Year: 2011

Back of human figure, spine; Vesling -Syntagma-, 1647 Wellcome L0007897

Subluxation Theory: A Belief System That Continues to Define the Practice of Chiropractic

Chiropractic as a profession is defined by the subluxation theory, the unfalsifiable belief that disease is caused by impaired nerve flow. No proof exists for this theory, and likely never will.

/ December 30, 2011

Strains, sprains and pains

What do you think would happen if you gave a bunch of “complementary and alternative medicine” practitioners access to a big pot of money — say, up to $10,000 per patient — and let them treat patients virtually without restriction, hampered only by a fee schedule. No utilization review, no refusal based on a treatment being “experimental” — none of the usual...

/ December 29, 2011

Ringing in 2012 with…antivaccine propaganda?

Here we go again. In fact, I think I’m starting to see a pattern here among antivaccine organizations. You might remember that in November 2010, the antivaccine group SafeMinds bought ad space in AMC Theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, one of the heaviest moviegoing time periods of the year. This use of pre-movie time to promote antivaccine propaganda resulted in a...

/ December 28, 2011

What Is an Antivaxer?

Labels are a cognitive double-edged sword. We need to categorize the world in order to mentally capture it – labels help us organize our mental maps of the overwhelming complexity of things and to communicate with each other. But labels can also be mental prisons, when they substitute for a thorough, nuanced, or individualized assessment – when categorization becomes pigeon-holing. We use...

/ December 28, 2011

Inflammation: Both Friend and Foe

A number of buzz-words appear repeatedly in health claims, such as natural, antioxidants, organic, and inflammation. Inflammation has been implicated in a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, atherosclerosis, and even cancer. Inflammation has been demonized, and is usually thought of as a bad thing. But it is not all bad. In a study in Nature Medicine in September...

/ December 27, 2011
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Shilling for traditional Chinese medicine: Nature leaves its readers a lump of coal before Christmas

I’ve subscribed to Nature for many years now, even though I don’t always read it. Nature is one of the oldest and most respected scientific journals around. It’s been around since 1869 and is said to be the world’s most cited journal. What makes Nature unusual these days is that it’s one of the last of the remaining general science journals and...

/ December 26, 2011

NCCAM Criticism from a Not-Quite-Opponent

The demographic of SBM readers are likely to remember the early Miller Lite beer television commercials where sports personalities debated as to whether the beverage “tastes great” or was “less filling.” In one classic version, New York Mets’ Marv Throneberry breaks the shouting match to level his decision: “I feel strongly both ways.” My colleagues at Science-Based Medicine have generally been opposed...

/ December 23, 2011

Hypothyroidism: The facts, the controversies, and the pseudoscience

As glands go, we don’t give the butterfly-shaped thyroid that straddles our trachea too much  thought — until it stops working properly. The thyroid is a bit like your home’s thermostat: turn it high, and you’re hyperthyroid: heat intolerant, a high heart rate, and maybe some diarrhea. Turn it down, and you’re hypothyroid: cold, tired, constipated, and possibly even depressed. Both conditions...

/ December 22, 2011

Iridology

There are many medical pseudosciences that persist despite a utter lack of either plausibility or evidence for efficacy. Some practices emerged out of their culture of origin, or out of the prevailing ideas of a pre-scientific age, while others were manufactured out of the imagination of perhaps well-meaning but highly misguided individual practitioners. They were just made up – homeopathy, for example, or...

/ December 21, 2011

A Christmas Card from the SkepDoc

The holiday season is upon us. As a bit of a holiday from science-based writing, I thought I would offer some thoughts inspired by the season and not supported by any scientific evidence. One of my friends refers to Christmas as “The Feast of St. Dyspepsia.” Holidays are indeed an occasion for over-indulging. People change their routine: they have time off work,...

/ December 20, 2011