Free Vitamin D with Purchase of $30+, Learn More Here >>

Home / Blog

Philosophy | Philosophy of Science and Skepticism - Series

Harriet Hall: Intellectual Authority or Intellectually Bankrupt?

Contributor Bio

Alex Tarnava is the CEO of Drink HRW, and the primary inventor of the open-cup hydrogen tablets. Alex runs the clinical outreach program for our company, working with over a dozen universities coordinating research. Alex has also published research of his own. You can find it on his ResearchGate. Additionally, he has been interviewed for many prominent publications, such as Entrepreneur and Forbes, and on many popular Podcasts. You can find all of his interviews and articles on his media page.

Harriet Hall: Intellectual Authority or Intellectually Bankrupt?

Well, it took a year, but Dr. Harriet Hall finally responded to my rebuttal of her very poorly written article on hydrogen water. In her new response posted on October 6th at Science-Based Medicine, Harriet Hall utilizes various intellectual “crimes” to sway her readers against me and hydrogen water. She cherry picks specific studies (some that I have never written about), tacitly implies that I am trying to “prove” hydrogen water works (rather than determine whether and when works), appeals to the qualification fallacy, and intentionally inserts a battle cry insinuating I am attacking Science-Based Medicine, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and skeptics in general! Wow, good work Harriet. You’ve done it – you have run the full gambit of logical fallacies in one single, short article. One needs to look no further than the comments section of her followers to see that her responses employ straw man arguments, when not resorting to full on argumentum ad absurdum and ad hominem attacks. Some of her followers declare that I must be crazy and into pseudoscience because I have previously taken part in CrossFit. Wow! What a claim.

At the bottom of this article, I will include a copy of my private email conversation with Harriet Hall, but first, let’s address some of these intellectual crimes, or rather, crimes against logical and fair debate.

“Attacking” Skeptics

I can’t shake the smirk of absolute disbelief at this. First, I have written literally tens of thousands of words on skepticism, critical thinking and analytical thinking. In fact, I have actually written a piece on why you should be skeptical of hydrogen water. I’ve also recently written 15,000-20,000 words on skepticism and critical and analytical thinking in health science and health communication, which is the most prominently featured series in our blog series category. Can a skeptic who teaches and writes about how to improve critical and analytical thought really be the enemy of skepticism?

The answer is that she views me as her enemy and seems to view herself and her friends as the authority on skepticism. What a walking, talking contradiction. Skepticism and critical thought are fantastic, except when directed at her or her friends – then, it becomes “attacking” skepticism. The hubris! What gives Harriet Hall the arrogance to presume she and her friends are right on all subjects, all the time, and that they are above reproach or criticism? Skepticism and critical thought depend on self- reflection and questioning, as well as on liberal doses of criticism from those closest in agreement with us. It is far easier to deride those you are at odds with, and it is significantly more difficult to turn the microscope on your friends and allies. Looking deeply at what we believe, as well as examining the opinions our friends and allies trumpet, is imperative in the search for truth. Without inward directed skepticism, we will all eventually descend into echo chambers, fueled by a constant barrage of confirmation bias.

As I wrote in part II of Don’t Trust the Health Experts:

“Often, the more prominent the health leader, the more extreme their positions (and the more confident they are in declaring them). Canadian-American political science writer and University of Pennsylvania Professor Phillip Tetlock who has studied the positions and predictions of experts in the social sciences quite extensively noted that experts in areas such as Political Science and Economics are no better than attentive readers of the New York Times in following and predicting emerging situations. He goes on to argue that the more famous the “forecaster” the more flamboyant the forecast. He writes that “Experts in demand were more overconfident than their colleagues who eked out existences far from the limelight.”

Prof. Tetlock also observed that experts were particularly averse to admitting they had been wrong, and when they were forced to admit error in prediction or judgement they tended to have an arsenal of excuses, that they had been wrong only because of an unforeseen event, or their justification was still correct, etc. As Daniel Kahneman notes on the subject “Experts are just human in the end. They are dazzled by their own brilliance and hate to be wrong.” In the health industry this is compounded by the conmen frantically insisting that the mavericks “are not wrong” and that those deriding them are part of some massive conspiracy. Health mavericks rarely have to admit that they are wrong for this reason, so skeptics attacking them make it even easier, emotionally, to lean to the conmen.”

