Social Sciences

Being a surgeon and physician, I've always been puzzled at how my fellow physicians and surgeons can become ensnared by pseudoscience and quackery to the point where they become proponents of various forms of irrational thinking. Examining "docs gone bad" has been an intermittent recurring theme of this blog going all the way back to at least 2005. Leaving aside obvious quacks, such as some of the cancer quacks I've discussed over the years, I've discussed a number of doctors who don't accept the validity of evolution, the most commonly discussed being Dr. Michael Egnor, the creationist…
As hard as it is to believe, I've been writing about the antivaccine movement for over 12 years now, and dealing with it online for close to 17 years. If there's one thing that all that exposure to the pseudoscience, logical fallacies, misinformation, and outright hatred spewed forth by antivaccine activists on a daily basis, it's that language matters. Antivaxers know this and are constantly trying to twist language to their ends. For instance, other than hard core antivaxers who are refreshingly honest, most antivaxers really, really hate being called "antivaccine." I like to think it's…
“There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility.” -Stephen Spielberg Another week full of amazing science stories has gone by here at Starts With A Bang, and there are some fun and fantastic announcements! We welcomed a new contributor, Jess Shanahan, to our ranks; I found out that Forbes has made me their official Star Trek: Discovery reviewer when that new series premieres; I'm in the process of selecting the final, officially licensed images for my new book, Treknology (and pre-order today!); and from this coming Thursday through Sunday, I'll be the Science…
You know, I'm the best librarian. Just the best. My collection is huge. The very very best collection. Such a great collection. I love collecting. I'm very good at bibliographic instruction. Nobody does bibliographic instruction like me. Students love it. I can talk for hours. I have long, beautiful book stacks. Look at those book stacks, are they small book stacks? I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee you. And since I'm the best librarian, my pal The Donald, the President of the United States, has hired me to be the Chief Executive Officer for the National Parks Service Library…
"I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses." -Johannes Kepler There are a lot of myths we have in our society about how the greatest of all scientific advances happened. We think about a lone genius, working outside the constraints of mainstream academia or mainstream thinking, working on something no one else works on. That hasn’t ever really been true, and yet there are actual lessons – valuable ones – to be learned from observing the greatest of all scientists throughout history. The gravitational behavior of the Earth…
Rather appropriately, with all the murk swirling around Trump's ties to the Commies, Judith Curry and John Christy are looking for new sources of income suggesting that Congress fund “red teams” to investigate “natural” causes of global warming and challenge the findings of the United Nations’ climate science panel according to the WaPo. In case you're in the slightest doubt about where La Curry was aiming her testimony, she concludes Let’s make scientific debate about climate change great again. FFS. This, in case you've been asleep, is all in the context of the House Committee on un-…
The world is going to hell in a hand basket. But at least we can laugh as we're sucked relentlessly into the Hellmouth. Maybe if we all collectively understood science and evidence better, the path to Hell wouldn't be quite so straight and narrow. So maybe that's what's making me think of these particular funny bits today. And by funny I mean so funny in hurts. First up, we have retired basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal, who apparently really and truly believes the world is flat. He has a doctorate in Education, by the way, which I just can't even.   Shaquille O'Neal agrees with Kyrie…
Most news on the dangers of antibiotic-resistant infections focus on adults. But children are very much at risk too. In fact, a recent study found that U.S. children have experienced a 700 percent surge in infections caused by particular bacteria that’s both resistant to multiple antibiotics and responsible for growing numbers of serious bacterial infections in kids. “These organisms are scary, they’re hard to treat and respond to few antibiotics…and it’s the type of antibiotic resistance that’s capable of spreading itself to adjacent bacteria even if those bacteria haven’t been exposed to…
Regular readers here are probably familiar with Mike Adams and his website NaturalNews.com. Forget the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, when it comes to wretched hives of scum and quackery on the Internet, NaturalNews is the wretchedest, scummiest, and quackiest. Not surprisingly, Adams got his start in wingnuttery selling Y2K scams nearly 18 years ago. Now, besides presiding over a scammy online publishing empire that racks in considerable green by publishing articles laced with quackery, antivaccine pseudoscience, character assassination, and thuggery, both legal and getting a bit too…
US president Donald Trump's Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, is a terrible idea for many different reasons and has been widely condemned. Banning people due to their refugee status, religion or national origin has no place in a civilized society. while it has been overturned in court, it appears that Trump is going to try again with a new Order. The purpose of this post isn't to go into the details of the Executive order or to analyse the myriad reasons why it's a terrible idea, but rather to share a detailed cross section of…
