Dr. Oz is America’s Most Hatable Doctor


Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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96 Responses

  1. Avatar zic says:

    But this idea of dosing mattering is new to journalists.

    I object.

    It just didn’t occur to some that if a little’s good, a lot more isn’t better.

    This is a common problem amongst farmer’s who spray roundup on their crops; particularly when the recommended dosage loses efficacy.Report

    • Avatar Brooke in reply to zic says:

      zic: It just didn’t occur to some that if a little’s good, a lot more isn’t better.

      This is why I weep for humanity.

      Somewhere, the threat of legal action required a hot sauce company to put this on its label, “Not to be used as a personal lubricant.”Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Brooke says:

        Its not humanity. Its America. In just about any other jurisdiction if someone tried to use hot sauce as a personal lubricant and then got injured, the case would be thrown out. Unfortunately, somehow, case-law in the US refuses to recognise the existence of common sense.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to zic says:

      There are certainly substances that are toxic no matter what the level (ASME Class M piping).
      Benzene is one of them, but it’s not Class M. It is a known carcinogen even in minute quantities. (that was actually Phillitps Petroleum’s defense in court in a suit involving over-exposure of employees.)
      Know how easy it is to get benzene exposure?
      Smell gasoline. The gasoline part is near-odorless. That smell associated with gasoline is really the additives, benzene being the primary odorant.

      There was a thing about ten years ago when the Brits discovered preservatives breaking down in beverages releasing some moderate (read: illegal) levels of benzene.
      It was traced back to the acidity of the product. It affected drinks with high levels of citric acid.
      The acids didn’t release benzene under ordinary conditions, but did so at high storage temperatures, around 120 F. Not surprising, as heat is a catalyst often used in chemical process (or expelled as a result).
      Anyway, Gatorade and a few other brands yanked some flavors off the shelves; not a recall, they just stopped selling them, and they were unavailable for a few weeks.
      The formula had changed when the flavors returned. Those preservatives were gone.

      I wrote about it at the time.
      I’m still surprised it wasn’t a bigger news story.

      The really big story that went uncovered was that it as the Brits that found it, while the Americans were doing similar testing.
      Never heard a peep about that.
      Our laboratories are always the best in the world, because we say the word right.
      When it comes to laboratories, ours can be pretty sucky.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Ah, the atrocities of science journalism…Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Speaking of, is anyone doing a post on yesterday’s fraud revelation and retraction?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        If no one else is, I’ll write something. I’m really, really pissed off about it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

          I was trying to use shorthand to say “I would *LOVE* to see your article on that, dude. Seriously.”Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

          If it’s the one I am thinking of, can you explain what the heck the fraudster was thinking? Did he think it would never come out?

          If he thought that, is there any reason to suspect he ever could have been correct? I mean, I guess if his study sunk without a trace it would go unnoticed.

          But you wouldn’t fake something you want to sink without a trace, you fake something that you want to get noticed. Which means you will probably get caught. It’s such a Catch-22 (it’s a big part of *why* peer review works, because when a result is interesting or ‘sexy’, lots of people are going to be motivated to try to replicate or disprove). I am just at a loss.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

            We caught Milliken too. doesn’t stop him from being famous.Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kim says:

              But committing fraud for *money*, I kind of get.

              Theoretically, you might be able to squirrel enough away so that even if you get caught/convicted, they don’t get it all back. Or you can use the money to hire awesome lawyers and get away with it. You can change your name and flee to Belize!

              Doing it for *reputation* and sticking around, when reputation can and will be taken from you quickly with no defense, seems even more pointless.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

                How about the bright bloke who thought drugging black children with illegal drugs was a good idea? (I think that was Columbia — can someone back me up?)Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

                Paraguay’s the company without extradition; that’s where W’s ranch is.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                This was fraud for money, really. Or at least money is part of it.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

                Like, he used this as a calling card to get a good job?

                Well, that makes *slightly* more sense to me then. Though it still seems like a really, really risky way to go about it.

                Or maybe not.

                When you defraud people of money, the defrauded people are all incentivized to go after you to get their money back (or revenge).

                When you defraud academia/potential employers, no one is motivated to come after you, UNLESS your study results are sufficiently attention-grabbing (as this one was).

