GMO DNA transfers to humans – debunking a pernicious myth

GMO DNA

I keep reading of an annoying claim that GMO DNA transfers to humans easily, so that’s why we should be scared of it. Some of this belief is based on a poorly designed study that may, or really may not, indicate that plant GMO genes transfer to humans. These “researchers” claim that DNA may survive intact in the digestive tract and show up in the bloodstream.

Someone flunked basic human physiology and cell biology when they made this claim since it’s nearly biologically implausible to consider this to be real. Many of us have actually passed these courses so we are very skeptical.

In case you’ve ignored this area of false controversy, genetically modified crops are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Of course, all types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes.

Based on some of the worst science available, the anti-GMO activists have condemned GMO foods as being dangerous. Unfortunately for the anti-science side, there is actually no science supporting these anti-GMO claims, and the vast scientific consensus says that GMO foods are safe to humans, animals, and the environment.

Let’s take a look at this paper that claims that GMO DNA gets into the human bloodstream. 

Continue reading “GMO DNA transfers to humans – debunking a pernicious myth”

Pseudoscience vs science – former is fake, the latter is fact for vaccines

pseudoscience vs science

Pseudoscience vs science – the former is a belief system that uses the trappings of science without the rigorous methodologies that value 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 it oversimplifies the understanding of the natural universe. Pseudoscience is the basis of alternative medicine, creationism, the anti-vaccine religion, 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 ideas. It really is appealing because it oversimplifies complex systems and ideas.

For example, alternative medicine relies on this pseudoscience by creating the illusion that medicine can be really easy if you drink this blueberry kale shake, you will have a 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. In fact, science has failed to establish the clinical usefulness of most alternative medicine (CAM) therapies.

Because I can’t help writing about vaccines, the pseudoscience vs science discourse applies perfectly to it. Pseudoscience uses logical fallacies, anecdotes, and misinformation to make it appear there is evidence supporting the anti-vaccine beliefs. Real science has debunked the claim that “there is a proven link between vaccines and autism,” a common and rather dangerous belief of the anti-vaccine world. 

This article will explore the pseudoscience vs science debate (not really a debate) by examining 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. Continue reading “Pseudoscience vs science – former is fake, the latter is fact for vaccines”

The great vaccine debate – only exists in the brains of anti-vaxxers

Lately, I’ve seen ludicrous articles from the anti-vaccine religion demanding a vaccine debate between the well-known pseudoscience liars, like Robert F Kennedy, Jr and Del Bigtree, and legitimate vaccine scientists and experts. I always laugh, and then I always recommend not participating.

The problem is that if you pay attention to any scientific topic, like climate change, evolution, and, yes, vaccines, you’d think that some scientific principles were actually being debated by scientists. The unfiltered information about important scientific subjects allows the science deniers to use a false equivalency to make it appear that the minority and scientifically unsupported point of view is equivalent to the scientific consensus which is always based on huge amounts of published evidence.

From listening to the screaming and yelling, you would think that there is a great vaccine debate. Or an evolution debate. Or a climate change debate. 

There aren’t any debates in any of those (and hundreds of other) scientific topics. Just because someone, like RFK Jr or Bigtree, thinks that there is some “debate,” it doesn’t mean there actually is one. All that happens is one side, almost always the science deniers, use misinformation, lies, anecdotes, and pseudoscience while attempting to scream and yell as loud as possible, then claim they’ve won.

Science can’t be debated. And there is no vaccine debate. Continue reading “The great vaccine debate – only exists in the brains of anti-vaxxers”

Pesticides cause autism – the scientific evidence is quite weak

pesticides cause autism

Along with the thoroughly debunked “vaccines cause autism,” a related trope is pesticides cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The evidence that supports that claim is fairly weak, possibly nonexistent, but that’s what we do here – examine the evidence.

For reasons beyond the scope of this blog and my interests, parents need to find blame for why their children may have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  A few years ago, Emily Willingham, Ph.D., whom I consider to be one of the leading ASD scientific experts on this planet, wrote a hysterical and scientifically skeptical article about all of the popular causes of ASD. Older mothers. Older fathers. Depressed mothers. Fingers. Facial features. Facial features?

Today, I keep seeing the new claim that pesticides cause autism. Time to see what kind of science supports this claim. Continue reading “Pesticides cause autism – the scientific evidence is quite weak”

Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines

hierarchy of scientific evidence

I am a scientific skeptic. It means that I pursue published scientific evidence to support or refute a scientific or medical principle. I am not a cynic, often conflated with skepticism. I don’t have an opinion about these ideas. Scientific skepticism depends on the quality and quantity of evidence that supports a scientific idea. And examining the hierarchy of scientific evidence can be helpful in deciding what is good data and what is bad. What can be used to form a conclusion, and what is useless.

