Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines

hierarchy of scientific evidence

I am a scientific skeptic. It means that I pursue published scientific evidence to support or refute a scientific or medical principle. I am not a cynic, often conflated with skepticism. I don’t have an opinion about these ideas. Scientific skepticism depends on the quality and quantity of evidence that supports a scientific idea. And examining the hierarchy of scientific evidence can be helpful in deciding what is good data and what is bad. What can be used to form a conclusion, and what is useless.

That’s how science is done. And I use the hierarchy of scientific evidence to weigh the quality along with the quantity of evidence in reaching a conclusion. I am generally offended by those who push pseudoscience – they generally try to find evidence that supports their predetermined beliefs. That’s not science, that’s the opposite of good science.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant news made up of memes and a couple of hundred character analyses flying across social media make it difficult to determine what is real science and what is not. Sometimes we create an internal false balance, assuming that headlines (often written to be clickbait) on one side are somehow equivalent to another side. So, we think there’s a scientific debate when there isn’t one.

When I write about a topic, I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful and nuanced (with a touch of snark) articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I also know science is hard. It’s difficult.

Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science – and we see that most of what we find on the internet that claims to be science is not. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking about science, but they fail to differentiate between good and bad evidence.

But there is a way to make this easier. Not easy, just easier. This is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) method to evaluating scientific research quality across the internet.

Continue reading “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines”

Hepatitis B virus causes cancer – yes, the vaccine can prevent it

hepatitis b virus

A recent study provides more evidence that the hepatitis B virus (HBV) is linked to a variety of cancers – that’s not surprising to most of us. We also know that the HBV vaccine can prevent the infection, thereby preventing a wide range of cancers. 

Despite the facts supporting the dangers of the hepatitis B virus, the anti-vaccine zealots absolutely despise the vaccine, especially since it’s usually given to newborns (with a second dose recommended at 1-2 months along with a third dose at about 12-18 months) to prevent HBV infections passed from the mother.

Let’s take a look at the hepatitis B virus and this new peer-reviewed paper that discusses the link between HBV and a number of cancers. Continue reading “Hepatitis B virus causes cancer – yes, the vaccine can prevent it”

BCG vaccine is priced too low – now, shortage for bladder cancer

bcg vaccine

You probably don’t know much about the BCG vaccine, because it isn’t used much these days. And no, it’s not one of the vaccines on the CDC immunization schedule for either adults or children. 

The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG vaccine, was initially developed to prevent tuberculosis. The disease is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but they can also damage other parts of the body. Tuberculosis is treatable with advanced medicines, but it takes a long time and can be expensive. Without treatment, the patient will die.

So, why does it matter that the BCG vaccine is priced too low or that we have a shortage of it? Well, it has a couple of important uses (one current, and one potential) that has driven demand for the vaccine. And it’s not because there’s a sudden worldwide epidemic of tuberculosis. Continue reading “BCG vaccine is priced too low – now, shortage for bladder cancer”

Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy

Gardasil safety and efficacy

The HPV cancer-preventing vaccine, especially Gardasil (or Silgard, depending on market), has been targeted by the anti-vaccine religion more than just about any other vaccine being used these days. So many people tell me that they give their children all the vaccines, but refuse to give them the HPV vaccine based on rumor and innuendo on the internet. This article provides all the posts I’ve written about Gardasil safety and efficacy.

As many regular readers know, I focus on just a few topics in medicine, with my two favorites being vaccines and cancer – of course, the Gardasil cancer-preventing vaccine combines my two favorite topics. Here’s one thing that has become clear to me – there are no magical cancer prevention schemes. You are not going to prevent any of the 200 different cancers by drinking a banana-kale-quinoa smoothie every day. The best ways to prevent cancer are to quit smoking, stay out of the sun, keep active and thin, get your cancer-preventing vaccines, and following just a few more recommendations.

The benefits of the vaccine are often overlooked as a result of two possible factors – first, there’s a disconnect between personal activities today and cancer that could be diagnosed 20-30 years from now; and second, people think that there are significant dangers from the vaccine which are promulgated by the anti-vaccine religion.

It’s frustrating and difficult to explain Gardasil safety and efficacy as a result of the myths about safety and long-term efficacy of the vaccine. That’s why I have written nearly 200 articles about Gardasil safety and efficacy, along with debunking some ridiculous myths about the cancer-preventing vaccine. This article serves to be a quick source with links to most of those 200 articles.