                So what you want is something that looks solid, but that returns a boring result that isn’t really all that surprising, so nobody bothers to retweet it, or ever look into it too closely.

                I mean, that might not get you a Princeton gig, but maybe it could get you a state school.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                Until yesterday, at least, he had position at Princeton lined up (he’s finishing his PhD), almost certainly based primarily on that study. His CV is otherwise not particularly impressive.

                Like I said, I’ll try to lay out my theory in the post. I think it’s a pretty common mindset among grad students, combined with ambition and overreach, basically.Report

              • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

                Chris: His CV is otherwise not particularly impressive.

                Well, he had a publication in Science, which means his CV up until yesterday was way better than mine and my wife’s combined.

                (Not that either of us are anything special.)Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                That was my point. I sure as hell don’t have anything in Science.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kim says:

              The electron guy?Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

            Having been a grad student in a related field once upon a time, I have a pretty good idea of what was going through his head. I’ll try to explain it in the post.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

              OK, I’m like 75% done, but will have to finish tomorrow. (I accidentally published it for a couple minutes… oops!). It’s going to be long and no one will read it, but writing it is cathartic.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chris says:

          I missed this, so please do!Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to Chris says:

        I hate to be like a child who wanders in in the middle of a movie and demands to know what’s going on, but…what are you guys talking about? I haven’t heard about this…whatever-it-is. But it sounds interesting.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Science is from Earth, science journalism is from Uranus…Report

  3. Avatar greginak says:

    Science reporting in the media in general is poor at best. Most journos hype big stories w/o having a clue about them nor , seemingly, much idea of how the scientific process works. Health stories suffer from that along with the desire to get people freaking out, have max eyeballs watching and to sell woo. The desire to make everything complex to be simple is an understandable desire but usually ends up missing all the important stuff.Report

  4. Avatar Lab Rat says:

    Science reporting in the mainstream press is laughable, at best. Mostly because they think giving both sides equal time is “objectivity,” so decades of peer reviewed research is treated with the same weight as a few crackpots with co-op memberships and blogs.Report

  5. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    People hate Dr. Oz because he says straight out “you should buy my stuff instead of their dangerous poison”. He makes it clear that he’s in this for the money.

    PBS is just doing it because they love us.Report

    • Avatar Brooke in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Oz’s worst offense is that he uses his credentials as a doctor and a surgeon to peddle things that have no medical validity. He’s using something legitimate to push snake oil.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think there is a long-standing distrust of experts in Western life and especially in American life. The origins of this probably go back as far as the Protestant Reformation and arguing against learned intermediaries. If not further.

    This probably creates a market for experts (and Dr. Oz is an expert physician) who will say things against other experts. Likewise there is a huge market for the Food Babe type of person.

    The human attraction to mysticism also probably explains the rise of people like Dr. Oz. People are not as rational as they think they are.Report

    • Avatar Brooke in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Lack of curiosity is also a problem. The media has a bias toward presenting “both sides” of an argument as though they are always equally credible. It’s then left to viewers or readers to do the legwork to investigate the cases made by dueling “experts” and come to their own conclusions.

      Most won’t bother.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Brooke says:

        I think it depends on the media but I might consume media differently than the average viewer and media can both cover both sides and complain about Dr. Oz fraudsters in the op-ed blogs.

        But I think the whole despising experts thing is broader than science but it could also depend upon what one studied.

        I was reading an NY Times op-ed piece by an economics professor at Harvard. He was expressing mixed views of whether it is good or not that his students go into finance. Something like 20 percent of Harvard grads go into finance. Closer to 50 percent of Harvard econ majors go into fiance.

        He was talking about wealth v. rent seeking and gave a law example. The lawyer who generates finely detailed contracts is generating wealth. The trial lawyer who handles plaintiff side litigation is rent seeking in this guys view.

