Happy New Year 2010!

Well, it’s finally happened. 2009 is now in the dustbin of history. It was a thoroughly awful year, which is why hope springs eternal that 2010 will be better. Given that it would be difficult for 2010 to be worse than 2009, it’s a pretty sure bet that it probably will be better, but I never underestimate the power of the universe to mess things up worse than they already are messed up. In other words, whenever I start thinking that things can’t get any worse, I remind myself that they most definitely can. On the other hand, as far as the ol’ blog goes, 2009 was a fantastic year. After around two years of flat traffic, traffic in 2009 is up by around 50% on average, with November being the best month ever in the history of the blog. I have no idea why (I’m not really doing anything much different from what I’ve done for the last five years), but I’ll definitely take it. I was also invited to be part of a panel on the anti-vaccine movement at TAM7 and gave a talk at the Science-Based Medicine Conference the day before TAM started. I got to meet Randi, Phil Plait, and a number of skeptics whom I’ve admired for a while. Heck, I even got to meet Adam Savage!

In any case, regardless of how good or bad the previous year was, the beginning of a new year is always the time for optimism. Even though it’s an arbitrary day that we as a society have chosen to mark the end of the previous year and the beginning of a new one, I still think it serves a useful purpose to contemplate what has gone before and what might come in the next 365 days. Since I’ve already expended my usual copious quantities of verbiage discussing the medical and skeptical issues of the day that dominated 2009, I thought, given that in a couple of hours I’m going to be heading to Cleveland for a couple of days to visit old friends and my old stomping grounds from residency and graduate school, that I’d do something I rarely do and start an open thread. Well, not quite open. I’d like the discussion to stick to one general topic, if possible: What are going to be the dominant forms of psuedoscience and quackery in 2010 and how can we promote science over them? Clearly the anti-vaccine movement isn’t going to go away any time soon. After a horrendous start to 2009, unfortunately it rebounded and came back fairly strong by year’s end. That it will remain a problem in 2010 is a given.

The same is true of the movement to insert provisions into the Obama health care reform bill to mandate that insurers taking part in the insurance exchanges created by the law reimburse for quackery, including Christian Science prayer treatment. Now that the Senate has passed a version of the bill, the negotiations to reconcile the two versions of the bill and produce a final bill to be voted on by the House and Senate will be carried out largely behind closed doors, with the end result a fait accompli if there is no movement to put pressure on members of the conference committee not to let provisions that disappeared return or bad provisions that are already there remain.

Anyway, those are my two biggest concerns in 2010. The latter is a particularly immediate concern, given that Congress will be back in session next week and there is pressure to pass a final bill before the President’s State of the Union Address in late January or early February. What are yours, and why?