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Five years

Has it really been that long?

It was a dismally overcast Saturday five years ago when, on a whim after having read a TIME Magazine article about how 2004 was supposedly the Year of the Blogger, I sat down in front of my computer, found Blogspot, and the first incarnation of Respectful Insolence was born. If anyone is curious, this was my first test post, and this was my first substantive post (well, sort of). Every year (at least the ones where I remember my blogiversary, I find it particularly interesting to go back to the beginning and see how true to my original vision for this blog I’ve been. Looking back over the last five years and comparing how this blog has evolved to my original vision, I’m surprised to conclude that I have been pretty darned true to it. Yes, I rarely write about science fiction any more. Ditto movies and music. I prefer to think that it’s just because I figured out that I’m a lousy movie and music critic. Well, maybe not lousy, but being an arts critic is clearly not my strength.

Of course, it’s not as though shooting my mouth off, metaphorically speaking, on the Internet was anything new for me. I had been doing it on and off since the mid-1990s on that great untamed, tangled mass of discussion forums known as Usenet; you know, the ones that hardly anyone uses anymore and that a lot of ISPs don’t even give much in the way of access to now that Google has put a web interface on Usenet. The Orac ‘nym was forged in the heat of Internet battle with all the varieties of Flame Warriors on Usenet in the Holocaust denial forum alt.revisionism and the alt-med forum Indeed, in the latter newsgroup, certain highly obsessed denizens, such as Jan Drew and Tim Bolen, are still talking about me, years after I regularly posted there and many months since I last took a look. Such is the power of Orac.

So the blog evolves over time. Ideas come, and ideas go. Literary (if you can use that word to describe them) conceits like Eneman and the Hitler Zombie, such frequent visitors early in the history of the blog, are rarities now, not because I don’t like them anymore but because, in the case of EneMan, I pretty much ran out of ideas. If I get a good idea of what to do with our blog mascot, you can be sure he’ll be resurrected someday. As for the Hitler Zombie, I’d love to do more posts, but a strange thing happened over the last five years. Idiotic Hitler analogies that I’d consider fodder for everyone’s favorite undead Führer four years ago now no longer elicit a shrug, so nutty has politics become, with specious and comparisons of President Obama to Hitler flying fast, furious, and so dumb that even I have a hard time believing that sentient beings can think there’s any validity to them. They’ve gotten so common and so ridiculous that I could write a Hitler Zombie post nearly every day. I still hope for a great example that I can set the undead Führer loose on, but I fear I hope in vain. Politics has far surpassed anything I can think of. Lastly, regular readers may have noticed that I write far less frequently about religion than I used to. It’s basically because I’m done with my flirtation of PZ-style polemics. I don’t shy away from criticizing religion when it undermines science (as in creationism, for example) or medicine (the Daniel Hauser case, for example, or the Madeline Neumann case), but when it comes to religion I’ve mellowed for sure compared to two or three years ago. If religion is not directly interfering with science and medicine, I’ve become a “live and let live” sort of skeptic.

Through it all, there are topics that have remained constants, that I come back to again and again. Obviously, one of them is the anti-vaccine movement. If there is one form of pseudoscience that is the most immediately dangerous to public health, risking the resurgence of deadly diseases, it’s the anti-vaccine movement, and I keep coming back to it again and again. Back in the early days, I was dismayed at how little attention the skeptical movement in general paid attention to the anti-vaccine movement. Fortunately, over the last year Phil Plait, as president of JREF, started to “get it” and began to make the countering of the anti-vaccine movement and quackery a major focus in the promotion of skepticism by JREF. Indeed, I worry about whether D. J. Grothe, who is going to be taking over for Phil Plait when he steps down as president at the end of the year, will let that new focus wither. As much as he’s done for the skeptical movement over at the Center for Inquiry, I worry about this because there is nothing in Grothe’s history that I am aware of or an find to suggest that he has a significant understanding of the issues involved in quackery and the anti-vaccine movement, and looking at his podcast schedule over the last three years I see a real paucity of interviews about issues of science-based medicine versus quackery. This is one area where I really hope I’m being too pessimistic, and I would certainly be happy to help the JREF in any way to promote science and reason in medical practice. Indeed, I vew this as a natural part of skepticism, and, since it’s my area of expertise, that’s one area where I can make a contribution. The promotion of science-based medicine must remain a major pillar of skepticism, every bit as much as evolution or the paranormal.

Of course, dealing with the anti-vaccine movement is just a subset of medical skepticism and the promotion science-based medicine and the scientific analysis of quackery. This involves both looking at the science behind current medical practice and, when I deem it appropriate, applying my special not-so-Respectfully Insolent brand of slapdown to quackery. Apparently, I’ve been so successful that Hulda Clark‘s attack Chihuahua Tim Bolen seems to think that I’m going to be the successor to Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch. (No, I’m not going to link to him.) Would I could do that much, but my efforts to promote skepticism, be it medical or general, are really rather minimal compared to those of, for example, Steve Novella. We all do what we can.

Time and time again, I’m asked: Why do you do it? The pseudoscientists, the anti-vaccinationists, the quacks and their apologists, they never change. They never get the message. They’re never going to change. Sadly, that’s almost always true. However, almost as if sensing that a significant blogging anniversary is coming up, a few e-mails have been arriving that remind me why I do it.

For example here’s one from someone whom I’ll call M.:

I just found your blog this evening and have been having a great time perusing it. I grew up basically being indoctrinated against vaccines and the other “evils” of Western medicine. I could write a book about the litany of ridiculous “doctors” I’ve seen and “treatments” I’ve been through. I also went to a small school, where evolution was skipped over and treated as pseudoscience.

Anyway, I’m now grown up and interested in learning REAL biology and science. I want to know all the things I’ve missed–particularly how to sort out the real voices in science from the loons. Education has to be the way. If people had better education in the scientific method, I doubt they would fall prey to as many outlandish ideas as they do. I’m sick of hysteria and conspiracy theories. I think your blog is going to be pretty helpful in educating me, so thanks!


P.S. Quick story on the need for education: I have epilepsy. Earlier this year, a fairly intelligent friend told me (in all seriousness, and trying for tact) that he truly believed epilepsy was caused by demons, because “there isn’t even a test to see that seizures are happening in the brain, right?” I gave him a quick rundown of the EEG…

What more could one ask for? People ask why I do it. I do it because I enjoy it so, and sometimes, occasionally, I can reach people like M. True, they have to be ready to be reached, but when they are, it’s wonderful.

Then there are the occasional e-mails that also warm the cockles of my heart–I mean circuits. These are the ones where I’ve done my small part to help maintain a skeptic’s sanity. For instance, here’s an excerpt from someone whom I’ll call S.:

I’ve been following your blog on and off for about a year now, and enjoying it very much, but recently it’s become a lifesaver for me. I’m a 4th year pharmacy student, doing my first rotation at a compounding pharmacy in my city. Unfortunately, they promote and sell a LOT of alternative medicine/herbs/supplements in this pharmacy. They even have a doctor who has an office in the back, sees patients once a week, and diagnoses things like heavy metal toxicity or yeast syndrome. It’s driving me crazy, because when they ask me to research all these supplements, I mostly find that there’s no evidence that they work (sometimes there’s even evidence that they don’t work), but when I say that, it gets ignored or explained away. Apparently, there’s no good evidence for alternative medicine because “the only people doing the research are the supplement companies [who then don’t publish their research].”

