Science

Category archives for Science

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…

Anger is an energy, as a certain old punk sang back in the 1980s. It can even be a great motivator, such as when anger overtakes us for injustice or over crimes. Anger, however, is not a particularly good intellectual tool, nor does it help in analyzing science. Which reminds me: J.B. Handley is back.…

Naturopathy is quackery. I like to start most, if not all, posts about naturopathy with that simple statement. The reasons are simple. First, it’s true. Second, most people—including doctors—are unaware of this simple fact. Finally, it irritates naturopaths and their fans. It also has the benefit of setting the tone I want to convey whenever…

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…

A week ago, I noted that one of the stranger and less credible conspiracy theories promulgated by quacks and their believers was still going strong nearly three months after the first death that triggered it, the death of autism quack Jeff Bradstreet, apparently by suicide. Basically, three months ago, Dr. Bradstreet, who has long been…

Yesterday, I wrote about how pediatric neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate Ben Carson is an excellent example demonstrating how the vast majority of physicians and surgeons, even highly accomplished ones admired as being at the top of their professions, are not scientists and how many of them are disturbingly prone to buying into pseudoscience. In Dr.…

Early in the history of this blog, I had a running gag that I’d use every now and then. Basically, it involved humorously extravagant descriptions of how I wanted to hide my face behind a paper bag in sheer embarrassment at the antics of fellow physicians, particularly fellow surgeons. Over time, the gag evolved to…

Homeopathy is a frequent topic on this blog, for reasons that regular readers no doubt understand all too well by now. Homeopathy is, as I like to call it, again borrowing from Tolkien, The One Quackery To Rule Them All. When it comes to quackery, few can even come close to homeopathy for the sheer…

It just occurred to me that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is fast approaching, not the least of which because I did a Komen event last night as one of the breast cancer experts. I sometimes wonder if I suffer from a bit of the imposter syndrome, because sixteen years on I still sometimes can’t believe…

Regular readers of this blog will find it no surprise that I don’t think much of Dr. Mehmet Oz. The reason, of course, is that his daily television show, The Dr. Oz Show, has been a font of misinformation about medicine almost since it began airing six years ago. It’s not for nothing that I…

The Central Dogma of Alternative Medicine

[Note: My flight home from London was delayed until quite late; so unfortunately another “rerun” is in order. This one’s from three years ago, and I actually consider it one of my “classics.” It was also originally published at my not-so-super-secret other blog and represents the first time I tried to put together my concept…

NOTE: Orac is on vacation recharging his Tarial cells and interacting with ion channel scientists, as a good computer should. In the meantime, he is rerunning oldies but goodies, classics, even. (OK, let’s not get carried away.) Here’s one from all the way back in 2007. Notice how, the more things change, the more they…

In which the NCCIH is questioned…

Orac’s vacation continues apace. Well, not quite. The main reason I’m in London right now is because I was invited to give an actual scientific (as opposed to skeptical) talk at a conference about—of all things—ion channels in cancer. That’s where I am right now, at the Sir Alexander Fleming Building at Imperial College London,…

Precision medicine: Hype over hope?

I am fortunate to have become a physician in a time of great scientific progress. Back when I was in college and medical school, the thought that we would one day be able to sequence the human genome (and now sequence hundreds of cancer genomes), to measure the expression of every gene in the genome…

Orac is recharging

This is a public service announcement—with skepticism. Orac needs a recharge: Some of you might have seen it alluded to in the comments that I am on vacation this week. It is true, although it’s not entirely a vacation. Basically, I was invited by a collaborator to give a talk at a two-day conference at…

Cancer quackery going the distance

You’d think that after all these years combatting quackery and blogging about science in medicine (and, unfortunately, pseudoscience in medicine) it would take a lot to shock me. You’d be right. On the other hand, Even now, 15 years after I discovered quackery in a big way on Usenet and ten years after the inception…

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…

How should we treat stage 0 breast cancer?

I’ve written more times than I can remember about the phenomenon of overdiagnosis and the phenomenon that is linked at the hip with it, overtreatment. Overdiagnosis is a problem that arises when large populations of asymptomatic, apparently healthy people are screened for a disease or a condition, the idea being that catching the disease at…

Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo, but it’s hard not to grudgingly admire just how—shall we say?—malleable or adaptable a placebo it is. What I mean by this is that, if you believe its practitioners and adherents, acupuncture can treat almost literally any disease or health problem. Any! Pain? Acupuncture. Allergies? Acupuncture. Biliary colic? Acupuncture. Infertility?…

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…

A recurring topic on this blog involves my discussion of stories about children with cancer whose parents refuse chemotherapy, thus endangering the children’s lives. These stories usually take this general form: The child is diagnosed with a deadly, but treatable cancer that has a high probability of cure with proper chemotherapy. The child receives the…

The Woo Boat

File this one under the category: You can’t make stuff like this up. (At least, I can’t.) Let’s say you’re a die hard all-conspiracy conspiracy theorist and alternative medicine believer (a not uncommon combination). You love Alex Jones and Mike Adams and agree with their rants that there is a New World Order trying to…

Alright, alright already! I get the message. Over the course of the day yesterday I was bombarded by e-mails with a link to a New York Times article that shows a rather shocking lack of understanding of the science—more specifically, the lack of science—behind alternative medicine. Whenever something like this happens and I get so…

I learned over the weekend that a historic figure in science-based medicine has died. If you know anything about the history of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you will know this woman’s name, Frances O. Kelsey, MD, PhD. It turns out that Dr. Kelsey died on Friday at the age of 101. Somehow I…

I frequently discuss a disturbing phenomenon known as “quackademic medicine.” Basically, quackademic medicine is a phenomenon that has taken hold over the last two decades in medical academia in which once ostensibly science-based medical schools and academic medical centers embrace quackery. This embrace was once called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) but among quackademics the…