According to a recent article in the Arizona Republic, the Arizona Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee has cleared a bill, SB 1108, that would allow parents, whose children aren’t fully immunized, an exemption to still get licensed to be allowed to care for foster children. There is an identical bill in the Arizona House, HB 2348, that is being heard in the House Reform and Human Services Committee.
Both proposed laws would eliminate any liability for the foster parents.
But wait! What would happen if these foster parents’ non-immunized children infected foster children who were not properly immunized? Or babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and who are protected from diseases like pertussis through cocooning, which is the strategy of protecting the baby from these diseases by vaccinating those individuals who are in close contact with them.
Am I missing something? Are we putting innocent children, those who are placed in the foster care system because of any number of problems, almost always not of their own fault, in harm’s way just to placate the antivaccination true believers? Even those parents whose children are exempt from vaccination for medical reasons do not have some inalienable right to caring for foster children, no matter how wonderful of parents they may be. I am empathetic to these parents who cannot vaccinate their children because of some medical reason (which is very rare), and who are willing to be foster parents, but why risk passing a disease to the foster child?
As I’ve said before, philosophical exemptions should be ended, they are being abused by individuals who are clueless about what vaccines do or don’t do. Religious exemptions should be ended, since there are but a handful of mainstream religions that are opposed to vaccinations. Vaccine exemptions are merely a method for vaccine denialists to get their way to not vaccinate their children using their misguided anti-science beliefs, and in the case of this law in Arizona, potentially harming innocent foster children.
Vaccines Save Lives.
I’ve never been a fan of vitamin supplements. Aside from a very few supplements intended for a few specific clinical conditions, like vitamin C and scurvy, they have little use in preventing or treating diseases. In fact, because mammalian physiology has evolved a homeostasis for these chemicals, any excess amount that can’t be stored in the fat or other tissue is cleared by the kidneys and becomes part of your urine. I’m willing to venture that the urine of many Americans is quite expensive, with all of the cleared vitamins and other micronutrients. A balanced diet over several weeks is sufficient to provide the body with all of the nutrients and vitamins to be healthy and strong. You are not even required to have all vitamins and nutrients every day, as storage of a few nutrients will be released as necessary, and clinical manifestations of nutrient deficiency may take weeks or months.
Let’s get this out upfront. There is no evidence that genetically modified food (which most people call GM or GMO) cause any harm to humans. None. And many people, myself included, consider anti-GMO activists to be nothing more than the left’s version of global warming denialists. The anti-GMO crowd use many of the same strategies and techniques of all science deniers, whether it’s vaccine-, global warming-, or evolution-denialists:
- logical fallacies
- hysterical claims
- abject lack of real science
British environmentalist Mark Lynas was probably the heart of the anti-GMO movement, who as recently as 2008 railed that the big agricultural companies, like Monsanto, were lying that GM crops were necessary for feeding the world as the climate was changing. Basically, the only reason anyone today is questioning GMO crops is because of Lynas.
(more…) «Anti-GMO activist changes his mind–what…»
Louisiana is at the frontline of the religious war on science and evolution. With its ironically named Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows the teaching of creationism and evolution in public schools, the state is attempting to circumvent the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits state and federal governments from “establishing.”
Teaching creationism, which is solely based on religious beliefs that lack any scientific evidence, in public schools is definitely an attempt to establish a religion by the government. Court cases, such as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and Edwards v. Aguillard are critical court decisions which have rejected teaching of creationism because it is a religious belief.
Well, one part of Louisiana understands the constitution and science. According to the National Center for Science Education, The Orleans Parish School Board, which controls the curriculum and teaching policies for schools in New Orleans, voted to ban the teaching of creationism as science. The new policy specifically bans teachers from including “any aspect of religious faith” in science courses and from using history textbooks adjusted to include Christianity (in reference to Texas textbook guidelines which use historical revisionism).
The actual wording of the the new policy is what all school boards should support:
No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories.
Yes. Yes. And yes. Simple and to the point, and clearly stating what should be taught to children. If they want to learn about some false history based on religions, or anti-science beliefs, learn it at home. The public school should not enable it.
But there’s more:
No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.
