Science

Respectful Insolence

Category archives for Science

Last year, I did several posts on what I consider to be a profoundly misguided and potentially harmful type of law known as “right-to-try.” Beginning about a year and a half ago, promoted by the libertarian think tank known as the Goldwater Institute, right-to-try laws began popping up in state legislatures. I wrote about how…

Epigenetics. As I’ve described before, to alternative medicine practitioners, epigenetics seems to mean something akin to what the word “quantum” means: Magic. I’ve covered, for example, the woo-filled stylings of Deepak Chopra invoking things like “quantum consciousness,” and seemingly for quite a few years the best way to slap a patina of “sciencey”-sounding credibility on…

Autism One: As quacky as it ever was

Once again, the yearly autism quackfest known as Autism One is fast approaching. In fact, it will begin in Chicago tomorrow: five days of “autism biomed” quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience. Ever since the Great Schism in the autism antivaccine quackery community, which severed Generation Rescue from Autism One and ended Jenny McCarthy’s run of being…

It’s been a long time since I bothered to care if readers know where I live or who I am. That’s why when a newbie troll shows up in the comments, as newbie trolls periodically do, and castigates me for somehow being a “coward” or “hiding” my identity, I generally get a hardy laugh out…

Dedicated to lilady. One of the disadvantages of writing for this blog is that sometimes I feel as though I spend so much time deconstructing bad science and pseudoscience in medicine that I’m rarely left with the time or the opportunity to discuss some interesting science. Of course, even when I do that, usually it’s…

After having written yesterday’s piece about the fallacy known as the appeal to nature, a favorite fallacy of the alternative medicine crowd. The idea that if something is somehow “natural” it must be superior to anything viewed as “unnatural” or “man-made” is deeply ingrained in pseudoscientific medicine. Heck, there’s even a brand of quackery known…

I’ve discussed on many occasions over the years how antivaccine activists really, really don’t want to be known as “antivaccine.” Indeed, when they are called “antivaccine” (usually quite correctly, given their words and deeds), many of them will clutch their pearls in indignation, rear up in self-righteous anger, and retort that they are “not antivaccine”…

As hard as it is to believe, I’ve been spending a significant part of my time countering pseudoscience for close to 17 years, so long that it seems that I’ve always been doing it. Of course, that’s not true; I didn’t actually become involved in this seemingly never-ending Sisyphean task until I was in my…

I’ve written on multiple occasions of what I like to refer to as “antivaccine dog whistles.” In politics, the term “dog whistle” refers to things politicians can say to certain groups, usually groups with odious views, that they are with them without actually echoing the views for which the group at which the dog whistle…

I didn’t think I would be writing about this, but, then again, I seem to say that fairly frequently. Be that as it may, on Friday I wrote about a letter sent to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining about Dr. Mehmet Oz’s promotion…

Once again, repeat after me: Homeopathy is quackery. In fact, it’s what I like to refer to as The One Quackery To Rule Them All. You would think that, in a modern world and given the incredible advancements in our scientific understanding of biology, physiology, chemistry, and physics over the course of the over 200…

I’ve spend considerable time documenting the utter pseudoscience, misinformation, and downright idiocy about “chemicals” in food regularly inflicted on the public by the misguided “food activist” named Vani Hari, who is better known by the moniker she chose for herself “The Food Babe.” Indeed, in decade-plus that I’ve been running this blog and the few…

Recent articles in The Daily Mail and The Australian reminded me that it’s been over a month since the unfortunate demise of Jess Ainscough, a young Australian woman who was diagnosed with an epithelioid sarcoma of her left upper extremity in 2008. Before I get to the articles, a brief recap is in order. This…

Why, oh why, did I look at GreenMedInfo again? You remember GreenMedInfo? It’s yet another wretched hive of scum and quackery, but with a twist. Its proprietor, Sayer Ji, thinks he’s an expert at interpreting the biomedical literature. Unfortunately, as he demonstrates time and time again with depressing regularity, he is nothing of the sort.…

Ancient cancer

As I sat on my couch last night, laptop sitting in front of me, I awaited the Ken Burns adaptation of Siddartha Mukherjee’s excellent book The Emperor of All Maladies into a three part television documentary to air on PBS. I’m not sure whether I’ll blog the show or not, but if I do I’ll…

Homeopathy is quackery. It can’t be repeated often enough. Homeopathy is The One Quackery To Rule Them All. It is based on prescientific vitalism and principles so addled that one must wonder whether Samuel Hahnemann, the guy who dreamt up this medical system, was a fan of excess alcohol use, opium, marijuana, or some unholy…

Two things have reminded me that it’s been a while since I’ve written about Stanislaw Burzynski, nearly five months, to be precise. First, on Wednesday evening I’ll be heading to the city where Burzynski preys on unsuspecting cancer patients, Houston, TX, to attend this year’s Society of Surgical Oncology meeting to imbibe the latest research…

How quickly things change. If there’s one thing I always feel obligated to warn my fellow pro-science advocates about vaccines and the antivaccine movement, it’s that we can never rest on our laurels or assume that the tide is turning in our direction. The reason is simple: Antivaccinationism is a powerful belief system, every bit…

The human mind is amazing in its ability to compartmentalize. Many are the times when I’ve come across people who seem reasonable in every other way but who cling tightly to one form of pseudoscience or another. On the other hand, as I’ve noticed time and time again, people whose minds have a proclivity for…

“I don’t want knowledge. I want certainty!” –David Bowie, from Law (Earthlings on Fire) I know I’ve already said this once, but I have to say it again, but it’s been a rather stressful week on the old blog, but I hadn’t planned on writing about this particular topic again (although I will say that…

Alternative oncology versus oncology

I hadn’t planned on discussing the death of Jess Ainscough again, figuring two posts in a row were enough for now, barring new information. Besides, I was getting a little tired of the seemingly unending stream of her fans castigating me for being “insensitive” and saying it was “too soon” to discuss her death and…

Two months ago, I took note of a somewhat cryptic blog post by a young woman named Jess Ainscough. In Australia and much of the world, Ainscough was known as the Wellness Warrior. She was a young woman who developed an epithelioid sarcoma in 2008 and ended up choosing “natural healing” to treat her cancer.…

Poor Andy Wakefield. Beginning in the late 1990s until around six years ago, Andy was the premiere “vaccine skeptic” in the world. His 1998 case series published in The Lancet linking bowel problems in autistic children to the measles vaccine, the one where in the paper itself he was careful not to blame the MMR…

Every so often, it’s good to post some heartening news regarding quackery. After all, after a decade of blogging about this, preceded by five years in the trenches of Usenet battling quackery and Holocaust denial, sometimes it’s hard for me not to become depressed. After all, there are times when it really does feel as…

With the Disneyland measles outbreak still going strong and striking far more unvaccinated than vaccinated, it’s not surprising that a discussion has begun in some states about lax policies that permit religious and/or philosophical exemptions. In Oregon, for example, the legislature is considering SB442, a bill apparently originally intended to provide a technical fix to…