And if you read nothing else in this review of Gardasil, read the section entitled “Gardasil safety and effectiveness – a quick primer” – that will link you to two quick to read articles that summarize the best evidence in support of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

Continue reading “Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy”

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

She was also one of the many contributors to the book, “Pseudoscience – The Conspiracy Against Science.”

Many bloggers and commenters on vaccine issues will link to one or more of her articles here as a primary source to counter an anti-vaccine claim. The purpose of this post is to give you a quick reference to find the right article to answer a question you might have.

Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. This article will be updated as new articles from Professor Reiss are published here. We also may update and add categories as necessary.


Continue reading “Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website”

Religion and vaccines – current religious dogma about vaccinations review

religion and vaccines

This article, about religion and vaccines, shows that claims that religion is opposed to vaccinations are bogus. Recently, several states, like New York and Maine, have taken steps to limit and or eliminate religious exemptions to vaccines as a result of the abuse of the exemption.

A while ago, I wrote an article about a father who is suing the New York Department of Education to force a school to allow his unvaccinated son into school. The basis of his lawsuit is that vaccination is against his religious beliefs. 

The father is a Roman Catholic and claimed that his church was opposed to vaccines. As far as I could find, the Catholic Church strongly supports vaccines, even making it a moral and ethical issue by clearly stating that “there would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious diseases…”

The Catholic Church even supports the use of those vaccines manufactured using permanent cell lines that derive from aborted fetuses. In other words, not only is the Catholic Church not opposed to vaccination, it seems to indicate that it would immoral to not vaccinate.

This all leads me to wonder if there was research into the relationship between religion and vaccines. Of course, researchers much smarter than this old dinosaur examined the issue – spoiler alert, religions broadly support vaccinations.

Continue reading “Religion and vaccines – current religious dogma about vaccinations review”

My daughter has autism spectrum disorder – it was not caused by vaccines

autism

I have three daughters, and my oldest one, we’ll call her Catherine, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder many years ago. This is our story, one that has little to do with vaccines, except that I never once thought that there was a relationship between her autism and vaccines. Not once. 

I have rarely mentioned Catherine online not because I was ashamed of her autism – she deserved her privacy, and I did not want to be someone who used my personal life story as a “cause” for the science of vaccines.

Then, two things happened. First, while commenting on an article I wrote a few years ago, someone said: “you don’t understand autism because you do not have autistic children.” The former statement is false because it doesn’t take having an autistic child to understand autism. The latter statement is also false because I do have a child with autism. 

Second, I finally read Peter Hotez’s book, Vaccines did not Cause Rachel’s Autism. For those of you who don’t know Dr. Hotez, he is one of the leading researchers in vaccines, and he has written hundreds of peer-reviewed papers on infectious diseases (and vaccines) along with numerous books on infectious diseases. He is a real authority on vaccines, public health, and vaccine-preventable diseases, and as they said on Wayne’s World, “we are not worthy!” 

So, I was inspired to write my own story, because it’s important for me on this Father’s Day 2019. And because of my acceptance of the science that rejects a link between vaccines and autism is not just academic, it is personal.

This is our story. Continue reading “My daughter has autism spectrum disorder – it was not caused by vaccines”

Dangerous US measles epidemic hits 1022 cases – blame anti-vax -UPDATED

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services have reported that the ongoing measles epidemic has, as of 6 June 2019, has resulted in 1022 cases. This makes 2019 (which is just 5 months old) the worst year for measles since 1992, when there were 963 cases for all 12 months. 

At this rate, we can expect well over 2000 measles cases for 2019, making it the worst year since the major measles epidemics of the late 1980s. 

In 2000, the CDC had stated that measles was eradicated in the USA. But as a result of fears and misinformation about the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, vaccination rates have dropped allowing measles to again attack children. Continue reading “Dangerous US measles epidemic hits 1022 cases – blame anti-vax -UPDATED”

New York ends vaccine religious exemptions – protecting us from measles

vaccine religious exemptions

Sometimes, there’s excellent news with the fight to end vaccine-preventable diseases. On 13 June 2019, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (see Note 1) signed a bill whereby the state of New York ended vaccine religious exemptions.

As a result of this new law, New York joins California, Arizona, Mississippi (yes, Mississippi), West Virginia (ditto), and Maine as the only states that do not allow religious exemptions, that is, allowing parents to claim that their religious beliefs are not compatible with vaccinations.

Since there are no mainstream religions that are opposed to vaccines, I have always found that this type of exemption was bogus and an excuse for parents to formalize their pseudoscientific beliefs. This put children at risk of dangerous and deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.

