Respectful Insolence

Archives for April, 2013

So now we know. Back when it was announced that the second Burzynski movie by Eric Merola would be screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 27, Merola announced that there would be a “special celebrity guest.” Those of us who have been following Burzynski for a while scratched our heads, not knowing…

Every so often, our “friends” on the other side of the science aisle (i.e., the supporters of “complementary and alternative medicine”—otherwise known as CAM or “integrative medicine”) give me a present when I’m looking for a topic for my weekly bit of brain droppings about medicine, science, and/or why CAM is neither. It’s also been…

A long, long time ago in a ScienceBlogs far, far away (well, it seems that way anyway, given the halcyon times back then before Pepsigate), Mark Hoofnagle coined the term “crank magnetism.” It was a fantastic term used to describe how susceptibility to one form of quackery, pseudoscience, or just plain crankery tended to be…

I’ve written about naturopathy many times before. The reasons that it interests me are several. First, it amazes me how anyone “discipline” (if you want to call it that) can encompass so many forms of quackery, some of which are mutually contradictory. (For instance, how can homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine both be true?) Also,…

I had a long day in the operating room yesterday; so I was tired last night. As a consequence, I thought that today might end up being one of those rare weekdays free of new Insolence. Then, in the morning as I was doing my usual brief perusal of e-mail and blogs before heading to…

I’ve written a lot about a doctor named Stanislaw Burzynski who claims to have much better outcomes in treating deadly brainstem tumors than conventional oncology does. Although the way he claims to do it is through the use of substances he calls “antineoplastons,” which he claimed to have isolate from the urine of patients. Over…

Heidi Stevenson amuses me. I know, I know, I’ve started a previous post with exactly this sentence a mere month ago, but it’s so damned appropriate that I can’t help but try it again. A homeopath (which means that she’s reality-challenged to begin with), she’s produced some of the most hilariously off-base, pseudoscientific, and downright…

If there is one aspect of cranks that is almost universal (besides the aforementioned tendency to want to prove themselves through things like “live televised debates“), it’s a tendency to want to shut down the criticism of its opposition. True, such a tendency is a human trait as well and used far too often by,…

I want to thank Dan Olmsted, the editor of Age of Autism. I think. Why do I say this? After all, Olmsted is the managing editor of perhaps the most wretched hive of antivaccine scum and quackery that I am aware of. However, he’s actually done me a favor. You see, the other day, the…

Winning antivaccine hearts and minds

I’ve been writing about the antivaccine movement for a long time. The reasons are many, but they boil down to a handful. First of all, it interests me. It interests me as an example of pseudoscience and quackery, how it spreads, and how antiscience cranks attack science. More importantly, it’s dangerous. The antivaccine movement is…

It’s been a while since I’ve done this, but somehow now seems to be the right time, particularly after doing such a long post yesterday on the intellectually dishonest promotion of “brave maverick” cancer doctor Stanislaw Burzynski. Unfortunately, dubious clinics like the Burzynski Clinic are not the only place where I find highly questionable medicine.…

About a month ago, Eric Merola screened his second movie about “brave maverick doctor” Stanislaw Burzynski, Burzynski: Cancer Is A Serious Business, Part 2 (henceforth referred to as “Burzynski II”), a screening that Brian Thompson and an unnamed colleague from the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) attended, took notes, and even managed to ask a…

I suppose that while I’m on another roll writing about the antivaccine movement I should just embrace it. I was going to start this post out again with one of my periodic laments about how blogging about the antivaccine movement has taken over and crowded out other topics that I like to write about. I…

I guess that the antivaccinationists didn’t listen to me last time when I suggested that maybe—just maybe—using Holocaust analogies when discussing autism and vaccines is just a wee bit inappropriate, such an overblown analogy that it spreads far more heat than light. At least, Kent Heckenlively didn’t, and, because his invocation of the Nazi card…

If there’s one thing that a certain subset of people who view themselves as reasonable and science-based don’t like, it’s harshness: Harshness in criticism, harshness in discussion, or—horror of horrors!—anything they view as “incivility.” That’s all well and good as far as it goes, but the problem is that sometimes there are things that demand…

Last week, I noted a particularly loathsome trend (even for antivaccinationists) to invoke Holocaust analogies for what they view as the “vaccine-induced autism epidemic holocaust.” Now, loathsome analogies are not uncommon among antivaccinationists, who routinely refer to their children as “damaged” or “toxic” and view them as somehow not their “real” children, but this time…

One of the more depressing things about getting much more interested in the debate over how we should screen for common cancers, particularly breast and prostate cancer, is my increasing realization of just how little physicians themselves understand about the complexities involved in weighing the value of such tests. It’s become increasingly apparent to me…

It’s very clear that many antivaccinationists hate autistic children. The language they use to describe them makes that very clear. Such children are “damaged” (by vaccines, of course); the parents’ real children were “stolen” from them (by vaccines); they are “toxic” (from vaccines); the “light left their eyes” (due to vaccines). Autism is an “epidemic,”…

Who can quack the loudest?

Over the years this blog’s been in existence, I’ve fallen into a habit in which I tend to like to finish off the week taking on a bit of science (well, usually pseudoscience) that is either really out there, really funny, or in general not as heavy as, for example, writing about someone like Stanislaw…

It works every time, doesn’t it?

Every so often I come across a news story relevant to the subject matter usually encompassed by this blog that makes me shake my head in disbelief at the sheer stupidity. OK, every day, if you count the antivaccine movement and its attacks on papers like the one I wrote about Monday and yesterday. True,…

Last week, the Journal of Pediatrics published a study that did a pretty good job of demolishing a favorite antivaccine trope used to frighten parents. In fact, it’s one of the most effective of antivaccine tropes, as evidenced by a large number of parents who are generally pro-vaccine expressing doubts when asked about this particular…

I got a bit behind on my work yesterday, so I’ll be brief. Yesterday, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) announced its annual Pigasus Awards. Sadly, each and every year, there are far more “deserving” candidates than there are awards to give. However, this year marks something awesome, namely the first time the prize has…

This is just a quick announcement. I’ve been informed by Steve Novella that the Science-Based Medicine blog is currently down. It’s been down for several hours now. Steve’s crack team of techies is working on the problem right now. More information as updates come in.

There are some days when I know what my topic will be—what it must be. These are times in which the universe gives the very appearance of handing to me my topic for the day on the proverbial silver platter with a giant hand descending from the clouds, pointing at it, and saying, “Blog about…

It’s been less than a week since I wrote about Stanislaw Burzynski. In fact, as hard as it is to believe, I’ve been trying not to. Obviously, I’m failing, but what can I say? Things keep happening. In particular, there’s Eric Merola. You remember Eric Merola? He’s the producer of a propaganda film extolling the…