Developing and supporting a scientific consensus

In my writing, I often refer to the scientific consensus, which is the collective opinion and judgement of scientists in a particular field of study. This consensus implies general agreement, though disagreement is limited and generally insignificant.

The major difference between a scientific theory and a scientific consensus is that the theory is essentially fact. It is so predictive, it is supported by so much evidence, and it is so well accepted, it takes an almost ridiculous amount of data to refute it, though it is possible.

In the hierarchy of scientific principles, we often mention 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.

We want to focus on the scientific consensus, describing what it is. Take a deep breath, because this is a complicated one.

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Is a Gardasil researcher really against the vaccine?

gardasil researcher

This article about Dr. Diane Harper has been recently updated. The comments here are closed, so please comment at the new article. 

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded belief system about immunizations, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, logical fallacies, misinterpretation of data, or Italian provincial courts to make their case about the lack of safety of vaccines.

It’s rather easy to debunk these claims, but because of the nature of the internet, old news is recycled as “brand new,” requiring a whole new round of blog posts to discredit the misinformation. It’s impossible to recall one single instance where a vaccine refuser made a statement about vaccines that was not, in fact, rather quickly debunked. Not one.

The pro-children’s health side, those of us who think that vaccines save lives, have been winning the hearts and minds for awhile, given that still around 95% of children in the USA get all of their immunizations prior to entering kindergarten. But that doesn’t stop the refusers from trying, because various zombie anti-vaccination memes keep reappearing, especially since the successful pro-vaccine bill was signed into law in California.

One of the latest ones involves a so-called lead Gardasil researcher, Dr. Diane Harper, a former “consultant” to Merck (and GSK, who manufacturers Cervarix, a bivalent HPV vaccine), who apparently had some research role in the clinical trials of the HPV vaccines. But what are the facts?

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A list of flu vaccine refusing dumb asses

Every flu season, I resurrect this hysterical and snarky by Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Mark Crislip which was originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses, a list of the different types of flu vaccine refusing dumb asses. This list is a tradition that goes back to the early days of this website.

And it’s that time of year to get your flu vaccine, so I resurrect this fine piece of snarkfest.

Yes, complete and utter Dumb Asses. Even though this broadside is about flu vaccine refusing dumb asses, it’s all right to search and replace flu with say meningitis, pertussis, measles or any other vaccine. And just because it’s about healthcare workers, it’s all right to replace that with your neighbor, co-worker, or some other anti-scientific antivaccination Dumb Ass.

The upcoming 2015-2016 flu season is just starting, and many physicians and clinics (along with many pharmacies, government flu clinics, and other places) have this season’s flu vaccine. One of the best ways, if not the only real way, to boost your immune system against the flu is the seasonal flu vaccine.

And it’s time for intelligent, reasonable, and rational people to get their flu shots. We’ve dispensed with many of the myths that are cherished by vaccine refusers, and many reseachers have shown that getting the flu vaccine can improve health outcomes.

Warning: this is funny (unless you’re a vaccine denier, in which case you have no sense of humor, irony or sarcasm, something probably gained by getting vaccinated). So, if you’re reading this list while sipping on coffee, I take no responsibility for damage to your computer, smart phone, or tablet if you snort out your drink. Them’s the rules.  Continue reading “A list of flu vaccine refusing dumb asses”

Dr. Diane Harper and HPV vaccines–the tin foil hat version

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in August 2013. This article has been updated and re-published in a new article. The comments for this article are closed, so please comment in the new article.

I have written in the past about Dr. Diane Harper, a former Merck & Co. researcher who apparently had some management role in the clinical trials of the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe), which blocks the transmission of several types of  human papillomavirus (HPV).

There are very few actions one can take in life to prevent even one of the 250 different types of cancer. Stop smoking. Keep a healthy weight. Stay out of the sun. And get an actual cancer preventing vaccine, like Gardasil.

The HPV cancer prevention vaccine is a vitally important part of the war against infectious diseases and some types of cancer. This vaccine blocks infection by several types of HPV. which are linked to approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and cause most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. These HPV-related cancers can be prevented as long as you can prevent the HPV infection itself, which are generally passed through genital contact, most often during vaginal, oral and anal sex.

According to the dark recesses of the internet that are devoted to the cause of denying the value of vaccines, Dr. Harper had decided to “come clean” about Gardasil so that she could “sleep at night.”

The antivaccination world has attached themselves to this story, because they think it uncovers a conspiracy or lies by the vaccine manufacturers, since obviously Dr. Harper escaped from the evil clutches of Big Pharma. And because antivaccinationists do their “research” by Google, of course, this story keeps getting repeated until it becomes The Truth™.

Continue reading “Dr. Diane Harper and HPV vaccines–the tin foil hat version”

The one vaccine clinical trial design to rule them all

If you spend time observing the “vaccine debate” (it’s not a debate), you’ll hear every dumb argument to deny science. But one thing that you’ll see repeatedly from the antivaccination cults are that they would support vaccinations if there were better vaccine clinical trial design.

