The Placebo Effect–Myth vs. Science

Background

There has been a large uptick in interest about the so-called placebo effect, mostly from the complementary and alternative junk medicine (CAM) crowd. Evidently, they feel that being equivalent to doing nothing is good enough to be real. A recent article in the Wall Street JournalWhy Placebos Work Wonders, is indicative of this recent pro-placebo point-of-view.  

What exactly is the placebo effect? The definition is often misused, implying some beneficial effect from a sugar pill or sham treatment. But in medicine, a placebo is actually a failure. If a new pharmaceutical, procedure or medical device shows no difference in efficacy compared to a placebo, then it is rejected.  But the CAM-pushing herd thinks that proves its a success when one of its potions and lotions is equivalent to a placebo. What? A failure of a modality in evidence-based medicine is somehow converted into a successful product in the CAM world?

Continue reading “The Placebo Effect–Myth vs. Science”

Vaccine denialism causes USA’s worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years

Steven Salzberg, at Forbes Magazine, has reported that the USA is experiencing the worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years. In addition, the CDC has stated that as of  August 4 2012 (pdf), there are 21,000 cases and 10 deaths in the United States from whooping cough(Bordetella pertussis) year-to-date. Wisconsin has the highest rate of infection, while Washington, as I have discussed on a number of occasions, has one of the highest total number of pertussis infections. 

Increases in pertussis outbreaks by state from 2011 to 2012.

Continue reading “Vaccine denialism causes USA’s worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years”

Where the Huffington Post ignores real science…again

This week, the Huffington Post, one of the 10 worst anti-science websites, continues to confirm our suspicions about the quality of their science journalism.  HuffPo supports the anti-vaccination lunacy, have editors who claim homeopathy works, and that a bug on the lens of a camera is an alien spacecraft.  It’s not clear why anyone with a stitch of science background would read that thing, but sometimes their junk science wanders over into bad journalism of the highest sort.  HuffPo is the FoxNews of the left wing, a poorly written and edited mouthpiece for the uncritical left.   Continue reading “Where the Huffington Post ignores real science…again”

Religion and global warning denialism

The other day, I was watching some news story about climate change; it was mostly from the denialist point of view, but I was struck by what seemed to be almost the same arguments that the creationist folks say about evolution.  I began to wonder if there was a religious component to the global warming denialists, maybe at the same fundamentalist belief level as the creationists.

While I was digging through the Huffington Post’s Science Section (which publishes story about how homeopathy works or how a bug jumping on a camera lens is obviously a UFO chasing the powerful Chilean Air Force, I noticed a couple of articles by Victor Stenger, a world-renowned particle physicist who writes about scientific skepticism of religion and faith.  It’s possible that I’m too harsh about HuffPo’s general anti-science content, though Stenger only partially makes up for the rest of the anti-science articles on HuffPo. Continue reading “Religion and global warning denialism”

Huffington Post sees UFO’s–logical fallacies everywhere

This quality of photo would be convincing evidence of a UFO visit.

I know all of my liberal friends love the Huffington Post (HuffPo), but I think that the online newspaper is no better than anything published by Rupert Murdoch.  And it’s not just me.  Brian Dunning, over at Skeptoid, considers it one of the 10 worst anti-science websites, although I think it deserves a higher seeding in the Pseudoscience Bracket.  Here’s how I look at it:  if they can’t get the science right, if they continue to support non-evidence based stories, how are we to trust anything else they write?  If they aggressively promote homeopathy, anti-vaccine lunacy, and colon detoxification, all thoroughly debunked with real science published in real peer-reviewed journals, then what are they promoting in their political news?  I rarely read anything from HuffPo, and I consider them an insult to the science journalism. Continue reading “Huffington Post sees UFO’s–logical fallacies everywhere”

Huffington Post and quote mining–one more reason to ignore them

The Huffington Post published an article recently entitled, Science and religion quotes: what the world’s greatest scientists say about God.  I rarely read HuffPo, despite my having a similar political point-of-view, because of what I perceive to be a high number of anti-science articles.  In this case, HuffPo tries to show how some of the great scientists were actually deeply spiritual if not religious.  Using quotes as evidence for a history or biography of an individual is pathetic and disingenuous, especially if taken out of context.  It would be as if we tried to describe Los Angeles based on a snapshot of one house in San Pedro. Continue reading “Huffington Post and quote mining–one more reason to ignore them”

How the placebo effect proves nothing and means nothing

Recently, there has been a large uptick in interest about the so-called placebo effect, mostly from the complementary and alternative junk medicine (CAM) crowd.  Evidently, they feel that being equivalent to doing nothing is good enough to be real.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Why Placebos Work Wonders, is indicative of this recent pro-placebo point-of-view.  I’ve got other bones to pick with WSJ on global warming, but I’ll save that for another day.

What exactly is the placebo effect?  The definition is often misused, implying some beneficial effect from a sugar pill or sham treatment.  But in medicine, a placebo is actually a failure.  If a new pharmaceutical, procedure or medical device shows no difference in efficacy compared to a placebo, then it is rejected.  But the CAM-pushing herd thinks that proves its a success when one of its potions and lotions is equivalent to a placebo.  What?  A failure of a modality in evidence-based medicine is somehow converted into a successful product in the CAM world? Continue reading “How the placebo effect proves nothing and means nothing”