Respectful Insolence

Archives for January, 2012

One of the most common retorts that antivaccine activists like to make, usually in the most wounded, self-righteous tone with the most wounded, disgusted expression on their faces that they can manage, is that they are “not antivaccine but rather pro-safe vaccine.” There may be a tiny minority of antivaccinationists who really are “pro-safe vaccine,”…

It’s rare that I have much in the way of reluctance to leap into writing about a topic. Any regular reader of this blog should know this to be true, given the topics I regularly take on and how often my writing draws flak my way from various proponents of quackery and pseudoscience, in particular…

In the more than a decade since I first discovered, to my shock, that there are actual people out there who not only don’t believe that vaccines are safe despite overwhelming evidence that they are but in fact believe that they don’t work and are dangerous, I thought I had seen every antivaccine argument out…

It’s been nearly a year since I last discussed a most unusual malady. Part of the reason is that the opportunity to discuss it hasn’t occurred recently; usually I need some spark or incident to “inspire” me to write about something, and there just hasn’t been any Morgellons news that’s caught my eye since then.…

$#*! skeptics say

Ha! I must admit, I’ve said probably about 50% of these things at one time or another, maybe more: Hmmmm. Maybe I need to come up with new “shit.” Oh, and, by the way, I’ve been mentioned on PZ’s blog more times than I can remember over the last seven years. So there! (Oh, wait.…

If there’s one thing about homeopaths, it’s that they’re indefatigable in their dedication to their unique brand of pseudoscience. They’re also endlessly protean in their ability to induce their explanations for how homeopathy is supposed to “work” to evolve into endless forms not so beautiful. If it’s not the claim that “like cures like” is…

I’ve been an observer and student of the antivaccine movement for nearly a decade now, although my intensive education began almost seven years ago, in early 2005, not long after I started blogging. It was then that I first encountered several “luminaries” of the antivaccine movement both throughout the blogosphere and sometimes even commenting on…

I was disturbed several months ago when I learned that the director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, had agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Eight International Society for Integrative Oncology Conference in Cleveland, OH. I say “doubly” disturbed because it disturbed me that Francis Collins would agree to speak at…

More trouble for Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski

It’s a new year, but some topics remain the same. One of these is the case of the highly dubious cancer doctor named Stanislaw Burzynski who claims to have discovered anticancer compounds in the blood known as antineoplastons, conducts “clinical trials” for which he charges patients and whose results he are largely unpublished, and of…

A black hole of antivaccine misinformation

Every so often, I come across a bit of antivaccine idiocy that’s so amazingly idiotic, such a–shall we say?–target-rich environment that it’s catnip to a cat. I just can’t resist it, even when there are other topics and subjects out there that have backed up over the last few days and I want to cover.…

One of my complaints about academic medicine is that, all too often, its practitioners seem unwilling to take risks to combat the misinformation and lies of the antivaccine movement. So kudos are indicated for Dr. Claire McCarthy at Children’s Hospital Boston for her blog post Unencumbered by facts: what upsets me most about the anti-vaccine…

I had been planning on either discussing a study or analyzing another cancer cure testimonial, but things have been (mostly) too serious around the ol’ blog the last few days. What with depressing posts about the return of whooping cough thanks to antivaccine idiocy, more evidence that Andrew Wakefield is a despicable human being, and…

Does thinking make it so?

Last week, I wrote about how advocates of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or “integtrative medicine” (IM), having failed to demonstrate efficacy for the vast majority of the unscientific, anti-scientific, and/or pseudosciencitific treatment modalities, many based on prescientific concepts of how human physiology and disease work, have started trying to co-opt placebo effects as their…

Whooping cough returns in Michigan

The other day, I noted a contrast between certain parts of the developed world (namely, Europe) where, thanks to fears of the MMR vaccine stoked by Andrew Wakefield and the credulous and sensationalistic British press, MMR uptake rates have fallen and, predictably, measles incidence has skyrocketed, and the rest of the world, where polio is…

In deciding to sue Brian Deer, Fiona Godlee, and the BMJ for Brian Deer’s BMJ article about his scientific fraud a year ago, Andrew Wakefield was clearly grabbing for publicity, seeking to fire up his supporters (which he’s largely succeeded in doing), and trying to make himself relevent again after the allegations published in the…

A one trick pony does his one trick

It’s funny, but it’s only been one week since I expressed extreme skepticism that that wretched hive of scum and quackery, The Huffington Post, had reformed itself. The reason, of course, was that HuffPo had announced that it was starting a science section. Even though on the surface it seemed that HuffPo was making the…

Naturopaths vs. “stayin’ alive”

For all the good things about my life there are, there is one bad thing, and that was that I was born so that I reached high school age right at the height of the disco era. At least, that’s the way I viewed it at the time because at the time, like many teenaged…

When I wrote last week about the latest legal thuggery against an opponent of antivaccine pseudoscience, this time by hero of the antivaccine movement, who sued investigative reporter Brian Deer for defamation, there was one thing about the case that confused me, one aspect that didn’t add up to me. Part of it was why…

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years looking at cranks, examining crank science (i.e., pseudoscience), and trying to figure out how to inoculate people against crankery. Because I’m a physician, I tend to do it mostly in the realm of medicine by critically examining “alternative” medical claims and discussing the scientific basis of…

Will it never end? First we had “America’s Doctor,” Dr. Mehmet Oz, credulously featuring psychic medium scammer John Edward on his show last year. Sadly, but typically, Dr. Oz was completely taken in by Edward’s cold readings, even the most transparent ones. Even if his previous shows featuring Joe Mercola and a faith healer weren’t…

CAM, placebos, and the new paternalism

Three and a half years ago, I bought a new car. The reason why I mention this as a means of beginning this post is because that car had something I had never had in a car before, namely Sirius XM satellite radio preinstalled. Curious, I subscribed, and I now barely listen to regular radio…

It’s no secret that I’ve been highly critical of The Huffington Post, at least of its approach to science and medicine. In fact, it was a mere three weeks after Arianna Huffington launched her blog back in 2005 that I noticed something very distressing about it, namely that it had recruited someone who would later…

I realize I’ve already written two posts about Andrew Wakefield suing investigative journalist Brian Deer, the first one pointing out how it’s just another example of cranks trying to silence criticism not through producing good science to defend their views but rather through abusing legal process and starting frivolous libel suits, the second one pointing…

The plot thickens. Earlier, I discussed how disgraced, struck-off anti-vaccine physician Dr. Andrew Wakefield, deciding that being humiliated once by the courts in a libel action wasn’t enough, has apparently decided to have another bite at the apple. Given that he was so thoroughly humiliated in the notoriously plaintiff-friendly (for libel cases, at least) British…

If there’s one thing that a crank, quack, pseudoscientist, or anti-vaccine propagandist doesn’t like, it’s having the light of day shined upon his activities. In fact, so much do they hate it that they have a distressing tendency to respond to science-based criticism not with science-based rebuttals (mainly because they can’t given that they don’t…