Anyway, my reason for emailing you is twofold. First, I just want to say thank you, because your blog has been my source of sanity over the past week (and will be, I’m sure, for the next three weeks). When I’m close to going crazy over the illogical and completely non-evidence-based treatment of the day, I come and read an entry from Respectful Insolence, and I get my dose of sanity and logic for the day.

Fellow skeptics, use me and abuse me for tactical air support whenever you need me. I live for this shit, as they say.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve developed a bit more of a profile, “coming out of my shell” more when it comes to skepticism. Many readers know of my “friend” at another blog, you know, the guy who isn’t a box of blinking lights but sounds mysteriously like me. Thanks to that, I’ve spoken at TAM7 and have actually been interviewed on the radio and for newspapers. Shocking, but true. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ready for TV, given that, as they say, I have a face perfect for radio and a voice that’s even better for blogging. But, who knows? At least there are now other outlets for Insolence to cover the world; that is, if I can keep it up for another five years, which is never any guarantee. Many are the bloggers whose life circumstances have changed or interest has waned.

I think I’ll conclude, though, by something to keep this from getting to be too nauseating, something to keep me humble.

I don’t always succeed.

I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. In fact, when it comes to those deep in woo, I fail far more often than I succeed in getting through to them. I don’t necessarily expect that I can persuade everyone, and, given how much a lot of quackery is either based in or shares many traits with cult religious beliefs, it would be foolish to expect to be able to persuade all of them. Still, there are some losses that are particularly sad.

One of my biggest disappointments was a fairly regular commenter named Craig Willoughby. A couple of years ago, maybe longer, he showed up in the comments of posts about vaccines. I don’t remember exactly when he first showed up; it may even have been at the old blog. However, I do remember that, among those drinking of the Kool Aid of the “vaccines cause autism” movement at least then he seemed among the most reasonable, even though he didn’t like what I had to say. In others, like J.B. Handley, I saw no hope of ever reaching them, but I had thought that maybe Craig was reachable. Sadly, either I was wrong that he is reachable or I botched trying to do it. Of late, Craig has drifted ever further from reason, into the anti-vaccine biomed cult (see his comments cited here for an example). These days, apparently Craig’s decided that he detests me so much that he’s taken to launching nasty, poorly-written, poorly thought-out, profanity-laden, spittle-flecked attacks against me that confuse insolence with pure bile and demonstrate a total misunderstanding of science.

As much as I realize that one blogger isn’t likely to make the difference, I know Craig reads my blog regularly, which is why I will simply say two things. First, vaccines didn’t cause your child’s autism and other problems. They just didn’t; science is clear on that. Your anger, as understandable as it is, given your stressful situation, is misdirected and misguided. I know you won’t like hearing that; it may even provoke another tirade against me. So be it. Know this also: I am not your enemy. Neither is Paul Offit. Neither is Steve Novella. Know this also: J.B. Handley, Generation Rescue, and the rest of the biomeddling anti-vaccine movement are not your friends, either.

Finally, Craig’s quite wrong when he says that I’m only interested in being right. What I’m really interested in is science and how to apply the best science to medicine. What I’m really interested in is science and reason. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me when evidence shows me to be wrong, but I do change. In fact, one excellent example is the whole mammography kerfuffle that I’ve been blogging about. As recently as two years ago, I was about as staunch a defender of mammography as anyone. However, over the last couple of years, as I paid more attention to the evidence (aided by blogging the studies that came out on this issue, actually), I’ve come to change my mind and accept that we perhaps do screen too much, that mammography doesn’t save as many lives as I used to think, and that there is a price. The post I wrote about the USPSTF guidelines last month could never have been written by me as I thought in 2006. It never would have happened. It took the weight of evidence to cause my thoughts to evolve. Even the anti-vaccine movement could persuade me–if it could only produce the evidence.

The anti-vaccine movement, like all of “alternative” medicine, stands in stark opposition to both science and reason. It is not based on science; it is not based on evidence; it is based on anecdotes and pseudoscience. However, as I have said time and time again since the very beginning–five years ago now!–I would change my mind about whether vaccines cause autism, whether various “alt-med” woo–even homeopathy!–works if you show me the evidence in sufficient quality and quantity to suggest that maybe our current scientific understanding is in error. That’s the difference between sketpicism and science compared to belief.

But enough. Five years have come and gone. Countless words have flowed from my keyboard to your computer screens. There have been high points, posts that I’m very proud of, and posts that I’d rather forget (none of which I’ve deleted, by the way). During my next five years, I clearly have my work cut out for me. In the meantime, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate–if you can call it that–five years in the blogosphere than to open up this comment thread. Lurkers! Delurk! (It’s been at least a years since I last invited this!) Lay the comments and, yes, criticism on me.

Put me under pressure.

Yeah, that was a transparent excuse to insert a video of one of my all time favorite songs.

Just delurk and comment, already! Or, if you’re not a lurker, just comment already!

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]

132 replies on “Five years”

Congratulations sir! I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and it has become one of my favorite blogs. Thank you so much for taking the time to do what you do- your work is very much appreciated.

I look forward to more Respectful Insolence in the years to come!

Thanks for being sane. There’s too little sanity in the world.

Sometimes I wonder if birth is an undeserved punishment by one’s parents if it means living in a world so full of stupid; at least there are many others who are educated, smart, and as fed up with dumb people as I am fed up with dumb people. They remind me ‘hey, you’re not alone, there’s still hope’.

And luckily I’m an educated, smart person too 😀

Because, really, people who are neither are utter crap.

Over the past few months I’ve come to rely on your posts, and the insightful and entertaining comments of your readers, to calibrate my bullshit detector on a daily basis. Intelligent humor is our best weapon against idiocy (or at least my favorite), and man, you are funny.

Not really a de-lurk as I comment here on occasion, but I did want to offer my congratulations on five years of blogging.

I found you on your original blogspot blog, I don’t know exactly how long ago but over four years. RI is one of the three blogs I follow daily, the other two being Good Math, Bad Math, and Pharyngula. These days I read PZ’s blog more for the comments than the articles, they are much more entertaining. I read Mark’s blog to learn about math structures I’ve never heard about before. And I read Respectful Insolence because of the accuracy, clarity, and compassion of your writing.

I will never think tl:dr of your articles because the issues you are dealing with require a little more explanation to be clear, and a lot more explanation to illustrate that you are not as cold-hearted as a box of blinking lights would be expected to be.

Congratulations again on five years, and have a safe and happy holiday season.

I eagerly look forward to five more years of you slapping down pseudoscience, crushing the quacks and those near daily doses of your special brand of respectful insolence.