        I do plaintiff’s law and my bells went off with “excuse me”. What he calls rent-seeking is really acknowledging that corporations have legal responsibilities not to injure (workers or product users) or commit fraud or practice employment discrimination. I don’t see myself as a rent-seeker. I see myself as holding accountability when defendants break the law and injure people.Report

        • @saul-degraw

          I didn’t read that article, but yeah, that claim raises my eyebrows, too. I think the same job/position can create wealth and be an instance of rent-seeking. The finely tuned contract, for example, can be considered “rent seeking” because one function of requiring finely tuned contracts in the first place is to create a need for lawyers. (I’m not arguing against finely tuned contracts or against the existence of lawyers, just saying that the need to have lawyers for some things might create overreliance on lawyers in some situations.)Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      As i like to point out, people are fine with experts in the US. They just only want to listen to experts that verify their pre-exsisting views. Listening to the Ozman is not disliking experts at all, its just showing poor critical thinking skills and falling for a smooth line.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


        True and this is dangerous. This is what causes a lot of liberals like me to see someone like Bobby Jindal as a brazen opportunist. How does a biology major from Brown go against teaching evolution?Report

        • Avatar dexter in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          @saul-degraw ,A biology major from Brown can leave one with the impression that he is a craven opportunist because Bobby Jindal is a nothing more than a grifter who will say and do anything to increase his chances to become president. The man is deluded. He is polling in the low thirties in Louisiana and could not win an election against Obama. If he had not done so much damage to Louisiana I with pity the poor man.
          @vikram-bath, Since you would like to see Bobby Jindal become president I would appreciate a post defending his executive decision concerning religious freedom.Report

          • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to dexter says:

            Oh, I don’t actually want him to be president. Or really any of the other candidates that have been mentioned. That earlier post was only citing one particular advantage to a Jindal presidency that I would personally gain. That isn’t sufficient for me to actually want him to win though.Report

            • Avatar dexter in reply to Vikram Bath says:

              @vikram-bath, I am so happy to hear that. I never found insanity in your writings before but, after the Jindal piece, was worried that you might have been born again as an old testament homophobe.Report

              • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to dexter says:

                dexter: I never found insanity in your writings before

                Well, that makes one of you.

                Two if I’m charitable with myself and include Brandon.

                It’s hard to rank Jindal’s failings, but one thing that really bugs me was the story he wrote about how he did an exorcism on a friend who was having a seizure rather than seeking medical care.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Saul Degraw: long-standing distrust of experts in Western life

      This doesn’t tell us why now. I’ve seen a flurry of complaints this year and nothing at all before. I see people sharing arguments on Facebook that a year ago would have gotten them branded as shills for Monsanto.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      People are not as rational as they think they are.

      Except on the subjective view of rationality, one we’ve talked about here wrt to economics. To me, it just means that people do what they do and are considered (subjectively!) rational for having done it.

      Accepting this view as a starting point for Big Theories is one reason why all this stuff goes upside inside down out sideways real quicklike.


      • Avatar SaulDegraw in reply to Stillwater says:

        I’ve always like behavioral economicsReport

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to SaulDegraw says:

          Can you tell me what you like about it in particular? Some of the behavioral econ tenets you adhere to and how those principles shape your view of the world?Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

            I just like that they seem to use psychology and have no problem admitting that people are irrational.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              The view – and implied theory – I was referring to reduce rational behavior to the choices people make. Which is the opposite of a theory which attempts to account for people’s irrational behavior (since, to spell it out, on the view I’m criticizing there is no such thing as irrational behavior).Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

            Nothing causes me to roll my eyes more than a classical economist jumping up and down that people are being rational by saying they would take a dollar today instead of two dollars a year from now for example.Report

  7. Avatar Brooke says:

    When you’re sounding the alarm, nuance is the first casualty. These details do matter, as in the floride case, but it’s not going to get viewers, clicks, or retweets if it’s not simple and easy to digest.

    My boyfriend and I laugh out how outrageous local news promos have gotten. Listeners and viewers are urged to tune in at 11 to find out what the latest thing is that could kill you. What’s lurking in your cabinets? What household object could kill your child when you’re not looking? What’s the latest faux trend that’s secretly toxic? It’s a constant stream of manufactured fear, outrage, and scandal.Report

  8. Avatar Patrick says:

    The only person I can think of who did in fact turn from producing alarmist news stories to combatting the same is John Stossel, and he is hated by his peers as a result.

