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Christopher Shaw

Man the barricades against the anti HPV vaccine barbarians

During my long years in scientific research and medical device product development, one of the great goals that is often repeated (rarely by the researchers themselves but politicians and the public) is a prevention or “cure” for cancer. Setting aside the simple fact that there are over 250 different cancers, each with its own cause(s), pathophysiology, prognosis and cure(s), and setting aside the fact that we can cure some cancers, albeit with radical treatments, simple prevention and cures have been elusive.

Many people have hyped foods or supplements as “natural” prevention for cancers, but the evidence that any of these things work is missing. Or a myth. Or just don’t work.

Actually, one of the best ways to prevent cancer is get immunized against certain cancer causing viruses. And there is one medical discovery that can prevent one of these viruses. It’s easy to get the prevention. It’s very safe. And it really works.Read More »Man the barricades against the anti HPV vaccine barbarians

Evaluating scientific research quality for better skeptical analysis

This article has been substantially updated, and can be read here. Please read and comment at the newer article.

One of the most tiresome discussions that a scientific skeptic has when debunking and refuting pseudoscience or junk science (slightly different variations of the same theme) is what constitutes real evidence. You’d think that would be easy, “scientific evidence” should be the gold standard, but really, there is a range of evidence from garbage to convincing.

So this is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) method to evaluating scientific research quality across the internet. This is a major update of my original article on this topic, with less emphasis on Wikipedia, and more detail about scientific authority and hierarchy of evidence.

In today’s world of instant news, with memes and 140 character analyses flying across social media pretending to present knowledge in a manner that makes it appear authoritative. Even detailed, 2000 word articles that I write are often considered to be too long, and people only read the title or the concluding paragraph. This happens all the time in the amateur science circles specifically. For example, many people only read the abstract and, even there, only the conclusion of the abstract for scientific articles.

Read More »Evaluating scientific research quality for better skeptical analysis

Not all scientific articles are equal in science

vaccine-saves-30000-lilvesIn evaluating a scientific claim made by anyone, the only thing that matters is the quality and quantity of evidence. It does matter who is making the claim, it does not matter if you believe their claim, and it does not matter if they make a powerful emotional argument–absent real evidence, it is nothing but words.

When discussing the validity of a scientific or medical claim, some people accept that there is a hierarchy of scientific sources, from nearly worthless (that would be anything from Mercola or Natural News) to scientifically significant systematic reviews. But a lot of people think that if it is published, without any regards to where or how it was peer-reviewed, it signifies the scientific consensus, period, end of discussion. Some will abuse PubMed, the US National Library of Medicine’s powerful search engine, searching for the one article that supports their “beliefs,” while ignoring the 1000 other articles that don’t.

Or how some individuals will use the obscure cell culture study to support their claim that XYZ prevents cancer, while completely ignoring all other evidence that cell culture studies are just an early phase of research, and until it’s confirmed in a large clinical trial with human subjects, the cell culture study barely ranks above conjecture or speculation.Read More »Not all scientific articles are equal in science

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:

[pullquote]❝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[/pullquote]

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

[pullquote]❝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[/pullquote]Read More »Logical fallacies Part 1-Anti-vaccination gang’s naturalistic fallacy