The outgoing President of the Orleans School Board, Thomas Robichaux, stated that “when this was done in Texas, all this talk was what massive influence would do in other states. We want to make sure kids are taught history that has been properly vetted by academics and prepared for their consumption…. I have no problem teaching [religion] in a religion or philosophy class, but the science class is not the appropriate place for it.”
New Orleans is just one part (a big part) of Louisiana, so it’s a good step in the right direction. And the students in that district will benefit from this policy, because they can be researchers, scientists, doctors, or just educated with proper critical thinking skills.
Thanks New Orleans.
If you read a news article, Google a scientific topic, or watch TV, you’d think that some scientific principles were actually being debated by scientists. From listening to the screaming and yelling, you’t think that scientists aren’t sure about evolution, vaccines, global warming, and the age of the earth (or even the age of the universe). There are even those who think there’s a debate that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.
Part of the problem is that the public falls for the false equivalency logical fallacy. They think that to be balanced, both sides of a scientific argument are equivalent in quality of opinion and evidence. But rarely is this true, especially in scientific principles that have been well-studied and supported by a massive amount of evidence.
Part of the problem is that some people think that science is unapproachable and too hard to comprehend. It isn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, because it shouldn’t be.
To become a world class architect and designing a skyscraper isn’t easy, but we, non-architects, can observe what we see, and accept that the building isn’t going to topple over in a hurricane. Do we presume to know how the foundation has to be built to support the building? Or what materials are used to give flexibility in a wind, but strong enough to not collapse? Mostly, we don’t, we trust that there isn’t a massive conspiracy to build unsafe skyscrapers because architects are being paid off by Big Concrete to use cheaper materials.
(more…) «How science deniers use false…»
Meryl Dorey, Australia’s infamous vaccine denialist and anti-science promoter, and her Australian anti-Vaccine Network (AVN) has been ordered to change its misleading name or be shut down. The New South Wales (an Australian state) Office of Fair Trading left an order at the home of AVN president Meryl Dorey yesterday with a letter of action, “labeling the network’s name misleading and a detriment to the community.”
(more…) «Meryl Dorey is ordered to…»
With respect to evolution denying legislative activities, 2012 was a fairly good year for science. Of course, Tennessee passed the anti-science Monkey Bill, which encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of global warming and evolution. Of course, there is no “scientific weakness,” just political debates that have no scientific relevance. But states like Indiana (through a shrewd maneuver of a Democratic legislator), Oklahoma, Alabama, New Hampshire and Missouri failed to pass proposed antievolution legislation, mostly through parliamentary issues, but also in an up and down vote in New Hampshire.
With the conclusion of the recent Presidential election, newly formed state legislatures are planning their 2013 legislative programs. So that means right wing, anti-science legislators in more conservative states are going to once again push evolution-denying legislation.
In Montana, state Representative Clayton Fiscus (Republican) is going to introduce a bill that will require the teaching of “intelligent design“, a form of creationism. This requirement would be in conflict with the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, where plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the Dover school board policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The losing lawsuit against the Dover school district cost them over $1 million, money which could have been used for purposes such as teaching children real science. I can only conjecture whether the bill will include funding for school districts that implement this potential requirement to defend against the inevitable constitutional lawsuits.
Similarly, in Indiana, state senator Dennis Kruse (Republican) has told a newspaper that he plans to introduce a bill essentially written by the Discovery Institute (a non-profit religious “think tank” famous for its attempts at getting intelligent design taught in American schools). His bill will be similar to the aforementioned Monkey Bill in Tennessee and another one that was passed in Louisiana in 2008, the misleadingly named Louisiana Science Education Act.
I can only hope that as happened last year, either the state legislatures decide that the view of the American electorate has moved on from this anti-science viewpoint, or they just decide there are more important issues on the docket.
Each day, I receive news feeds from Google with articles from all over the web regarding my favorite issues. Vaccines, vaccinations, politics, sports, and whatever interests me. The feeds are very specific, so sometimes there are just a couple of articles, sometimes, especially with vaccinations, there are literally several dozen. I scan the headlines, and some become articles here.
