Harriet Hall

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Harriet A. Hall
Harriet A Hall - Australian Skeptics National Convention 2016.jpg
Hall, speaking at the Australian Skeptics National Convention, Melbourne 2016
Born (1945-07-02) July 2, 1945 (age 77)
Known forCriticism of alternative medicine

Harriet A. Hall (born July 2, 1945) is a U.S. retired family physician, former U.S. Air Force flight surgeon and skeptic who writes about alternative medicine and quackery for Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer. She writes under the name The SkepDoc.


Hall received her B.A. and M.D. from the University of Washington. She was only the second woman to do her internship in the Air Force and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family to practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base.[1]

Hall says she was a "passive skeptic" for quite some time, only reading the literature and attending the various meetings.[2] She met Wallace Sampson at the Skeptic's Toolbox workshop in Oregon. He convinced her to write an article for the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine[3] testing so-called "Vitamin O" products she had seen advertised in the mail.[4] She then began writing articles for Skeptical Inquirer.[5][6] When she spoke to Michael Shermer at The Amazing Meeting about the book The God Code, he encouraged her to write a review of it for Skeptic magazine.[7] She wrote other articles for that publication, and since late 2006 she has had a regular column in it titled The SkepDoc.[2] This is also the name of her web site.[8] Before the Toolbox, "I had not done any writing... one thing led to another and now I'm on the faculty of the Skeptic's Toolbox."[9]

She has spoken at the Science-Based Medicine Conference[10] and The Amazing Meeting 7,[11] among other venues in 2009. She has been interviewed on podcasts such as The Reality Check,[3] Skepticality[12] and The Skeptic Zone.[2]

In 2008 she published Women Aren't Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon, an autobiography focusing on her experiences as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force (she retired as a full colonel). As a female physician, Air Force officer, pilot and flight surgeon she was a minority in several respects, and encountered prejudice. The title of the book refers to an incident after her first solo flight when an airport official told her, "Didn't anybody ever tell you women aren't supposed to fly?"[11][13]

Starting in the January 2010 issue, Hall had a regular 250-word column in O, The Oprah Magazine debunking common health myths.[14] Her relationship with the magazine was rocky, and the column ended in the June 2010 issue.[15] She has since said about this experience that "The editor who hired me was replaced by a less sympathetic one (...). They restricted me to a measly 200 words and wanted to tell me exactly what to write about and what to say. I couldn’t even recognize the final edited version as my writing."[16]

Hall is on the board and a founding member of the recently (2009) formed "Institute for Science in Medicine". In 2010 Hall was elected a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[17]

Hall on the JREF Amazing Adventure — North to Alaska

On August 21, 2010 Hall was honored with an award recognizing her contributions in the skeptical field, from The IIG during its 10th Anniversary Gala.[18]

Hall also spoke at the 6th World Skeptic Congress in Berlin, "Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fairy Tale Science and Placebo Medicine".[19]

In 2015 she published a YouTube lecture series titled "Science Based Medicine", commissioned by the James Randi Educational Foundation.[16] It is presented as a course consisting of 10 lectures regarding the differences between Science-Based and Evidence-Based Medicine, CAM, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine, Energy Medicine, Miscellaneous “Alternatives”, Pitfalls in Research, and Science-Based Medicine in the Media and Politics.[20]

Since 2018 Hall has published a regular column in Skeptical Inquirer called "Reality Is the Best Medicine".[21]

Criticism of alternative medicine[edit]

Hall has been an outspoken critic of alternative medicine, often questioning its effectiveness. "If it were shown to be truly effective, it would be part of regular medicine."[22] In her work she emphasizes the importance of following the scientific evidence for or against any remedy. When asked about the anti-cold remedy Airborne she said, "There's more evidence for chicken soup than for Airborne. In the absence of any credible double-blind studies to support the claims for Airborne, I'll stick to hand washing."[23] She has also criticized the U.S. Army for its use of acupuncture, saying "the idea that putting needles in somebody's ear is going to substitute for things like morphine is just ridiculous."[24]

She has publicly criticized the recommendations and products of Daniel G. Amen in an article at Quackwatch[25] and elsewhere, saying "Amen's recommendations defy science, common sense and logic."[26] She has also criticized many other proponents of alternative therapies, including Andrew Weil.[27]

