treat” babies with colic * sigh *

    Great defense of Edzard E and take-down of the hypno-obsessive, Skepticat. I really can’t believe the sheer level of venom the Unreality Fraternity continually direct at Ernst. I (and others) did similar “defences” of him after a vaguely similar attack a couple of years ago – see here for details.

  • >>>>>>
    The least they would require, if they were looking to find the ideal candidate for a Professor of History – for example – was that the person was at least an historian. Any Chair in the field of Mathematics, naturally you are looking for a mathematician.
    >>>>>>

    This is clearly nonsense – but not just for the reasons you mention. There is no such job (outside academia) as “mathematician”. Mathematics is not a job it is a discipline – this is an important difference.
    Taking some academic professorial positions that ARE also jobs: Statistics, Civil Engineering, etc…
    I can absolutely promise you that the majority of academics in such areas have never had a job outside academia in these subjects. Such is the nature of academia that to spend time “doing” when you could be “researching” only harms ones long-term career prospects.
    Take statistics as an example career: BSc, MSc, PhD, post-doc, research fellow, lecturer, senior lecturer, reader, professor, dean. I didn’t notice “statistician” in there.

    So even if I were to disagree with your assertion that “History, mathematics, philosophy, and all the various branches of the biomedical sciences are established academic disciplines. Complementary medicine – like religion – is not.”
    His argument that to teach you must have practised is still utter garbage.

    (aside: Religion has been studied extensively and is certainly an academic discipline. Studying religion and religious belief are v different).

  • Sorry – misread the para about study of religion in academia – ignore the last part of my post in parentheses

  • If Chris Holmes was serious about dealing with dissent he wouldn’t just focus on Ernst. He’d be writing about David Gorski and Steve Novella and PZ Myers and Ben Goldacre and Andy Lewis and David Colquhoun and Gimpy and Zeno and Simon Perry and Dr Rachie and…

    Since he’s chosen to target only Ernst, it’s apparent he either isn’t serious or is in cahoots with all those other commentators on CAM.

  • I totally agree with AndyD, attacking one person or in fact one group does not show a serious approach to this or any debate. This reflects my opposition to zenosblog’s current approach when only attacking the chiropractitioners while letting the osteopaths/ physiotherapists with similar advertising claims off scot free.

    The hypnotherapist’s attack on prof Ernst suggests a bigotry based on obvious political motive, but I see no difference between this guy and zenosblog current approach.

    Sorry skepticat, stick in the bees nest again.

  • LOL! Excellent point, Andy.

    Honestly, Bruce, I can’t tell if you’re for real or a wind-up merchant. If you can’t see that Andy is being facetious, you are even dumber than I thought.

    And the difference between Chris Holmes and Zeno is that Zeno doesn’t use his blog to do nasty personal attacks or make false allegations about people.

    But I expect that will be too difficult for you to grasp as well.

  • “If Chris Holmes was serious about dealing with dissent he wouldn’t just focus on Ernst.”
    what a load of!! do these other people profess to be a “Professor of Complementary Medicine”?

  • Oh dear! fed up, did you not read my last comment?

  • My subtlety sometimes knows no bounds. Bruce, I’m afraid Skepticat is right. It’s difficult to see how someone can pick on one person because that other person only picks on one target at a time.

    Fed up, do promoters of Nicotine Replacement Therapy claim to cure infantile colic?

  • AndyD

    no but I get the impression that osteopaths claim to cure infantile colic, so that is my point. As I said on zenosblog scepticat, this is not personal and irrelevent of your jibes, my opinion is as valid as the next persons and is based on the facts as exist on zenosblog. As I said, to be fair and reasonable is one thing. To attack for a political end based on agenda is not scepticism it is discrimination.

    It would seem that the rules are, if the ‘other’ side do it, it needs to be condemned, if ‘we’ do it then it is fighting our corner. How can that be right?

  • A few months ago one of those “Ernst is a fake” blogs was discussed on the bad science forum, and Chris Holmes came there showing he’s not willing to at least read his own sources properly (when it was pointed out that Prof. Ernst does not have 10 secretaries as he – Chris Holmes – claimed, he accused the poster of showing a “spectacular inability to read things properly”), so this comes as no surprise.

  • i think i may have discovered where poor chris’disturbed attitude towards me comes from:about 10 years ago ,i initiated and co-authored a cochrane review of hypnotherapy [chris’pet therapy]for smoking cessation[chris’pet condition].it failed to show that hypnotherapy is effective.hypnotherapists earn a lot of money by treating smokers,so they cannot be too pleased to find that someone dares to doubt their intervention.this might have been the start of chris’ long journey deep into ernst-hate.

  • Ah – very interesting! Thanks, Edzard.

  • No, buddy – you’re just wrong. Why your investigation came up with a totally misleading result I have no idea, but this has nothing to do with money. Some therapists charge smokers hundreds of pounds for a session and they justify this to themselves (and others) by talking about how much money they save the client over the coming years, but I do not agree although I certainly COULD charge hundreds of pounds for smoking cessation because I get regular recommendations from doctors and dentists all over the Greater Manchester area, and particularly in the Stockport borough, and the reason is that their own patients have been telling them about me for years. And not just for smoking. I do not have a ‘pet’ condition – unlike you, I am not a one trick pony. Sorry – hobby horse.

    I am very, very angry with you for telling the world that we hypnotherapists ‘cannot do’ something I spend most of my time doing very successfully, and I have every right to be. You are certainly not an expert in what can and cannot be done with hypnotherapy, and I am damn sure that whoever was conducting the actual ‘hypnotherapy experiments’ involved in whatever trials you were looking at, those trials did not involve any professional hypnotherapists because they NEVER DO. What possible connection is there between that exercise and what actually happens in real hypnotherapy sessions, about which YOU KNOW NOTHING? I bet you couldn’t answer correctly even three straightforward questions about hypnotherapy!

    “Poor Chris”? I haven’t finished with you by a long way. You and your lawyers should get the beers in, and wait for the next post on Truth Will Out. Won’t be long.

