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

Just three days ago, I updated my ongoing series How “They” View “Us.” This time around, I used Mike Adams’ likening of various pro-science activists, including Steve Novella and myself, among others, to Nazis and compiling what appeared to be a hit list. In the process, I also discussed the antivaccine movement, in particular Age…

I came so close. Yes, when I read the latest target subject of this piece of Insolence to be bestowed upon you today, I came so close to resurrecting a certain undead Fuhrer who used to roam this blog on a regular basis chomping brains and inspiring horrible Nazi analogies. Indeed, it’s been at least…

A sweaty crowdfunded misfire of science

“Team aerobic” by Berner Kantonalturnfest 2010 (Utzenstorf, Bätterkinden, Kirchberg, Koppigen). Original uploader was Equilibrium suisse at de.wikipedia – Transferred from de.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Boteas using CommonsHelper. (Original text: http://www.ktf2010.ch). Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons. Few people know better than I that times are tough in the world of biomedical research. It’s been…

If there’s one characteristic of supporters of dubious medicine, it’s that they detest criticism. Whereas your average skeptic might not like criticism—sensitivity to criticism being a human trait and all—science- and evidence-based criticism tends to drive dubious medical practitioners (and, I might add, promoters of various other forms of woo) into paroxysms of anger. Not…

Only really long time readers will remember this, but back in the day (June 2005, to be exact), I discovered Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his antivaccine nuttery when he published his epically bad piece of antivaccine conspiracy mongering, Deadly Immunity, both in Salon.com and Rolling Stone (the latter of which doubled down on it…

Ever since I started paying attention to quackery, in particular quackery used on autistic children, I’ve come across some bizarre articles. Of course, the vast majority of autism quackery is related to antivaccine beliefs and the need to “detoxify” autistic children from whatever toxins or mercury antivaccinationists think caused their children’s autism. If only it…

Of all the alternative medical systems out there, chiropractic is one of the oddest. Unlike many of the others, it has a modicum of plausibility, at least for back problems due to musculoskeletal strains. After all, the science-based specialty of physical therapy uses spinal manipulation to treat back problems. Of course, the big difference between…

Ever since I first became aware of the antivaccine movement more than ten years ago, I’ve had little choice but to periodically pay attention to one of the godfathers of the antivaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield is the quack whose dubious case series that The Lancet foolishly published in 1998 launched a million antivaccine quacks.…

And they say I’m in it for the money?

One of the most common criticisms launched at defenders of science-based medicine by believers in pseudoscience and quackery is that we are “pharma shills.” The assumption, or so it would seem, is that no one would defend science, reason, and medicine unless he were paid off by pharmaceutical, chemical, and/or agricultural companies. The further assumption…

After having returned from TAM, I was pumped up by how much interest was shown in the case of Stanislaw Burzynski. More importantly, I was heartened to learn while I was there that the Texas Medical Board had submitted an amended complaint against him containing 202 pages worth of charges. Sure, the descriptions of the…

There’s a point I feel that I have have to make briefly as I begin this post. Basically, this might look familiar, but given that I was at TAM Wednesday through Sunday, I didn’t have time to produce two separate posts, and this is important enough to be distributed as widely as possible. In any…

I didn’t think I’d be revisiting this topic so quickly. However, given that I’m at TAM and I don’t have a lot of time to do one of my usual 2,000 word epics for a change, I thought that this story, which popped up the other day while I was traveling was at least worth…

Three months ago, I wrote about how the Cleveland Clinic had recently opened a clinic that dispensed herbal medicine according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice. As regular readers might expect, I was not particularly impressed or approving of this particular bit of infiltration of quackademic medicine into a major, generally well-respected academic medical center,…

Leaving on a jet plane…

Today, I’m winging my way to sunny Las Vegas. Yes, in the middle of summer, when southern Nevada’s weather is most like an oven, I will be there. The reason? I’ll be doing a workshop and a panel with fellow supporters of science-based medicine at The Amazing Meeting. I don’t know how many of my…

Over the years I’ve been studying science versus pseudoscience, medicine vs. quackery, reason versus crankery, I’ve noticed one thing. The cranks, pseudoscientists, and quacks of the world have a hard time dealing with legitimate criticism. Now, I know I sometimes get a bit—shall we say?—frisky with my criticisms. OK, obnoxious. I have, however, mellowed considerably…

Lawrence Solomon appears to be a rising star in the antivaccine movement. I started taking notice of him a couple of months ago, spewing classic long-refuted antivaccine talking points with the enthusiasm of a newbie who thinks he’s the first one to have thought of them and the arrogance of ignorance of a convert who…

Happy 4th of July! I’m taking the day off, largely to indulge my patriotic duty to laugh at things like Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie (something all patriotic red-blooded Americans should be doing), but more importantly to work on a manuscript and especially to get ready for The Amazing Meeting. If you’re going to be there,…

This is a post about homeopathic quackery. But I repeat myself. Those of you who’ve been readers here for a while have no doubt encountered Dana Ullman. He’s been popping up from time to time as a topic of this blog for many years now, almost to the very beginning, when he began spewing the…

Our regularly scheduled post will go live later this morning. In the meantime, this is a public service announcement…with GUITAR! (Oh, wait.) As you recall, last week, the FDA inexplicably decided to lift the partial clinical hold on Stanislaw Burzynski’s bogus clinical trials of antineoplastons, which he’s used since the 1990s as a pretext to…

Can we just say that vaccines are safe, already? Can we just say that, of all the medical interventions ever conceived by the minds of humans, vaccines have almost certainly saved more lives and prevented more illness? Can we finally say that vaccines do not cause autism? Of course not, unfortunately. I ask the same…

What’s going on with Robert O. Young?

There is no doubt in my mind that Robert O. Young is among the worst cancer quacks I have ever encountered. I’ve never been able to figure out how he manages to continue to practice after over 20 years, given the egregiousness of his quackery. Indeed, I was overjoyed when I learned back in January…

One of the most depressing things I regularly write about is, of course, the antivaccine movement. However, nearly as depressing to me is to watch the steady march of what I view as medical pseudoscience or even outright quackery into what should be bastions of science-based medicine, namely academic medical centers. As I’ve discussed many…

Yesterday’s post was just too depressing to contemplate and even more depressing to write. It was a total downer after seen the awesomeness that was John Oliver gloriously skewering America’s Quack Dr. Mehmet Oz. That’s why I think it would be good to finish this week on an amusing note. Well, it would be amusing…

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost three years since I first started taking an interest in the Houston cancer doctor and Polish expat Stanislaw Burzynski. Three long years, but that’s less than one-twelfth the time that Burzynski has been actually been administering an unproven cancer treatment known as antineoplastons (ANPs), a…

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…