Congrats on five years of blogging, and thank you for providing a daily dose of sanity. I’ve been reading your blog daily for about 6 months now.

I’m a mom with a three year old son and have witnessed some of the major insanity of the anti-vax movement. When I hear things like, “My friend’s kids have H1N1, I’m thinking of taking my boys down to expose them and just get this whole thing over with” I come here to scrub my brain. You have also provided me with excellent arguments against the insanity that I’ve been able to use on my mommy board. It really helps to calm the hysteria and hopefully helps to keep the fence sitters leaning toward the side of sanity.

I comment only occasionally, since I don’t have enough of a background to add much to the discussions, but I read your blog daily. The Orac persona is what first brought me in, but it is the quality of the thoughts behind the writing is what keeps me here. Keep up the good work, I am sure there are plenty of other lurkers just like me.

Even though I only found your blog a few days ago, I have spent way, way too much time reading older posts.

Thank you for an informative and sane blog! I grow so tired of dealing with people who accept whatever they hear in the media as science-gospel and don’t look any farther.

I am not highly educated, but was fortunate enough to be born with a discerning brain (most of the time). It is great to find people to help me sift through the BS (woo?).

Here’s to five more!

I read your blog every day. I work as a GP in a medium sized town in Scotland, where the woo is slight, but growing. Following the links you research and comment on helps keep me up to date on the rubbish, and how to refute it. I am reasonably knowledgable about medicine, but – until I came here – quite ignorant about not-medicine. Please keep up the good work.
I also recommend your blog to medical students, and the occasional patient.

Congratulations. Keep up the good work as your posts are always educational and mystifying (can’t help but wonder why people are so resistent to reality, Biophemera found some treatise on this

P.S. You were right. The answer did come when I realised certain coincidences raise questions but concommitantly answer them too. Eventough Poe is my hero, Conan Doyle’s version of Auguste Dupin did help in solving this mystery.:-)


Congratulations, don’t stop now I only just got here.

I have been reading the various science blogs especially Science based medicine and Neurologica blog and of course PZ along with the various sceptic blogs for about two years now and the one thing that I keep coming back to is that most of the woo meisters and creationist and deniers of one sort or another. I mean here the ones that blog regularly your JBs, Egnors, and Chopras is that they don’t seem that dumb in a literal sense. They all just seem to think that they are right contrary to the overwhelming weight of evidence that has been accumulated through years of rigorous scientific study and the neatly handed to them on a plate by bloggers so they don’t even have to find it for themselves. Why? I think for the most part when you sit people down show them a huge body of evidence and explain the finer points they tend to go along with it. It seems almost like their just stubborn.

Anyway that’s my longest comment yet (slow day in work) I am off home now.

I’ ve been reading this blog for some months on a regular basis. Although I am a student in science, I have learned many new things from this and the SBM blog. I particularly enjoy the detailed cancer screening and diagnosis posts as these are quite different from my field of study. The recent remark on mammography screening was a good step forward In pointing out where medical practice can be informed by evidence although perhaps you can cover some more medical practices that are based on skimpy evidence.I feel some pseudoscience you cover is too easy a target. Yes, some people believe in it but it’s good to focus on a more serious topic that is currently affecting people in hospitals once in a while. Although they do not fall as deep into the hole of pseudoscience as the objects of contention you normally blog about, they would show how to apply evidence even to current treatment paradigms. I believe readers follow you for the same reasons people tune to O’reilly; your relentless attacks on the opposite side are a breath of fresh air compared to newspaper fodder which is uncritical and tends to treat all opinions on an issue equally. The reason you have much higher IQ followers than O’reilly(minus the trolls) is because you use reason and logic as your weapons compared to his primitive shouting.

I’ll add my congratulations to the others, as well as my thanks. First heard of you a while back over on the Bad Astronomy threads. People kept referencing your posts on vaccines, and, while I meant to start reading your stuff earlier, I never got around to it. I am very glad I finally did. Being a bit lukewarm when it comes to going out and proactively finding the vaccine woo, RI has been a great resource for when I need to update my info on antiantivax.

And when it comes to all of your posts, you have a great way of making complex issues easier to understand. Every now and then there are terms or concepts that I don’t quite get, having no formal medical training, but overall, I learn a lot. Thank you!

I first popped by because I recognised the Orac “handle” from my own misspent Usenet days, but that’s not why I follow your blog now. With all the woo floating around both the Internet and mainstream media, it’s nice to see some really hard-headed analysis of what works and what doesn’t.

Respectful Insolence: come for the name-recognition, stay for the insightfulness.

— Steve

Congrats and here’s to many more years! Even if we slay all the anti-science dragons (not bloody likely), there will still be need for effective communication of science to the receptive lay public (a la new mammography guidelines).

Congratulations and thanks. I rely on your blog (and strong coffee) to get my brain in gear every morning. Death and disability from vaccine-preventable disease has been a tragic reality in my family, in my generation as well as the two preceding ones, so I view the anti-vax movement as a significant public health threat. Everything you write on the subject has the potential to stomp out a little more ignorance, so I appreciate your efforts more than I can easily say.

Regular reader for 3 1/2 years

Congrats, o Box o Blinkin’ Lights.
Truely thy blog-wisdom has been worth my time, and glad I am in my Scottish heart that it’s free to come here and read.
All opinions are not valid, as some of them are put forth by fools. So we have Science, and science follows it’s own special rules. So remember when some cretin comes to you and says “but it’s only a theory!” that it’s blather he’s spewin, and don’t get any on you!

I’ll raise a toast , in coffee at least, to Orac’s Respectful Insolence! long may it rave !
(what, you were expecting cuttlefish ? )

I’ve been lurking around here for about a year and a half. I’ve in Portland, OR, which is a beautiful city with lots of great places, blah, blah, blah, but the woo level here is extraordinarily high. You can’t walk two blocks without running into a chiropractor, naturopath, psychic, crystal healer or other woo du jour. I can almost smell the burning stupid when I overhear some of the conversations that my co-workers and classmates have. Its refreshing and relieving to read this blog and see that yes, I’m not the only one who thinks that all of that woo is all load of BS. Keep up the good work, and best of luck on the next five years. Back to my lurking…

Thank you, thank you, thank you! And by the way, did I say “thank you”? THANK YOU!!! May your power grow daily. –Donzilla

addendum: You gotta admit David Bowie is a hell of a show, even if you don’t like his music.
As for me, I do like some of his stuff, and Under Pressure is definitely one of them. So thanks again.

A lot of my friends are fans of alternative medicine and woo, and you’ve been a consistent and excellent source of talkings point, information and links. You’ve helped me persuade a friend to cancel their accupuncture and go to a therapist, helped me persuade another friend to get her children vaccinated and have helped me, personally, think more rationally and more carefully about the world that I’m priveleged to be a part of.


