Edzard Ernst is presently one of the most prominent ‘authority’ most widely quoted by ‘anti-homeopathic’ skeptics . He claims he had ‘got trained’ in homeopathy and alternative medicines in his early professional life, and being ‘convinced’ of the ‘unscientificness’ and ‘futility’ of homeopathy, later left it to dedicate himself for ‘anti-quackery’ crusade. He dedicates a lot of time for attacking homeopathy on a regular basis on twitter and other social networks. Actually, he was a ‘one-time’ homeopath who turned into being skeptic after failing himself as a homeopath. For all proverbial jackals who failed in their jumps, ‘grapes’ were always ‘sour’!
In an article entitled “Should We Maintain an Open Mind about Homeopathy?” published in the American Journal of Medicine, Edzard Ernst— along with Michael Baum- wrote some strong criticisms of homeopathy as follows:
“Homeopathy is among the worst examples of faith-based medicine… These axioms [of homeopathy] are not only out of line with scientific facts but also directly opposed to them. If homeopathy is correct, much of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology must be incorrect…. To have an open mind about homeopathy or similarly implausible forms of alternative medicine (eg, Bach flower remedies, spiritual healing, crystal therapy) is therefore not an option. We think that a belief in homeopathy exceeds the tolerance of an open mind. We should start from the premise that homeopathy cannot work and that positive evidence reflects publication bias or design flaws until proved otherwise… We wonder whether any kind of evidence would persuade homeopathic physicians of their self-delusion and challenge them to design a methodologically sound trial, which if negative would finally persuade them to shut up shop… Homeopathy is based on an absurd concept that denies progress in physics and chemistry. Some 160 years after Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions, an essay by Oliver Wendell Holmes, we are still debating whether homeopathy is a placebo or not… Homeopathic principles are bold conjectures. There has been no spectacular corroboration of any of its founding principles… After more than 200 years, we are still waiting for homeopathy “heretics” to be proved right, during which time the advances in our understanding of disease, progress in therapeutics and surgery, and prolongation of the length and quality of life by so-called allopaths have been breathtaking. The true skeptic therefore takes pride in closed mindedness when presented with absurd assertions that contravene the laws of thermodynamics or deny progress in all branches of physics, chemistry, physiology, and medicine.”
His biographical notes introduce him as “an academic physician and researcher specializing in the study of complementary and alternative medicine. Ernst was appointed Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, the first such academic position in the world.”
“Ernst served as chairman of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) at the University of Vienna, but left this position in 1993 to set up the department of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in England. He became director of complementary medicine of the Peninsula Medical School (PMS) in 2002. Ernst was the first occupant of the Laing chair in Complementary Medicine, retiring in 2011.”
“Ernst qualified as a physician in Germany in 1978 where he also completed his M.D. and Ph.D. theses. He has received training in acupuncture, autogenic training, herbalism, homoeopathy, massage therapy and spinal manipulation. Ernst also trained as a homeopath and beginning his medical career at a homeopathic hospital in Munich. He was born and trained in Germany, where he “began his medical career at a homeopathic hospital” in Munich, and since 1999 has been a British citizen.”
“Ernst is the editor-in-chief of two medical journals: Perfusion and Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Ernst’s writing appeared in a regular column in The Guardian, where he reviewed news stories about complementary medicine from an evidence-based medicine perspective. Since his research began on alternative modalities, Ernst has been seen as “the scourge of alternative medicine” for publishing critical research that exposes methods that lack documentation of efficacy.”
“In 2008, Ernst and Simon Singh published Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. The authors challenged the Prince of Wales, to whom the book is (ironically) dedicated, and the Foundation for Integrated Health on alleged misrepresentation of “scientific evidence about therapies such as homoeopathy, acupuncture and reflexology”. Singh and Ernst assert that Britain spends £500 million each year on unproven or disproven alternative therapies. In a review of Trick or Treatment in the New England Journal of Medicine, Donald Marcus described Ernst as “one of the best qualified people to summarize the evidence on this topic.”
“In 2008, Ernst sent an open letter urging the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain to crack down on high street chemists that sell homeopathic remedies without warning that the remedies lack evidence for claimed biological effects. According to Ernst, this disinformation would be a violation of their ethical code”
“Ernst is a member of the Medicines Commission of the British Medicines Control Agency (now part of the MHRA) which determines which substances may be introduced and promoted as medicine. He also sits on the Scientific Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products of the Irish Medicines Board. He is an external examiner for several university medical schools in several countries. Ernst is a Founding Member and on the Board of the Institute for Science in Medicine, formed in 2009.In February 2011, Ernst was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry”.