Has Harriet Hall, and perhaps many from the Science-Based Medicine team, succumbed to the fate of many “experts”? Is it time to change the guard, allowing new thought leaders in skepticism and critical thought to emerge? Can we trust anything that Harriet Hall writes anymore? These are important questions, and if she is honest, she needs to address them herself.

What goal did she have in stating I am critical of skepticism, other than to incite anger from her followers? It certainly wasn’t an honest and well-thought-out position taken from the totality of my writings on the subject. I’ve long held the position that the prominent skeptic groups are doing more harm than good, simply because they are further driving away any would-be allies, while contributing to the erosion of honest conversation. Harriet Hall and her ilk are contributing to the polarization of messaging in health sciences as much as the worst Alt Med proponents. Note: I was referring to “skeptic groups,” and not skepticism. Skepticism is a generally held attitude that utilizes systematic criticism of ideas in search of the truth. Skeptic groups and individuals labelling themselves as skeptics are human beings that can make logical errors and cause harm, intentionally or unintentionally.

Appeal to Credentials

Harriet Hall went out of her way to bring my formal credentials into question. Apparently, that is what matters, and not the substance of an argument. Oh wait, unless that argument supports her, and her friends predetermined narrative. One must look no further than another article on Science-Based Medicine that talks about the hydrogen tablets. The article, written by a software engineer with a knowledge of chemistry that wouldn’t fly in high school, was posted to tear down Dr. Mercola’s book on electric and magnetic fields (EMFs). Dr. Mercola and I disagree on many major areas, importantly on perceived risks from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), vaccines and the evidence regarding the dangers of EMFs and much more. I disagree with the majority of the "alt med" industry, and view vaccination and genetic modification as perhaps the two most important fields relating to human survival, meaning my position as opposed to Dr.Mercola's on these subjects could not deviate further.

However, Dr. Mercola and I also agree on several points. I know that despite our disagreements on issues we are both passionate about, I consider him a friend and appreciate his thoughts (whether I agree with them or not). I believe that these sentiments are reciprocated. Harriet Hall and her ilk do not understand the concept that calm and spirited dialogue can exist when views are in direct opposition. They do not seem to acknowledge that their adversaries can be right on some points, even when they are wrong on other critical subjects. Each position must be honestly and truthfully addressed, regardless of whom it comes from: friend or foe. The practice of deriding everything just because it came from an "enemy" is intellectually dishonest and abhorrent.

From the Software Engineer’s article on Science Based Medicine:

“The ingredients in Mercola’s tablets include: Magnesium, Dextrose, Malic Acid, L-Tartaric Acid, and Adipic Acid. What does all of this stuff do? None of the ingredients would cause a reaction that would generate a chemical reaction yielding molecular hydrogen. It would just dissolve in the water and give it a slightly tart taste. His tablets are a scam, they don’t even create molecular hydrogen, and wouldn’t provide any health benefits if they did.”

Apparently, this software engineer’s credentials aren’t an issue because he wrote a slam piece, and his serious misunderstandings of the mechanism of action of the hydrogen tablets, which he confidently wrote about, is also not an issue for the Science-Based Medicine team. Mine are, though, because, well, I disagree with them on this subject. You can’t have it both ways, guys. Either the substance of the argument is what is important, or the credentials are. Stop contradicting yourselves.

Personally, I tend to support meritocracy rather than formal credentials, so I will not linger on the fact that Harriet Hall is a retired family physician and not a scientist. I wrote about meritocracy in my call-out to the biohacking community. Harriet Hall wants to question my background in science, and in return I question hers. Dr. Harriet Hall writes using her middle initial as “Harriet A. Hall,” and a search of her researchgate turns up 4 publications. In addition, a search of Pubmed going back to 1970 turns up 3 of these 4 publications. Harriet Hall’s Wikipedia page lists other publications; however, they are not scientific articles. Of note, her 4 publications on ResearchGate are not scientific articles, but opinion pieces.

