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

If there’s one thing that antivaccine activists share in common, it’s the passionate (and as yet unproven) belief that “something” out there in the environment caused the “autism epidemic.” Usually, that “something” thought to be vaccines, but with the utter failure of the vaccine-autism hypothesis to the point where it is considered soundly refuted, antivaccinationists…

If this looks a bit familiar to some of you, let’s just say that it’s grant crunch time again. This should be over after today. I hope. In the meantime, one of the difficult things about science-based medicine is determining what is and isn’t quackery. While it is quite obvious that modalities such as homeopathy,…

After Dr. Oz’s very bad week last week, it’s wonderful to see John Oliver take on Dr. Oz in a very long segment on his show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Hilarious.

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a beer snob. I make no bones about it, I like my beer, but I also like it to be good beer, and, let’s face it, beer brewed by large industrial breweries seldom fits the bill. To me, most of the beer out being sold in the U.S.,…

It’s been three days since America’s quack, Dr. Mehmet Oz, had his posterior handed to him by a wily old prosecutor who is now a Senator, Claire McCaskill. The beauty of it is that, not only was Dr. Oz called, in essence, a liar to his face and not only was he called out for…

One of the benefits of blogging is that it’s broadened my horizons. Although the vast majority of what I write about happens in my very own country, the United States, nonetheless I frequently learn about things happening in many other countries, some that I wouldn’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to. But when something…

I almost feel sorry for “America’s Quack,” Dr. Mehmet Oz. Well, not really. Remember last week when I took note of an upcoming Senate hearing, specifically a hearing on weight loss scams in front of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, which is chaired by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). At the time,…

it was just over a year ago that I had my last bit to say about a man who can arguably called the antivaccine activist who gave Orac his start. I’m referring, of course, to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Indeed, my first deconstruction of the nonsense about vaccines that Kennedy laid down in 2005 in…

Deepak Chopra isn’t very happy right now. In fact, he appears downright pissed off right now, particularly at skeptics, so much so that he’s issued a hilariously fatuous “challenge” to James Randi (a.k.a.) The Amazing Randi on You Tube entitled Deepak Chopra’s One Million Dollar Challenge to Skeptics: Yes, apparently with The Amazing Meeting (a.k.a.…

Over the last two days, both Mark Crislip and Jann Bellamy wrote great pieces over at Science-Based Medicine about reiki. In particular, Jann Bellamy discussed reiki starting with an example that I’ve been citing in my talks about the infiltration of quackademic medicine into medical academia for at least four or five years now: The…

With very few exceptions, antivaccinationists labor under the delusion that they are not antivaccine. The reason is simple. Deep down, at some level, even the most dedicated antivaccine advocate knows that society quite rightly views it as a bad thing to be against a preventative intervention that has arguably saved more lives than any other…

I’ve never made it much of a secret that I don’t much like “America’s doctor,” Dr. Mehmet Oz. Just enter his name into the search box of this blog, and you’ll find quite a few posts in which I deconstruct some bit of quackery that Dr. Oz has promoted on his show, be it his…

As if yesterday’s post weren’t depressing enough, last weekend I attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, which is part of the reason I didn’t produce much in the way of posts about a week ago. Last Sunday, while aimlessly wandering from session to session and checking…

Here we go again. Two months ago, I noted that Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, the Polish expatriate physician who started out as a legitimate medical researcher and then in the late 1970s took a turn away from science-based medicine and towards being a “brave maverick doctor” through his discovery in blood and urine of substances he…

The other day, I expressed my disappointment at how Samantha Bee of The Daily Show got the politics of antivaccinationism wrong in a segment that was funny, but promoted the stereotype of antivaccine activists as being mainly crunchy lefties. In that post, I mentioned how the Texas Republican Party had a plank in its platform…

I’ve discussed the evolution of “integrative” medicine on many occasions. To make the long story discussed over many posts short, medicine based on prescientific and/or unscientific ideas was once, appropriately, referred to as quackery, and those practicing it, appropriately, as quacks or charlatans—or other derogatory terms. Then, beginning sometime around the 1960s and 1970s, such…

Quacks really hate Wikipedia. It’s understandable, really. Wikipedia has some fairly tight standards regulating its form and content. Quacks, thinking that because anybody can edit Wikipedia articles it must mean that they can edit the entries on their favorite bit of woo to their hearts’ content in order to make it look more scientifically supported…

Not surprisingly, being a guy who leans mildly left, I like The Daily Show. Jon Stewart and his writers are incredibly adept at skewering all manner of bovine excrement, be it political, scientific, or otherwise. In particular, the way Stewart and company skewered the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) for its promotion of…

It’s always jarring when I go to a scientific meeting, in this case the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, imbibe the latest clinical science on cancer, and then check back to see what the quacks are doing. On the other hand, there was a session at this year’s ASCO on “integrative oncology” (stay…

I happen to be out of town right now, attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. It’s been a more—shall we say?—eventful trip than anticipated, which is why at my not-so-super-secret other blog we have a guest post today and here I will (probably) be shorter than usual. I’m…

Thanks again, antivaccine loons

I’m a bit torn today. On the one hand, it makes me cringe when pundits write inflammatory articles blaming Jenny McCarthy for measles outbreaks. Yes, I know that I once did the same thing myself, but, as much as antivaccinationists dislike me, I’ve actually toned it down a bit when it comes to that particular…

Being a cancer surgeon, I realize that my tendency is to view my blogging material through the prism of cancer, particularly breast cancer, my specialty. it’s easy to forget that there are diseases every bit as horrible, some arguably even more so than the worst cancer. When I think of such diseases, it’s not surprising…

Placebo effects in surgery

Although I’m a translational researcher, I’m also a surgeon. That was my first and primary training and only later did I decide to get my PhD during my residency, when the opportunity to do so with a decent stipend presented itself. From my perspective, clinical research in surgery is difficult, arguably more difficult than it…

Of all the clueless antivaccinationist out there, one stands out as being particularly dangerous to public health. That person is the antivaccine reporter whom I’ve periodically been forced to castigate ever since around 2007 when she laid down such a seethingly hot bit of napalm-grade antivaccine stupid that she grabbed my attention with her combination…

Regular readers might be wondering why my output was—shall we say?—less extensive last week than it usually is. I even skipped a weekday and then followed it up with a recycled post from my not-so-super-secret other blog, altered to be a bit more, yes, Insolent. The answer is a single word: Grants. I had a…