Month: September 2008

Bisphenol A in Plastics – Should We Worry?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the manufacture of hard plastics which can be found in a wide range of products, including baby bottles, plastic utensiles, and plastic food containers. It has been the focus of some controversy over its safety, and the resulting debate reveals much about how the current system deals with such issues. The concern is that...

/ September 17, 2008

4 Minute Exercise Machine

I know I should exercise regularly, but I’m congenitally lazy and am ingenious at coming up with excuses. There’s an exercise machine that sounds like the end of all excuses, a dream come true. You’ve probably seen the ads in various magazines. The ROM Machine: “Exercise in Exactly 4 Minutes per Day.” It claims that you can get the same benefit, at...

/ September 16, 2008

Postmodernist attacks on science-based medicine

The postmodernist critique of science consists of two interrelated arguments, epistemological and ideological. Both are based on subjectivity. First, because of the subjectivity of the human object, anthropology, according to the epistemological argument cannot be a science; and in any event the subjectivity of the human subject precludes the possibility of science discovering objective truth. Second, since objectivity is an illusion, science...

/ September 15, 2008

A Budget of Anecdotes

“If you’ve done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliway’s—the Restaurant at the End of the Universe!”–Douglas Adams I recently finished reading the book “The Joy of Pi” by David Blatner. There is a chapter about the concept of squaring a circle, also called the quadrature of a circle. The idea is that, with just...

/ September 11, 2008

National Health Interview Survey 2007 – CAM Use by Adults

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducts an ongoing telephone survey of medical problems and health care utilization – called the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). They recently released their data from 2007. This is the first year for which they specifically broke out questions assessing the use of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). CAM is a political/ideological entity, not a...

/ September 10, 2008
Piper methysticum aka kava kava; is it useful?  Is it safe?

Is Kava Safe?

Kava is a plant that grows in the western Pacific. It was traditionally prepared as a drink and used for its psychoactive properties, including sedation, relaxation, and relief of anxiety. It is intoxicating but not addictive. It has become a popular supplement in the US, used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and menopausal symptoms. It has also been suspected of killing...

/ September 9, 2008

The worst of times for antivaccine believers: Yet another study fails to show any link between the MMR vaccine and autism

THE BEST OF TIMES It was the best of times (for antivaccinationists). It was the worst of times (for antivaccinationists). It was the age of wisdom (definitely not for antivaccinationists). It was the age of foolishness (definitely for antivaccinationists). It was the epoch of belief (for antivaccinationists). Such is the time we live in, my apologies to Charles Dickens, even though he...

/ September 8, 2008

Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster?

Quacks and their apologists often cite surgery and emergency treatments of traumatic injury and a few other catastrophic or potentially catastrophic events as the only “conventional” or “allopathic” methods that they consistently recommend. Explicitly or implicitly, for most problems they tout “holistic” or “CAM” treatments. In modern medicine, however, there are plenty of non-surgical and non-emergency treatments whose outcomes are so manifest that even the most exuberant advocates of implausible medical claims (IMC) seem careful to steer...

/ September 5, 2008

The Importance and Limitations of Peer-Review

Peer-review is a critical part of the functioning of the scientific community, of quality control, and the self corrective nature of science. But it is no panacea. It is helpful to understand what it is, and what it isn’t, its uses and abuses. Overview When the statement is made that research is “peer-reviewed” this is usually meant to refer to the fact...

/ September 3, 2008

Misleading Ads for Back Pain Treatment

There was a full-page ad in my local paper today for Back in Action Spine and Health Centers, targeted at sufferers from almost any kind of chronic back pain. It started with “Are You Ready to Throw in the Towel and Just Live with Hurting So Bad?” It went on to make a number of claims: Doctors can fix the problem. Breakthrough...

/ September 2, 2008