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Monday, December 17, 2007

Sharon Moalem Exposed

The Unexamined Life is a blog written by a student in one of the Life Sciences Programs here at the University of Toronto.

This student was curious about the strange behavior of "Dr." Sharon Moalem when confronted with scientific errors on Dr. Sharon's Blog. So our student did some digging and posted the results [Sharon Moalem, "medical maverick"].

It turns out that Dr. Sharon isn't a medical doctor—he has a Ph.D. and he's currently a 33 year old finishing his medical degree in New York. While it's perfectly legitimate to call yourself Dr. Sharon if you have a Ph.D., it seems very clear that "Dr." Sharon is strongly implying that he is a medical doctor on his blog and on the cover of his book.

It also turns out that "Dr." Sharon has found God. He now thinks that science is a way of revealing God. (Sharon Moalem is an Orthodox Jew.) The fact that he is a true believer probably explains his unethical behavior since it is typical of believers to censure contrary opinions on their blogs, demonstrate a lack of knowledge about science, and misrepresent their credentials.

UPDATE: "Dr." Sharon doesn't stop at refusing to post critical comments and editing his original postings to remove uncomfortable links. Now our favorite undergraduate blogger has documented him editing comments! [Sharon Moalem, self-destructing before our eyes] He's becoming more and more like a creationist.

UPDATE: PZ Myers has posted a short review of Survival of the Silliest. He doesn't like it. What a surprise! :-)


  1. Are you saying there is a crank publishing on the Internet? I don't believe it.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, I was somewhat surprised by the entirely uncritical entry.. almost as if someone cleaned out all the queries and the genuine scientific uncertainty he appears not to notice.. I looked for your review, and was not entirely surprised that it is a page not found. Sometimes powerful people can lean on the less powerful. His claims that different cells in the body can be controlled from different chromosomes, almost by design, is something I would like to see commentary on from Geneticists in the field..

    2. The statement you describe about cells and chromosomes is adequately described as utter hogwash.

  3. I'm surprised that noone has commented that the book was "cowritten" by Jonathan Prince, a former speechwriter for Clinton. I had always thought of ghost writers as helping famous people write their autobiographies, not to help PhDs trying to become famous by writing popular science books.

  4. sharon moalem probably has more intimate knowledge of the topics he covers in his book than most MD's do. He is a PhD researcher who has actually published studies on some of the topics such as hemochromotosis, and by the way his PhD is in human physiology, that is the study of how our bodies work. Any PhD in such a field would have vastly more expertise than an MD. MD's spend a lot of time learning how to treat patients and diagnose disease, while PhD researchers make new discoveries which are then used by the MD's to treat patients. It is good to be skeptical in science, but sharon moalem is definitely qualified to speak on these topics.

  5. I recently came across a copy of this book and started reading it. I don't agree with all the ideas in it, and there are some errors in the chapter on diabetes (I haven't gotten farther than that yet).

    However, I am dismayed by the comments I'm reading on this and the other blogs that this is linked to, for example, focusing on whether or not the author has an MD as well as a PhD (who cares; PhDs usually know more about basic science than most MDs). It's publishers who want "Dr" on the cover of a book because they know they sell better when that happens.

    People are making fun of the journal Medical Hypotheses because it doesn't use standard peer review. Huh? The whole point of that journal is to allow people with unpopular new ideas that aren't yet accepted by the mainstream (things like jumping genes and prions and mitochondria evolving from microorganisms and continental drift, and the idea that the earth isn't flat, all ideas that were laughed at when first proposed) to be given a voice. Maybe half of them will be proved false. But they deserve to be heard.

    If the sneering attitudes expressed by the students here are typical of students today, I'm very discouraged about the state of education today.

  6. Gretchen says,

    It's publishers who want "Dr" on the cover of a book because they know they sell better when that happens.

    Really? Is that why we see all those books by "Dr." Richard Dawkins or "Dr." Stephen Jay Gould? What about books by Michael Ignatieff" Do they all have "Dr." Ignatieff on the cover.

    Gtetchen, you are being naive. The "Dr." that sells books about health and disease is a medical doctor. That's the "doctor" that the public knows about.

  7. I don't understand your comment. What I'm saying is that publishers know that in the mind of the general public (I would like to think not among the academic community), books with "Dr" on the cover will sell better because Jo Public thinks that doctors are omniscient.

    If the public thinks a PhD is an MD, they'll be more apt to buy the book. Obviously, this is not true of academic books. However, this work is a popularization, expected to appeal to nonscientists.

    Some authors may feel the same way. But one never knows and shouldn't pick on the author without knowing.

    When I was in the academic world, way back in the last century, PhDs at my school didn't call themselves "Dr Smith" (especially if their last name was Jones), and doing so was considered affected. Perhaps this practice has changed.

    All these statements are vast generalizations, and times and customs change. But my point remains the same. I think these students are expressing their vitriol at the wrong targets, trivialities instead of substance.

    For instance, what's wrong with getting a journalist to help with the writing of a book as long as you acknowledge that help, as this author has done by putting "with" on the cover? Does that have anything to do with the merits of the logic in the book (which I think is confused in some places)?

    A lot of scientists are lousy writers. I know, because I edit science books and journals for a living.

  8. A PhD is as much a Dr. as an MD. Also, for someone who's criticizing another for not knowing "science," you obviously understand very little. A PhD would most definitely be more credible in publishing research than an MD. MDs spend their post-graduate studies focused on diagnoses and practice, not on scientific research. Guess who focuses on the actual research of biology? A PhD. I'm not making any claims about this man's credibility, because I haven't researched any of his work, and the nature of his books seem to be very unprofessional (with respects to science). However, you're definitely poking at the wrong things here. If you want to discredit him, do real research on his claims and rebut them. Trying to look clever with cheap attacks is just making you look stupid.

  9. In UK. a physician graduates with Bachelor Medicine & Surgery. The MD is a postgraduate degree by Thesis.

    The PhD has more right to the title Doctor of a University. The physician doctors a patient.

  10. I have not read his book, just a translated short review. But anyway book are not like a manual of life. They just give us a new ideas of how to do something better or thinking in another way. So if he even write stupid things, then an average person will think it is stupid and not do it. But if there are any interesting new ideas/ways and their not hard to test, then why not do it. Of course if he gives a "kill" ideas, then that is wrong.

    I know few people that have a nice title, but they are useless in real life-work. The few letters is not a classification of good and bad people. It just tell you, that you have longer studied.

    As a blogger (owner of site), I would remove not nice comments too, because often there are pessimistic people, who just write without checking it.

    To all critic people:
    Write your own book and then make critic to other books with the same topic. - It is easy to be critical to others, if there is nothing that the others can be critical towards you.