How the placebo effect proves nothing and means nothing

Recently, there has been a large uptick in interest about the so-called placebo effect, mostly from the complementary and alternative junk medicine (CAM) crowd.  Evidently, they feel that being equivalent to doing nothing is good enough to be real.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Why Placebos Work Wonders, is indicative of this recent pro-placebo point-of-view.  I’ve got other bones to pick with WSJ on global warming, but I’ll save that for another day.

What exactly is the placebo effect?  The definition is often misused, implying some beneficial effect from a sugar pill or sham treatment.  But in medicine, a placebo is actually a failure.  If a new pharmaceutical, procedure or medical device shows no difference in efficacy compared to a placebo, then it is rejected.  But the CAM-pushing herd thinks that proves its a success when one of its potions and lotions is equivalent to a placebo.  What?  A failure of a modality in evidence-based medicine is somehow converted into a successful product in the CAM world? Continue reading “How the placebo effect proves nothing and means nothing”

Indiana creationism bill passes Senate–Intelligent Democrats creatively amend it

This is part of a long multi-part series on the Republican state legislatures in the USA pushing religious teaching into public schools in clear violation of the US Constitution’s Establishment Clause. I’ve discussed Indiana here, here and here, so this is a small update with a bit of intelligent design (of the bill) by some Democrats. Indiana Democrats are a feisty group, and the science deniers must be annoyed by them. Continue reading “Indiana creationism bill passes Senate–Intelligent Democrats creatively amend it”

Worldwide progress in measles control–vaccines get credit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly known as the CDC, this week published Progress in Global Measles Control, 2001-2010.  In 1980, there were over 2.6 million deaths worldwide from the measles virus.  Though measles is considered by many people as innocuous, it is, in fact, a relatively dangerous infection with a variable prognosis.  For vast majority of sufferers, there are few complications, but for some, even healthy individuals, it can be debilitating or even fatal.  Notwithstanding, I have always wondered why the anti-vaccination gang is willing to risk the possible death of their children by refusing to inoculate them, in light of very few risks or side effects of the vaccination itself.  I digress.

From the Vaccination Action Coalition.

The number of measles cases dropped to around 340,000 in 2010, a nearly 66% decline from 2001.

Continue reading “Worldwide progress in measles control–vaccines get credit”

20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered

After 20 years of drilling, Russian scientists are about to break through 4km of Antarctic ice to reach 20 million year old Lake Vostok.  Who knows what they’ll find there, but I just hope they don’t contaminate this valuable and pristine ecosystem (if anything is alive down there).  And they don’t bring back something right out of a H.P. Lovecraft novel. Continue reading “20 Million Year Old Lake Beneath Antarctica Is About to Be Uncovered”

Logical fallacies Part 1-Anti-vaccination gang’s naturalistic fallacy

In this blog, the term “logical fallacy” is used frequently to illustrate a logical or rational failure of a particular argument. There are several definitions of what constitutes a logical fallacy:

❝A logical fallacy is, roughly speaking, an error of reasoning. When someone adopts a position, or tries to persuade someone else to adopt a position, based on a bad piece of reasoning, they commit a fallacy.❞–Logical Fallacies

❝An argument that sometimes fools human reasoning, but is not logically valid.❞–Fallacious Argument

❝In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually an improper argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption. By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority). Fallacious arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure any logical argument.❞–Wikipedia

Continue reading “Logical fallacies Part 1-Anti-vaccination gang’s naturalistic fallacy”

Siri lite? Siri maybe?

For the first time, I decided not to upgrade to the next version of the iPhone.  The only feature that really grabbed my interest was Siri, Apple’s new voice control system that’s quite a bit more advanced than anything out there.  Besides, I just wanted to say “Open the pod bay doors Hal.”  Apparently, some of the responses by Siri show a good sense of humor by Apple programmers.

Open the pod bay doors Hal

Continue reading “Siri lite? Siri maybe?”

FDA approves Zostavax vaccine to prevent shingles in individuals 50 to 59 years of age

One of the consequences of contracting chicken pox (Varicella zoster) is that the virus is not destroyed by the body’s immune system.  Once the symptoms of chicken pox disappear, the virus hides itself in the basal root ganglion, unseen by the immune system.  Even though the body generated an immune response to the original zoster infection, after several decades, the response is either weakened or disappears.

Eventually, due to unknown factors (such as stress or other illnesses), the zoster virus “moves” along the nerve bundles, and causes a second infection with much more serious consequences to the patient.  This second infection is called herpes zoster (despite being the same exact virus, it was given a different name probably because it was originally thought to be two different viruses, but in this case, it’s not given a formal biological binomial name), or more commonly, shingles.  This infection usually happens when the patient is in their 50’s and older, though it can happen at any time. Continue reading “FDA approves Zostavax vaccine to prevent shingles in individuals 50 to 59 years of age”

Joe Mercola: Proof positive that quackery sells

Orac, in his blog post, Joe Mercola: Proof positive that quackery sells : Respectful Insolence, hits the nail on the head about Mercola, one of the biggest quacks on the internet.  I don’t know if Mercola actually believes in his particular brand of science-denialism, but he uses it for one reason:  to have people with legitimate medical concerns send their money to him.  In case you don’t click on the outlink above, here are some precious quotes from Orac.

Putting the word “visionary” in the same title with the word “Dr. Mercola” is profoundly offensive to anyone who values reason, science, and science-based medicine.

Continue reading “Joe Mercola: Proof positive that quackery sells”

Indiana creationism bill passes the Senate

The Republican dominated Indiana Senate passed, by a vote of 28-22, a bill that allows school districts to teach creationism.  The bill’s language states:

❝The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.❞

First of all, evolution doesn’t cover the origin of life, but that’s just one of those mistakes creationists always make.  I’m not sure why they’re including all the religions, possibly to show that it’s not just Christian-oriented creationist myths.  But Scientology? Continue reading “Indiana creationism bill passes the Senate”