Scientific consensus – collective opinion of scientists

scientific consensus

In the hierarchy of scientific principles, the scientific consensus – that is, the collective opinion and judgement of scientific experts in a particular field – is an important method to separate real scientific ideas and conclusions from pseudoscience, cargo cult science, and other beliefs.

I often discuss 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. A scientific theory is considered to be the highest scientific principle, something that is missed by many science deniers. In addition, a scientific consensus is formed by a similar method – the accumulation of evidence.

I have written frequently about the scientific consensus, because it is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in a discussion about critical scientific issues of our day – evolution, climate change, vaccines, GMOs, and many areas of biomedical knowledge.

This tome has one goal – to clarify our understanding of the scientific consensus, and how we arrive at it. Through this information, maybe we all can see the power of it in determine what is real science and what are policy and cultural debates.

Continue reading “Scientific consensus – collective opinion of scientists”

Vaccines cause multiple sclerosis? No link found in a large scientific review

Vaccines cause multiple sclerosis

There are so many anti-vaccine religious tropes about the safety of vaccines, that it is often hard to keep them all straight. One of the current ones is that vaccines cause autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Does scientific evidence support the hypothesis that vaccines cause multiple sclerosis?

Well, I have written about whether vaccines cause multiple sclerosis before, and based on the scientific evidence (see here and here), there simply was no link between them. Of course, with the anti-vaccine religion, evidence be damned, they will stand by their claims. All I can do is repeat myself with more and more evidence, refuting their claims.

There is a new review of the evidence of whether vaccines cause multiple sclerosis, and once again, they found nothing. And once again, I will review the evidence to see if there is something to the claims of the anti-vaccine religion. I should give a spoiler alert, but you all know what’s coming. Continue reading “Vaccines cause multiple sclerosis? No link found in a large scientific review”

Sugar and cancer – examining the science behind the claims

sugar and cancer

As you probably would guess, when I read articles in science, I tend to emphasize research on vaccines, cancer, and a few other related issues. There’s so much information out there, one has to focus or there will  not be enough time to watch college football games on Saturday. For years, one of the more popular questions I have seen is about sugar and cancer – does eating sugar cause or promote cancer?

A recent paper in Nature Communications seemed to encourage the people who are pushing an association between sugar and cancer. Of course, our usual suspects of pseudoscience and false healthcare jumped on board with their clickbait headlines trying to scare everyone about sugar and cancer.

But what are the facts about sugar and cancer. Should you avoid eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates? Well, probably, but not because of cancer.

That’s why we are here. To separate the science from the pseudoscience, we need to look at this more carefully. What we’re going to see is that you’re not going to get cancer from putting a couple of teaspoons of it in your coffee. And you’re not going to cure cancer by avoid sugar. Sugar and cancer is much more complicated than that. Continue reading “Sugar and cancer – examining the science behind the claims”

2017 flu vaccine effectiveness – getting the facts straight

2017 flu vaccine effectiveness

The upcoming flu season may be a rough one. A strain of the influenza A, H3N2, is showing up in small clusters of outbreaks throughout the USA. Unfortunately, the 2017 flu vaccine effectiveness against the H3N2 may be lower than expected.

We will get into the details further in this post, but I do not want to bury the headline. This does not mean the 2017-18 flu vaccine is ineffective – the quadrivalent 2017 flu vaccine effectiveness against three of four flu strains is still fairly high. The flu vaccine is extremely important in stop lots of flu strains, and just because it may have an issue with one of the four strains, does not imply that it is useless.

Let me repeat that, just in case someone misses the point – only one of the four strains of flu in the 2017-18 vaccine may have lower effectiveness. The vaccine remains highly effective against the other four strains. Continue reading “2017 flu vaccine effectiveness – getting the facts straight”

Correlation implies causation – when it does or does not with vaccines

correlation implies causation

One of the central tenets of science is whether correlation implies causation. The anti-vaccine religion often conflates or misunderstand the two, rejecting or accepting causation as it fits its narrative.  The “correlation implies causation” story is often abused, misused and confused by many writers.

We, the pro-science/pro-vaccine world, dismiss correlation implies causation, unless a checklist of of supporting information can be checked off.

Conflating causation and correlation is somewhat different than the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, where one thinks one event follows the first event because of the existence of the first event. I’m sure all good luck charms and superstitions, like walking under a ladder, are related to the post hoc fallacy. So if I walk under a ladder, then trip on a black cat, then crash into a mirror, I don’t immediately blame the initial act of walking under the ladder. I just assume I’m clumsy.

In science, we may be able to show correlation statistically. For example, there may be an increase in broken bones in children after vaccination. But does that mean the vaccine caused the broken bone? If we show that the rate of broken bones is the same with or without vaccines, there’s no causation. If we cannot show a plausible physiological reason why vaccines would have some influence over bone strength, we reject causation. In other words, showing correlation gives us only half the story. Real science is necessary to show us causality.

