Skepticism/critical thinking

Category archives for Skepticism/critical thinking

Much of the belief system that undergirds antivaccine views is rooted in superstition. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that antivaxers frequently speak in terms of contamination due to vaccines as a cause of autism and all the other conditions for which antivaxers blame vaccines and ritual purification in the form of “detoxification” as the treatment. These beliefs very much resemble religious beliefs, and antivaxers project them onto pro-science advocates.

Many are the stories of those who have embraced quackery to treat their cancer. Few are followup stories when such a person realizes she’s made a mistake and returns to conventional therapy. This is one such story, but you’re unlikely ever to see the media outlets that touted Carissa Gleeson’s choice of quackery to treat her cancer run the story of her having changed her mind and saved her life with real medicine.

I recently took a review course in general surgery to prepare for my board recertification examination in December and realized just how much the standard of care had changed in the decade since I last recertified. Then I learned that laetrile is still a thing. If there’s one thing that demonstrates the difference between alternative medicine and real medicine, it’s how no alternative medicine treatment ever goes away, no matter how often it’s shown not to work. Ever.

Dr. Aviva Romm, one of Goop’s doctors, tried to distance herself from Goop’s pseudoscience. It didn’t go well.

Whenever vaccine uptake falls to a level below that needed to maintain herd immunity, the risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases climbs. It doesn’t take that dramatic of a decline. Here’s a study that shows how a small decrease in vaccine uptake can lead to a large increase in disease.

Although it’s not uncommon for there to be conspiracy theories about police shootings, it is unusual for such a conspiracy theory to touch upon topics covered right here on this blog. Sadly, it’s happened in the wake of the police shooting of Justine Damond in Minneapolis.

Earlier this month, cancer quacks everywhere were touting a study that suggests that chemotherapy administered before breast cancer treatment can stimulate the spread of cancer, pointing to it as evidence that chemotherapy doesn’t work and even makes cancer worse. In reality, the study was far more nuanced. It didn’t show that chemotherapy doesn’t work (quite the contrary) but does point to ways we can make chemotherapy more effective.

The ubiquity of quackery and pseudoscience of the sort epitomized by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop empire can be depressing if you’re a skeptic. Sometimes it feels as though it’s not worth refuting the nonsense she peddles. But it is. Just maybe not in the way you think.

A new study by Leigh Turner has found that dubious stem cell clinics are registering even more dubious “clinical trials” under ClinicalTrials.gov in which they charge patients to enroll. In this unethical practice, they are merely following the trail blazed by cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski.

A little fan feedback

Sometimes, Orac’s fans call him. When he doesn’t have anything to post, sometimes he posts the audio of fools who leave him messages.

Paul Davies is a physicist turned Brave Maverick Cancer Researcher who thinks that, as an outsider, he’s had an insight to the origin of cancer. The problem is that his “insight” is 100 years old. Scientists rejected it long ago because it doesn’t fit with the evidence and produces no promising strategies to improve cancer care. Naturally, Davies cries “Big pharma!”

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop website is a wretched hive of scum and quackery peddling dubious “wellness” products like vaginal “Jade Eggs” to affluent women. Yesterday, she corralled a couple of her “medical experts” to strike back at a persistent critic of goop’s pseudoscience and mystical woo. It did not go well—for goop or its enabling “integrative” physicians.

I’ve been warning about how school vaccine mandates have become increasingly politicized. HBO’s. VICE agrees.

Right now, Europe is in the middle of a massive measles outbreak that has resulted in 35 deaths. Is Europe a harbinger of things to come in the US?

The usual stereotype of an antivaxer is a hippy dippy left wing granola cruncher. The case of Texas shows that increasingly the antivaccine movement is right wing. Worse, it’s becoming more political and harder for Republican legislators to ignore. I fear vaccine science is becoming as politicized as climate science, with results disastrous for public health.

Post-NECSS thanks

No new Insolence today, I’m afraid. But I have an explanation.

A recent systematic review has been touted as demonstrating that “mind-body” practices like yoga can reprogram our DNA. There are several reasons to doubt these claims, not the least of which is the history of bias in past studies on this topic.

On his most recent Sunday show, John Oliver did a tour de force segment on the antivaccine movement. Not surprisingly, antivaxers are not pleased.

A reader asks me why I hate naturopaths. I don’t hate naturopaths, but I do oppose naturopathy. Earlier this week, Tim Caulfield reminded me of one reason why: You can’t have naturopathy without antivax. Antivax views are baked into naturopathy.

Ten years ago, I liked to make fun of a pudgy, middle-aged guy named Bill Nelson, not because he was pudgy and middle-aged (which is increasingly describing me), but rather because he used to sell some serious quantum energy quackery known as the Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface. Little did I know then that Nelson was ahead of his time and all that he really needed was a celebrity endorsement and a company selling his products using beautiful scantily clad models using his products.

The Court of Justice of the European Union just issued a muddled ruling being proclaimed by clickbait headlines as allowing courts to blame any disease on vaccines without evidence. It does nothing of the sort, but it is concerning nonetheless, as it is confusing and does appear to lower the bar of evidence for vaccine injury claims. That’s plenty bad enough.

Alternative practitioners invent and treat fake diseases like adrenal fatigue and chronic Lyme disease. Unfortunately, as a recent CDC report on complications due to treating chronic Lyme disease with long term antibiotics shows, treating fake diseases can cause harm and, in some cases, even kill.

Emergency acupuncture! (2017 edition)

For whatever reason, acupuncturists and acupuncture believers think that acupuncture can be useful in emergency situations. They even do studies purporting to show that. This is yet another of such a clinical trial, albeit larger than usual. Guess what? It doesn’t really show what it’s advertised to show.

Breatharians claim that it is possible to exist only on air and that human beings can reach a state where they do not require food. Stories about Breatharians pop up in the media from time to time, even though they are patently ridiculous. One such story made the rounds as Orac was wending his way home from Europe. Given that it’s been years since he’s discussed Breatharians, he couldn’t resist looking at this story.

What is an “altie”?

How does one identify a hard core believer in alternative medicine, sometimes called in the distant past an “altie.” Well, this helpful list, culled from nine years ago, will aid you in spotting the identifying signs…