David Henry Gorski is an American surgical oncologist, professor of surgery at Wayne State University School of Medicine, and a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, specializing in breast cancer surgery. He is an outspoken skeptic, and a critic of alternative medicine and the anti-vaccination movement. He is the author of the blog Respectful Insolence, and the managing editor of the website Science-Based Medicine.
Skepticism of alternative medicine
Gorski is a skeptic of alternative medicine. In 2004, Gorski, under the pen name Orac, began writing a blog entitled Respectful Insolence at Blogspot and it was moved to the ScienceBlogs website two years later. In 2008 Gorski used his real name when he started blogging at Science-Based Medicine (he continues to use Orac for Respectful Insolence). He is currently their managing editor, and has posted on issues of medicine and pseudoscience, including the anti-vaccination movement, alternative therapies, and cancer research and treatment. Gorski recounted how in 2010 members of the anti-vaccine blog Age of Autism wrote to the board of directors at Wayne State University and asked that he be prevented from blogging.
Gorski contributed to the James Randi Education Foundation‘s series of EBooks: Science Based Medicine Guides. He is also a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He was a speaker at The Amaz!ng Meeting in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013. He has also participated in numerous panels on alternative medicine. He called attention to a paper by John P. A. Ioannidis on problems with published research. Gorski has commented on the increasing infiltration of pseudoscience in the medical field with the use of alternative therapies, acupuncture, detoxification alternative medicine, and dietary treatment of autism.
He advocates for openness of the results of clinical trials and the use of only evidence-based medicine to treat disease. He has been critical of Senator Tom Harkin’s support of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), now known as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. He has criticized the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NCCAM for funding and publishing research on unproven therapies not supported by science-based evidence, and has commented on medical ethics and methods of alternative medicine.
Gorski has criticized popularization of pseudoscience by the media and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Maher, Ann Coulter, and The Huffington Post. In June 2013 Gorski said he supported healthcare professionals speaking out against poor medical practices and the sale of unproven treatments. Gorski was interviewed by WPRR in 2012. He called the co-sponsorship of Integrative Medicine Day by the American Medical Students Association “quackademic medicine” and was described by the pro-CAM science writer David H. Freedman among: “prickly anti-alternative-medicine warriors.” In 2014, Gorski and fellow skeptic Steven Novella published an article denouncing the study of integrative medicine as harmful to science.
On “natural immunity” to COVID-19 (and every other vaccine-preventable disease)
Antivaxxers have long appealed to “natural immunity” as being somehow inherently superior to vaccine-induced immunity, which is apparently “artificial”. This is a trope that comes from alternative medicine concepts about purity and contamination that is now endangering us in the age of the pandemic.
- Post author
Ever since COVID-19 hit, I’ve been repeating the mantra, “Everything old is new again”. The reason is simple. Key to understanding a lot of the misinformation about COVID-19, its spread, and COVID-19 vaccines is an understanding that none of this misinformation is new. Rather, it’s the same misinformation that we at SBM have long been dealing with, just applied to the pandemic. Examples abound, including the minimization of the severity of COVID-19 that so much resembles how antivaxxers minimized the severity of the measles, misuse of the VAERS database to attribute harms to the COVID-19 vaccine that are very likely coincidental, false claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility, and the appeal to “natural immunity” to the coronavirus and “natural herd immunity” as being inherently superior to vaccine-induced immunity or herd immunity from mass vaccination, which are denigrated as being somehow less than natural, artificial even—or even outright harmful. Never mind that achieving “natural herd immunity” requires that huge numbers of people be sickened and die of the disease, just as individual immunity from the disease requires the individual to be sickened and face the risk of severe disease and death.
Indeed, there is an eerie parallel between claims by Geert Vanden Bossche and Peter McCollough that COVID-19 mass vaccination is not just less effective but will lead to a “holocaust” and “depopulation” due to the emergence of ever more virulent COVID-19 “escape mutants” and the speculation by Andrew Wakefield pre-pandemic that the MMR vaccine will lead to a mass extinction due to the emergence of ever more virulent measles escape mutants.
Which brings me back to “natural immunity” and “purity.” Both are concepts embedded in alternative medicine, and an op-ed by Alan Levinovitz, an associate professor of religious studies at James Madison University and author of Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science, got me to thinking about them again in relation to COVID-19:
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