    That’s not why *I* dislike John Stossel (I expect most folks dislike John Stossel for reasons similar to mine than because he combats alarmist news stories.)Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    When I was up for another tetanus shot with a whooping cough booster, I told My GP “oh, it’s okay, I’ve been taking homeopathic treatments for whooping cough”. Maribou immediately facepalmed and the doctor got really quiet. After a few seconds of silence I said “I’m just kidding…” and the doctor gave a huge sigh of relief and said “I was trying to figure out how to phrase a question asking what that entailed, exactly”.

    Since then, I have endeavored to be “that patient” and I try to come up with a funny thing that a crazy patient might say and see what her response is.

    “I’ve been applying magnets to my wrists and ankles.”

    That sort of thing.

    Anyway, last time she explained to me that, the day prior, a patient showed her pictures of contrails.

    That’s a level of playing the game that hadn’t even occurred to me.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

      Oh, no, you haven’t been THAT patient. Not at all
      The patient who gets put on the “cardiac stress test” and keeps his heartrate flat as they steadily escalate the speed. Until the techs start glancing at him — and then hit “as fast as it can go” just to see if there really is any limit to his self control.

      Same guy turns off and on his Patellar reflex. Drives docs crazy.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Jaybird says:


      That’s so cool. I don’t think I could pull it off, but I’d like to someday. (My current physician is a good guy, and I think he’d like the joke. But I’m not really good at telling jokes, especially if it involves acting.)Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Holy crap, read the comments on Russell’s post.Report

  11. Avatar zic says:

    So just in case somebody’s reading this who’s actually got the job (or opportunity of a job) of reporting science news:

    You’ve got this press release, and you think it says this amazing thing — a breakthrough that might cure horrible-terrible disease ™ or solve revolutionize your diet or whatever.

    So you write that stuff up, based on the press release, and publish. SCOOP.

    Except if you didn’t bother to call the people who released the research, and actually ask them about your interpretation of their incredible now breakthrough, no. Always do that. Always verify that what you’re about to say is what they meant. It’s not difficult, and the people who do the actual research will be glad 1) you reported accurately and 2) happy to talk to you about some other research they might be doing.

    And if you’re really responsible, you not only verify this with the fold who actually did the research, you talk to someone else with expertise and cajole them into helping you frisk your accuracy. Second source of good quotes, too.

    But this stuff takes time, and someone else might scoop you’re story in the meantime.

    Scoops should probably be mostly limited to ice cream so that you don’t dish out some doggie doo.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to zic says:


    • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to zic says:

      As someone who has (inexplicably) landed a gig doing science and health reporting, I share your woes that so many pieces are clearly drawn directly from the press materials. I cannot imagine my colleagues with political beats simply regurgitating what some flack has churned out, but that seems sadly normative in the science biz.

      FWIW, I never report on a study I have not read in full, and often turn down pitches that hinge on over-hyped non-findings.

      Also, this:


      • Avatar zic in reply to Russell Saunders says:


        First, you’ve got it all over most reporters; at least you are a doctor. But so is Oz.

        I’ve seen comments from you here back in the day; to the tune of “I’m a pediatrician, I don’t dare speak to geriatric medicine.” And if you were to speak to geriatric medicine, you’d probably research medical texts/data bases on the topic and pick up the phone or fire off an email to someone who actually does practice geriatric medicine.

        This is a nuanced issue. One thread is that J-school grads seem to go into PR since there are good paying jobs in PR, and journalism jobs dwindle. The people who have the training are writing the press releases; already presenting the most forward claim the researchers think it safe to make. Reading more into it is the biggest single mistake one can make.

        There’s also a problem of lack of statistical understanding; something I freely lay claim to, and something I learned meant I needed the people who understood the stats involved to lay things out for me; I shouldn’t presume to think I understood what the numbers they gave meant; and even when I thought I did, I was often not quite right.

        The very first editor I worked with told me the essence of journalism is verification. That’s some best-ever advice when it comes to writing about real things.

