Skepticism/critical thinking

Category archives for Skepticism/critical thinking

Ever since the $200 million gift by Susan and Henry Samueli to UC-Irvine, I’ve been thinking about the “integration” of quackery into medicine through integrative medicine. The way advocates of quackademic medicine are going to make this “integration” really happen is to start with the medical schools.

Another antivaccine paper bites the dust

Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic are known for producing dubious scientific studies in the service of antivaccine pseudoscience. Last month, they published a paper purporting to show that aluminum adjuvant causes neuroinflammation in mice that was roundly criticized for poor experimental design and manipulated images. Guess what? It’s soon to be retracted.

A conversation with a Rigvir flack

My skeptical analysis of Rigvir, a “Virotherapy” from Latvia being promoted by alternative medicine clinics as a cancer cure, caught the attention of the International Virotherapy Center (IVC). The result was a long and very telling e-mail exchange between its Assistant of Business Development and myself. I post it because the arguments used in the discussion are very telling about where the IVC is coming from when it comes to science. Hint: It’s not a good place.

Epsom salt, like the Earth in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, is mostly harmless; that is, except in the hands of a naturopath.

Rachel Bredow is antivaccine and doesn’t want her children vaccinated. Her ex-husband disagrees. When Ms. Bredow violated a court order to vaccinate her child, she was thrown into jail for contempt of court. Unfortunately, our local media have not exactly covered themselves in glory covering this story.

it’s October, which means that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means that it’s time for dubious breast cancer case reports. Here’s one about ketogenic diets that doesn’t show that such diets cure cancer.

Last week, I wrote about Rigvir, a “virotherapy” promoted by the International Virotherapy Center (IVC) in Latvia, which did not like what I had to say. When a representative called me to task for referring to the marketing of Rigvir using patient testimonials as irresponsbile, it prompted me to look at how Ty Bollinger’s The Truth About Cancer series promoted Rigvir through patient testimonials and how the IVC itself uses such testimonials. The word “irresponsible” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Like many advocates of science-based medicine, I was dismayed at the $200 million gift given by Susan and Henry Samueli to the University of California, Irvine in order to vastly expand its integrative medicine offerings. John Weeks, a noted promoter of integrative medicine, was not pleased at how the mainstream press covered this gift, and in particular he was most displeased that skeptics were heavily quoted in the reporting. In response, he launched a spittle-flecked, spelling-challenged broadside against his perceived enemies, full of misinformation and logical fallacies. Naturally, Orac can’t resist applying some not-so-Respectful Insolence to it.

A new analysis reveals that there are antivaccine bots on Twitter. Why am I not surprised?

Last week, I wrote about a truly execrable bit of science by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic purporting to show that aluminum adjuvants cause brain inflammation, which causes autism. Since then, I’ve learned that, not only is it bad science, but that there are red flags about several of the figures to raise the specter of fraud. This might not be just bad science. It might be fraudulent science. The only way to resolve this would be for the authors to release the original full resolution images of their blots.

Recently, the Hope4Cancer Institute, a quack clinic in Mexico has added a treatment known as Rigvir to its other offerings. But what is Rigvir? It turns out that it’s an import from Latvia with a mysterious history. Its proponents claim that it targets cancer specifically. Unfortunately, there is a profound paucity of evidence for its efficacy. The story of Rigvir is the story of an unproven treatment that, because of its origin in a small country, has flown mostly under the radar. Until now, that is.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop is continuing to sell snake oil promoted as the “empowerment” of women. Yes, that even includes a psychic vampire repellent, reiki charged.

Over the last couple of days I noted a disturbance in the antivaccine force, another study claimed to be slam dunk evidence that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines cause autism. It’s not. Also, a word to antivaxers challenging Orac to look at this study: Be very careful what you wish for…

An antivaccine blogger is amazed that big pharma has allowed its lackeys in the press to publish negative stories about the flu vaccine. Naturally, she thinks she knows why and sees a conspiracy. Not surprisingly, her conspiracy theory doesn’t make much sense.

The antivaccine group SaneVax, which specializes in spreading misinformation about the HPV vaccine, has released part one of a three-part series of short films. Unfortunately, these are propaganda films disguised as an issue documentary.

Last week, I wrote about a naturopath imitating the worst of real doctors by running his very own dubious stem cell clinic. He even cosplays an interventional radiologist doing it. Unfortunately, he’s far from alone. There are many more naturopaths going down this road. Even more unfortunately, it is MDs who are showing the way. Basically, naturopaths don’t just cosplay doctors. They cosplay the worst of doctors as well.

Many are the PR firms and astroturf groups out there trying to influence the public. One favored technique is to publish an op-ed by an expert or “thought leader” in a major media outlet. Not infrequently, these op-eds are ghostwritten. Unfortunately, to its sorrow, STATNews found that out this week.

Trolling the antivaccine trolls

Craig Egan is a man with a mission. He’s trolling the antivaccine trolls to promote science, and he’s been very successful at it.

Yesterday, I wrote about how right-to-try and an unethical offshore vaccine trial are part of free market fundamentalists’ attack on the FDA. Here’s another example, the “right to choose medicine.”

There was a rumbling in the antivaccine underground a week ago about a recent ruling by the Vaccine Court compensating parents of a child who died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In a confused and scientifically highly flawed decision, the Special Master Thomas Gowen didn’t rule that vaccines cause SIDS, but did rule that they contributed to SIDS in this one case. Soon, the message will be that vaccines cause SIDS. They don’t. The Vaccine Court screwed up.

Tooth Fairy science is the study of a phenomenon before having actually demonstrated that the phenomenon actually exists. I can’t think of a better example than trying to construct an elaborate mapping system of body parts and organs to the surface of the external ear for purposes of sticking needles in them to heal and relieve pain (auricular acupuncture). Yet that’s what’s just been published.

By definition, alternative medicine has not been shown to be effective or has been shown to be ineffective. Thus, alternative medicine is ineffective against cancer and can best be represented as either no treatment at all or potentially harmful treatment. It is thus not surprising that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine have a higher risk of dying from their cancer. A new study confirms this conclusion yet again.

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.