The 2018-2019 flu season is starting to hit the historically worst months for flu, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published its interim reports for influenza activity and burden across the USA. As expected, the news isn’t good. Continue reading “2018-2019 flu season interim statistics – 7 million cases so far”
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs or GMs) are one of the most well-studied areas of biological and agricultural research. However, one of the tactics of the GMO refusers is that “there’s no proof that GMOs are safe.” It’s time to look at the GMO science facts – examining myth from science.
Typically, in a debate, the side making the assertion (those that say GMOs are unsafe) are responsible for the evidence that supports their contention. But, the anti-GMO gang relies upon the argument from ignorance, trying to force the argument to “if you can’t prove that they’re safe, they must be unsafe.”
The anti-GMO forces also like to invoke the precautionary principle, which attempts to shift the burden of proof to those who are advocating GMOs (or any new technology) until the advocates “prove” that there are absolutely no negative consequences of using GMOs.
The principle is often cited by anti-science and/or environmental activists when there is a perceived lack of evidence showing that this technology is absolutely safe.
I’ve written numerous articles about GMOs, focusing on scientific evidence supported by high-quality research. And more than a few articles debunked myths and bad research from the anti-GMO crowd. To assist those who are doing research on the topic, this article was created to be a one-stop shop for GMO science facts – and fiction.
Anyone who follows the cantankerous feathered dinosaur knows that we tend to focus on vaccines, where the anti-vaccine religion focuses on tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and outright lies. Cancer myths seem to steal from the anti-vaccine playbook by pushing similar tropes, pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies.
I keep responding to these cancer myths all across the internet, so I thought that it might be useful to list out my favorite ones. No, it would take 50,000 words to debunk all of these cancer myths. For example, the Burzynski Clinic quackery is best handled by a real cancer specialist, David Gorski, MD, who has written well over 100 articles critiquing the Burzynski pseudoscience. So I’m going to stick with my personal favorites.
So, let’s take a look at these cancer myths, and I’ll do my best to debunk them. Continue reading “Annoying cancer myths – more zombie memes that can’t be stopped”
As I wrote recently, the science is settled on “controversial” topics like vaccines and anthropogenic climate change. The science is also settled on genetically modified organisms (GMO) – real science, not anecdotes, beliefs, misinformation, and lies, tells us that genetically modified agricultural products are safe for the environment, for animals, and for humans. Now, we have a new, powerful study that shows us that GMO corn is not only safe but also increases production of corn.
GMOs are one of those modern technologies that many people avoid, mainly for irrational and unscientific reasons. Of course, many people push fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about GMOs using little or no scientific evidence to support their claims.
But I’m here to provide real, published, peer-reviewed scientific evidence that contradicts that fear about GMOs – well, at least about GMO corn. Continue reading “GMO corn – safe and more productive according to new meta-review”
If you are worried about your cardiovascular health, one of the things you want to avoid is salt. This was based on ancient research that seems to show even moderate salt intake could do all kinds of bad things for your cardiovascular system.
I was always skeptical of these claims because if you’ve got a healthy set of kidneys, the body has an amazing ability to regulate salt levels in the body. Of course, maybe there is some level of salt consumption that increases the blood pressure, cause retention of water, and other issues that lead to cardiovascular issues.
Recently, a very large prospective epidemiological study examined levels of salt consumption versus cardiovascular events. What did they find? Only high levels of salt consumption are linked to cardiovascular health. Continue reading “Salt and cardiovascular health – not as evil as we once thought”
Many of us on the evidence side of science discussions will often throw out the phrase that XYZ is settled science. Of course, this causes the science deniers, especially the vaccine and climate change deniers, to get all indignant while throwing out there science ignorance wrapped in their usual ad hominem personal attacks. I use it frequently, about 25% of the time to troll the science deniers while about 75% of the time to make a point.
So this article is going to review what we mean by “settled science,” and it doesn’t mean what the pseudoscience loving world thinks it means. In fact, pseudoscience fans think the only “settled science” is their fake evidence and fake conclusions. But that’s not science and it’s not “settled science.”
