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Harriet Hall

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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.

Screening Tests and Primum non nocere

SkepDoc's Corner
January 22, 2016
Screening Tests and Primum non nocere

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.

Zombie Criticisms of Conventional Medicine

SkepDoc's Corner
December 18, 2015
Zombie Criticisms of Conventional Medicine

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.

“Biomagnetism Therapy”: Pseudoscientific Twaddle

SkepDoc's Corner
November 20, 2015
“Biomagnetism Therapy”: Pseudoscientific Twaddle

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.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Didn’t Win a Nobel Prize, Scientific Medicine Did

SkepDoc's Corner
October 19, 2015
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Didn’t Win a Nobel Prize, Scientific Medicine Did

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.

Superfood Silliness

SkepDoc's Corner
September 24, 2015
Superfood Silliness

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.

Pesticides: Just How Bad Are They?

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.3, May/June 2015

Medical Misinformation
Pesticides: Just How Bad Are They?

Scientific balance and objective assessments of evidence are necessary to avoid biased and misleading answers to concerns about pesticides.

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Psychology and Psychotherapy: How Much Is Evidence-Based?

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.4, July/August 2015

Review

Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Side of Science and Therapy by Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski

Physician Wallace Sampson, Expert on False Medical Claims, Dies at Eighty-Five

June 1, 2015
Physician Wallace Sampson, Expert on False Medical Claims, Dies at Eighty-Five

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.

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A Scientific Response to Chemophobia

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.3, May/June 2015

Review

100 Chemical Myths: Misconceptions, Misunderstandings, Explanations by Lajos Kovács, Dezsã Csupor, Gábor Lente, and Tamás Gunda

Defending Science-Based Medicine: 44 Doctor-Bashing Arguments ...and Their Rebuttals

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 38.6, November/December 2014

Feature
Defending Science-Based Medicine: 44 Doctor-Bashing Arguments ...and Their Rebuttals

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.

An Introduction to Homeopathy

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 38.5, September/October 2014

Feature
An Introduction to Homeopathy

A brief guide to a popular alternative system of remedies based on a nineteenth-century concept that has no scientific validity.

Faith Healing: Religious Freedom vs. Child Protection

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 38.4, July/August 2014

Science and Religion
Faith Healing: Religious Freedom vs. Child Protection

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.

An Intro to Homeopathy

April 30, 2014
An Intro to Homeopathy

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.

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Philosophy Meets Medicine

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 38.1, January/February 2014

Review

A review of Medical Philosophy: Conceptual Issues in Medicine by Mario Bunge

Down the Garden Path: Faulty Thinking and Self-Delusion

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 37.4, July/August 2013

Feature

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.

Do You Believe in Magic?

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 37.4, July/August 2013

Review
Do You Believe in Magic?

A review of Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul Offit, MD.

Thinking: An Unnatural Act

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.3, May/June 2012

Review
Thinking: An Unnatural Act

A review of Unnatural Acts: Critical Thinking, Skepticism, and Science Exposed! by Robert Todd Carroll.

Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 2

August 24, 2012
Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 2

Part 2 of Harriet Hall, MD’s presentation from the 2009 Skeptic’s Toolbox conference.

Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 1

August 24, 2012
Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 1

Part 1 of Harriet Hall, MD’s presentation from the 2009 Skeptic’s Toolbox conference.

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Setting the Record Straight about Science and Longevity

Skeptical Briefs Volume 21.1, Spring 2011

Follow-Up

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Why Belief Always Comes First

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 35.5, September/October 2011

Review

A review of The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer

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Two Views of the War on Cancer

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 35.3, May/June 2011

Review

Reviews of Pink Ribbon Blues by Gayle Sulik and The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Defending Isagenix: A Case Study in Flawed Thinking

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 35.1, January/February 2011

Column

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 Gifted Writer and a Book Worth Giving

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 34.5, September/October 2010

Review

A review of Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton

Power Balance Technology

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 34.3, May / June 2010

Carrying a Power Balance card in your pocket will supposedly improve your athletic performance and cure what ails you.

The One True Cause of All Disease

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 34.1, January / February 2010

Feature
The One True Cause of All Disease

Alternative practitioners constantly claim that conventional medicine treats only symptoms while they treat underlying causes. They’ve got it backwards.

Playing by the Rules

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 33.3, May / June 2009

Feature

It is useless for skeptics to argue with someone who doesn’t play by the rules of science and reason.

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We’re Wrong More Than We Think

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 32.5, September / October 2008

Review

Review of On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not by Robert Burton, MD

‘We Couldn’t Say It in Print If It Wasn’t True’: Akavar’s Version of Truth in Advertising

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 32.5, September / October 2008

Feature

An ad for a weight-loss product falsifies its own slogan by printing outright lies.

Gary Schwartz’s Energy Healing Experiments: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 32.2, March / April 2008

Feature
Gary Schwartz’s Energy Healing Experiments: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Schwartz says his experiments reveal our natural power to heal based on our ability to sense and manipulate human energy fields.

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