Pseudoscience is bullshit and science is definitely not

pseudoscience is bullshit

Pseudoscience and science – the former is a belief system that uses the trappings of science without the rigorous methodologies that values evidence. The latter is an actual rational methodology to discover facts about the natural universe. Pseudoscience is bullshit. Science is rational knowledge.

Pseudoscience is seductive to many people partially because it’s not only easy to comprehend, but also because it creates black and white false dichotomies about the natural universe. This fake science is the basis of alternative medicine, astrology, and many other “fields” that true believers try to say is science.

Pseudoscience tries to make an argument with the statement of “it’s been proven to work”, “the link is proven”, or, alternatively, they state some negative about scientifically supported therapies. It really  has an appeal to it because it digests complex analysis to a simple “yes, this works.”

Alternative medicine relies on this pseudoscience by creating the illusion that medicine can be really easy if you drink this kale shake, and you will have 100% chance of avoiding all cancer. Real science based medicine provides real clinical information about every cancer, how it can be treated, and what the real prognosis is.

Acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, and many other “alternative medicine” beliefs are pseudoscience. They simply lack robust evidence to support their efficacy.

For example, real science has debunked the “there is a proven link between vaccines and autism,” a common and rather dangerous belief.  Real science has failed to establish the clinical usefulness of most alternative medicine (CAM) therapies.

We will also explore what exactly makes an idea scientific (and spoiler alert, it isn’t magic), and contrary the logic of science, what makes an idea “pseudoscientific.” So sit down, grab your favorite reading beverage, because this isn’t going to be a quick internet meme. Pseudoscience is bullshit, and let me show it to you. Continue reading “Pseudoscience is bullshit and science is definitely not”

Japan bans Gardasil – debunking myths about the HPV vaccine

Japan bans Gardasil

One of the most popular zombie memes and tropes of the anti-vaccination movement is that Japan bans Gardasil – oh noes! Of course, like a lot of the junk information passed along by the anti-vaccine crowd, it’s completely false, unless you’re willing to take anything they say on faith.

There are a couple of consistent trends in the anti-vaccine movement. They claim that vaccines cause autism (disproved with the highest quality of evidence); and they maintain that the HPV vaccines cause all kinds of harm to teens and young adults. And there are literally mountains of data derived from numerous huge epidemiological studies that the Gardasil cancer preventing vaccine is one of the safest vaccines on the market (and that’s a high bar to exceed, given the high safety profiles of all vaccines).

So if you really want to prevent cancer, one of the best ways available to you is getting the HPV vaccine. The idea is so simple, yet is clouded by the myths about HPV vaccines – one of the most popular, of course, is that Japan bans Gardasil. Let’s examine this fable with a critical and skeptical eye.

The tl;dr version – Japan did no such thing.

Continue reading “Japan bans Gardasil – debunking myths about the HPV vaccine”

Vaccinate dogs – they are not going to get autism from vaccines

vaccinate dogs

We vaccinate dogs to protect them from some serious diseases that could harm our precious pooches. Rabies. Distemper. Parvovirus. Bordetella. Hepatitis. Lyme disease. Vaccine preventable diseases can devastate our canine friends, and there isn’t one good reason to keep them from the best medicine we can offer.

Not only are these diseases dangerous to our pets, but some of these diseases can be passed to us. Rabies is a horrible disease, and if a dog contracts it, they may have to be euthanized. And if that rabid dog bites a child, they have to endure a very painful series of vaccines.

No, rabies cannot be prevented by a gluten free, organic diet for your dog. We vaccinate dogs so that if they are bitten by some rabid animal, they are protected from that disease. Continue reading “Vaccinate dogs – they are not going to get autism from vaccines”

HPV vaccine safety study – biased, poor design and results

HPV vaccine safety study

If you want to read a quality HPV vaccine safety study, I can point to numerous high quality, unbiased, well-designed epidemiological studies that show that HPV vaccines are safe and very effective.

Here’s a review of a study of 200,000 subjects.

Here’s a review of a study with over 1,000,000 subjects.

Here’s a review of a study with over 2,000,000 subjects.

If you want to give us a new HPV vaccine safety study, it better have large numbers (to identify small differences in risks), be unbiased, and use some sort of control group.

Continue reading “HPV vaccine safety study – biased, poor design and results”

Religious exemption to vaccines – Indiana court rules against mother

On July 26, 2017 a Court of Appeals in Indiana interpreted a custody decree to require an unvaccinated child to be vaccinated. In doing so, it overturned an earlier, problematic ruling by a trial court. This case has important lessons for families in this situation, including the importance of the content of custody decrees, and – although it’s not clear from the decision – the importance of countering anti-vaccine, unreliable experts.  It also rejected the use of a religious exemption to vaccines to prevent the child from being vaccinated. Continue reading “Religious exemption to vaccines – Indiana court rules against mother”

Paul Offit MD – debunking the anti-vaccine tropes and myths

Paul Offit

I have long considered Paul Offit MD as one of heroes and leaders of the public discussion of how vaccines save lives, and how they have made the lives of the world’s children healthier and better. Dr. Offit, together with Edward Jenner (the father of immunology), Jonas Salk (discoverer of the polio vaccine), and Maurice Hillman (inventor of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella), should have statues place outside of every pediatric hospital in the country for the number of lives that they have saved.

Unfortunately, since Dr. Offit is considered one of the “leaders” of the pro-vaccine majority, his name has been demonized by the anti-vaccine cult. These people use the Big Liea Nazi propaganda technique where a known falsehood is repeatedly stated, then treated as if it is self-evidently true in hopes of swaying the course of an argument in a direction that takes the big lie for granted rather than critically questioning it or ignoring it.

