Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering

One weird trick to avoid the ‘flu. Fear is a curious thing. It often bears no relation to the actual risk of what we fear. When swine flu first broke out in Mexico, people were understandably afraid. Travel was restricted, schools were closed, and so many people stayed home that the streets of Mexico City

What to Eat: Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

As I was feeding the dog, it occurred to me that dogs have a very straightforward relationship with food. Our Labrador’s philosophy seems to be “eat everything you can get and as much of it as possible, whether it’s food, ice cubes, pine cones, wood, or anything else you can chew or swallow.” In two

A Skeptical Look at Screening Tests

I’m an equal opportunity skeptic. I’m skeptical about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, and quackery; but I apply the same standards of skepticism to conventional medicine. I don’t write about conventional medicine so much, because I don’t need to. Science itself is inherently skeptical and scientific medicine is self-criticizing and self-correcting. When better evidence comes along, medical

The Placebo Effect

JANE D. WAS A REGULAR VISITOR TO OUR ER, usually showing up late at night demanding an injection of the narcotic Demerol, the only thing that worked for her severe headaches. One night the staff psychiatrist had the nurse give her an injection of saline instead. It worked! He told Jane she had responded to

Vaccines & Autism: A Deadly Manufactroversy

“Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after.” — Jonathan Swift DURING A QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION after a talk I recently gave, I was asked for my opinion about the vaccine/autism controversy. That was easy: my opinion is that there is no controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear

Science & Morality

Review of Render Unto Darwin: Philosophical Aspects of the Christian Right’s Crusade against Science, by James H. Fetzer. THIS BOOK STARTS OUT WELL BUT ENDS BADLY. It is an awkward compilation of three different subjects: evolution science, morality, and politics. The science is well done. Fetzer begins by explaining the difference between science and religion, the difference between

“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

Gulf War Syndrome or Gulf Lore Mythology?

One-fourth of the veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War complain of persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems, and other chronic abnormalities not explained by well-established diagnoses. Treatments are ineffective and symptoms do not improve over time. Gulf War Syndrome or Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a controversial diagnosis, and some have

Snake Oil Science

For my first blog entry, I wanted to write about something important, and I couldn’t think of anything more important than a recent book by R. Barker Bausell: Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine. If you want to understand how medical research works, if you want to know what can lead