In my last blog, I issued a challenge to a key figure in the case against homeopathy. For every scientific study that shows the biological action of the high dilutes used in homeopathic practice, let him show one that proves it’s a placebo.

Edzard Ernst writes a column in the popular press. His scientific papers are mostly reviews of other people‘s work, such as his “Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews of Homeopathy.” He doesn’t get his hands dirty like Professor Madeleine Ennis of Queens College in Belfast did when she replicated the basophil degranulation test. He not only avoids doing biochemical and biological tests that disprove placebo, he avoids reviewing them. Edzard Ernst just sticks to bad mouthing clinical trials of homeopathy. That way the placebo charge sounds more reasonable. Saying that non cellular systems or lymphocytes can respond to a bedside manner or homeopathic interview doesn’t make much sense, so Ernst pretends there are no pre-clinicals worthy of conisderation. He mostly references either his own previous reviews or those of others who conclude homeopathic placebo and bypasses the intrinsic contradictions.

He claims there is no evidence for homeopathic verum (intrinsically potent, opposite placebo) on the basis that it is not perfect, without stating what the standards are. He does this without addressing studies that show physical distinctions and biological action between solvent verum and the inert vehicle. When confronted with these pre-clinicals, Ernst pushes them aside for lack of credibility on account of some flaw so egregious that reason must transcend any attempt to replicate them. He characterizes specific biological effects in a solvent lacking an expected heterogeneous guest to match them so preposterous that the procedural flaws of pre-clinical tests only highlight the inevitable missing molecule.

Therefore, says Ernst, any result of a physical, biochemical or biological test that shows the action of the substances in question must be the result of the witness’s misperception, bias or deception.
But there is something wrong with this.
Positive assertions are made by both sides of the argument. I say homeopathy is supported by science, both empirically and rationally and the case for homeopathy is complete. He will say it is not. Fine. That’s his opinion. He will say there can not be any real evidence of intrinsic action because there is no scientific explanation for it. Okay, but its not as though we’re empty handed on that score either. We can show that the recorded electromagnetic emissions of the crystalliferous homeopathic solvent is distinguishable from its vehicle, the inert non-crytalliferous solvent. He will say this is nonsense.  Alright, that’s his opinion again, also unsupported by any reference but his own, but we can also show the electromagnetic effects of homeopathics on six different types of biochemical testing, and in tests on cancerous cells. He will repeat his assertion that there is no scientific theory. No, that’s wrong. We can explain liquid aqueous structuring and how it relates to electromagnetic action using supramolecular chemistry and electronics. He’ll say this is all hogwash. Whatever. But . . .


13 comments on “I CHALLENGE EDZARD ERNST: Part Two

  1. […] Post navigation ← A Fight to the Death I CHALLENGE EDZARD ERNST: Part Two → […]


  2. Simon says:

    I am not sure this challenge makes a lot of sense. But in general, looking at both positive and negative trials together is sensible.

    Mr Benneth – the question for you is, do you think your challenge is definitive? That is, if someone could show that trials of homeopathy that were negative were of better quality and lower risk of bias than trials that showed positive effects, would you change your mind about homeopathy?

    If you would not change your mind, why would it change anyone else’s and what is the purpose of your challenge?


    • Guy Chapman says:

      That is an excellent question.


    • Simon says:

      Yes, and it is a vital question. I thought Benneth would be too scared to answer and that indeed looks to be true. Whichever, way he responds, he will leave himself open and vulnerable. Hence, the only response in the pseudoscientist’s armoury is to pretend the question does not exist.


  3. Kaviraj says:

    Nigel, that has been done extensively. That you never read them and have to ask the question proves the point of my post. You people are ignoring them and thus ignorant.


    • Nigel says:

      Please can you provide a link to the best systematic review that supports your position. I have read the literature and none come out strongly positive.


      • Dr Zorro says:

        Yes, give us the reference.


      • johnbenneth says:

        Fair question. The meta analysis most often referred to is the Linde study, 1997, that asks the quesiton, is homeopathy placebo? The answer tht question by analysing only the clinicals, as does Ernst.
        However, I think a better more comprehensive analsyis is the Scofield review from 1985.
        “Experimental research in homœopathy—a critical review”
        A.M. Scofield, MSC, PHD
        No in depth scientific review or real meta-analysis of the scientific literature, both peer reviewed and otherwise, has ever concluded that the effects of homeopathic medicine are solely due to placebo. (Scofield,1985; Kleijnen, 1991; Linde, 1994; Linde, 1997; Cucherat, 2000; Becker-Witt, 2003; Witt, 2007; Johnson, 2007; Fisher, 2009) Even Shang, which has been interpeeted to conclude placebo, actually doesn’t completely. It says the evidence is weak. Unforatuantely, palcebo is not well deifined, and is an attmept to falisfy verum. The quesiton should be aimed at falsifying placebo, and this can be done on non human subjects. Savvy?
        In the 2007 Johnson review of homeopathics for the American Journal of Pharmacological Education, Johnson says that Shang “has been highly criticized for being methodologically flawed on many levels. Of particular concern, the researchers eliminated 102 of 110 homeopathic trials and based their conclusions on only the 8 largest high-quality trials without clearly identifying the criteria by which these trials were selected or the identity of these trials. Odds ratios calculated before the exclusions (on all 110 trials) do not support their ultimate conclusion that homeopathic interventions are no better than placebo.”
        Unfortunately, pacebo is not the question. The question of whether or not homeoathics have intrinsic effectiveness apart from psychogenic effects is not best answered in a clinical review of the literature, but in a pre-clinical review of it, and Scofield andWItt have done the best job of that, in my mind. Scofield makes a good review of the pre-clincials, whereas witt makes a comprehenisve and exhuastive reivew of the biochemical studies with established cirtieria .
        Johnson and Boon make an excellentreivew of the literature, both pro and ocn form the perspective of what pharmacists need to know, and is available online.
        For a good unbiased review of the literature I suggest you start with Johnson and Boon.
        Am J Pharm Educ. 2007 February 15; 71(1): 07
        Where Does Homeopathy Fit in Pharmacy Practice?
        There are also now phytopatholgoical reviews.


      • Guy Chapman says:

        Or we could cite this extremely well constructed trial by a CAM advocate: http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/11/08/rheumatology.keq234

        “Homeopathy has clinical benefits in rheumatoid arthritis patients that are attributable to the consultation process but not the homeopathic remedy: a randomized controlled clinical trial.”

        So, with conflicting evidence, the only way to resolve the argument is for the homeopaths to show how their purported “science” works.

        This tells you some of the hurdles you need to jump: http://www.chapmancentral.co.uk/wiki/Homeopathy_challenge


      • ISayISaw says:

        It’s curious when homeopaths trot out their pet meta-analyses they almost always include Linde’s 1997 study, but not the re-analysis of 1999.


        Why is that?

        Could it be the damning words: “We conclude that in the study set investigated, there was clear evidence that studies with better methodological quality tended to yield less positive results.” which do rather undermine the homeopaths’ case.

        Also they said this;

        “The evidence of bias weakens the findings of our original meta-analysis. Since we completed our literature search in 1995, a considerable number of new homeopathy trials have been published. The fact that a number of the new high-quality trials … have negative results, and a recent update of our review for the most “original” subtype of homeopathy (classical or individualized homeopathy), seem to confirm the finding that more rigorous trials have less-promising results. It seems, therefore, likely that our meta-analysis at least overestimated the effects of homeopathic treatments”

        Homeopathy: never letting the facts get in the way of a good story.


  4. Nigel says:

    If you believe that the totality of evidence for homeopathy from clinical trials is convincingly positive, why have you (or any other homeopath) not published a formal systematic review of that evidence in a peer reviewed journal?


  5. Kaviraj says:

    He does not know. Just like the minions that post critical denials here, their so-called scientific bosses know as little as they do. From the verb to ignore, comes the subsequent ignorance of the nay-sayers. No matter how often they deny and refuse to stand up to the challenge, they remain ignorant and incapable of either replicating any study that supposedly “shows” it is a placebo. Nor can they produce studies that do, apart from the discredited and flawed Shang “meta-analysis” which was shot out of the water not by homoeopaths, but Shang’s own peers, as fatally flawed and abysmally inadequate.

    Thus, the conclusion that the “skeptics”, whether here or in the pub, can do nothing but rant the incoherent gibberish of the drunks they are. After all, if you need to first go to the pub to fortify the intestines to come here and ignore all the evidence presented and engage in the splitting of hairs over a term used in our proofs, you have no legs to stand upon. None of these nincompoops ever has a solid argument against any of the studies and like Ernst, engage only in trying to sidetrack the reader with irrelevant critiques of terminology. This has little or no bearing at all on the outcome of the studies. They have nothing to contribute whatsoever to the real debate. Real debates they cannot hold and thus like any childish drunk, try to annoy us with inconsequential rants about conspiracies, when we repeat what the perpetrators of questionable ethical principles have admitted to themselves.

    I have qualified such incompetence of our opponents as pathetic and rightfully so. Now we shall wait till the usual suspects come and waste their time on finding fault with some of the words that have been written here, rather than refute the premise – homoeopathy works and no denial will ever make that go away. Homoeopathy has been proven to work and no denial will make that go away either. Homoeopathy is superior to pharmaceutical drugs, because the remedies do not produce side effects; do not kill a million people yearly in the US alone. They are moreover so cheap, that the supposed billions that homoeopathic pharmacies make, exist only in the dreams of the critics. 4 million pounds per year is spent by the NHS on homoeopathy. This as opposed to 4 billion on compensation alone for side effects and other mayhem from pharmaceutical drugs.

    They rather see people maimed and killed, or on lifelong side effects producing drugs, than being subjected to a gentle form of radical cure such as homoeopathy. That shows you their compassion for the suffering humanity and their motivation for the promotion of poison. None other than those that stand to gain financially, can condone the peddling of such quackery as pharmaceuticals.


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