From his official biographical info itself, it is evident that in his early days of professional career Ernst tried and failed all sorts of CAM practices himself, which he now calls ‘quackery’. “He received training in acupuncture, autogenic training, herbalism, homoeopathy, massage therapy and spinal manipulation” after gaining his MD. A perfect blend of all ‘quack practices’!
Edzard Ernst’ failure as a homeopath only proves he lacked some basic qualities essential to become a successful homeopath. He failed as a homeopath, and then turned a skeptic. His failure is only his failure- it does not disprove homeopathy by any way. Once he failed in putting a mark as a successful homeopath or CAM practitioner, he just tried the other way to become famous and respectable- he converted himself into a skeptic, which provided him with ample opportunities to appear on ‘anti-homeopathy’ platforms’ as an ‘authority’, ‘expert’ and ‘ex-homeopath’!
Ernst says: “We should start from the premise that homeopathy cannot work”. He ‘starts’ from a ‘conclusion’. It is they way all skeptics talk. But, they should remember, such a behavior goes against genuine scientific method. Premise for starting an objective inquiry cannot be a subjective conclusion. That amounts to ulterior form of bias and prejudice.
See why he says homeopathy ‘cannot’ work: He fears, “if homeopathy is correct, much of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology must be incorrect”. That is it! Homeopathy ‘should not be correct’, to prevent the disaster of “much of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology” becoming “incorrect”.
Once somebody succeed in proving homeopathy as per scientific methods, in a way fitting to existing scientific knowledge system, hope ERNST’s fear “much of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology must be incorrect” could be put to eternal rest.
If his approach has been scientific, he should have put this issue in a different way. Had he said “ ”if the those THEORIES about homeopathy is correct, much of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology must be incorrect”, I would have strongly supported that statement. He should not have said ‘homeopathy cannot work’ only because theories were wrong. It is not ‘theories’ that work- theories only explain objective phenomena. If theories going round about homeopathy are found not to agree with ‘physics, chemistry, and pharmacology’, those wrong theories could be modified or even discarded, and new ones evolved. It is not right to “start from the premise that homeopathy cannot work”, but see with open eyes whether it works. If it works, we can inquire ‘how it works’, and make scientifically viable theories to explain it. That is genuine ‘scientific method’.
Edzard Ernst and his learned skeptic friends should know, there are many unexplained phenomena still existing around us. If they are objective TRUTH, they will be gradually proved in due course. Many things which are proved now were unproven in yesterdays. We know many things our forefathers had no any idea. Our grand children will know many things we do not know now. That is the way human knowledge advances. If you are not willing and capable of exploring beyond what you already know, and still you think you know everything, you become a skeptic. Somebody’s pathological ignorance regarding homeopathy cannot be considered an evidence against homeopathy.
By categorizing “homoeopathy, acupuncture and reflexology” into same group, Ernst proves his utter ignorance about therapeutic principles and methods involved in homeopathy. Actually, homeopathy has nothing in common with acupuncture and reflexology, except that he ‘tried’ all of them together in his practice, and failed.
Let us sum up and analyze what Ernst says about homeopathy:
1. Homeopathy is among the worst examples of faith-based medicine.
2. Axioms of homeopathy are not only out of line with scientific facts but also directly opposed to them.
3. If homeopathy is correct, much of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology must be incorrect. To have an open mind about homeopathy is therefore not an option.
4. Belief in homeopathy exceeds the tolerance of an open mind.
5. We should start from the premise that homeopathy cannot work .
6. Positive evidence reflects publication bias or design flaws until proved otherwise.
To accuse homeopathy to be a “faith-based medicine” and then attack it from that angle- it is a common game plan of skeptics. Who said it is “faith-based medicine”? Whose faith? Physician’s or patient’s? Faith will not cure in homeopathy, if the physician prescribed a wrong drug that is strictly indicated in a particular patient. If it were ‘faith’ that is the healing factor, any one homeopathic drug could have cured every patients having ‘faith’.
