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

Besides being a researcher and prolific blogger, I still maintain a practice in breast cancer surgery. It’s one of the more satisfying specialties in oncology because, in the vast majority of cases I treat, I can actually remove the cancer and “cure” the patient. (I use the quotes because we generally don’t like to use…

There are some myths, bits of misinformation, or lies about medicine that I like to refer to zombie quackery. The reasons are obvious. Like at the end of a horror movie, just when you think the myth is finally dead, its rotting hand rises out of the dirt to grab your leg and drag you…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t much like “Dr. Bob” Sears. Actually, I rather detest the guy. The reasons are obvious. There isn’t an antivaccine trope Dr. Bob won’t repeat in the service of pandering to the vaccine-averse parents base who bring him patients. They’re all there in his The…

Before I got sidetracked with a certain topic that’s consumed the blog, another topic that had popped up (albeit nowhere near as frequently) was the latest Ebola virus disease outbreak in Africa, the largest in history thus far. Indeed, as horrific as this outbreak is and as terrible a disease as Ebola is, with close…

Orac post-publication note: There is reason to believe that one point I made below could well be incorrect. However, even leaving that point out, there are still many reasons to doubt the authenticity of the text exchange I discuss below. See the first 10 comments for a discussion. Unlike AoA and other antivaccine groups, if…

This post, although it is about an interview with a CDC scientist named William W. Thompson that resulted from the whole “CDC whistleblower” manufactroversy that’s been flogged relentlessly for the last two weeks, since antivaccine “heros” Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker released a despicable race-bating video flogging Hooker’s utterly incompetent reanalysis of a ten year…

And now for something completely different… Due to the holiday and suddenly being informed that my revised manuscript for a certain journal (more on that later) is needed NOW, I don’t have time for much of a post. However, a certain bit of bombshell landed over the weekend that should keep those of you interested…

I know that when last I commented, I expressed the desire to move on from the topic of the CDC whistleblower case after having covered it for a week. And so was my intent. However, this being a holiday in the US and my having had an odd experience on Friday led me to think…

It is as I had feared. I must do one more post on a story that I’ve been blogging about for one solid week now. Hopefully after this, I will be able to move on to other topics last week, but after spending this whole week writing just about this, I figured, “What the heck?…

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. I never really necessarily believed it, but yesterday was a day that might well serve as anecdotal evidence to support that adage. Indeed, yesterday was perfectly bookended by two major developments in the case of the so-called “CDC whistleblower,” the senior CDC scientist who, if you believe…

Remember yesterday how, I referenced the ever-awesome bit about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and how after pulling the pin you must count to three, no more, no less, before lobbing the grenade at thine enemies? The implication was, of course, that I was on my third…

Here it is, Tuesday already, and the antivaccine underground is still on full mental jacket alert over the biggest story the antivaccine movement has seen in a while. Fortunately, it’s a story that’s been largely ignored by the mainstream media, which tells me that maybe, just maybe, the mainstream media has figured out that it…

Occasionally, there are issues that come to my attention that need more than just one blog post to cover. One such issue popped up last week, and it’s one that’s kept you all very engaged, with the comment count on the original post rapidly approaching 200. I’m referring, of course, to the alleged CDC “whistleblower”…

Here we go again. If there’s anything that ignites the fevered brains (such as they are) of antivaccine activists, it’s a good seeming conspiracy. Indeed, as we’ve seen before, if they can’t find a legitimate one, they’ll either exaggerate one or make one up out of whole cloth. This week, an “alleged” conspiracy has been…

Clinical trials of magic

I’ll partially apologize here. The reason is that I said I’d be back to business dishing out the Insolence as usual, be it in the form of my usual 2,000 word gems, or slightly shorter, or a lot longer. However, fate intervened. First, there were new developments in the Frank Arguello threat machine. Go back…

As I happened to be out last night at a function for my department, I didn’t have the time necessary to lay out a 2,000 word bit of Insolence. I did, however, have time to note that yet another practitioner unhappy with being criticized over his scientifically questionable treatment, in this case, Dr. Frank Arguello,…

I hadn’t expected to write about this topic again so soon, but then I didn’t expect a major newspaper to have written such a boneheaded editorial about it. In a way, I hate to write this post, because USA TODAY did great things once. There, Liz Szabo wrote the single best science-based report on cancer…

About five weeks ago a month ago, I finally wrote the post I had been promising to write for months before about medical marijuana. At the time, I also promised that there would be follow-up posts. Like Dug the Dog seeing a squirrel, I kept running into other topics that kept me from revisiting the…

A lot of medical specialties have throwaway newspapers/magazines that are supported by advertising and somehow mysteriously managed to show up for free in the mailboxes of their practitioners. In my case, I’ve found myself on the subscription list for such papers about oncology, but, given that I trained as a general surgeon. I’m Board-certified as…

There are times when supporting science-based health policy and opposing health policies that sound compassionate but are not are easily portrayed as though I’m opposing mom, apple pie, and the American flag. One such type of misguided policy that I’ve opposed is a category of bills that have been finding their way into state legislatures…

I come across antivaccine editorials all the time. Usually, some editor ignorant of the issues involved is duped by antivaccine arguments or succumbs to the annoying journalistic fallacy (with respect to science) of “telling both sides.” Either that, or the editor has antivaccine proclivities himself. Either way, the result is an op-ed by someone like…

Over the last decade that I’ve been at this blogging thing, I’ve come across some incredibly irresponsible quackery, but what I saw about a week and a half ago took the cake. I’m referring to practitioners of The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy, demonstrating a sense delusion that was as massive as the…

One of the most annoying phenomena when it comes to “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), which its advocates are more and more insistent on calling “integrative medicine” is how little the average doctor cares that pseudoscience is infiltrating medicine. The reason, of course, is that CAM advocates don’t like the “alternative” part of the term…

Not infrequently, I’m asked why it is that I do what I do. Why do I spend so many hours of my free time, both here and at my not-so-super-secret other blog (NSSSOB), to write my detailed analyses of various forms of quackery, analyses of scientific studies, and expressions of my dismay at the infiltration…

Every so often I come across something in the world of woo that catches my attention because it’s so completely batshit loony that it demands my attention, either for the sheer delusion on display or for the extreme cleverness with which the pseudoscience and conspiracy theories are woven together. No, this time, I’m not talking…