Category: Science and Medicine

Vaccinations and autism: are we number 1?

It has been alleged by Great Minds such as Jenny McCarthy that the US recommends far more vaccinations than other countries.  Her precise statement was, “How come many other countries give their kids one-third as many shots as we do?” She put this into the context of wondering if our current vaccine schedule should be less rigid.  The entire piece was filled...

/ March 25, 2010
Yes, it's true that placebos are just as powerful as homeopathy. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean what believers in integrative medicine think it does.

Placebo Effects Revisited

In the Wall Street Journal last week was a particularly bad article by Melinda Beck about acupuncture. While there was token skepticism (by Edzard Ernst, of course, who is the media’s go-to expert for CAM), the article credulously reported the marketing hype of acupuncture proponents. Toward the end of the article Beck admits that “some critics” claim that acupuncture provides nothing more...

/ March 24, 2010

KA at Boston Skeptics in the Pub March 29

Yers truly will speak at Tommy Doyle’s, Harvard Square, Cambridge. 7:00 PM on March 29. Title: Implausible Health Claims and Human Studies Ethics: A Collision Course Description: A broad international consensus regarding protections for subjects in human trials emerged during the 2nd half of the 20th century. It can be summarized in several tenets, most of which pertain explicitly or implicitly to scientific...

/ March 21, 2010

The Evolving Science and Guidelines of CPR

Pearl of wisdom for the day: If given the option, don’t let your heart stop.  Very Bad Things soon follow if your heart stops. In spite of what the entertainment industry would have you believe, it is extremely difficult to save the life of someone in cardiac arrest.  A few random breaths, slow rocking chest compressions, even the ever-so-dramatic overhand blow to...

/ March 19, 2010

How bad can health reporting get?

A couple of years ago, a number of us raised concerns about an “investigative reporter” at a Detroit television station.  At the time I noted that investigative reporters serve an important role in a democracy, but that they can also do great harm, as when Channel 7’s Steve Wilson parroted the talking points of the anti-vaccine movement.  Wilson has since been canned...

/ March 17, 2010

Diagnosis, Therapy and Evidence

When Dr. Novella recently wrote about plausibility in science-based medicine, one of our most assiduous commenters, Daedalus2u, added a very important point. The data are always right, but the explanations may be wrong. The idea of treating ulcers with antibiotics was not incompatible with any of the data about ulcers; it was only incompatible with the idea that ulcers were caused by...

/ March 16, 2010

Is there a role for speculative journals like Medical Hypotheses in the scientific literature?

The core information supporting science-based medicine resides in the scientific literature. There, scientists and physicians publish the results of experiments and clinical trials that seek to understand the biological mechanisms by which the human body functions and through which disease forms and to apply this understanding to test new treatments for diease. Consequently, the quality and integrity of the biomedical literature are...

/ March 15, 2010

Just the Facts

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. —Mark Twain There is an educational approach to becoming a doctor. It involves learning massive amounts of basic science, followed by massive amounts of pathophysiology, which barely prepares you for the clinical years of the last half of medical school and subsequent residency, with the massive knowledge...

/ March 12, 2010

CAM on campus: Integrative Medicine

My previous posts have described guest lecturers at my medical school campus, invited by a student interest group in CAM. Those events continue; currently ongoing is an 8-weekend certification course in Ayurveda for the subsidized cost of $1500 (includes “tuition, syllabus, and personal guru”). I could pick on this student group, but what’s the point? There will always be medical students who...

/ March 11, 2010

Plausibility in Science-Based Medicine

A question that arises often when discussing the optimal role of science in medicine is the precise role of plausibility, or prior probability. This is, in fact, the central concept that separates (for practical if not philosophical reasons) science-based medicine (SBM) from evidence-based medicine (EBM). The concept featured prominently in the debate between myself and Dr. Katz at the recent Yale symposium...

/ March 10, 2010