Science

Category archives for Science

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…

[NOTE added 12/23/2015: It would appear that the offending article has been taken down. I, of course, have screenshots, and, of course, the Google cached version is still around for the moment.] Anaphylaxis can be deadly. Anaphylaxis can kill. More than that, anaphylaxis can kill pretty quickly. Even the most dimwitted purveyor of “natural” cures…

The blog post of mine that arguably “put me on the map” in the skeptical blogosphere was my very Insolent, very sarcastic deconstruction of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s deceptive pseudoscience-ridden bit of fear mongering that he called Deadly Immunity. It was originally jointly published both by Salon.com and Rolling Stone, a blot that neither publication…

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…

I originally wasn’t going to write about this particular post, but the mass shooting in San Bernardino yesterday led me to change my mind. For those of you who either aren’t in the US or were somehow cut off from media for the last 18 hours or so, yesterday a heavily armed man and woman…

Of all the slick woo peddlers out there, one of the most famous (and most annoying) is Deepak Chopra. Indeed, he first attracted a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence a mere 10 months after this blog started, when Chopra produced the first of many rants against nasty “skeptics” like me that I’ve deconstructed over the years.…

After nearly 11 years (!) at this blogging thing, I thought I had covered pretty much every medical topic a skeptic and supporter of science-based medicine would be interested in covering. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s always something I’ve missed, some hole in my blogging oeuvre that…

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…

A sad day for public science advocacy

I’ve been at this blogging thing for more than a decade now. Looking back on those years, I find it incredible that I’ve lasted this long. For one thing, I still marvel that there are apparently thousands of people out there who still like to read my nearly daily musings (or, as George Carlin would…

The “myth” of basic science?

I’m a clinician, but I’m actually also a translational scientist. It’s not uncommon for those of us in medicine involved in some combination of basic and clinical research to argue about exactly what that means. The idea is translational science is supposed to be the process of “translating” basic science discoveries into the laboratory into…

Choosing Wisely three years on

I like to point out from time to time that arguably the most striking difference between science-based medicine (and the evidence-based medicine from which we distinguish it) and alternative medicine, “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), or (as it’s called now) “integrative medicine” is a concerted effort to change practice for the better based on science…

I consider posts like the one I’m writing now to be public service, an obligation. There are times when I don’t want to do them, when they become so sadly, depressingly repetitive in overall outline (and, unfortunately, likely outcome) that it takes an effort to begin. However, given that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month…

Two of the great “icons”—if you can call them “great” given that they’re icons but hardly “great”—of the antivaccine movement are Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. Over the last decade, they have arguably been the most influential people in the antivaccine movement. The reasons are simple. Let’s look at Jenny McCarthy first. In 2007, when…

If there’s one thing I’ve been consistent about, it’s that, however ridiculous all the other woo I routinely discuss here is—homeopathy, reiki, reflexology, I’m talking to you and your friends—herbal medicine and supplements might have value because they might have a physiological effect that is beneficial in treating or preventing disease. Of course, if that’s…

Oh, no, Nature. Not you. Not again. It wasn’t enough that you were busted shilling for traditional Chinese medicine with a big, glossy advertising supplement a few years ago. I thought you had learned your lesson after that, as you didn’t do it again. Maybe I was wrong. Granted, your offense this time is not…

One of the more depressing topics that I regularly write about includes of analyses of news stories of children with cancer whose parents decided to stop science-based treatment (usually the chemotherapy) and use quackery instead. There are, of course, variations on this theme, but these stories take form that generally resembles this outline: A child…

When last I discussed the cruel sham that is the tide of “right-to-try” laws that has been flowing through state legislatures to become law over the last year and a half. “Right-to-try” laws, as I pointed out when I first noted the earliest ones being promoted in Colorado, Louisiana, Arizona, and Missouri, referring to them…

Last week, in response to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Chinese scientist Youyou Tu, who isolated Artemisinin and validated it as a useful treatment for malaria back in the 1970s, I pointed out that the discovery was a triumph of natural products pharmacology, not of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).…

Over the years, I’ve frequently made the points that the vast majority of physicians are not scientists and, in fact, that many of them suffer from a severe case of Dunning-Kruger when it comes to science. Even going back to the very early history of this blog, you can find examples, the most common of…