  • Chris, I don’t quite understand why you are so angry with Edzard when all he and his team did did was review RCTs conducted by other people. It sounds like a pretty thorough review – well, it has to be for Cochrane – and the totality of available evidence is that hypnotherapy doesn’t have a greater effect on six month quit rates than other interventions or no treatment http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10796583. That isn’t Edzard’s fault and whether or not he can answer questions about hypnotherapy is irrelevant.

    (In contrast, there is clear evidence that NRT does help people quit http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab000146.html).

    You sound as if you’ve lost the plot. One trick pony? Hobby horse? What on earth are you talking about?

  • it has rarely been helpfull to shoot the messenger!i am ever so frightened,chris.

  • No, you misunderstand Edzard. Last time I made the mistake of talking about you personally. We all make mistakes but I learn fast.

    “One trick pony”: as you said yourself Skepticat – “all he and his team did did was review RCTs conducted by other people.” It is a lousy way to assess these matters which is why he came up with an erroneous conclusion and didn’t know. At least I’m assuming he didn’t know, of course.

    “Hobby horse”: Edzard was quoted (in the Guardian I think) as commenting that after ten years in the post (as it was at the time) he knew what he was talking about, but when he took up the post “it was a bit of a hobby horse”. I made the point that whilst this level of amatuerish interest might be passable for a researcher’s job or something like that, in the British academic system at least, a great deal more than that is normally expected if one is hoping to be seriously considered for a professorship. Normally the minimum requirements would be formal training and qualifications in the subject itself, at least some teaching experience, serious enthusiasm for the subject at hand and a proven track record of research publications on that subject. That’s BEFORE you get to be a Professor. Otherwise, how the hell can you PROFESS? A professorship isn’t a starting point, but it certainly seemed to be in Edzard’s career in CAM ‘expertise’.

    Can anyone give me a serious answer to that startling anomaly? One that actually explains it in academic terms, I mean, not the silly attempts to dismiss the question I got last time I asked it.

  • Chris, are you serious? Edzard Ernst was a professor even before he went to Exeter, so he already had teaching experience, and being trained in homeopathy, acupuncture and other “alternative” techniques made him a good candidate for the professorship.

    re reviews: Whether you like it or not, reviews are not “a lousy way” but a very good way “to assess these matters” because they look at many trials, conducted by different people, so if these trials didn’t show that hypnotherapy helps you to quit smoking, it’s not very likely that a new trial will do. If those tests Edzard Ernst reviewed were lousy (I neither read the review nor any of the tests, so I don’t know) that’s not Edzard Ernsts fault (or his problem), and it is up to you and your colleagues to make better ones. You’re making the claim, so you have to provide the evidence – if you don’t you’ll have to accept that scientists reviewing the existing trials (and what else could they review?) conclude that hypnotherapy does not help.

  • I’m coming to the trials in due course. I have been criticised by some persons for writing long posts so I’m going to change that. First of all, I thought Edzard was head of a department that had nothing to do with complementary medicine specifically. If there was a clear connection with complementary medicine that can be demonstrated, can someone please tell me what it is. Rumour, hints and unsubstantiated newspaper stories written by staunch supporters won’t do. You are scientists, remember. Proof. Evidence.

    “…being trained in homeopathy, acupuncture and other “alternative” techniques made him a good candidate for the professorship.”

    So Vicky, if we could establish that Edzard had no formal training and no qualifications in any of those “alternative” techniques when he applied for the post, would you then agree with me that he was NOT “a good candidate” for the professorship?

  • Chris, please explain why Edzard needs to have a “formal training” in a complementary therapy in order to

    • To conduct rigorous, inter-disciplinary and international collaborative research into the efficacy, safety and costs of complementary medicine.
    • To be neither promotional nor derogatory but to struggle for objectivity.
    • To promote analytical thinking in this area.

  • my vienna dept and before my hannover dept both had huge overlap with what in the uk is called complementary medicine.when i left we were about 100 clinicians working uner my direction.we employed ~10 massage therapists,most of us practised acupuncture or spinal manipulation and some did autogenic training and other cam methods.
    i don’t know why i write all this because i have written it before [i think it is even on my uni website] and i have no reason to justify anything vis a vis nitwits who clearly don’t understand much.

  • Unfortunately, Edzard, I don’t think the Sun or the Daily Mail has made it clear what your qualifications for the job are so a lot of quacks won’t know about them. They don’t believe anything you say anyway.

  • Skepticat, I never said he did. Anyone with an academic background can do research. I was talking about the normal minimum requirements to be considered for the academic post of Professor here in the U.K.

    Edzard, calling me a nitwit doesn’t really help. Part of the confusion here may be to do with the possible differences between academic standards and normal procedures in U.K. universities compared with institutions in other countries, but I’m sure we can discuss it calmly, can we not? As I’ve said on my Truth Will Out website, you were quite right to object when I became emotional about these matters and resorted to insults and unreasonable or objectional statements. I certainly won’t be doing that again!

    The reason I’m asking about this is because somebody called Michelle Shine sent a Freedom of Information request to your university in 2008 asking about your formal qualifications in Complementary Therapies, because she probably realised that in this country nobody working in a university or hospital (don’t know about other countries) would be using those therapies on people if they were not trained to do so, and they would of course be expected to be able to produce the normal documentary evidence – evidence really is important, isn’t it? – that such formal training had really taken place. That would be certificates, qualifications.

    Your university helpfully provided a link to the Peninsula Medical School website, assuring Michelle that the information she requested could be found there. So I followed the link, but it said the page had been removed.

    I’m sure it’s all just a bit of ordinary confusion, but might I just ask: when you say:

    “most of us practised acupuncture or spinal manipulation and some did autogenic training and other cam methods.”

    …when you personally did those things, did you hold any formal certifications in those therapies and if so, would you mind telling us what they are and where you did the training? One of your supporters suggested to me that because a person doesn’t need to have formal training to set themselves up as a private therapist (from a legal point of view) then why should YOU need any? But what they failed to appreciate is that a) most private therapists in this country DO have formal training, and b) I wasn’t referring to the legal requirements I was referring to the formal academic minimal requirements for a professorship. That is a very different matter.