Congrats on five years! The information you present has helped me immensely as I counsel patients and answer questions by family members/friends/co-workers. So nice that you understand “wooish” and can translate for me, and glad to see you aren’t having the life sucked out of you by the black hole that is the alt-med.
One tiny criticism, since you said you were open to it. Could you edit a little better? Sometimes your sentence fragments get me bogged down. I know how they happen, but my grandmother (an English teacher) screams in my head every time I see one and my comprehension suffers. (please don’t explode over my pedantry, I know it’s your blog and you can do what you want)


Thanks for blogging and keep at it! Most often your posts are pure gold! I’ve been reading since starting med school in 2006 and I’ll be done in June 2010, when I’ll have a little less time to read in residency. Thanks again.

Keep up the excellent work sir!

I originally stumbled across your blog when Googling for something completely unrelated and I almost skipped over it. However I think the blog post on that particular day contained some of your colourful broadsides on homeopathy. Using the word ‘quack’ and multiple variations thereof was enough to make me pause over the browser back button and read a bit more.

Up until then, I was vaguely aware that some people had some funny ideas about alternative medicine but I had always just pigeon holed them as harmless tree hugging, pot smoking hippies and never gave them a second thought.

However, with blogs like yours I’m now more aware that the alt-med folks have become more insidious with the anti-vaccine brigade spreading celebrity-endorsed woo and the BCA libel action against Simon Singh, amongst others.

Reading about the subject by someone who is actually knowledgeable about it instead of listening to some clueless and biased talking head on TV has been a real education. Thank you.

Congratulations on five years. Working in a place where I experience the full range of woo and pseudoscience from creationism to homeopathy, places like this are an island of sanity.

You have finally compelled me to delurk. Your site has been an invaluable tool for debating my crazy uncle who is deep into the woo.

Thank you, Orac. Keep up the great work.

I found this blog from reading The Cheerful Oncologist, and it has been immensely helpful in forming my own opinions and ideas on skepticism and the battle against pseudoscience. Keep up the good work Orac!

No kidding? Orac from alt.revisionism? I used to read that to get my daily fix of fascination with crap – from the deniers, of course! Makes me even more pleased that I found this blog.

Congratulations, Orac!

It was fun watching you smack down idiocy of all sorts! Keep up the great work and best wishes!

Congratulations and thanks for all the smack. I usually shut up here because I’m not a scientist or doc, but I am in public health communications, I’ve worked closely with scores of researchers, academics, and clinicians, and I read this blog every day. I think I got here in connection with something having to do with autism, about 2 years ago, but I don’t remember any more. But I digress. Congratulations and thanks.

Count me among the converted: thanks to you and Esther, at Mainstream Parenting, I was finally able to understand the vaccine argument and make the right decision. (It makes life so much simpler to understand where the bad arguments and junk science come from, not just with vaccines but with so much crap that’s thrown at parents.)

Last month I found myself in the ER with my 2 year old, who has asthma. We were asked three times by three different nurses if he was up to date on his vaccinations; each time when I said “yes” the nurse looked SO relieved. This was in Brooklyn Heights–I can imagine what they often come up against . . .


I can’t remember exactly how I found your blog but I do remember it was around the time when a friend was ‘diagnosed’ with two different cancers based on a saliva test and was taking daily zappings with a ‘healer’. Sadly, that friend is lost to me now (she didn’t die, of course, her husband proved to be too difficult to deal with). But I gained a wealth of knowledge from you. You were very helpful to me when I emailed you early on in my skeptic life. Thank you so much for your blog and for just being you.

Would that we had a brigade (nay, a division!) of Oracs to intellectually slay the seemingly endless stream of woo dragons out there. You have my undying respect for continuing the good fight, and here’s hoping there are many more years of Insolence yet to come.

delurking as ordered…..your blog always gets the information out there in a digestible format that I can reuse when running up against irrational thought. Also, many hours of hilarity occur when anti-vaxxers or others of their ilk get mauled in the Comments section – whilst not realizing how much they are showing up their own wilful ignorance!


Love this and SBM.

I hope you go at least another 5 years. As a “lay-skeptic”, medical and scientific skeptics are an invaluable resource in our daily battles with woo.

Thank you and congrats on the past five years. Your blog lifts the spirits of this scientist-mom, who two years ago stumbled upon this site while sifting though, in horror, the tons upon tons of anti-vaccine websites ever-present on the internet. I was so grateful to finally hear a voice of reason and sanity!

Here’s to Orac, may he live long and prosper!

Happy blogiversary!

Thanks for being here. Between you and the regulars like Dangerous Bacon DLC, Pablo, Dianne and all the others whose names are in my brain but not at my fingertips, I’m getting quite the medical science education.

One thing I want to emphasize to you, and to your commenters: Don’t think that you’re not having an effect. You are. You really are.

For instance, I now know about “pay-to-publish” journals, ones that exist to a) enrich their owners and b) allow people with crappily-researched material to publish it in a venue that 99.9% of the reading public doesn’t realize isn’t a publication on the order of JAMA or the Lancet.

For another, I now know about and why I should search there ( if I’m looking for science-based articles from legitimate publishers.

Knowing these two things helps the average realize why Google search results for certain key topics have to be taken with a few hundred grains of salt.

Five more years! Five more years! Five more years!

Thank you, Orac, for completing the education I never quite finished — learning how to think critically, that is.

I work on a children’s health magazine and take what we print very seriously. Yet I will ‘fess up and admit that early on in my tenure, we ran an article on alternative medicine that was heavy on “balance” and light on skepticism. (I cringe when I reread it now, and would never have printed it today.)

But that was three years ago, before I found RI through a link from the NY Times health page. What I gained was a whole new way of approaching the world. Yes, I’m a health editor who came to my position through mostly editorial work (with some lite science/medicine thrown in), having taken just the bare minimum of science classes in college. (If Intro to Astronomy and AP Bio count)

So this blog has taught me about the scientific method, why it works, and how to apply it to the latest and greatest whiz-bang research before I consider reporting on it for my impressionable readers. It’s kindled an interest in learning more about skepticism in medicine, leading me to brush up against Drs. Steve Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz @ Dartmouth and Gary Schwitzer at Minnesota. It’s helped me become a much, much better editor, and thousands of young readers are the better off for that. And it’s helped me make some personal health decisions, too, for which I’m very grateful.

So I raise a big mug of water-cooler H20 to our dear Orac, and wish him many, many more years of educating, amusing, and enlightening us. Congratulations and thank you! And come back to NY someday!

P.S. DLC: Are Bowie shows usually all that? I went in with high hopes when he opened for Nine Inch Nails back in the 90s, and was disappointed by how underwhelming his set was. But I still like his tunes lots.

Congratulations and thank you for RI. I came across it a couple of months ago when looking for some sane information on vaccines as the parent of a young child. Your posts are generally very good at putting things in lay terms, and it’s great to have a resource that I can send to people who are getting a little deep in woo territory.

Delurking! I started reading the Friday Doses of Woo, ages ago, and I stuck around for the rest of the science-based medicine. I really appreciate the rational treatment of topics that tend to send the rest of the Internet into hysterics. Thank you, and here’s hoping for five more years.

