Dubious health claims thrive online. Here’s how to avoid them

The media have long had a keen interest in alternative medicine and report regularly on the subject. But all too often the messages conveyed are far from clear. Consequently, alternative medicine can be a minefield for consumers.

Take acupuncture, for instance. Today the press might report that it is an effective and safe therapy for anything from acne to zoster, and tomorrow we learn that it is nothing but a theatrical placebo. Sound information is rare, and consumers find it hard to tell the promotional waffle from the responsible advice. In this situation, institutions informing the public objectively and responsibly would be most welcome. Hundreds of organisations pride themselves on offering just that.

The Acupuncture Now Foundation (ANF) is as good an example as any. The ANF is a worldwide organisation of volunteers which was founded in 2014. Its mission is ‘to become recognised as a leader in the collection and dissemination of unbiased and authoritative information about all aspects of the practice of acupuncture’. This is a high and laudable aim, and when I first read this statement, I thought: great, this is just what we need! But hold on — let’s not jump to conclusions. We must first find out how credible their claims really are. So, let’s check them out.

The ANF have recently published a document — they call it a ‘white paper’ — promising a ‘look at some of the evidence supporting acupuncture’s effectiveness and how it facilitates self-healing’. On closer scrutiny, it turns out to be a masterclass in misinformation. In fact, the white paper very much resembles a whitewash.

Let me try to justify this by checking three statements from the document in question.

Quote No 1
‘Male fertility, especially sperm production and motility, has also been shown to improve with acupuncture. In a recent animal study, electro-acupuncture was found to enhance germ cell proliferation. This action is believed to facilitate the recovery of sperm production (spermatogenesis) and may restore normal semen parameters in subfertile patients.’

The article supplied as evidence for this statement by ANF refers to an animal experiment using a model where sperm are exposed to heat. This has precious little bearing on the clinical situation in humans and certainly does not lend itself to clinical conclusions regarding the treatment of sub-fertile men.

Quote No 2
‘In a recent meta-analysis, researchers concluded that the efficacy of acupuncture as a stand-alone therapy was comparable to antidepressants in improving clinical response and alleviating symptom severity of major depressive disorder (MDD). Also, acupuncture was superior to antidepressants and waitlist controls in improving both response and symptom severity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The incidence of adverse events with acupuncture was significantly lower than antidepressants.’

The review provided as evidence by ANF is wide open to bias; it was criticised in no uncertain terms: ‘The authors’ findings did not reflect the evidence presented and limitations in study numbers, sample sizes and study pooling, particularly in some subgroup analyses, suggested that the conclusions are not reliable.’ Moreover, we need to know that by no means all reviews of the subject confirm this positive conclusion, for instance, thisthis, or this one; and all of these latter reviews are more up-to-date than the one provided by ANF. Crucially, a Cochrane review (Cochrane reviews tend to be the most reliable available) concluded that ‘the evidence is inconclusive to allow us to make any recommendations for depression-specific acupuncture’.

Quote No 3
‘A randomised controlled trial of acupuncture and counselling for patients presenting with depression, after having consulted their general practitioner in primary care, showed that both interventions were associated with significantly reduced depression at three months when compared to usual care alone.’

Closer inspection reveals that the trial in question made no attempt to control for placebo effects. In reality, therefore, its findings are consistent with the view of those experts who claim that acupuncture is nothing more than a theatrical placebo.

These three examples demonstrate much of what is currently wrong with the promotion of specifically acupuncture and alternative therapies in general. Of course, the ANF is just one organisation, but we have researched this area repeatedly and found invariably that websites offering information on alternative medicine are a risk factor to our health. In 2004, for instance, we published an assessment of websites offering alternative treatments for cancer and concluded: ‘The most popular websites on complementary and alternative medicine for cancer offer information of extremely variable quality. Many endorse unproven therapies and some are outright dangerous.’

Most consumers who are tempted to try alternative medicine want to obtain reliable information about their chosen therapy. If they ask their conventional healthcare professionals for help, they are likely to find that most of them know too little about alternative medicine to provide reliable advice. The internet is, of course, full of sites on alternative medicine — currently more than 50 million! — but the vast majority of these websites in question are lamentably promotional and many are overtly advertising dubious products for a healthy profit.