    You see guys, no-one can just turn up at the interview for a lofty post like that in a British university (might be different elsewhere, I wouldn’t know) and say: “Well I used to do this, and I used to do that…” Documentary evidence of that is required here in this country, and of course documentary evidence of the qualifications that prove you know how to do that properly and safely, and we were just asking about that really. I didn’t think I’d need to bother with another Freedom Of Information request, since you’re right here chatting with us and obviously you know better than anyone else does what formal qualifications you hold in Complementary Medicine. I mean, surely you weren’t practising it without any, were you?

    Vicky, I’m looking forward to your answer… I do appreciate it sometimes takes a while to get around to answering these things, we’re all busy people.

  • come on thats a good question lets have a good answer.

  • “Some jumped up quack of a nicotine-denialist? I’m sure we’ll all lose loads of sleep over that.” (Skepticat)

    “Chris, I don’t quite understand why you are so angry with Edzard…” (ditto)

    “..hypnotherapists earn a lot of money by treating smokers,so they cannot be too pleased to find that someone dares to doubt their intervention.this might have been the start of chris’ long journey deep into ernst-hate.” (Ernst)

    Allow me to explain. Sorry that I can’t actually afford to run RCT’s myself and I’ve never been invited to take part in any either, and neither has any other professional hypnotherapist so far as I know. Which kind of makes us wonder who the hell was doing the ‘hypnotherapy’ in those trials! Doctors? Psychologists? Scientists? Would any of them expect us to be competent at what they do?

    Of course, all the personal testimonials in the world that would demonstrate that I am certainly not a quack would mean nothing to you because that’s not ‘scientific’. Which means you can happily ignore all that as if no such success ever occured, but it is not quite so easy for you to dismiss this:

    Between 2003 and 2005 I had a corporate client, a big firm of solicitors in Bolton called Keoghs with about 280 staff. What began as a “Well-Being At Work Week” – which they asked me to do for them because their (then) head of Human Resources, Frances Cross, had learned that eight of their staff had all quit smoking with me privately – turned out to be so successful that it ran for two and a half years.

    By that time I had done hypnotherapy sessions with about 150 Keoghs staff members, working with people from all levels, from the cleaner to the Financial Director! At the start it was all at the company’s expense, but as the programme went on, those who wanted to have more sessions for other issues were told they would have to pay for those themselves, and they did. All the way through the programme the feedback was been collected and collated by the HR department, I was not involved in any of that but they sent me the updates.

    What follows here is a part of the reference they gave me at the end of that programme, which Frances Cross monitored carefully throughout (you can see the whole of the reference reproduced on Keoghs notepaper in the Evidence section of the Truth Will Out site, as well as on my practice website):

    “The programme has been a resounding success – we sought feedback from all who have attended and the results have been phenomenal. There have been numerous complimentary remarks made about Chris and his ability to convey confidence in the whole process. We have received many notes of thanks from employees who claim the session to have been a life-changing experience.”

    To get that kind of reference from a very successful, large legal firm after a programme that lasts two and a half years you have to be delivering in a pretty impressive and consistent manner, and even by the end of that I had been practising full time for less than three years so I was nowhere near as expert as I am now. Many of those successes were smokers and that is why Ernst’s erroneous pronouncement to the world that hypnotherapy is ‘no use for smoking cessation’ made me livid. Clearly we cannot both be right, but right up until now, you were probably convinced in your own minds that I was the one who was wrong.

    No, I’m the one who really knows what he’s talking about, so don’t call me a “jumped up quack” Skepticat.

  • personally,i will not call you anything.for me ,this is the end of the debate.as i said,i don’t need to justify anything.my qualifications were seen by my uni and they employed me presumably because they were more convincing than the ones of the other candidates.they were keen to hire someone with a good track record of publishing research and they got that person.
    THE END

  • “I was talking about the normal minimum requirements to be considered for the academic post of Professor here in the U.K.”

    *sigh*

    The article I wrote above answers this and so does my last comment. I’ll repeat the main point:

    Complementary medicine is not an academic discipline. Complementary therapy is a phenomenon to be investigated academically. As you say, anyone with an academic background can do research. Edzard has an academic background so he had the minimum requirement for this post. I’m not going to bother repeating what has already been said about why Edzard’s previous experience makes him particularly suitable because it seems to be lost on you. You are stuck on this idea that to do that job, the candidate should have had a “formal” training, whatever that means, in some kind of altmed.

    To repeat my questions,

    “Now, given that the stated objectives are neither to teach the practice of nor to deliver any CAM therapy but, rather, to investigate scientifically whether they are of any benefit, what real advantage would clinical experience of delivering, say, acupuncture, bring to the role? Is the idea that an acupuncturist would be better able to design clinical trials or survey systematic reviews better than somebody who only held a Chair in a biomedical science?

    and

    “Do you think that a Professor of Theology or of Comparative Religion isn’t properly qualified unless he’s done a stint as a bloody vicar?”

    Well?

  • Wow, I don’t respond for two days and you already think you have to press for an answer? What do you think, that I have wi-fi in my head and my ears ring every time someone posts a comment I might be interested in?

    I don’t know what it’s like when you study in the UK, but in Germany you don’t get a “certificate” for every single course you do, the university keeps record of the courses you attend (mind you I didn’t study medicine but I guess it’s the same there and wasn’t much different when Edzard Ernst studied). So if you want documentation of his training other than the certificates of his “Staatsexamen”, “Dissertation” and “Habilitation”, you’ll need to contact the university that Edzard Ernst studied at (though I don’t know how long they have to keep those records and if they’re allowed to give them to you).

    A short search in ISI Web of Knowledge tells me that Edzard Ernst did publish some articles on alternative therapies (e. g. acupuncture, hydrotherapy and chelat-therapy) before he went to Exeter and he also wrote letters and comments regarding alternative/complementary medicine (that would be showing interest in the subject), so your “minimum requirements” seem to be fulfilled.

    On the subject of “who was doing the hypnotherapy”: if the studies themselves don’t say – it’s always possible to contact the author of the study. Did you do that?

    Also, please come to the trials already and leave out your “personal testimonials” and theories. If I wanted to read those I’d visit your web site.

  • wow we ask for evidence from EE and he won’t give it. i see only anectodal evidence for his cam qualifications and we all know how that level of evidence is viewed!!!