As a nursing student I’ve come to really appreciate your compassion and incredible insight for medical science. I find this blog in general the hardest to read in comparison to Pharyngula in that we’re dealing with something a little more sensitive here. I find myself the most angry when reading some of your posts and their commentary.

Keep up the sane blogging good sir!

Back to date stamping chiropractic insurance policies…*sigh*

I’ve wrtten a long piece I won’t bore your readers or you with concerning the last part of your post regarding Craig (that’s what one’s own blog is for, after all).

I stand and I counter the misinformation that AoA, Huff, other bastions of woo put out there. Not for nearly as long as you, nor I doubt as well, but I hope that I will be doing it for a long time to come.

I also work hard to find a way to bridge that divide between parents of autistic children; those on the one hand who follow the science and those who believe vaccines caused their child(ren)’s autism. And so I consider, for example, myself to be friends with both Ken Reibel and Craig, who will obviously never overcome the animosity they feel for each other. And I’m going to state that I can support what you write, Orac, and your goals to stand and take on the woo, the charlatans, to make a difference and call Craig a friend, somehow hopefully find a way to straddle the fence here and say to Craig, you’re both gorwn men and this has nothing to do with me (which I’m sure you, Orac, already think).

It makes it difficult at times, like today. I encouraged Craig to start his blog, to share his story about his son, to write about his family, in hopes that it would be of benefit to him, and I read his blog and I offer him words of support, because that’s what friends do. Did I wish him to use it to continue to let loose his anger? No, but he needs an outlet and a way to work out the stress and blogs are dynamite ways to do it.

You, Orac, make an easy target for Craig’s anger and will undoubtedly provide fuel for another post.

So, because I do call Craig a friend and he needs that reaffirmation here, and because everyone needs a soft spot, someone to say they care, I post today here to reaffirm to Craig that I do stand. And I try to navigate this minefield because if I don’t, I won’t have been that person to Craig today, who really does need a friend today.

Orac is not the enemy, Craig, though it feels like it to you. Though you’ll read his words as calling you a liar and hate him all the more for it, I hope that you will not, that you will choose not to.

And if I came across as a concern troll here, I have it on good authority from Jonathan Mitchell that tastelessness is par for course for me, so this should balance that quite nicely, don’t you think?



I probably don’t count as a lurker, as I might have commented once or twice before…

Respectful Insolence is a great resource, and I agree with you on the importance of science-based medicine in skepticism (and share your worries regarding JREF’s focus on the issue in the future).

Happy Blogoversary! I don’t know how long I’ve been reading RI. I know it’s been at least 4 years. I tried to find the first email I sent to you, but it’s gone (and that email was several months after started reading). May you keep blogging for many more happy years.

As a fellow fan of science fiction, I appreciate your pseudonym. As a mother of young children getting their vaccinations amidst a growing number who look at me as if I was crazy for doing so, and a niece to an aunt whose death was hastened by woo, I really appreciate your spreading of “the science.”

I didn’t think people were this goofy until I actually had to deal with them. Did you know that one of the Field Museum’s managers is a creationist? Last year, when they got a baby woolly mammoth, he remarked, “Of course it was a baby. Noah only took young animals onto the ark.” (I am not making this up.)

My friend just chastised me over the phone for getting my kids the H1N1 vax because it contains “15,000 GRAMS” of “deadly aluminum!” (could you imagine the size of that syringe??)

I know parents putting their perfectly healthy children on vegan, gluten-free and casein-free diets. (Who needs protein or essential vitamins and minerals?)

I also know a handful of otherwise perfectly intelligent people falling for the conspiracy theories. Not only is the government out to poison them, but so is every corporation and doctor and pharma company. They are starting to post Ron Paul and Gary Null clips on facebook.

So, Dear Orac, thank you for being here and fighting the good fight. Besides that, thank you for all you do for the women (and men) who develop breast cancer. You’re actually trying to help them, not selling them a Suzanne Sommers brand juicer in their time of need.

Bless you –

Your blog was among the first I found in my attempts to find daily scientific reading in grad school. I now make a daily check here, even if I’m somewhat of a lurker. Thanks to a few email exchanges, you’ve been a great help in helping me sort the good science from the questionable in my field, and I still hope for the chance to meet you someday, along with some of my other favorite ScienceBloggers.

Congratulations, and thanks! You’ve provided many many hours of entertaining and informative commentary over the years.

I wouldn’t be overly pessimistic about Grothe. I’ve been listening to POI for years and he is well aware of the anti-vax movement and medical quackery in general. I know that the POI preference has been to focus on discussions about the intersection of science, public policy, religion, and paranormal beliefs. I suspect because of his background and the general focus of CFI their interviews have gravitated towards cryptozoology, UFO’s, crop circles, psychics, and other paranormal issues rather than things like CAM and anti-vax.

Most episodes there is a segment before the interview where one of the CFI fellows will address current events, including things like H1N1, the importance of vaccines in general, etc. POI has actually had doctors on in the past and explicitly addressed specific fraudulent claims of CAM, but not in the past year or two.

Another appreciative lurker poking his head out from the shadows to congratulate you on your 5-year milestone and to express my sincere thanks for the work that you do here. I initially found your blog while searching for data to refute the various bits of anti-vaccine nonsense I was being subjected to with distressing and depressing regularity and have been hooked ever since. I thank you for helping me to find a firm place to put my fulcrum as I attempt what too often feels like moving the world. Further thanks for introducing me to the term “woo”, just saying it in my head is guaranteed to generate a smile, which is just what I need when faced with the subject.

Keep it up, Orac. You’re making a positive difference in the world.

Last month I found myself in the ER with my 2 year old, who has asthma. We were asked three times by three different nurses if he was up to date on his vaccinations;


Thanks for your question about what to do when overzealous medical professions take advantage of an emergency situation to push their unwanted vaccine. I agree. It is a problem. I recommend being honest and telling them you’ve no interest in their product.

Unfortunately this puts you in a position of having to address the issue over and over again as the entire hospital staff approaches you in an attempt to convince you to vaccinate. All this while your child is experiencing a possible life-threatening emergency.

Additionally it’s difficult to create an adversarial relationship with those to whom you’re looking for help.

Therefore I see lying as an acceptable alternative since you’re protecting yourself from unwanted harassment

Did you even read her comment? I don’t think she felt harassed, rather concerned (upset?) that the nurses have felt necessity to ask if a child has been vaccinated.

The nurses are probably frustrated that their immunocompromised, or vary young patients are in danger every time there is an un-vaccinated child in the hospital.

Another long time lurker that needs to say congratulations on making five years and thanks for doing what you do – it is very much appreciated.

“Did you even read her comment? I don’t think she felt harassed, rather concerned (upset?) that the nurses have felt necessity to ask if a child has been vaccinated.”