Eventually, the increasingly desperate consumer might come across one of the seemingly trustworthy websites — like the website of the ANF, claiming to work ‘for the good of patients and the future of health care’. This sounds impressive — but, as we have just seen from the examples I provided, in truth it is little more than promotional spin for the business of alternative practitioners. What looks like reliable information is not.

And what is the solution? How can we prevent consumers from taking therapeutic decisions based on misinformation? The obvious answer is by directing them to sources that are independent, non-commercial, objective, transparent and reliable. As I said, they are rare, but here are a few that I might recommend:

Cochrane Collaboration
Good Thinking
National Institutes for Health
NHS Choices
Your Science Based Guide to Natural Health

Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor at the University of Exeter, is the author of Homeopathy: The Undiluted Facts and the awardee of the John Maddox Prize 2015 for standing up for science. He blogs at edzardernst.com.


  • Lara

    The ACUDep trial you link to here is a pragmatic trial designed to measure the effectiveness of acupuncture in a realistic clinical setting; ‘controlling for placebo effects’ would not be appropriate in that scenario. I would suggest that readers enjoy reading the trial and come to a better understanding of what this sort of research measures. It is a different design to the efficacy-measuring drug trials that you may be more familiar with.

  • Peter

    re male sub fertility and acupuncture please see: Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities (Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8.); Does acupuncture treatment affect sperm density in males with very low sperm count? A pilot study (Andrologia. 2000 Jan;32(1):31-9.); Modification of semen quality by acupuncture in subfertile males (Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 1984 Aug;44(8):510-2. [Article in German]; Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality. (Arch Androl. 1997 Sep-Oct;39(2):155-61.); Correlation of psychological changes and spermiogram improvements following acupuncture (Urologe A. 1984 Nov;23(6):329-33). [Article in German].

  • iman eman

    Professor Ernst does a great disservice in trying to dissuade the public from using acupuncture. Every day 10’s of thousands of people turn to acupuncture because it provides an effective and cost effective solution to what ails them. All too often the ‘naysayers’ of acupuncture ignore the real evidence of acupuncture’s effectiveness, which is from the tens of thousands of patients who have gotten relief from using it. Hint. Forget the scientific papers just do a google search and read the reviews of patients. Again stop trying to dissuade people from acupuncture which is most often the quickest and most cost effective solution.

    • Mc

      Logical fallacies: the consistent mark of all believers in woo of every stripe.

  • Daniel Poreda

    I’m a professional acupuncturist. This “professor” is not taking an intellectually honest look at acupuncture and all the evidence. This is a person who did not approach the topic unbiased and then conclude acupuncture as ineffective, rather a person with an unfounded assumption trying to find anything to support his bias.

    The say that the effectiveness of acupuncture in eliminating pain is purely placebo reveals true ignorance.

    • Mc

      Logical fallacy. The Prof didn’t base his article on his personal opinion, assumptions, or rely on anecdotal “evidence”, as acupuncture believers do. What he did do was to check whether the pro-acupuncture studies’ results adhered to bog standard, rigorous scientific methods. And he looked at Cochrane reviews (which are independent of the Prof), which are the gold-standard for assessing multiple studies, in order to conclude about a particular research topic.

      • Daniel Poreda

        The problem is that he pointed to 3 studies that may or may not have been good studies, for treatment of depression, male fertility, and PTSD. Yet what does he mention about acupuncture treatment of pain? My general acupuncture practice is roughly 80% pain management. Private American insurance companies reimburse for pain diagnoses (also nausea) because of numerous repetitive studies that show acupuncture’s effectiveness, correlating with the empirical results of patients with a history of billed medical services for pain diagnoses.
        So, here comes this professor, who clearly doesn’t know anything about acupuncture except its label “alternative”, and a couple questionable studies about conditions that lack competent researchers (which says nothing about the acupuncture itself), and the thrust of the article is that acupuncture is bullocks.

        And I will admit that acupuncture, in my personal experience, doesnt treat everything that everyone wants it to. But you can’t take a partial, uninformed look and make an informed statement about a thing.

