Health & Medicine
What's the Harm? By Michael Shermer
Alternative medicine is not "everything to gain and nothing to lose". [11 Dec 03]
Vitamins: More May Be Too Many by Gina Kolata
Discusses evidence that "vitamin supplements cannot correct for a poor diet, that multivitamins have not been shown to prevent any disease and that it is easy to reach high enough doses of certain vitamins and minerals to actually increase the risk of disease." Sample of what Kolata finds: "Vitamin E supplements can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and studies of vitamin C supplements consistently failed to show that it had any beneficial effects. "The two vitamins that are the most not needed are the ones most often taken," Dr. Russell said." [30 Apr 03]
Mind Games: Psychological Warfare Between Therapists and Scientists By Carol Tavris
Powerful critique of the psychotherapeutic "profession," arguing that therapists' scientific illiteracy can make them positively dangerous. At the heart of their incompetence is the failure to appreciate the cognitive bias known as confirmation bias, and to understand those relatively rudimentary aspects of the scientific method designed to overcome it. [3 Mar 03]
What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubes
Drawing on recent and compelling evidence, this article suggests that the "low-fat diet" position promoted by the medical establishment and nutritionists over the past quarter-century or so may be not just wrong but positively dangerous. This claim is radical enough. But from a critical thinking perspective this article doubly interesting due to the many points at which it discusses how orthodox beliefs are reached and sustained, and how dissident viewpoints are treated (e.g., don't give them any research funding). [8 July 02]
Put alternative medicine back in its box by Michael Fitzpatrick
"The failings of contemporary medical practice are best confronted from the rational basis of scientific medicine, not by a retreat into the mystical traditions of alternative health." [2 Jun 02]
What Doctors Don't Know (Almost Everything) by Kevin Patterson
Excellent introduction to evidence-based medicine and the difference it makes to medical practice. Emphasizes the way EBM gives patients more autonomy. [18 Jun 02]
The Trouble with Self-Esteem by Lauren Slater
"''There is absolutely no evidence that low self-esteem is particularly harmful,'' Emler says... Last year alone there were three withering studies of self-esteem released in the United States, all of which had the same central message: people with high self-esteem pose a greater threat to those around them than people with low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself is not the cause of our country's biggest, most expensive social problems...There are, as always, market forces, and they are formidable. The psychotherapy industry, for instance, would take a huge hit were self-esteem to be re-examined. After all, psychology and psychiatry are predicated upon the notion of the self, and its enhancement is the primary purpose of treatment."
In Praise of Bad Habits by Peter Marsh
Excellent essay arguing aginst "healthism," political correctness in the domain of health, diet and lifestyle. "[The] pursuit of novel, narrow concepts of so-called 'health' and 'fitness' has led us to create new outcasts - those who fail to conform to the increasing catalogue of prescriptions for what is 'best for us' - those who, contrary to the advice of self-appointed arbiters of modern rectitude, persist with 'bad habits'."
The Median Isn't The Message by Stephen Jay Gould
Classic. "In 1982, I learned I was suffering from a rare and serious cancer. After surgery, I asked my doctor what the best technical literature on the cancer was. She told me, with a touch of diplomacy, that there was nothing really worth reading. I soon realized why she had offered that humane advice: my cancer is incurable, with a median mortality of eight months after discovery. The problem may be briefly stated: What does "median mortality of eight months" signify in our vernacular? I suspect that most people, without training in statistics, would read such a statement as "I will probably be dead in eight months" the very conclusion that must be avoided, since it isn't so."
Experts Strive to Put Diseases in Proper Perspective by Gina Kolata
Interesting discussion of how we perceive health risks and how these perceptions are related to the way the information is presented. Discusses new "risk charts" which appear to present risks in more meaningful ways. See also the work on which this article was based, Risk Charts: Putting Cancer in Context (pdf file). [7 July 02]
PC, MD - How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine
This is basically an "advertorial" website for Sally Satel's book. Still, there is a quite a bit of good stuff here, including a detailed outline of the book ("This book shows what PC medicine looks like and how the very efforts to correct perceived problems are making some people sick, or sicker than they need to be.") as well as links to a number of other good writings by Satel. [23 Oct 02]
Sex, Lies and Abstinence by Jennifer Block.
Allowing ideology to trump truth and objective inquiry is hardly a prerogative of the left/progressive/PC crowd. "Revising the CDC website is just one of the many ways the Bush administration has sought to distort and suppress scientific inquiry, not to mention sound public health policy, that contradicts its so-called family values..." [4 May 03]
Prevention Programs And Scientific Nonsense by D.M. Gorman
Discusses the cancer of anti-science and pseudo-science in the area of critical evaluation of programs aimed at promoting health. Seems like in many areas the patient is already dead. The article covers some standard terrain, but adds some interesting touches. I liked the idea of "lapses into reality": it is difficult for postmodernists to consistently maintain their confused affectations of rejection of notions such as truth and rigorous evidence, so occasionally they fall into playing the game they purport to reject. [5 May 03]
Last updated: 20 Jun 2007