        His second best-ever bit of advice came to photography for news — people have toes.Report

      • I cannot imagine my colleagues with political beats simply regurgitating what some flack has churned out,

        Never heard of Judith Miller?Report

      • @russell-saunders

        I only recently, as in a few weeks ago, realized that you were writing for the Daily Beast. Maybe you had announced it and I missed it, but I just want to say, bravo! I enjoy reading you there and wish I had known sooner.Report

        • That’s very nice of you!

          I posted a link to my first piece there when it first went up, but otherwise didn’t make much of an announcement when they offered me a regular contributing gig. In case you missed it, the Writer Formerly Known as Rose also contributes there from time to time, as well.Report

  12. Avatar DavidTC says:

    This article, uh, completely manages to miss the point as to why everyone hates Dr. Oz.

    Every single complaint I’ve *ever* heard about Dr. Oz had nothing to do with saying ‘Don’t put these things in your body’. No one cares if he thinks you should avoid certain chemicals. Whatever. And no one really cares about his dumbass ‘detox’ ideas.

    It’s his promotion *of* things to put into your body, things with no medical evidence that they do any good, that people are pissed off at him about.

    The problem is his bullshit miracle cures. Crap like this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2644254/Is-yacon-syrup-miracle-diet-supplement-Dr-Oz-sings-praises-sweet-tasting-metabolism-game-changer.html Or, as the post *actually mentions*, the resveratrol supplements lies.

    Urging people to stay away from toxins that cause problems in large amounts, but no problems in small amounts, is just slightly dubious medical advice. Moreover, that NPR article is about an *actual medical study* that says we might be wrong about that what *doesn’t* cause problems in small amounts.

    Meanwhile, peddling bogus cure-all is medical *quackery*, and it’s something doctors *absolutely* cannot do, due to rather large historical reasons.

    Seriously. I’d like to see a complaint about Dr. Oz that doesn’t at least *focus* on his bogus snake-oil cures. I’m sure a few might mention his other dumbness as a side note, but every single one of them will focus on his bullshit promotions of ‘medicine’ that either does nothing is or actually harmful.

    People who say ‘I’m staying around from food grown with pesticides because I’m worried about toxins’ is not something doctors care about. People who say ‘Instead of seeing a doctor, I’m going to take this miracle cure Dr. Oz peddled’ are what doctors care about.Report

  13. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    Regarding the food babe, recently I read an old article of hers about flying. She discussed the health effects caused by the increased cabin pressure and the fact that they use air containing mostly nitrogen instead of pure oxygen to save money. From this, I concluded that she completely lacks critical thinking skills and basic science knowledge, and I am not really willing to trust her judgement on anything.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Reformed Republican says:

      a cabin full of pure oxygen?

      Explosive notion!Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Reformed Republican says:

      She discussed the health effects caused by the increased cabin pressure and the fact that they use air containing mostly nitrogen instead of pure oxygen to save money.

      They use air made mostly of nitrogen in all government buildings, too, to save money. Or, at least, they *claim* it’s to saves money. *menacing music*

      See, the thing is, I actually think a lot of the ‘there are too many chemicals’ has a point, and I’m glad to actually see that NPR link addressing this.

      I know attempting to place the blame for autism on something has become the cold fusion of the medical world, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we *do* appear to have more neurological problems (Even when accounting for better detection) showing up right as we start making tens of thousands of chemicals that never existed before, and we just *assumed* they were all safe.

      I mean, it turns out some chemicals we had been using forever, like lead and mercury, were *extremely* unsafe. Thousands of years playing with those things and not noticing, but of course we’d notice if some brand new thing was unsafe. And then people say ‘Sure, it’s all bad in high doses, but safe in low doses’, I will, *again*, point to what we thought about lead, which is basically going to end up ‘completely unsafe in any dose at all’.

      Now, I suspect 99% of those chemicals are harmless, and whenever anyone points to any *specific* chemical without any real medical evidence, I’m dubious. But you ask me where we *should* look for the causes of neurological problems, and I’ll point directly at the vast glob of chemicals out there.

      So it is very annoying to have, ‘on my side’, people who would probably fall for the ‘ban dihydrogen monoxide’ prank if someone pulled it on them, like the ‘Food Babe’.

