Acupuncture, the Navy, and Faulty Thinking

A Navy neurologist, Capt. Elwood Hopkins, has posted a 3-part article on  “The Power of Acupuncture” on Navy Medicine Live, the official blog of Navy and Marine Corps Health Care. It can serve as a useful lesson in how not to think about medicine. It is a prime example of how an intelligent, educated doctor

Lessons Learned

I just returned from a trip to Montreal where I spoke at the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium, an annual event that David Gorski spoke at a year ago. My topic was “Puncturing the Acupuncture Myth” and the other speakers were Paul Offit, Edzard Ernst, and Bob Park. I was honored to be in such august

Kudos to Steven Novella

It has just been announced, in the July/August issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, that our own Steven Novella has been awarded the 2010 Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking. It will be formally presented at the CSIcon conference in New Orleans on October 28, 2011. The Prize is a $1500 award given to the author of the

Cognitive Traps

In my recent review of Peter Palmieri’s book Suffer the Children I said I would later try to cover some of the many other important issues he brings up. One of the themes in the book is the process of critical thinking and the various cognitive traps doctors fall into. I will address some of

Setting the Record Straight about Science and Longevity

Severe calorie restriction has been shown to effectively prolong life in almost every species that has been studied so far. Science hasn’t yet shown whether it will work for humans, but preliminary evidence suggests that it might. Human calorie restrictors have lower weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Despite those indicators, Marshall Deutsch apparently thinks

Scientific Verification of a Message from Another Continuum?

A correspondent recently wrote to tell me that the TV series “Lost” isn’t as unrealistic as we might have thought. He says the subplot about the coincidences and “meanings” of the lottery numbers reflects something that has happened in reality. He explained that “a series of numbers drawn in the NY lottery game, has been

Why We Need Science: “I saw it with my own eyes” Is Not Enough

I recently wrote an article for a community newspaper attempting to explain to scientifically naive readers why testimonial “evidence” is unreliable; unfortunately, they decided not to print it. I considered using it here, but I thought it was too elementary for this audience. I have changed my mind and I am offering it below (with

Playing by the Rules

 It is useless for skeptics to argue with someone who doesn’t play by the rules of science and reason. If no amount of evidence will change your opponent’s mind, you are wasting your breath. I recently read Flock of Dodos (no relation to the movie of the same name). It’s a hilarious no-holds-barred send-up of

On Being Certain

Neurologist Robert A. Burton, MD has written a gem of a book: On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not. His thesis is that “Certainty and similar states of ‘knowing what we know’ arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason.” Your certainty that you

Popular Fallacies: Ancient Wisdom, It Works for Me, and Natural is Good

Advocates of so-called alternative medicine (i.e. unproven treatments) don’t always use the best critical thinking skills. False assumptions and logical fallacies abound.  Three that I encounter constantly are (1) “ancient wisdom,” (2) “it works for me,” and (3) “it’s natural.” Ancient Wisdom The argument usually goes something like this: Our wise ancestors used X to