  • So skepticat does EE have qualifications, as we have been told and the press constantly writes about, in CAM or not? Come on yes or no. A weekend course or observation is not qualifications, especially in spinal manipulation the he has apparently used in the past.

  • Chris

    I know you said we’d not be convinced because it’s not ‘scientific’ and you were right. All anecdotes are good for are perhaps indicating that something should be investigated properly – particularly in a manner that eliminates the inherent bias of anecdotes.

    But it’s not just ‘us scientists’. If you were to advertise, then the ASA might be interested if you made claims and were only able to provide testimonials. They would – rightly – reject that as evidence.

    You say you couldn’t afford to do an RCT, but RCTs don’t have to be particularly expensive, and it’s worth considering what your National Council for Hypnotherapy (or other trade association or training organisation) has done in the way of research.

    A search of the NCH ‘Research’ pages for research on smoking brings up one result to do with nicotine gum and cancer and five other results. Unfortunately, those five results are only available to members of the NCH. Any idea why this research should be secret? Can you point us in the direction of good research that says hypnotherapy is effective for smoking cessation?

    You said: “I’ve never been invited to take part in any either, and neither has any other professional hypnotherapist so far as I know. Which kind of makes us wonder who the hell was doing the ‘hypnotherapy’ in those trials!”

    Well, quite. If the hypnotherapists aren’t doing the research, the question is not who is doing it, it is why are they not doing it?

  • @fed up

    Why are you asking me? Do you think I’m his keeper or something?

    And, I repeat, for the umpteenth time – why is it relevant? How would a “formal qualification” in an altmed better equip him to review clinical trials?

    Come on, let’s have an answer.

  • I have been following this discussion for a few days, though my priorities have been getting back to my Web Sites after sorting out some computer problems.

    From the point of view of my background and experience, Chris Holmes is correct in some respects, though not in others, similarly with Skepticat. I drafted a reply to a couple of points early in the discussion but it grew somewhat. I am coming from a position of being well versed in engineering, technology and science, as well as having an involvement, knowledge of and experience of practicing, in one form of non-mainstream therapy, as well as fairly open, when appropriate, higher senses; none of the latter clashes with any science I have ever learned, certainly not in principle.

    Along with many other people, both those with science backgrounds and those without, I am puzzled and bemused as to where Edzard Ernst is “coming from”; it takes a peculiar talent to spend the best part of two decades researching in a particular area and come up with nothing much.

    All the qualifications in the world, as well as experience, for that matter, are of little use if you do not understand the subject that you are researching. Part of the art of being good at anything is being aware of ones limitations of knowledge, experience, etc., and doing something constructive about it, including involving people who can make up for those limitations. Once I can get past a certain situation, I am proposing to carry out research in those areas myself. I am already well equipped from the science point of view, though am aware of some limitations I may need to cover. I am better equipped than many from the non-mainstream therapy point of view, though would still involve people in my own modality, let alone outside it.

    A couple of Skepticat’s questions:
    “Do you think that a Professor of Theology or of Comparative Religion isn’t properly qualified unless he’s done a stint as a bloody vicar?”
    That depends on what you require them to do. Such a Professor would be adequate for researching and teaching on a purely theoretical basis but not in relation to “real world”. They would have similar limitations to a scientists, or engineer, who spent all their time in academia, great at the theory, limited to hopeless otherwise.

    “Is the idea that an acupuncturist would be better able to design clinical trials or survey systematic reviews better than somebody who only held a Chair in a biomedical science?”
    Quite possibly, at least they would, as long as properly trained, understand the subject. They would, of course, not necessarily understand the ways of science. So, trials, surveys, etc., need to be a joint enterprise to make the most of the knowledge and experience of both “sides”. I am acutely aware of fundamental errors in experiments that Edzard Ernst carried out in my modality, as was a colleague who has a science degree, though, particularly telling, those shortcomings were blindingly obvious to our non-science colleagues; he failed to rule out variables that are obvious to anyone who understands the subject, the logic being that he did not.
    I am not an acupuncturist but my knowledge and experience of non-mainstream paradigms is such that I came to see a potential, almost certain, flaw in so called “sham” acupuncture used in various experiments.
    Similarly, I could see a possible mechanism for homeopathy, though it is really a non-mechanism in the David Bohm sense. It turned out there is a potential materials science explanation (http://richardking.blogspot.com/2010/02/structure-of-water-and-other-liquids.html; http://www.scientificblogging.com/psychic_engineer/blog/structure_water_and_other_liquids), research in the last decade appears to indicate that liquids do have a structure and can retain information in that structure, somewhat different to the amorphous structure that liquids, including glass, were thought to have when I was studying for my MTech in non-metallic materials in the 1970s. However, the potential for other one exists, at least in principle, anyway, more or less by default.

    Edzard Ernst
    “my qualifications were seen by my uni and they employed me presumably because they were more convincing than the ones of the other candidates.”
    So, who was on the appointing Board? We all make mistakes at times. It is hardly uncommon for an unsuitable appointment to be made for a particular post.
    for fairly obvious reason, given my background, I have taken a considerable interest in research on non-mainstream matters over the years, particularly since I became more aware, in the higher awareness sense, at the beginning of the 1990s. There is a great deal of good research. Unfortunately there is also a great deal of rubbish research, mostly at a bog standards science level, immediately accepted by the flatlanders because it produces the “right results”; never mind the quality, feel the confirmation, we were right all along, of course.
    I have not been able to find out a great deal about Edzard Ernst’s background, at least in a fairly quick search; there does not seem to be as much on the Web as there used to be in that respect.
    Despite an involvement in non-mainstream therapy sine the beginning of the 1990s, membership of the Scientific and Medical Network since the latter part of the 1990s, attending several conferences and similar meetings, as well as spending rather a lot of time on the Web, I have yet to come across anyone, other than the science flatlanders, of course, who regard the work of Edzard Ernst and his Department as other than a strange aberration that bear no real relation to what they practice and/or understand.

  • “it takes a peculiar talent to spend the best part of two decades researching in a particular area and come up with nothing much.”

    What’s peculiar about it? It sounds as if you are unaware just how much harm has been caused through having blind faith in largely worthless therapies. Demonstrating that they are worthless saves money, heartache, and lives. I wouldn’t call that “nothing much”.

    “Quite possibly, at least they would, as long as properly trained, understand the subject. They would, of course, not necessarily understand the ways of science. (My bold).

    Exactly. I don’t deny that anyone researching a CAM needs to “understand” the subject but I would certainly deny that you need to gain some “formal” qualification in order to be able to do so. I, for example, do not have a formal qualification in homeopathy but, having studied it extensively, I am confident I understand what it’s supposed to be as well as any trained homeopath. (I’ll resist the obvious cliche about rocket science).

    As I say in the article, thanks to David Colqhoun we now know just how execrable are the contents of some of these courses: no wonder the colleges who run them are so secretive about their contents and no wonder many of them are closing now they’e been rumbled. Completing one requires an enormous personal investment on the part of the student and that’s unlikely to mean they hold the most important qualification needed to research their efficacy, namely scientific objectivity.

    “So, trials, surveys, etc., need to be a joint enterprise to make the most of the knowledge and experience of both “sides”.”

    Edzard doesn’t work alone but has a large team of researchers “of wide-ranging areas of expertise and professional backgrounds”. I sincerely hope none of those researchers are out and out quacks, however. As I’ve said, such people cannot possibly have the scientific objectivity required to do the job properly.

    “I am acutely aware of fundamental errors in experiments that Edzard Ernst carried out in my modality, as was a colleague who has a science degree, though, particularly telling, those shortcomings were blindingly obvious to our non-science colleagues; he failed to rule out variables that are obvious to anyone who understands the subject, the logic being that he did not.

    I see you claim to be a “healer, psychic and mystic”. I would be most interested to know more about these erroneous experiments you speak of. Have you provided a critique on any of your websites? A link would be appreciated.

    “I am not an acupuncturist but my knowledge and experience of non-mainstream paradigms is such that I came to see a potential, almost certain, flaw in so called “sham” acupuncture used in various experiments.”

    Really? Are you going to share it with us?

    “Similarly, I could see a possible mechanism for homeopathy, though it is really a non-mechanism in the David Bohm sense.

    The ‘David Bohm sense’?? Ah yes, it’s always useful to toss in the name of a quantum physicist or two when talking about the absurd pre-science cult therapy that is homeopathy. I notice homeoquacks love to do that too….

    “It turned out there is a potential materials science explanation (http://richardking.blogspot.com/2010/02/structure-of-water-and-other-liquids.html; http://www.scientificblogging.com/psychic_engineer/blog/structure_water_and_other_liquids), research in the last decade appears to indicate that liquids do have a structure and can retain information in that structure,”

    Umm…what the research you refer to (Roy et al 2005) tells us is that water has some anomalous properties. Nothing more. It doesn’t tell us that water can ‘remember’ the specific substance that was dissolved in it nor how this might, in keeping with the Law of Similars, ‘stimulate the bodies natural healing…yada yada yada’.

    Homeopaths seem fixated on the structure of water these days. I was at the hilariously misnamed ‘homeopathy and scientific research’ conference recently and it was really quite heartbreaking to see scientists wasting so much of their time and efforts on this pointless exercise, which is really grasping at straws.

    What homeopaths should be doing is trying to prove that like treats like, which is, after all, the fundamental (and erroneous) principle on what their nonsense is based.

    Edited to add:

    “So, who was on the appointing Board? We all make mistakes at times. It is hardly uncommon for an unsuitable appointment to be made for a particular post.”

    What a nasty comment. Doesn’t the fact that Edzard’s post continued to be funded for the best part of two decades tell you that he was, in fact, considered to be perfectly suited for this particular post?

    Undoubtedly Sir Maurice Laing, who was a CAM enthusiast and who put up the initial £1.5 million, was disappointed to find out all these alternative therapies are largely useless after all. Fortunately he was not – unlike the commenters here – so emotionally attached to any given therapy that he couldn’t recognise the value of the Centre’s work in exposing their lack of efficacy.

    It’s about time this fallacious argument that Edzard wasn’t suitably qualified for this particular post was kicked to the kerb. The real argument being presented by Chris is simply that the job description for Professor of CAM at the Peninsula Medical School is not what Chris thinks it should be but is something else entirely.

    Get over it.

  • “I am not an acupuncturist but my knowledge and experience of non-mainstream paradigms is such that”

    A work of art all on its own.

  • Hear hear, Skepticat. Ernst qualified as a medical doctor in Germany. In Germany the people practising things like homeopathy, or spinal manipulation, or acupuncture, are almost invariably medics who have done some additional courses or training and use these things as part of their medical practise. Does that mean they are “not qualified”? Why? Because they haven’t skipped the medical degree to spend three years learning about magical thinking, like the British lay homeopaths who went to homeopathy colleges? Give me a break.

    Who would you think was likelier to be able to have a good chance of working out what was wrong with you? A person who spent years training in diagnosis as a doctor? Or someone who thinks that learning about flower essences qualifies you to treat peoples’ illnesses?

    The point of any academic post, as has already been stated, is to have someone who is capable of doing rigorous academic research into something. Ernst was a distinguished medical researcher – a full Professor and consultant-level clinician – with a long-standing interest in, many publications on, and direct experience as a practitioner of, CAM therapies. He sounds eminently qualified to me.

    The CAM crew would presumably rather Exeter had appointed someone with Cargo Cult degrees, who had done Cargo Cult pseudo-science and who had published in Cargo Cult journals. I think we all know why.

    This kind of snide personal digging at Edzard has now become part of the stock in trade of jokers like Michelle Shine. For an introduction to an earlier bout of it in the Times Higher, try here.

  • “It sounds as if you are unaware just how much harm has been caused through having blind faith in largely worthless therapies. Demonstrating that they are worthless saves money, heartache, and lives. I wouldn’t call that “nothing much”.”

    Statins. Nicotine replacement poisoning. Nearly all anti-depressants. Valium. Weight loss tablets, amphetamines, thalidomide, barbiturates, champix… oh the list goes on and on and on.

    I wouldn’t call that “nothing much” either, Skepticat.

    See ya, Eddie boy. Missing you already.

  • Neither would I, Chris, but what is your point?

