Brain and Behavior

A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos This is a concept that has always fascinated me, ever since reading some stuff about the Periodic Table of Elements. Check it out: Over the last forty years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the Universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. Join us on a journey through how we understand the Universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos.…
I write quite a bit about placebo effects. Of course, part of the reason is that placebo effects are just plain interesting from a scientific perspective. After all, if one can relieve symptoms with inert sugar pills or other ineffective interventions because of the power of expectation, that’s something we should want to understand. Also, given the mission of this blog, another major reason is that placebo effects are inextricably bound to the question of whether the alternative medicine modalities that are being “integrated” into medicine through the brand of integrative medicine actually…
Back in the day, Deepak Chopra used to be a frequent topic of this blog. He still pops up from time to time, such as when irony meters everywhere immediately self-destructed after Chopra criticized Donald Trump for being insufficiently evidence-based or when, after I wrote a post asking why medical conferences keep inviting Chopra to speak, Chopra was so displeased that he actually posted a video attacking me (and other skeptics who’ve criticized his pseudoscience). Unfortunately, Chopra truly is one of the most influential people in “integrative medicine” today. To be honest, I’ve never…
As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I've done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013,2014 and 2015. And here we are in 2016! As in previous years, my definition of "science books" is pretty inclusive, including books on technology, engineering, nature, the environment, science policy, history & philosophy of science, geek culture and whatever else seems to be relevant in my opinion. Today's list is Amazon.com Best Books of 2016,…
A couple of months ago, I discussed patient deaths at an alternative medicine clinic in Europe, where a naturopath named Klaus Ross had been administering an experimental cancer drug (3-bromopyruvate, or 3-BP) to patients outside the auspices of a clinical trial. 3-BP is a drug that targets the Warburg effect, a characteristic of cancer cells first reported in the 1920s by Otto Warburg in which the cancer cell changes its metabolism to shut off oxidative phosphorylation (the part of glucose metabolism requiring oxygen that produces the most energy) to rely almost exclusively on glycolysis and…
Orac is currently hiding from the Federation in an undisclosed location (somewhere warm and out of the country, the better to avoid election news after having cast an absentee ballot), where he is charging his Tarial cells, the better to return fully recharged and ready to dive back into the massive piles of woo awaiting him when he returns. Since it’s only a brief respite, I had been planning on either reposting material from Orac’s other known hideout on the web, the better not to let this blog lie fallow and lack for Insolence, Respectful and not-so-Respectful, as indicated depending upon…
Many years ago, Mel Konner, Marjorie shostak, and Boyd Eaton wrote "The Paleolithic Prescription: A program of diet and exercise and a design for living." (It is hard to find these days. To find it and related titles on Amazon, look for this book first, and track the PP down via the author name Konner.) (Added: You can probably get the The Paleolithic Prescription here.) Richard G. Bribiescas is professor of anthropology and ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University, where he also serves as deputy provost for faculty development and diversity. He is the author of Men:…
There are many myths that undergird antivaccine beliefs, such as the myth that vaccines cause autism, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, and basically anything antivaccinationists like to blame on them. Basically, if you believe antivaccinationists, there’s nothing bad thta vaccines can’t do to children. The flip side of this myth is perhaps the central myth of the antivaccine movement, which is that unvaccinated children are somehow so much healthier than vaccinated children and that fewer vaccines equates to better health. This one pops up time after time after…
Just 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible to bring leading physicians, scientists and advocates together in a consensus on toxic chemicals and neurological disorders in children, says Maureen Swanson. But with the science increasing “exponentially,” she said the time was ripe for a concerted call to action. Swanson is co-director of Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks), a coalition of doctors, public health scientists and environmental health advocates who joined forces in 2015 to call for reducing chemical exposures that interfere with fetal and child…
It’s been nearly three weeks since we learned that the Medical Board of California had initiated disciplinary proceedings against the most famous antivaccine physician not named Andrew Wakefield. I’m referring, of course, to “Dr. Bob” Sears, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child and creator of an “alternate” vaccine schedule that “spreads out the vaccines.” Unfortunately, it’s a book that’s been very influential, in particular promoting the idea of “too many too soon” and claiming that delaying vaccines will reduce a child’s risk of autism. Basically, the…
