Category: Book & movie reviews

A Scientist in Wonderland

Edzard Ernst is one of those rare people who dare to question their own beliefs, look at the evidence without bias, and change their minds. He went from practicing alternative medicine to questioning it, to researching it, to becoming its most prolific critic. I have long admired his work, and I finally met him in person when we were invited to speak...

/ February 3, 2015

The Marvelous Dr. Mütter

The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia has a marvelous collection of human bones, surgical specimens, monsters in jars, and medical memorabilia. It holds attractions for everyone, from the jaded medical professionals who thought they’d seen it all to the coveys of youngsters who compete to point out the grossest items to their friends, from the student of history to the connoisseur of the...

/ December 23, 2014
3D model of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), an insecticide

Pesticides: Just How Bad Are They?

I think everyone would agree that it would not be a good idea to put pesticides in a saltshaker and add them to our food at the table. But there is little agreement when it comes to their use in agriculture. How much gets into our food? What are the effects on our health? On the environment? Is there a safer alternative?...

/ December 9, 2014

Mirror Neurons and the Pitfalls of Brain Research

[Ed. Note: I realize that I normally post on Monday, but thanks to an R21 grant deadline tomorrow, I will not be able to post new material today (although you might have noticed some “familiar” material posted yesterday.) Harriet has graciously agreed to cover for me today, and we have a special guest post for you tomorrow. Fear not. I’ll soon be...

/ October 27, 2014

An Overly Pessimistic View of Medicine

Sandeep Jauhar wrote Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician to express his frustration with the modern system of medical care in America. I found the book profoundly disturbing. If his experience is representative, I can understand why so many people have been criticizing doctors for only caring about money. His experience was so different from mine that I wondered if I...

/ October 21, 2014

Does the Movie Fed Up Make Sense?

The 2014 film Fed Up is an advocacy documentary. Its message: There is a worldwide epidemic of obesity. It is endangering our children. Increased sugar consumption is responsible. The food industry is responsible for our increased sugar consumption because it puts hidden sugar in processed foods, bombards us with advertising, favors profits over health, and lobbies against regulation. The government is responsible...

/ October 14, 2014

Why Does This Immunologist Reject Vaccinations?

Vaccination is arguably medicine’s greatest success. It has eradicated smallpox and has saved millions from death and suffering from a growing list of preventable diseases. It’s surprising that it has so many critics. Most of them are either not educated in medical science (like Jenny McCarthy) or are educated but prefer to reject science in favor of anecdotal experience (like Jay Gordon)....

/ October 7, 2014
A Chinese barefoot doctor performing acupuncture

The Reality of Ancient Wisdom: Acupuncture and TCM Weren’t So Great

A mythology has grown up around traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The ancient wisdom of the inscrutable Orient supposedly helped patients in ways that modern science-based medicine fails to understand or appreciate. A typical claim found on the Internet: “The ancient beliefs and practice of traditional Chinese medicine have been healing people for thousands of years.” As Steven Novella has said, “TCM is...

/ September 9, 2014

The Unpersuadables

We would like to believe people are rational. We would like to believe that if they have formed a false belief based on inaccurate information and poor reasoning, they will change that belief when they are provided with accurate information and better reasoning. We are frequently disappointed. An example of what should happen I recently talked with a college professor who believed...

/ September 2, 2014

Diet Cults vs. Science-Based Healthy Eating

This will be shorter than my usual book reviews and is something of an afterthought. I just finished writing a long article on “Food Myths” that Michael Shermer had asked me to write as a cover article for an upcoming issue of Skeptic magazine, and while researching the subject I read a book that someone had suggested to me (I’ve forgotten who...

/ August 26, 2014