Also, of the four publications Harriet Hall has produced that I can verify, three are letters to the editor1,2,3 and not original research or scientific reviews, and one is an opinion piece on complementary and alternative medicine for cancer patients.4 Two of Harriet’s three letters to the editor were poorly received. What I mean by this is that other authors thoroughly trounced her in their rebuttals, to which she did not respond.

In her letter refuting the results of a large clinical trial investigating glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis, Harriet Hall claims the following:

“With 10 subgroups, it is likely that chance alone would produce false-positive results in one of these groups.”

Her fans would probably cheer her on for her skeptical approach, except that she didn’t bother to run a statistical analysis to confirm her “gut” feeling. Here is the response from the study author Keith Sinusas, MD:

“However, there was a statistically significant benefit in the subgroup of patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis. Of the 1,583 patients in the trial, 354 (22 percent) fell into this subgroup.1

I find that forest plots are useful in helping me visualize the effectiveness of various treatments.2 There is a set of forest plots in Figure 2 of the GAIT trial article.1 The figure shows that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin was more effective than placebo for moderate to severe osteoarthritis based on two scoring systems: the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, and the Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Clinical Trials and Osteoarthritis Research Society International. These are well-accepted clinical measures, and the differences reached statistical significance in each case.1

The rebuttal from an actual scientific researcher continued:

Dr. Hall states, “With 10 subgroups, it is likely that chance alone would produce false-positive results. However, if statistical significance is defined as a P value of .05 or less, that corresponds to a rate of one in 20 being false-positive by chance alone, not one in 10.”

Despite the evidence, Harriet did not follow scientific procedure and never retracted her error or offered an apology or a rebuttal. In another example of getting in over her head (and perhaps not caring, as her goal is possibly to criticize without contributing any deep thought or knowledge on the subject), Harriet Hall’s letter to the editor regarding more evidence being needed to recommend green tea for any health benefits, Craig Schneider, MD and Tiffany Segre, MD responded with the following:

“…Dr. Hall argues that green tea should not be recommended to patients until more data are available. If one takes this approach with all therapies meeting Strength of Recommendations Taxonomy B levels of evidence, few therapies will remain to recommend. We suggest the following approach to the available evidence, which takes into account what is known about safety and effectiveness. Weiger and colleagues1 and Cohen and colleagues2 proposed a “useful criteria for placing individual therapies along a continuum.”1 Where the evidence clearly supports effectiveness and safety, we can recommend use. Where the evidence is inconclusive but the safety profile is good, we can accept use. Wherever the evidence indicates ineffectiveness or serious risk, we should discourage use.1,2

These researchers and doctors concluded with the following logical point addressed to Harriet:

As physicians, many of our decisions will continue to be made in gray areas where we do not have conclusive evidence. For each potential therapy, available evidence should be discussed with patients, and when risk is outweighed by benefit, we can help patients make the most informed decision and monitor for safety and benefit, thus providing responsible patient-oriented care.”

Interestingly, the arguments of Dr. Segre and Dr. Schneider correspond to mine. When evidence is preliminary, promising, and yet inconclusive, but with a good safety profile, we can accept treatment use. This demonstrates that my argument to Harriet Hall and the followers of Science-Based Medicine are not new to her, or them, and are in no way “radical” or against the medical community. Harriet Hall and her ilk maintain that there is a clear definition on accepted evidence and that use should never be advertised or recommended until that threshold has been passed. Dishonestly, they take the position presuming that every individual ought to have the same values and considerations as them. This isn’t intellectual debate; it is dogmatism.

