The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘medical’

Fox News Nails It on Ebola

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 16, 2014

Ebola is in the news, and unfortunately too many people are speculating and panicking about this terrible disease.  And even more unfortunate, there are far too many media professionals who are reporting the news on Ebola in a completely irresponsible manner.  In the spirit of lighting candles rather than cursing the darkness, I would like to share an example of very good reporting on this matter from Shepard Smith at Fox News.  I don’t often agree with commentary on Fox News, but this just nails it. Folks, get your flu shot, and stop panicking about Ebola; get more facts here:

Posted in media woo, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Doctor” Oz Fails at Medicine AND Physics as He Pushes Cell Phone Fear-Mongering

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2013

This recent silliness by “Doctor” Oz came to my attention: apparently, during a recent show he took seriously the notion that women shouldn’t carry cell phones in their bras because it could give them breast cancer.  My skeptical colleague Dr. David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine summarizes Oz’s idiocy and fear-mongering here…

… The story aired on December 6 and was entitled Why You Should Keep Your Cell Phone Out of Your Bra. The entire segment, lasting ten minutes or so, is one blatant piece of fear mongering. Even by the usual low standards of a typical Dr. Oz segment, this one was bad. How bad? I’ll give you a taste. Let me start just by asking what you might expect in a segment claiming a link between an environmental exposure of some sort and a specific cancer? You’d expect some actual scientific evidence, wouldn’t you? Some epidemiology, perhaps, showing that women who hold their cell phones in their bras have a higher risk of breast cancer, perhaps with some relative risks that were at least statistically significant. You might expect some scientific evidence suggesting why the proposed mechanism is plausible. You might even expect that there would be convincing (or at least suggestive) evidence that women who put their cell phones in their bras, when they develop breast cancer, develop it more frequently on the side where they stick their cell phone. These would be reasonable things to expect that, even though they wouldn’t be convincing proof, would at least raise concerns.

There was none of that at all. Zero. Nada. Zip. In fact, I was shocked at how evidence-free this whole segment was. Usually Oz at least tries to slather a patina of scientific evidence on his pseudoscience. OK, maybe not usually, but he does at least sometimes try when he’s not doing a story on alternative medicine, “complementary and alternative medicine,” or “integrative medicine,” anyway. Not here. It’s as if Dr. Oz’s producers weren’t even trying for this one. …

If you want a good analysis that thrashes the hell out of Oz’s claims from a medical perspective, definitely read through all of Dr. Gorski’s blog post.  Seeing as how I’m not a medical doctor, I won’t rehash his analysis here; but I am a physics professor, so what I can do is go through the basic physics of why it is implausible that cell phones are even physically capable of causing cancer.  In fact, I’ve written numerous posts on this topic already…

Electromagnetic Fields & Cancer Myths

This first post is probably the most thorough on the fundamental physics of how electromagnetic radiation/waves (also known as light) are generated and propagate; also included is a basic primer on the different kinds of EM waves, the EM spectrum, what role frequency and energy of light play in these issues, and the all important difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.  Here’s the upshot: cell phones emit non-ionizing (i.e. non-cancer causing) radiation.

Maine Legislator Pushes Cell Phone-Cancer Woo

This article about a hysterical politician in Maine points out the implications of allowing basic scientific literacy to be trumped by the kind of psuedoscience and fear-mongering propagated by “Doctor” Oz and his ilk.

Cell Phones STILL Don’t Cause Cancer

Just a more up-to-date article outlining some more research from the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark after it looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period.  Conclusion: even while looking for supposed long-term negative effects, none were found.


Posted in environmental hysteria, media woo, physics denial/woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When Faith Fails: Vaccine-Denial Gets Religion

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 27, 2013

Many times we think of vaccine deniers and picture Jenny McCarthy as the spokesperson for the anti-vaccine movement.  She goes on and on about how her “mommy instinct” trumps all of modern medicine and insists it’s acceptable to prevent them from getting vaccinated; this despite the fact that kids can die without their vaccines.

Well, there is a disturbing new trend in the anti-vaccine movement: some parts of it have gotten religion… literally.  Apparently there is now a confluence of faith-healing with anti-vaccine sentiment, and it has gotten popular enough in some circles that it is – surprise – causing the outbreak of diseases such as the measles which were once thought to be practically wiped out.

Read on for more information:

There’s a Measles Outbreak at Vaccine-Denying Pastor Kenneth Copeland’s Fort Worth Church


Image source

For several days now, state health officials have been sounding the alarm about a nascent measles outbreak in North Texas. As of Friday, there had been nine confirmed cases, a number that will grow as new reports from local health agencies filter up to the state.

The epicenter of the outbreak is Tarrant County, which has now confirmed 10 cases, and the epicenter of cases in Tarrant County seems to be at Eagle Mountain International Church.

Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons delivered the news in a sermon last Wednesday:

“There has been a … confirmed case of the measles from the Tarrant County Public Health Department. And that is a really big deal in that America, the United States has been essentially measles free for I think it’s 10 years. And so when measles pops up anywhere else in the United States, the health department — well, you know, it excites them. You know what I mean I don’t mean. I don’t mean they’re happy about it, but they get very excited and respond to it because it doesn’t take much for things like that to spread.”

The sermon was awkward, to say the least. Pearsons is the eldest daughter of megapastor Kenneth Copeland, and her church is one of the cornerstones of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, his sprawling evangelical empire. He’s far from the most vocal proponent of the discredited theory that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine causes autism, but, between his advocacy of faith healing and his promotion of the vaccine-autism link on his online talk show, he’s not exactly urging his flock to get their recommended shots. …

Hmm… a plague has struck these supposed chosen people.  The way I see it, you can have all the faith you want, but the infectious diseases out there don’t give a crap how devoted you are to your particular religion and/or god; it’s that simple.

In closing, if you’ll permit me a snarky comment directed towards the faith-healing crowd: perhaps this plague a sign from God, people… that you should vaccinate yourselves and your children!!!

Posted in medical woo, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rep. Barney Frank PWNs Holocaust Deniers at his Town Hall!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 19, 2009

In the ongoing drama that are the August town hall meetings in the U.S., the stupidity displayed by some continues to amaze me. Probably the most vile thing being spewed by various rightwing nutbags are comparisons of health care reform to Nazism.  In fact, this can be viewed as a kind of Holocaust denial, because it ignores & distorts the real reasons why the Nazis murdered so many people in that dark period of human history…

Health care debate turns vile with Nazi analogy

Right-wing loudmouths distort history, diminish true evil of the Holocaust

Rush Limbaugh and those invoking the Nazi analogy to attack President Barack Obama’s effort to reform health care in America are not “insane” as David Brooks pronounced on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the rest of the loud-mouthed right wing are, when they even hint at an analogy to the Nazis in talking about Obama’s health reform effort, engaged in something far worse than insanity. They are engaged in the vile evil of Holocaust denial. …

But if you want a REAL treat, just take a few moments to watch this video of Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts putting one of these lunatics in her place:

Let me put this very simply: this isn’t about whether you prefer Obama’s health care plan or not, it is about crushing nonsensical, conspiracy theorist b.s.  Politicians of both parties should watch Frank’s response and copy it in their town halls. If they don’t have the balls to stand up to some fruitcake spouting “health care reform = Nazism” nonsense, then they don’t deserve to be in office. I don’t care who they are… Republican or Democrat. That sort of vile & stupid talk has no place in civil and mature discourse, and our elected officials should have the courage to stand up against it.

Frank’s response was spot frakkin’ on. Win 😀

Posted in Holocaust denial, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Sarah Palin: A Case Study in the Politics of Lies & Nonsense

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 14, 2009

I recently posted about how irrational & uncivil the discourse on health care reform has become, and the role that extreme right wingers have in it.  Well, now former VP candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin has provided a perfect example of how insane & dishonest these nutters can be in the pursuit of their ideology.

Recently, Palin made an outlandish, and completely false, claim about President Obama’s proposals to overhaul health care – specifically, she made a claim about “death panels” that would encourage euthanasia of the elderly & children with birth defects which was subsequently & thoroughly debunked by non-partisan sources…

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a “death panel.” Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong. Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes.

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Posted in politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

On Health Care, Rightwing Nutbags Choose Lies & Misinformation Over Civil Discourse

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 12, 2009

Okay, so the hot U.S. political topic of the day is health care reform.  I am not going to make this a post about advocating for or against a specific kind of legislation, though personally I do have my preferences.  Rather, this post is about the manner in which the debate, or lack thereof, is progressing concerning this all-important topic.

Sadly, there is a large amount of misinformation and outright lies being spread about health care reform, and much of it is being fueled by uncritical & hysterical thinking via TV ads and the Internet.  Most of these lies are being spewed by various rightwing groups with the express purpose of derailing any kind of reform, and the movement is encouraging people not to take part in a civilized debate & discourse (which is needed).  Rather, this movement is actively encouraging people to attend Congressional town hall meetings solely for the purpose of disrupting them with angry shouts and even death threats.  Yes, that’s right – some members of Congress have been getting death threats.

So what can one do to cut through all the b.s. and get “just the facts”?  I’d say the best thing to do is go to a non-partisan source, such as  They’ve been doing a bang up job of looking into various claims about health care reform, as well as some of the outrageous garbage which is causing such a stir.  Let’s take a quick look at some of the big lies repeated of late, and how takes them on…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in politics, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

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