Biology

Category archives for Biology

Katie May was a model, and by all accounts a very successful model, having appeared in Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and other magazines and websites. Self-proclaimed the “Queen of Snapchat,” she had nearly two million Instagram followers, May was a major social media force, having recently parlayed her modeling and social media career into becoming an…

Whenever I point out that a very common thread of “thought”—if you can call it “thought”—in alternative medicine is nothing more than germ theory denialism, the usual reaction is incredulity. Newbies who haven’t encountered quacks before invariably do a double take when I inform them that germ theory denialism is a thing, particularly among antivaccine…

To say that the relationship that antivaccine activists have with science and fact is a tenuous, twisted one is a major understatement. Despite mountains of science that says otherwise, antivaccinationists still cling to the three core tenets of their faith, namely that (1) vaccines are ineffective (or at least nowhere near as effective as health…

Blog topics seem to come in waves, where I’ll be stuck on more deeply examining a topic for days, only to have that topic dry up. Sometimes, you, my readers, make me aware of a topic. This is an example of the latter case. It’s something I had been debating about whether to blog about…

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…

Earlier this week, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Youyou Tu for her discovery of the anti-malaria compound Artemisinin, as well as to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura for their discovery of a novel therapy for roundworm. Artemisinin, as some of you might know, is a compound derived from traditional…

I’ve written many times about how the relationship between the early detection of cancer and decreased mortality from cancer is not nearly as straightforward as the average person—even the average doctor—thinks, the first time being in the very first year of this blog’s existence. Since then, the complexities and overpromising of various screening modalities designed…

One of the limitations constraining those of us who do human subjects research is that ethical considerations often prevent us from designing our clinical trials in what would be, from a strictly scientific standpoint, in the most methodologically rigorous way. For example, we can’t intentionally infect human beings with known inocula of deadly bacteria in…

As hard as it is to believe after over ten years of existence and over 5,000 posts on SBM, every so often, something reminds me that I’ve missed paper that cries out for some not-so-Respectful Insolence. So it was a couple of weeks ago, when I saw a familiar name in a news story that…

Readers of this blog of a certain age and above are likely to remember a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin named William Proxmire. Sen. Proxmire made a name for himself in the late 1970s and throughout much of the 1980s by issuing what he dubbed “The Golden Fleece Award,” which was meant to “honor” public officials…

Why do doctors deny evolution?

Yesterday was a long day, starting in the operating room and finishing at a dinner reception for our visiting speaker today. As a result, when I arrived home, I was sawing the proverbial logs within five or ten minutes of hitting the couch, more or less without realizing it. I was going to just skip…

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…