Category: Evolution

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert De Niro at the antivaccine "challenge."

Prove the scientific consensus and win a prize: A time-dishonored PR ploy used by cranks, quacks, and pseudoscientists (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. edition)

Last week, antivaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. teamed up with Robert De Niro to issue a challenge to provide one scientific study that proves thimerosal in vaccines is safe, with a cash prize of $100,000. They thus joined a long line of antivaxers, creationists, and climate science denialists offering money to "prove" the scientific consensus. Science doesn't work that way.

/ February 20, 2017
Skin microbiome large

Vaginal Seeding. Ew. That’s nuts. Hmmm, interesting.

Sometimes a headline will cause me to run through a series of reactions in rapid sequence. For example “Mothers facing C-sections look to vaginal ‘seeding’ to boost their babies’ health”: Early studies show that swabbing a mother’s vagina and transferring it to her baby’s mouth, eyes and skin may stimulate microbiome development similarly to babies born naturally – and protect it from...

/ May 13, 2016
768px-hand_sanitizer

No, Purell Does Not Breed Super-Anything

Recently, I was sitting in a meeting and reached for the dispenser of Purell hand sanitizer sitting on the conference room table. A colleague of mine gave a small, rueful shake of her head to the person on her other side. Apparently I had erred. I asked what was the matter, and got a brief answer to the effect of “because superbugs.”...

/ November 28, 2015

Selective pressures on alternative medicine

(Editor’s note: I was away at Skepticon over the weekend, where I gave a talk entitled “The Central Dogma of Alternative Medicine”. (When the talk’s up on YouTube, I’ll provide a link, of course.) Because of all the fun and travel delays I didn’t get a chance to turn my slides and notes into a blog post yet. Also, I’m on vacation...

/ November 24, 2014
Cancer cell

“Atavistic oncology” revisited: Dr. Frank Arguello responds

Three weeks ago, I wrote about a cancer treatment promoted by Dr. Frank Arguello that I deemed to be quackery, launching into one of my usual discussions based in science (and with a touch of snark) regarding why. Dr. Arguello, it appears, is not very happy about what I wrote. So he responded. He also sent e-mails complaining to my cancer center...

/ August 18, 2014
escherichiacoli_niaid

Antibiotics vs. the Microbiome

In 1850, one in four American babies died before their first birthday, and people of all ages died of bacterial infections that could have been successfully treated today with antibiotics. Unfortunately, treatments that have effects usually have side effects, and we are seeing problems due to the overuse of antibiotics. They are given to people with viral infections for which they are...

/ August 12, 2014

Depression Re-examined: A New Way to Look at an Old Puzzle

Depression affects approximately 10% of Americans. It can be fatal; I found estimates of suicide rates ranging from 2-15% of patients with major depression. When it doesn’t kill, it impairs functioning and can make life almost unbearably miserable. It is a frustrating condition because there is no lab test to diagnose it, no good explanation of its cause, and the treatments are...

/ February 25, 2014
Lab Rat

Animal rights activism: Petitions aren’t science

Those who hold positions contrary to what science tells us frequently challenge defenders of science to a "debate," seemingly believing that all truth can be arrived at by staged debates. Such debates are almost alway biased toward the person defending pseudoscience and rarely fruitful. In a public forum, rhetoric frequently trumps science. If a scientist accepting such a challenge is not a...

/ February 3, 2014

Tribalism and Medical Ethics

Science is intended to discover the “is”, not the “ought;” facts, not values. Science can’t tell us whether an action is moral; it can only provide evidence to help inform moral decisions. For instance, some people who believe abortion is immoral reject birth control methods that prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum on the grounds that it constitutes abortion; science can determine...

/ January 14, 2014

Alternative Microbiology

A man of science rises ever, in seeking truth; and if he never finds it in its wholeness, he discovers nevertheless very significant fragments; and these fragments of universal truth are precisely what constitutes science. ~ Claude Bernard. I almost never have to search for material for this blog. The Secret always seems to provide topics. Subject matter appears unbidden out of...

/ November 1, 2013