Skepticism/critical thinking

Category archives for Skepticism/critical thinking

A couple of days ago, I told the tale of a really bright and justifiably snarky 12-year-old boy named Marco Arturo, who posted a video of himself on Facebook with the caption “Vaccines DO cause autism”: I know I posted that video just two days ago, but it’s so epic that I can’t resist posting…

Those of us living in Michigan who support science-based medicine have been forced to deal with a bill that, if passed, would grant practitioners of unscientific “medicine” a wide scope of practice—almost as wide as that of primary care practitioners such as pediatricians, internists, and family practice doctors. I’m referring to HB 4531, a bill…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the antivaccine movement, it’s that its members dislike being criticized. Oh, hell, let’s be honest. The really, really hate criticism and react very, very badly to it. Whereas you or I or other skeptics might react to criticism by trying to address it using facts, science, and reason,…

One major thing that differentiated science-based medicine (SBM) from alternative medicine and quackery is that in SBM there is a generally accepted standard of care. This was even the case back in the days before the proliferation of evidence-based guidelines, in which professional societies and expert panels try their best to synthesize what is often…

After over 11 years at this blogging thing, I periodically start to fear that I’m becoming jaded. In particular, after following the infiltration of quackery in the form of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), now more commonly known as “integrative medicine,” because it integrates CAM with evidence-based medicine. Of course, in reality, what “integrative medicine”…

One common theme that has been revisited time and time again on this blog since its very founding is the problem of how science and medicine are reported. For example, back when I first started blogging, one thing that used to drive me absolutely bonkers was the tendency of the press to include in any…

With a bill to license naturopaths (HB 4531) wending its way through the Michigan legislature supported by supplement manufacturers, its current status being in consideration by the full House of Representatives, periodically I feel the need to provide ammunition to the bill’s opponents, because we need to protect the patients in the state of Michigan…

Andrew Wakefield, his claims to the contrary, is antivaccine to the core. To be honest, I’m not sure if he was always antivaccine. After all, around 20 years ago when he was doing his “research” into whether the MMR vaccine causes autism, he was being generously funded by a barrister seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers…

“Complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), now more frequently referred to as “integrative medicine” by its proponents, consists of a hodge-podge of largely unrelated treatments that range from seemingly reasonable (e.g., diet and exercise) to pure quackery (e.g., acupuncture, reiki and other “energy medicine”) that CAM proponents are trying furiously to “integrate” as coequals into science-based…

To say that I, as a cancer surgeon, am not a fan of Ty Bollinger is a massive understatement. He’s not exactly one of my fans, either, but I view the hatred of a man like Bollinger directed at me as a badge of honor. Indeed, if a man like Bollinger didn’t detest me, I…

Gluten-free ≠ healthier

One of the more annoying health crazes going around right now is the gluten-free diet. While it’s a boon to the very small proportion of the population who have real celiac disease and thus truly cannot tolerate gluten, at the same time gluten has become the health demon that is touted as the cause of…

Sigh. Here we go again. Robert De Niro is letting his antivaccine freak flag fly again, this time even higher than usual, by revealing that in the wake of the antivaccine debacle at his Tribeca Film Festival he is going to make his very own documentary about vaccines. It’s the continuation of a process that,…

Over the years, I’ve taken care of women with locally advanced breast cancer so advanced that it’s eroded through the skin, forming huge, nasty ulcers filled with stinky dead cancer tissue that’s outgrown its blood supply, leaving the patient in chronic pain. If the patient is fortunate, her cancer has not metastasized beyond her axillary…

After yesterday’s epic mid-week rant about a man who thinks he knows what skepticism is but clearly doesn’t, it’s time to get back to business. The best way to do that is to go back to an article that came out the other day and that I had meant to blog about but temporarily shelved…

Contrary to what some of my detractors think, I don’t mind criticism of my viewpoints. After all, if I never encounter criticism, how will I ever improve? On the other hand, there are forms of criticism that are what I would call less than constructive. One form this sort of criticism takes is obsessive repetition…

It is an unquestioned belief among believers in alternative medicine and even just among many people who do not trust conventional medicine that conventional medicine kills. Not only does exaggerating the number of people who die due to medical complications or errors fit in with the world view of people like Mike Adams and Joe…

It’s been a while since I paid attention to the movie, but the publicity among the antivaccine movement for Andrew Wakefield’s and Del Bigtree’s movie VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe continues apace. Sadly, I missed my opportunity to see Bigtree himself doing a Q&A for the movie when it rolled through Detroit a a week…

I’ve written a lot about the language issue with respect to alternative medicine. As I like to put it (at least in shortened form), first there was quackery. Quacks did not like that name at all, and thus was born alternative medicine. And the quacks did think it good—for a while. There was a problem,…

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of John Oliver. When my aging body allows me to stay awake late enough on Sunday nights and there’s a new episode on, I’ll almost always be watching. Since starting his own show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver on HBO, Oliver’s become quite the expert at…

As regular readers of this blog and related blogs know, over the last two or three decades there has been a successful effort to legitimize quackery in the form of what is now called “integrative medicine.” Three decades ago, modalities like homeopathy, acupuncture, much of traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology, chiropractic, and many other modalities based…

If there’s one lesson that I like to emphasize while laying down my near-daily dose of Insolence, both Respectful and not-so-Respectful, it’s that practicing medicine and surgery is complicated. Part of the reason that it’s complicated is that for many diseases our understanding is incomplete, meaning that physicians have to apply existing science to their…

Three days ago, I noted a disturbance in the antivaccine Force. Last night, I noticed that that disturbance continues. The first time around, it was Brian Hooker, a biochemical engineer turned incompetent antivaccine “epidemiologist” completed the circle of clueless conspiracy mongering, who was at the center of the disturbance. His conspira-woo tapped into the Dark…

I hate these stories, because they so seldom end well. Unfortunately, this one is more messy than even the usual messiness of the typical story of this type. The type of story I’m referring to, of course, is one that I’ve told from time to time ever since near the first year of this blog’s…

About a month and a half ago, I became aware of the case of Ezekiel Stephan, a 19-month-old Canadian toddler living in Alberta who in 2012 developed bacterial meningitis. Unfortunately for Ezekiel, his parents, David and Collet Stephan, were believers in alternative medicine. They didn’t take Ezekiel to a real doctor. Instead, they relied on…

I heard the news yesterday morning. I was in clinic seeing patients. It was a bit of a slow morning; there was time between patients. So I spent it, as is my wont when clinic is a bit slow, signing charts (OK, signing off on charts in the electronic medical record; I haven’t actually physically…