The solid GMO scientific consensus

Over and over, I’ve read comments on the internet (obviously, my first mistake) that there is no scientific consensus about GMOs, or genetically modified organisms (generally crops or food), and their safety to humans and the environment.

There are even claims that GMOs are not necessarily productive or provide higher yields, and so called organic foods are healthier (they aren’t) and can lead to higher productivity.

Let’s look at anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change, since it also has this huge controversy over whether there’s a scientific consensus. Over 97% of published articles that expressed a conclusion about anthropogenic climate change endorsed human caused global warming. If that were a vote, it would be a landslide that would make dictators jealous.

According to Skeptical Science, it’s even more than that:

We should also consider official scientific bodies and what they think about climate changeThere are no national or major scientific institutions anywhere in the world that dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Not one.

The consensus is so clear, outside of vocal, loud and junk science pushing individuals and organizations, that many scientists call it the “Theory of anthropogenic climate change,” which would mean it’s at the pinnacle of scientific principles, essentially an unassailable fact.
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California SB 277 vaccine exemption bill passed by Senate

An important healthcare bill that abolishes “personal belief exemptions” for vaccinations was overwhelmingly approved by the California Senate on May 14 2015.

The measure, SB 277 was sponsored by California Senator Richard Pan MD, who was a target of violent threats by the antivaccine cult because of his support of this healthcare bill, and by Ben Allen, of Santa Monica. The bill was introduced after a outbreak of measles in December at Disneyland sickened 136 Californians, and it passed 25-10 after the two senators agreed earlier to compromises aimed at easing its passage.

The proposed California SB 277 vaccine exemption law would require children to be vaccinated before entering kindergarten. Medical exemptions are permitted, but exemptions based on personal and religious objections are not. That would make California one of only three states — the others are Mississippi and West Virginia — that doesn’t allow personal or religious exemptions to vaccine laws.

The bill will now go to the California State Assembly, where further hearings will be required. If it passes the Assembly, Governor Jerry Brown would have to sign or veto the new law. At each step, we can expect further

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Developing and supporting a scientific consensus

In the hierarchy of scientific principles, we often mention scientific theories which “are large bodies of work that are a culmination or a composite of the products of many contributors over time and are substantiated by vast bodies of converging evidence. They unify and synchronize the scientific community’s view and approach to a particular scientific field.” A scientific theory is not a wild and arbitrary guess, but it is built upon a foundation of scientific knowledge that itself is based on evidence accumulated from data that resulted from scientific experimentation.

Although Charles Darwin described the essentials of the Scientific Theory of Evolution in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, he was unaware of the existence of DNA, much of the fossil record, viruses, and other information which might have made an impact on his theory of evolution (probably by making it easier to describe). After 154 years since Darwin published his book on evolution, not one single piece of scientific evidence has been able to refute Darwin’s original theory. In fact, during the past 154 years, the scientific evidence thoroughly supported the powerful Darwinian theory of evolution.

In my writing, I often refer to the scientific consensus, which is the collective opinion and judgement of scientists in a particular field of study. This consensus implies general agreement, though disagreement is limited and generally insignificant.

The major difference between a scientific theory and a scientific consensus is that the theory is essentially fact. It is so predictive, it is supported by so much evidence, and it is so well accepted, it takes an almost ridiculous amount of data to refute it, though it is possible. 
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lilady RN – a memory of a passionate vaccine supporter

In the world of social media, we generally don’t get to know one another very well. Out of the thousands of followers of this blog on Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets, I know only a handful people personally.

Individuals come and go, and sometimes you don’t notice when they come or go. But sometimes, an individual, even if they are anonymous, they make comments or make statements that remain in your memory, so you do notice when they are still around or not.

One such person is lilady RN, one of those anonymous individuals who also had a profound effect on this blog. She always was one of the first people who would comment on anything I wrote. She was positive, and would gently, if not very firmly, stand up to those who pushed an antivaccine agenda on here.

When I first started this website, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t have a voice. I’m not a journalist, so I just wrote. And she was one of the first people to post a comment on here. Over the past year, she has commented over 300 times to my articles, but thousands of times on Disqus to hundreds of articles that focused on vaccines, healthcare, and apparently other issues about which she was obviously passionate.

This past weekend, I was running a report about who commented here most, and her name was at the top of the list. Her comments suddenly stopped on April 14, 2015. Not just on my website, but across the internet. I was curious, but people stop commenting for lots of reasons. I guess I imagined she was working for Doctors without Borders or some organization helping people who needed her help.