Remember Vox Day? Vox Day is the pseudonym used by a truly vile man named Theodore Beale. I first encountered him 11 years ago on the precursor to this blog, thanks to his antivaccine stylings and outright misogyny. Later, I learned the depths of his wingnuttery, such as his accepting pseudoscientific claims that vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome, and several others. Hilariously, his anti-science rants are inevitably accompanied by smug posturing about how scientists are arrogant (pot, kettle, black) and how science is a corrupt system that is ideologically driven (talk about…
This is yet another in the continuing saga of “I’m not antivaccine,” a continuing series of posts demonstrating how the oh-so-loud and vigorous denials of antivaccine activists that they are antivaccine are in reality either a lie or self-delusion. There have been so many previous installments, twenty, to be precise. There could easily have been ten times that number. These days, I tend to take note of only particularly egregious examples. This installment, however, will be a bit different than previous installments because the actual speaker is antivaccine. She even says so. Why, then, am I…
Perhaps we need to think more about human psychology. There's an interesting phenomenon that goes on all the time when people read about evolution: they shoehorn the observations into some functional purpose. There's just something so satisfying to our minds to be able to say "that thing exists for this particular reason", and we find it frustrating to say, "there is no reason for it, it's just chance and circumstance". It shouldn't be so, but our minds just try to fit everything into that particular mold. Now watch: some people -- maybe even you -- are going to now try and develop an…
It’s always nice when I learn that a target of my—shall we say?—Insolence takes note of what I’ve written. Well, maybe not always nice. Sometimes that notice takes the form of attacks, such as those by our good quack buddy Mike Adams, who’s been writing mean and nasty things about me for over three months now, although I do note that he’s become painfully, tediously repetitive. It’s as though he’s not even trying any more. Sometimes, however, it’s someone less ludicrous and more potentially dangerous. I’m referring in this case to Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey, the producers of Andrew…
Well, I've finally seen it. The things I do for my readers, the pain to which I subject myself by watching neuron-apotosing levels of pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies as antivaccine propaganda, in order to deconstruct them for your amusement and, I hope, education! Yes, I've finally seen Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree's "documentary" VAXXED: From Cover-up to Catastrophe. Now, having watched Wakefield and Bigtree's "masterpiece," I can quite confidently say that it's every bit as accurate and balanced a picture of vaccine benefits and risks as Eric Merola's two movies about the quack…
Back around the 11th of July, I saw a few comments by a guy named Myles Power, a science youtuber, who was quite irate that Rebecca Watson criticized evolutionary psychology five years ago. There were the usual vaguely horrified reactions implying how annoying it was that some mere communications major would criticize an established, credible, true science like EP, and how she was prioritizing entertainment over scientific validity (not all from this Power guy; Watson is a magnet for the same tiresome bozos making the same tiresome complaints). So I told him that no, her criticisms were not…
One of the most insidious and oft-repeated myths of the antivaccine movement is that vaccines cause autism. Certainly, it is true that there was an antivaccine movement long before anyone thought of linking vaccines to autism. For example, in the the 1980s the DPT (diptheria-whole cell pertussis-tetanus) vaccine was linked to encephalitis and neurological damage, a scare that lead to a wave of lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers that threatened the US vaccine program. Congress replied by passing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, a “no-fault” act in which vaccine…
Forgive me, dear readers. Ever since Mike Adams, the crank who runs and “alternative health” empire and a website with as much traffic as the NIH website, started targeting me two months ago with a series of libelous posts, I haven’t mentioned him much, for the simple reason that I don’t want to drive any traffic his way. Also, after his having posted 25(!) articles targeting me over the last two months, the most recent just this weekend, I realized that addressing him directly is too much like wrestling a pig in mud. You get dirty, and the pig likes it. However, yesterday, Adams outdid…
A recurring theme of this blog is to shine a light on what I like to call “quackademic medicine.” I didn’t invent the term, but I’ve made it mine. Basically, quackademic medicine is a term that very aptly describes what’s going on in far too many academic medical centers these days, which is the infiltration of pseudoscientific medicine and outright quackery in the form of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM). Of course, the more recent term for CAM is now “integrative medicine,” which was coined to imply the “integration” of alternative medicine with science-based medicine as…
With near constant news on the threat of Zika virus and a quickly growing evidence base detailing the virus’ devastating impact on fetal brain development, you’d think Congress could get its act together to make sure our public health system is fully prepared and equipped to confront the mosquito-borne disease. Sadly, you’d be wrong. It’s been nearly three months since the White House submitted a request to Congress proposing $1.9 billion in emergency funding to support a full range of activities needed to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to Zika in the United States. As of today, May…