Skip to content
Home » Science » Page 2

Science

humans apes

We are humans and apes — other apes are unhappy to be lumped with us

I originally wrote this article about how humans are apes over 10 years ago (back in the ancient days of this website), based on a claim from Richard Dawkins he was an African Ape (which I reviewed here). Whether or not you like Richard Dawkins, and there is a lot to like and not like about him, he is entirely accurate about this one thing — we are humans and we are apes.

At the same time that I wrote about Dawkins’ quote, I ran across an article in io9 by Annalee Newitz, “The last time we redefined what it means to be human.” Newitz clarifies the current cladogram, a diagram that shows relationships among organisms, for humans and their closest primate neighbors (from an evolutionary standpoint).

Now, you may be wondering why I’m writing (or writing in the past) about the evolution of humans, but my original interest in starting this blog was to write about evolution and creationism. Seriously, that’s where I got my start. I would help write evolution articles on Wikipedia, I’d follow anti-evolution legislation in state legislatures, and I got into a public feud with the arch-creationist himself, Ken Ham.

But let’s write about something more interesting. Why and how are we both humans and apes.

Read More »We are humans and apes — other apes are unhappy to be lumped with us
scientist in laboratory

The facts about vaccine chemicals – debunking more pseudoscience

If you spend any amount of time on the internet researching science and pseudoscience, you’ll find alarming claims about toxic vaccine chemicals – you know, aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, and whatever unpronounceable molecule are all the rage for the anti-vaccine crowd. Of course, we obsess over substances not only in our vaccines, but also in our foods, air, water, and coffee. Many of us try to present scientific evidence about those toxic vaccine chemicals. It can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Generally, the pseudoscience argument proceeds along the lines of “these unpronounceable chemicals are going to cause cancer.” Followed by a new trope or meme that something in vaccines does something, often without a picogram of evidence. 

But what the vaccine deniers are pushing about vaccines is based on a lack of knowledge about how toxicology – the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms, determines what is or isn’t toxic.

Paracelsus, a 16th-century Swiss-German physician, alchemist, and 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 consume or breathe is potentially toxic but most important, the overriding principle must be the dose.

So, I’m going to do a disservice to the whole field of toxicology, which takes a lifetime of research and study, and I will attempt to digest it down to a few paragraphs, especially as it relates to those vaccine chemicals.

Read More »The facts about vaccine chemicals – debunking more pseudoscience
science mistakes

Science mistakes — the favorite trope of the anti-vaccine world

Those people who disagree with science love to remind us that science makes mistakes. I keep observing this same ridiculous, illogical argument being used by all of the science deniers, repeating various “science mistakes” tropes as if it is all the evidence they need to refute scientific claims. Honestly, I think the pseudoscience pushers meet annually in Sedona, Arizona, ground zero of woo, to discuss which trope they’re pushing each year.

The anti-vaccine zealots, creationists, anthropogenic global warming deniers, and whomever else pretends to use science to actually deny science frequently focus on this theme of “science mistakes.”  And then they produce a list of cherry-picked examples that “prove” that science is wrong (see Note 1). Of course, this indicates more of a misunderstanding of what is science and the history of science than it is a condemnation of science. But your typical science denier is probably not going to let facts get in the way of maintaining faith in their beliefs. So let’s deconstruct and discredit this “science mistakes” trope.

By the way, in my story, I admit that there are many “science mistakes,” so read on. Hopefully, it’s somewhat enlightening.

Read More »Science mistakes — the favorite trope of the anti-vaccine world
insulin prices

Who is to blame for high insulin prices in the USA? Big Pharma?

Insulin prices are a big issue in the USA because they seem to be skyrocketing upwards much faster than inflation or anything else. Of course, people are blaming Big Pharma, because they seem to be the major culprits behind the gouging of diabetics.

However, like everything else, the facts behind insulin prices are much more complicated than what you might be reading in the most recent Facebook meme or post about the subject. Because a 4-line meme is so much easier than writing a complicated article about the world of insulin prices.

And I’m going to try to guide you through the travesty of how pharmaceuticals are priced and how it’s a total mess. And remember, this is only about America’s pharmaceutical pricing mess — hopefully, the rest of the world does this better.

Read More »Who is to blame for high insulin prices in the USA? Big Pharma?
genetically modified corn

Genetically modified corn is safe according to a large meta-review

As I have written, the scientific consensus says that genetically modified crops, like corn, are safe for humans, animals, and the environment. The real science, published in real scientific journals and not anecdotes, beliefs, misinformation, and lies, tells us that genetically modified agricultural products are safe.

A large meta-review of research into genetically modified (GM) corn has supported several findings that there are no safety signals — you can consume GM corn all day long and you will suffer no ill consequences.

Genetically modified crops 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.

Read More »Genetically modified corn is safe according to a large meta-review
anti-vaccine

Anti-vaxxers don’t want to be called “anti-vaccine” — boo frickin’ hoo

A few days ago, some anti-vaxxer on Twitter complained that she didn’t want to be called anti-vaccine. She said it was a personal attack on her. And that she really wasn’t anti-vaccine.

