Science

Respectful Insolence

Category archives for Science

Three months ago, I wrote about how the Cleveland Clinic had recently opened a clinic that dispensed herbal medicine according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice. As regular readers might expect, I was not particularly impressed or approving of this particular bit of infiltration of quackademic medicine into a major, generally well-respected academic medical center,…

Over the years I’ve been studying science versus pseudoscience, medicine vs. quackery, reason versus crankery, I’ve noticed one thing. The cranks, pseudoscientists, and quacks of the world have a hard time dealing with legitimate criticism. Now, I know I sometimes get a bit—shall we say?—frisky with my criticisms. OK, obnoxious. I have, however, mellowed considerably…

If there’s one thing that antivaccine activists share in common, it’s the passionate (and as yet unproven) belief that “something” out there in the environment caused the “autism epidemic.” Usually, that “something” thought to be vaccines, but with the utter failure of the vaccine-autism hypothesis to the point where it is considered soundly refuted, antivaccinationists…

If this looks a bit familiar to some of you, let’s just say that it’s grant crunch time again. This should be over after today. I hope. In the meantime, one of the difficult things about science-based medicine is determining what is and isn’t quackery. While it is quite obvious that modalities such as homeopathy,…

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a beer snob. I make no bones about it, I like my beer, but I also like it to be good beer, and, let’s face it, beer brewed by large industrial breweries seldom fits the bill. To me, most of the beer out being sold in the U.S.,…

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.…

Being a cancer surgeon, I realize that my tendency is to view my blogging material through the prism of cancer, particularly breast cancer, my specialty. it’s easy to forget that there are diseases every bit as horrible, some arguably even more so than the worst cancer. When I think of such diseases, it’s not surprising…

Well, it snuck up on me again, the way it has a tendency to do every year. Maybe it’s because Memorial Day is so early this year. Maybe it’s because there’s just so much work to do this week given the multiple grant deadlines. Whatever the case, it just dawned on my last night that…

Alternative medicine as religion, again

Over the years, I’ve often likened alternative medicine to a religion—or even a cult. Basically, it requires belief in a set of precepts that have at best little and more commonly no evidence to support them that is often accompanied by magical thinking that a god-substitute, be it nature, one’s body, or, of course, the…

Besides yesterday being Mothers’ Day yesterday, I had a lot of grant stuff to do, which means that this one will be a quickie. On Saturday, a reader sent me a link to one of the most useful sites I’ve ever encountered. I realize that over the weekend it’s spread around the skeptical blogosphere like…

I’m sure that a lot of you, like me, are watching the rebooted version of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, with Neil deGrasse Tyson taking over the hosting duties originally handled so ably over 30 years ago by Carl Sagan. I definitely enjoyed the first episode and am looking forward to additional episodes. The only thing…

I’ve written about conflicts of interest (COIs) a lot over the years. COIs are important in medicine and science because, as much as physicians and scientists like to think that they are immune to such things, we are as human as anyone else. We are just as prone to unconsciously (or consciously) being influenced by…

Rare is the occasion when I disagree significantly with my collaborator Steve Novella, but this is one of those times. It’s a measure of how much we agree on most things that, even in this case, I don’t completely disagree with him. But, hey, it happens. I’m referring to Steve’s post yesterday in which he…

More Tooth Fairy science studying acupuncture

I must confess, I had a rather rough time yesterday. Actually, it’s been a rough winter, at least as far as my car is concerned. Record amounts of snow and a January much colder than usual have wreaked havoc on the roads around where I live, producing craters that make our roads and freeways look…

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…

And now for something completely different. There was a time when, as a blogger, I would have been instantly aware of an incident like the one I’m about to discuss, instantly aware of it and all over it within a day. That it’s been a few days since this happened, and I remained blissfully unaware…

More examples of how influenza still kills

The flu season continues apace around my part of the country. I wrote about it about a week and a half ago, in particular how people don’t get their flu shots because they don’t think they need them, because they don’t think the flu is a serious disease. Two more stories illustrate this disconnect. For…

The CEO of Aetna embraces quackery

Everyone hates health insurance companies. At least, so it seems. Personally, I’ve had my issues with such companies myself, particularly when having to deal with them when they refuse to cover certain medical tests for my patients. Fortunately for me, surgical oncology is a specialty that doesn’t have a lot of tests or treatments that…

Practitioners of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) have a love-hate relationship with randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Actually, it’s mostly hate, but they do crave the validation that only randomized clinical trials can provide within the paradigm of evidence-based medicine (EBM). Yes, I intentionally said EBM, rather than science-based medicine (SBM), because, as I’ve described so…

Here we go again. In the wake of study after study that fails to find activity of various “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) beyond that of placebo, the campaign to a “rebrand” CAM as “working” through the “power of placebo” continues apace, in the wake of the successful campaign to “rebrand” various needle-based medical modalities…

One aspect of science-based medicine (SBM) that I perhaps don’t spend enough time and effort on is the intersection of law and medicine for areas in medicine other than the infiltration of pseudomedicine like “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) into academia and the never-ending quest of quacks like naturopaths to gain state licensure in states…

Life is a fatal disease

Believe it or not, even your ever-lovin’ box of colored blinking lights can malfunction, and it happened to me over the weekend. Actually, sometime around New Years, I caught some sort of crud, and have been battling it since. There’s nothing like hacking up a lung and not being able to sleep well for days…

And now for something completely different… Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find new woo-filled claims or dangerous, evidence-lacking trends to write about. Heck, I did it just last week. Examining certain other health-related issues from a science-based perspective is more difficult, but I feel obligated to do it from time to time, not just…

Three weeks ago, USA TODAY published an expose of the Burzynski Clinic by Liz Szabo that was devastating in its scope and detail. Early on, Stanislaw Burzynski and his minions tried to do some damage control, with hilarious results given how inept and unconvincing his excuses were for all the violations of ethics and patient…

As hard as it is to believe, I’ve been blogging nearly nine years. Indeed, my nine-year anniversary is coming up in just over a week. It’s been almost a decade! Early on during near-decade that I’ve been laying down bits of Insolence, Respectful, and Not-So-Respectful, I developed an interest in the antivaccine movement. Antivaccinationism, “antivax,”…