Oh, make no mistake about it, Sid Troll almost definitely misinterpreted that comment on purpose. He is a troll after all. That’s why I just laughed at him and left it at that, lol. 🙂

My friend pointed out your blog to me after I ranted to him about some of the more insane beliefs several of our friends have and I’ve been an addicted lurker ever since. (I even get your blog and some other sciencebloggers downloaded to my kindle. Ahhh technology!)

Thank you very much for the blog. It’s not only an oasis of sanity, it’s also very educational. As a future nursing student I am fascinated by learning as much about science based medicine as possible and as someone who wastes too much of her worktime on facebook, it’s nice to have your blog to link to when I’m annoyed by friends who are afraid of vaccines or who believe that chiropractors are totally qualified to diagnose whether or not they have an autoimmune disorder.

I’ll go back to lurking now but congratulations on 5 years. 🙂

Orac, I noticed that Martin Gardner made a couple of references to you (and quoted from you) in his column in the November/December 2009 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer. That’s an awesome bit of “celebrity skeptic” recognition for you! But as longtime readers here have seen, you have more than earned it.

Congratulations on 5 years of Respectful Insolence, Orac, and keep up the great work!

~David D.G.

I love what you said about being proven wrong. A good scientist is open to persuasion and discussion. Zealots are not. As for your posts, please keep them coming. And here’s hoping your critics don’t bruise your lovely brain too much this year.

Congratulations on 5 years!

As along-time lurker, let me thank you for providing such thoroughly researched and delightfully insolent responses to all sorts of woo!

Congratulations on the 5-year Annibloggary. Keep up the good work. *golf clap*

Congrats, Orac.

Orac, I noticed that Martin Gardner made a couple of references to you (and quoted from you) in his column in the November/December 2009 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer

Oh, and happy belated 95th! birthday to Martin Gardner.

Has it really been five years? I think I started reading you within days of your first post.

Thanks so much for all you do.

And thanks for illustrating (with the mammogram story) how real thinkers, as opposed to ideologues) can change their minds when the evidence warrants.

I have lurked on these pages for 3 years and love your blog. I have also forwarded your posts to many friends who needed to read about vaccination, their importance and the woo science that Generation Rescue kinds peddle.

Thank you for doing a great job of promoting science.

Not de-lurking, but just writing to say here’s to many more years of beating down the insanity (aka woo) with good, hard science! Been reading for a few years now and was truly delighted to find out more about you over on SBM. Since I couldn’t make it to med school, I read a lot of the guys (and gals) who did with much interest.

I must say, though, that my favorite post of yours had nothing to do with science or medicine…the one about your lovely dog. I found it a fantastic view of the heart under all the plastic and lights.

Keep up the good fight, Orac!

Congratulations Orac. As a Firefighter I can appreciate the effort that goes into battling wave after wave of burning stupid. ESPness

Congrats on 5 years of blogging. I’ve learned a lot about medicine and how people think about it from reading your blog. Hope to be checking out RI for many years to come.

I don’t remember how I found your blog at first, but it was well before you moved to scienceblogs: those few times when you post the ‘oldies but goodies” because of time constraints, I’ve always seen them before (but read them again anyway, of course. Well, usually…)

Fighting alternative medicine is a hard and thankless task. Not only are you going to be seen as attacking people’s ‘way to get well,’ but they’ve often got religious values and beliefs wrapped up in their spiritualized view of the world. In science, you try to ignore the person and maintain focus on the objective issue itself. In religion, spirituality, and pseudoscience, it’s focused on the person. Everything comes down to whether or not you’re the ‘right’ kind of person, instinctively, with evidence being secondary.

As Issac Asimov once wrote in defense of reason, “We will always remain a tiny and probably hopeless minority, but let us never tire of presenting our view, and of fighting the good fight for the right.” You were and are right about Bill Maher, and the Dawkins Award. Fundamentally inconsistent. Never again.

May you have another 50 years. They can prop you up at the nursing home, and let you blog on a giant screen activated by electrodes attached directly to your brain.

I recently just de-lurked here, and wanted to thank you for all the hard work you do here. You make my job as a medical student that much easier, with all the information and de-quacking you do.

Delurking to say how much I appreciate what you do. When I went looking for the scoop on alternative medicine, ten to twelve years ago, it wasn’t all that difficult to find good information online (before most of the kooks learned how to plug a computer into a phone jack). Good enough to convince me to stay away from the quacks, anyway. Now, all I can easily find is woo when I need to debunk some new (or old) ‘treatment’ for a friend or family member, and the anti-vax thing is particularly difficult in that regard. How wonderful it is to be able to save myself the trouble of searching and simply send them a link to Orac! There are others, of course, but there is something about you… must be the Bowie vibe. Yep, the real reason I delurked is because “Five Years” is in my top five favorite songs of all time and I couldn’t resist.
You do a great service and I hope you find it rewarding enough to continue.
Relurking, now.

I think I’ve commented a few times here.

Happy 5 years. I appreciate your stand against woo and for vaccines. I got a sudden introduction to the world of woo when I was diagnosed with a chronic (life-long) illness several years ago. It seemed people came out of the woodwork, telling me all the things I must do to cure the incurable. I knew the “cures” were worthless if only because, if they did work, why would the disease be so feared? Your blog has given me ammunition as to why these things bull and you continually remind me that, though at times the onslaught of woo seems insurmountable, this stuff can be fought.

Much respect from me for your dedication to your passion. I tend to agree with you more than I let on but do wish the anger and tone toward others was a little less. Especially toward reasonable chiropractors! So many people can learn from this type of dialogue but likely are pushed away by the venomous hatred they receive when they open their mouths. Is the goal here to prowl around sharpening your claws waiting for a lurker to speak and then to slash them? Or is to affect change? Do you want to be effective or just a smart fuck head? This blog does lack balance but really is all.

I also would wish for less discrimination and immediate judgement toward alternative thoughts. Science is vast. It’s bigger than you. It’s bigger than your ability to know it all. I have seen what the skeptics call chiropractic and I must be honest in saying that your narrow defintion is totally foreign to me and I have been in practice for 22 years. I know of no chiropractors who even remotely appear to be the way you and your readers have presented us all to be. I wonder if honesty is the goal? It should be if science is the platform. You should strive for credibility. But credibilty only comes through honesty, patience, and tolerance.

However, you have a following and many of your followers are actually less educated and discerning than you and tend to simply take your word for it. Because of that you have the greater responsibility to be fair and provide the bigger picture. And you should be honest. Does science have an agenda beyond the truth? You do seem to have an agenda beyond the pursuit of truth..

I do respect what you do and will continue to learn from this blog. Congratulations, you have actually done a very good job accomplishing your goals.

“Being an arts critic is clearly not my strength” opines the modest Orac; nevertheless, there is artistry in what you do:from scaling the dizzying heights of allusion to eviscerating the deepest depths of illusion,woo’s world at your mercy,we in your debt. Congratulations!

As a secondary science teacher, I look to your blog for help when a student, sincere and well meaning, has swallowed some woo and needs to be pointed in the right direction. You often have good sound scientific council I can share when appropriate with them. Thanks Doc, and please keep it up.