        • Mc

          The problem is that whenever CAM believers are presented with rigorous scientific evidence which supports their beliefs, then they laud the studies. But they refuse to believe similarly rigorous studies that contradict their beliefs. And I’m certain that you will take exactly that approach when I point you to a Cochrane review showing that acupuncture is no better than placebo for treating pain: http://www.cochrane.org/search/site/acupuncture?f%5B0%5D=bundle%3Areview

          In addition, all CAM believers employ the full range of logical fallacies, which you too do repeatedly. For example, one of your very many logical fallacies is when you state that US health insurers cover acupuncture treatment. That doesn’t mean that this is by extension proof that acupuncture’s efficacy is scientifically proven.

          The bottom line is that CAM believers choose to never believe studies that undermine their beliefs, irrespective of the studies’ scientific rigour.

          • I’m reminded of the quote from Upton Sinclair:

            “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

          • Daniel Poreda

            That precisely describes the scoffing professor, no?

          • LOL! No, no it doesn’t – for one very simple reason: he is now retired. You, on the other hand, wouldn’t happen to earn your salary as an acupuncturist, would you?

          • Daniel Poreda

            Correction, the scoffing retired professor with a blog. I earn a salary, but he is lacking in the understanding.

          • ROFL! So, do you admit you have a vested interest because you earn your living from acupuncture?

          • Daniel Poreda

            Guilty as charged! But I’m not trying to sell you anything, just clarifying the subject as a person (apparantly the only one here) who actually knows about the subject of acupuncture.

          • I earn a salary, but he is lacking in the understanding.

            You are the embodiment of that Upton Sinclair quote and you can’t even see it.

          • Daniel Poreda

            I looked at the study. The short of it, is that is a shit study. If a similar study “proved” effectiveness, it would not be any better.

            I hear that some people will only listen to the opinion they like, only watch the news channel with their political slant. This is not peculiar to CAM consumers. There are logical fallacies that can be demonstrated on your side of the debate.

            I assume you have no real knowledge of acupuncture, so I understand your position based on the available studies. However, know first that acupuncture can not be proven through the double-blind model similar to drugs. Even the single-blind is dubious. It is virtually impossible to give “sham” acupuncture as is done in some of these studies. And often the real acupuncture of the trial group is inferior quality. I can testify that acupuncture is a modality that heavily relies on the skill of the practitioner. Proper admistration can make the difference between effective and ineffective. The needles do not cause magic; it is direct stimulation of subdermal tissues and neural networks that relay impulses to the central nervous system. Would a logically infallible person say that there is no reality to this? No science?

            I understand that insurance contracts are not proof. The point is that these companies hire people to do the research, and they do not want to pay out for anything.

            You can not measure liquid with a measuring stick. You can not evaluate all science by the same tools.

          • Daniel Poreda said:

            “However, know first that acupuncture can not be proven through the double-blind model similar to drugs. Even the single-blind is dubious. It is virtually impossible to give “sham” acupuncture as is done in some of these studies.”

            Please say why you believe acupuncture cannot be tested with them? And you say it’s ‘virtually impossible’ to give sham acupuncture: under what circumstances do you believe it is it possible then?

            “I understand that insurance contracts are not proof.”

            Well, that’s progress.

          • Daniel Poreda

            I’m literally busy resolving clients sciatic and cervical pain right now, I’ll need some time to explain later

          • Daniel Poreda

            The problem with double-blind is that the acupuncturist knows what they are administering. The problem with single-blind is that you have a group with sham acupuncture, but the trial group acupuncture is often a sham as well, needles tapped in superficially without proper tissue stimulation, since it had to look like the sham style. Often needles need to be inserted deeper, up to 3″ in places. Also there is typically an acupoint protocol that is applied to all subjects, but this is not how acupuncture is practiced; we recognize different patterns. For example, neck pain can be due to a protruding cervical disk, or a muscular trigger point. Those treatments would look slightly dfferent.

            The short of it, you can’t use studies that employ sham acupuncture. It needs to be studies that have an accurately common group of subjects treated appropriately by a competent acupuncturist, not a lab person jabbing needles on text book locations, which is admittedly similar to vudoo, not competent acupuncture.

