SBM in 2023

This will be my last post for 2023, and as always I’d love to look back sbm Over the past year, and look forward to what’s to come.

2023 was a sad year sbm Because we unexpectedly lost Harriet Hall, one of our founding editors. She was a tireless defender of science and reason in the medical field and her contributions have been greatly missed. Over the years he contributed to hundreds of posts sbm And it was a welcome contribution to every conference we attended.

sbm Moving forward into our 16th year. Mark Crislip rejoins in 2022 after a hiatus. We missed his special brand of science-based satire and are glad to have him back. We continue to have a strong backbone of regular contributors, including Clay Jones, Jonathan Howard, and Scott Gavura, plus many contributing writers (too many to name, but thank you all). We also have some regular contributors with formal or informal series of posts, such as Frank Hahn and AJ Eckert. And of course our managing editor, David Gorski, does an excellent job of pulling it all together, in addition to anchoring our lineup every week. Behind the scenes, Ian Callanan (working with me and Jay Novella through the New England Skeptical Society) manages the back end and our hosting.

Although this is a strong lineup, we’re always looking for new, one-off, subject-expert or regular contributors. The more voices we have the better. We welcome submissions from everyone – just see our submission guidelines above – and we were delighted to receive many high quality submissions. Being a regular contributor is a serious commitment, which is why I’m very grateful to everyone who has given so much of their professional time to this project.

work with sbm It’s a great way to work with experienced editors in a field that requires specific expertise – in science communication, critical thinking, scientific literacy, media savvy, and medical pseudoscience. We desperately need to develop these skills within all professionals, and the need is arguably most acute in medicine. This is a never-ending project, and we are especially looking forward to developing the next generation sbm Advocate and communicator.

The topics we have had to deal with most in the last year have been quite specific. The same pseudoscience “headliners” remain our primary target. Despite being devoid of any coherent mechanism or theory, any internal validity, or even the slightest compelling evidence of efficacy, acupuncture continues to hold its own within mainstream medicine. This is the best example of the Emperor not wearing medical clothes that I can think of.

Except, perhaps, for homeopathy – the “air guitar” of medicine. Homeopathy, despite being mere magical water, remains a billion-dollar industry that has managed to get a free pass from most regulators. It perhaps benefits most from the “problem of lack of knowledge” – most people do not know what homeopathy actually is. This is where a little education goes a long way. Simply explaining that the homeopathic remedy contains no actual active ingredients (that has not been diluted out of existence) is often sufficient.

And of course we continue to monitor alternative medical professions like chiropractic and naturopathy, which have managed to establish medicine without science or with very poor impersonations of science. They are great examples of what happens when you practice medicine without a clear and dedicated approach to high quality science.

The usual suspects of snake oil salesmen, magical energy devices, science deniers, anti-vaxxers, COVID and other conspiracy theorists are all still endangering public health. Which is how we take a moment to celebrate the true breakthroughs in science and medicine that contrast with the persistent false claims and promises of pseudoscience in medicine. And we look at our institutions and society as a whole to see where things are going wrong and how to get them back on track.

We never expect to win. It is a constant struggle. Science, critical thinking, and professionalism are all extremely high energy states. They have to do constant work and introspection and they need institutional support. Meanwhile, there are many forces working against them. There are psychological forces, such as the allure of false hope, the desire for cures that may not exist, or the desire for easy answers to complex questions. It is greed that drives the multi-billion dollar (at least) industry of counterfeit drugs. And there are inherent advantages to misinformation and emotional appeals at scale and in social media.

The modern world is challenging the resilience of all our institutions, and science and medicine are no different. Hopefully our contribution is helping in some small way through education and advocacy. But there is always more to be done.

Finally, thank you to all our regular readers and commenters, and of course our patrons. You are a community of thoughtful and curious individuals who are interested in what science and medicine have to say about us. You are the vibrant community that keeps our humble blog running. This is especially true for our patrons. Thank you, and I hope for more sbm In 2024.

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