Month: May 2011

The Believing Brain

A common question of skeptics and science-based thinkers is “How could anyone believe that?” People do believe some really weird things and even some obviously false things. The more basic question is how we form all our beliefs, whether false or true. Michael Shermer’s book Why People Believe Weird Things has become a classic. Now he has a new book out: The...

/ May 31, 2011

Measles outbreaks, 2011

We frequently write about the consequences and costs of not vaccinating and how the anti-vaccine movement is causing real harm to real people through its assaults on public health. For example, through his fear mongering in the U.K., Andrew Wakefield, aided and abetted by a credulous and sensationalistic British media, managed to reverse decades of progress that had resulted in measles having...

/ May 30, 2011

Smallpox and Pseudomedicine

A good case of smallpox may rid the system of more scrofulous, tubercular, syphilitic and other poisons than could otherwise be eliminated in a lifetime. Therefore, smallpox is certainly to be preferred to vaccination. The one means elimination of chronic disease, the other the making of it. Naturopaths do not believe in artificial immunization . . . —Harry Riley Spitler, Basic Naturopathy:...

/ May 27, 2011

Oil of Oregano

Paradoxically, the less evidence that exists to support the use of of a treatment, the more passionate its supporters seem to be. I learned this early in my career as a pharmacist. One pharmacy I worked at did a steady business in essential oils. And king of the oils was oil of oregano. Not only were there several different brands of the...

/ May 26, 2011

SBM at TAM9

This year The Amazing Meeting 9 (designated TAM9 From Outer Space) will be held in Las Vegas from July 14-17. If you have not registered, do it fast – this year the conference will likely sell out. Among the many incredible speakers and events at TAM9 there will be a Science-Based Medicine workshop and an SBM panel discussion. The prominence of SBM...

/ May 25, 2011

How to Build a Bridge

People tend to limit their reading to sources that agree with their beliefs. We find ourselves mostly preaching to the choir; our message usually doesn’t reach those who most need to hear it. I recently received an inquiry from a science-based medical doctor asking how to approach others in building a bridge to clarify so much misinformation. My first thought was that...

/ May 24, 2011

Fashionably toxic

It’s the toxins. Toujours les toxines. How many times have I read or heard from believers in “alternative” medicine that some disease or other is caused by “toxins”? I honestly can’t remember, but in alt-world, no matter what the disease or condition under discussion is, there’s a good chance that sooner or later it will be linked to “toxins.” It doesn’t matter...

/ May 23, 2011

Raw Milk in Modern Times

It is hard to get infected. The immune system is robust and has a multitude of interlinking defenses that are extremely efficient in beating off most pathogens. Most of the time. Fortunately, it is a minority of microbes that have evolved to be virulent in humans. Bacteremia is common with our own microbiome. When you brush or floss, bacteria leak into the...

/ May 20, 2011

The Top Ten Pet Supplements: Do They Work?

An Embarrassment of Riches? Much has been written here about the dietary supplement business, a multibillion dollar industry with powerful political connections, and about the woeful inadequacy of regulation which allows widespread marketing of supplements without a solid basis in science or scientific evidence.  The veterinary supplement market is a pittance compared to the human market, but still a billion-dollar pittance that...

/ May 19, 2011

Delusional Parasitosis

A new study looks into the disorder known as delusional parasitosis, which many dermatologists believe is the true diagnosis behind the controversial disorder called Morgellon’s disease. Morgellons is a controversial disorder because many patients with symptoms believe they are being infected by an unusual organism, causing excessive itching, but no offending organism has been found. Some patients claim they have strange fibers...

/ May 18, 2011