Why I cannot take HuffPo seriously

On my regular rounds through the Internets, I always make a stop or two at the Huffington Post. It's a pretty decent news aggregator, I can get snippets of celebrity gossip while pretending I'm just keeping up with the news, and there are even occasions when the original content is decent.

But, whatever its virtues may be, I won't be able to have much respect for HuffPo as a news organ until they jettison their regular helpings of pseudo-scientific, quasi-medical, crack-pot quakery. It gives the most ridiculous people a space in which to share the most appallingly bad and misleading "alternative medicine" mumbo-jumbo, content that any legitimate newspaper or magazine would reject out of hand. Often the so-called "experts" invited to spout nonsense are celebrities. As I've written about this phenomenon before, I'll spare you a repeat. However, the idiocy is not limited to the famous.

A recent (painful) example is this post by "expert in homeopathic medicine" (per HuffPo's own byline) Dana Ullman. In explaining how homeopathy "works" (and we already know how it works), Ullman reveals how devoid of valid scientific backing the practice really is. The post is so risible that it's really a waste of time to debunk (and the comments attached do a good job with no help from me), but in essence Ullman posits that, despite the lack of any actual medicine in homeopathic treatments, something about the dilution process and vigorous shaking changes the structure of the water itself. (Kind of like ice-nine, but without the global catastrophe.) What this change is, how it comes about, or any real evidence that it actually occurs is not something Ullman provides. But still this preposterous person is given a venue for disseminating flagrantly unsupported medical claims.

I don't expect HuffPo's science or health sections to be America's liberal Lancet. But if it expects to be taken seriously as a source of real information, it has to provide real information.


  1. The HuffPo is a creature of its environment, and that environment is the political Left, home of the anti-Science crowd. Not a majority, perhaps, but a substantial minority of the Left is anti-Science. For all the mockery of the minority of the Right that doesn't believe in evolution, the Left has its own little problems; astrology, reincarnation, and Eastern mysticism are common beliefs of HuffPo readers. Homeopathic medicine is of a piece with all these anti-Science beliefs. HuffPo caters to that for eyeballs.

  2. I will give both sides of the political spectrum equal disdain for their anti-scientific beliefs. The Right has its love of abstinence-only sex education and adherence to creationist "science" curricula, and the Left has its antipathy for "Western medicine." Neither side has a monopoly on crazy.

    And there are plenty of adherents to Eastern mysticism (like, for example, a whole lot of Buddhists and Hindus) who are perfectly rational, intelligent people. Let's not paint with too broad a brush, please. Believing in reincarnation is really no less reasonable than believing in the virgin birth or walking on water.

  3. There are, fundamentally, three religions; number of gods equal 0 (atheism), number of gods equal 1 (JudeoChristian with Islam still stuck in the 7th century), and number of gods greater than or equal to aleph-null (Eastern mysticism, Mormonism). AFAICT, there is no rational way to choose between them. I'm in the 1 camp because it resonates with my view of existence. Of all the three, the aleph-null camp strikes me as the least intellectually coherent, but I grant that mystics aren't necessarily total flakes. Astrology, OTOH, is as reasonable as homeopathy, which is to say, it is screaming green nutters.