If You Know Anyone Afraid of the Flu Shot, Show Them This!

Internet memes are constant reminders of how unstructured information sharing is. I see memes through the prism of scientific skepticism and critical thinking and the most frustrating aspect is how they can be used to disseminate dangerous ideology and disinformation. There is no end to the structured disinfo out there—from creationism to anti-vaccine doggerel—everywhere on the Internet. Fear mongering has become an art form in promoting the agendas of ideologues, often using reasonable-sounding but myopic anti-science propaganda. This is especially dangerous during flu season.

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Do Not Try This Paleo Diet

Cannibalism is of one those topics that automatically gets a lot of eyeballs and clicks on the Internet. I’m sure there are a lot of psychological and sociological hypotheses to explain this but that’s not why I’m bringing up the subject. I want to talk about cannibalism and archaeology, because the latter (not the former!) is one of my favourite subjects.

A Neanderthal, our friendly cousin helping us out with a couple of DNA strands .... photo by Flickr user Erich Ferdinand, Creative Commons License 2.0

A Neanderthal, our “friendly” cousin … photo by Flickr user Erich Ferdinand, Creative Commons License 2.0

The topic of eating one’s own kind came up in the published results of studies of the Goyet caves, not too far from me here in Belgium. These results were published in Scientific Reports (part of Nature Publishing Group) by an international and multidisciplinary team. They analyzed Neanderthal bones dating from 40,000 years ago, and found that there is very strong evidence for “butchery activities” and “bones having been used for retouching stone tools.” In short, Neanderthals ate other Neanderthals, and even used the remaining bones to fix up their tools. / read more…


Does Turmeric Need a Warning Label?

Many of the more popular pseudoscience websites have a standard article about the powerful benefits of turmeric. Claims about its benefits range anywhere from treating cancer to diabetes, and they abound in these articles, usually followed by a tiny warning at the end of the article that what they said isn’t really medical advice, though the tone of the article might say otherwise.

Turmeric root and powder via Wikimedia

Turmeric root and powder via Wikimedia

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Whoops: How I Accidentally Became a Shill for the Plastics Industry

I usually write about art, only occasionally taking a swing at topics in science and skepticism. But a recent essay attempted to address the way that people perceive global warming and the actions that they take in trying to remediate it. This difference between assumption and reality is something that drives my writing about art and probably drives a lot of skeptical inquiry. You can find it everywhere, and I found it very loudly in the response to my essay.

Tote bags. Photo by BRRT via Pixabay.

Tote bags. Photo by BRRT via Pixabay.

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Zika: Truth, Rumors and Misconceptions


Marvin Recinos-Getty Images

Marvin Recinos-Getty Images

The Zika virus is very serious business, but am I the only person who when they hear the word “Zika” think of the vile tasting clear adult beverage “Zima” that was popular during the wine cooler craze of the 80’s? Perhaps I’m just old.

Be that as it may, one thing is for certain.  For pregnant females, being infected with the Zika virus does  run a serious risk of causing birth defects of very specific types.  Microcephaly, a neurological condition in which the head of an infant is significantly smaller than what is expected of children of the same age and sex, is perhaps the most serious of these.  There is no specific treatment for this condition, but early intervention with speech and occupational therapies may help increase quality of life for the patient. / read more…


Giving the TV thing another go

It seems a surprising number of years ago now, but a while ago, Skeptoid Media partnered with New Rule Productions to form Skeptologist Partners. We shot a 1-hour TV pilot called The Skeptologists with an all-star cast of the top personalities in scientific skepticism. We had a great agent and partnered with one of TV Land’s top production companies, and got very close to a network deal. But the concept wasn’t quite right. We wanted to be too skeptical, and the networks wanted a paranormal explanation to turn out to be the true one — at least some of the time. That wasn’t the show we brought them, so as close as we got, we never sealed a deal (our slot was ultimately taken by Hairy Bikers, and I wish I was kidding). We went back to the drawing board. / read more…

Far from Bulletproof Science

Like a lot of people in the Western world, I used to be a bit overweight—you know, a spare tire, nothing special. But in one of those classic New Year resolutions last year, I decided enough is enough and started going on a diet. Scientifically backed, of course! / read more…


Alternative Medicine and the Post-Hoc Rationalization

If you follow me on the Skeptoid blog you’ll find that I take a dim view of complementary and alternative medicine. My opinion is based primarily on a rational evaluation of the research. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), as a whole, is chock full of poor studies, index studies and weak correlational studies. There is a minority of well done positive research that subsequently fails to show any benefits and goes unreplicated. Alternative medicine as a whole has all the failings of an old west medicine show plagued by scam artists and ideologues. Scammers and ideologues use the freedom that discarding the scientific method offers to reinforce an emotional response. This summer, BioMed Central, a peer-reviewed open-access journal, published an overview of alternative medicine treatments and the benefit in getting injured or sick people back to work, undertaken by researchers at Columbia University. This study, titled “Complementary and alternative medicine use and absenteeism among individuals with chronic disease,” was a retrospective correlational review of data collected from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey data. / read more…

Theranos: Marketing Trumps Science

When I first heard of Theranos and its diagnostic testing breakthrough there were no immediate alarm bells or red flags that caused me to look closely. I was impressed. It appeared to be a elegant incremental improvement to diagnostic testing. I assumed, wrongly, that because of high plausibility it was unlikely to be hogwash. For the most part, current diagnostic blood testing is antiquated and long overdue for improvement; it was likely that someone could easily improve the current equipment. In the end it all turned out to be a lie. It’s a good lesson that one should always be skeptical of groundbreaking changes.

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Introducing the Premium edition of the Skeptoid Podcast

Skeptoid is growing!

So we’re changing things around a bit. And when I saw “we” I mean myself (Brian) and Skeptoid Media’s board of directors, for whom I work, strictly speaking. The basic change is that there will now be two editions of the Skeptoid podcast: the free version, which will be ad-supported and will now be limited to the 50 newest shows; and the premium version, always ad-free and provides access to the entire catalog of shows, and is available to all financial supporters of the show at $5/mo or more. Here’s a bit more info on each: / read more…