Skepticism/critical thinking

Respectful Insolence

Category archives for Skepticism/critical thinking

I came so close. Yes, when I read the latest target subject of this piece of Insolence to be bestowed upon you today, I came so close to resurrecting a certain undead Fuhrer who used to roam this blog on a regular basis chomping brains and inspiring horrible Nazi analogies. Indeed, it’s been at least…

And they say I’m in it for the money?

One of the most common criticisms launched at defenders of science-based medicine by believers in pseudoscience and quackery is that we are “pharma shills.” The assumption, or so it would seem, is that no one would defend science, reason, and medicine unless he were paid off by pharmaceutical, chemical, and/or agricultural companies. The further assumption…

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,…

Leaving on a jet plane…

Today, I’m winging my way to sunny Las Vegas. Yes, in the middle of summer, when southern Nevada’s weather is most like an oven, I will be there. The reason? I’ll be doing a workshop and a panel with fellow supporters of science-based medicine at The Amazing Meeting. I don’t know how many of my…

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…

Happy 4th of July! I’m taking the day off, largely to indulge my patriotic duty to laugh at things like Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie (something all patriotic red-blooded Americans should be doing), but more importantly to work on a manuscript and especially to get ready for The Amazing Meeting. If you’re going to be there,…

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.,…

One of the benefits of blogging is that it’s broadened my horizons. Although the vast majority of what I write about happens in my very own country, the United States, nonetheless I frequently learn about things happening in many other countries, some that I wouldn’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to. But when something…

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.…

It’s always jarring when I go to a scientific meeting, in this case the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, imbibe the latest clinical science on cancer, and then check back to see what the quacks are doing. On the other hand, there was a session at this year’s ASCO on “integrative oncology” (stay…

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…

A week ago or so, I was perusing my Google Alerts, along with various blogs and news websites, looking for something to blog about, when I noticed a disturbance in the pseudoscience Force. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed many times before from a wide variety of cranks and quacks, but it all boils down to…

I’ve often written of “black holes of stupid” that threaten to rupture the fabric of the space-time continuum, so dense and full of stupid are they. Such black holes tend to come from places like the wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery known as Age of Autism, the wretched hive of scum and conspiracy…

A couple of Sundays ago (Easter, to be precise), my wife and I were sitting around yesterday reading the Sunday papers and perusing the Internet (as is frequently our wont on Sunday mornings), when I heard a contemptuous harrumph coming from her direction. She then pointed me to an article in our local newspaper entitled…

This might look somewhat familiar to people, but I have a good excuse. Yesterday was Easter, and, although by no stretch of the imagination can I be accused of being particularly religious, we still did have family to visit. Add to that the fact that I have a two talks to give today that as…

Of all the cranks, quacks, antivaccinationists, and pseudoscientists that I’ve encountered (and applied a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence to) over the years, there are a few who belong in the top tier—or, if you prefer, the bottom tier. They stick out in my memory for a variety of reasons, either through their sheer crankitude on…

As I just mentioned a week ago, there used to be a time when I dreaded Autism Awareness Month, which begins tomorrow. The reason was simple. Several years ago to perhaps as recently as three years ago, I could always count on a flurry of stories about autism towards the end of March and the…

Note: I was busy doing something last night that left me no time to compose any fresh Insolence, which will become apparent by this weekend. In the meantime, however, I’m betting quite a few of you haven’t seen this before, and those who have might want to discuss it further in a different environment. Quackademic…

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…