Language keeps changing. We used to call questionable remedies “folk medicine,” “fringe medicine,” or “quackery.” In the 1970s, the term “alternative medicine” was coined, an umbrella term for all treatments that were not supported by good enough evidence to have earned them a place in mainstream medicine. Then came “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and
The internet is a cornucopia of facts, some true and some “alternative” (in other words, lies). One topic that is particularly plagued by misinformation is pH. People are restricting their diet, buying alkaline water, testing their urine with pH test strips, and buying into bogus cancer cures, all on the basis of false pseudoscientific claims.
We are ingenious at finding new ways to complicate our lives and torture ourselves. One of those ways is adopting fad diets in the quest for health. Juicing is a big fad today. I find that hard to comprehend. I recently endured two interminable months on a liquid/pureed diet while my fractured jaw healed. It
In April 2017, there was a flurry of news reports with alarming headlines: “Diet Sodas May Raise Risk of Dementia and Stroke, Study Finds” “A Daily Diet Soda Habit May Be Linked to Dementia–Alzheimer’s” “Is Diet Soda Harming Your Brain Health?” “Diet Sodas Tied to Dementia and Stroke” “Here’s Another Reason You Might Want to
This “Brief History of Medicine” has been circulating on the Internet: 2000 B.C. — Here, eat this root. 1000 A.D. — That herb is heathen. Here, say this prayer. 1850 A.D. — That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion. 1940 A.D. — That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill. 1985 A.D. —
Vaccination is one of science’s greatest accomplishments; vaccines have prevented millions of deaths and eliminated smallpox forever. But rejection of vaccination is as old as vaccination itself. Some objections to it needn’t be taken seriously, like the argument that illness and death are part of God’s plan and humans mustn’t try to thwart His will.
The Spanish explorer Ponce de León wasn’t really looking for the Fountain of Youth when he trekked through Florida. That’s only a legend that wasn’t attached to his name until after his death. The idea of anti-aging remedies dates back to at least 3500 BCE, and the hope is alive and well today. Who wouldn’t
Scientology has openly declared war on psychiatry and is ambivalent if not openly hostile towards the rest of medicine. Its “mind over matter” philosophy promises that attaining the “Clear” state will eliminate illness. Recently there has been a spate of exposés of Scientology, ably reviewed by Jim Lippard in the last issue of Skeptic magazine
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
The parade of diet fads is unending; they will continue to proliferate as long as humans have to eat. They have created a hellish world in which every food component is a potential demon: fat, gluten, carbs, sugar, wheat, salt, etc. Diet gurus, both professional and amateur, are always ready to tell us what