Biology

Respectful Insolence

Category archives for Biology

The New York Times Styles Section giveth. The New York Times Styles Section taketh away. Last week, The NYT Styles Section published an excellent deconstruction of the pseudoscientific activities of Vani Hari, a.k.a. The Food Babe, by Courtney Rubin. Although skeptics might think that it was a tad too “balanced” (as did I), by and…

It looks like this year’s going to be a bad flu season. Hard as it is for me to believe, it was only five weeks ago when I discussed an announcement by the CDC that this year’s flu vaccine would likely be less effective because it isn’t a good match for the influenza strains in…

NOTE: There is a follow up to this post. The holidays are over. Time to start dishing out fresh Insolence, Respectful and, as appropriate, not-so-Respectful for 2015. I do, however, feel obligated to deal with one painfully inappropriate action by a major science journal left over from 2014. It happened in an issue that came…

Seven years ago I returned to Michigan, where I was born and spent the first quarter century of my life, after an absence of more than 20 years. In the interim, I had done my surgical residency and earned my PhD in Cleveland, a surgical oncology fellowship in Chicago, and worked in New Jersey at…

Medical conspiracy theories tend to involve “someone” hiding something from the public. I like to refer to this as the fallacy of “secret knowledge.” That “someone” hiding the “secret knowledge” is usually the government, big pharma, or other ill-defined nefarious forces. The “secret knowledge” being hidden comes invariably in one of two flavors. Either “they”…

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…

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…

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.…

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…

I had originally planned on writing about a different topic today, but, as is so often the case in blogging, something came up that caught my attention, much as the errant thought of a squirrel distracts Dug the Dog. Well, actually, I had to go to an evening meeting for work last night and by…

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…

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,…

When it comes to Twitter, I run hot and cold. I’ll frequently go weeks when I barely touch my Twitter account, and nothing gets posted there except automatic Tweets linking to my new posts. Then something will happen, and suddenly I’ll post 20 Tweets in a day. Rinse, lather, repeat. I guess I’m just too…

I never used to write much about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) before. I still don’t do it that often. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t been on my radar very much. That seems to be changing, however. It’s not because I went seeking this issue out (although I must admit that I first became interested…

How to kill cancer cells

I am taking the Memorial Day holiday off. I will return tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a general principle that needs to be remembered in cancer research: I would also add to that list: So does bleach. So does acid. So does alkali. So does pouring the media out of the dish and letting the…

Stem cells are magical, mystical things that can’t be explained. At least, if you listen to what docs and “practitioners” who run stem cell clinics in various parts of the world, usually where regulation is lax and money from First World clientele is much sought after, that’s what you could easily come to believe. Unfortunately,…

Here we go again. One of the greatest threats to biomedical research, in the U.S. at least, is the truly crappy research funding environment, a situation that hasn’t been this bad for at least 20 years. Labs are closing; investigators are giving up; and fewer of our young best and brightest are interested in a…

I’ve written a lot about a doctor named Stanislaw Burzynski who claims to have much better outcomes in treating deadly brainstem tumors than conventional oncology does. Although the way he claims to do it is through the use of substances he calls “antineoplastons,” which he claimed to have isolate from the urine of patients. Over…

Heidi Stevenson amuses me. I know, I know, I’ve started a previous post with exactly this sentence a mere month ago, but it’s so damned appropriate that I can’t help but try it again. A homeopath (which means that she’s reality-challenged to begin with), she’s produced some of the most hilariously off-base, pseudoscientific, and downright…

The “myth” of placebo effects

Heidi Stevenson amuses me. The reasons are legion. Be it the time when Heidi lectured scientists on anecdotal evidence (which she values far more highly than scientists, of course, declaring it the “basis of all knowledge”); launched a vile and nonsensical attack on Stephen Barrett; argued against prior plausibility with using a straw man argument…

Epigenetics. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. I realize I overuse that little joke, but I can’t help but think that virtually every time I see advocates of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or, as it’s known more commonly now, “integrative medicine” discussing epigenetics.…

For all the worship of “translational” research that is currently in vogue, it needs to be remembered that a robust pipeline of basic science progress upon which to base translational research and clinical trials is absolutely essential if progress in medicine is to continue. Without it, progress in SBM will slow and even grind to…

Ideologically motivated bad science, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies irritate me. In fact, arguably, they are the very reason I started this blog. True, over time my focus has narrowed. I used to write a lot more about creationism, more general skeptical topics, Holocaust denial, 9/11 Trutherism, and the like, but these days I rarely write…

Overselling preclinical results

As part of my ongoing effort to make sure that I never run out of blogging material, I subscribe to a number of quack e-mail newsletters. In fact, sometimes I think I’ve probably overdone it. Every day, I get several notices and pleas from various wretched hives of scum and quackery, such as NaturalNews.com, Mercola.com,…

Depopulation by vaccines?

After all the years that I’ve been writing about vaccines, the science behind vaccines, and how antivaccinationists twist that science to turn what are arguably the greatest medical achievement of medicine and have saved arguably more lives than any other medical intervention devised by human minds into toxic cesspits of horrific chemical corruption that cause…