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-woo in medicine.

Placebo effects are not the “power of positive thinking” (David Gorski) Ted Kaptchuk thinks placebos constitute effective treatment and believes it is possible to use them without deception. His new study compared placebo to the drug Maxalt for migraine, manipulating the information given to subjects as negative, neutral, or positive. Kaptchuk has hyped the results as showing the power of positive thinking, ignoring the fact that there were no more people free of pain in the placebo group than in the no treatment group. The study doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.

Tribalism and Medical Ethics (Harriet Hall) A new book by Joshua Greene argues that tribalism is the central tragedy of modern life. He provides intriguing insights from evolution and from recent studies in psychology and neuroscience to inform a new understanding of morality, and he argues for a pragmatic utilitarianism. His ideas are applicable to medical ethics and controversies like abortion.

Quantum Snake Oil – A Primer (Steven Novella) A lesson in how to create and market a bogus health product describes what unethical marketers actually do. It sheds light on human psychology and explains the various ploys that influence people to buy useless remedies.

The New Cough and Cold Products for Children: Evidence is Optional and Science is Marketing (Scott Gavura) There is no medication proven to help cough and cold symptoms in children. As knowledge of that fact spreads, some products are being re-labeled or withdrawn; but new ineffective homeopathic and “natural” products are taking their place. Their claims are not supported by scientific evidence. Colds are self-limiting; treatment is generally unnecessary and sometimes inadvisable.

Preventing Tooth Decay in Kids: Fluoride and the Role of Non-Dentist Health Care Providers (Clay Jones) A pediatrician and a dentist explain what tooth decay is, why we should care about it, and the role of non-dentist health care providers in prevention. They cover the fluoride controversy and the convincing scientific evidence that water fluoridation is safe and effective, and they debunk the unfounded claims of fluoridation opponents. They advise parents how to care for their children’s teeth.