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@scienceblogs.com

One of the more bizarre bits of cancer quackery that I’ve come across is that of an Italian doctor (who, like many cancer quacks, appears not to be a board-certified oncologist) named Tullio Simoncini, who claims that cancer is really a fungus and has even written a book about it, entitled, appropriately enough for this…

This is not what I wanted to write about for my first post of 2014, but unfortunately it’s necessary—so necessary, in fact, that I felt the obligation to crosspost it to my not-so-super-secret other blog in order to get this information out to as wide a readership as possible. I’ve always had a bit of…

As I write this, 2013 is drawing to a close, with only a little more than 12 hours to go before the crowds now gathering at Times Square and elsewhere ring in 2014. For some of you, 2014 has already arrived or will arrive many hours before it does for me. I’m not normally one…

NOTE: Because I’ve been (kind of) relaxing over this holiday period, this is not an entirely new post. It is, however, a significantly expanded and reworked version of a post from nearly four years ago. So if you haven’t been reading four years, it’s new to you, and if you have you might or might…

And now for something completely different… Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find new woo-filled claims or dangerous, evidence-lacking trends to write about. Heck, I did it just last week. Examining certain other health-related issues from a science-based perspective is more difficult, but I feel obligated to do it from time to time, not just…

It’s Christmas Eve, and the blogging is light. I was going to have some fun with a truly ridiculous—is there ever any other kind?—segment on Dr. Oz’s show in which he actually combined a quack and a psychic with some EEGs to become a “100% believer” in psychic scammer “Long Island Medium” Theresa Caputo. However,…

Sarah Hershberger comes home to die

It was a couple of weeks ago that I last provided an update on the case of Sarah Hershberger, the 11-year-old Amish girl from Medina County, Ohio with lymphoblastic lymphoma whose parents decided to stop her chemotherapy because of how sick it was making her. As I explained early on and on multiple occasions afterward,…

One of the frequent topics on this blog is, unsurprisingly, cancer quackery. Be it the Gerson therapy and its propensity for encouraging patients to take hundreds of supplements and to shoot copious amounts of coffee where it really doesn’t belong (where the sun don’t shine), the Gonzalez protocol, homeopathy, naturopathy, or various other nonsensical and…

I remember during medical school that more than one of my faculty used to have a regularly repeated crack that the only thing that taking vitamin supplements could do for you was to produce expensive pee. My first year in medical school was nearly thirty years ago now; so it’s been a long time. During…

Rats. Everyone’s blogging about all the studies showing (as if it needed to be shown yet again) that vitamin supplementation is not necessary for most people, nor does it decrease the risk of heart disease or cancer, and I can’t, at least not yet. Why not? Because my friggin’ university doesn’t subscribe to the Annals…

Better late than never…again

Whoa. How did I miss this? Maybe it was all the other stuff going on last week, such as the Sarah Hershberger case, multiple updates on Stanislaw Burzynski, and Katie Couric’s sort-of apology about her awful segment on HPV vaccines. So much stuff was going on that I forgot that December 11 was my nine…

These days, Dr. Oz seems to stand for everything I oppose in medicine: Fear mongering, quackery, making claims that he can’t back up with science, and, of course, filthy lucre. On second thought, I’m not against filthy lucre per se. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having some of it myself. However, I also want to…

Thanks, Daily Kos. Well, not really. You’ll see why in a minute, but first here’s the background. There’s a general impression out there that the political right is associated with the antiscience that includes anthropogenic global warming denialism, denial of evolution, and denial of aspects of reproductive biology that don’t jibe with their religious beliefs,…

The central mystery of Stanislaw Burzynski is how he keeps managing, no matter what is thrown at him by state and federal medical authorities, to keep on treating patients with deadly cancers. He’s like the Energizer Bunny; he just keeps going and going and going and going. Or maybe he’s like the game Whac-A-Mole™, where,…

Vaccines against the human papilloma virus (HPV), such as Gardasil and Cervarix, seem to have a strange power over people who are otherwise reasonable about science and vaccines. For some reason, HPV vaccines seem to have an uncanny ability to turn such people into raging antivaccinationists almost as loony as the merry band of antivaccine…

Three weeks ago, USA TODAY published an expose of the Burzynski Clinic by Liz Szabo that was devastating in its scope and detail. Early on, Stanislaw Burzynski and his minions tried to do some damage control, with hilarious results given how inept and unconvincing his excuses were for all the violations of ethics and patient…

I fear that Sarah Hershberger is now doomed

I am afraid. I am afraid that the Amish girl with cancer whose parents’ battle to treat her with “natural” therapy instead of effective science-based chemotherapy has made international news, is doomed. It might take longer than doctors have estimated, but it seems inevitable now. I will explain. It’s hard to believe that it’s been…

Well, wouldn’t you know it? Mike Adams thinks he’s an actual scientist! Regular readers are all too familiar with Mike Adams, a.k.a. The Health Ranger, arguably the most quacktastic site on the Internet. Sure, Joe Mercola is probably the most trafficked quackery site on the Internet, but, being number two (or number three or four,…

I’m not really happy to have to write this post, but a blogger’s got to do what a blogger’s got to do. The reason is that Katie Couric has done something requires—nay, demands—a heapin’ helpin’ of Orac’s characteristic Respectful Insolence. Why should I give the proverbial rodent’s posterior about who gets the Insolence today? The…

As hard as it is to believe, I’ve been blogging nearly nine years. Indeed, my nine-year anniversary is coming up in just over a week. It’s been almost a decade! Early on during near-decade that I’ve been laying down bits of Insolence, Respectful, and Not-So-Respectful, I developed an interest in the antivaccine movement. Antivaccinationism, “antivax,”…

I don’t normally ask you, my readers for much, if anything, other than to read and for the subset of you who like to be active in the comments to have at it and, if so inclined, to cover my back by swatting down the trolls, quacks, and antivaccinationists who occasionally show up to infest…

It figures. Whenever there’s a holiday or a break where I’m not paying as much attention to the blog as usual, something always seems to happen regarding a story I’m interested and have been blogging about. Remember Sarah Hershberger? She’s 11 year old Amish girl who developed lymphoblastic lymphoma, underwent one round of chemotherapy, suffered…

Well, Thanksgiving’s over, and the orgy of consumerism known as Black Friday is in full swing. Personally, I have to work, at least part of the day, and I don’t go anywhere near the stores on Black Friday anyway. I haven’t for years. So we might as well briefly discuss a bit of science today.…

A man on TV is selling me a miracle cure that will keep me young forever. It’s called Androgel…for treating something called Low T, a pharmaceutical company–recognized condition affecting millions of men with low testosterone, previously known as getting older. —The Colbert Report, December 2012 And now for something completely different…sort of. Thanksgiving is tomorrow,…

As I noted a few days ago, the antivaccine fringe suffered a major setback in the House of Representatives when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, canceled a previously promised hearing about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, even after it had reached the stage of representatives…