One of my feeds is simply “GMO,” or genetically modified crops, which are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). All types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes. GMO’s are a major controversy because of the use of DNA recombination-introducing genes from one species into another, which usually provides crops with added advantages, such as resistance to pests. A few weeks ago, when the thoroughly debunked “GMO corn causes cancer” story hit the interwebs, and my GMO news feed was filled with articles. Lately, it’s dropped down to a handful.
(more…) «GMO opponents fall for a…»
One of the more ironic memes on the internet is how pharmaceutical companies make so much money (and they do), with the false conclusion that somehow all that money means that they’re not really interested in providing drugs that are safe and efficacious. Then, those same memes will claim that “natural supplements” are healthier and better, while they ignore the profit motive of supplement pushers (henceforth called Big Herbal).
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), an abomination that pushes fraudulent science, reported that in 2007, US adults spent $33.9 billion on visits to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers and for purchases of CAM products, classes, and materials. About $14.8 billion of that spending was on non-vitamin, non-mineral, natural products, such as fish oil, glucosamine (no evidence of effectiveness), and Echinacea (no evidence of effectiveness). What is surprising is that this $14.8 billion is about ⅓ of what is spent on prescription drugs. Finally, about $4.4 billion was spent on herbal supplements, which are supplements that use botanical products based on some historical or current belief that the products have some ability to treat some disease or symptom. Of course, sometimes these beliefs are myths, or even errors, like when a Swiss CAM products company misunderstood someone and believed that Native Americans used Echninacea for treating colds. They didn’t.
(more…) «Herbal supplements–unproven, unregulated, unsafe»
If you spend any time reading the antivaccination rants, you will hear about all kinds of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and scaremongering. Given that there is little scientific evidence that supports their beliefs, they have little choice but invent strawman arguments to make their point. One of the more amusing strategies of antivaccine cult is to claim that diseases were going away before vaccinations. These people believe, without any evidence whatsoever, that diseases like polio, measles, and chickenpox were disappearing because of better sanitation. Or better nutrition. Or something other than what really ended these diseases–vaccines. It’s a historical revisionism of a legendary level.
Admittedly, part of this belief is that people lack the cultural memory of some of these diseases. Few parents born after 1970 would remember classmates who had been stricken with polio. Few would have remember measles, mumps, or other epidemics sweeping through a school. They just don’t remember it, because vaccines introduced in the 50′s and 60′s reduced, and in the case of smallpox, eliminated the disease. Of course, there is evidence that support the theory that vaccines end diseases. But we don’t have to go back 40 or 50 years to show this happens, but we can talk about a disease that has been drastically reduced in the last few years, just because of a new vaccine.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by at least three species of bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia. Of the three species, Borrelia burgdorferi is the main cause of Lyme disease in North America, whereas Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are more prevalent in Europe. The disease is named after the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut, where a number of cases were initially identified in 1975.
Borrelia is transmitted to humans when bitten by infected ticks belonging to a few species of the genus Ixodes, called “hard bodied” ticks. Although deer ticks, Ixodes scapularis, Ixodes pacificus, or Ixodes ricinus, are commonly considered to be the vectors for Borrelia infection, some of the other Ixodes species can transmit the disease.
The initial symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a circular skin rash called erythema migrans (EM). If the Borrelia infection is not treated quickly, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In general, the infection and its symptoms can be treated, if started early, by antibiotics. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States.
The state of West Virginia (WV) has one of the toughest child vaccination regulations in the United States, not allowing any religious exemptions to vaccinations required before attending school. Only Mississippi has regulations this strict for allowable exemptions. Of course, as I have written, religious exemptions have been abused by vaccine deniers by creating “fake” religions so that parents’ antivaccination beliefs will be recognized by the state. In fact, only medical exemptions are accepted by the state (pdf), and their standards on who can meet the medical exemption are quite tough.