Delurking to say congrats on five years! I came across your site from links fellow skeptics posted on Democratic Underground, where unfortunately there’s a fair number of anti-vaccine nuts. I have no medical background but I think you have one of the most interesting science blogs around. Keep it up!

Strictly speaking, I’m not a lurker, either, but my limited comments wouldn’t need both hands to count.

I’m just a high school graduate, but never stopped trying to learn. For better or worse, you have helped mold me, and, more importantly, I’ve learned a few things over the years. You have helped calibrate my BS detector, and helped give me the tools to smell the crap the alties are slinging. I’ve even gone toe to toe with a few people spouting off about non-evidence based medicine, and made points they couldn’t refute. There was a time or two I used your blog as a reference to back up my point, and they had no answer.

Keep it up – you’re reaching people.

I cannot thank you enough for the blogging you do. I credit Respectful Insolence for having, in large part, brought about my skeptical conversion. Reading your entries helped me to shed the woo-ful thinking and reliance on “Natural = Good, Doctors = Eeeeeebil” postulate that had been instilled in me all my life. You’ve made a difference in my life, and in my child’s life (fully vaccinated, thank you)!

Congratulations, and keep up the great work.

I ended up on Respectful Insolence by following a link from Pharyngula I think. As it happened, that was the day of your post announcing that you would be taking a hiatus from blogging to attend to your mother-in-law in her last days as she lay dying from a disease you battle daily in your practice. That situation was moving enough, but then you asked your readers to post stories about the passing of their loved ones. I posted about my sister’s passing from cancer, but only after reading the cascade of amazing, sad, brave, warm, loving and poignant tales of loss from your many readers. I’ll never forget that.
Now I’ve thoroughly loved the rollicking battles with wingnuts and your thorough dismantling of woo that is the trademark of Orac and Respecful Insolence. It surely keeps me coming back on a daily basis. I have learned more about critical thinking from you and your many commenters (I’m talkin’ to you Sastra and Desert Son). But it was that first experience with your eloquence and intellect expressed in that first blog entry I read that was so riveting to me. Scientists, atheists, freethinkers and skeptics get tarred with the brush of unfeeling by the magical thinkers. I know I was guilty of that years ago when I felt threatened by reality when I was young and (more) foolish. If anyone ever hurls that canard at me, I direct them to that post and list of comments that follow for an education in how loving and intellect are not mutually exclusive.
Oh, and Sid Offit, stay classy.

Congrats on your 5 years and please keep posting. I am not sure reading these woo stories is good for my blood pressure, but it helps me staying focused as a scientist.
It also makes my comments a tad emotionnal, I am afraid my few past contributions were not very constructives.
On the plus side, since 2 years I am reading on homeopathy between Ben Goodacre and your site, and commenting about it to my family, I may have helped my mom change her mind on flu. The previous years, the family was just relying on sugar pills. This year, we all got our flu shots. And my parents are quite happy to feel protected whenever encountering their anti-vax new age friends.
So thanks for the good influence on me and around me.

Oh, young man, I have been stalking your for years. Back in the day when I logged into Usenet I made sure to read every post by “Orac” that on Now I check this blog multiple times a day.

There is a possibility that I might make the next TAM… though due to the possible chance I will be with my sixteen year old daughter, I will not run up to hug you as a total fan. I must keep up some kind of mature appearance. (hah! daughter knows better!)

Congratulations on five meaningful years of fighting pseudoscience with respectful insolence. There is no question that you’ve made a difference in many lives, including mine. Thank you for taking so much time from your ‘real’ life to apply to your thoughtful and impacting contributions to SB and to SBM.

De-lurking at your command.

Well done and thank you for 5 years of Respectful Insolence. Like your first email example I grew up indoctrinated in anti-vaccine/’western’ medicine. I quite accidentally began to see the light about 4 years ago as a result of doing some basic interest study in critical thinking. A taste of that began to erode my beliefs and after quite a challenging period of honest introspection I was lurking here. I’m now in the process of making critical thinking my default method of reasoning and so I come here to see logic doing what it does best: effectively sorting the wheat from the chaff (and you do it so well!). Thank you for the time and effort you put into Respectful Insolence – it has been invaluable for this lurker.

The woo is still strong in my well-meaning family and has intensified exponentially since I’ve recently fallen pregnant – so I’m looking forward to many more years of Respectful “Brain Scrubber” Insolence. Keep it coming!

Happy 5 year Blogaversary! Thanks from a mom of a wonderful autistic kid! I appreciate the sanity/reality check I find here after hearing so much crap from the “Age of Antivaxxers”!

Congrats Orac. I’ve used a few of your posts as introductions to my students on how to think critically. It was discouraging to see how many first-year students simply had no concept about how evidence-based systems worked, and how badly they lacked critical thinking skills…and these were the ones entering a science program.

Hope you’re around for another 5-years. We’ve learned a lot from your posts, and we can pass along what we’ve learned to others.

Delurking as requested. I appreciate your fight for science and critical thinking. Keep up the good work.

Besides learning a great deal from RI, the people I’ve sent here have all also benefitted. May you process continuously.

Congratulations on your five year anniversary. Keep up the good work holding back the woo tide. I just found out your blog somehow gets through the filter at work, so now I can sneak in a little RI during the day.

Oh, and Merry Christmas to you as well. 😉

[Delurking ahoy!]

Thank you, sir. I don’t have a science background and I was one of those people on the fence about woo, having been raised in a home where traditional Asian medicine was considered superior. Your blog was the spark that steered me towards science-based medicine. Now, my family is slowly leaving the woo behind. I’m glad to say I convinced them to get their H1N1 shots.

I particularly like it when trolls show up here and you refute them with facts. They become more strident, you become more insolent, but the insolence is always backed up. You post sources and references that allow me to do my homework and make my own judgment.

Congratulations! May your blog keep going on and on and on!

[back to lurking]

Congratulations! Long live Orac!

This just in from my favorite Newsletter: (What’s New, by Bob Park, Univ. of Maryland)

Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat also known as Senator Bee Pollen, could
not let the Health Reform Bill go through without a provision mandating
that insurers reimburse alternative medicine providers. It was Harkin, you
will recall, who was responsible for creation of the National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), forcing Harold Varmus to
resign as head of NIH. NCCAM hasn’t found any cures, but it has done a
credible job of using rigorous placebo-controlled double-blind studies to
demonstrate that one herbal remedy after another is totally ineffective.
Presumably the alternative medicine providers will be reimbursed for
applying the placebo effect.

Opinions are the author’s and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.

Archives of What’s New can be found at

Orac, my darling, you’ve been a bastion of sanity and reason in a woo-filled world! Because of you, I’ve become very aware of the threat that anti-vaccinationists pose, and you gave me the courage to urge my friend to vaccinate her newborn. Gone are the days when I would have stayed uncomfortably silent, uncertain of the science, and believing that it couldn’t hurt to let parents choose! I know better now. You’ve introduced me to a world of woo I never dreamed existed and heartily enjoy seeing deconstructed. And you have kept me sane and occupied during slow times at work. It’s a lot to ask of a blogger, but you deliver.

