Science

Category archives for Science

One of the most insidious and oft-repeated myths of the antivaccine movement is that vaccines cause autism. Certainly, it is true that there was an antivaccine movement long before anyone thought of linking vaccines to autism. For example, in the the 1980s the DPT (diptheria-whole cell pertussis-tetanus) vaccine was linked to encephalitis and neurological damage,…

I’ve been writing about this topic so long—ever since the very beginning of this blog—that it seems as though I’ve always been doing it even though this blog has been in existence only 11 years and I didn’t really come to appreciate the problem until after I had started this blog. No, I’m not referring…

One of the most frequent complaints about evidence-based medicine (EBM), in contrast to science-based medicine (SBM), is its elevation of the randomized clinical trial as the be-all and end-all for clinical evidence for an intervention for a particular disease or condition. Unknown but enormous quantities of “digital ink” have been spilled explaining this distinction right…

Those of us living in Michigan who support science-based medicine have been forced to deal with a bill that, if passed, would grant practitioners of unscientific “medicine” a wide scope of practice—almost as wide as that of primary care practitioners such as pediatricians, internists, and family practice doctors. I’m referring to HB 4531, a bill…

One major thing that differentiated science-based medicine (SBM) from alternative medicine and quackery is that in SBM there is a generally accepted standard of care. This was even the case back in the days before the proliferation of evidence-based guidelines, in which professional societies and expert panels try their best to synthesize what is often…

Andrew Wakefield, his claims to the contrary, is antivaccine to the core. To be honest, I’m not sure if he was always antivaccine. After all, around 20 years ago when he was doing his “research” into whether the MMR vaccine causes autism, he was being generously funded by a barrister seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers…

To say that I, as a cancer surgeon, am not a fan of Ty Bollinger is a massive understatement. He’s not exactly one of my fans, either, but I view the hatred of a man like Bollinger directed at me as a badge of honor. Indeed, if a man like Bollinger didn’t detest me, I…

It’s been a while since I paid attention to the movie, but the publicity among the antivaccine movement for Andrew Wakefield’s and Del Bigtree’s movie VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe continues apace. Sadly, I missed my opportunity to see Bigtree himself doing a Q&A for the movie when it rolled through Detroit a a week…

I’ve written a lot about the language issue with respect to alternative medicine. As I like to put it (at least in shortened form), first there was quackery. Quacks did not like that name at all, and thus was born alternative medicine. And the quacks did think it good—for a while. There was a problem,…

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of John Oliver. When my aging body allows me to stay awake late enough on Sunday nights and there’s a new episode on, I’ll almost always be watching. Since starting his own show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver on HBO, Oliver’s become quite the expert at…

As regular readers of this blog and related blogs know, over the last two or three decades there has been a successful effort to legitimize quackery in the form of what is now called “integrative medicine.” Three decades ago, modalities like homeopathy, acupuncture, much of traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology, chiropractic, and many other modalities based…

I often describe “integrative medicine” as integrating quackery with medicine because that’s what this inadvertently appropriately named branch of medicine in essence does. The reason, as I’ve described time and time again, is to put that quackery on equal footing (or at least apparently equal footing) with science- and evidence-based medicine, a goal that is…

All drugs are poisons, and that’s OK

There are a number of aphorisms that one imbibes over many years of medical education, especially in medical school. Some are useful; some are not; but some stick with you for reasons that even you can’t figure out. For example, I still remember my first day of medical school over 30 (!) years ago. It…

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of John Ioannidis. (If you don’t believe me, just type Ioannidis’ name into the blog search box and see how many posts you find.) Over the last couple of decades, Ioannidis has arguably done more to reveal the shortcomings of the medical research enterprise that undergirds our treatments,…

Medical research is a scientific enterprise, but, like most areas of science, nonscientific considerations have a great deal of influence over what sorts of research are funded. This is true regardless of who is funding the research. When it’s the government, obviously it’s impossible to avoid some degree of politics. (Indeed, politics is largely responsible…

Last week, I wrote about how conspiracy theories have been flowing fast and furious about the Zika virus and microcephaly. Even if you didn’t see that post (perhaps instead having seen this one), you’ve probably seen the news reports describing how last fall the observation of a large number of cases of microcephaly, characterized by…

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

It’s a seldom mentioned aspect of my professional history that I used to do a lot of trauma surgery in my youth. I did my residency at a program that included a county hospital with a busy trauma program where I saw quite a bit of vehicular carnage and an urban hospital (which has since…

One of the recurring topics I write about is, of course, cancer quackery. It goes right back to the very beginning of this blog, to my very earliest posts more than 11 years ago. Over the years I’ve covered more cases than I can remember of patients relying on quackery instead of real medicine. In…

I feel as though I’m experiencing an acid flashback to 2011, and I’ve never in my entire life once tried acid—or any mind-altering substance other than booze. What am I talking about? Let’s take a trip down memory lane, if you will, back to those halcyon days of—oh—five years ago. That was the time when…

I remember my PhD thesis. In particular, I remember the years of work that went into it. I remember being grilled (with good, constructive intent) by my thesis committee a couple of times a year as I worked on it. I remember the many, many hours spend writing it. And, above all, I remember the…

This post will be different than my usual post. Let’s just say that it has to do with quackery of a different kind than I usually write about here. It’s about a public health disaster that was entirely preventable and had nothing to do with vaccines. It has to do with government malpractice on an…

It’s an understatement to say that I’m not exactly a fan of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the institute formerly known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and, even a year after its name change, probably still better known by its old moniker. Just type “NCCAM” or…

Fixing peer review

I’ve frequently noted that one of the things most detested by quacks and promoters of pseudoscience is peer review. Creationists hate peer review. HIV/AIDS denialists hate it. Anti-vaccine cranks like those at Age of Autism hate it. Indeed, as blog bud Mark Hoofnagle Mark Hoofnagle, pointed out several years ago, pseudoscientists and cranks of all…

Christmas and New Years are almost here. As a result, as is always the case this time of year, we’re being flooded with “year end” lists. These lists are a fun distraction that I actually rather look forward to as an amusing (and sometimes annoying) year end tradition. In particular, I’m a sucker for “best…