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’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject…

I’ve been at this skeptical blogging thing for over a decade now. I realize that I periodically remind you, my readers, of this and that perhaps I do it too often, but my reminders generally serve a purpose. Specifically, they serve to put an exclamation point on my surprise when I discover a new purveyor…

When it comes to the use of what is sometimes called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or, increasingly, “integrative medicine,” there is a certain narrative. It’s a narrative promoted by CAM proponents that does its best to convince the public that there is nothing unusual, untoward, or odd about CAM use, even though much of…

When I wrote yesterday about the cruel sham that is “right-to-try,” , one criticism (among many) that I made of these misguided, profoundly patient-unfriendly laws was that I have as yet been unable to find a single example of a patient who has managed to obtain access to an experimental therapeutic through such a law,…

Last year, I did several posts on what I consider to be a profoundly misguided and potentially harmful type of law known as “right-to-try.” Beginning about a year and a half ago, promoted by the libertarian think tank known as the Goldwater Institute, right-to-try laws began popping up in state legislatures. I wrote about how…

Antivaccine activism endangers children. Of that there is no longer any doubt. As vaccination rates fall, the risk of outbreaks of dangerous vaccine-preventable infectious diseases among children rise. In the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak earlier this year, several states introduced measures to restrict nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine requirements. The record in passing…

Epigenetics. As I’ve described before, to alternative medicine practitioners, epigenetics seems to mean something akin to what the word “quantum” means: Magic. I’ve covered, for example, the woo-filled stylings of Deepak Chopra invoking things like “quantum consciousness,” and seemingly for quite a few years the best way to slap a patina of “sciencey”-sounding credibility on…

Why do doctors deny evolution?

Yesterday was a long day, starting in the operating room and finishing at a dinner reception for our visiting speaker today. As a result, when I arrived home, I was sawing the proverbial logs within five or ten minutes of hitting the couch, more or less without realizing it. I was going to just skip…

Autism One: As quacky as it ever was

Once again, the yearly autism quackfest known as Autism One is fast approaching. In fact, it will begin in Chicago tomorrow: five days of “autism biomed” quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience. Ever since the Great Schism in the autism antivaccine quackery community, which severed Generation Rescue from Autism One and ended Jenny McCarthy’s run of being…

It’s been a long time since I bothered to care if readers know where I live or who I am. That’s why when a newbie troll shows up in the comments, as newbie trolls periodically do, and castigates me for somehow being a “coward” or “hiding” my identity, I generally get a hardy laugh out…

Dedicated to lilady. One of the disadvantages of writing for this blog is that sometimes I feel as though I spend so much time deconstructing bad science and pseudoscience in medicine that I’m rarely left with the time or the opportunity to discuss some interesting science. Of course, even when I do that, usually it’s…

As much time and effort as I spend deconstructing, refuting, and otherwise demolishing the misinformation that is routinely promulgated about vaccines by the antivaccine movement, it’s important never just to reflexly dismiss a claim or news story that gains traction among antivaccinationists. After all, it is always possible that the story is as the antivaccinationists…

In memoriam: lilady

As I write this, I am sadder than I have been for a long time. I recently learned that a frequent commenter here, a woman whose efforts on behalf of children’s health I admired greatly, has passed away. I’m referring to the commenter who went by the ‘nym lilady and sometimes signed her comments with…

After having written yesterday’s piece about the fallacy known as the appeal to nature, a favorite fallacy of the alternative medicine crowd. The idea that if something is somehow “natural” it must be superior to anything viewed as “unnatural” or “man-made” is deeply ingrained in pseudoscientific medicine. Heck, there’s even a brand of quackery known…

If there’s one fallacy that grips the brains of proponents of “natural healing,” “holistic medicine,” or, as the vast majority of it is, quackery, it’s an appeal to nature. Basically, the idea that underlies the appeal to nature is a profane worship of nature as being, in essence, perfect, with anything humans do that is…

I’ve been blogging for over a decade now, a fact that I find really hard to believe looking back on it right now. I’ve told the story before, but it’s worth briefly recounting again because doing so will explain why the story I’m about to discuss caught my attention. My “gateway drug,” if you will,…

I’ve discussed on many occasions over the years how antivaccine activists really, really don’t want to be known as “antivaccine.” Indeed, when they are called “antivaccine” (usually quite correctly, given their words and deeds), many of them will clutch their pearls in indignation, rear up in self-righteous anger, and retort that they are “not antivaccine”…

As hard as it is to believe, I’ve been spending a significant part of my time countering pseudoscience for close to 17 years, so long that it seems that I’ve always been doing it. Of course, that’s not true; I didn’t actually become involved in this seemingly never-ending Sisyphean task until I was in my…

Every so often, real life intrudes on blogging. So it was last night when I had to go to a work-related meeting and didn’t get back until late. Still, that means today’s a perfect opportunity to do what I’m usually not very good at: A brief post. I’ve related time and time again how when…

Whenever I discuss the concept of being “antivaccine” and how almost nobody wants to have the label “antivaccine” applied ot her, it’s not uncommon that I hear the whinging retort from antivaccinationists claiming that “I’m not antivaccine; I’m pro-vaccine safety,” or some similar claim. Of course, whenever I see antivaccinationists likening vaccination to the Holocaust…

A common criticism aimed at those of us who are highly critical of various alternative medicine treatments and, in particular, of the “integration” of such treatments into conventional medical treatment is: What’s the harm? What, they ask, is the harm of homeopathy, acupuncture, iridology, or traditional Chinese medicine? They argue that it’s pretty much harmless,…

If there’s one thing that will annoy an antivaccinationist, it’s to call her what she is: Antivaccine. While it’s true, as I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, that there are some antivaccinationists who are antivaccine and proud, unabashedly proclaiming themselves antivaccine and making no bones about it, the vast majority of antivaccinationists deny they are…

Maya’s Marvelous Acupuncture?

As hard as it is to believe, there was once a time when I didn’t think that acupuncture was quackery, an ancient “Eastern” treatment that “evolved” from bloodletting not unlike bloodletting in ancient “Western” bloodletting. This time was, hard as it is to believe, less than eight years ago, right around the time just before…

I’ve written on multiple occasions of what I like to refer to as “antivaccine dog whistles.” In politics, the term “dog whistle” refers to things politicians can say to certain groups, usually groups with odious views, that they are with them without actually echoing the views for which the group at which the dog whistle…

J.J. has a chance to live!

Over the years I’ve written about a lot of topics. After all, I’ve been at this for more than a decade now, and I still grind out four or five posts per week, with only occasional breaks for vacations or medical or scientific meetings. Topics have included science-based medicine, antivaccine nonsense, topics of general skepticism,…