Watch: Comedy and Skepticism… via That Mitchell & Webb Look

Cracked Science

A recent exchange on Twitter brought back to mind a hilarious British comedy sketch show entitled That Mitchell and Webb Look, starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

If you are not familiar with it (or want to watch clips of it again), here are some skits of theirs that pertain to pseudoscience and medicine:

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Extenso: French-Language Resource for Questions on Nutrition

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If you understand French and need an evidence-based resource to help navigate food-related pseudoscience, you may be interested in Extenso. I stumbled upon it recently and, while I have not looked at it thoroughly, a decent skimming of its short articles reassured me that this Université de Montréal project is based on solid science.

They even explain how they rate the scientific credibility of a particular claim. This level of rigour and transparency is encouraging, as not all scientific evidence is equal.

Their section on food myths (Mythes alimentaires) might be of particular interest to Cracked Science readership. They write about the use of zinc supplements to help combat the common cold, the pervasive myth that healthy adults must take vitamin and mineral supplements, and whether or not certain food items significantly acidify the body, a pseudoscientific belief that forms the basis of a…

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Funding for French-Language Public Science Education in Québec Dramatically Axed: You Can Help (Maybe)

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The scythe of our provincial government has struck again and, this time, the cut is almost perfectly clean.

Readers from outside Quebec may not be aware that our provincial government has been issuing major cuts in the past few months. On April 23rd, 2014, Philippe Couillard, head of the Liberal Party, became Prime Minister of Quebec. I was proud to see a former head of neurosurgery become such an influential political leader. If one thing could be guaranteed, I mistakenly thought, it was integrity to our health care and education systems.

Our health care system is in the midst of a dire reorganization, which will take effect in April of 2015. Meanwhile, close to 5500 scientists and science support staff have recently signed a petition to remind the Liberal government that, in this period of austerity, science should not end up on the chopping block (see the article from

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Follow-Up on the Hippocrates Health Institute: Lawsuits

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Listeners of my podcast and followers of Canadian news in general will probably be familiar with the case of two First Nations girls with leukemia whose parents decided to have treated at a Florida massage establishment called The Hippocrates Health Institute. A judge recently declared that the girls could not be taken away from their parents, as the latter were well within their rights to explore traditional medicine, even though what the Institute offers is pure quackery and has nothing to do with First Nations beliefs. (For a further discussion of why Western medicine is not relative, see my article in the Prince Arthur Herald)

Here’s a fun development: the owners of the Hippocrates Health Institute are now facing  lawsuits from former staff members who claim it’s a scam.

From the CBC website:

“Canadians represent a significant part of HHI’s business, with sources telling CBC that more than a…

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Read: Making “Quackoncology” Respectable

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I hate to start the week with a depressing article, but I must pass this along. From the fantastic blog Science-Based Medicine, David Gorski reports on the latest development in a horrifying trend: integrative oncology, in which otherwise respectable medical bodies end up promoting Reiki and naturopathy to their medical and scientific audience.

“Let’s just put it this way. Traditional Chinese medicine is a construct that was retconned by Mao’s regime to turn Chinese folk medicine that no educated Chinese wanted (because it was, by and large, quackery) into the “traditional Chinese medicine” to which academic medical centers such as M.D. Anderson and Memorial Sloan-KetteringCancer Centers, not to mention the Cleveland Clinicamong others, devote considerable resources. It’s amazing how much things have changed in 30 years with respect to the government’s position on quackery.”

If you want to be depressed, head over…

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Cracked Science Video 4: Irreproducible

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We often hear the science corrects itself in the long run, but how efficient is this mechanism? Jonathan Jarry reports that reproducibility in the scientific literature is not always a given.

(Des sous-titres en français seront bientôt disponibles!)

Just so you are not too demoralized, the landscape may be changing:
http://www.nature.com/news/journals-u…
http://www.nature.com/news/metascienc…

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Homeopathy Awareness Day: Post-Mortem

Cracked Science

Homeopathy is the low-hanging fruit from the perennial tree of irrationality.

This year, in order to draw awareness to its ludicrous claims, I published an article in the Prince Arthur Herald and a video on this site. The response was predictable.

While the content received plenty of positive feedback and dissemination, a couple of proponents of homeopathy perked up because of the “#homeopathy” on Twitter and a war of words began.

Laurie J. Willberg is a scuba diving instructor from Toronto who is studying homeopathy after having been turned away from “con medicine” (isn’t that cute) when a loved one died following the application of veterinary medicine. Christine Jahnig suffered from horrible insomnia following a car accident until homeopathy cured her of her condition. Both of them engaged me in a game of “I know you are but what am I?” on Twitter.

A fellow skeptic threw his…

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Homeopathy Is Not Scientific

Cracked Science

The Prince Arthur Herald, a McGill University student publication, has just published a short piece I wrote on homeopathy. Here is an excerpt:

“In the mid-2000s, semi-isolated acts of “suicide by homeopathy” were performed as demonstrations of the lack of efficacy of this antiquated belief system, culminating in the Liverpudlian 10:23 challenge which extended this act of rational defiance to 30 countries. If homeopathy consists of natural but potent alternative medical treatments, as many people believe, how can you not overdose on them? There is more than meets the eye with regards to homeopathy.”

You can read the whole article here.

I made a companion video which can be accessed here.

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Cracked Science Video 3: Homeopathy

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It’s October 23rd or 10-23, which has been suggested as Homeopathy Awareness Day, in homage to Avogradro’s number.

Today is as good a day as any to investigate the claims made by homeopathy.

Reading about homeopathy is one thing; seeing the dilutions is another. I hope this is graphic enough for you.

I have also published a public science article on homeopathy in the Prince Arthur Herald as a companion piece.

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Read: Yuan Tibet? Place Your Money Where Your Traditional Chinese Medicine Is

Cracked Science

The James Randi of China?

“A sceptic of traditional Chinese medicine is challenging practitioners of the age-old craft to prove themselves by putting his own money on the line. One has accepted the challenge. At stake is the claim that practitioners can discern whether a woman is pregnant by her pulse.”

Way to go, Dr. “Ah Bao”! I do not fear for your money.

You can read the short news item from Nature by clicking here.

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