Science

Respectful Insolence

Category archives for Science

Ever since starting my blog nearly seven (!) years ago, I’ve concentrated mainly on skepticism in medicine, in particular examining various implausible medical claims that proliferate on the Internet and in our media like so much kudzu choking out science and reason. The reasons are two-fold. First, it’s what I’m interested in. Second, it was…

I’ve gotten into quite a few arguments over whether there is more anti-science nonsense on the right or the left lately. Actually, none of these arguments have been on the blog, mainly because I tend not to relish getting into discussions that are far more weighted towards politics than actual science or medicine. Still, sometimes…

The complexity of cancer

About a week ago, there appeared a story in the New York Times about recent discoveries in cancer research written by George Johnson and entitled Cancer’s Secrets Come Into Sharper Focus. Overall, it was a better-than-average article for the lay press about recent discoveries in cancer research that go beyond just the cancer cell and…

A week ago, I took someone who has normally been a hero of mine, Brian Deer, to task for what I considered to be a seriously cheap shot at scientists based on no hard data, at least no hard data that he bothered to present. To make a long, Orac-ian magnum opus short, Deer advocated…

On the evolution of quackery

Once upon a time, there was quackery. It was the term used to refer to medical practices that were not supported by evidence and were ineffective and potentially harmful. Physicians understood that modalities such as homeopathy, reflexology, and various “energy healing” (i.e., faith healing) methodologies were based either on prescientific vitalism, magical thinking, and/or on…

Dangerous placebo medicine for asthma

Note: I just got back from TAM; so if you happened to see a different version of this post somewhere else, now you know why. Last week while I was at TAM, a study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). It is another beautiful example of how proponents of complementary and alternative…

Like P.Z., I’ve been busy, busy, busy. TAM is a whirlwind of activity. Yesterday morning, I did my talk for the Science-Based Medicine workshop. Turnout was damned near standing room only, which makes me ask: Why would so many people be interested in hearing five somewhat geeky doctors pontificate about recurring themes in alternative medicine?…

Darn it all! I knew they’d find us out. I just knew it: Actually, I’m happy. Our diversion has worked. While the conspiracy loons will be protesting the lesser of two meetings, the real work in crushing conspiracies and ensuring our world domination will be some 600 miles away in Las Vegas at The Amaz!ng…

I saw this story on Friday and almost couldn’t wait the weekend to blog about it. However, since the conference that was brought to my attention isn’t until November, I ultimately decided that it would keep. At least until now. This story is about Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health. Unlike…

It’s grant crunch time, as the submission deadline for revised R01s is July 5. However, in a classic example of how electronic filing has actually made things more difficult, the grant has to be done and at the university grant office a week before the deadline if it is to be uploaded in time. So,…

It’s grant crunch time, as the submission deadline for revised R01s is July 5. However, in a classic example of how electronic filing has actually made things more difficult, the grant has to be done and at the university grant office a week before the deadline if it is to be uploaded in time. So,…

Remember Michael Egnor? I bet many of you do. If you were reading this blog three or four years ago, Dr. Egnor was a fairly regular target topic of my excretions of not-so-Respectful Insolence. The reason for that was, at the time, I was quite annoyed that a fellow surgeon could so regularly lay down…

Remember Deepak Chopra? He’s the physician (yes, physician) whose grasp on real science is so tenuous and whose ability to abuse multiple scientific disciplines, ranging from quantum physics to astronomy to genetics to medicine, simultaneously in the service of woo is so amazing that a few years ago I once coined a term representing the…

Orac note: Grant season is in full swing, and that’s what I spent my weekend doing: writing grants. Consequently, here’s a rerun from, hard as it is to believe, four and a half years ago. It’s the first appearance of one of the most hilarious “alt-med” attacks on science-based medicine I’ve ever seen, calling us…

Whenever I call an anti-vaccine activist “anti-vaccine,” frequently there will be an indignant response along the lines of either, “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine’; I’m pro-safe vaccine” or “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine’; I’m a vaccine safety activist.” (This latter retort is a favorite of Barbara Loe Fisher.) Another favorite retort is, “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine’; I’m for ‘informed consent’”…

I’ve frequently been critical fo the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) for funding dubious studies of pseudoscience and, in essence, promoting unscientific quackademic medicine (is there any other kind?) by giving it the patina of seeming respectability. I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen promoters of woo justify their woo by…

Even though I was only in junior high and high school back in the 1970s, because I was already turning into a science geek I remember Senator William Proxmire (D-WI). In particular, I remember his Golden Fleece awards. These were “awards” designed to highlight what he saw as wasteful government spending, targeting, for instance, the…

I’ve caught some flak before over things I’ve written about the almost certainly nonexistent link between cell phones and cancer. Actually, it’s not the kind of flak you probably think, unless you’ve been a long time reader and remember the relevant posts. You’d think it would be believers attacking the mean old skeptic for denying…

Let’s face it, Dr. Andrew Weil is a rock star in the “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) and “integrative medicine” (IM) movement. He is one of its founders, at least a founder of the its most modern iteration, and I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who did more in the early days of the…

All bacteria are bad?

Remember Robert O. Young? He’s the purveyor of only the finest quackery. Note that, by “finest,” I mean the most highly entertaining, the sort of utter twaddle that makes me laugh out loud when I read it. Whether it’s his claim that alkalinization is the cure for basically all disease, his characterizing sepsis as not…

Recently, there have been grumblings in the ranks of Orac-philes. All is not entirely well. Or, at least, all is less well than usual. Even more unusual, I feel your pain. I really do. We’ve been enduring a stretch when the anti-vaccine movement has been unusually busy for an unusually long time, leading vaccines to…

As hard as it is for me to believe sometimes, I’ve been at this blogging biz a long time–well over six years now. However, I’ve been engaged, in one form or another, in combatting pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and crankery online since the late 1990s. Although I try hard not to fall into the same cognitive traps…

One theme that I keep revisiting again and again is not so much a question of the science behind medical therapies (although certainly I do discuss that issue arguably more than any other) but rather a question of why. Why is it that so many people cling so tenaciously to pseudoscience, quackery, and, frequently, conspiracy…

I see I’ve managed to attract another anthropogenic global warming denialist in the comments again, I figured that now is as good a time as any to post this video. True, it’s over a year old, but it does as good a job of describing the multiple interlocking strands of evidence supporting the concept that…

“Personalized medicine.” You’ve probably heard the term. It’s a bit of a buzzword these days and refers to a vision of future medicine in which therapies are much more tightly tailored to individual patients than they currently are. That’s not to say that as physicians we haven’t practiced personalized medicine before; certainly we have. However…