That’s how science is done. And I use the hierarchy of scientific evidence to weigh the quality along with the quantity of evidence in reaching a conclusion. I am generally offended by those who push pseudoscience – they generally try to find evidence that supports their predetermined beliefs. That’s not science, that’s the opposite of good science.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant news made up of memes and a couple of hundred character analyses flying across social media make it difficult to determine what is real science and what is not. Sometimes we create an internal false balance, assuming that headlines (often written to be clickbait) on one side are somehow equivalent to another side. So, we think there’s a scientific debate when there isn’t one.

When I write about a topic, I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful and nuanced (with a touch of snark) articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I also know science is hard. It’s difficult.

Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science – and we see that most of what we find on the internet that claims to be science is not. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking about science, but they fail to differentiate between good and bad evidence.

But there is a way to make this easier. Not easy, just easier. This is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) method to evaluating scientific research quality across the internet.

Continue reading “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines”

Jane Orient, the anti-vaccine, climate change denier, right-wing quack MD

Jane Orient

Well, one of the most obnoxious anti-vaccine, right-wing, science denying MDs, Jane Orient, is back in the limelight. And she’s pushing the same old pseudoscience about climate change as she has about vaccines, HIV, and other sciences.

Let’s take a look at what she wrote. And why she’s an ignoramus about science, whether it’s vaccines or climate change. Continue reading “Jane Orient, the anti-vaccine, climate change denier, right-wing quack MD”

George Clooney PSA for good science including vaccines

George Clooney vaccines

George Clooney goes after all kinds of science deniers, including the anti-vaccine religion. Of course, Clooney may know more about vaccines when he played pediatrician Dr. Doug Ross on ER than most anti-vaxxers and their lame Google University degree

As a bonus, George Clooney goes after evolution deniers too. 

 

Yeah, I know, this is just clickbait to have George Clooney in the headline. Well, if that gets someone to check out some snark about the anti-vaxxers, I’ll accept that!

Zombie pig brains – once again, internet exaggerate scientific results

I’m sure many of you read the news – scientists somehow made pig brains come back to life a few hours after the pigs died. Of course, most news sites had to produced clickbait headlines, and since most people don’t read beyond those headlines, there is a whole new mythos about these zombie pig brains. 

We’re here to correct some of that information. Hopefully, a few people will look beyond the headline to examine the science rather than fall for pseudoscientific dreck. Continue reading “Zombie pig brains – once again, internet exaggerate scientific results”

Scientific skepticism – the anti-vaccine zealots regularly misuse the term

scientific skepticism

I use nom de plume of Skeptical Raptor because I like avian dinosaurs (birds) and because I adhere to scientific skepticism. Unfortunately, one of the most misappropriated words among the anti-vaccine crowd is skeptic, or for those of you who prefer the Queen’s English, sceptic. 

Way before I started writing this blog, I disliked the word, actually quite a bit, because I believed it had no meaning in science. But I’ve embraced it over the past few years, and I now get offended when it’s misused. The problem with the word “skeptic” is that it is used differently in different circumstances, much like scientific theory has a different meaning in a formal scientific context than it does in common vernacular.

Let’s take a look at what is scientific skepticism, just so that we are all on the same page. Continue reading “Scientific skepticism – the anti-vaccine zealots regularly misuse the term”

Google University equals research for anti-vaccine pseudoscience

Google University

I’m sure everyone has run into the type – a science denier who thinks their two hours at Google University makes them as knowledgeable as a real physician or scientist. This arrogance manifests itself in ridiculous discussions with anti-vaccine religious nutjobs who claim to have “done the research,” and who believe their pseudoscientific research is more valuable than real scientific research.

This Google University education from vaccine deniers, really all science deniers, can be frustrating. I frequent a couple of large Facebook groups that try to help on-the-fence anti-vaxxers understand what constitutes evidence and what doesn’t with respect to vaccines. Recently, one of the anti-vaccine true believers kept saying she knew more than a nurse with a public health master’s degree. The arrogant anti-vaxxer kept claiming that she “did her research.”

Hang on. The old dinosaur needs to slam his head on the desk.

Because of this absurd overvaluing of their Google University research, I want to review a handful of points that every science denier seems to use that makes us laugh. All but one applies to any type of science denial, but we’re sticking with vaccines. Because we can. Continue reading “Google University equals research for anti-vaccine pseudoscience”