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

It always irritates me when I discover a new antivaccine crank in my state; so you can imagine how irritated I become when I discover one right in my very city (OK, metropolitan area). When that happens, it becomes a bit more personal than my usual mission to refute antivaccine misinformation. So I was most…

As 2015 draws to a close today, all I can think is: Another year in the can. Since my family is here, and it’s a holiday, I’m going to keep this one brief and wish everyone a Happy New Year. In addition, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen in 2016. Who could…

Vaccines and the antivaccine movement were in the news a lot in 2015. The year started out with a huge measles outbreak originating at Disneyland over the holidays last year and dominated news coverage in the early months of 2015. This outbreak had enormous consequences. It galvanized public opinion such that something I had never…

Several years ago, Harriet Hall coined a term that is most apt: Tooth fairy science. The term refers to clinical trials and basic science performed on fantasy. More specifically, it refers to doing research on a phenomenon before it has been scientifically established that the phenomenon exists. Harriet put it this way: You could measure…

Fixing peer review

I’ve frequently noted that one of the things most detested by quacks and promoters of pseudoscience is peer review. Creationists hate peer review. HIV/AIDS denialists hate it. Anti-vaccine cranks like those at Age of Autism hate it. Indeed, as blog bud Mark Hoofnagle Mark Hoofnagle, pointed out several years ago, pseudoscientists and cranks of all…

Happy Holidays to all…

Happy Holidays to all from everyone’s favorite box of blinky lights. See you all on Monday. I’ll still be checking occasionally for comments that need to be released from the moderation queue but won’t be particularly active otherwise. Until then, I leave you with Tim Minchin:

Christmas and New Years are almost here. As a result, as is always the case this time of year, we’re being flooded with “year end” lists. These lists are a fun distraction that I actually rather look forward to as an amusing (and sometimes annoying) year end tradition. In particular, I’m a sucker for “best…

[NOTE added 12/23/2015: It would appear that the offending article has been taken down. I, of course, have screenshots, and, of course, the Google cached version is still around for the moment.] Anaphylaxis can be deadly. Anaphylaxis can kill. More than that, anaphylaxis can kill pretty quickly. Even the most dimwitted purveyor of “natural” cures…

One of the best things about blogging is that I don’t feel obligated to cover a topic completely in one post because I know I can always write another one or revisit the topic later. It also allows me to look at what I like to call “variations on a theme” of various kinds of…

One of my favorite television shows right now is The Knick, as I described before in a post about medical history. To give you an idea of how much I’m into The Knick, I’ll tell you that I signed up for Cinemax for three months just for that one show. (After its second season finale…

Whenever I point out that a very common thread of “thought”—if you can call it “thought”—in alternative medicine is nothing more than germ theory denialism, the usual reaction is incredulity. Newbies who haven’t encountered quacks before invariably do a double take when I inform them that germ theory denialism is a thing, particularly among antivaccine…

Even though I’ve taken on the ‘nym of a fictional computer in a 35-year-old British science fiction series whose key traits were an arrogant and condescending manner and the ability to tap into every computer of the galactic federation any time he wanted to, in reality I am just one person. That means, try as…

We have a problem with antivaccinationists here in Michigan. It’s a problem that’s been going on a long time that I first started paying attention to in a big way a few years ago when we started seeing pertussis outbreaks again due to low vaccine uptake. It’s a problem that’s persisted as last year we…

Although I don’t write about him as much as I used to, there was a time a couple of years ago when Houston cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski was a frequent topic of this blog. His story, detailed in many posts on this blog and in an article I wrote for Skeptical Inquirer, is one that…

Many are the “alternative” medicine therapies that I’ve examined with a skeptical eye over the years. The vast majority of them rest on concepts that range from pre-scientific to religious to outright pseudoscientific to—let’s face it—the utterly ridiculous. Examples abound: Reflexology, reiki, tongue diagnosis, homeopathy, ear candling, cupping, crystal healing, urine drinking, detoxifying foot pads,…

Et tu, Scientific American? A few of you seem to know what will catch my attention and push my buttons, because over the past couple of days a few of you sent me an article published in Scientific America by an internal medicine resident named Allison Bond entitled Sometimes It’s Okay to Give Patients a…

The blog post of mine that arguably “put me on the map” in the skeptical blogosphere was my very Insolent, very sarcastic deconstruction of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s deceptive pseudoscience-ridden bit of fear mongering that he called Deadly Immunity. It was originally jointly published both by Salon.com and Rolling Stone, a blot that neither publication…

To say that the relationship that antivaccine activists have with science and fact is a tenuous, twisted one is a major understatement. Despite mountains of science that says otherwise, antivaccinationists still cling to the three core tenets of their faith, namely that (1) vaccines are ineffective (or at least nowhere near as effective as health…

Blog topics seem to come in waves, where I’ll be stuck on more deeply examining a topic for days, only to have that topic dry up. Sometimes, you, my readers, make me aware of a topic. This is an example of the latter case. It’s something I had been debating about whether to blog about…

I originally wasn’t going to write about this particular post, but the mass shooting in San Bernardino yesterday led me to change my mind. For those of you who either aren’t in the US or were somehow cut off from media for the last 18 hours or so, yesterday a heavily armed man and woman…

Of all the slick woo peddlers out there, one of the most famous (and most annoying) is Deepak Chopra. Indeed, he first attracted a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence a mere 10 months after this blog started, when Chopra produced the first of many rants against nasty “skeptics” like me that I’ve deconstructed over the years.…

When it comes to blogging, sometime’s it’s feast or famine. Some days there are more topics and stories that I’d like to blog about than I could ever get to, given that I generally only do one post per weekday, while other days I seriously think about skipping a day because there’s just nothing out…

A device to put homeopaths out of business

I’ve been blogging for nearly eleven years now—and continuously at that, with only brief breaks for vacations or when the vagaries of life and career (particularly grant deadlines) interfered with the writing impulse. It’s true that I’ve slowed down a bit. I rarely post on weekends any more and not infrequently miss a weekday, but…

Bullying. You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Yes, I do so love to co-opt that famous line from The Princess Bride for my own nefarious purposes, but it’s so perfect for this particular topic, which comes up every so often when I’m writing about the…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the antivaccine movement over the decade-plus that I’ve been following and commenting on it, it’s that there are many flavors of antivaccine beliefs. These range from the “loud and proud” (and, invariably, incredibly stupid) antivaccine activists who aren’t afraid of the label. They’ll tell you that they’re antivaccine…