The vaccine deniers constantly repeat untruths about Dr. Offit so that those lies eventually evolve into apparent truths, at least for those who hold onto their pseudoscientific anti-vaccine beliefs.

The problem is, of course, that if you’re a new parent who is confused by what vaccines may or may not do, you’d assume you could not accept anything that Dr. Offit says because of those Big Lies, and many of the ridiculous tropes and memes of the vaccine denialists. And this is sad.

Let’s counter the Big Lie with the Big Facts.

Continue reading “Paul Offit MD – debunking the anti-vaccine tropes and myths”

Bob Sears’ personal attacks on Paul Offit – anti-vaccine evidence

bob sears

On March 13, 2015 Dr. Bob Sears, a California antivaccine physician, wrote a post on Facebook attacking Dr. Paul Offit, pediatrician, vaccine inventor, scientist, vaccine advocate and educator.

Dr. Sears wrote:

A FAILED ATTEMPT TO CHANGE HIS NAME FROM DR. PROFIT TO DR. PROPHET

Everyone’s favorite infectious disease doctor tried to write a compelling argument as to why parents should not have religious freedom to decline vaccines, and the New York Times shot it down. Here’s a link to the Time’s review. So, sorry to help publicize this waste of trees, but the more people who know that this vaccine advocate doesn’t care about religious freedom in the United States the better. Enjoy!
Dr. Bob.

sears-facebook-1 Continue reading “Bob Sears’ personal attacks on Paul Offit – anti-vaccine evidence”

Italy mandates vaccines – another country protects its children

Italy mandates vaccines

Like what happened in France a few weeks ago, the parliament in Italy mandates vaccines for its children. Italy’s parliament gave final approval to mandating a list of childhood vaccinations for school children up to the age of 16. The goal of the legislation was to counter the anti-vaccine trend that Italian officials have attributed to misinformation.

Under these new requirements, parents must present proof of vaccinations to gain admission into preschools, while parents of children of mandatory school age face fines of up to €500 (US$591) for noncompliance. The requirements cover 10 vaccinations, including diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox. Two vaccines were dropped from an initial list of 12 – meningococcal B and meningococcal C.

During the parliamentary debate, Italian health officials faced a measles outbreak that caused the US to issue a travel warning. In addition, a scandal arose in northern Italy that involved a nurse who claimed for years to have vaccinated children but had not.

Of course, anti-vaccine activists protested outside of the parliament building using some fo the same tropes and myths pushed by those groups in the USA. In California, anti-vaccine protests were a regular event while the state legislature was considering SB277 which, in effect, mandated vaccines for the state’s children.

At the same time, the top Italian court once again found that there is no connection between vaccines and autism. Of course, science has found no correlation between vaccines and autism.

The Italian parliament was convinced by data that showed only 85.3% of Italian 2 years had been vaccinated in 2015. this is well short of the 95% herd effect threshold that is recommended by many public health agencies.

Furthermore, there were 3,232 cases of measles in Italy between January and June of 2017. This is a significant increase over the 478 cases during the same period 2016.

Governments, like France and Italy, have no choice but to reject the anti-science beliefs of segments of the population, and subsequently they mandated vaccines to protect children from diseases that can kill. Maybe if Italy had mandated these vaccines a few years ago, the children who died from measles would be alive now, sharing wonderful lives with their parents.

Right now, only California, West Virginia and Mississippi, in the United States,  eliminate all personal belief exemptions and mandate that children must be fully vaccinated before entering school. West Virginia and Mississippi have some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, and even after just one year, California’s rates are way up.

I hope that this is the early part of the trend to make vaccines mandatory. There simply is no reasonable evidence that vaccines are anything but safe and effective. Most of the reasons used by the anti-vaccine crowd is easily debunked with the simplest of scientific reasoning.

The trend to mandate vaccines are not examples of government overreach. They are attempts for cooler heads to prevail over the myths and lies pushed by those opposed to vaccines. They are attempts to make certain our children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases.

California vaccination rates – record high thanks to SB277

California vaccination rates

About two years ago, California’s governor, Jerry Brown, signed SB277 into law, which mandated that all school age children must have all vaccines appropriate for their age before they could enter private or public schools. The law nearly eliminated the ability to get personal belief exemptions (PBE), which allowed parents to object to vaccinations for almost any reason. As a result of this law, it was predicted that the California vaccination rates for school age children would increase substantially, while reducing the incidence of vaccine preventable diseases.

Those of us who have been keen observers and supporters of SB277 were hoping for the best – that the vaccination rate in the state would show increases quickly. First results, released by the California Department of Public Health in April 2017 (pdf), showed a significant increase in the percentage of California’s kindergarteners who were fully vaccinated (for their age group). The vaccination rate for kindergartners rose from 92.8% to 95.6%.

But, there was even more data from that report that supported California vaccination rates. With the advent of the new law, 97.3% of California’s kindergartners have received both MMR vaccinations, up from 94.5% in 2016 and 92.6% in 2014. The same was shown for the Tdap vaccine (for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough), which went from 94.2% in 2015 to 96.9% in 2016.

Continue reading “California vaccination rates – record high thanks to SB277”

Influenza vaccine effectiveness for elderly – fewer hospitalizations

Influenza vaccine effectiveness

The world’s population is getting older, since people live longer as a result of our modern healthcare. As people age, their bodies become less able to respond to infections and develop immunity, a process called immunosenescence. One of the most dangerous infectious diseases for the elderly is the flu. Thus, influenza vaccine effectiveness is an important factor for protecting the health of our elderly citizens. Continue reading “Influenza vaccine effectiveness for elderly – fewer hospitalizations”