She is an advisor to Quackwatch[28] and an Associate Editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog.[1]

Irreversible Damage book review[edit]

On June 15, 2021, Hall published a book review of Irreversible Damage in Science-Based Medicine, stating that the book "brings up some alarming facts that desperately need to be looked into", that the affirmative care model for gender dysphoria "is a mistake and a dereliction of duty", and that the current political climate has made scientific study of these matters nearly impossible.[29][30] Within two days, the review was replaced with a retraction notice authored by Steven Novella and David Gorski. They stated that the health protocols for dealing with gender dysphoria in children were misrepresented and argued that an increase in gender dysphoria diagnoses can be explained without invoking a theory of social contagion, as well as stating that the science behind gender-affirming care indicates it improves mental health.[31] Novella and Gorski emphasized that Hall is still an editor in good standing at Science-Based Medicine, and praised her history of promoting good science.[29] Science-Based Medicine also published a series of articles from doctors specialising in LGBTQ+ health care.[32][33][34] Journalist Jesse Singal criticized Novella and Gorski's retraction of Hall's original article and the factual accuracy of the follow-up articles.[35][36][37][38] Hall's review was republished at Skeptic.com, and an updated version that responds to the critiques has been published on her personal website.[30][39]

Personal life[edit]

She is married, and resides in Puyallup, Washington,[3] with her husband Kirk (who is also retired from the Air Force). She has two grown daughters.[11]

Selected publications[edit]

Highlights and publications mentioned in this article:

  • Barrett, S.; WM London; M Kroger; H Hall; R Baretz (2013). Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0078028489.
  • Hall, Harriet A. (Spring–Summer 2003), "Analysis of Claims and of an Experiment to Prove That Oxygen is Present in "Vitamin O"", Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, 7 (1): 29–33
  • Hall, Harriet A. (May–June 2003), "Wired to the Kitchen Sink: Studying Weird Claims for Fun and Profit", Skeptical Inquirer, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 46–48, retrieved August 8, 2009
  • Hall, Harriet A. (Fall 2003), "Chiropractic Information in a Public Library", Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, 7 (2): 78–86
  • Hall, Harriet (2007) [2005]. "A Skeptical View of SPECT Scans and Dr. Daniel Amen". Quackwatch. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  • Hall, Harriet A. (Spring–Summer 2005), "Blind-spot Mapping, Cortical Function, and Chiropractic Manipulation", Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, 9 (1): 11–15
  • Hall, Harriett (2005). "Seek & Ye Shall Find: The God Code (Book Review)". Skeptic. 11 (4).
  • Hall, Harriet A. (May–June 2006), "Teaching Pigs to Sing: An Experiment in Bringing Critical Thinking to the Masses", Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 36–39, retrieved August 8, 2009
  • Hall, Harriet A. (June 24, 2008), "Death By Medicine", Science-Based Medicine, retrieved August 9, 2009
  • Hall, Harriet A. (2008). Women Aren't Supposed to Fly : The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse. p. 221. ISBN 978-0595499588. OCLC 263094055.


