74th Skeptics' Circle - Med Journal Watch

Med Journal Watch has it up.

I must admit some sadness that yet again one of my skeptic colleagues has fallen for Sandy Szwarc's nonsense though. People, figure this out, she's not a real skeptic. They don't make blanket statements like this:

Hearing that a study found some food, exposure or physical characteristic is associated with a 5% to 200% higher risk for some health problem seem like a frightening lot. It's easy to scare people half to death by citing relative risks that sound big but aren't actually viable. Such modest risks (RR=1.05 - 3.0) don't go beyond a null finding by more than chance (the toss of a dice or random coincidence) or a mathematical or modeling error, even if they're reported as "statistically significant" in an underpowered study. Larger increases in risk are less likely to have happened by chance. False positives are also often due to various biases and confounding factors. Regular JFS readers understand that relative risks below 3 aren't considered tenable and this knowledge is one of our best defenses from letting the news of the day get our goat. But, even these may be conservative.

This is completely absurd, and it's interesting how the cranks are raising the bar. They used to deny anything of a RR less than two so they could ignore risks of things like second hand smoke. Now scientists apparently have to show RR's of 3 or more by Sandy's fiat.

I mean, for the love of Jebus, she cites Steven Milloy and his anti-science site Junkscience in the article!

Note to future skeptic's circle hosts - read the damn entries!

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It's difficult...Sandy is a bit of a "stopped clock", or at least good at throwing darts at a "truth board".

I've had three or four posts just on Sandy because I can't figure out her remarkable inconsistency.

While people are correct to be careful about how to interpret RR, you obviously can't draw an arbitrary line.

I take an occasional stab at 'splainin' things, but I'm clearly no statistician. But at least I try. People who abuse states bother me.

Maybe one of these days someone will have the energy and time to go through Szwarc's blog and deconstruct the whole thing. Mark had a great article on her before...

When I hosted, she submitted half-a-dozen or so articles, and I read through them all until I found one that wasn't borderline cholesterol denialism or somesuch. It happened to be on the current autism "epidemic" and how more diagnoses doesn't necessarily mean more actual cases.

Stopped clock indeed.

Hmm, the last time I hosted, she only sent me a couple articles, and neither of them had anything to do with her raison d'etre. Maybe it was just an off week for her.

I was glad to see someone else's take on Sandy's blog. Hers was one of the first blogs I started reading when I began investigating alt med - she actually has a great post on the infiltration of woo into nursing. Being new to skepticism it took me a little while to realize that she definitely has an agenda that trumps critical thinking. It seems to me there are a lot of strict libertarians trying to pass themselves off as skeptics. Even more confusing to us newcomers is that about half of the time these people actually are thinking critically...but the other half is tainted by their politics or other beliefs.