Skepticism/critical thinking

Respectful Insolence

Category archives for Skepticism/critical thinking

It’s been a while since I discussed medical marijuana, even though it’s a topic I’ve been meaning to come back to since I first dubbed medical marijuana to be the equivalent of herbalism and discussed how the potential of cannabinoids to treat cancer has been, thus far, unimpressive, with relatively modest antitumor effects. The reason…

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…

The New York Times Styles Section giveth. The New York Times Styles Section taketh away. Last week, The NYT Styles Section published an excellent deconstruction of the pseudoscientific activities of Vani Hari, a.k.a. The Food Babe, by Courtney Rubin. Although skeptics might think that it was a tad too “balanced” (as did I), by and…

After a busy and late day yesterday, I didn’t have any gas left in the tank, if you know what I mean, to produce Insolence as epic as my posts about The Food Babe and cries of antivaccine activists of “Help, help! I’m being repressed!” Or maybe I should say that Orac’s power supply is…

To put it mildly, I’m not a big fan of Vani Hari, who has achieved Internet notoriety as a highly misguided “food activist” better known as The Food Babe. As The Food Babe, Hari has improbably become a minor celebrity by attacking food companies over various ingredients their products and, unfortunately, seems poised for more.…

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…

Anyone who’s read this blog knows my opinion of Mike Adams, the proprietor of the quack website known as NaturalNews.com. It is not favorable, to put it mildly. All you have to do to realize that is to type his name into the search box of this blog and see what comes up: Anger at…

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…

One of the things I’ve noticed over the last decade of covering pseudoscience and quackery from a skeptical point of view is that no pseudoscientific trope ever really dies. This is particularly true of antivaccine tropes. No matter how many times this piece or that of antivaccine misinformation is slapped down, sooner or later it…

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…

It’s been a rather…interesting…weekend. Friday, I noted the death of Jess Ainscough, a.k.a. “The Wellness Warrior,” a young Australian woman who was unfortunate enough to develop epithelioid sarcoma, a rare cancer, at the age of 22. I’ve been blogging about her because after her doctors tried isolated limb perfusion with chemotherapy in an attempt to…

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…

Oh, goody. Here’s something we didn’t need here in the US. While Australian skeptics have successfully been rallying to put a stop to a series of lectures from American antivaccine activist Sherri Tenpenny, we’re going to have to put up with a far bigger name in quackery showing up right here in the good ol’…

Blowing the antivaccine dog whistle again

You remember Dr. Bob, don’t you? I’m referring, of course, to Robert “Dr. Bob” Sears, the Capistrano Beach, CA pediatrician who’s arguably the most famous of the antivaccine pediatricians who have been spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about vaccines. (Sorry, Dr. Jay, but, regardless of your being Jenny McCarthy’s son’s pediatrician, I’d bet that…

Ever since the Disneyland measles outbreak hit high gear last month and permeated the national consciousness, the antivaccine movement has, justifiably, been on the defensive. We’ve been treated to the spectacle of a truly despicable cardiologist spewing antivaccine nonsense with an added dollop of contempt for parents of children with cancer who are worried about…

It often comes as a surprise to proponents of alternative medicine and critics of big pharma that I’m a big fan of John Ioannidis. Evidence of this can easily be found right here on this very blog just by entering Ioannidis’ name into the search box. Indeed, my first post about an Ioannidis paper is…

If there’s one thing that’s become clear to me over the years about acupuncture, it’s that it’s nothing more than a theatrical placebo. Many are the times that I’ve asked: Can we finally just say that acupuncture is nothing more than an elaborate placebo? Most recently, I asked this question in 2012. What science-based medicine…

I really don’t want Mondays to be come “let’s refute and make fun of the conspiratorial antivaccine nonsense Bill Maher said on his show Friday night.” I really don’t. However, I figured that I might have to devote Monday to that one more time this week after Maher really let his antivaccine freak flag fly…

If there’s one good thing about the ongoing Disneyland measles outbreak that is continuing to spread, if there can be a “good thing” about an outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease that didn’t have to happen, it’s that it’s put the antivaccine movement on the defensive. They are definitely feeling the heat. Their reaction to that heat…

Sometimes, in order to understand advocates of pseudoscience, such as antivaccinationists, it’s a useful exercise to look at their most extreme elements. Admittedly, in focusing on such loons, one does take the risk of generalizing the nuts to everyone a bit much, but on the other hand I’ve often found that the extremists are basically…

Note added 2/10/2015: I’ve posted a followup in response to the skeptics who defend Bill Maher. A couple of weeks ago, I noted the return of the antivaccine wingnut side of Bill Maher, after a (relative) absence of several years, dating back, most likely, to the thorough spanking he endured for spouting off his antivaccine…