Aard regular Phil often expresses worry about the effects of immigration. This has reached the point where I've decided to collect a few points to explain why I am not worried. Phil recently even claimed that when I say I'm not worried, I create more support for anti-immigration movements. This makes no sense to me. I know a lot of fear-and-hate voters are poorly educated, but I don't think they're all stupid. So here's why I don't worry about immigration. I have lived for 21 years (and counting) on a multicultural 1970s housing estate and seen very few problems. My first wife was a second-…
By Jonathan Heller President Trump’s 100 day plan includes deporting 2 million undocumented residents from the US. The plan represents a massive increase in scale and speed of deportations. Trump says he will focus on deporting undocumented people with criminal records. With fewer of them in the US now as a result of President Obama’s policies, Trump has already expanded the definition of who is a ‘criminal’ to include people who are merely charged or suspected of committing crimes. Being in the US without documents may become a ‘criminal’ act. Sensitive locations, like schools and clinics,…
In a perverse way, one almost has to admire naturopaths. If there's anything that characterizes naturopaths in their pursuit of legitimacy and licensure, it's an amazing relentlessness. In this, they are not unlike The Terminator. As Kyle Reese described him in the first Terminator movie, the Terminator "can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop... ever, until you are dead!" The difference is that naturopaths won't stop until they are licensed in all 50 states and science-based medicine is, for all intents…
If there's one thing that proponents of "integrative medicine" (or, as it's been called in the past, "complementary and alternative medicine," or CAM) take great pains to emphasize whenever defending their integration of prescientific and pseudoscientific medicine into medicine, it's that they do not recommend using "alternative medicine" instead of real medicine but in addition to real medicine. Indeed, even the "gods" of integrative medicine, such as Barrie Cassileth at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, not only emphasize that but actually often take umbrage when it is suggested that…
Well, it’s done. Today, the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill designed to weaken the FDA and empower pharmaceutical companies, sending it to President Obama’s desk. There’s no way Obama won’t sign it, as it contains provisions funding his Precision Medicine Initiative, and he supported it all along. For all its flaws, I knew the bill’s passage was inevitable since after the election, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the bill was a priority. I knew it even more when the Senate linked the bill to the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative spearheaded by Vice…
The Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) doesn’t like me much. I understand. I haven’t exactly been supportive of the group’s mission or activities. So it wasn’t surprising that SIO wrote letters trying to rebut a Perspectives article on “integrative oncology” that I published in Nature Reviews Cancer two years ago. What depressed me about that encounter was that one of the complaints the SIO had about my article was that it spent too much verbiage discussing homeopathy as one pseudoscientific treatment that “integrative” oncology “integrates” with science-based medicine and no one uses…
Here's a thought that occurred to me during one of this week's sleepless nights: Donald Trump is Marion Barry for rural white people. That's probably too cryptic for a lot of people, since I'm now an old man who yells at clouds, but what I'm referring to is Barry's second election as mayor of DC, the one after he served time in federal prison for being busted smoking crack. Even prior to the bust, Barry was pretty much a disaster due to his drug problems, so when he ran again it was widely seen as a joke. But then he won. I was in grad school at Maryland at the time, and remember a lot of…
Months after a severe earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, UN peacekeeping troops exacerbated Haitians’ suffering by introducing cholera to the country, via waste that leaked from a UN housing base into the Artibonite river. The disease sickened 800,000 people and killed more than 9,000 – although a study at four sites in northern Haiti found the actual death toll could be substantially higher than the official count. In August 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged the UN’s role in Haiti’s cholera epidemic, accepting moral but not legal responsibility. The UN was working to…
Mitochondria produce more than just ATP Anatomy of a mitochondrion from Wikimedia Commons Pinchas Cohen from the University of California - Davis presented data showing that mitochondria produce more than just ATP. They also make several peptides that can each affect our physiology. Some help cells respond to insulin better, some help with weight, some regulate cell metabolism. What is even more impressive is that some of these peptides have been shown to slow down the development of atherosclerosis or Alzheimer's, and some even help prevent side effects from chemotherapy in animals. Maybe…
By Shanghai killer whale (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons I just read an interesting blog from the I Spy Physiology website sponsored by the American Physiological Society which described results from a recent study suggesting that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) might be a human equivalent to hibernation. Chronic fatigue syndrome reportedly affects over 2.5 million people in the United States alone. People with this condition have the type of fatigue that does not seem to improve, even with adequate sleep. By examining the…