          • Mc

            So yet again you spout unscientific logical fallacies and poor reasoning.

            I’ll keep it brief: Amongst other things, you’re saying that acupuncture should get a free pass from being tested via rigorous scientific criteria and that in the mean time you’re happy to charge clients for witchcraft. As with all other believers in CAM, religion, the paranormal and other woo, your belief in acupuncture is based purely on anecdote.

          • Daniel Poreda

            1+ 1 = 2

            Logical fallacy, yes?

          • Mc

            “Is it placebo, or a mechanism not detected by the given tools? that is debate.”

            Any person with integrity would not apply a treatment while its efficacy remains unproven via standard scientific studies.

            “The thousands of people i have treated is first hand testimony for me, anecdote to you.”

            First hand testimony/anecdote is not scientific evidence. Anecdote was used as “proof” since time immemorial for everything from the supernatural, “medical” care and torture of “witches”. But clearly CAM practitioners are happy to follow practices of stone age man.

          • Daniel Poreda

            Well that is your choice. If you ever experience severe pain, you can choose to rely on opiates to mask it, or in some instances you can resolve the issue with acupuncture or perhaps deep tissue massage, or physical therapy. If one’s skepticism and need to understand everything through the protocol of drug trials prevents them from getting help, then that’s on them.

          • Daniel Poreda

            But going back to something that the author pointed out, acupuncture for treating male infertility, I will cede that here is an instance of application where I have very little experience treating this and the results were not successful. I would not claim to a person that I can treat this sucessfully. And proper research would be great.

          • Mc

            It’s my choice to select treatment that is validated by rigorous science, and avoid logically fallacious voodoo from practitioners who (sometimes unbeknownst to them) are selling a fraudulent product.

            What you (and all CAM believers) have demonstrated here is that you are entirely comfortable with reasoning that is unsound and lacks logical integrity, whenever it suits you. That means that there will never be a common starting point for discussions between the pro- and anti-CAM, because the pro-CAM can conjure up dubious cop-outs whenever their arguments are proven to be fallacious.

          • You do know that the list of people that upvote comments is visible, yeah? Upvoting your own is kinda sad.

          • Daniel Poreda

            what is “upvoting” a comment?
            I don’t care engage in personal attacks. but in response to your replies, perhaps accusing the professor of being intellectually dishonest was unfair and reactionary. he is trying to make sense out of something he is not knowledgable about. in his reality it is unproven.
            The issue is simply that the given research is shit. you cant research acupuncture with a placebo group because you cannot fake real acupuncture. the type of “real” acupuncture which occurs in these studies has to look like the sham group, and both groups result in sham acupuncture.
            so for the professor, he is prudent to question something which he has no experience with aside from misguided studies that test a form of therapy as if it is a drug. Meanwhile, I will continuing delivering pain relief on a repetitively reliable manner. he can stay in his corner of skepticism, doesn’t affect me.

          • what is “upvoting” a comment?

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8ca15ceace1a0ff1ac1da8ee1b2bb79b9082d9938607eda5b253f2b3b47c7d9a.png

            Disqus has a voting system built in. It’s the numbers next to the Up arrow reflect the general agreement of the readers with your comment. That you agree with yourself is a given. Down votes no longer have their counts displayed.

            I don’t care engage in personal attacks.

            It’s an observation of you as a person given the limited information you’ve provided. Specifically, your comments. That doesn’t make it a personal attack.

            but in response to your replies, perhaps accusing the professor of being intellectually dishonest was unfair and reactionary.

            Indeed it was. However, it is @edzardernst:disqus that you should direct that apology, not I.

            he is trying to make sense out of something he is not knowledgable about. in his reality it is unproven.

            He is knowledgeable about the research and the direction it is heading in.

            It isn’t his reality in which it is unproven though. There is no “his” reality vs “your” reality vs “anyone elses” reality. There’s just reality. And again, it isn’t his fault that reality isn’t meeting your expectations.

          • Daniel Poreda

            Ha, I was wondering what those arrows did. That does look sad.

