Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine.

Measles outbreaks, 2011 (David Gorski) Anti-vaccine propaganda has reversed decades of progress in controlling measles. New outbreaks have occurred in the US, the UK, and now in Europe. Irresponsible fearmongering is not only endangering our public health but is distracting us from real issues about vaccine safety.


The Believing Brain (Harriet Hall) A review of Michael Shermer’s new book The Believing Brain. Shermer explains that beliefs come first, reasons follow; that false beliefs arise from the same thought processes (patternicity and agenticity) that our brains evolved to enable us to learn, and that science can correct our errors.

Pragmatic Studies – More Bait and Switch (Steven Novella) CAM has realized it needs science, but the science is coming in negative; so they have increasingly adopted the “pragmatic study” – a comparison of treatment options in real-world conditions. It is an abuse of the pragmatic study design to test treatments that have not been proven or to make efficacy claims based upon them; this inappropriate approach is a scam to make their treatments look more effective than they really are. Their deceptive tactics are illustrated by a recent acupuncture study.

Anti-vaccine warriors vs. research (David Gorski) A review of cases from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) attempted to “prove” that compensations had been awarded for autism. Not only was it faulty research, it was unethical, violating patient privacy without the approval of an institutional review board (IRB).

Ambiguity (Mark Crislip) Medicine is filled with ambiguity (uncertain diagnoses, unproven treatments). Gradually, science works to remove ambiguities. In contrast to CAM, it changes, makes progress, and rejects treatments that are shown not to work.