I never intended to question Harriet Hall’s credentials or contributions to science, as I feel that each argument should be judged on the merit of the argument. Ironically, once she launched the attack and I took a deep dive into her own credentials and contributions to science and academia, the findings were not beneficial for her. By the end of 2021 (with what I have in press, under review and under manuscript prep) despite having no formal background in science, I will have as many publications in peer reviewed journals to my name as Harriet Hall, despite being 40 years her junior. My publications are original research and reviews, opposed to her negatively received letters to the editor, which I contend actually take away from science, rather than contribute to it. I say this as she used dishonest tactics and lazy criticism, forcing contributing members of the scientific and academic community to respond to her. I do not believe it to be controversial in the slightest to suggest at this point my contributions to science and academia, through my own articles and collaboration, financial donations to public research teams, and technological advancements in my field, surpass her limited to non-existent contributions.

Of course, Harriet Hall does have recognizable contributions in certain areas. Her work debunking pseudoscience has been more solid than not, and the role of skeptics and “debunkers,” while not the “be-all and end-all” of intellectualism, is necessary. Harriet Hall is also an MD and was a surgeon in the Air Force. Additionally, Harriet Hall has contributed immensely to promoting skepticism in others. This is undoubtedly good for society, so long as skepticism doesn’t transform into dogmatism; however, this beneficial work does not represent contributions to science or academia.

Harriet Hall is not a scientist. I would even go as far as to suggest that due to her dogmatic beliefs, she was likely an ineffective physician, as well.

Takeaway

At the very least, Harriet Hall concludes that there is promising preliminary evidence. I’ll take that, since that’s all I have ever claimed anyways; I will also bring up that no company is doing more in this domain to drive towards improving the research and methods. She calls for more evidence, but personally attacks me, the person who has worked the hardest to obtain this evidence. This further shows our discussion is personal for her. I criticized her and apparently, she can’t take it. I’ve got news for you Harriet – if you can’t take honest criticism, adjust your positions with new evidence and admit when you have erroneously jumped to conclusions (even if only considering your personal attacks on me), you’ve chosen the wrong hobby.

In reviewing Harriet Hall’s work, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to quote her letter to the editor on the effectiveness of green tea (although, she likely won’t appreciate me using her words against her).

“Importantly, when a treatment is truly effective, studies tend to produce more convincing results as time passes and the weight of the evidence accumulates.”
- Harriet Hall

This is precisely what we are seeing with research on molecular hydrogen. Results in areas such as metabolic health are becoming more pronounced as research progresses, with trials becoming longer, larger and better controlled. According to Harriet Hall’s own logic, this trend in larger and additional studies showing positive results suggests that the use of molecular hydrogen does have favourable effects. Rather than consider her own words, Harriet Hall used the aside that the results from our metabolic syndrome study were stronger than the results shown in previous studies to cast doubt on them, not considering the fact that it was the highest dosage and longest duration utilized to date.

I’m going to finish with a relevant quote from The Editors of Scientific American (ironically, this quote is from the issue that contains a small piece written by Harriet Hall, the magazine edition titled “5 Scientific facts (that people often get wrong)).5 I think they sum up quite nicely the psychology behind Harriet’s actions:

“Psychological research has shown that being confronted with that mounting evidence can actually harden the positions of the truth deniers, so we do not pretend that the essays that follow will fix the problem. Nevertheless, we feel it is our duty to point out that some things are actually true, even in the constantly growing and evolving world of science.”

It takes no intellectual courage to default to skepticism. Moreover, it takes no hard work or careful thought. Skepticism is needed, but default skepticism to a fault is detrimental. Harriet Hall has demonstrated she is intellectually lazy at best, inept or downright dishonest at worst. There is little to lose in dismissing everything all the time. There is no need to put your ego on the line and risk being wrong. There is also nothing that can be gained in terms of accumulation of new knowledge from this approach. Harriet Hall is not a scientist; she does not think like a scientist. She is not inquisitive or particularly thoughtful. She is rigidly dismissive, arrogant and aggressive. Harriet Hall is not a beacon of intellectualism, but an enemy to it.

