With bachelor’s degrees in pharmacy and nursing, as well as a master’s in psychiatric nursing, I’ve spent a lot of time in school. I have a strong science background and I know how to read and understand a research paper.
All of that combined means I have a finely tuned bullshit-detector. Debunking pseudoscience makes my mind do a happy dance, and I invite you along for the ride! I also like to tackle misinformation around public health issues.
Hallmarks of Pseudoscience
- Starting with a belief, and then working back from there
- Broad statements about what something does, but no scientifically sound mechanism is described
- Explanations based on quantum physics coming from people with no physics background
- Energies and energy flows are described without any actual evidence of their existence
- “Natural” is used as synonymous with “good”
- While science takes an “until you prove it, it doesn’t exist” approach, pseudoscience takes the approach that “it exists until you can prove it doesn’t”
How to Spot Pseudoscience talks more about how to fine-tune your BS radar.
- Astrology: Is it scientifically accurate – does the positioning of constellations that exist only from the earth’s frame of reference have any bearing on our lives?
- Chakras: the New Age gets a lot more literal with an ancient spiritual concept
- Crystals: do they have healing powers?
- Dopamine Fasting: there’s actually no such thing as literally fasting from dopamine
- Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): includes things like energy field polarity reversals and a rather odd way of looking at proof
- Essential Oils: yes, they’re lovely, but do they have medicinal properties, or are they just a placebo??
- Law of attraction: the law of attraction makes claims related to quantum physics, and the idea that thoughts vibrate, but does any of it make any sense?
Health conditions & practices
- Adrenal Fatigue: there’s no evidence that such a thing actually exists
- Chiropractic: lying beneath the better-known aspects of management of back pain are some perhaps surprisingly quacky origins
- Colon Cleanses: should you consider shooting coffee up your butt?
- Detoxes/Cleanses: do you actually need them, or can the body do the job just finr on its own?
- Homeopathy: why is the Canadian government funding an international aid group using homeopathy, when the principles of homeopathy go against science?
- “Natural” health products – you hear it all the time, natural, natural, natural… but does it actually mean anything, and is it automatically good for you?
- Reiki: are there actually energy fields that can be manipulated with the hands?
- Vitamins to treat mental illness? – some people claim vitamins and minerals can cure serious mental illness, but is there anything to it?
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) – The Facts – Don’t get swept up in the panic; make sure you’re getting your information from reliable sources
- Spanish Influenza: The Last Big Pandemic – before COVID-19, there was the Spanish Influenza outbreak in 1918
- To Mask or Not to Mask – A look at new recommendations around non-medical masks
- What Chloroquine Means for COVID-19 – What the research has to say about chloroquine and other medications being trialled for COVID-19
- What’s This Curve We’re Flattening? – Everyone’s talking about flattening the curve with the COVID-19 pandemic, but what does that actually mean?
- What the Experts Have to Say About COVID-19 – latest info (as of Mar 24/20) from the W.H.O. and C.D.C.
Vaccines and immunity
- How Vaccines Work (and What That Means for COVID-19) – This may be a novel coronavirus, but developing a vaccine doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel
- Some people choose not to get vaccinated because they think the vaccine will give them the flu. There are two posts that address this, Can the flu vaccine give you the flu? and Will the influenza vaccine make you sick?
- Anti-vaxxers aren’t just harming their own kids; they’re also putting some of the most vulnerable people at risk by depriving them of the Herd immunity they rely on.
- Vaccines and autism: The link that doesn’t exist talks about how, despite the discrediting of the doctor who first proposed this link and abundant research to the contrary, anti-vaxxers and vaccine-hesitant parents alike persist in the belief that vaccines cause autism.
Media, Research, & Scientific Literacy
There are good sources of information out there, and there is crap. Literacy comes into play in distinguishing the good from the crap.
- Can you believe statistics? – We’re presented with statistics all the time, but often more information is needed to actually evaluate what they mean
- Media literacy week: How to be a discerning Wikipedia user – Wikipedia contains a lot of good information as well as some crap; here are some clues to help you spot the difference
- Separating Reality from Fake Health News – There’s a lot of wrong information floating round about the COVID-19 pandemic, so how can you spot it?
- Understanding the implications of research design – There are many different types of research studies, and they don’t all produce the same kinds of results
- Why research literacy matters in mental health – A basic understanding of research makes it easier to separate the science from the BS