A few months ago, I wrote about the role of supplements, mainly vitamins and other nutrients, in preventing cancer. Conclusion: they didn’t. To quote Martinez et al., who published a review of dietary supplements and vitamins in cancer prevention,
Nutritional supplementation is now a multibillion-dollar industry, and about half of all US adults take supplements. Supplement use is fueled in part by the belief that nutritional supplements can ward off chronic disease, including cancer, although several expert committees and organizations have concluded that there is little to no scientific evidence that supplements reduce cancer risk. To the contrary, there is now evidence that high doses of some supplements increase cancer risk. Despite this evidence, marketing claims by the supplement industry continue to imply anticancer benefits. Insufficient government regulation of the marketing of dietary supplement products may continue to result in unsound advice to consumers. Both the scientific community and government regulators need to provide clear guidance to the public about the use of dietary supplements to lower cancer risk.
All those expensive supplements, most of which have broad and unproven claims made about them, do precious little for cancer. And some actually increase the risk of certain types of cancer.
(more…) «Multivitamins–big money, no effect on…»
Unless you live in Antarctica and the satellite downlink is not working, in which case you probably aren’t reading this article anyways, there is an election in the United States between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. And unless you’re completely unaware of the news, you would hear that the election is close.
Major election analysts, those with long track records in statistical analyses in election polls, are not seeing a close election, and as we get closer to the election date, the errors are becoming smaller, and the confidence in the predictions are getting stronger. Here are the three best:
- Nate Silver, Five Thirty Eight–As of October 25, 2012, Obama has a 74.4% chance of winning, and leads the Electoral College (an antiquated way that the United States actually elects its Presidents), 295-243.
- Princeton Election Consortium–As of October 26, 2012, Obama has an 88% chance of winning, and leads the Electoral College, 297-241.
- Votamatic–As of October 26, 2012, Obama has a >95% chance of winning, and leads the Electoral College, 332-206.
In other words, from a statistical standpoint, and because of the unusual way that the United States elects its president, the President is almost guaranteed to be reelected, barring some strange statistical anomaly or world event that dramatically changes the election scene.
But why use mathematics, when we have psychics and their pseudoscience to help us out, especially since the pollsters have “been universally negligent in addressing the fact that on November 6 at precisely 7:04 PM EST, Mercury goes into retrograde.” The Atlantic, doing yeoman’s service to the political world, has polled psychics to determine their predictions for the upcoming elections.
Now you would suppose that most psychics are New Age liberals, so there would be some bias in this polling. But The Atlantic believes that “they would act in the interest of establishing a record of accuracy, as opposed to saying what they hope happens. Letting personal political leanings interfere with the veracity of their professional analyses also must go against the code of the trade.” Obviously, this is a serious business.
Some of my favorite predictions:
- “Mitt Romney will not win his home state of Massachusetts.” Well, that was a tough one. If that’s all I would need to do to become a psychic, I’m changing my career.
- “It might even look like [Romney] will or could win. He may even lead in the poles. But on the day of the election Obama has enough of an astrological edge to beat out Romney.” Is that “poles” or “polls.” You never know. So, this prediction has enough fungibility, that whoever wins, it won’t matter, the psychic will claim that they predicted it.
- “In a survey of 172 psychics at Psychic Source, 71.5 percent saw Obama.” So there’s a poll of psychics. I wonder if Nate Silver incorporated that into his research.
Well there you have it. Ignore the real scientific polling. The psychics are calling the election. And of course, since Obama is probably going to win based on real evidence, they’re all going to claim that they called it well in advance. Then you can call them up and find out how to win the lottery. Or if you’re going to meet the love of your life. Or when the world is going to end. Don’t waste your money. Please.
Yes, there is a group called Homeopaths without Borders. Apparently, the group that does lifesaving work across the world, Doctors without Borders, are too busy, utilizing real evidence-based medicine with real medications, risking their own lives, and doing great works, to be worried about homeopathy, a pseudoscientific concept, even if this group steals their imprimatur without shame.
Homeopaths without Borders are sending their water magicians to Haiti, a country that has had to suffer so much during the past few years. During their time their, “the team will be in Port-au-Prince to complete the final session of the Fundamentals Program—a foundational curriculum in homeopathic therapeutics incorporating theoretical and clinical training.” Clinical training on the poor residents of Haiti? Have they not suffered enough?
(more…) «“Homeopaths without Borders” going to…»
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has reported that as of October 6, 2012, a whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) outbreak has hit over 1000 cases since the beginning of the year, far exceeding the 5 year average of 2007-2011. The chart below shows the dramatic weekly increases in cases in Colorado since beginning of the year.
