We have heard back from the Department of Health (DoH) on our Freedom of Information request.
Thee DoH had claimed that "The majority of independent scientists consider the evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy to be weak or absent, and that there is no plausible scientific mechanism for homeopathy."
However, it turns out that the DoH has no evidence to support this statement!
The 'evidence' the DoH supplied refers merely to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy (2010). There are seven instances where the statement in question is made in one form or another: in the report at paragraphs 48 and 71; and in the evidence at Q139, Q142, Q176, Ev53 para. 6 and Ev179 para. 10.
In none of these instances is there actual evidence provided in support of the claim. Opinions are expressed, but that is all, and in the case of Q139 and Q142, doubt as to the judgement and independence of the researchers is explicitly expressed. In the end, the only 'evidence' in this report is the opinion of Edzard Ernst.
Ernst's consistently antagonistic attitude towards homeopathy means that he cannot be regarded as "independent", and we have no evidence that he is a scientist.
The opinion he expressed to the committee appears to be based on a review he himself conducted, which claimed to be “A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy”, but was more a hotch-potch of studies such as systematic reviews of homeopathy in general, reviews of specific homeopathic medicines for specific conditions, comments on reviews and even a letter.
Furthermore, no less than 9 of the review's 18 citations are to publications of which Ernst was one of the authors, and in the case of at least one of these publications, Ernst appears to have misrepresented his own research. More details of Ernst's dubious use of his own work can be downloaded here.
Ernst's lack of credibility when it comes to homeopathy has already been shown by a German interview, which has been translated here. He has claimed to be "trained" as a homeopath, but he revealed in this interview that he has no qualification, which is a requirement to practise in Germany. He does not appear either to have had sufficient experience to be able to make informed statements about homeopathy. There is certainly evidence of him making some serious and basic mistakes when writing about homeopathy.
In short, claims about the views on homeopathy held by "the majority of independent scientists" are whollly unsupported by evidence.
Freedom of Information Request – the result!