All posts by Steven Novella

Founder and currently Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine Steven Novella, MD is an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and the author of the NeuroLogicaBlog, a daily blog that covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella also contributes every Sunday to The Rogues Gallery, the official blog of the SGU.

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Snake Oil

Noel Edmonds is a game show host, famous for Britain’s version of Deal or No Deal. As far as I can tell, he has no medical or scientific qualifications at all. This unfortunately has not stopped him from using his celebrity status to offer dubious medical advice via his Twitter feed. Such is the world in which we live. Edmonds tweeted, referring...

/ June 8, 2016

PET Scans Predict Coma Outcome

A new study shows that 42 really is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. OK, not really, but it does show that 42% of healthy brain activity is the minimum threshold for consciousness. Disorders of consciousness, also referred to as coma when severe enough, can be a difficult situation to assess sufficiently to make reliable predictions about outcome. Part of...

/ June 1, 2016

Pushback on Chiropractic

From time to time we respond directly to reader comments or e-mails in an article, when it seems that doing so would be a useful teachable moment. One of the strengths of social media is that it is interactive, which can be didactic. I feel it is very important to respond to what people actual believe and say, because otherwise we may...

/ May 25, 2016

National Academy of Sciences Report on GMOs

Despite the fact that numerous scientific and health organizations around the world have examined the evidence regarding the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and found them to be completely safe, there remains a public controversy on this topic. In fact a Pew Poll found that while 88% of AAAS scientists believe that GMOs are safe for human consumption, only 37% of...

/ May 18, 2016

A Harris Poll on “Alternative Medicine”

Mark Twain popularized the phrase, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and polls and surveys.” (He may have said “statistics” at the end, but I think this version works as well.) A new Harris Poll on “alternative medicine” nicely demonstrates some of the problems with polls. The biggest problem is how you frame the questions. You can dramatically affect...

/ May 11, 2016
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Overprescribing Antibiotics

Recently I had a cutaneous abscess which was treated (quite painfully) with incision and drainage. My doctor told me that antibiotics were not strictly necessary, but I could have them if I wanted. The idea of any treatment that could resolve the abscess more quickly was appealing, but I did not want to contribute to the unnecessary use of antibiotics so I...

/ May 4, 2016

Parents Convicted in Death of Toddler

This is a very sad and tragic case, and I have great sympathy for the extended family of Ezekiel Stephan, the 19-month-old who died of meningitis four years ago. In my opinion, there are many victims in this case. The jury, apparently, agreed. Yesterday they returned a guilty verdict for Ezekiel’s parents, David and Collet Stephan, who now face sentencing for failing...

/ April 27, 2016

The “It Worked for Me” Gambit

It is almost inevitable that whenever we post an article critical of the claims being made for a particular treatment, alternative philosophy, or alternative profession, someone in the comments will counter a careful examination of published scientific evidence with an anecdote. Their arguments boils down to, “It worked for me, so all of your scientific evidence and plausibility is irrelevant.” Both components...

/ April 20, 2016

Beetroots Don’t Cure Cancer

Alternative medicine, like all good marketing, is largely about creating a narrative. Once you have sold people on the narrative, products essentially market themselves. That narrative has been evolving for literally centuries, although it seems to have accelerated with the advent of mass media and now the internet. It is optimized to push emotional buttons in order to sell products. There are...

/ April 13, 2016
Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Chronic Lyme Disease – Another Negative Study

While Lyme disease itself is a real and often serious infectious illness, the existence and proper treatment of so-called chronic Lyme disease is dubious, and some would say controversial. However, like many controversies we cover, the science itself is not very controversial, but the topic is made so by a persistent minority of outliers who refuse to accept the scientific consensus. The...

/ April 6, 2016