Here’s to five more years!

Congratulations on five years, big brother. It is amazing how big this has all become since you started. I’m pretty proud of you and I’m glad you’ve found an outlet you enjoy -an outlet that provides a forum for those to critically discuss important topics. Keep up the great work and remember to always prioritize living and loving off the blogosphere, too;)

I seldom comment, but lurk everyday. You’re my go-to blogger when someone mentions something that sets my Spidey-sense tingling for pseudo-scientific b.s.

Thanks for all you do. My wife has spent years working with special needs kids, mainly ones with autism, and the amount of times I have checked in for a brief overview from your blog about some wild idea, have been too numerous to count.

You are the best there is at what you do. And what you do sometimes isn’t very nice (to science-deniers).

Cheers, Orac.

Congratulations on your five years of blogging. Like anything else we do, we tend to evolve with experience. While topics may have changed somewhat, your voice has always been one of tireless support of the truth. Perhaps the snark has become more trademark, but probably only because you have to repeatedly go back and fight the same fallacies and woo-outdoing-woo – much more than I have patience for.

I always call you a blogging mentor but just went back to my e-mail account to investigate the veracity of this claim. Indeed, I wrote to you the day before I launched my blog and you were kind enough to reply quickly, following with an exchange where you gave me some invaluable advice on how to approach blogging that is just as spot on today as it was four years ago.

Many thanks for your advice and friendship over the years. You deserve every bit of success you have enjoyed and I applaud you for taking a stand in the face of personal attacks, dedicating several hundred to a couple of thousands of words daily, often having to read the rubbish of others that would make my eyes bleed. You’ve always been a great read but you’ve also always been kind to up-and-coming bloggers and other writers who are fighting the good fight against the hucksters who use fear and misinformation to promote their deceptive practices.

I look forward to us being old and gray(er), sitting around at AACR on oxygen with our attendants feeding us margaritas through a straw while we sit in our wheelchairs with ancient laptops pumping out another post or two.

Congratulations, friend.

I hope you have a merry little Squidmas, with visions of cephalopods dancing about your head.

And wait a week before you make any returns; the lines’ll be shorter.

I shall now de-lurk.

I’ve been reading this page for around six months or so now, probably a bit longer than that actually.

Before coming here, I was unaware of the threat posed by widening acceptance of junk medicine. I had assumed that the only people at risk were a handful of fringe, crystal waving nutters.

You have alerted me to the threat posed by these con artists.

Reading this page, and others like it, has taught me a fair amount on the various forms of pseudoscience and pseudoscientific practices.

I’m not even going to bother getting into all of the times there have been seemingly bright people, who I agree with on other issues, who’ve spoken complete crap about medicine. Suffice it to say, I am now better equipped to evaluate and criticise these absurd claims.

Cheers from Spain! Hope you will be around for at least 5 years more.
I’ve grown worried about the rise of alternative medicine in Spain (sadly, even my university offers courses in homeopathy, despite the scathing comments of the Skeptics Circle). Some of my friends are completely sold into the woo (reiki, achupunture, homeopathy, retinopathy… you name it).
This blog has been a great help at countering misinformation and the common fallacies used by snake-oil peddlers. Now, one of my friends usually asks about some so-called therapies and I’ve managed to steer her away from the most absurd treatments. Sadly, my empathy and compassion runs a bit low and I come out as too agressive. So I’m trying to learn from your tone. Thanks a bunch.

I have only just started reading your blog, so please keep doing what you are doing! It is extremely valuable.

Orac, you are the man. In my opinion, a true indication of a superior intellect is the capacity to incorporate new information into your current thinking (and blogging). Your ability to evolve your thinking on screening mammo is a lovely reflection of your own abilities and your true concern about women and their health. Congratulations on 5 years of prolific and intelligent, reasonable and authorative blogging.


I came here via Pharyngula some time back (a year or so? maybe longer) and stuck around. You’re a good writer and I always enjoy seeing you dissect the dubious arguments of alt med and anti-vax supporters.

Congratulations on 5 years!

*resumes lurking*

Keep alurk! Your country needs more lurks!

Not quite a lurker, I have popped my head up at least once. Keep up the good work.

Congrats on five years! I only comment rarely, but I read the blog almost every day and I enjoy it very much and learn something with almost every post.
Thank you for being a (box of blinking) light(s) in the darkness of ignorance.

Cheers & Happy Monkey,

If have just stopped by a couple of times and first I want to thank you for doing this important work.

The great contest on these tubes between thinking and nonsense needs your sword, don’t let up.

How does one influence a mind closed in certain areas? We all try to figure that out. Is there any research you can refer to?

Delurking! I found your blog a couple of years ago while doing graduate school in a vaccine lab. It was nice to discover that there are other people who are equally shocked and angered by the stupidity of the antivaxxers! Your blog was my introduction to the online skeptic community, where I now regularly lurk. Thank you for the great work, I always look forward to your posts.

Congratulations! from another long time lurker. (about 3 years for me). You always help clear my brain after I talk to my sister in law, who is well into the woo, or my mom who just has no ability to think in a sceptical or scientific way about what she reads or hears. And the anti-vaxxers just make me so angry it helps to read here with a like-minded crowd that exhibit real civic responsibility.

Okay, I’ll de-lurk. I started reading this blog about a year and half ago. I saw a news piece on the “Green Vaccine” and I wanted see what it was all about. Thankfully, I found this website. Thanks for all your hard work!

I read your blog daily. I’m an engineering manager working for a major NASA contractor in the deep south.

I also have 3 kids, one on the autistic spectrum, and am so cheered to see your logical attacks on the anti-vax buffoons. It only took me about 5 minutes on google 5 years ago to figure out there was no scientific evidence supporting the idiocy that I was reading on some major autism boards.

I never comment because someone has already said what I would have in most cases.

Keep up the good work, and thanks for all your writing!

I’m a lurker of almost a year now of your blog, Neurologica and Skeptchick. Like many others commenters before me I saw woo as being something on the fringes, until my younger sister started leaning towards anti-vac. I enjoy reading your posts very much, they’re wonderfully entertaining and factual. Thanks for the huge effort. 🙂

All right, you asked.

You and Steve Novella and some others are a candle in the dark for parents of children on the autism spectrum. We’re bombarded with woo and nonsense seemingly from all quarters. We can’t even turn on the television without seeing Jenny McCarthy on Oprah. What keeps her in the spotlight, along with Andrew Wakefield and the anti-vaxers and the gluten-free crowd and the chelation promoters and all the rest, is parents’ desire to investigate every possible remedy, to leave no stone unturned.

But spending every last dime on woo and wild-goose chases is not going to help these kids. What will help is funding and research and studies and trials and repeated false starts and eventually, inevitably, success.

But the only way that can happen is if people like you continue to put out the straight dope. And so, from one father to another: Thank you.

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