Respectful Insolence

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If there’s one medical treatment that proponents of “alternative medicine” love to hate, it’s chemotherapy. Rants against “poisoning” are a regular staple on “alternative health” websites, usually coupled with insinuations or outright accusations that the only reason oncologists administer chemotherapy is because of the “cancer industrial complex” in which big pharma profits massively from selling…

Most, if not virtually all, of what is now referred to as “traditional Chinese medicine” is quackery. I realize that it’s considered “intolerant” and not politically correct to say that in these days of “integrative medicine” departments infiltrating academic medical centers like so much kudzu enveloping a telephone pole, but I don’t care. I’m supposed…

One of the fun things about blogging is that I can often follow how various issues develop and, more importantly, insert my opinion into the issue. As bizarre as it seems to me even almost nine years after starting this blog that anyone keeps reading what I have to lay down (and it still does…

Naturopathy is quackery. There, I said it. Actually, I’ve said it many times before, because it is. The problem with naturopathy, of course, is that it is so diffuse and encompasses so many different forms of quackery that it’s hard to categorize. Basically, it’s anything that can be portrayed as “natural,” be it traditional Chinese…

“Alternative medicine,” so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), or, as it’s become fashionable to call it, “integrative medicine” is a set of medical practices that are far more based on belief than science. As my good bud and collaborator Mark Crislip so pointedly reminded us last week, CAM is far more akin to religion than…

I’ve often (perhaps too often) referred to homeopathy as The One Quackery To Rule Them All. If not homeopathy, what other quackery would rule? Homeopathy is, after all, the perfect quackery. Most of its most “potent” remedies are nothing more than water, because homeopaths believe that the more a solution is serially diluted (with succussion,…

Do you believe in magic in medicine?

Sometimes, between blogging, a demanding day (and night) job doing surgery and science, and everything else, I embarrass myself. Sure, sometimes I embarrass myself by saying something that, in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. More often, I embarrass myself by letting things slide that I shouldn’t. For instance, when friends send me a prepublication copy…

For a long time, going back almost to the beginning of this blog eight and a half years ago, I’ve referred to the “bait and switch” of alternative medicine. What I mean by that is the manner in which advocates of alternative medicine—or, as they like to call it these days, “complementary and alternative medicine”…

Politics versus scientific peer review

In the United States, the federal government has long had a prominent role in funding science research. Be it the $30 billion a year or so that funds the National Institutes of Health or the $5 or $6 billion a year allotted to the National Science Foundation, the government funds a lot of basic and…

If there’s one thing that a certain subset of people who view themselves as reasonable and science-based don’t like, it’s harshness: Harshness in criticism, harshness in discussion, or—horror of horrors!—anything they view as “incivility.” That’s all well and good as far as it goes, but the problem is that sometimes there are things that demand…

When I wrote about the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) trial last week, little did I suspect that I would be revisiting the topic again so soon. For those of you not familiar with TACT, it was a trial designed to test a favorite quack treatment for cardiovascular disease, chelation therapy. It is, as…

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Brian Berman. We first met him when he somehow managed to insinuate a “case report” of chronic low back pain into The New England Journal of Medicine in which he recommended acupuncture for this patient. Dr. Berman also happens to be a founder of quackademic medicine on…

So I finally made it to the Society of Surgical Oncology Annual Symposium. Thanks to the snowstorm that apparently wasn’t (at least, I don’t see any snow around), my arrival was delayed by a day, as all flights to the Washington, DC area were canceled on Wednesday. But I did finally get here, and, although…

On Monday of this week, Michael Specter published an article in The New Yorker entitled THE OPERATOR: Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good? In the article, Specter expended considerable verbiage that, as I explained yesterday, was beautiful in how it let Oz reveal through his own words that (1)…

Homeopaths swing and miss yet again…

Homeopathy amuses me. Homeopaths amuse me as well, which is why I’m resurrecting this post. It was originally published elsewhere a few years ago and somehow never crossposted here. So if it seems a bit dated, fear not; Orac hasn’t fired up his Tarial cells and managed to go back in time. Now, I realize…

Just how stupid do homeopaths think we are?

I realize that I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating. Homeopathy is the perfect quackery. The reason that homeopathy is so perfect as a form of quackery is because it is quite literally nothing. On second thought, I suppose that it’s not exactly nothing. It is, after all, water or whatever other…

Quackademic medicine involving reflexology

Reflexology is quackery. It’s based on magical thinking that views every major organ in the body as somehow mappable to specific points on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands and posits that somehow massaging these areas can have therapeutic effects on the organs in question. Claims regularly made for reflexology…

Whenever I blog about atrocities against science like the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), I’m frequently asked how just such an edifice designed to promote pseudoscience could have come to be as a full-fledged center in the National Institutes of Health. The answer is simple and boils down to woo-loving legislators. In…

Chelation therapy, in my somewhat Insolent opinion, is pure quackery. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common quackeries out there, used by a wide variety of practitioners for a wide variety of ailments blamed on “heavy metal toxicity.” Chelation therapy involves using chemicals that can bind to the metal ions and allow them to…

In a week and a half, Harriet Hall, Kimball Atwood, and I will be joining Eugenie C. Scott at CSICon to do a session entitled Teaching Pseudoscience in Medical (and Other) Schools. As you might imagine, we will be discussing the infiltration of pseudoscience into medical academia and medical training, a phenomenon I frequently refer…

Our pharma overlords will be displeased…

There’s an oft-quoted saying that’s become a bit of a cliché among skeptics that goes something like this: There are two kinds of medicine: medicine that’s been proven scientifically to work, and medicine that hasn’t. This is then often followed up with a rhetorical question and its answer: What do call “alternative medicine” that’s been…

Overselling preclinical results

As part of my ongoing effort to make sure that I never run out of blogging material, I subscribe to a number of quack e-mail newsletters. In fact, sometimes I think I’ve probably overdone it. Every day, I get several notices and pleas from various wretched hives of scum and quackery, such as NaturalNews.com, Mercola.com,…

I sense a disturbance in the skeptical blogosphere. It is something that I half-expected, but, even so, it nonetheless somewhat surprised me when it arrived in the form of comments on my blog and e-mails from readers, fellow supporters of science-based medicine, and others asking me what I thought. In a way, it makes me…

I always thought that the University of Toronto was a great school, but lately I’ve been starting to have my doubts. My doubts began three years ago, when I noticed that Autism One Canada, which is basically the Canadian version of the yearly antivaccine biomedical quackfest held every Memorial Day week in the Chicago area,…

It’s no secret that over the years I’ve been very critical of a law passed nearly 20 years ago, commonly referred to as the DSHEA of 1994. The abbreviation DSHEA stands for about as Orwellian a name for a law as I can imagine: the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. Of course, as we’ve…