For New York, the removal of the religious exemption is critical. The center of the current US measles epidemic, which has struck over 1000 individuals, seems to be in the ultra-orthodox Jewish population in the state who have abused the exemptions. This gave us an unvaccinated population, concentrated in a small area, that was susceptible to a highly contagious and dangerous disease.

vaccine religious exemptions
Protecting New York from diseases. Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Anti-vaccine nutjobs, like Jim Meehan and Del Bigtree, using disgusting tropes like claiming that mandatory vaccinations are like the Holocaust, have tried to fan the flames of the anti-vaccine dogma by making the religious exemptions to vaccination as some religious liberty issue.

Of course, the legislative process to get this bill passed was not easy. According to an article in the New York Times:

The tension over the issue was readily apparent in the Capitol on Thursday as hundreds of angry opponents — many with young children and infants — pleaded with lawmakers to reject the bill, sometimes invoking the will of God, other times their rights as parents. The show of raw emotion affected even supporters of the bill.

Assemblyman Michael Montesano, a Long Island Republican, framed the bill as “an attack on people’s First Amendment rights.” He added, “It’s still the individual parent, who is raising this child, that has the fundamental right to decide what happens with their child in all facets of their life.”

vaccine religious exemptions
Protecting New Yorkers. Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

As the vote came to a head, emotions were high:

As the Assembly vote slowly came in, the speaker, Carl E. Heastie, was forced to come to the floor and count votes, calling recalcitrant members to coax the bill toward the 76-vote threshold needed for passage. Several prominent Democrats, including the chairman of the health committee, Richard N. Gottfried, bucked Assembly leadership and voted no. In the end, it narrowly passed, 77 to 53.

As soon the vote count was called, shouts of “shame” — and more colorful invective — erupted from the Assembly gallery, where opponents had gathered to watch the proceedings. Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry attempted to restore order, but the screams continued; unable to stop the shouting, Mr. Aubry took the chamber into recess as furious opponents headed into Capitol hallways.

The only shame that I see are recalcitrant legislators not voting to protect the health of children.

vaccine religious exemptions
Syracuse University protected from diseases. Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash

Nevertheless, the pro-science, pro-children, pro-health side won. And Governor Cuomo signed it into law.

This is how we stop the measles epidemic and save the lives of innocent children. Vaccines save lives.  So thanks – New York eliminates vaccine religious exemptions!

Notes

  1. When I was in graduate school, studying real biomedical science as opposed to anti-vaccine pseudoscience, I was a canvasser for Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo who was subsequently elected governor of New York. Thus, I was 0.000047% responsible for this bill. You can thank me by buying me a beer.



Please help me out by Tweeting out this article or posting it to your favorite Facebook group.

There are two ways you can help support this blog. First, you can use Patreon by clicking on the link below. It allows you to set up a monthly donation, which will go a long way to supporting the Skeptical Raptor
Become a Patron!


Finally, you can also purchase anything on Amazon, and a small portion of each purchase goes to this website. Just click below, and shop for everything.




YouTube terminated Natural News – anti-vaccine Mike Adams whines

YouTube terminated Natural News

On 3 March 2018, Google’s YouTube provided us with some good news, because we all need some these days. YouTube terminated Natural News including their whole library of videos. If you search for Natural News on YouTube, you cannot find it. If someone republished one of Natural News videos, it has disappeared. If you have some blog post with an embedded YouTube video with one of Mike Adams’ rants, it will not be there.

In 2017, Google quit indexing Natural News in its searches because of some violation of Google policy by Adams, aka the Health Ranger. We, the science supporters, cheered, as we consider Natural News (and ilk like it) to be at the very bottom of scientific evidence. We all had good fun with it, including the ecstatic Orac, who wrote,

I am, however, very much enjoying my schadenfreude, and will continue to do so as long as Adams’ site is delisted and he continues his tirades against Google and his victimhood conspiracies.

Of course, Adams whined and whined about it with some creative conspiracy theories, although everything we were able to gather about the situation, Natural News violated one of Google’s policies that aim to prevent gaming of search engine optimization. Eventually, Adams corrected the issue, and you could search Natural News again. If that’s your thing.

At least I enjoyed myself for a couple of days. Maybe I can enjoy a year after YouTube terminated Natural News. Maybe a couple of years? Maybe forever? Continue reading “YouTube terminated Natural News – anti-vaccine Mike Adams whines”