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J R Soc Med. 2002 July; 95(7): 375.
PMCID: PMC1279951

Research on complementary medicine

Professor Ernst1 asks for extra suggestions against applying the rules of science to complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) in addition to the eight arguments he counters. His paper can be likened to a boxing match where he can reasonably claim to have won the first six rounds and to be well ahead on points. His problem though is round 7, ‘Science destroys the very nature of CAM, so its application must be opposed’.

The preceding article, by Laugharne and Laugharne2, shows that there is a fundamental philosophic chasm between the two sides, stronger than argument 7, and which is the hidden agenda behind the other seven arguments. The crux is the whole postmodern rejection of the search for truth and objectivity and its agent science—the distillation of accumulated wisdom and knowledge—to be replaced by individualistic sentiments, distrust of expertise, personalized feelgood morality. This is the reductio ad absurdum of democratization, the replacement of the public good by populism or even fascism.

Ernst is trying to box against opponents who do not recognize the Queensberry rules and who reject the authority of a referee. It will thus end up as a bareknuckle fight, where unless one side lands a knockout punch, the result will be left to the acclamation of the crowd, which I fear is not on Ernst's side. I suggest Ernst throws some low blows in round 7.


1. Ernst E. What's the point of rigorous research on complementary medicine? J R Soc Med 2002;95: 211-13 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Laugharne R, Laugharne J. Psychiatry, postmodernism and postnormal science. J R Soc Med 2002;95: 207-10 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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