Today, I found out what happened to her, and the truth was very sad indeed. I saw an article by a fellow blogger, Harpocrates, who wrote this statement about lilady:

It is with a very, very heavy heart that I write this. I recently learned that a member of our community, known to most as “Lilady”, passed away. She was a vocal and fierce advocate for public health and children, especially those with special needs. Her own son suffered physical and intellectual issues due to a rare genetic disorder, ultimately predeceasing her in his 20s. She also helped care for the son of her dear friends, who similarly suffered from multiple medical issues, including profound mental retardation and autistic-like behaviors. Until her death, she visited him every week.

In her youth, she saw first-hand what diseases like polio could do, with the virus taking the life of one of her childhood friends. She also once mentioned how a cousin was left with permanent brain injury due to measles encephalopathy. These early experiences inspired her to pursue a career as a public health nurse. Her years as a licensed registered nurse and epidemiologist gave her particular insight into infectious diseases and how they could best be controlled. Lilady dedicated herself to improving the lives of others.

Lilady has been an active voice online, particularly on the topic of vaccinations. She was often one of the first to respond to anti-vaccine myths on news articles from around the country. I first “met” Lilady over on the blog Respectful Insolence. We eventually corresponded via email, and her passion for science and justice always inspired me. She never shirked from telling the hard truths, even if it meant being perceived as gruff or “mean”. And it was amazing to see her in action across the web. Whenever a news story cropped up on autism or vaccines, just as surely as anti-vaccine activists would swoop in to fill the comments with myths and nonsense, you could be sure that Lilady would be there, too, to counter them with science and fact.

She has been a great friend to many of us, offering support and comfort in our own times of need. I am honored to have known her, and my one regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet her in person. My thoughts go out to her family and friends.

She was inspiring. And now that I know more about her, about her life and family, I know that her comments here and elsewhere wasn’t out of a desire to be well known as a commenter, but to counter the myths that pushed onto people by those who have some agenda that does not have the best interest of her fellow human beings at the forefront.

She also inspired other bloggers. She used to frequent Orac’s blog and the good people at Science Based Medicine, frequently posting something I wrote that was germane to their comments. Orac’s personal eulogy to lilady was also just published, and made me smile, in the way that we smile when we remember how someone made life a little bit easier, a little bit sunnier:

And it’s true. I’m starting to realize how much she added to the community that has, incredibly enough, formed around this blog. Whenever some new antivaccine troll would show up, spewing the same old antivaccine nonsense as though it were new, as though she had been the first person to think of it, as though scientists hadn’t thought about it many times before and refuted it, lilady would be there, slapping down the nonsense so that I wouldn’t have to.

…I will miss lilady, because no one can do it quite like she did.

For me, the best thing that lilady did was handle the numerous antivaccine trolls that frequent this blog. I have no patience with them, but lilady had just enough patience to snark them into silence. I read through most of her comments here, and I was trying to find the right one, but I couldn’t. There were so many.

But I think found one that perfectly represents lilady RN’s feelings about the antivaccine crowd:

The “feedback loop” is there. Not only do you have a reading comprehension problem, you also seem to have an auditory processing problem.

If, in fact, you have a relative who is a physician, and if, in fact that physician told you she doesn’t report minor events (redness and pain at the injection site, mild/moderate fever, crankiness, etc.), she correctly does not report those reactions.

Get to know the difference between minor reactions and Severe Adverse Events, which physicians are required to report.

I worked as a public health nurse clinician-epidemiologist at a large (1.2 million population catchment area) County Health Department-Division of Communicable Disease Control, where I investigated cases, clusters and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable-diseases. During my tenure there, I administered thousands of vaccines to infants, children and adults and never had a Severe Adverse Event reported to me by a parent or a treating physician. My colleagues (~ 40 doctors and nurses) at the Health Department, during their collective tenures, administered hundreds of thousands vaccines and they never had a Severe Adverse Event reported to them by a parent or a treating physician.

I had contact with every doctor (pediatricians and family practice doctors) who administered vaccines to infants and children in my County, they never reported a Severe Adverse Event for any vaccine.

Cripes, get a life, get an education in basic science and stop perseverating.

Immunology 101, Virology 101, Bacteriology 101 and Epidemiology 101…learn some.

The troll never replied back.

I too regret never meeting her, never chatting with her privately. I just knew she was there, and she did so much for me and this website, I’m not sure I could put together the right words for her.

I am saddened that she is gone. She must have been a hero to her colleagues and a wonderful person to her family and friends. There isn’t much I can say to make anyone feel better, but she did make the world a bit better by righting some wrongs. And what more can we expect from a fellow human being.

Thank you lilady RN. You will be sorely missed.

Your one stop shop for real science and myth-debunking about Gardasil

Recently, I read a new article published in Pediatrics that described how educating either teenagers or their parents about HPV vaccinations had little effect on the overall vaccination rate for the vaccine. Essentially, the researchers found that it was a 50:50 probability that any teen would get the vaccine, regardless of their knowledge of HPV and the vaccine itself.

