junk science

Kurt Eichenwald is an interesting guy -- in the same way that a 47-car pileup on the freeway is interesting. He is, according to his Twitter bio, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a New York Times bestselling author. He also has written for Newsweek, where he penned one of the best essays I have ever read about conspiracy theories.

You would think that a man with such enormous influence would wield it with great responsibility. But you would be wrong. Last year, he tweeted -- without any evidence whatsoever -- that he believed Donald Trump...

I cannot say enough how important it is for physicians to have a working knowledge of junk science. While it sometimes can be difficult to not get snarky when patients claim they have nonsense diagnoses, it behooves the clinician to approach this type of situation with extreme diplomacy.  We cannot do this if we are not equipped with the knowledge to combat the plague which is medical quackery. 

The really sexy word around town, as I have noticed, is "wellness." Empires are built on the notion that we are, at baseline, not well.  And unless we buy what they sell, we will not attain both inner and outer beauty. What I did not know is how pervasive these wellness "clinics" are and the plethora of websites touting benefits that have no real foundation in evidence based medicine...

Living in Seattle, food phobias are everywhere. If you're afraid of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, GMOs, hormones in meat, pesticides, gluten, or anything that requires a PhD scientist to produce, then Seattle is your organic Mecca. Despite that Seattle's economy is partially built on the biotech sector (not to mention that the much-loved University of Washington has an enormous biomedical science program -- of which yours truly is a graduate), Seattle is a global headquarters of kooky food fads and alternative medicine.

Why? The entire "natural is better" movement is predicated upon fear. Scaring people is a time-tested tactic employed by politicians. If a politician wants elderly people to vote for him, he will tell them that his opponent will take away their...

When Erin Brockovich, an environmental activist, shook down Pacific Gas & Electric for $333 million for allegedly poisoning a community with hexavalent chromium and causing cancer and all sorts of other health problems, Julia Roberts portrayed the protagonist in a sensationalized blockbuster movie. It is unlikely, however, that Hollywood will be filming a sequel.

Why? Because not only was Ms. Brockovich wrong, but the State of California has now partially repudiated what she fought for.

Erin Brockovich, Junk Scientist

We've known for a long time that Ms. Brockovich used junk science to score a jackpot settlement. She used a common rhetorical trick, known as the Texas...

Somewhere along the way critical reasoning and a healthy dose of skepticism were supplanted by tacit acceptance as fact press releases and publications generated from academic institutions, those “perfectly” credentialed and arbitrarily deemed scientifically “pure.” To do so actually undermines the scientific method and potential advancement, discovery and innovation. It can also place the public in harm’s way.

Yet, with the current competition today, it is no surprise corner-cutting and mastery of how to get published has evolved statistical tricks for those in the know to optimize their chances. The latest example from Harvard will be discussed here. Since publishers are enabling these behaviors, arming the media and public with tools to separate the wheat from the chaff is...

When life hands us lemons, we can make refreshing lemonade. We can squeeze them in tea to soothe colds and congestion. But we can't prevent or cure disease, especially cancer. So let's not boil lemon water and skip the specialist if you've been diagnosed with a serious ailment. 

A lot of alternative medicine sounds reasonable enough.

It is easy to see why so many people believe in traditional herbal remedies, for instance. Because they have been used for hundreds or thousands of years, people assume the traditions must be rooted in some sort of truth. Besides, scientists have isolated a lot of therapeutically useful compounds from nature, like caffeine and quinine, so it's not far-fetched to believe that all herbs have some sort of medicinal use (even if most don't).

Homeopathy, on the other hand, is just plain nuts. It completely defies logic how anyone with a halfway functional brain could buy into this. This type of alternative medicine is predicated upon three completely insane ideas.

Homeopathy's Three Insane Principles...

Apparently, you can make any claim with an Asterisk (*), so long as the asterisk clarifies that your claim isn't true. In one of Dr. Oz's latest press releases, the TV 'doc' touts apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar) as a miracle health benefit: it improves blood flow, prevents diabetes, encourages weight loss, and prevents cancer. But not too long ago on the Dr. Oz show, he caveats his claims by saying this: "As with any trend, it’s easy to get lost...

Junk science

Junk science is everywhere. Just today, it was reported that President-Elect Donald Trump had a meeting with the anti-vaccine fraud Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that Mr Trump is "open-minded" about the issue. 

This is why our mission is so important. People in power often have a poor grasp of science. If journalists and advocates don't speak up for good science, cranks and quacks will take over. 

As part of our ongoing effort to eradicate pseudoscience, here is a list of the top 16 junk science stories we debunked in 2016.

#16. Olympic athletes should not be cupping. Remember seeing those...

Too many raisins will kill you, too.

Busybodies in the American public, never content to leave other people alone, always seem to need a common enemy to rally against. For years, it was McDonald's. Then it was Monsanto and Big Pharma. Now, it's Big Soda.

At first glance, a war on soda might appear to make sense. There is no nutritional benefit to soda. Given the large and growing segment of the U.S. populace that is obese or contracting type 2 diabetes, perhaps a Pigovian tax on soda (with the aim of reducing soda consumption) makes sense. After all, the science on sugar is pretty clear: Too much of it in your diet can lead to health problems.

But a closer look at food science reveals that a tax on sugary drinks (such as soda, sports drinks, and tea), a policy being...