            The nature of reality is another discussion. We all agree upon a model of objectivity, but quantum physics seems to suggest that all reality is subjective. Perhaps “experience” is the right term. He has no experience of acupuncture, while my daily experience would beg for something to disprove the results I see.

          • The nature of reality is another discussion. We all agree upon a model of objectivity, but quantum physics seems to suggest that all reality is subjective.

            “Seems to” and “Actually does” are very different positions. Until something like that is very well established and testable we should go with Occam’s Razor on this. As it stands the argument is equivalent to jangling keys to distract from reality.

            We have a growing pile of good quality evidence that demonstrates acupuncture to be little more than a theatrical placebo. How does that factor into a subjective reality?

            Perhaps “experience” is the right term. He has no experience of acupuncture, while my daily experience would beg for something to disprove the results I see.

            You are now making assumptions about @edzardernst:disqus’s experience with acupuncture.

            Regardless, your daily experience is massively subject to confirmation bias. How do you account for all the very good quality evidence we now have?

          • Daniel Poreda

            If the very good quality evidence is studies that utilize sham acupuncture, it is then very bad evidence, and no good acupuncture was performed in such studies. There is also often no accounting to the skill of the acupuncturist in these studies. The needles are not drugs, they are tools used to elicit a response in tissues and the nervous system. Often in these poor studies, the needles will be tapped into the text book acupoint locations without proper at stimulation, as if the needle is supposed to magically make things happen. It is this mistaken understanding of acupuncture which leads to poor clinical research design.

            The only way, it seems, that we can demonstrate the therapeutic scope of acupuncture is from measuring the change of signs and symptoms in response to real, properly performed acupuncture.

            Also, acupuncture is certainly not a cure-all. I mentioned above, one of the studies Edzard brought was for male infertility. I question how reliably acupuncture could treat that. I personally wouldn’t agree to treat someone with needles for this without some external evidence.

          • If the very good quality evidence is studies that utilize sham acupuncture, it is then very bad evidence, and no good acupuncture was performed in such studies. There is also often no accounting to the skill of the acupuncturist in these studies.

            You’ve read every one of these studies and determined this? That’s a lot of work. You should publish.

            Of course, if you’ve not read them all you can’t possibly expect us to take you at your word given the number and nature of the people involved that have reached the opposite conclusion. I’ll take the published literature over a random commenter on an article thread any day of the week.

            But please, by all means, show us your work. It will lend your claims a little more validity and expose them for critique.

            The needles are not drugs, they are tools used to elicit a response in tissues and the nervous system. Often in these poor studies, the needles will be tapped into the text book acupoint locations without proper at stimulation, as if the needle is supposed to magically make things happen. It is this mistaken understanding of acupuncture which leads to poor clinical research design.

            Why would you assume the researchers (or readers) would think the needles are drugs? That’s a ridiculous position to hold. The research tests outcomes. Unless you want to go down the special pleading route and claim acupuncture “can’t be tested by science” this isn’t a point you will win. And if you do go down the special pleading route you will be taken even less seriously.

            As for calling the methodology into question the way you have it demonstrates that you haven’t actually read and understood the research. In general there are multiple groups. Actual acupuncture (qualified practitioners doing their thing), multiple forms of sham acupuncture (trained needlers and qualified practitioners) performing the needling in specific points (according to the acupuncture charts) or randomly (prepared non-acupuncture charts) with either real or sham needles. This combination makes for a large number of options when it comes to selecting what groups could be in any given study.

            To dismiss this research out of hand because you think the needling is done “without proper at stimulation” is naive and insulting to the practitioners that participate in the research.

            I would recommend that you actually read more of the literature. Especially the stuff that makes it into meta-studies and systematic reviews. These are the things that tend to filter out the poor quality research and look at the good quality research that is left over.

            The only way, it seems, that we can demonstrate the therapeutic scope of acupuncture is from measuring the change of signs and symptoms in response to real, properly performed acupuncture.

            Hmm… Yeah, nah.

            I would also recommend that you actually do some reading on the Scientific Method. It’s actually a reasonably straight forward concept and very elegant in its simplicity. It’s execution is where the difficulty can come in.

