Boost My Immune System? No Thanks!

Do our immune systems need help?  Walk into any health foods store. Browse the Internet. You will find a multitude of diet supplements advertised to “boost your immune system,” or “support immune function.” Do they work? Will they keep you healthier or reduce your chances of catching infectious diseases? A typical product is the 4Life

Science in the Spirit of Mythbusters

We skeptics spend a lot of time critiquing non-science and too little time promoting science itself. Science is awe-inspiring and fun, and any effort to communicate that to our children is worthwhile. A new book by Sean Connolly, The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists, serves that goal well. Connolly

The Living Matrix: A Pseudoscientific Infomercial for Energy Medicine

The Living Matrix: A Film on the New Science of Healing is an atrociously bad movie that falls squarely in the tradition of What the Bleep Do We Know? In his book Nonsense on Stilts, Massimo Pigliucci characterized the “Bleep” movie as “one of the most spectacular examples of a horribly tangled mess of science

The Mythbusters of Psychology

Karl Popper said “Science must begin with myths and with the criticism of myths.” Popular psychology is a prolific source of myths. It has produced widely held beliefs that “everyone knows are true” but that are contradicted by psychological research. A new book does an excellent job of mythbusting: 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology:

Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering

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 were empty. As the disease spread around

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

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