Category: Evolution

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

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

Doves, Diplomats, and Diabetes

In the past I have criticized evolutionary medicine for its tendency to rely on unverifiable “Just-So Stories,” but a new book has helped me appreciate what the best kind of evolutionary thinking can contribute to our understanding of medicine. Doves, Diplomats, and Diabetes: A Darwinian Interpretation of Type 2 Diabetes and Related Disorders by Milind Watve investigates diabetes from an evolutionary perspective, suggesting...

/ April 16, 2013

It’s a part of my paleo fantasy, it’s a part of my paleo dream

There are many fallacies that undergird alternative medicine, which evolved into “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and for which the preferred term among its advocates is now “integrative medicine,” meant to imply the “best of both worlds.” If I had to pick one fallacy that rules above all among proponents of CAM/IM, it would have to be either the naturalistic fallacy (i.e.,...

/ March 18, 2013

Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much

Several incidents have recently created divisions within the skeptical community.  The latest one was over a casual comment Michael Shermer made in an online talk show. He was asked why the gender split in atheism was not 50/50, “as it should be.” He said he thought it probably was 50/50, and suggested that the perception of unequal numbers might be because attending...

/ February 5, 2013

Epigenetics: It doesn’t mean what quacks think it means

Epigenetics. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. I realize I overuse that little joke, but I can’t help but think that virtually every time I see advocates of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or, as it’s known more commonly now, “integrative medicine” discussing epigenetics. All you have to do to view...

/ February 4, 2013

Worms, Germs, and Dirt: What Can They Teach Us About Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases?

Can infection by bacteria, viruses, and parasites cure us of autoimmune diseases, allergies, and other immune system dysfunctions? There is some preliminary evidence, but the jury is still out on a very complex case.

/ January 29, 2013