      And the other side is like ‘Well, no one’s ever proven any of those chemicals are unsafe’…except, of course, plenty of specific chemicals *have* been proven unsafe and banned, and the idea we have, at exact moment, managed to find them all (and aren’t inventing new unsafe ones) is completely stupid. *Of course* there are unsafe chemicals out there poisoning people. It is basically impossible to argue otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to DavidTC says:

        And there’s not just the “seemed safe, at low doses, but turned out not to be over the long run” that’s the issue. Finding *those* scenarios is almost a cakewalk, compared to sussing out more complex interactions.

        Plenty of Medication A’s and Medication B’s are perfectly safe by themselves; but take them together, and you’ve got problems.

        Much more difficult to isolate & identify the causes when they are intermingled.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Glyph says:

          Plenty of Medication A’s and Medication B’s are perfectly safe by themselves; but take them together, and you’ve got problems.

          Especially when genetics are in there, also.

          As we map the human genome, it has become increasingly clear that susceptibility to diseases are very genetic. But, as we already knew, genetics aren’t the *only* cause.

          Least we forget, the way genes actually *work* is via proteins and enzymes. Some chemical that is ‘safe’ might interfere with…one enzyme that does one thing, and that only in a specific genetic sequence, which results in something developing *slightly* wrong in only people with those genes.

          How the hell do we track that down?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC says:

        “I mean, it turns out some chemicals we had been using forever, like lead and mercury, were *extremely* unsafe. ”

        Actually people pretty much knew all along that lead and mercury were bad for you. There’s a reason we have the expression “mad as a hatter”. It’s just that for most of recorded history, that was the better choice. The other option was death by dysentery and parasite-born infections.

        American automobile technology was dependent on leaded gasoline to make the reduced manufacturing tolerances of their engine parts function; the lead provided the lubrication necessary. And before you say “well duh, just make the parts better and take less profit”, that wasn’t possible at the price points they were selling cars for. It wasn’t until the late 80s that American manufacturers finally figured out how to economically mass-produce the high-tolerance parts that could combine reliability, performance, and unleaded gasoline.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Actually people pretty much knew all along that lead and mercury were bad for you. There’s a reason we have the expression “mad as a hatter”

          You are correct about mercury, *somewhat*. It was basically the only option for a lot of parasites, even after everyone knew it was toxic.

          Except, of course, we continued putting mercury in people for *no reason at all* for quite a long time afterward. We gave the damn stuff, in the form of mercury chloride, to children in the *1950s* in *teething powders*. (We act all shocked when we learn people a century ago would give babies things like opium+alcohol to pacify them. Yeah, I don’t really think we’re allowed to be shocked by that when we cleverly stopped using those things in favor of *mercury*.)

          And, you know, mercury preservative in vaccines…well, that might not actually cause any medical problems, but why the *hell* would we think that was a good idea to experiment with? Oh, right, because apparently we needed to preserve them for extremely long periods, for some reason, despite us having a pretty well established refrigerated medication distribution thing. But it’s cheaper to not do that. And let’s not forget that put mercury in the environment for no actual reason at all…that compound might not break down in people, but it will eventually. And that stuff ends up right back in the drinking water.

          Lead, OTOH, no one really knew anything was wrong with for quite some time. In fact, for the longest time, no one really understood the difference between it and tin. Lead wasn’t discovered to be unsafe until the early 1900s.

          And while we might have needed it in gas, we sure as hell never needed it in *paint*.

          We have a very, very, very long history of ignoring chemicals causing medical problems, and then assuring everyone that such problems only show up in large amounts, and then admitting maybe it’s not just large amounts, and we should phase them out, but that’s hard, and there’s all this exciting stuff we do with them, etc, etc, delay delay…

          ..and then, finally, *of course* that thing was incredibly toxic and causing all sorts of problem, so we got rid of it, after only five decades or so!Report

          • There was no “experiment” to include mercury in vaccines. There is a difference in neurotoxicity between methylmercury (which accumulates in body tissues) and ethylmercury (the break-down product of thimerosal, which does not). This difference was not discovered serendipitously, much to the relief of everyone, but was already well known in the 1930s when thimerosal began to be used as a preservative in multi-dose vials of vaccines.

