The Pathological Optimist is a recently released documentary by Miranda Bailey about Andrew Wakefield that I got a chance to see. In interviews and in the film’s promotional materials, Bailey takes great pains to emphasize that she “doesn’t take a side” about Wakefield. Unfortunately, her film demonstrates that, when it comes to pseudoscience, “not taking a side” is taking a side, and that a film’s bias is often more evident in what is not shown and told than in what is.
Earlier this year, Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop held a quackfest in New York City. Well, the second in Goop Health quackfest is coming in January, and Goop is doubling down on the quackery by featuring Dr. Kelly Brogan, HIV/AIDS denialist and antivaccine and anti-psychiatry quack.
Cancer quackery, particularly the false hope it engenders in cancer patients, infuriates me. Earlier this week The Sun published an article suggesting that a form of quackery called the Berkson protocol allowed a mother with metastatic pancreatic cancer to survive unexpectedly long enough to see her daughter married. It almost certainly did nothing of the sort.
Earlier this month, Chuck Norris and his wife Gena filed a lawsuit against manufacturers of MRI contrast agents, claiming that the gadolinium in them had "poisoned" Gena. But did it? The evidence linking gadolinium with the symptoms Gena Norris suffered is, even under the most generous interpretation, quite shaky, and there is no doubt that she has been victimized by quacks.
Gwyneth Paltrow's goop is continuing to sell snake oil promoted as the "empowerment" of women. Yes, that even includes a psychic vampire repellent, reiki charged.
Many are the PR firms and astroturf groups out there trying to influence the public. One favored technique is to publish an op-ed by an expert or "thought leader" in a major media outlet. Not infrequently, these op-eds are ghostwritten. Unfortunately, to its sorrow, STATNews found that out this week.
Yesterday, I wrote about how right-to-try and an unethical offshore vaccine trial are part of free market fundamentalists' attack on the FDA. Here's another example, the "right to choose medicine."
On July 3, an antivaxer named Kent Heckenlively posted a WhiteHouse.gov petition demanding a five year moratorium on childhood vaccines. It failed. Did that stop Mr. Heckenlively? Of course not, and this time he has help from über-crank Mike Adams, who is whining about being "censored" by Facebook over it. The hilarity continues to ensue
Many are the stories of those who have embraced quackery to treat their cancer. Few are followup stories when such a person realizes she's made a mistake and returns to conventional therapy. This is one such story, but you're unlikely ever to see the media outlets that touted Carissa Gleeson's choice of quackery to treat her cancer run the story of her having changed her mind and saved her life with real medicine.
The ubiquity of quackery and pseudoscience of the sort epitomized by Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop empire can be depressing if you're a skeptic. Sometimes it feels as though it's not worth refuting the nonsense she peddles. But it is. Just maybe not in the way you think.