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I write about homeopathy fairly regularly on this blog because there is no quackery that is (1) so obviously quackery and (2) such a perfect topic to use to illustrate a lot of issues relevant to medical science, such as issues in clinical trials resulting in false positives and, of course, placebo effects. Basically, homeopathy…

One of the most pernicious lies promoted by the antivaccine movement is a trope that I’ve labeled the “toxins gambit.” Basically, it’s the lie, oft repeated in hysterical terms, that there are all sorts of horrible toxic chemicals in vaccines, and it is those toxic substances that are responsible for the claimed adverse effects of…

A couple of days ago, I wrote about a story of a sort that I’ve had to write about far too many times over the last eleven years. I wrote about the death of a child—but not just any death of a child, the death of a child who could have—should have—lived. The child’s name…

Nearly eleven years ago, back in April 2005, I opened my work e-mail (I was working at a different university back then) and saw an e-mail from someone whose name I had seen before, one Mr. William P. O’Neill. Opening the e-mail, I was shocked to find an e-mail to Orac; worse, the e-mail was…

Another child dead from quackery

Naturopathy is quackery, and, like many forms of quackery, it kills. People who trust naturopaths to treat actual serious diseases instead of using real doctors and real medicine dramatically decrease their odds of surviving a serious illness. While competent adults have every right to make that choice, to use fake medicine instead of real medicine,…

Medical research is a scientific enterprise, but, like most areas of science, nonscientific considerations have a great deal of influence over what sorts of research are funded. This is true regardless of who is funding the research. When it’s the government, obviously it’s impossible to avoid some degree of politics. (Indeed, politics is largely responsible…

I write about vaccines a lot here at Respectful Insolence, and for a very good reason. Of all the medical interventions devised by the brains of humans, arguably vaccines have saved more lives and prevented more disability than any other medical treatment. When it comes to infectious disease, vaccination is the ultimate in preventive medicine,…

Acupuncture is quackery. As with naturopathy (a medical pseudo-“specialty” that embraces acupuncture and other so-called traditional Chinese medicine), when I write about acupuncture I like to start out with a provocative statement, a statement of—dare I say it?—judgment in order to shock new readers and let them know exactly where I’m coming from. Why I…

Well, I’m here. Yes, last night I arrived in Boston for the Society of Surgical Oncology meeting down at the convention center. For any skeptics who might be so inclined the Boston Skeptics are planning a meetup on Saturday, details firming up. No talk this time, but at least we can hang out for a…

It’s no secret that my odds of ever landing a job at the Cleveland Clinic are probably slim and none, at least if anyone there ever Googles my name, particularly if they Google it with the words “Cleveland Clinic” added. The reason, of course, is that I’ve been very critical of the Cleveland Clinic’s wholesale…

Here we go again. When you’ve been blogging for over 11 years, particularly when what you blog about is skepticism and science-based medicine, with a special emphasis on taking down quackery (particularly cancer and antivaccine quackery), inevitably you see the same misinformation and lies pop up from time to time. Indeed, those of us in…

Last week, I revisited a topic I first discussed in 2014 a couple of times. It is a topic that I find simultaneously amusing and depressing at the same time, specifically a private discussion forum known as Naturopathic Chat, or NatChat for short—or, as I like to say, Sh*t Naturopaths Say When They Think No…

About six months ago, I was highly amused to discover something called the Conspira-Sea Cruise, which I referred to at The Woo Boat. As I said at the time, file this one under the category: You can’t make stuff like this up. Certainly, I couldn’t. I’ve never been on a cruise. Quite frankly, the very…

When last I visited this topic, I was highly tempted to start out out by making a simple observation, namely by quoting John Wooden’s famous adage, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Since I didn’t use it for the two posts I did on this…

I’ve written several times over the years about the overblown claims of harm attributed, largely—but not exclusively—by cranks, to cell phone radiation. It’s been claimed that radiation from cell phones can cause brain tumors (there’s no convincing evidence that this is true), breast cancer (the evidence for these claims is so incredibly flimsy—and featured by…

I didn’t think I’d be writing about Stanislaw Burzynski again so soon, but to my surprise a very good article in Newsweek describing cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski popped up in my Google Alerts yesterday. I hadn’t expected much in the way of news coverage about Burzynski for several months, given that the second half of…

No, DDT won’t save us from the Zika virus

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last decade-plus of blogging about medicine and alternative medicine, it’s that any time there is an outbreak or pandemic of infectious disease, there will inevitably follow major conspiracy theories about it. It happened during the H1N1 pandemic in the 2009-2010 influenza season, the Ebola outbreak in late…

One of the most frequent claims of supporters of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), which goes by the Orwellian name “integrative medicine,” is that it represents “integrating” alternative medicine with science-based medicine to produce the “best of both worlds.” Of course, when I think of the best of both worlds, I usually think of…

My state is screwed up, and the epicenter of the fallout from the dysfunctional mess that is the Michigan state government is the city of Flint. As you probably recall, around the holidays a story that had previously been mainly a Michigan story broke nationally in a big way. It is the story of how…

No, Gardasil does not cause behavioral problems

Believe it or not, I frequently peruse Retraction Watch, the blog that does basically what its title says: It watches for retracted articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and reports on them. Rare is it that a retracted paper gets by the watchful eyes of the bloggers there. So it was that the other day…

It really sucks when a celebrity you like and admire screws up. Before social media, you might never have known whether stars were prone to bouts of excessive credulity when it comes to medicine, conspiracy theories, the paranormal, or whatever. Twenty years ago, for instance, few might ever have known that Jenny McCarthy was into…

Ever since the beginning of this blog, there’s one topic I’ve explored many, many times, mainly because of its direct relationship to my profession as a cancer surgeon. That topic is, of course, the question of why people fall for alternative medicine cancer “cures.” It started with one of my very earliest posts and continued…

Last week, I wrote about how conspiracy theories have been flowing fast and furious about the Zika virus and microcephaly. Even if you didn’t see that post (perhaps instead having seen this one), you’ve probably seen the news reports describing how last fall the observation of a large number of cases of microcephaly, characterized by…

Naturopathy advances in Hawaii

Naturopathy is quackery. That can’t be said often enough. After all, any “discipline” that not only incorporates homeopathy as a major part of its training but also requires that its graduates pass a test with a section on homeopathy certainly can’t be considered science-based. Actually, to be more accurate, naturopathy is probably at least 80%…

A quack goes to prison, but it’s not enough

If there’s one thing that’s frustrating about the U.S. justice system, it’s just how slow the wheels of justice grind. For example, it’s hard to believe that it was over two years ago that “pH Miracle” quack Robert O. Young was arrested for fraud, grand theft, and practicing medicine without a license, producing one of…