Respectful Insolence

Archives for May, 2008

Hitler pans the Torchwood season finale

Ever since it appeared as an “adult” spinoff of Doctor Who, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Torchwood. The first season was about as uneven as anything I’ve ever seen, ranging from a truly execrable (and, even worse, unforgivably stupidly and badly written) “homage” to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Countrycide) that ranks among the worst…

In a couple of hours, I’ll be en route to my favorite city in the world, a place where, although I lived there for but a brief three years, I felt completely at home. Chicago, baby! Yes, I’m on the way to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago. While there, I’ll…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years of doing this little feature, it’s that there are a couple of kinds of woo. Actually, there are certainly more than a couple, but pretty much all woo can be divided into a couple of types. The first time is where the woo…

The real appeal to ancient wisdom

As many who take an interest in this subject know, one of the most common arguments that advocates of various medical woo often make is the appeal to ancient wisdom. They seem to think that if a treatment is old (homeopathy, acupuncture, various “energy healing” methods), there must be something to it because otherwise it…

Sometimes I wonder if subjecting myself to all this woo is going to my head. Why do I worry that this might be the case? Recently, I made the mistake of getting involved in an e-mail exchange with a prominent antivaccinationist. Perhaps it was my eternal optimism that led me to do this, my inability…

I sometimes wonder if the world is laughing at me. Let me explain. A while ago I compiled a list of academic medical institutions that–shall we say?–are far more receptive to pseudoscientific and downright unscientific medicine in the form of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), otherwise known as “integrative medicine.” I dubbed this list…

Expelled! from AutismOne

If there’s one thing that quacks and cranks share in common, it’s that they do not like scrutiny, particularly by people with some scientific knowledge. Indeed, when confronted with scientists or educated lay people who can challenge their crankery, it’s amazing how they react the same way almost every time; they try to silence or–if…

As a physician and scientists who’s dedicated his life to the application of science to the development of better medical treatments, I’ve often wondered how formerly admired scientists and physicians degenerate into out-and-out cranks. I’m talking about people like Peter Duesberg, who was once an admired scientist thought to be on track for a Nobel…

Memorial Day 2008

Today is once again Memorial Day. On this day in the past I have posted photo montages of, for example, the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC and link roundups, as I did last year. This year, I thought I’d simply post a link to a list maintained by the Department of Veteran Affairs…

I figured it was coming, although I didn’t think it would come this far before David Kirby’s impending visit to the U.K., but I guess that’s the fruit of his being invited by a woo-loving Lord to give a briefing at Parliament. This time it comes in the form of an article in the Daily…

You know, I keep trying to get away from this topic for a while. But, as Michael Corleone said in The Godfather, Part III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” I suppose it is unfortunately a measure of the success that antivaccinationists have been having with their public relations…

Epi Wonk versus the Geiers, part II

Epi Wonk has completed part II of her deconstruction of the latest abuse of epidemiology and statistics by those pseudoscientists for the mercury militia, Mark and David Geier. (I commented on part I here): Pretty steep slopes and, therefore, apparently strong associations. But there’s no attempt to control for, or adjust for, the confounding effect…

Damn Steve Novella. Well, not really, but I always get annoyed when someone comes up with an analogy or description of a phenomenon that I should have thought of first. I don’t really get annoyed at the person who came up with such ideas, but rather at myself for not thinking of something so obvious…

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States. For those of us lucky enough not to be on call, working retail, or otherwise being forced to go to work, it means three days away from work. Although I’ll be working a bit on various protocols and papers, it nonetheless means three days away from the…

My British readers, say it ain’t so! Hot on the heels of learning that, bankrolled by antivaccinationists, David Kirby is planning a trip to the U.K. in early June, I find out something even more disturbing. A reader forwarded this press release to me:

I like my Folder of Woo. Besides providing me endless fodder for this little weekly feature, my Folder of Woo also provides me nearly endless amusement. Sometimes, I’ll just peruse it, looking at woo old and new, woo that’s been featured in this little weekly exercise in diving into the belly of the beast, woo…

There’s a new blog in town that I’ve been meaning to pimp. It’s a blog by a retired epidemiologist who got things started looking at the role of diagnostic substitution in autism diagnoses and argued that the autism “epidemic” is an artifact of changing diagnostic criteria. The blog is Epi Wonk, and it’s a good…

You know, after over three years of existence and nearly two years that I’ve been entrusted with the responsibility of organizing it, I thought I had seen pretty much every possible permutation of how the Skeptics’ Circle could be hosted. We’ve had cartoons, soda machines, stories, raucous meetings in pubs, and a whole bunch of…

Rudolf Hess stamps? In Germany? D’oh!

Here’s how not to allow personalized stamps to be produced: BERLIN – German neo-Nazis used a personalized stamp service offered by Deutsche Post to create a 55-cent stamp carrying a portrait of Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess, the company said Wednesday. The latest newsletter of the far-right National Democratic Party gloated about being able to slip…

“Early detection of cancer saves lives.” How many times have you heard this statement or something resembling it? It’s a common assumption (indeed, a seemingly common sense assumption) that detecting cancer early is always a Very Good Thing. Why wouldn’t it be, after all? For many cancers, such as breast cancer and colon cancer, there’s…

ERV asks: What happens when a PI dies?

ERV asks: What happens when a PI holding an NIH grant dies, given that PIs support post-docs, graduate students, and technicians in his or her lab? In other words: Or what would happen to me if Bossman got hit by a bus or got brain cancer. Does the NIH have some sort of protocol for…

A couple of weeks ago, I linked to an amazingly ignorant antivaccination screed published in the Winona Daily News. In the comments, I was made aware of another antivaccination screed in the form of a letter to the editor to the Winona Post. (Unfortunately, I am unable to locate it online.) Now, today, I find…

I hate it when I fall behind in my journal reading. Of course, it happens all the time, as you might expect, with my time sandwiched between running my lab, writing grants, seeing patients, and operating. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to try to catch up a bit. Such was the case the other…

I’ve written a lot about the legal thuggery perpetrated against autism blogger Kathleen Seidel by an unethical lawyer named Clifford Shoemaker, who issued a subpoena against her based on dubious conspiratorial thinking about her supposedly being a shill for big pharma. Shoemaker, in case you didn’t know, is a lawyer who represents litigants suing vaccine…