Respectful Insolence

Ancient cancer

As I sat on my couch last night, laptop sitting in front of me, I awaited the Ken Burns adaptation of Siddartha Mukherjee’s excellent book The Emperor of All Maladies into a three part television documentary to air on PBS. I’m not sure whether I’ll blog the show or not, but if I do I’ll…

As I write this, I’m kind of beat. The reason for this is simple. Traveling sucks the energy out of me, and I just got back from almost four days in Houston for the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) meeting. Yes, I was a mere dozen (at most) miles from that Heart of Darkness known…

Homeopathy is quackery. It can’t be repeated often enough. Homeopathy is The One Quackery To Rule Them All. It is based on prescientific vitalism and principles so addled that one must wonder whether Samuel Hahnemann, the guy who dreamt up this medical system, was a fan of excess alcohol use, opium, marijuana, or some unholy…

I happen to be in Houston right now attending the Society of Surgical Oncology annual meeting. Sadly, I’m only about 12 miles away from the lair of everybody’s favorite faux clinical researcher and purveyor of a cancer cure that isn’t, Stanislaw Burzynski. Such is life. In any case, this conference is all about cancer and…

It’s been a while since I discussed medical marijuana, even though it’s a topic I’ve been meaning to come back to since I first dubbed medical marijuana to be the equivalent of herbalism and discussed how the potential of cannabinoids to treat cancer has been, thus far, unimpressive, with relatively modest antitumor effects. The reason…

Two things have reminded me that it’s been a while since I’ve written about Stanislaw Burzynski, nearly five months, to be precise. First, on Wednesday evening I’ll be heading to the city where Burzynski preys on unsuspecting cancer patients, Houston, TX, to attend this year’s Society of Surgical Oncology meeting to imbibe the latest research…

There are some antivaccine lies that just never die. Well, actually, most of them are very much like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger in that, just when you think you’ve killed them at the end of the latest confrontation, they always come back. Always. As an example of this, let’s go back four…

Yesterday, I laid a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence on a hapless—not to mention clueless—tech writer who for some reason wrote an article for the New York Times Styles section. The writer, Nick Bilton, surely deserved it. His article served up a massive pile of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about radiation from cell phones…

The New York Times Styles Section giveth. The New York Times Styles Section taketh away. Last week, The NYT Styles Section published an excellent deconstruction of the pseudoscientific activities of Vani Hari, a.k.a. The Food Babe, by Courtney Rubin. Although skeptics might think that it was a tad too “balanced” (as did I), by and…

After a busy and late day yesterday, I didn’t have any gas left in the tank, if you know what I mean, to produce Insolence as epic as my posts about The Food Babe and cries of antivaccine activists of “Help, help! I’m being repressed!” Or maybe I should say that Orac’s power supply is…

To put it mildly, I’m not a big fan of Vani Hari, who has achieved Internet notoriety as a highly misguided “food activist” better known as The Food Babe. As The Food Babe, Hari has improbably become a minor celebrity by attacking food companies over various ingredients their products and, unfortunately, seems poised for more.…

I’ve been writing a lot of posts on what I like to call the “antivaccine dogwhistle.” In politics, a “dog whistle” refers to rhetoric that sounds to the average person to be reasonable and even admirable but, like the way that a dog whistle can’t be heard by humans because the frequency of its tone…

Naturopathy is 80% quackery, 19% science-based modalities like diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes rebranded and infused with woo, and maybe 1% valid medicine. Yes, I know I’m probably being generous given that naturopathy is based on a vitalistic, prescientific worldview and originated in the 19th century German “natural living” movement, but I’m in a generous…

How quickly things change. If there’s one thing I always feel obligated to warn my fellow pro-science advocates about vaccines and the antivaccine movement, it’s that we can never rest on our laurels or assume that the tide is turning in our direction. The reason is simple: Antivaccinationism is a powerful belief system, every bit…

Anyone who’s read this blog knows my opinion of Mike Adams, the proprietor of the quack website known as NaturalNews.com. It is not favorable, to put it mildly. All you have to do to realize that is to type his name into the search box of this blog and see what comes up: Anger at…

The human mind is amazing in its ability to compartmentalize. Many are the times when I’ve come across people who seem reasonable in every other way but who cling tightly to one form of pseudoscience or another. On the other hand, as I’ve noticed time and time again, people whose minds have a proclivity for…

Quite to my surprise, apparently I’ve become fairly well known as a critic of so-called “integrative medicine,” that which used to be called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) but whose name was changed because its practitioners didn’t want to be “complementary” to anything. Rather they wanted their woo to be co-equal with science-based medicine (SBM).…

“I don’t want knowledge. I want certainty!” –David Bowie, from Law (Earthlings on Fire) I know I’ve already said this once, but I have to say it again, but it’s been a rather stressful week on the old blog, but I hadn’t planned on writing about this particular topic again (although I will say that…

One of the things I’ve noticed over the last decade of covering pseudoscience and quackery from a skeptical point of view is that no pseudoscientific trope ever really dies. This is particularly true of antivaccine tropes. No matter how many times this piece or that of antivaccine misinformation is slapped down, sooner or later it…

Alternative oncology versus oncology

I hadn’t planned on discussing the death of Jess Ainscough again, figuring two posts in a row were enough for now, barring new information. Besides, I was getting a little tired of the seemingly unending stream of her fans castigating me for being “insensitive” and saying it was “too soon” to discuss her death and…

The last couple of days have been unrelentingly serious and depressing, with posts on the (probably) preventable death of a young Australian woman named Jess Ainscough of a rare cancer because she made the mistake of choosing the quackery that is the Gerson protocol rather than conventional medicine. Unfortunately, the “natural health community” will almost…

It’s been a rather…interesting…weekend. Friday, I noted the death of Jess Ainscough, a.k.a. “The Wellness Warrior,” a young Australian woman who was unfortunate enough to develop epithelioid sarcoma, a rare cancer, at the age of 22. I’ve been blogging about her because after her doctors tried isolated limb perfusion with chemotherapy in an attempt to…

Two months ago, I took note of a somewhat cryptic blog post by a young woman named Jess Ainscough. In Australia and much of the world, Ainscough was known as the Wellness Warrior. She was a young woman who developed an epithelioid sarcoma in 2008 and ended up choosing “natural healing” to treat her cancer.…

Poor Andy Wakefield. Beginning in the late 1990s until around six years ago, Andy was the premiere “vaccine skeptic” in the world. His 1998 case series published in The Lancet linking bowel problems in autistic children to the measles vaccine, the one where in the paper itself he was careful not to blame the MMR…

Every so often, it’s good to post some heartening news regarding quackery. After all, after a decade of blogging about this, preceded by five years in the trenches of Usenet battling quackery and Holocaust denial, sometimes it’s hard for me not to become depressed. After all, there are times when it really does feel as…