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.
December 14, 2017
Ayurveda is basically superstition mixed with a soupçon of practical health advice.
November 15, 2017
The information that can be obtained from sham surgery trials is invaluable, but it doesn’t always change clinical practices, and many have questioned the ethics of subjecting sham surgery patients to the risks of sham surgery knowing there is no possible benefit to their health.
October 23, 2017
Consciousness is not a nonphysical phenomenon. It is an evolved user-illusion, “a system of virtual machines that evolved, genetically and memetically, to play very special roles in the ‘cognitive niche’ our ancestors have constructed over the millennia.”
September 19, 2017
Testosterone Rex: the familiar, plausible, pervasive, and powerful story of sex and society. Testosterone drives masculinity; it allegedly explains all those male/female differences.
August 29, 2017
Oz has made a reputation for himself as the Television SuperDoctor, but don’t be fooled by his dramaticized remedies.
July 27, 2017
I’ve been getting emails advertising a lost Navajo remedy that can cure deafness. Nearly 33,500 people have allegedly reversed their hearing loss in just two weeks with this 100 percent natural treatment.
June 14, 2017
Here are some short answers to some of the most common objections to vaccines…
June 1, 2017
When chiropractic is effective, what is effective is not “chiropractic”: it is SMT. SMT is also offered by physical therapists, DOs, and others…
The benefits of statins far outweigh their risks, but public perception has been skewed by alarmist misinformation from statin denialists.
April 18, 2017
For decades, scientists have been working their way towards a better understanding of what causes heart attacks and strokes.
March 23, 2017
Here’s how the eight to ten glasses myth got started…
It changed my life. I had already rejected religion after reading atheist writings, but I was still open to belief in UFOs, ESP, and all sorts of other weird things, simply because I had never come across anyone who questioned those beliefs.
February 16, 2017
Herman Pontzer describes new research findings that challenge our conventional wisdom about diet, exercise, and weight loss.
January 24, 2017
Turmeric does have other benefits. It enhances the flavor and appearance of Indian food.
The Story of the Gene
November 14, 2016
The idea that we can take control of our destiny and can prevent or cure illness with our thoughts alone is a seductive one. Wouldn’t that be nice? I wish it were true.
October 21, 2016
Just because you can screen for a disease doesn’t mean you should.
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.
September 27, 2016
No way am I ever going to put one in my ear. Call me prejudiced… in favor of science and reality.
August 26, 2016
“Put simply, it is magic!” In my opinion, the only thing magical about it is the magical thinking required to believe the claims for it.
July 13, 2016
People want to believe in G/C, and they can easily find reasons to disregard the evidence. Hope springs eternal.
June 23, 2016
In one sense it might actually make you smarter: if you can understand why its claims are questionable and can apply those lessons to other marketing claims.
He doesn’t blame people who go off in pursuit of a promised miracle cure. He understands their desperation and the comfort of having a hope to cling to. Rather, he blames those who offer that anything without a fair, accurate, and accountable foundation.
May 18, 2016
My flabber was thoroughly gasted. Apparently you sit in the jar and put water and maybe Chinese herbs into it and it is connected to 220-volt electricity.
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.
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
Carrying a Power Balance card in your pocket will supposedly improve your athletic performance and cure what ails you.
Alternative practitioners constantly claim that conventional medicine treats only symptoms while they treat underlying causes. They’ve got it backwards.
It is useless for skeptics to argue with someone who doesn’t play by the rules of science and reason.
We’re Wrong More Than We Think
Review of On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not by Robert Burton, MD
An ad for a weight-loss product falsifies its own slogan by printing outright lies.
Schwartz says his experiments reveal our natural power to heal based on our ability to sense and manipulate human energy fields.
Masaru Emoto’s Wonderful World of Water
It can read, listen to music, look at pictures, hear your thoughts, heal you, and create world peace.
Fix Your Ruptured Disk without Surgery?
The Truth behind the Ads
Critical Chiropractor, Inept Publisher
The P.R.E.S.T.O.N. Protocol for Back Pain: The Seven Evidence-Based Practices for Living Pain-Free by Preston Long.
A skeptic encounters psychics, astrologers, and other strange creatures and discovers how they react to science and reason.
Andrew Weil: Harvard Hatched a Gullible Guru
Review of Natural Health, Natural Medicine. By Andrew Weil.
Blind Spots, Brain Maps, and Backaches: A New Chiropractic Delusion
A new test that measures the size of the blind spot to detect altered brain function and correct it with chiropractic...
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