    Do you think I don’t recognise one of these when I see one?

  • All officially “evidence based” so they should have been safe and effective, and the many, many examples of that turning out to be horribly misleading OUGHT to make you all realised that the term “evidence based” which is always used to suggest “and therefore trustworthy” in comparison to what you call “faith based” (and therefore only imaginary) is complacent to say the very least.

    But as those are both in fact merely slogans bandied about in the war on CAM, you continue to hold to the daft position that the public are more endangered by CAM therapies than by pharmaceuticals. Which is certainly not true.

    Vicky said:

    “Also, please come to the trials already and leave out your “personal testimonials” and theories. If I wanted to read those I’d visit your web site.”

    What I quoted from was not a personal testimonial but a formal reference from the then Head of Human Resources of a major legal firm following an extended programme funded and controlled by them evaluating the success of hundreds of hypnotherapy sessions conducted by myself on their premises over two and a half years involving around 150 people who work in law. Do you imagine for one moment that these people “had faith” in hypnotherapy at the start of all that? Quite the opposite! The vast majority were skeptics… but only a few turned out to be cynics.

    A skeptic doesn’t really expect hypnotherapy to work but is quite prepared to give it a chance because they would prefer to be successful and they don’t have an axe to grind about the method. That describes the vast majority of my new clients.

    A cynic really doesn’t want to respond because they have already stated with certainty that all such practitioners are quacks and more than anything else they do not want to be proven wrong.

    The company’s verdict?

    “…a resounding success – we sought feedback from all who have attended and the results have been phenomenal…We have received many notes of thanks from employees who claim the session to have been a life-changing experience.”

    What I provided there was useful and relevant information that you could check. Edzard didn’t. Vicky dismissed this reference out of hand, suggesting it was merely a “personal testimonial” which it clearly is NOT, it is a great deal more than that. But I really provided it to answer Skepticat’s question “why are you so angry with Edzard?” Wouldn’t you be, if your track record was already like that when you’d only been a hypnotherapist for a couple of years, and this guy is telling the smokers of the world not to bother with hypnotherapy? Ernst’s statements influence smokers’ choices, and their lives can depend upon the choices they make.

    Vicky, I didn’t mean to press you for an answer, I just meant I was looking forward to your reply to my question. And I still am.

    Coming to the trials next, but for now I have some clients to attend to.

  • “Head of Human Resources of a major legal firm” said “…a resounding success – we sought feedback from all who have attended and the results have been phenomenal…We have received many notes of thanks from employees who claim the session to have been a life-changing experience.”

    Wow! I’m converted! All those high-powered legal minds can’t be wrong! Surely?

    But can you just explain just one thing for me? Why should I take the results of a customer satisfaction survey and testimonials and throw out the results of a review of independent clinical trials?

    I frequently do training for a large charity and I usually get ‘excellent’ ticked on the feedback forms and all sorts of praise that the participants now know major things they didn’t previously and that that is going to change the way they view the world and their work. However, none of that means that what I taught them was true or valid. I could have been spouting utter garbage to them. What makes you think your feedback is any different?

  • “you continue to hold to the daft position that the public are more endangered by CAM therapies than by pharmaceuticals. Which is certainly not true.”

    As I have never said anything of the kind, I’d thank you not to put words in my mouth.

    “Wouldn’t you be, if your track record was already like that when you’d only been a hypnotherapist for a couple of years, and this guy is telling the smokers of the world not to bother with hypnotherapy?”

    I’m sure I would be. That’s what I mean by being so emotionally attached to a therapy that you’ll shoot the messenger, as EE put it. Did you expect him to lie about the results of clinical trials?

  • Skepticat: Do you think we can’t recognise a cop out when we see one? Ernst said:

    “i don’t need to justify anything.my qualifications were seen by my uni and they employed me presumably because they were more convincing than the ones of the other candidates.”

    Then he took his ball and went home. So Skepticat said:

    “It’s about time this fallacious argument that Edzard wasn’t suitably qualified for this particular post was kicked to the kerb.”

    Yeah, I can see why you would prefer that! We asked for evidence. We got hearsay. Not good enough, and here’s why it matters: No-one has ever suggested to me that in all this wonderful and supposedly adequate hands-on experience of homeopathy, spinal manipulation etc that Ernst allegedly had which made him “eminently qualified” to be the world’s first Prof of CAM, that he ever did any hypnotherapy or studied it. Yet his post gives him a kind of unique credibility to make pronouncements about hypnotherapy too, based on his analysis of studies investigating that. So when Zeno said:

    “Why should I take the results of a customer satisfaction survey and testimonials and throw out the results of a review of independent clinical trials?”

    A review of trials is selective, accepting one trial as useful or valid whilst rejecting another, and one of the things the reviewer would be looking at is methodology. I could easily assess the methodology of ten different trials that were investigating hypnotherapy and tell you in advance which ones were likely to result in impressive successes and which would not. That is because I’m a hypnotherapist with a decade of practical experience and I would know from that experience and my understanding of exactly how hypnotherapy works what constitutes a suitable trial and what does not. Ernst doesn’t. I suspect he knows no more about hypnotherapy in reality than you do, and indeed so far no-one has suggested that he does, either in terms of training or practice.

    So how would he have any idea what was a good trial and what was a bad trial? When I said to him that I bet he couldn’t answer three straightforward questions on hypnotherapy, did the World’s Greatest Expert on Complementary Medicine say: “Try me”?

    Zeno said: “I frequently do training for a large charity and I usually get ‘excellent’ ticked on the feedback forms and all sorts of praise that the participants now know major things they didn’t previously and that that is going to change the way they view the world and their work. However, none of that means that what I taught them was true or valid. I could have been spouting utter garbage to them. What makes you think your feedback is any different?”

    Two reasons: Firstly, you’re talking about training, which doesn’t have to show any immediate or ongoing results. After the hypnotherapy session, the client is either smoking or they aren’t. Either still terrified of flying or they aren’t. Either losing weight or they’re not. They weren’t giving feedback to ME over what they thought of the session itself as an experience! The company were monitoring the ongoing results regularly over two and a half years, and the word THEY decided to use to sum up the consistent results was not merely “excellent”, it was “phenomenal”. This was a programme that they were only intending to run for a week! It ran on and on because of the success, and that is totally different from what you’re talking about. Do you think for a moment that if Ernst was right about hypnotherapy being no good for smoking cessation none of these people would have noticed that ‘scientific fact’ over that length of time?