            The very important point that you miss is that you need to compare your treatment to some other known outcome or process. The most common is “doing nothing” and this is often achieved via a placebo so that the subject doesn’t know if they are getting the actual treatment or not.

            Also, acupuncture is certainly not a cure-all.

            Agreed. Especially given that the best quality evidence, despite your opinion, is that it’s more a hardly-cure-anything-at-all.

            I mentioned above, one of the studies Edzard brought was for male infertility. I question how reliably acupuncture could treat that. I personally wouldn’t agree to treat someone with needles for this without some external evidence.

            Well, that’s you and you are just one person. Also, good for you for saying so. Now go out to your colleges and tell them that. The particular treatments selected for research are typically selected from what is commonly done or because a particular group want to know if a specific treatment works.

    • Why call him “Professor” with the scare quotes? Don’t you believe he’s a Professor?

      • Daniel Poreda

        I have no reason to assume he is not a teacher, but the quotes because he has revealed himself as an intellectually dishonest person. if a priest was revealed to have a history of child molestation, the church would not want to call him priest, as a representative of the church.

        • LOL!

        • Why don’t you read the documents he links and critically review those. You will probably find Pf. Ernst is accurate and truthful.

          • Daniel Poreda

            Not to totally discredit the author, there is certainly virtue in skepticism. I am personally skeptical of acupuncture applied to certain conditions that seem ineffective in my experience, by my admistration. But advil treats pain, not hypertension. The nature of medicine is that is has a scope of therapeutic effect. Acupuncture too is not, in absolutes, real or fake, or something to believe in. It works for what it works for.

            But the real question is not ‘if’ acupuncture is effective, rather is the mechanism “theatrical placebo” or not detected by a set of tools.

          • Actually, no. The real question is ‘if’ acupuncture is effective. The better we get at removing observer bias from the research the more it is appearing that the answer is more and more likely to be “no, it is not effective.”

            If you care to disagree with this then please to critique the research and link to your critique.

        • if a priest was revealed to have a history of child molestation, the church would not want to call him priest, as a representative of the church.
          Evidence points more to the church trying to quietly move the priest to another location and tell them to not do it again rather than handing them over to local law enforcement.

          To refer to @edzardernst:disqus as an intellectually dishonest person shows a total lack of knowledge of the man himself. It isn’t his fault that the weight of good quality research doesn’t match your prefered outcome.

          As for your position, you have announced your bias already.

    • Have you read Professor Ernst’s book? Why don’t you?

    • Nick_Tamair

      Why, ‘professor’ and not professor, Daniel?

      • I suspect it’s because of the same reason I would refer to @danielporeda:disqus as a “professional” acupuncturist.

        Personally, I would think it’s fair to state that the person that is willing to accept poor quality research in order to establish the validity of something is the one that is not taking an intellectually honest look at the literature.

  • DavidL

    If it looks like a quack and ducks the evidence like a quack, then it’s probably a quack.

  • FengMen

    In my many years of trying to convince anyone of the validity of my viewpoint, i noticed that the more i was trying to convince the more i was energizing the opposition. i realized how fruitless and counter productive having argument was. Reading or attempting to read these lines, i see an attempt to discredit something that is mostly misunderstood. It is obvious that what you do not understand makes us insecure therefore we invalidate….perception stabilizes on grounds of repeated experiences and beliefs become limited to that perception. The pitfalls sets in when experience is of nature that contradicts our belief system. We believe what we perceive. We cannot perceive what we do not believe. Belief becomes the filter which filters out what we believe cannot be. No matter what Pr Ernst is bent on disproving acupuncture despite thousands of years of anecdotal evidences…as if patients are hypnothised by the acupuncturist into believing he feels better. The professor receives its education in an environment that has disqualified academic venture into the unknown, unexplained, the seemingly irrational, limiting greatly the scientific approach into these events.
    I say to the professor. Are you being honest scientifically? Is it not time for you to expand the boundaries of science exploration? Are you not going round and round again, creating unnecessary friction? A paradigm shift is happening in science and are you sure you are not failing to see it? Don’t you see that we are energetic being? That the cell are made of mollecules, atoms, protons…etc…and mostly 99.9999% space. In acupuncture term, you would be considered a stagnation, an energy knot stuck in one place. i wish you could find the needle that can unstuck you. I still wish you well.☺

    • I think I see the problem here.

