Respectful Insolence

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski. That Orac has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 30 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

Respectful Insolence™ is a repository for the ramblings of the aforementioned surgeon/scientist concerning medicine and quackery, science and pseudoscience, history and pseudohistory, politics, and anything else that interests him (or pushes his buttons). Orac's motto is: "A statement of fact cannot be insolent." (OK, maybe it can be just a little bit insolent. Sometimes. OK, fairly often. Orac tries to keep his insolence respectful most of the time, but readily admits that he sometimes fails in cases of obvious quackery and pseudoscience, responding to personal attacks on him, examining poor critical thinking skills, bigotry or racism, and just general plain stupidity. When the stupidity to which Orac is responding reaches a certain very high level, he just can't help it and makes no apologies. You will know this is happening when Orac uses the phrase "the stupid, it burns" or some variant thereof.

To contact Orac: orac@scienceblogsllc.com

I didn’t think I would be writing about this, but, then again, I seem to say that fairly frequently. Be that as it may, on Friday I wrote about a letter sent to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining about Dr. Mehmet Oz’s promotion…

America’s quack, dissected yet again

If there’s one doctor who irritates me possibly more than any other, it’s got to be “America’s Doctor,” a.k.a. Dr. Mehmet Oz, thanks to The Dr. Oz Show. He’s been an all too frequent topic on this blog and at my not-so-super-secret other blog. Of course, I refer to him as “America’s quack,” because, well,…

Once again, repeat after me: Homeopathy is quackery. In fact, it’s what I like to refer to as The One Quackery To Rule Them All. You would think that, in a modern world and given the incredible advancements in our scientific understanding of biology, physiology, chemistry, and physics over the course of the over 200…

It never ceases to amaze me how very smart people can miss some very obvious points. Now, as most of my readers know, I was at NECSS over the weekend. Because I was busy giving a talk, doing panels, and then enjoying other speakers’ talks, I wasn’t paying much attention to some of the issues…

I spent a nice long weekend in New York at NECSS, which has grown to quite the big skeptical conference since the last time I was there five years ago. The Friday Science-Based Medicine session went quite well and, as far as I could tell, appeared to be well-received; so hopefully we will be doing…

Dr. David Katz is undoubtedly a heavy hitter in the brave new world of “integrative medicine,” a specialty that seeks to “integrate” pseudoscience with science, nonsense, with sense, and quackery with real medicine. In fairness, that’s not the way physicians like Dr. Katz see it. Rather, they see it as “integrating” the “best of both…

Later today, I’ll be on my way to New York City to take part in the Science-Based Medicine portion of NECSS. I’m very much looking forward to it, not the least because I haven’t been to New York in five years but even more so because I look forward to meeting up with the rest…

I’ve spend considerable time documenting the utter pseudoscience, misinformation, and downright idiocy about “chemicals” in food regularly inflicted on the public by the misguided “food activist” named Vani Hari, who is better known by the moniker she chose for herself “The Food Babe.” Indeed, in decade-plus that I’ve been running this blog and the few…

Quack attack on Wikipedia

Early on in its history, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Wikipedia as a project or reference source. To put it mildly, I viewed the very concept behind the project with a great deal of skepticism, some of which was voiced nine years ago when a medical Wikipedia was proposed. In particular, the fact that anyone…

Recent articles in The Daily Mail and The Australian reminded me that it’s been over a month since the unfortunate demise of Jess Ainscough, a young Australian woman who was diagnosed with an epithelioid sarcoma of her left upper extremity in 2008. Before I get to the articles, a brief recap is in order. This…

Why, oh why, did I look at GreenMedInfo again? You remember GreenMedInfo? It’s yet another wretched hive of scum and quackery, but with a twist. Its proprietor, Sayer Ji, thinks he’s an expert at interpreting the biomedical literature. Unfortunately, as he demonstrates time and time again with depressing regularity, he is nothing of the sort.…

It’s no secret that I don’t have a high opinion of naturopathy. Just enter the word “naturopathy” into the search box of this blog, and you’ll quickly see what I mean. Indeed, when last I mentioned the topic a couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the revelations of Britt Marie Hermes, a former naturopath…

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…