What about ‘new-borns’ and infants? Do you think ‘faith’ or ‘placebo’ will work on them? To say so is utterly ridiculous. Had you seen an infant persistently crying for days together in spite of using every allopathic drugs, getting calmed down within minutes by a dose of chamomilla 30 single dose, you would never say homeopathy is ‘faith-based’ medicine or placebo.
What about livestock getting cured by homeopathic drugs? Is also ‘faith’ that cures them? I have been working as a veterinary professional for years, in government-owned cattle farms, piggeries and poultry farms. I have seen thousands of cases of pigs cured of violent diarrhea with ars alb 30, devastating coccidiosis in poultry cured by merc cor 30, even gangrenous mastitis cured by phytolacca 30 and conium 30, which I am sure, no sane persons can say are ‘faith-cures’.
I don’t know from which institution Ernst ‘got trained’ in homeopathy. I don’t think he underwent any duly accredited course in homeopathy, since he reveals that much ignorance and misunderstandings while talking about homeopathy. But, from hearing what he is saying about homeopathy, one thing is sure for me: Ernst ‘got trained in homeopathy’ under somebody who belong to that class of most ‘unscientific homeopaths’ who propagate ‘energy medicine’ and ‘spiritual’ theories about homeopathy. That is why he ‘got trained’ in “acupuncture, autogenic training, herbalism, massage therapy and spinal manipulation” along with homeopathy. The ‘training’ he got in homeopathy was obviously of an unscientific mode, which made his career as a homeopath an utter disaster, throwing him into the pit of skeptic garbage.
Actually, Ernst is echoing the words of ‘anti-homeopathy’ skeptics of western world who are engaged in exposing the ‘pseudo-scientific’ homeopathic theoreticians propagating ‘spiritual homeopathy’ and ‘energy medicine’. I am sorry to say that he failed to realize the entirely different ground realities existing in countries like India in the field of homeopathic education and practice.
Hope Ernst may know India is home to around 285,000 registered homeopaths, 186 prestigious homeopathic colleges imparting UG and PG courses, over 6000 government homeopathic dispensaries and about 250 government hospitals. More than 15000 student come out of these colleges every year with BHMS degree, after completing a rigorous five and half year course of study and internship, for which they got admission by scoring top rankings in entrance examinations after 12 years of schooling in science streams. Curriculum of BHMS course constitutes Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Practice of Medicine and all subjects of modern health care knowledge. There is a Central Council of Homeopathy under Government of India, constituted as per a n Central Act passed by Indian parliament, overseeing everything in the field of homeopathic education, research and practice in India.
Homeopathy is a very important wing of public health care system in inIndia. Homoeopathic wings are working in many allopathic hospitals and dispensaries, both government and private. Homoeopathic doctors provide treatment to millions of patients for different day to day illnesses in the public health care system. Even during sporadic and epidemic conditions, people tend to use homoeopathic drugs for prevention. Recently, the Indian Government successfully ran a national health campaign ‘Homeopathy for a Healthy Mother & a Happy Child’, which was based exclusively on homoeopathy. Also, private homeopathic practitioners are contributing a great deal in public health care through their private or charitable clinics.
Besides clinical research, there are fundamental, drug standardization, drug proving and clinical verification research going on, both at government and private levels. For example, the Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy is conducting a lot of such research, either independently or in collaboration with other research institutes or individual researchers, under an extra-mural research scheme at the Dept of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of the Indian Government. Other than that, almost all homoeopathic organizations and individuals are doing their bit toward research for the further validation of homoeopathy in today’s times of evidence-based medicine. The results have been encouraging, to say the least. In fact, over the years, Indians learnt better ways of conducting research from their international counterparts and the recent research has been carried out as per standardized, internationally recognized methods and are therefore more acceptable.
A few exemplary results from clinical studies include work on tubercular lymphadenitis, japanese encephalitis, etc. In addition, some administrative studies have been undertaken, like the ‘assessment of the cost effectiveness of homeopathic clinic in the cafeteria approach’ and ‘public-private partnerships in the provision of homeopathic services in the city of Delhi, where it was tried to analyze both the strengths and weaknesses of medical pluralism in India and have worked out some solutions for implementing medical pluralism more effectively in all parts of India.
These facts and figures are a clear reflection of the belief of the people ofIndiain the homeopathic system of medicine, which, in turn, is a result of the effectiveness of homeopathy in treating a wide range of illnesses, which has convinced the Indian masses over a period of time.