Now, you might ask about why I chose climate change and vaccines as the two settled science examples. There are good reasons – conservatives who accept vaccines often reject climate change, even though the evidence supporting both are overwhelming. And there are those on the left who get angry about climate change denial, yet accept every pseudoscientific argument, conspiracy theory, and lie about vaccines. It makes my brand new irony meter blow up. Continue reading “Settled science of climate change and vaccines – critiquing denialism again”
Like all medical procedures, devices, and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect – there are rare vaccine adverse events. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication.
Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable. But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check the packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx).
But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living. Continue reading “Vaccine adverse events are rare – vast benefits outweigh small risks”
Since it’s the end of the year, and all good bloggers do some sort of 2018 top ten list. Of course, I’ve been doing this since 2012, so it’s a tradition. At least for the last seven years.
My 2018 top ten list actually is voted on by you, the loyal reader. I don’t choose this list, it’s just the top 10 (with a couple of bonuses) most read articles published on this website. Sadly, some of my favorite articles didn’t make it to the top, but maybe what interests me doesn’t interest you. I can live with that.
So here we go. I think there’s a drum roll somewhere.
The official 2018 top ten list of articles
- Nick Catone son dies tragically – blaming vaccines with no evidence. An article by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss describing a sad story where parents try to blame vaccines, yet there is little evidence supporting such a belief.
- Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy. This article is a list of everything the feathered dinosaur has written about the HPV vaccine or Gardasil. Let’s summarize – the vaccine is safe and it prevents cancer.
- MTHFR gene and vaccines – what are the facts and myths – the MTHFR gene is one of the canards of the anti-vaccine religion – they believe it’s got something to do with vaccines. It doesn’t.
- The Medical Medium – junk medicine with psychic reading – The Medical Medium is one of the most creepy individuals pushing pseudo-medicine. He thinks he can use psychic reading to diagnose and treat serious medical conditions. I’m glad people are reading this article to find out facts about this charlatan.
- Colon detoxification – myth versus science. People think that detoxing is useful. It isn’t.
- MSG myth – debunked with real science. MSG is just a simple amino acid that is part of the structure of nearly every protein that one consumes. It has no effect on human physiology unless we throw in observation bias and a dash of racism.
- Tetyana Obukhanych – another anti-vaccine appeal to false authority. Obukhanych is someone who has what appears to be sterling credentials but denies science to push false claims about vaccines. This is why we should always ignore all credentials.
- Marijuana medical benefits – large review finds very few. Marijuana advocates try to push a narrative that cannabis has medical benefits, usually to create some level of credibility for marijuana legalization. However, real science shows us that marijuana only has a few medical uses. And it has no effect on cancer.
- Japan banned Gardasil – another ridiculous anti-vaccine myth. This trope, based on really no good information, is one of the favorites of the anti-vaccine world. Gardasil is still available in Japan.
- Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food. This article was first written during the early Cretaceous, yet it is still the most popular article ever written here. It has been read over 120,000 times, which is amazing as blog articles go. The basic facts are that pseudoscience-loving foodies misread an article thinking that bananas contain a protein called tumor necrosis factor. Bananas don’t. Even if they did, you cannot absorb tumor necrosis factor, since it will be broken down in the digestive tract into amino acids. And even if you could absorb it, the factor does not kill cancer. In fact TNF increases inflammation which increases risk of cancer. But it’s not in bananas, so this is all irrelevant.
2018 top ten list – bonus #11
Argument by Vaccine Package Inserts – they’re not infallible – anti-vaxxers constantly misread and misrepresent what is written in package inserts. Why do they do this? Because all of the clinical and epidemiological evidence contradicts their claims, so they resort to cherry picking information out of the insert to support their claims. If only they read this article, they’d understand what a package insert is or isn’t.
2018 top ten list – bonus #12
Gardasil killed Colton Berrett? The evidence does not support this claim. This is another tragic story of a child’s life taken too early. But the parents, manipulated by the Vaxxed fraudumentary team, want to blame the HPV vaccine. But the vast mountain of evidence tells us that it wasn’t the vaccine. We should tire of this fake new pushed by the anti-vaccine religion, but they persist, because, once again, they lack evidence for their claims so they move to blatant emotional manipulation. They’re vile people.