Correlation and causation are a very critical part of scientific research. Basically, correlation is the statistical relationship between two random sets of data. The closer the relationship, the higher the correlation. However, without further data, correlation may not imply causation, that the one set of data has some influence over the other. Continue reading “Correlation implies causation – when it does or does not with vaccines”

Shop Amazon to help the fund feathery dinosaur – he thanks you

shop amazon

The old, snarky, cranky, curmudgeonly feathery dinosaur still needs funding to keep this website running for the next year. And to run it smoothly. And there is a way that won’t cost you money – shop Amazon, and a portion of your purchase will come to this website.

This is a painless method to support this website. And no, Amazon doesn’t increase your  prices to do this.

How does this work? Click on any of the links below to shop Amazon. And you can buy anything, although some of the links take you to promotions and other things Amazon is advertising. Just don’t leave Amazon’s website or shut down your browser.

So click on these links below, then do your shopping. Go grocery shopping, Buy a new computer. Complete your holiday shopping. Anything you want from Amazon.

 

Remember, anything you buy at Amazon, not just the recommended ones above, will count towards this website.

But if you want to donate to the website, you can still do it the tried and true way:

 
 
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Anything you can do will help. Go shopping for your whole family, friends, neighbors, and scientists at Amazon. Use GoFundMe. Use PayPal. The feathery dinosaur appreciates it all.

Thanks for your time. And shop Amazon – and buy a lot of stuff.

Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food

bananas prevent cancer

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.

But if you’re going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, you’re going to have to provide extraordinary evidence. And if you’re going to push a pseudoscientific claim, please read what you claim as evidence. Because we have a case here, where the evidence isn’t even in the same universe as the claims.

Continue reading “Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food”

Bernard Dalbergue and Gardasil – another anti-vaccine shill says nothing

Bernard Dalbergue

About 4 years ago, I wrote about a new anti-Gardasil name being foisted upon the internet. His name is Bernard Dalbergue, a French physician who may or may not have had some role with Gardasil development. Or manufacturing. Or sales.

Well, he had something to do with something with regards the HPV cancer-preventing vaccine. He’s another false authority pushed by the anti-Gardasil religion, a particularly nasty sect of the anti-vaccine religion. They bring out these individuals because the anti-vaccine troupe lacks the evidence to support their specious and deceptive claims about Gardasil.

So let’s dig in to this Bernard Dalbergue. Let’s see if there’s anything there.  Continue reading “Bernard Dalbergue and Gardasil – another anti-vaccine shill says nothing”

Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-vaccine pseudoscience activists – they are nothing if not dedicated to their religious beliefs. And like the so-called “creation science” religion, which tries to “prove” their evolution denialist beliefs with pseudoscience published in creationist journals, the anti-vaccine religion tries to “prove” that vaccines are dangerous with bad science, pseudoscience, and misinterpreted science.

As of today, I’ve written a dozen or so articles about Christopher Shaw and   Lucija Tomljenovic, contemptible University of British Columbia anti-vaccine pseudoscience extremists. Shaw and Tomljenovic are well known for pushing garbage science to further their anti-vaccine religion. Of course, their “scientific articles” keep getting retracted, despite being published in low ranked journals whose standards rarely exceed “please use a good spell checker.”

Now, we have a new article trying to push the myth that somehow the tiny amounts of aluminum in vaccines are related to autism. Of course, we have hundreds of real scientific articles published in real scientific journals which have demolished the myth that vaccines cause autism. But these persistent anti-vaccine pseudoscience pushers keep trying. Because one of the central tenets of pseudoscience is to have a pre-ordained conclusion, and find any evidence, irrespective of quality, to support it.

So we’re going to take a look at this new “article.” I always examine anti-vaccine “research” from two perspectives – first, I take a look at the author(s), the journal, and other factors that might have an impact on our critique of the study. Second, I then critique the scientific data, methods, and conclusions.  So, here we go, into the fray. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine pseudoscience – more bad science on autism and aluminum”

Coffee health effects – what does the best science say

coffee health effects

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, with tea being number one. And as I have mentioned previously, I am an unrepentant coffee lover. Over the years, there have been a number of claims about coffee health effects, both positive and negative, many without any solid scientific evidence in support.

Claims about coffee health effects goes back centuries. These claims were often confusing and contradictory. How many “studies” have we read about that said drinking it was good for your heart. Or bad for your heart. Or it prevented cancer. Or it increased your risk of cancer.

Part of the confusion is that the popular press, with its strange dependence on false equivalence, often presents two contradictory scientific studies as equivalent, even if they aren’t. Well, we’re going to look at a powerful new study that examined health outcomes that can be related to coffee. Let’s see what they say. Continue reading “Coffee health effects – what does the best science say”