Skepticism/critical thinking

Category archives for Skepticism/critical thinking

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…

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 approval of new drugs and medical devices is a process fraught with scientific, political, and ethical landmines. Inherent in any such process is an unavoidable conflict between rigorous science and safety on the one side, which tend to slow the process down by requiring large randomized clinical trials that can take years, versus forces…

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…

Many are the lies and epic is the misinformation spread by the antivaccine movement. For instance, they claim that vaccines cause autism, autoimmune diseases, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), cancer, and a wide variety of other conditions and diseases when there is no credible evidence that they do and lots of evidence that they don’t.…

My topic yesterday was When doctors betray their profession. In my post, I talked about some very unethical doctors representing tobacco companies in lawsuits against them seeking compensation for death and injury due to smoking, as well as to doctors and scientists peddling pseudoscience and quackery representing claimants in the Autism Omnibus action several years…

Mammography is a topic that, as a breast surgeon, I can’t get away from. It’s a useful tool that those of us who treat breast cancer patients have used for over 30 years to detect breast cancer in asymptomatic women and thus (or so we hope) decrease their risk of dying of breast cancer through…

I frequently call homeopathy The One Quackery to Rule Them All, but there are times when I am not so sure that that’s the case. You see, there is…another. I’m referring, of course, to what is referred to as “energy medicine.” What energy medicine modalities have in common is that they postulate that there is…

Aside from deconstructing the misinformation and pseudoscience of the antivaccine movement, another of the top three or so topics I routinely discuss here is the infiltration of pseudoscience into medicine. In particular, I’ve found and discussed more examples than I can possibly remember of what I like to call quackademic medicine, defined as the infiltration…

There can be no doubt that, when it comes to medicine, The Atlantic has an enormous blind spot. Under the guise of being seemingly “skeptical,” the magazine has, over the last few years, published some truly atrocious articles about medicine. I first noticed this during the H1N1 pandemic, when The Atlantic published an article lionizing…

In the wake of the passage of SB 277 into law in California, the antivaccine contingent went full mental jacket. SB 277, as you might recall, eliminates non-medical exemptions (i.e., religious and personal belief exemptions) to school vaccine mandates. One thing watching the crazy was good for, at least for me, was to note how…

Late last week, something happened that I never would have predicted, and it’s all due to how the politics of the issue changed in the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak earlier this year. The state that contains some of the most famous pockets of low vaccine uptake and some of the most famous antivaccine…

Even if you’re a relative newbie to this blog, you probably wouldn’t be particularly surprised to learn that I don’t much like Dr. Mehmet Oz, a.k.a. “America’s Doctor.” Of course, I refer to him as something slightly different, namely “America’s Quack,” for a whole host of reasons, including his featuring psychic mediums like John Edward…

I bet antivaccinationists would be annoyed if they knew what I was up to yesterday. This week, our department had a visiting professor for Grand Rounds, and that professor was a Nobel laureate. Of course, it’s not every day that we have a Nobel laureate visiting us (actually, it’s rare). This time around the Nobel…

Before 2005, I did pay attention to the antivaccine movement, but it wasn’t one of my biggest priorities when it comes to promoting science-based medicine. That all changed when Robert F. Kennedy published his incredibly conspiracy-packed black whole of antivaccine pseudoscience entitled Deadly Immunity. Sadly, almost exactly ten years later, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. hasn’t…

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. – attributed to Hippocrates Who said anything about medicine? Let’s eat! – attributed to one of Hippocrates forgotten (and skeptical) students   Who hasn’t seen or heard Hippocrates’ famous quote about letting food be your medicine and your medicine your food? If you have Facebook…

One of the odd things about having been a blogger as long as I have been is that, occasionally, posts that I wrote years ago rise up to bite me long after I’ve forgotten that I even wrote them. Actually, that’s usually not the right way to put it. Blogging is a very short term…

In Memoriam: Wallace Sampson, MD

I have some sad news for my readers today. It’s even sadder given that it’s only been two and a half weeks since I last had to mourn the passing of one of our own, a champion of science-based medicine, a regular commenter of five years, lilady. Unfortunately, this time around, it is my sad…

I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject…

When it comes to the use of what is sometimes called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or, increasingly, “integrative medicine,” there is a certain narrative. It’s a narrative promoted by CAM proponents that does its best to convince the public that there is nothing unusual, untoward, or odd about CAM use, even though much of…

Epigenetics. As I’ve described before, to alternative medicine practitioners, epigenetics seems to mean something akin to what the word “quantum” means: Magic. I’ve covered, for example, the woo-filled stylings of Deepak Chopra invoking things like “quantum consciousness,” and seemingly for quite a few years the best way to slap a patina of “sciencey”-sounding credibility on…

Why do doctors deny evolution?

Yesterday was a long day, starting in the operating room and finishing at a dinner reception for our visiting speaker today. As a result, when I arrived home, I was sawing the proverbial logs within five or ten minutes of hitting the couch, more or less without realizing it. I was going to just skip…