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# Mathematics

## Flu vaccine ingredients – not so scary using simple math

When dealing with those pushing pseudoscience, like the antivaccination cult, the most frustrating thing is that they tend to ignore and deny the most basic tenets of science. If denying the fact of gravity would further their goals of “proving” vaccines are neither effective nor safe, they would do so. And now that it’s flu season, they’re producing zombie tropes about flu vaccine ingredients.

If the antivaccination movement didn’t lead to epidemics of long-gone diseases, which can harm and kill children, the conversation would be over. I would just put the vaccine deniers in the same group as evolution deniers (creationists) or gravity deniers (there has to be some, somewhere). I would mock their pseudoscience, and move on. Of course, their denialism does lead to deaths of children, so we have to do what is right, and stop their lies, misinformation and ignorance in every forum we can.

We have to appeal to scientific values, and despite the fact that antivaccination pushers don’t share those values, we must continue to try. I have gotten enough emails and comments from people that they have started to vaccinate because of what I have written, so maybe some child’s life is better because all of us who support vaccines are heard.

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## Bad vaccine statistics – real math is hard

Science deniers are an awfully frustrating lot. Statistical evidence seems so cut and dried to me. Unfortunately, the anti-science crowd prefers anecdotes to data. And the abuse of vaccine statistics are the worse.

Generally, science is based on evidence that is obtained through the scientific method. It is not magic. It is not a religion. Evidence is the fundamental basis of all sciences.

If science is evidence, then the basis of evidence is statistical reliability. I don’t want to oversimplify statistics, but this branch of mathematics identifies random events. Once again, statistics is difficult to grasp, yet every single paper I’ve ever read (except for the very worst) has fairly easy-to-understand statistics, once you know the lingo.

For example, most papers with vaccine statistics use a term called “relative risk,” or RR. Relative risk is the ratio of the probability of an event occurring in one group (say vaccinated) compared to a control group (not vaccinated).

An RR less than 1.0 implies that the the vaccinated group has a lower risk of an event than the control group. An RR=1.0 means that the risk is the same in both groups. Of course, an RR greater than 1.0 indicates that the vaccinated group has a higher risk than the control group.

And the size of the risk changes as numbers grow much larger or smaller than 1.0.

That statistical measurement seems easy. Undoubtedly, the calculations to reach the RR value are complex, but the top line number is fairly easy to grasp.

Nevertheless, vaccine statistics, despite being fairly straightforward, are often misinterpreted and ignored. Maybe there’s a reason for it? Let’s look.

## Simple math – the dose makes the poison

If you spend any amount of time on the internet researching science and pseudoscience, you’ll find alarming claims about toxic or poisonous substances in our foods, vaccines, air, water, and so much else. And then you’ll find a lot of people (myself included) who try to present science-based evidence that these substances are neither toxic nor poisonous.

Generally, the pseudoscience argument proceeds along the lines of “this unpronounceable chemical is going to cause cancer.” And the science (read scientific skeptic) side says “wrong!” Or something like that.

Paracelsus, a 16th century Swiss German physician, alchemist, astrologer, is traditionally thought to have founded the discipline of toxicology, an important branch of medicine, physiology, and pharmacology. Paracelsus wrote one of the most important principles of toxicology:

All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.

In other words, if you’re speaking about substances in foods or vaccines or anything, the most important principle is that the dose makes the poison (or toxin). Everything that we can consume or breathe is potentially toxic, but what is the most overriding principle must be the dose.Read More »Simple math – the dose makes the poison

## Hey antivaccine lunatics, here’s simple math about measles vaccination

This easy-to-read, easy-to-understand explanation in response to the antivaccination trope of “if your child is vaccinated, why are you worried about my unvaccinated kid.” It was published on the Facebook pro-vaccination page, Embarrassed Cousins of Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children. And once… Read More »Hey antivaccine lunatics, here’s simple math about measles vaccination