    Also, after I pulled the plug on that project because I was sick of travelling from Stockport to Bolton on a regular basis, because it’s not exactly around the corner, some of those people continued to travel to Stockport to see me at my own offices here in the town centre. As did members of their families and friends.

    Once again though, I wasn’t saying this was scientific proof of anything, I was responding to the “why are you so annoyed with Edzard” question. And it is because he is spreading misinformation that could have a bearing on real survival rates because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about (with hypnotherapy at least) and that is going to seriously hinder his ability to select suitable trial evidence. And that’s just my very first point about trials, not the only problem with them.

  • Chris,

    Your query about Edzard’s qualification has been answered numerous times already and your constantly banging on about it is, frankly, pathetic. Evidently you want him to provide you with some kind of certification that will prove to your satisfaction that he is qualified to meet your idea of what a Professor of Complementary Medicine’s job description should look like. You are not listening to anyone and you are clearly far too emotionally involved in hypnotherapy to accept that you can be wrong about anything you say. I’m really not prepared to waste another minute of my time engaging with you. I consider this discussion closed.

  • Ok, I posted a reply to Zeno’s last post later that day on the 3rd… is it waiting for moderation or am I being silenced now?

  • Neither. Your reply to Zeno is visible in your post of Saturday 03 April 2010 at 5:07 PM.

  • It has just appeared today. I’ve been checking the blog for it every day since I wrote it, this is the first day it has surfaced.

  • I’m not clear whether you mean the entire post, the first half of which is directed at me, or just the second half of the post, which is a reply to Zeno – you mentioned a reply to Zeno as if you thought you’d done this in a separate post. Either way, the entire post has been visible to everyone else since you posted it so there would seem to be something up with your pc.

  • No, I can confirm that it’s been there at least since Monday (that’s when I read it).

  • “Your query about Edzard’s qualification has been answered numerous times already and your constantly banging on about it is, frankly, pathetic.”

    Rubbish. The query has been EVADED over and over again. Ernst has ducked out of this question because he knows that he never had any true expertise in any CAM discipline… but then he never thought he needed any and neither do any of the cynics here who falsely refer to themselves as skeptics. You are WRONG for precisely the reason I expressed above, i.e.

    “A review of trials is selective, accepting one trial as useful or valid whilst rejecting another, and one of the things the reviewer would be looking at is methodology. I could easily assess the methodology of ten different trials that were investigating hypnotherapy and tell you in advance which ones were likely to result in impressive successes and which would not. That is because I’m a hypnotherapist with a decade of practical experience and I would know from that experience and my understanding of exactly how hypnotherapy works what constitutes a suitable trial and what does not. Ernst doesn’t. I suspect he knows no more about hypnotherapy in reality than you do, and indeed so far no-one has suggested that he does, either in terms of training or practice.
    So how would he have any idea what was a good trial and what was a bad trial? When I said to him that I bet he couldn’t answer three straightforward questions on hypnotherapy, did the World’s Greatest Expert on Complementary Medicine say: “Try me”?”

    That was also in answer to Zeno’s question, but of course both of you ignored the point, which is what you always do when any fair point is made. Instead you resorted to the utterly ridiculous suggestion that my anger about published misinformation about my profession automatically disqualifies me from rational debate:

    “You are not listening to anyone and you are clearly far too emotionally involved in hypnotherapy to accept that you can be wrong about anything you say. I’m really not prepared to waste another minute of my time engaging with you. I consider this discussion closed.”

    Do you realise that by using that dismissive tactic you are doing exactly what men used to do to avoid engaging with the arguments women were making about inequality when they accused them of being ‘hysterical’? A pathetic move which completely goes against the sentiments you express elsewhere on your blog.

    For Ernst to suggest that he is simply a “messenger” is hilarious. All scientific publications are simply “truth”, are they? You lot are like the followers of a cult leader! Blind and unquestioning, and all critics are blasphemers. Ha! You haven’t an original thought between the lot of you.

    My criticisms of Edzard Ernst’s project will NOT end here, this will continue on the Truth Will Out blog. I suggest you change the name of this blog to Cynicat. Skeptics have open minds.

  • I’m afraid I can’t be bothered to read past the first three lines, Chris. The question has not been evaded, it has been answered. It obviously isn’t an answer that you like but that doesn’t alter the truth of the matter, which is that Edzard Ernst is more than adequately qualified for the post in question.

    I repeat that I consider the discussion closed. You are welcome to keep ranting on and on like a creature possessed but I won’t be reading any more of your comments.

  • CH said

    “…both of you ignored the point, which is what you always do when any fair point is made.”

    The point wasn’t ignored, as Scepticat said, you just don’t like the answer which has been made repeatedly i.e. that you don’t need to be a therapist to subject a therapy to a scientific investigation, you need to be a scientist. You obviously disagree and that’s your prerogative but just reapeating the same old argument isn’t going to change anyone’s minds.

    “Do you realise that by using that dismissive tactic you are doing exactly what men used to do to avoid engaging with the arguments women were making about inequality when they accused them of being ‘hysterical’? A pathetic move which completely goes against the sentiments you express elsewhere on your blog.”

    You weren’t dismissed, you got very full responses. Your analogy is a piece of nonsense.

    “For Ernst to suggest that he is simply a “messenger” is hilarious. All scientific publications are simply “truth”, are they?”

    All scientific papers do is report the results of scientific investigations. They don’t talk about facts or truths. They use phrases like “the available evidence doesn’t support the hypothesis”.

    You don’t help your case by getting abusive just because you can’t get anyone to see things your way.

  • I think many of you wankers have too much time on your hands

  • Next Chris will assert that to be a Qualified Detective, one must have committed at least murder.

  • Chris, you may not like the answers you received, but still they’re there. Let’s face it, the only answer you’d accept would be one that confirms your beliefs. I guess what you said about sceptics is actually a good depiction of yourself:

    “Blind and unquestioning, and all critics are blasphemers.”

