Weekend Reading

The plural of anecdote is not data

Thanks to : Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes

Columns and posts to challenge, infuriate, and delight the SBP fan…


My favorite post of the week, from Derek Lowe, reacting to the “8 Foods We Eat In The U.S. That Are Banned In Other Countries” post that has been circulating on Facebook. His post: Eight Toxic Foods: A Little Chemical Education is a superb debunking:

This piece really is an education. Not about food, or about chemistry – on the contrary, reading it for those purposes will make you noticeably less intelligent than you were before, and consider that a fair warning. The educational part is in the “What a fool believes” category. Make no mistake: on the evidence of this article, its author is indeed a fool, and has apparently never yet met a claim about chemicals or nutrition that was too idiotic to swallow. If BuzzFeed’s statistics are to be believed (good question, there), a million views have already accumulated to this crap. Someone who knows some chemistry needs to make a start at pointing out the serial stupidities in it, and this time, I’m going to answer the call. So here goes, in order.

Read it. Laugh out loud funny.

Joe Schwartz read an article about dyes in Kraft Dinner and asked, Are food dyes dangerous?:

This is senseless fearmongering from a young mom boiling over with emotional energy but lacking any scientific background. The allegation that we are being fed petroleum disguised as food dye is blatantly absurd. Food dyes, while synthesized from compounds found in petroleum, are dramatically different in molecular structure from any petroleum component. Furthermore, the safety of a chemical does not depend on its ancestry, but on its molecular structure. The way to evaluate safety is through proper laboratory and animal studies along with continued monitoring of human epidemiology.

Alternatives to Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine is an odd, dangerous mix of sense and nonsense. This is an excellent and thoughtful read.

Opposition to TCM makes a person stand out, even when the critic is inside Chinese culture. In the ‘anti-TCM’ group on the social media site Douban, with its symbol of a crossed-out yin-yang sign, posters share experiences of bitter family arguments. Wu Meng, 25, is firmly opposed to the practice. ‘I really like [the popular scientific crusader] Fang Zhouzi’s books,’ she told me, ‘And anyone who thinks can see that TCM’s just rubbish, and not scientific at all. But even educated people believe in it. My boyfriend is in finance, and super-smart, but he has a whole drawer full of this crap. My mother is a [conventional] doctor, but my family thinks I’m just against TCM out of contrariness, and that I’ll change my mind.’

The evidence is clear and persuasive. Acupuncture is an elaborate placebo. It doesn’t work.:

Large multicenter clinical trials conducted in Germany and the United States consistently revealed that verum (or true) acupuncture and sham acupuncture treatments are no different in decreasing pain levels across multiple chronic pain disorders: migraine, tension headache, low back pain, and osteoarthritis of the knee. If, indeed, sham acupuncture is no different from real acupuncture, the apparent improvement that may be seen after acupuncture is merely a placebo effect. Furthermore, it shows that the idea of meridians is purely imaginary. All that remains to be discussed is whether or not the placebo effect is big enough to be useful, and whether it is ethical to prescribe placebos.

Don’t claim acupuncture works, NHS hospital told: Institution criticised over leaflets that made bogus claims about the treatment

Via Rob Breakanridge: Bleach enemas for autistic children. Yes, there are those who advocate this and those who do it.

Hilarious but also a bit sad: Homeopathy, Physics, and Magic

Good post: How pseudoscience tries to fool you

General Science

Environmentalists Must Face Down the Anti-Science in Their Own House

The anti-gmo movement is the Tea Party of the left

There’s been a resurgence of “Monsanto causes suicides” stores recently. They’re nonsense: See here and here.

Why do food writers think they are competent to evaluate the scientific literature?

This story in the Toronto Star is completely devoid of skepticism, to the reader’s detriment. One woman’s battle with electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity does not exist.

Pharmacy Practice

This is disappointing, and says a lot about pharmacy practice. The number of time pharmacists recommend homeopathic cold products should be zero, not 1.3 million times per month.

This pharmacist claims birth control pills leach nutrients from the body. [CITATION REQUIRED], please.

‘Canadian’ online pharmacy ordered to close Ontario operations amid revelations it’s actually based in Belize

Thoughtful and optimistic post on community pharmacy: What’s in store: Pharmacy Practice of the Future


MMR Booster Found Not to Increase Disease Activity in Juvenile Arthritis

Good post on epidemiology from the consistently excellent Skeptical Raptor: Properly evaluating vaccine mortality

Has it really come to this? Armed polio workers in Pakistan. And this is disappointing: 22 polio cases confirmed in Somalia.

Extras and Other Stuff

On LinkedIn? They you probably see those “influencer” posts with glib statements and platitudes. Here are some rejected entries.

Do you have an emergency bag packed and ready to go? The Risks You Don’t Think of: A Plea to Pack a ‘Go Bag’

Here I was working out eight minutes, like a sucker: The 4-Minute Workout. There are good reasons to be skeptical.

Most excellent, from xkcd: The Pace of Modern Life

Every BBC news report, ever.

On TV and the Lecture Circuit, Bill Nye Aims to Change the World

Administrative Announcements

I’m really liking Buffer to schedule my posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Check it out here and we both get extra space.

Google Reader is shutting down on July 1. If you use Google Reader to follow SBP, I recommend Feedly – move with one click!

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