Here is My email chain with Harriet Hall, with Dr. Novella and Dr. Gorski cc’d:

Alex Tarnava and Hydrogen Water: I'm not your enemy

Before I get into it, I will start this email by repeating how I finished my email to you last year:



"I thank you all for the work you do, and the time you have spent reading this." 



Hi Dr. Hall,

I wanted to email you privately, rather than engage in an extended debate with your followers, most of whom are prone to falling to ad hominem attacks, straw man fallacies and reducing my points via “argumentum ad absurdum.” As seen in the comments section of this new article.

You start your article with this statement:

“Good scientists do experiments to find out “if” a treatment is effective; but a lot of poor science and pseudoscience is done by people who already “know” the treatment they are using is effective and are looking for evidence that will prove to others that they are right.”

This tacitly implies that my pursuit is to “prove” hydrogen water’s effectiveness. This position goes against the evidence, as to date, all of our clinical trials are randomized double blind placebo controlled, or at least head to head crossover design against an established treatment known to be efficacious. All research on our product has been primarily funded by the institutions conducting the study and we have played no role (to date) in trial design or decision to publish results.

In fact, I have spoken extensively on the subject regarding supporting honest research in the pursuit of truth, both in podcasts and in writing. I have detailed why I made the decision to pursue truth when I decided to market this as a supplement. Regarding marketing as a supplement, that was a decision that took considerable thought, with the strategy I developed being intended to overcome the ethical dilemma I faced in entering an industry I mostly despise.

You go on to suggest that I am at odds with SGU, SBM and skeptics in general:

“Tarnava is not content to just criticize me; he goes on to criticize the Science-Based Medicine blog, Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and skeptics in general.”

This is despite the fact that I first emailed you, starting off with the following:

“First, I want to say that I have followed all of you for years and generally appreciate the work you all do. I share many of your concerns with the supplement industry, and in fact cite Scott Gavura's article on supplement regulation in Canada within a 2 part series I wrote about regulations in the US and Canadian systems, touching on the failures in both and where some strengths lie.”

Additionally, while I have criticized some positions of mainstream skeptics, I have spent far more time criticizing the Alt Med side. If I had to put a number on it, I would say I agree with the positions of mainstream skeptics, such as within SGU and SBM, roughly 75% of the time. Conversely, I likely strongly disagree with some of the more prominent Alt Med positions 75% of the time. To say I am at odds with skeptics is preposterous. I recently wrote ~15-20,000 words on critical and analytical thinking regarding health science and communication. I spend double the time criticizing the alt med positions. (the first article is a bit fluffier)

https://drinkhrw.com/blogs/news/critical-analytical-thought-takes-work

https://drinkhrw.com/blogs/news/strategies-to-improve-your-ability-to-seek-the-truth

https://drinkhrw.com/blogs/news/the-problem-with-mainstream-health-skeptics

https://drinkhrw.com/blogs/news/alt-med-skeptics-some-reasonable-positions-many-ludicrous-solutions


https://drinkhrw.com/blogs/news/alt-med-skeptics-part-2

https://drinkhrw.com/blogs/news/part-6-the-danger-with-default-skepticism

Are you meaning to suggest because I criticize individual positions some skeptics take, I am against skeptics? That position is wholly incompatible. No positions are above reproach, no individual or entity is above criticism. Is this hubris, intellectual dishonesty, or simply laziness? If it is not the latter, how are you so arrogant to believe that the positions your group take will be right, always? Shouldn’t a true skeptic embrace peer attacks? That is, after all, how science and truth move forward.

Are you familiar with the term ultra crepidarian? This article written by one of your contributors, Braden Macbeth, embodies this. His comments regarding the hydrogen tablets demonstrate he does not have even a high school level understanding of the chemistry. Was this article scientifically reviewed? Did it simply go up as it fit the tone and narrative your team wanted? This is precisely why criticism and skepticism needs to be dosed liberally, especially against those you tend to agree with.