The problem with the cult’s demand for better vaccine clinical trial design is really one of several moving targets for their denialism, relying on a form of the Argument from ignorance, claiming that if we can’t absolutely “prove” that vaccines are safe, then it must be absolutely unsafe.

For example, there are literally thousands of articles,  ( an example here and was discussed here), that actually provide overwhelming evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines using real science, real statistics, and real hard work. The antithesis of the fake science, bogus statistics, and 2 hours of Google.

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Bill Gates vaccines save lives – Part 2

One of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research and bringing healthcare (including vaccinations) to underdeveloped countries is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), founded by Bill & Melinda Gates using their vast Microsoft wealth. I have always favored capitalism, and believe there is no particular moral code associated with accumulating wealth. It is, however, wonderful that they have decided to use their wealth to help humanity.

As strong supporters of vaccines, the Gates have become one of the leading targets of the vaccine denialists who use a bunch of outright lies to attack his good works. Bill Gates vaccines save lives. Now I know that Bill Gates did not invent these vaccines, but the attacks on him make it seem like he did.

These personal attacks remind me of Ernst’s Law, which states “If you are researching complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and you are not hated by the CAM world, you’re not doing it right.” 

For vaccines, I guess we should we create a corollary of the law, “if you are supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccinations for children, and you are not hated by vaccine denialists, you’re not doing it right.” I think I want to call this corollary “Offit’s Law,” named for Paul Offit, a tireless supporter of vaccines who has been the target of lies and hatred, or even “Gate’s Law.”  Continue reading “Bill Gates vaccines save lives – Part 2”

Boosting the immune system – sorting science from myth

boosting the immune system

This article has been updated and republished to clear up some points, and add another section. The comments for this article are closed, please comment at the new article.

One of the most ridiculous pseudoscientific claims that I keep hearing from the junk medicine crowd is that this supplement or that food is critical to boosting the immune system – it’s so prevalent that I believe I read it several times a day.

These type of claims ignore one basic physiological fact: the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, and molecules that prevents invasion of the body by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens every day. And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize how complicated the immune system is by claiming that downing a few tablets of echinacea will boost the immune system to prevent colds (it doesn’t), it doesn’t make it science.

And it isn’t that simple.

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Italian court says vaccines cause autism – wrong

mmr autism

So, here we ago again with the trope that “courts confirm that vaccines cause autism.” It all started when I saw a Facebook meme (the lazy person’s way of transmitting information) that stated that some obscure Italian court rules that MMR causes autism. These memes are backed up by blog posts from the usual suspects claiming that courts are confirming that vaccines cause autism mostly based on a oft-ridiculed year-old Italian Provincial Court ruling.

So now because an Italian court says vaccines cause autism (well, actually more specifically the MMR vaccine), we get to reject the mountains of evidence that state unequivocally that vaccines do not cause autism.

If this were just a one-off issue with vaccine denialism in the Italian court system, we could all make mocking jokes about Italy, but apparently it keeps happening.

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Bill Gates vaccinations in Africa – antivaccine hatred

The antivaccination cult really despises Bill Gates’ vaccinations in Africa. Not that he actually gives the vaccines, his foundation supports vaccinating kids in Africa, so that they have a better chance to survive.

One of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research and bringing healthcare (including vaccinations) to underdeveloped countries is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationlocated in Seattle, Washington.

There is nothing more admirable and moral than a person who has built incredible wealth, and then decides to give it back to the world in a way that cannot be measure monetarily. Bill Gates’ foundation is working to eradicate polio and HIV in countries where they are the some of the leading causes of death.

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The myth of Gardasil researcher Diane Harper – debunked

Diane Harper

This article is out of date, and an article about Dr. Diane Harper has been substantially updated with new information and background. The comments have been closed, please comment on the revised article. 

Because vaccine deniers lack any scientific evidence supporting their unfounded belief system about immunizations, they tend to rely upon unscientific information like anecdotes, misinterpretation of data, or ignorant Italian provincial courts to make their case. It’s rather easy to debunk these claims, but because of the nature of the internet, old news is recycled as “brand new,” requiring a whole new round of blog posts to discredit the misinformation. It’s impossible to recall one single instance where a vaccine refuser made a statement about vaccines that was not, in fact, rather quickly debunked. Not one.

The pro-children’s health side, those of us who think that vaccines save lives, have been winning the hearts and minds for awhile, given that still around 95% of children in the USA get all of their immunizations prior to entering kindergarten. But that doesn’t stop the refusers from trying, because it’s apparent that the we have gone 360º, so a batch of old anti-vaccination memes are making the rounds again.

One of the latest ones involves the so-called lead Gardasil researcher, Dr. Diane Harper, a former Merck & Co. employee who apparently had some management role in the clinical trials of the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, also known as Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe).

Continue reading “The myth of Gardasil researcher Diane Harper – debunked”