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… read more "Kudos to Steven Novella"
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.… read more "Cognitive Traps"
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… read more "Setting the Record Straight about Science and Longevity"
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… read more "Scientific Verification of a Message from Another Continuum?"
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… read more "Why We Need Science: “I saw it with my own eyes” Is Not Enough"
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… read more "Playing by the Rules"
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… read more "On Being Certain"
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… read more "Popular Fallacies: Ancient Wisdom, It Works for Me, and Natural is Good"
JEROME GROOPMAN’S BOOK How Doctors Think is a superb commentary on the intersection between medical science, compassionate personal interactions, and critical thinking. My only caveat is that it may be exploited by “doctor-bashers” because it shows how doctors make mistakes; but the overall impact of the book is very positive.… read more "How the Medical Mind Works"
Book Review of Homeopathy: How It Really Works, by Jay Shelton, published by Prometheus in 2003 This will not be the last book written about homeopathy, but perhaps it ought to be. It says everything that needs to be said unless homeopaths can succeed in supporting their claims with better evidence than… read more "Homeopathy: How It Really Works"