  1. ^ a b "Harriet Hall, MD". Science-Based Medicine. 5 October 2008. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Saunders, Richard (January 23, 2009). "#14 Jon Ronson – The Amazing Adventure 2 (James Randi, Susan Hurst, Dr Phil Plait, Rebecca Watson, Dr Harriet Hall)". The Skeptic Zone. Retrieved August 8, 2009. (Interview from 46:00 to 50:25)
  3. ^ a b c "TRC #49: Homeopathy 101 + Harriet Hall Interview + Sex on the Mind Myth". The Reality Check podcast. Ottawa Skeptics. August 1, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009. (Interview from 16:08 to 33:25)
  4. ^ Hall, Harriet A. (Spring–Summer 2003), "Analysis of Claims and of an Experiment to Prove That Oxygen is Present in "Vitamin O"", Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, 7 (1): 29–33
  5. ^ Hall, SI (27)3 2003.
  6. ^ Hall, SI (30)3 2006.
  7. ^ Hall, Harriet (2005). "Seek and Ye Shall Find. Book review of The God Code: The Secret of Our Past, the Promise of Our Future, by Greg Braden". Skeptic Magazine. 11 (4): 85–6.
  8. ^ "SkepDoc Columns". The SkepDoc. Archived from the original on June 28, 2014. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  9. ^ "Loren Pankratz and Harriet Hall discuss the Skeptic's Toolbox". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-10.[dead YouTube link]
  10. ^ Novella, Steven (March 6, 2009). "Science-Based Medicine Conference". NeuroLogica Blog. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c "The Amaz!ng Meeting 7 Speakers". James Randi Educational Foundation. February 23, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  12. ^ Swoopy; Colanduno, Derek (June 10, 2008). "Ep. #079 – Interview: Dr. Harriet Hall – The Doctor Is In!". Skepticality. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  13. ^ Hall 2008.
  14. ^ Thorp, Brandon K. (December 10, 2009). "Harriet Hall's Big Big News". SWIFT. James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
  15. ^ Hall, Harriet A. (September 7, 2010), "Write for Oprah? Wrong for Me", Science-Based Medicine, retrieved September 8, 2010
  16. ^ a b Gerbic, Susan. "A Conversation with the SkepDoc". CSI Conference. Archived from the original on 31 July 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  17. ^ "Sixteen Notable Figures in Science and Skepticism Elected CSI Fellows". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. January 12, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2010. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ "About the IIG Awards". Independent Investigations Group. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  19. ^ "Promoting Science in an Age of Uncertainty". 6th World Skeptic Congress. Archived from the original on June 1, 2013.
  20. ^ Hall, Harriet. "Course Guide for the Video Series Science-Based Medicine" (PDF). James Randi Educational Foundation. JREF. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  21. ^ "The Care and Feeding of the Vagina". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (5): 28. 2018.
  22. ^ Kranish, Michael (July 24, 2009). "Senators seek coverage for alternative therapies". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  23. ^ Shermer, Michael (January 2007). "Airborne Baloney: The latest fad in cold remedies is full of hot air". Scientific American. Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  24. ^ Farmer, Blake (February 16, 2012), Military Pokes Holes In Acupuncture Skeptics' Theory, NPR, retrieved February 16, 2012
  25. ^ Hall, Quackwatch 2005.
  26. ^ Burton, Robert (May 12, 2008). "Brain scam: Why is PBS airing Dr. Daniel Amen's self-produced infomercial for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease?". Salon. p. 3. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  27. ^ Singh, Simon; Ernst, Edzard (2008). Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 257. ISBN 978-0393066616.
  28. ^ "Medical Advisors". Quackwatch. July 18, 2003. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  29. ^ a b Hall, Harriet (15 June 2021). "Book Review: Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by Abigail Shrier". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  30. ^ a b Hall, Harriet (17 June 2021). "Trans Science: A review of Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters". Skeptic.com. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  31. ^ Novella, Steven (30 June 2021). "The Science of Transgender Treatment". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  32. ^ Lovell, Rose (2021-07-02). "Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage: A Wealth of Irreversible Misinformation | Science-Based Medicine". sciencebasedmedicine.org. Retrieved 2021-08-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. ^ Eckert, AJ (2021-07-04). "Irreversible Damage to the Trans Community: A Critical Review of Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage (Part One) | Science-Based Medicine". sciencebasedmedicine.org. Retrieved 2021-08-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ Eckert, AJ (2021-07-18). "Irreversible Damage to the Trans Community: A Critical Review of Abigail Shrier's Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (Part Two) | Science-Based Medicine". sciencebasedmedicine.org. Retrieved 2021-08-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. ^ Singal, Jesse. "How Science-Based Medicine Botched Its Coverage Of The Youth Gender Medicine Debate". jessesingal.substack.com. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  36. ^ Singal, Jesse. "Science-Based Medicine's Coverage Of "Irreversible Damage" Included About 19 Errors, False Claims About Three Sex Researchers, Made-Up Quotes, And Endless Misinformation". jessesingal.substack.com. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  37. ^ Lovell, Rose (2021-09-02). "About those "19 errors," part one". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2021-09-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  38. ^ Eckert, AJ (2021-09-06). "About those "19 Errors," Part Two". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2021-09-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  39. ^ Hall, Harriet. "Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents – SkepDoc". Retrieved 2021-08-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]