Category: Science and the Media

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The Death of Expertise

In Tom Nichols' new book, The Death of Expertise, he explains how a misguided intellectual egalitarianism is harming our ability to assess the truth and solve problems, and discusses some of the responsible factors and possible long-term consequences.

/ November 21, 2017
UCI Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences

UC-Irvine, integrative medicine, and the delusion of being “science-based”

Last month, a billionaire couple, Susan and Henry Samueli, announced a $200 million gift to UC-Irvine to found the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences, which will be devoted to integrative medicine and studying "unconventional" treatments. Its founders promise that it will be rigorously science-based in articles in a large, glossy magazine. There are many reasons for doubts about this...

/ October 23, 2017
Samueli College of Health Sciences rendering

Integrative medicine advocates react to criticisms of the Samuelis’ $200 million gift to UC-Irvine

Last month, Susan and Henry Samueli donated $200 million to the University of California, Irvine to promote integrative medicine. We were pleasantly surprised by the unflattering coverage in the press of the gift. We were unpleasantly unsurprised by the reaction of integrative medicine advocates to the criticism.

/ October 16, 2017
Dr. Andy Wakefield photographed at home in Austin, Texas. Wakefield is a physician best known for his controversial work on autism.  (Photo by David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Pathological Optimist: More hagiography than documentary about Andrew Wakefield

The Pathological Optimist is a recently released documentary by Miranda Bailey about Andrew Wakefield that I got a chance to see. In interviews and in the film's promotional materials, Bailey takes great pains to emphasize that she "doesn't take a side" about Wakefield. Unfortunately, her film demonstrates that, when it comes to pseudoscience, "not taking a side" is taking a side, and...

/ October 9, 2017
Flu vaccine

The influenza vaccine and miscarriages: Much ado about nothing

A study published on Wednesday claims to have found a link between influenza vaccination and miscarriage, and antivaxers are gloating. The study itself suffers mightily from post hoc subgroup analyses on small numbers, so much so that even its authors don’t really believe its results. None of that stopped them from publishing the study, thus justifying "more research" that will almost certainly...

/ September 15, 2017
WatsonJeopardy

IBM’s Watson versus cancer: Hype meets reality

Five years ago, IBM announced that its supercomputer Watson would revolutionize cancer treatment by using its artificial intelligence to digest and distill the thousands of oncology studies published every year plus patient-level data and expert recommendations into treatment recommendation. Last week, a report published by STAT News shows that, years later, IBM's hubris and hype have crashed into reality.

/ September 11, 2017
Gwyneth Paltrow posing proudly in front of a neon goop logo. Somehow this seems appropriate.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop: Another triumph of celebrity pseudoscience and quackery

Earlier this month, the hostilities between Gwyneth Paltrow's den of celebrity pseudoscience and quackery, her "lifestyle" website and store Goop, and skeptics erupted into open warfare, as Goop attacked Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, blogger, and frequent critic of the pseudoscience published and sold by Goop. This leads to the question: Who are the physicians facilitating Paltrow and Goop? And does debunking...

/ July 24, 2017
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Adrenal fatigue: A fake disease (updated)

“Adrenal fatigue” is not a real medical condition, but some claim it is real and that medicine is ignoring it. What does the science say?

/ June 29, 2017
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Consumer Reports Misses the Boat on Back Pain

Consumer Reports' recent articles on low back pain address anecdotal customer satisfaction rather than scientific evidence of effectiveness.

/ June 27, 2017
Yoga

Can mind-body practices “reprogram” our DNA?

A recent systematic review has been touted as demonstrating that "mind-body" practices like yoga can reprogram our DNA. There are several reasons to doubt these claims, not the least of which is the history of bias in past studies on this topic.

/ June 26, 2017