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/quack-book-reviews-emfd/

“The ingredients in Mercola’s tablets include: Magnesium, Dextrose, Malic Acid, L-Tartaric Acid, and Adipic Acid. What does all of this stuff do? None of the ingredients would cause a reaction that would generate a chemical reaction yielding molecular hydrogen. It would just dissolve in the water and give it a slightly tart taste. His tablets are a scam, they don’t even create molecular hydrogen, and wouldn’t provide any health benefits if they did.”

You then go on to appeal to the credentials fallacy in stating I have no medical or scientific background. How about attacking the arguments and not the credentials? Is the former easier? It’s true that I have no formal education on the subject; that has not stopped me from writing a book chapter for Elsevier USA, by invitation (and through peer review), or being a contributing author on several studies under peer review or manuscript prep (preclinical research). These are studies, again, primarily funded by the institutions and their grant dollars, in which I was asked to participate due to my knowledge on the subject. One of the projects involves a top 10 ranked school (located in the USA). This does not mean that I believe myself to be an expert. I simply have significant knowledge on a specific set of subjects, driven by my own self learning for many years. I do not pretend to be a doctor; I do not give out medical advice. I refuse to give out medical advice numerous times a day, in fact, as doing so would be dishonest. Just as I am not a MD, most MDs are not scientists.

Again, if you had known anything about me, you would know I have sought out to work with experts across numerous fields, utilizing an approach I modified from an idea I learned from Ray Kurzweil. I have tasked myself with a general understanding of each field, and then acted to bridge communication gaps through various teams of specialized experts, and research teams, to help progress knowledge. I am not cock-sure in my own beliefs, I have excessive doubt about my positions and knowledge base, which is why I seek to continue learning and discussing with specialized experts. This networking and pursuit of knowledge is why there are now 12 different research teams using my product in their study designs, all of which that extensively discuss their goals, seeking advice and feedback, prior to the research beginning.

I’m not sure why you chose the studies you talked about. I have never spoken about RA and find it odd that two promising studies emerged and then no replication work was done. It’s important to note the relatively high dose of the water in this research. Interestingly, we have a study under peer review (submitted to a very high IF Q1 journal) in which HRW tended to be more effective than sulfasalazine in treating DSS induced ulcerative colitis (in mice). The combination was significant beyond either HRW or sulfasalazine. You are likely aware that there are some connections between RA and colitis, and that sulfasalazine is an approved medication for both. As for the Korean study, exactly what markers would you want them to look for in healthy, relatively young, participants? That is the big catch 22. Studies on an unhealthy population cannot be shown to work for those who are healthy, and with healthy people, there isn’t really anything to look for aside from early trends correlated or known to cause future issues.

For another study using our tablets on young, healthy individuals, here is an n=23 crossover design comparing HRW to caffeine after 24hrs of sleep deprivation in young, healthy individuals.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11062-020-09852-7

We have a replicative study that is more controlled and ambitious taking place in November in which brain metabolism will be measured on top of the ANT score, with more groups (caff/placebo, hrw/placebo, placebo/placebo, hrw/caff)

Regarding the metabolic syndrome study using our tablets. Yes, it is consistent with the animal research, but much greater observed benefits than in the previous human studies on metabolic issues. A critical take away is relative dosing conversions from the rodent research to human research. Much of the early human research has utilized a comparative dose which amounts to a fraction of what was seen as beneficial for mice. In this met syn study using our high dose tablets, the intake was 12-24x higher per day than in the previous research, and the trial length was longer. Participants were given a higher dose, for longer. It is not surprising that stronger benefits were seen. In fact, in the other metabolic research, higher dose/longer duration has trended to see more prominent results, even in replicative studies where the higher dose/longer duration was properly randomized, placebo controlled and double blinded, whereas the lower dose/shorter durations were of an open label design. We do have replicative studies underway (double blind placebo controlled) for our NAFLD study, and an elderly study which is incorporating metabolic profiles (amongst many other markers)

We have 15 more clinical trials underway at various stages (and a few more in early talks), only one of which is primarily funded by my company. Many of the studies, particularly from some US based institutions, did not want to accept any sort of donations for the research as they were already adequately funded. All of these are randomized, double blind and placebo controlled. More research will mean larger studies, which is how science progresses. No grant committee, ethics committee, or PI in their right mind would proceed with a phase III type trial before adequate smaller trials had shown beneficial effects.

