Harriet Hall, MD, a retired Air Force physician and flight surgeon, writes and educates about pseudoscientific and so-called alternative medicine. She is a contributing editor and frequent contributor to the Skeptical Inquirer and contributes to the blog Science-Based Medicine. She is author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and coauthor of the 2012 textbook Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.
Stick It In Your Ear! How Not To Do Science
Ear acupuncture claims to relieve sore throats. A new study seeming to support that idea is so poorly done that it provides a textbook example of how to distinguish between good and bad science.
Hallucination or Revelation?
April 20, 2016
I actually find it flattering when someone attacks me so stupidly. It means what I wrote was so accurate that they were unable to find anything they could legitimately criticize.
March 23, 2016
Why on Earth do people buy a medicine with no medicine in it? The back of the box clearly says “Active ingredient Anas barbariae, 200 CK HPUS.” I suspect most customers don’t bother to read that, and if they do, they don’t know what it means.
Clear Thinking About Cancer
February 17, 2016
So babies don’t have sex, abuse drugs, or share razors. And mothers can be tested for the virus; if they don’t have it, there is no risk of them transmitting it to their babies. So are there any valid reasons to vaccinate newborns?
January 22, 2016
Nonmaleficence says don’t harm the patient; beneficence says help the patient. There’s a trade-off, since almost every treatment carries some small degree of risk. Not treating may do more harm than treating.
December 18, 2015
Critics of modern medicine would do well to follow my “SkepDoc’s Rule:” Before you accept a claim, try to understand who disagrees with it and why.
November 20, 2015
In a television interview, a practitioner of biomagnetic therapy claimed she had cured her own breast lump and the metastatic cancer of another person. I wonder how many viewers believed her.
October 19, 2015
Tu Youyou, a Chinese researcher, was awarded half of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of artemisininin, a malaria drug. This has been touted as a victory for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and herbalism. It is anything but.
September 24, 2015
Someone is always trying to tell us what to eat. It's like religions: they can't all be right, and they might all be wrong.
Scientific balance and objective assessments of evidence are necessary to avoid biased and misleading answers to concerns about pesticides.
Psychology and Psychotherapy: How Much Is Evidence-Based?
Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Side of Science and Therapy by Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski
June 1, 2015
The skeptical community has lost a shining star. On May 25, 2015, Wallace Sampson, MD, died in California at the age of eighty-five from complications of heart surgery; he had been in the hospital since February.
A Scientific Response to Chemophobia
100 Chemical Myths: Misconceptions, Misunderstandings, Explanations by Lajos Kovács, Dezsã Csupor, Gábor Lente, and Tamás Gunda
Supporters of alternative medicine and purveyors of quack remedies love to criticize conventional medicine and science. They keep repeating the same tired arguments that are easily rebutted. This handy guide will help skeptics answer common criticisms from doctor-bashers.
A brief guide to a popular alternative system of remedies based on a nineteenth-century concept that has no scientific validity.
The medical ethics principle of autonomy justifies letting competent adults reject lifesaving medical care for themselves because of their religious beliefs, but it does not extend to rejecting medical care for children.
April 30, 2014
Homeopathy is an alternative system of medicine that was invented by a German doctor at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Scientific knowledge about chemistry, physics, and biology tells us it should not work; careful testing has shown that it does not work.
Philosophy Meets Medicine
A review of Medical Philosophy: Conceptual Issues in Medicine by Mario Bunge
A Navy neurologist’s credulous venture into acupuncture advocacy serves as a useful case study. Here are twelve mistakes he made rambling down the garden path of self-delusion.
A review of Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul Offit, MD.
A review of Unnatural Acts: Critical Thinking, Skepticism, and Science Exposed! by Robert Todd Carroll.
August 24, 2012
Part 2 of Harriet Hall, MD’s presentation from the 2009 Skeptic’s Toolbox conference.
August 24, 2012
Part 1 of Harriet Hall, MD’s presentation from the 2009 Skeptic’s Toolbox conference.
Setting the Record Straight about Science and Longevity
Why Belief Always Comes First
A review of The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
Two Views of the War on Cancer
Reviews of Pink Ribbon Blues by Gayle Sulik and The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Do those who comment on blogs even read the articles they are responding to? Here is a case study in emotional thinking, ad hominem arguments, logical...
A review of Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton