How SHOULD We Discuss Quackery with Innocents and the Not-so-Innocent?

Recents posts by Drs. Albietz and Gorski have highlighted questions that are recurrent on SBM. We are convinced that medicine should be based on real knowledge, to the extent that it exists, and that physicians should be honest; these are matters of science and ethics. How do we reconcile that with heartfelt, if misguided beliefs of patients, their families, and others? When Dr. Albietz...

/ December 12, 2008

The Christmas “Miracle”

I noted that “humor” is a designated category at Science Based Medicine, and that I hadn’t made full use of it yet. I hope that the holiday season has put you in the mood for a whimsical look at Christmas – from my “skeptical family” to yours. Enjoy! *** My sister Vicki lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, three children...

/ December 11, 2008

Now there’s something you don’t see on TV every day…

I rather like Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Unfortunately, I seldom get to watch, mainly because I usually show up at work sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 AM, and I don’t like watching more than a few minutes of video on my computer. However, Hugh Laurie, star of House, was interviewed by Conan and revealed himself to be not unlike me in...

/ December 11, 2008

Credulous medical reporting

Science and medicine reporting is hard. In this space and otherswe’ve dealt with some of the problems that arise when “generalist” reporters try to “do” science and medicine. And now, CNN has shut down its science unit. Given the increasing complexity of medical and scientific knowledge, this is very bad news. As a fine example of poor medical reporting, let’s look at...

/ December 10, 2008

Direct-To-Consumer Science

Dr. Olivier Ameisen is a prominent French cardiologist who believes that the muscle-relaxant drug baclofen relieves the cravings of alcoholism. This is indeed an interesting, and as yet unsettled, scientific medical question. Dr. Ameisen has decided to take his personal scientific opinion directly to the public in his book – Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass). The result has been a surge...

/ December 10, 2008

“I Reject Your Reality” – Germ Theory Denial and Other Curiosities

Note: This article was originally published in Skeptic magazine. Space limitations resulted in omitting some of what I wanted to say. I’m taking advantage of having a blog to publish the entire article as originally submitted. —————— On an episode of Mythbusters, Adam Savage was shown a video clip that contradicted his memory of something he had said. He responded, “I reject...

/ December 9, 2008

H. influenzae—it ain’t the flu, but it’s still pretty cool

I’ve been thinking about an interesting organism lately, an organism that illustrates some basic principles in science-based medicine. The organism is called Haemophilus influenzae (H flu), a gram-negative bacterium discovered in the late 19th century. H flu has a great story, both in historic and modern times. The brilliant microbiologist Richard Pfeiffer isolated H flu from influenza patients in the late 1800’s...

/ December 8, 2008

How not to win friends and influence people

BLOGGER’S NOTE: The incident described in this post is true, although somewhat embellished to protect the names and identities of the innocent, if you know what I mean. This conversation occurred a few years ago at a large national cancer meeting. The question caught me by surprise. While attending a large national cancer meeting, I was having brunch with a friend, a...

/ December 8, 2008

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Case Study Exploring the Battle Lines of Science Based Medicine

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post solicited by Dr. Hall, who describes Dr. Albietz thusly: He’s a skeptical young pediatrician who works in a PICU and recently had a chiropractor come into the PICU to consult on a child with intractable seizures. He was sort of coerced to allow this at the parents’ request and against his better judgment. His hospital...

/ December 7, 2008

Google Trends and the Interest in Alternative Medicine

USA Today has come out with a new survey – apparently, three out of every four people make up 75% of the population. –David Letterman How popular is alternative medicine? One way is to survey people and ask them. Like all surveys, the nature of the question determines the answer. The first, and probably most referenced, and misquoted, article on ‘alternative’ medicine...

/ December 6, 2008