And that’s it for 2018
It’s been a very successful year for the old feathered dinosaur’s blog. We’ve had almost 2.5 million views of articles, and over 10 million hits. It remains one of the most popular websites on the internet, ranking in the top 300,000 websites – I know what you’re thinking, that the old Skeptical Raptor isn’t Facebook or Twitter. And it isn’t. However, since there are over 1.8 billion websites on the internet, it means that this website ranks in the 0.00167% of all of the websites in the world. As I joke frequently to friends, I remember cheering when I hit 100 visitors…for a whole freaking month.
I’m planning to do a few things a bit different in 2019. I’m going to do a weekly article on an interesting clinical or epidemiological study that crosses my desk. These articles will be outside of my normal articles on pseudoscience – they may be on psychiatric or cardiovascular drugs. They may look at new medical technologies.
Finally, I want to thank all of the readers who have made my articles here and the cross posts at the Daily Kos so popular. I really appreciate the support, kind words, and vibrant discussions. Time to watch my undergrad and graduate schools play football games – hopefully, they win. And to cheer against Notre Dame and Alabama. Well, Notre Dame lost badly, so that made me smile.
Everyone, please have a safe and fun New Year’s celebration. And have a Happy 2019. May Trump please be indicted – that will make my year the best.
On 26 December 2018, Sanofi and Merck jointly announced (pdf) FDA approval for a new hexavalent vaccine called Vaxelis. The new vaccine was developed to vaccinate children aged 6 weeks to 4 years old to protect them against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B (also known as Hib). Sanofi and Merck stated that the companies are setting up production, and the vaccine should be available in the USA by 2020.
This new (for the USA) hexavalent vaccine is intended for intramuscular injection as a 3-dose series given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. However, the initial dose may be given to infants as early as 6 weeks. The vaccine may be used to complete the hepatitis B immunization series. However, one additional dose of a pertussis-containing vaccine must be added to the 3-dose hexavalent vaccine schedule to complete the immunization against pertussis.
This vaccine will reduce the number of separate vaccinations from at least 4 down to 1. Reducing the number of times an infant needs to receive a shot is a benefit to the child, the parents, and the healthcare workers who perform the vaccinations.
Sanofi, Merck, and GSK have produced various formulations of this hexavalent vaccine outside of the USA since 2000. Merck and Sanofi submitted the application for this vaccine to the FDA in 2014 after completion of phase III clinical trials, which included over 1400 infants. The clinical trial showed that the new vaccine was equivalent, in terms of safety and effectiveness, to the older series of individual vaccines.
As discussed previously, spurious claims that hexavalent vaccines lack antigens and other nonsense have been debunked.
I am not sure why this vaccine took nearly two decades to reach the US market, but I’m sure someone in the anti-vaccine religion will invent some ridiculous conspiracy theory to say why. Nevertheless, this hexavalent vaccine is a very important addition to the list of vaccines available in the USA.
In spite of the FDA approval, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will need to review all of the data again before making a recommendation to change the US vaccination schedule. That will probably happen during the next couple of years.
This new hexavalent vaccine is a great benefit to preventing diseases that harm our children. I’m glad it’s coming to the USA.
- Marshall GS, Adams GL, Leonardi ML, Petrecz M, Flores SA, Ngai AL, Xu J, Liu G, Stek JE, Foglia G, Lee AW. Immunogenicity, Safety, and Tolerability of a Hexavalent Vaccine in Infants. Pediatrics. 2015 Aug;136(2):e323-32. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-4102. PubMed PMID: 26216331.
Listen to the radio for a few minutes. Or watch late night television for a bit. Through the commercials hawking insurance with talking geckos, promoting treatments for erectile dysfunction, and, exhibiting the coolest, fastest, most fuel-efficient car, you will run across the reason for all that ails you–your failure to use colon detoxification to fix your problems.
Colon detoxification or, sometimes, cleansing is one of those strange alternative medicine ideas that hang around without one single bit of evidence supporting it. We’re going to take a look at it with the feathery dinosaur’s skeptical eye. Continue reading “Colon detoxification – myth versus science”