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

As a surgeon and skeptic, I find neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate Ben Carson to be particularly troubling. I realize that I’ve said this before, but it’s hard for me not to revisit his strange case given that the New York Times just ran a rather revealing profile of him over the weekend, part of which…

The fixed mindset of medical pseudoscience

One of the key principles of skepticism, particularly in medicine, is that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. I emphasize the word “necessarily” because sometimes skeptics go a bit too far and say that correlation does not equal causation. I myself used to phrase it that way for a long time. However, sometimes correlation does…

I didn’t think I’d be discussing Dr. David Katz again so soon after the last time. In fact, when blog bud Mark Crislip (who clearly hates me and wants me to pop an aneurysm or have a heart attack, given how often he sends me links to articles as infuriating as this) sent me a…

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Yesterday, the Justice Department announced criminal charges and lawsuits against the sellers of several supplements! This is the ort of thing that is long overdue—incredibly so, in fact. Before I get to this specific case, let’s discuss a little background. One of the regular topics I write about, both…

The other day, I suddenly realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve written about the Polish expat doctor in Houston who treats patients with advanced brain cancer with a concoction that he dubbed antineoplastons (ANPs). I’m referring, of course, to Stanislaw Burzynski who, despite the fact that he has no training in medical…

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of naturopathy. It is, as my good bud Kimball Atwood has said, a prescientific system of medicine rooted in vitalism, the idea that there is a “life energy” and a “healing power of nature.” Naturopaths invoke very simplistic concepts to explain the cause of disease, such…

The question of whether it is worthwhile to debate cranks, quacks, and advocates of pseudoscience has long been a contentious issue in the skeptic community. Those of you who’ve been reading my posts for a while know that I’ve always come down on the side that it is not a good idea One thing I’ve…

A typical response to a charge of being antivaccine coming from someone whose rhetoric is definitely antivaccine is to clutch her pearls mightily and retort, “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine.’ I’m pro-vaccine safety.” Similarly, a common retort of antivaccinationists who believe that vaccines cause autism, particularly those who believe that vaccines caused their children’s autism, is to…

I’ve used my current pseudonym since at least the late 1990s, first on Usenet and then on the first incarnation of this blog. Not surprisingly in retrospect (although it surprised me at the time), people who didn’t like me began trying back in the 1990s to “unmask” me. It began with Holocaust deniers. No, I’m…

After nearly 11 years (!) at this blogging thing, I thought I had covered pretty much every medical topic a skeptic and supporter of science-based medicine would be interested in covering. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s always something I’ve missed, some hole in my blogging oeuvre that…

David Katz doesn’t much like skeptics, particularly those of us who question the value of “integrative medicine.” In fairness, I can’t say that I much blame him. We have been very critical of his writings and talks over the years to my criticism of his statement advocating a “more fluid concept of evidence” more than…

As a surgeon, I find Ben Carson particularly troubling. By pretty most reports, he was a skilled neurosurgeon who practiced for three decades, rising to the chief of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. Yet, when he ventures out of the field of neurosurgery—even out of his own medical specialty—he routinely lays down some of the dumbest…

A sad day for public science advocacy

I’ve been at this blogging thing for more than a decade now. Looking back on those years, I find it incredible that I’ve lasted this long. For one thing, I still marvel that there are apparently thousands of people out there who still like to read my nearly daily musings (or, as George Carlin would…

Naturopathy is a cornucopia packed to the brim with virtually every quackery known to humankind, be it homeopathy, much of traditional Chinese medicine, vitamin C for cancer, or basically any other pseudoscientific or prescientific treatment for disease that you can imagine. I feel obligated to start most of my posts about naturopathy with a statement…

I hadn’t planned on writing about this again today. (How many times have I started a post with that phrase? I forget, but a lot. Sadly, developments frequently make me change my plans about blogging.) Here’s what made me change my plans It was a pair of Facebook posts on hip-hop and fashion mogul Russell…

Before yesterday, I had never heard of Ben Swann. Apparently he is the new anchor for the early evening news broadcast of the local Atlanta CBS affiliate, having joined the station in June. Apparently he is also prone to antivaccine conspiracy theories, which is a very bad thing to be prone to as a reporter…

When I wrote about YouYou Tu, the Chinese scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her successful identification, isolation, purification, and validation of Artemisinin, an antimalarial medication that was quite effective. It was also derived from an herbal remedy used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which has led a fair number…

Unfortunately, this happens to be a day when I didn’t really have much time to blog, as I had to go to an evening meeting last night related to my work. Fortunately, this corresponds with a most excellent day, a first in my life. Basically, I’m coauthor on a Perspective article published in today’s New…

No doubt, regular readers are probably somewhat surprised that I didn’t discuss the antivaccine rally scheduled to be held in Atlanta last weekend that I wrote about last week. As you might recall, this rally consisted of two crappy tastes that taste crappy together, namely Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the antivaccine movement together with…

The “myth” of basic science?

I’m a clinician, but I’m actually also a translational scientist. It’s not uncommon for those of us in medicine involved in some combination of basic and clinical research to argue about exactly what that means. The idea is translational science is supposed to be the process of “translating” basic science discoveries into the laboratory into…

Choosing Wisely three years on

I like to point out from time to time that arguably the most striking difference between science-based medicine (and the evidence-based medicine from which we distinguish it) and alternative medicine, “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), or (as it’s called now) “integrative medicine” is a concerted effort to change practice for the better based on science…

I consider posts like the one I’m writing now to be public service, an obligation. There are times when I don’t want to do them, when they become so sadly, depressingly repetitive in overall outline (and, unfortunately, likely outcome) that it takes an effort to begin. However, given that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month…

I was measured, science-based, and reasonable in yesterday’s post about the new American Cancer Society guidelines for screening mammography (which is obviously why that post garnered so few comments, thus teaching me my lesson yet again0, but regular readers know that I can be quite obnoxious and sarcastic and there’s a reason why this blog…

One of the things that feels the weirdest about having done the same job, having been in the same specialty, for a longer and longer time is that you frequently feel, as the late, great Yogi Berra would have put it, déjà vu all over again. This is particularly true in science and medicine, where…

If there’s one thing that’s amusing about the antivaccine movement, it’s the disconnect between its members’ perception of their own importance and the reality of it, which is that they tend to be a pretty pathetic, risible band. They post their blogs, full of the rage of Dunning-Kruger, thinking that they are putting forth the…