Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Steve Novella weighs in on mercury-autism controversy

Dr. Steven Novella, an academic neurologist, President of the New England Skeptical Society, and organizer of what’s become my favorite skeptical podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, took the time to weigh in on the Nature Neuroscience article that I discussed the other day and that engendered dozens of comments, as posts about antivaccination irrationality tend to do around here.

Besides my being interested in what a neurologist has to say about these issues, the reason that I want to bring your attention to his article is because he issues a clarion call to arms for those who defend science and rationality against pseudoscience and quackery:

Unfortunately the result is that the crazies are raising a frenzied din that is getting the attention of the media and may even be affecting public policy, while the scientists who know better are cowed into avoidance.


I will also extend the call to all of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). CAM is nothing less than an assault on the scientific underpinnings of modern medicine. It is an eclectic collection of anti-scientific ideology, new age nonsense, bad science, and discarded notions. It survives by political intimidation, the ad-populi logical fallacy, a misapplication of multi-culturalism and “open mindedness”, anti-establishment sentiment, misplaced appeals to freedom, fraud, cons, slick marketing, wishful thinking, scientific illiteracy, and blatant anti-science. The goal of CAM advocates is to create a double standard within medicine – a standard for them in which all of the quality control of evidence, academic and intellectual honesty, and even basic common sense do not apply.

(Read the rest.)

The only thing Steve forgot to mention is that you and I, the U.S. taxpayers, now help to fund this effort through the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Meanwhile, skeptics like Steven or me are attacked as “microfascists “(or even worse) for simply insisting that the standards of evidence should be the same for all medicine, whether “alternative” or “conventional.”

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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