I do appreciate your takeaway that early research is promising and agree that more research is needed. Based on the very high safety profile, the fact we deliver free magnesium ions in the water (and a majority of North Americans are deficient), and the early and promising evidence, we feel it is more than ethical to sell, particularly since we are continuing research at the greatest speed we are able (based solely on public teams attention to the subject. We are quite hesitant of private research through CROs that allow us to stack a study in our favour and throw away the results if we don’t like them. It’s unethical, and the temptation is something I don’t want to position myself or my company to have to fight off)

I am always open to discussing any topics, from the science on molecular hydrogen, to skepticism in general. I am also always open to dialogue and answering questions and concerns of yours.

One day you may not view me as an enemy, and start to see that I am pursuing truth. One project may interest you… I have fully and personally funded a not for profit that is set to launch, that will

  1. Teach basic scientific controls to consumers

  2. provide templates for controlled self experimentation on safe and popular interventions, from devices to diets to supplements (no branding allowed)

  3. Record all data for users and researchers to review, in which it can be shown that controlled self administered case studies (each case study will be given a weighted score based on controls taken and compliance, which will be measured by updates to their profile) This way users can see that virtually no one sees a benefit in x therapy for x end point, or significant users find this side effect of this intervention, or users find that z works for another end point.. All of which can be utilized by research teams to investigate what may work, or by health authorities to find what may be causing harm.

We will be selling placebo pills, also, to help people blind… and all profits will go to issuing grants to private researchers looking to study the subjects seeing potential benefits. We will also allow users to privately upload genetic analysis, so researchers can start looking into genetic factors for various interventions.

myjourney.science

Let me remind you that your rebuttal said "her friends at Science Based Medicine (SBM) published the story and reshared on their Skeptics Guide to the Universe Facebook page, trusting her article and not bothering to research and fact check it at all themselves."

And that nothing you have written suggests that you are sincerely asking "if" your product works. Your data dump of human studies is a blatant effort to show "that" it works.

I won't respond to your other comments. They suggest to me that you have not understood why I fail to find your evidence convincing.

Get back to me when you have compelling evidence from large human studies that have been replicated by different researchers for the same condition.

Harriet Hall, MD

My concern is your serious lack of intellectual integrity. You position yourself as an authority on skepticism and critical thinking yet seem to take offence when it is directed back at you. Many skeptic groups (the ones mentioned included) teach logical fallacies, yet you build your arguments using many of them. Why? Have you abandoned truth and integrity? The end justifies the means in the war on pseudoscience, damned with ethics?

Your friends at SBM and SGU publish yours (and others, which I’ve cited) articles and seemingly have not fact checked them.

Skepticism and criticism need to be applied MORE generously against those we tend to agree with, not less, to avoid confirmation bias and descent into echo chambers. I think there is no greater pursuit than the truth. I do not believe that is your current pursuit. Have you lost your way, slowly beaten down by the millions who seek to deceive and undermine?

The entire scientific pursuit we (more accurate to say “I”, as my shareholders are typically not as enthusiastic as I am, fortunately I have controlling shares) are undertaking is to ask the question ‘IF’ it works. There is little to no incentive to pursue clinical (and especially preclinical) research beyond one or two fluff studies, as a supplement. The fact I am continuing to pursue it in the manner I am should clearly demonstrate a pursuit of truth. Or have you forgotten that no evidence with extreme, or even vague non claims, is far more powerful in selling to consumers than evidence? That a single celebrity endorsement is typically worth more for product sales and visibility than the advice of all health experts in the world? With the amount I’ve donated to public researchers, there are few celebrities on the planet I couldn’t have gained endorsement from. With the budget I have to donate to public research over the next few years, this becomes certainty. How do you reconcile this? I suspect you don’t want to, as it would force you to question your predetermined narrative.