  • Michael: Don’t be silly. The point I am making is quite straightforward, but it might not apply to all therapies. I am speaking as an experienced practitioner of one particular kind of therapy – hypnotherapy – which is so universally misunderstood in the first place that if any scientist were to attempt to design and run worthwhile tests to research the extent of its efficacy, they would have to be not only trained in the theoretical side of the subject, but also have considerable experience in the practical application of it on a wide range of different individuals. Without being a hypnotherapist you might have no idea why, but believe me they would never be able to achieve what I can achieve in practice, so… what are they investigating? What scientists think you might be able to do with what they think is hypnotherapy, excluding all the expertise a real hypnotherapist would normally be bringing into the picture? Worthless! As I said in the book, that’s like trying to assess the value of a new and complex surgical procedure by getting ME to have a go at it!

    This suggestion that we keep hearing trotted out again and again – that if you are ‘a scientist’ you are well-qualified to study anything – is quite laughable.

  • In fact what you are all arguing is equivalent to the suggestion that in order to solve crimes, you don’t have to be an experienced detective – you only need to be a scientist! Utter, utter rubbish.

  • Oh come on, Chris, that’s not the equivalent of what “we all” are arguing. You know that a scientist reviewing data doesn’t usually produce this data, so this crime-solving comparison is BS. A scientist might review the outcome of different “styles” of crime solving and find that one has a higher success-rate than the other, and I’d definitely argue you don’t need to be an experienced detective for that.

  • “a scientist reviewing data doesn’t usually produce this data,”

    Sometimes they do, but even when they don’t, they do SELECT it. That is precisely the point at which subjectivity enters the picture, so this simplistic “don’t shoot the messenger” pose from Ernst is BS. The suggestion that scientists are somehow exempt from subjective flaws, aims or intentions is dangerous nonsense. Ernst is very definitely on the attack – it’s just that his supporters don’t mind that at all, they WANT him to be because it ‘backs’ their personal views.

    As I say, the idea that a person who doesn’t have expert knowledge of hypnotherapy (for example) could head investigations into its efficacy without hypnotherapy experts on hand to help him with that when it comes to deciding which trials are well designed and which are inept is ridiculous. Maybe that doesn’t apply to all therapies but it certainly applies to hypnotherapy because there are so many subtle variables when it comes to the human mind.

  • Unfortunately, we hear this refrain from just about every practitioner of fringe “therapies” extant: You (scientists) can’t test it because you don’t understand it. If “understanding” equals “faith” in a therapy’s efficacy, then the proponents will never reach mutual ground.

    I know next to nothing about hypnotherapy. I have heard from at least one fully medically trained practitioner (medical doctor specializing in psychiatry) that it can be helpful for some conditions for some individuals. He doesn’t use it very often, preferring CBT and ACT with his clients. Even there, devising RCTs to test efficacy is fraught with difficulty, since we’re dealing with people’s thoughts and feelings.

    Doubtless the debate will rage on; meanwhile, at least some people are happy to report that they’ve been helped by activities the efficacy of which is difficult if not impossible to scientifically evaluate.

    M.

  • Nothing to do with “faith”, Moochie. And isn’t it revealing that your idea of an expert on hypnotherapy is not a professional hypnotherapist who does nothing BUT hypnotherapy, but a medical doctor whose specialism is psychiatry (the treatment of mental illness, something private hypnotherapists do not treat anyway)… who “doesn’t use it very often”. With no disrespect to his/her genuine expertise in their own field, expertise and deep insight is not acquired by occasional use.

    Scientists CAN test it, they just have to be experts in that field also OR have an expert on hand to advise as to appropriate methodologies. That is not asking for the moon, in fact I would regard that as a basic requirement if we are going to seriously investigate anything objectively.

    Of course, if the only aim is to cast doubt on something or pour scorn on it then none of this is required.

  • Also, hypnotherapy isn’t a “fringe” therapy, it’s orthodox. It was formally recognised as a genuine form of therapy by the BMA in 1955, and in the following year by the American medical establishment too. So anyone dismissing it as “quackery” is quite wrong.

    Actually, auto-suggestion (self-hypnosis) is something all human beings subject themselves to on a regular basis, they just don’t realise that they are doing that.

  • Personal attacks on Ernst are not helpful and do not do the CAM profession any favours. He is entitled to his opinion.

    I do find certain research methods involving deception of participants (posing as a patient by email etc) more in keeping with a tabloid journalist than fine high quality research. It is shameful this is portrayed as worthwhile research. I would wonder being a professor and a medic whether he would employ the same tactics against general medicine. Then the stroke research. Ask a bunch of neurosurgeons have you ever seen a stroke in a patient after seeing a chiropractor? The data from that study is truely randomised and controlled and useful. Was it it Simon Singh who said the pleural of anecdote is not data?

    But the CAM professions should be thankful as the increased scrutiny of the profession resulted in a population wide study in Canada where they actually looked at strokes following visiting a GP (look a control group!) and following a Chiropractor. The risks appaer to be the same.

    The one benefit of being a profession under scrutiny is that it has made us go out and do the research and get the data to support what we do in daily practice and how we might do it better, that can only be a good thing.

    I just think original studies would have been far better if done in co-operation between Peninsula medical School and the Complementary medical establishments, rather that second hand literature reviews where we can pick and choose what we include. Something both Ernst (anti) and Brontfort (pro) could be accused of.

    With regard to Ernst needs to have been in practice of course its not necessary for research, its a stupid argument. We had neurophysiologists with PHD’s doing original research at Chiropractic college who had never been in practice either. I do think however open dialogue between CAM professions CAM researchers and Ernst would make for better research and future research design.

    It is just shameful it has all become us and them, from those who have chosen caring professions and should be eagre to find the best and most effective ways of doing their job, and those who consider themselves skeptical, or free thinkers, but are in danger of just being bigotted.

  • @Eugene

    “I do find certain research methods involving deception of participants (posing as a patient by email etc) more in keeping with a tabloid journalist than fine high quality research. It is shameful this is portrayed as worthwhile research.”

    Which particular piece of Ernst’s research involved posing as a patient by email, etc and where was this portrayed as worthwhile research?

    Just curious.

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