Skepticism/critical thinking

Category archives for Skepticism/critical thinking

Whenever I point out that a very common thread of “thought”—if you can call it “thought”—in alternative medicine is nothing more than germ theory denialism, the usual reaction is incredulity. Newbies who haven’t encountered quacks before invariably do a double take when I inform them that germ theory denialism is a thing, particularly among antivaccine…

Even though I’ve taken on the ‘nym of a fictional computer in a 35-year-old British science fiction series whose key traits were an arrogant and condescending manner and the ability to tap into every computer of the galactic federation any time he wanted to, in reality I am just one person. That means, try as…

Although I don’t write about him as much as I used to, there was a time a couple of years ago when Houston cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski was a frequent topic of this blog. His story, detailed in many posts on this blog and in an article I wrote for Skeptical Inquirer, is one that…

Many are the “alternative” medicine therapies that I’ve examined with a skeptical eye over the years. The vast majority of them rest on concepts that range from pre-scientific to religious to outright pseudoscientific to—let’s face it—the utterly ridiculous. Examples abound: Reflexology, reiki, tongue diagnosis, homeopathy, ear candling, cupping, crystal healing, urine drinking, detoxifying foot pads,…

The blog post of mine that arguably “put me on the map” in the skeptical blogosphere was my very Insolent, very sarcastic deconstruction of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s deceptive pseudoscience-ridden bit of fear mongering that he called Deadly Immunity. It was originally jointly published both by Salon.com and Rolling Stone, a blot that neither publication…

To say that the relationship that antivaccine activists have with science and fact is a tenuous, twisted one is a major understatement. Despite mountains of science that says otherwise, antivaccinationists still cling to the three core tenets of their faith, namely that (1) vaccines are ineffective (or at least nowhere near as effective as health…

I originally wasn’t going to write about this particular post, but the mass shooting in San Bernardino yesterday led me to change my mind. For those of you who either aren’t in the US or were somehow cut off from media for the last 18 hours or so, yesterday a heavily armed man and woman…

Of all the slick woo peddlers out there, one of the most famous (and most annoying) is Deepak Chopra. Indeed, he first attracted a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence a mere 10 months after this blog started, when Chopra produced the first of many rants against nasty “skeptics” like me that I’ve deconstructed over the years.…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the antivaccine movement over the decade-plus that I’ve been following and commenting on it, it’s that there are many flavors of antivaccine beliefs. These range from the “loud and proud” (and, invariably, incredibly stupid) antivaccine activists who aren’t afraid of the label. They’ll tell you that they’re antivaccine…

It is an article of faith among the antivaccine movement that vaccines are degrading the health of our children, such that vaccines cause autism, asthma, diabetes, and a number of other chronic diseases. You won’t have to look far on most antivaccine websites to find claims that today’s children are the sickest in history and…

As a surgeon and skeptic, I find neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate Ben Carson to be particularly troubling. I realize that I’ve said this before, but it’s hard for me not to revisit his strange case given that the New York Times just ran a rather revealing profile of him over the weekend, part of which…

The fixed mindset of medical pseudoscience

One of the key principles of skepticism, particularly in medicine, is that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. I emphasize the word “necessarily” because sometimes skeptics go a bit too far and say that correlation does not equal causation. I myself used to phrase it that way for a long time. However, sometimes correlation does…

I didn’t think I’d be discussing Dr. David Katz again so soon after the last time. In fact, when blog bud Mark Crislip (who clearly hates me and wants me to pop an aneurysm or have a heart attack, given how often he sends me links to articles as infuriating as this) sent me a…

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Yesterday, the Justice Department announced criminal charges and lawsuits against the sellers of several supplements! This is the ort of thing that is long overdue—incredibly so, in fact. Before I get to this specific case, let’s discuss a little background. One of the regular topics I write about, both…

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of naturopathy. It is, as my good bud Kimball Atwood has said, a prescientific system of medicine rooted in vitalism, the idea that there is a “life energy” and a “healing power of nature.” Naturopaths invoke very simplistic concepts to explain the cause of disease, such…

The question of whether it is worthwhile to debate cranks, quacks, and advocates of pseudoscience has long been a contentious issue in the skeptic community. Those of you who’ve been reading my posts for a while know that I’ve always come down on the side that it is not a good idea One thing I’ve…

I’ve used my current pseudonym since at least the late 1990s, first on Usenet and then on the first incarnation of this blog. Not surprisingly in retrospect (although it surprised me at the time), people who didn’t like me began trying back in the 1990s to “unmask” me. It began with Holocaust deniers. No, I’m…

After nearly 11 years (!) at this blogging thing, I thought I had covered pretty much every medical topic a skeptic and supporter of science-based medicine would be interested in covering. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s always something I’ve missed, some hole in my blogging oeuvre that…

David Katz doesn’t much like skeptics, particularly those of us who question the value of “integrative medicine.” In fairness, I can’t say that I much blame him. We have been very critical of his writings and talks over the years to my criticism of his statement advocating a “more fluid concept of evidence” more than…

As a surgeon, I find Ben Carson particularly troubling. By pretty most reports, he was a skilled neurosurgeon who practiced for three decades, rising to the chief of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. Yet, when he ventures out of the field of neurosurgery—even out of his own medical specialty—he routinely lays down some of the dumbest…

A sad day for public science advocacy

I’ve been at this blogging thing for more than a decade now. Looking back on those years, I find it incredible that I’ve lasted this long. For one thing, I still marvel that there are apparently thousands of people out there who still like to read my nearly daily musings (or, as George Carlin would…

Before yesterday, I had never heard of Ben Swann. Apparently he is the new anchor for the early evening news broadcast of the local Atlanta CBS affiliate, having joined the station in June. Apparently he is also prone to antivaccine conspiracy theories, which is a very bad thing to be prone to as a reporter…

When I wrote about YouYou Tu, the Chinese scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her successful identification, isolation, purification, and validation of Artemisinin, an antimalarial medication that was quite effective. It was also derived from an herbal remedy used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which has led a fair number…

No doubt, regular readers are probably somewhat surprised that I didn’t discuss the antivaccine rally scheduled to be held in Atlanta last weekend that I wrote about last week. As you might recall, this rally consisted of two crappy tastes that taste crappy together, namely Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the antivaccine movement together with…

The “myth” of basic science?

I’m a clinician, but I’m actually also a translational scientist. It’s not uncommon for those of us in medicine involved in some combination of basic and clinical research to argue about exactly what that means. The idea is translational science is supposed to be the process of “translating” basic science discoveries into the laboratory into…