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Michael Simpson

Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science

I am a big fan of science fiction with a few caveats. Make it fun or horrifying, preferably both, and scientifically plausible. Science fiction by its very nature is fiction and should stretch the bounds of human imagination, but it should, at least, follow the basic principles of physics. For example, many science fiction movies require faster than light (FTL) travel, which is right at the edge of impossibility unless we are able to harness massive amounts of energy, suspend some of our current laws and understandings of physics, and adjustments for substantial time-effect conundrums, where someone traveling faster than light will be much younger than those who do not. But at least the writers of those shows make up terminology and gadgets that deal with it. Warp drives. Subspace communications. They try.Read More »Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science

Vaccines don’t cause autism, but the anti-vaccine hysteria endures

In 1998, Mr. Andy Wakefield published his now famous study in the Lancet, a respected medical journal, that claimed that the MMR vaccination (for measles, mumps and rubella) caused neurological disorders, especially autism, in children. His study was not well accepted by the medical community back in 1998, because of the small sample size and somewhat subjective analysis. However, science works this way. Someone proposes a hypothesis, and many scientists will jump to study it in larger and better designed studies. But Wakefield’s study became the center of the anti-vaccine universe.

So, since 1998, there have been over 250 studies published that absolutely refute Mr. Wakefield’s hypothesis. Assuming that 75% of those studies were primary studies, which cost around $5-50 million each, then nearly $1 billion has been spent trying to confirm (or refute) Wakefield’s findings. And then we find out that Mr. Wakefield engaged in a massive fraud for personal gain, which can only lead us to conclude that the $1 billion was wasted. Maybe that $1 billion could have been used to find a real underlying cause of autism, instead of trying to support or nullify the original hypothesis.

Read More »Vaccines don’t cause autism, but the anti-vaccine hysteria endures

Creationism in South Korea–evolution denialism spreads

Kia Soul at the Creation Museum ®Hooniverse, 2012

Creationism sometimes considered a purely American issue resulting from  right wing Christian fundamentalism. Of course, many people understand that fundamentalist Islamic states have a similar point of view towards evolution. Ironic, isn’t it? Antievolution forces do exist in other countries, but they seldom have the ability to push their religious beliefs into the educational system of those countries. Except, that’s not quite true.Read More »Creationism in South Korea–evolution denialism spreads

Identifying science denialism and pseudoscience

Science denialism, a form of pseudoscience, is everywhere these days. There’s the oft-discussed vaccination denialists who refuse to vaccinate children because they believe that vaccines cause some condition (usually autism), and Big Pharma hides evidence. Or AIDS denialists who believe that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Or global warming deniers who think that either global warming isn’t happening or, if it is, it’s not caused by human activities. Or evolution denialists, like Ken Ham, who think that one hundred years of scientific research can be ignored for a book that was written 5000 years ago to help illiterate pastoral farmers understand the natural world. It’s not just science, of course, there are Holocaust deniers, who think that no Jews were killed by the Nazis. There are even 9/11 deniers (usually called truthers) who think that Big Government (probably in league with Big Pharma) is hiding the truth about what really happened on 9/11.Read More »Identifying science denialism and pseudoscience

Housekeeping notes: Logical Fallacies and RationalWiki

There have been a couple of significant changes to this website to provide more information to the reader in the ongoing discourse of skepticism vs. irrationality. And by irrationality, of course, we mean anything pseudoscientific.

First, the Logical Fallacies FAQ has been thoroughly updated to make some sections more easy to read, add some better examples of the fallacy, and new external links. Also, in the sidebar, you can download the whole FAQ into a pdf file for use later. There are more detailed descriptions of logical fallacies out in the internet, but most of them are intense and detailed descriptions of the logic behind the illogic. Most of us, as readers of blogs, tend to have a limited amount of time, so having a quick reference on various fallacies should help get through various articles quickly.Read More »Housekeeping notes: Logical Fallacies and RationalWiki

Americans believe that dinosaurs lived with humans

Shocking news once again–a new Gallup poll claims that the rate of acceptance of evolution in the United States is “essentially unchanged” over the past few years. The recent poll from Gallup asked “which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin an development of human beings:”

  • 32% of the respondents accepted “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process,” 
  • 15% accepted “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process,” and 
  • 46% accepted “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

Read More »Americans believe that dinosaurs lived with humans

Measles complications–consequences of the anti-vaccine hysteria

Angelina at five, just before onset of SSPE

This article has been substantially updated, please go there. There is also another article about a separate measles/SSPE case in Italy.

One of the memes of the vaccine denialists is that childhood diseases, like measles or whooping cough, are not dangerous. In fact, some parents have set up “pox parties” to deliberately expose their children to these diseases, because anti-vaccine lunatics believe (with all evidence against their beliefs, typical of any science denialist) that natural immunity is better than a vaccine induced immunity. Not only is that an Appeal to Nature fallacy, but it shows ignorance on how immunity occurs.

Already this year, two children have died in the United States as a result of whooping cough. And there’s probably more, because of under-reporting.

Read More »Measles complications–consequences of the anti-vaccine hysteria