No, No, No, NO! Testimonials Are Not Evidence!

We are programmed to respond to testimonials. Blame evolution. For most of human history, we had only two ways to learn about the world: our own observations, and what other people told us about their experiences. Gathering information from others gave us a survival advantage. Unfortunately, those testimonials can be unreliable. We now have something

In Praise of Uncertainty

There is an old joke about a patient who had high praise for her new doctor. She had had headaches for years, and no one had ever been able to explain why. The cause remained uncertain. But the uncertainty ended when her wonderful new doctor promptly diagnosed her with cephalalgia. The joke is that cephalalgia

The Scientific Attitude, Not the Scientific Method, Is the Key

A philosopher of science argues that science is not characterized by a specific scientific method but by the scientific attitude. Scientists value empirical evidence and follow the evidence wherever it leads. They are open to changing their mind rather than stubbornly clinging to an ideological belief system. Science is under attack. The evidence for global

Science Envy in Alternative Medicine

One definition of alternative medicine is medicine that is not supported by good enough evidence to have earned a place in mainstream medicine. Comedian Tim Minchin asked, “What do you call alternative medicine that works?” His answer: “Medicine.” That’s a simplistic answer good for laughs, but the truth is more complicated. Alternative medicine embraces many

Great Courses: Skeptic’s Guide to Health, Medicine, and the Media

The Great Courses offers continuing education for adults in a wide variety of subjects. They search out the best college professors and have put together over 500 expertly-produced video courses. You can buy them individually or subscribe to The Great Courses Plus, which gives you unlimited access to all their courses. I am a long-time customer,

Update on ASEA, Protandim, and dōTERRA

Multilevel marketing distributors of dietary supplements and essential oils point to studies that they think constitute evidence that their products work. They don’t understand why those studies are inadequate. I have written critiques of several dietary supplements sold through multilevel marketing (MLM) schemes, and they keep coming back to haunt me. I get testimonials from

Evidence: “It Worked for My Aunt Tillie” Is Not Enough

Evidence means different things to different people. Even quacks and their victims claim to have evidence that their treatments work. Sometimes that evidence consists only of testimonials from satisfied customers or from personal experience. “I tried X and I got better.” “I know Y works because it cured my Aunt Tillie’s arthritis.” I had a

Defending Science-Based Medicine: 44 Doctor-Bashing Arguments …and Their Rebuttals

Supporters of alternative medicine and purveyors of quack remedies love to criticize conventional medicine and science. They keep repeating the same tired arguments that are easily rebutted. This handy guide will help skeptics answer common criticisms from doctor-bashers. Doctor-bashing is a popular sport practiced by believers in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and purveyors of

Evaluating Treatment Claims: A Primer

I recently wrote about the claim that acupuncture can improve vision in patients with macular degeneration. In response, I received this e-mail: At Discovery Eye Foundation we have an education and outreach program for people with age-related macular degeneration, the Macular Degeneration Partnership. We are constantly getting calls from people who have heard of a

Accused of Lying about ASEA: Not Guilty

I wrote about ASEA in August, 2012. To quote the company’s website, “ASEA is trillions of stable, perfectly balanced Redox Signaling Molecules suspended in a pristine saline solution—the same molecules that exist in the cells of the human body.” Molecules that supposedly have all kinds of antioxidant benefits for health and for athletic performance through “redox

Scroll to top