On Guard,  DōTERRA, Essential Oils, and a Lesson in Reading Research Studies

A study of On Guard, a mixture of essential oils, showed that it reduced the infectivity of influenza virus in dog kidney cells in the lab; but that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the product has any clinical effect in humans. Essential oils smell good, but the claims of health benefits are exaggerated. I

Statin Denialism

When Richard Dawkins was asked to justify his belief in the scientific method, he answered, “It works, bitches!”1 When the scientific evidence is compelling, one would have to be willfully perverse to reject it. But some people do; they reject findings that don’t fit with their ideology. We call them denialists. We have climate change

My Personal Odyssey in Skepticism

I discovered the Skeptical Inquirer shortly after its name change from The Zetetic. It changed my life. I had already rejected religion after reading atheist writings, but I was still open to belief in UFOs, ESP, and all sorts of other weird things, simply because I had never come across anyone who questioned those beliefs.

Quackery: The 20 Million Dollar Duck

The publisher recently sent me a review copy of Quackery: The 20 Million Dollar Duck, by Tony Robertson. My first thought was “Do we really need another book on this subject? Don’t I know all this stuff already?” I was very pleasantly surprised. Robertson has ferreted out an impressive array of facts and details that I

Statistics Done Wrong, And How To Do Better

Statistics is hard, often counterintuitive, and burdened with esoteric mathematical equations. Statistics classes can be boring and demanding; students might be tempted to call it “Sadistics.” Good statistics are essential to good research; unfortunately many scientists and even some statisticians are doing statistics wrong. Statistician Alex Reinhart has written a helpful book, Statistics Done Wrong: The

“Biomagnetism Therapy”: Pseudoscientific Twaddle

In a television interview, a practitioner of biomagnetic therapy claimed she had cured her own breast lump and the metastatic cancer of another person. I wonder how many viewers believed her. On the “official website” of biomagnetism therapy, http://biomagnetism.net/, they claim it is “the answer to ALL your health problems… an all-natural, non-invasive therapy proven

This Book Won’t Cure Your Cancer, But It Will Help You Think More Clearly About It

Gideon Burrows has an inoperable brain cancer that is slow growing but is inevitably going to kill him. He has written a remarkable book about his experience, This Book Won’t Cure Your Cancer. A professional wordsmith, he is able to describe his experience of illness so vividly that the reader enters into his life, feels what

Answering Cancer Quackery: The Sophisticated Approach to True Believers

I got an e-mail with a link to a video featuring “Dr.” Leonard Coldwell, a naturopath who has been characterized on RationalWiki as a scammer and all-round mountebank. Here are just a few examples of his claims in that video: Every cancer can be cured in 2-16 weeks. The second you are alkaline, the cancer already stops. A pH

A Scientist in Wonderland

Edzard Ernst is one of those rare people who dare to question their own beliefs, look at the evidence without bias, and change their minds. He went from practicing alternative medicine to questioning it, to researching it, to becoming its most prolific critic. I have long admired his work, and I finally met him in