Respectful Insolence

Archives for September, 2012

From time to time, I tussle with various animal rights activists online. Over the summer, unfortunately the radical animal rights types, those who think that, at the very least, vandalism is perfectly acceptable in the name of their cause, some of whom think that action up to and including murder of scientists could potentially be…

Every so often, I think it’s worthwhile to try to use my powers (such as they are) for good. Actually, I like to think that I’m using my powers for good each and every day, but obviously there are some who disagree. In general, these people are cranks. We’re talking quacks, pseudoscientists, antivaccinationists, and various…

Our pharma overlords will be displeased…

There’s an oft-quoted saying that’s become a bit of a cliché among skeptics that goes something like this: There are two kinds of medicine: medicine that’s been proven scientifically to work, and medicine that hasn’t. This is then often followed up with a rhetorical question and its answer: What do call “alternative medicine” that’s been…

“Forced” to be an antivaccinationist?

Every so often there are articles or posts about which I want to blog that, for whatever reason, I don’t get around to. I’ve alluded before to my observation that blogging tends to be a “feast or famine” sort of activity. Sometimes, there isn’t a lot going on, and, if there’s one thing I’ve failed…

Ideologically motivated bad science, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies irritate me. In fact, arguably, they are the very reason I started this blog. True, over time my focus has narrowed. I used to write a lot more about creationism, more general skeptical topics, Holocaust denial, 9/11 Trutherism, and the like, but these days I rarely write…

It’s feast or famine in the ol’ blogging world, and right now it’s such a feast that I can’t decide what to blog about. For instance, there are at least two studies and a letter that I wouldn’t mind blogging about just in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine alone. Then…

I was out late last night for a function related to my work. As a result, by the time I got home I was too tired to blog. (I know, I know, how can a Tarial-cell powered megacomputer ever get tired?) However, I did have enough time this morning before work to act on a…

Fear and loathing and vaccines

As hard as it is for me to believe when I look back at it, I’ve been writing about the antivaccine movement now for more than seven years here on this blog and combatting it online for at least a decade now. I like to think that over the years my response has evolved somewhat.…

Homeopathy is what I like to call The One Quackery To Rule Them All. Depending upon my mood, I’ll use more or less of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous poem about the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings, but the point is usually made. Homeopathy is major quackery. And it is, too. On the off…

Overselling preclinical results

As part of my ongoing effort to make sure that I never run out of blogging material, I subscribe to a number of quack e-mail newsletters. In fact, sometimes I think I’ve probably overdone it. Every day, I get several notices and pleas from various wretched hives of scum and quackery, such as NaturalNews.com, Mercola.com,…

A crank attacks the Human Genome Project

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the most massive scientific undertakings in recent years and, from a basic science and technology development standpoint, one of the most productive. The data gained formed the basis of the genomic revolution. And “revolution” is the right word. A mere 12 years after the human genome sequence…

In common colloquial usage, there is a term known as “gaydar.” Basically, it’s the ability some people claim to have that allows them to identify people who are gay. Whether gaydar actually exists or not, I don’t know, but I claim to have an ability that’s similar. That ability is the ability to sniff out…

I sense a disturbance in the skeptical blogosphere. It is something that I half-expected, but, even so, it nonetheless somewhat surprised me when it arrived in the form of comments on my blog and e-mails from readers, fellow supporters of science-based medicine, and others asking me what I thought. In a way, it makes me…

One of the overarching issues, if not the overarching issue that makes so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM)—or, as it’s now more commonly called, “integrative medicine”—so problematic is prior plausibility. It’s also one of the most difficult to explain to the lay public, because to someone not trained in science it can sound like not…

More data on why people reject science

Although I focus mostly on medical topics, such as vaccines, alternative medicine, and cancer quackery, I don’t limit myself to such topics. True, I used to write a lot more about evolution and creationism, the paranormal, and other standard skeptical topics, but over the last couple of years I’ve realized where my strength is and…

Andrew Wakefield appeals?

On the antivaccine front, this year began with antivaccine hero Andrew Wakefield filing suit against investigative reporter Brian Deer, the BMJ, and Fiona Godlee (the editor of BMJ) for libel based on a series that Deer published in the BMJ outlining the evidence for Wakefield’s scientific fraud in his (in)famous 1998 Lancet case series. This…

Believe it or not, after nearly eight years blogging and around five years before that cutting my skeptical teeth on that vast and wild (and now mostly deserted and fallow) wilderness that was Usenet, I have occasionally wondered whether what I’m doing is worthwhile. Sometime around 1998, after I first discovered Holocaust denial on Usenet,…

If only… (Or, no science for you!)

I must admit, there are times when I see something that someone else has written and, in a fit of intense envy, wish very much that I had written it. This is just such a time, and Tony Ballantyne has written just such a piece. Even better, his piece, entitled If only…, was published in…

The real way to prevent cancer

Long, long ago, seemingly in a galaxy far, far away, I first encountered quackery on the Internet. Because I am a cancer surgeon, naturally I gravitated towards cancer quackery at first. Believe it or not, it was quite some time after that before I started to take an interest in what has become a major…

Pertussis outbreaks and vaccine effectiveness

About a month ago, I deconstructed a typically dishonest and deceitful attempt by that Overlord of Quackery on the Internet (in my opinion, of course), Joe Mercola, to claim that the acellular pertussis vaccine doesn’t work. It was a typical Mercola bit of prestidigitation that, as so much antivaccine propaganda does, took a grain of…

Perhaps this line of work is not for you…

Over the long weekend, I came across a bunch of things that in normal times I would have blogged about, but because I was trying to chill, work a little on the yard, and also work a bit on grants, I intentionally took Monday off of blogging. As I get back into the swing of…

Why is it after a three day weekend, it always feels as though I have to “catch up”? After all, it’s only one day more than the average weekend, and I didn’t really do anything that different. A little yard work, out to dinner, a bit of grant writing, a bit of chilling, that’s it.…

A different kind of breast cancer testimonial

For my international readers, it’s a holiday here in the U.S. That means I plan on taking it easy, which means I’ve decided on doing, in essence, a “rerun.” I chose this particular rerun based on my post from last Thursday. I thought that rerunning this particular post is a good reminder of what the…