            In areas or eras when refrigeration for vaccines was harder to come by, preservatives that obviated the need for such refrigeration were/are a boon to public health. That’s why thimerosal was/is used. Rural America didn’t always have ready access to refrigerated medication, and much of the world still doesn’t.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Reformed Republican says:

      I remember that one. I never made it past the paragraph where she said the cabin was pressurized which puts the body under compressive stress. It was clear at that point she was talking out of her ass.Report

    • She discussed the health effects caused by the increased cabin pressure and the fact that they use air containing mostly nitrogen instead of pure oxygen to save money.

      I for one am thinking of taking the plunge to nitrogen-free air. People say it’s difficult to do in our oxygenophobic society, and denialists like Zic say a pure oxygenodiet is explosive. But I think it’s time.Report

  14. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Here is another example of America being filled with scammers and huskers. There was also a great NY Times expose of diploma mills out of Pakistan. Might need to do a post on this:


  15. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    Yes, science journalism in the “lamestream” press sucks hard, and primarily in the area of health and nutrition. In truth, this stuff is complex with lots of caveats and ambiguities and a lot of preliminary results that don’t hold up or really lead anywhere. Meanwhile you have “journalists” under pressure to generate headlines, clickbait, “Watch Our Expose’ at Ten!” stories spinning everything as either the latest thing to kill you tomorrow or let you live to be a hundred, who in fairness it has to be said, are getting their info from researchers who really should know better than to issue press releases on preliminary studies but are subject to their own pressures to secure funding.

    All that said, Dr. Oz deserves a special helping of scorn IMO. The only time I’ve ever seen his show was a couple years back when I was stuck killing time at a terminal with my truck in the shop. His guest was a woman named Glynnis McCann (sp?), a numerologist who was claiming to diagnose your health and offer advice based on a numerological breakdown of your name and birthday etc.


    That has to qualify as the oiliest and most reptilian of snake oil, the woo-iest of the woo, sublime in its utter, shameless, ridiculousness. And there’s “Doctor” Oz, nodding and smiling. “Oh, isn’t that interesting?” “Oh, that’s very valuable information!” Lending the imprimatur of his medical credentials to this unvarnished bull feces.

    The man’s a disgusting huckster.Report

  16. Avatar James K says:

    While I can’t argue over the charge of hypocrisy (at least against the Mainstream Media), I still don’t want to criticise these outlets for it, since I have a policy against criticising people for doing the right thing, even if they do it for the wrong reasons.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to James K says:


      If we care about rationality, it seems that we should care about people doing things for bad reasons even if the thing they do happens to turn out right this time around. When we fail to do so, we fail to kill the Buddha in ourselves. We are already prone to confirmation bias. It is only by pointing out bad epistemic practices even (and perhaps especially) when they lead to results that we think are right, that we cultivate the disposition to avoid such confirmation bias.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Murali says:


        But they’re not really engaged in bad epistemic practice in this instance, its just that they’re being inconsistent. I say, wait until the next time they endorse woo then slam them for being inconsistent.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to James K says:

          Can we slam them for being inconsistent if their sensitivity to good evidence was an aberration or a fluke instead of something they actually had a proper history of?Report

          • Avatar James K in reply to Murali says:


            This is either a turning point or a one-off. If it’s a turning point, slamming them now would be uncalled for. If it’s a one-off, an opportunity to slam them will present itself soon enough.

            You don’t whack a puppy with a newspaper for not making a mess on the carpet, even if it has made a mess before and will probably make a mess again.Report

  17. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    One of the big problems with Doctor Oz is that he really does know better. For all accounts, he does seem to be a rather good doctor and surgeon who follows sound and simple precepts for good health himself like walk as much as possible and don’t gorge yourself on food. He just got greedy and decided to peddle snake oil to the people in order to make more money.

    My personal take is that you really shouldn’t trust much health advice you get from the media, particularly if it is part of a commercial, emphasizes taking something like pills, supplements, or essential oils, or uses words like miracle or secret. The incentive is too make money or boost ratings rather than promote health. Skepticism about greed rather than science might serve people better when trying to discern good health advice from bad health advice.Report