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

On Miracles 

Is there such a thing as a miracle? Miracles are defined as unusual events that are not explicable by scientific or natural laws and that are assumed to be the result of supernatural intervention. The very concept is so fuzzy that it borders on the unintelligible. Religious believers refer to many things as miracles: the

Answering Our Critics, Part 1 of 2

Some people don’t like what we have to say on Science-Based Medicine. Some attack specific points while others attack our whole approach. Every mention of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) elicits protests in the Comments section from “true believer” users and practitioners of CAM. Every mention of a treatment that has been disproven or has not

Bigfoot Skepticism is Alive and Well

The term “Bigfoot Skeptics” was recently coined by special interest groups among feminists, atheists, and libertarians to disparage those who pursue traditional skeptical topics instead of addressing the issues of social injustice, religion, and politics that they would rather focus on. “Bigfoot Skeptics” are seen as wasting their time rehashing trivial subjects. I’ve heard from

Evidence-Based Medicine, Tooth Fairy Science, and Cinderella Medicine

The term evidence-based medicine (EBM) first appeared in the medical literature in 1992. There were two previous EBMs: Expert-Based Medicine and Experience-Based Medicine. In the 4th century BCE, Aristotle said men have more teeth than women. He was the expert, and for many centuries his error was perpetuated because no one dared question his authority

Defending Isagenix: A Case Study in Flawed Thinking

The Internet is a wonderful new medium for communicating ideas and information in a rapid and interactive way. Many articles are followed by a “comments” section. Like so many things in this imperfect world, comments are a mixed blessing. They can enhance the article by correcting errors, adding further information, and contributing useful thoughts to

Diagnosis, Therapy and Evidence

When Dr. Novella recently wrote about plausibility in science-based medicine, one of our most assiduous commenters, Daedalus2u, added a very important point. The data are always right, but the explanations may be wrong. The idea of treating ulcers with antibiotics was not incompatible with any of the data about ulcers; it was only incompatible with

Why We Need Science: “I saw it with my own eyes” Is Not Enough

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 am offering it below (with

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