Skeptical Inquirer: In The Trenches against Fake Medicine

For Immediate Release: August 27, 2019
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Health Wars in a Special Expanded Issue

Medical pseudoscience is rampant, promoted not only by obvious snake oil salesmen and self-help gurus promising all manner of cures from “natural” and “alternative” remedies, but even by vaunted institutions of legitimate science such as the World Health Organization and the National Geographic Society. In a special expanded issue of Skeptical Inquirer, experts in science, medicine, law, and belief report from the trenches of the health wars, doing battle against the forces of fake

Victor Benson, MD, takes on the deeply disappointing case of the National Geographic Society’s series of books promoting “natural healing remedies,” books that he discovers “are full of claims that lack scientific evidence, are inconsistent and internally contradictory, and don’t reach even minimal scientific standards.” Benson warns that the National Geographic Society is sullying its legacy as a trustworthy institution of science in order to sell books that “advise taking substances that have little or no evidence of safety or effectiveness.”

Reviewing one particular book from the National Geographic collection, Nature’s Best Remedies, retired Air Force flight surgeon Harriet Hall concludes, “National Geographic let us down. They should be ashamed.”

Also in this special issue:

  • Physician Cees N.M. Renckens and pharmacologist Thomas P.C. Dorlo confront the World Health Organization’s official embrace of “Traditional Chinese Medicine,” decrying that the WHO would “grant international and highly regarded status to quacks.”
  • World renowned investigator Joe Nickell pours cold water on the health claims of those peddling “magic water,” allegedly powered by gems, pyramids, or the divine.
  • Physicist Sébastien Point exposes the absurdity of “laser acupuncture,” a technological enhancement to pseudoscience that he says is akin to “trying to improve the design of chimneys to facilitate the passage of Santa Claus.”
  • Psychiatrist Robert Stern shows how a misuse of MRI technology is leading trauma researchers to grasp for what he says is a new form of the pseudoscience of phrenology, “Only this time the bumps are on the inside of the skull.”
  • Barry Kosmin, Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College, explores how pseudoscientific (and pseudo-historic) beliefs are embedded in India’s dominant Hindutva cultural movement.
  • Nick Little, Vice President and General Counsel of the Center for Inquiry, explains the legal strategy behind CFI’s consumer fraud lawsuits against Walmart and CVS over their sale and marketing of homeopathic fake medicine.

“And so it goes,” writes Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier. “An endless parade of misleading and even nonsensical medical claims gussied up as real science and fooling not just the gullible but countless millions of well-meaning others worldwide. It seems typical of our times.”

The September/October 2019 issue of Skeptical Inquirer is available now, with both print and digital subscriptions available.

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Skeptical Inquirer is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a scientific and educational program of the Center for Inquiry. CSI encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. Learn more about CSI and SI at

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at