A few weeks ago, Gilles-Eric Séralini and his homeopathy loving coauthor published an article in Food and Chemical Toxicology that concluded that glyphosate (known as Roundup)-resistant NK603 GMO corn, developed by Monsanto, causes severe diseases such as tumors in rats. That study was quickly picked up by many anti-science groups and broadcast widely as “GMO corn cause cancer.”
- Science-Based Medicine » Antivaccine versus anti-GMO: Different goals, same methods.
- Bad science about GMOs: It reminds me of the antivaccine movement – Respectful Insolence.
- NeuroLogica Blog » The GM Corn Rat Study.
- Study linking GM crops and cancer questioned – health – 19 September 2012 – New Scientist.
- Control Freaks » Blog Archive » Why I think the Seralini GM feeding trial is bogus.
- Illumination: Rats, Tumors and Critical Assessment of Science.
(more…) «Dr. Oz falls for the…»
It’s getting close to winter once again, so people always recommend their various lotions and potions to either prevent the common cold or, at least, to reduce the course of the disease. Alternative medicine’s favorite disease to treat is the common cold, mainly because it’s an easy disease to handle without too many serious problems. Also, from the patient’s perspective, the length and seriousness of the cold is usually very subjective, since the patient has a difficult time making an accurate determination when the cold started or ended, and making a quantitative assessment of the seriousness of the disease. Moreover, confirmation bias is usually the reason one hears that something worked for the cold–the person who reports some product works forgets all the times it doesn’t. Or completely misjudges the actual effects of any treatment.
The list of products that you might run across in your local pharmacy that claim to have an effect on the common cold are many. Zinc, oscillococcinum, garlic, and vitamin C. I wrote about these products last winter, and they mostly don’t work. The strangest cold remedy you might find is oscillococcinum, which is a homeopathic preparation derived from duck liver and heart, diluted to 200C, or 200 1:100 dilutions. In other words, in a liter of water there are precisely no molecules of duck guts. And there isn’t any logical explanation of a possible mechanism that would allow one to conclude that duck offal has an effect on cold viruses. Though Oscillococcinum is supposed to be used for flus, many use it for colds, but it doesn’t matter, why would a diluted potion of duck guts cure any virus? Well, Cochrane Reviews concluded that ”current evidence does not support a preventative effect of Oscillococcinum-like homeopathic medicines in influenza and influenza-like syndromes.”
(more…) «Echinacea and the common cold–Myth…»
It’s getting close to flu season, and it’s time to get your flu shot. Of course, there are myths for why people won’t get their flu shots. All of them are amusingly bad.
Last fall, Dr. Mark Crislip published A Budget of Dumb Asses (requires a Medscape account) that takes on anti-science with a whole new level of snark. I have part of it here for you, thanks to Biodork’s (great name) Time for your flu shot! It’s all about getting (or not getting) the flu vaccination, but you can replace flu with any other vaccination. Apparently, he wrote it for health care workers, but hey, I think it works for patients too!
Mark Crislip starts out his snark with a quick statement about not getting a flu shot. You might be a dumb ass, if you’re unwilling to get the vaccine:
I wonder if you are one of those Dumb Asses who do not get the flu shot each year? Yes. Dumb Ass. Big D, big A. You may be allergic to the vaccine (most are not when tested), you may have had Guillain-Barre, in which case I will cut you some slack. But if you don’t have those conditions and you work in healthcare and you don’t get a vaccine for one of the following reasons, you are a Dumb Ass.
If you peruse the back alleys of the antivaccination movement, you will find a wide variety of myths that try to convince people that vaccinating children is dangerous. Or if you don’t want to vaccinate your children, the information is easily available. It doesn’t take much effort on google to find websites that provide you with the . Those myths range from outrageous, such as it’s a conspiracy of the government to control population (which I find odd, since the government is barely competent enough to build a post office), to scientific sounding, but ultimately pseudoscientific claims. There are a lot of great websites that debunk many of the myths, and they’re easy to find.
(more…) «Multiple immunizations weaken immune system–Myth…»