      “In my many years of trying to convince anyone of the validity of my viewpoint

      The pro science crowd isn’t arguing from their viewpoint. They’re arguing from the position established by the weight of the best quality evidence. Until you can provide good reasons to invalidate this research you will not have much luck convincing people your viewpoint is an accurate reflection of the world.

      And if you can’t invalidate the research perhaps you should adjust your viewpoint.

      No matter what Pr Ernst is bent on disproving acupuncture despite thousands of years of anecdotal evidences

      I suspect @edzardernst:disqus isn’t trying to disprove acupuncture. But is more reporting on the best quality research to date. It is not his fault that it doesn’t align with your viewpoint.

      Also, the plural of anecdote is anecdotes. Not data. The only thing that “thousands of years of anecdotal evidences” is good for is deciding that this should be examined to figure out that what is being seen is real and if so we can look at what is going on so we have a better understanding of why it works. The disappointing thing is that upon rigorous testing it turns out that it fails that first step. It’s looking more and more like it’s not a real thing at all.

      I’m not speaking for Prof Ernst here but I’d like to answer your questions for myself;

      Are you being honest scientifically?

      Yes, he is.

      Is it not time for you to expand the boundaries of science exploration?

      This is a constant state within science. I think what you don’t realise is that science has tested a whole pile of stuff and found some of it to be real and others to be really unlikely to be real. The area you appear to be pushing for is to continue down that trail of “really unlikely to be real” based on the slimmest hope that it may turn out to be actually a thing. The problem here is that the better we get at this science thing the more research piles up on the side of “not a thing”. The more research done, the less likely this is to be actually real. The more likely you’ll have to amend your viewpoint.

      Are you not going round and round again, creating unnecessary friction?

      The only reason this happens is due to the ever decreasing number of people that don’t understand or don’t like the findings of the best quality science we have on the topic. If we didn’t have people like Prof Ernst willing to speak from a position of expertise and the Skeptical community willing to speak from the position of the weight of evidence presented by the research that is happening around this then this magical thinking would go unchallenged and any snakeoil salesman could come along peddle their wares. We may as well throw away 200 years of progress at that point.

      A paradigm shift is happening in science and are you sure you are not failing to see it?

      You’ve failed to explain the nature of this paradigm shift. Could you be less vague?

      Don’t you see that we are energetic being?

      If, by “energy”, you mean electro-chemical then yes, that has been very well established and, I believe, quite well understood. However, I suspect you aren’t referring to this form of “energy”. And until that form of “energy” is established as a real thing, understood or even just measurable there is no way to know that sticking needles in specific places does anything at all.

      That the cell are made of mollecules, atoms, protons…etc…and mostly 99.9999% space. In acupuncture term, you would be considered a stagnation, an energy knot stuck in one place. i wish you could find the needle that can unstuck you. I still wish you well.

      In scientific terms I suspect that you would be described as an anachronism. A throwback to a pre-scientific era.

      • FengMen

        Very good linear thinking 😊.
        The best quality evidence…??!
        Richard Horton, The Lancet. April 2015. 50% or more of all scientific data are either biased or completely false… same comments made by the editor in chief of the New England Journal. What best quality evidence are you talking about? it is either dogmatic or corrupted.😤
        The rest of the answers you are seeking from me require a total upgrade on your part. It takes years to realize or a big event, usually catastrophic, for you to shift consciouness. I cannot do that for you. Good luck, do some good, do not waste your energy unnecessarly. 😉

        • The best quality evidence…??!
          Richard Horton, The Lancet. April 2015. 50% or more of all scientific data are either biased or completely false… same comments made by the editor in chief of the New England Journal. What best quality evidence are you talking about? it is either dogmatic or corrupted.

          The answer to that would be self evident if you took just a tiny moment to think about it.

          The rest of the answers you are seeking from me require a total upgrade on your part. It takes years to realize or a big event, usually catastrophic, for you to shift consciouness.

          Understood. You don’t know either.