So I thought about why that Pediatrics study found that education about HPV and Gardasil didn’t move the needle on vaccination uptake. It’s possible that the benefits of the vaccine is overwhelmed by two factors–first, that there’s a disconnect between personal activities today vs. a disease that may or may not show up 20-30 years from now; and second, that the invented concerns about the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, promulgated by the usual suspects in the antivaccination world, makes people think that there is a clear risk from the vaccine which is not balanced by preventing cancer decades from now. It’s frustrating.

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HPV vaccine prevents cancer in men – good news

The HPV vaccine prevents cancer – this is not surprising information, because the wealth of evidence supporting the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine is approaching unassailable. Of course, many people make claims about various cures for and prevention of cancer on the internet, but seriously there are just a handful of ways to prevent cancer. And one of them is getting the HPV vaccine.

Most of the early data was in reduction of cancer rates, especially for cervical cancer, in women. Part of this bias was because the HPV vaccine was originally just indicated for girls and young women. But more recently, the vaccine was approved in most areas of the world to be used with boys and young men.

However, a new study is out that gives us more evidence that the vaccine will prevent cancer in men. And that’s more good news if you’re looking for an effective way to prevent some cancers.

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Bill Gates vaccines save lives – Part 2

One of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research and bringing healthcare (including vaccinations) to underdeveloped countries is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), founded by Bill & Melinda Gates using their vast Microsoft wealth. I have always favored capitalism, and believe there is no particular moral code associated with accumulating wealth. It is, however, wonderful that they have decided to use their wealth to help humanity.

As strong supporters of vaccines, the Gates have become one of the leading targets of the vaccine denialists who use a bunch of outright lies to attack his good works. Bill Gates vaccines save lives. Now I know that Bill Gates did not invent these vaccines, but the attacks on him make it seem like he did.

These personal attacks remind me of Ernst’s Law, which states “If you are researching complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and you are not hated by the CAM world, you’re not doing it right.” 

For vaccines, I guess we should we create a corollary of the law, “if you are supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccinations for children, and you are not hated by vaccine denialists, you’re not doing it right.” I think I want to call this corollary “Offit’s Law,” named for Paul Offit, a tireless supporter of vaccines who has been the target of lies and hatred, or even “Gate’s Law.” 
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Bill Gates, part 3 – despised by GMO refusers

Bill Gates, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) located in Seattle, Washington, is one of the world’s leading charities that brings advanced healthcare (including vaccinations) and other leading-edge technology to underdeveloped countries. As I’ve said before, I am not a hero worshipper, but there is something admirable and moral about a person who has built incredible wealth, and then decides to give it back to the world in a way that cannot itself be measured monetarily.

Bill and Melinda Gates appear to be genuinely devoted to helping people, especially those who lack access to modern technology and medicine. To that end, they have stated that they will give away about 95% of their wealth through charitable causes.

This focus on vaccines has made Bill Gates a target of the antivaccination lunatics. Numerous lies about Gates have become internet memes, from “Gates’ vaccines are population control” (based on a complete misreading of something he said) to Gates’ polio vaccines have paralyzed 47,000 kids in India. I refuted the most egregious lies. And then there’s the postmodernist antivaccine cretin Sayer Ji who invented a whole host of lies about Gates. I debunked those too.
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Do ripe bananas prevent cancer? Probably not.

This is a rewrite of an article I published a couple of years ago, and that was subsequently written into a new article. I wanted to update some points, clean up some writing, and provide the TL;DR version which is both pithy and to the point. 

I wrote an article about how to critically analyze pseudoscience and misinformation so that you might skeptically analyze evidence supporting a claim, even if it appeared to be accurate. On Facebook, Twitter and many internet sites (including Wikipedia), there is an amazing tendency of individuals to accept what is written as “the truth” without spending the effort to determine if what is written is based on accurate science.

Twitter, of course, limits itself to 140 characters, which means you either have to click on a link to get more information, or just accept that what is stated within the 140 characters is factual. And if you can make a complex scientific argument in 140 characters, that would be impressive.

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The pseudoscience of boosting the immune system

One of the most ridiculous pseudoscientific claims that I keep hearing from the junk medicine crowd is that this supplement or that food is critical to boosting the immune system – this myth is so prevalent, I had to debunk it with lots of real science.

These type of claims ignore one basic physiological fact: the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, tissues and biomolecules that prevent invasion of the body by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens every day.

And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize how the complexity of the immune system by claiming that downing a few tablets of echinacea will boost the immune system to prevent colds (it doesn’t), it doesn’t make it science.
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Stalking pseudoscience in the internet jungle

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