I am not trying to demonstrate that the evidence is convincing for your arbitrary standards. Yes, arbitrary, as each individual can make up their own mind on acceptable evidence, especially in the absence of any known deleterious consequences.

I am providing this evidence “dump” to show that you seriously miscalculated the amount of evidence to date (which is still insufficient for you, I understand that), and that you have seriously misinterpreted, or intentionally misrepresented, who I am, what my goals are, etc.

You’ve done this while employing serious logical and argumentative fallacies.

You’re looked up to as a respected authority. Act like one.

Harriet Hall’s Non-Answers

In this email chain, it is shown that Harriet Hall does not address issues of her own intellectual dishonesty, as well as errors in Science-Based Medicine articles, or attempt to engage in any type of pursuit. Again, she simply sets the goal posts where she wants them, regarding a single point, and deflects the rest. She says that my answers show I do not understand why she doesn’t find the evidence convincing, yet the majority of my points are regarding her intellectual dishonesty. I understand her perspective on what quantifies acceptable evidence and disagree with it. My issue with her is the tactics she employs, which she cannot refute or contend, so she simply chooses not to acknowledge my arguments.

Harriet Hall and the team from Science-Based Medicine, if you’re reading this, “Do Better” or stop what you’re doing before you further erode your credibility and reputation. Stop resting on your laurels.

1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23198661/

2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20590063/

3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21440190/

4 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/1743291X12Y.0000000009?journalCode=yppc20

5 https://www.scientificamerican.com/magazine/sa/2016/11-01/


11 comments

  • Karan

    I have tremendously benefited from taking HRW tablets! Two surgeries at the age of 16 to remove cartilage in my knee, I have been bone on bone now for close to 30 years and had a major snowmobile accident about 20 years back which affected my legs.
    I grew up playing many sports and till to this day still enjoy doing so. Thanks to HRW I have been able to play sports again with minimal pain and very fast recovery and much more. I know for a fact that is due to HRW tablets alone as I have not made any lifestyle changes.
    Alex, thank you for changing my life! I support you and wish you continued success!
    I do and will absolutely stand behind your company!


  • Denise Erickson

    Full disclosure, I am the furthest from a scientist as you can get. I had never heard of Dr Harriet Hall but I have since done some reading. I can’t believe some of the quotes and opinions that are attributed to this doctor. I agree, skepticism is healthy, and in this day and age, we need it more than ever. But, some of her statements on a number of subjects are highly disturbing and irresponsible, in my opinion. I appreciate Drink HRW’s continuing scientific approach and look forward to more results. I was very young (early 20’s) when osteoarthritis set in after several injuries. This resulted in a lifetime of pain and a much restricted lifestyle. I eventually received a full knee replacement at 53, which, along with using HRW for a number of years, has allowed me to regain a new outlook on life and to be able to live a very active lifestyle!


  • Tim

    Looks like Harriet Hall picked a fight with the wrong skeptic! Alex, you’re my hero for publishing this blisteringly diligent but much deserved takedown. Harriet Hall’s know-it-all attitude and approach is symptomatic of our society’s current ills. Everyone thinks they know everything, when in reality no one, including these armchair pundits, know much at all. But in claiming they already know, they squash any meaningful exploration in learning anything new. That’s quite the opposite approach of you and every good scientist that’s ever lived. (and yes, at this point you ARE a scientist, Alex! I’m calling it! :-)) You hypothesize and seek to find out because you admit that you don’t know and you want to know. Harriet and her arrogant friends should meditate on a simple 3-word mantra: I don’t know. The world would be a better place if they did.


  • Kristen

    I have been taking HRW daily for 4 years. Although I believe there to be many health benefits associated, I originally started using them to help ease my aches and pains from previous bone injuries, which they most certainly did and do! I whole heartedly stand behind these tablets as well as the company! I will continue to use them while recommending to family and friends!


  • Ian BlairHamilton

    The skeptic, ultimately, becomes the opposition to themselves. By taking the position of expert in skepticism, one builds one’s own communicoffin, climbs in, and allows the lid to be closed.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published