Well, that’s just an incredibly laughable position that is unsupported by anything in reality. These anti-vaccine activists want to appear rational, thoughtful, and scientific, when, in fact, their position is anything but rational, thoughtful, or scientific.

We call someone anti-vaccine because they refuse to accept the vast scientific consensus about every vaccine on the market. No matter how many times we talk about a large, well-analyzed, unbiased study about a vaccine, they ignore it, and then they give preference to anecdotes and false authorities that confirm their pre-ordained conclusions about vaccines.

Now, just to be clear, parents who sit on the fence because they are confused about vaccines are not anti-vaxxers. They aren’t promoting anti-vaccine nonsense, they are trying to find good evidence to support getting vaccinated. I try to target this group lately because they seem to be working in good faith about vaccines. I’ve had numerous people over time that information I’ve prevented has moved them from “vaccine-hesitant” to pro-vaccine. That’s my mitzvah.

I’m going to write about true anti-vaxxers who present bad information about vaccines while complaining that they are being characterized as “anti-vaccine.” They deserve the label, and I’ll show you why.

Read More »Anti-vaxxers don’t want to be called “anti-vaccine” — boo frickin’ hoo
genetically modified wheat

Genetically modified wheat gluten that can reduce sensitivity

Gluten-free diets are mostly a quack food fad for 99% of the population, but now we might have a genetically modified wheat that has modified gluten so that it doesn’t induce sensitivity. Scientists have developed some new strains of wheat that will produce a genetically modified gluten that may not trigger a gluten sensitivity.

Let’s wrap our minds around that – genetically modified wheat gluten. I’m sure that won’t be problematic for those who have medically diagnosed issues with gluten. They’re going to be thrilled that they can eat real bread, pizza, or pasta. I’m sure they’re not going to be concerned with any label that says “this product contains GMO gluten.”

Of course, the real scientific consensus about GMOs is that they are safe for humans, animals, and the environment. And provide humans with more and healthier food. Like genetically modified wheat gluten.

On the other hand, I’m certain (but I have no scientific evidence) that the Venn diagrams of those who buy into the nonsense about GMOs also buy into the pseudoscience of gluten. Those people might faint because of the irony of a GMO wheat gluten

Let’s take a look at gluten, the real medical issues of gluten sensitivity, and then what is this new genetically modified gluten in wheat. 

Read More »Genetically modified wheat gluten that can reduce sensitivity
glyphosate cancer

Glyphosate is not linked to cancer — examining the systematic reviews

I keep reading the claim that somehow glyphosate is linked to cancer, despite numerous large epidemiological studies that have yet to provide evidence of a link that would convince us that the herbicide has any link to any cancer.

One of the major issues with the tropes and myths about glyphosate is that many anti-science liberals tend to conflate glyphosate with genetically modified crops. This leads to a lot of unsupported hatred of GMO plants, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that says that GMO agriculture is safe for humans, animals, and the environment – a consensus as broad and powerful as the one that states that climate change is caused by humans. Glyphosate is used as a strawman argument to stigmatize GMO crops.

Glyphosate is so hated, I don’t know how many times I write that GMOs are safe, and they are safe — then someone will write back, “yeah but Monsanto is killing us with their cancer-causing glyphosate.” It’s frustrating, but that’s the usual state of my mind when dealing with pseudoscience-pushing people.

But I have actual scientific evidence that supports the claim that there is no link between glyphosate and any of the 200 or more types of cancer. I know some people, especially greedy attorneys, will cherry-pick poorly designed primary studies and ignore the larger systematic reviews and meta-analyses that show no link.

I’m going to give you a brief review of some of the most powerful studies, which are at the top of the hierarchy of biomedical research, that reject any claims that glyphosate causes cancer.

Read More »Glyphosate is not linked to cancer — examining the systematic reviews
vaccine GMO DNA

GMO and vaccine DNA – they’re not going to change your genes

One of the more pernicious tropes in the world of pseudoscience is that the vaccine and GMO DNA are going to magically incorporate into your cells changing you from a human into a sasquatch with ears of corn growing out of your head. Now that would be fun to see, but unless there’s a mad scientist out there trying to grow ears of corn out of a hirsute humane that looks like Sasquatch, it will probably never happen.

And most certainly consuming DNA from GMO foods or injecting DNA in a vaccine is not going to cause anything changes in your genes. You are not going to suddenly turn into Sasquatch.

Now, this article will not discuss mRNA vaccines somehow changing your DNA, because that’s been thoroughly debunked.

As we all know, good science rarely gets in the way of good pseudoscience for anti-vaxxers and anti-GMO zealots. That’s why this old feathered skeptic in the dinosaur clade is here, to make sure the science is clear and to mock the pseudoscience.

Read More »GMO and vaccine DNA – they’re not going to change your genes
genetically modified crops

Humans have genetically modified crops for 10,000 years — yes, it’s true

The anti-GMO movement says that nature does it better for food, ignoring the fact that humans have been genetically modified crops for over 10,000 years. In other words, some people believe that our ancestors’ foods are somehow better than modern foods. But our ancestors were selectively breeding plants and animals since the dawn of agriculture. They just didn’t know about DNA, but they knew what they were doing.

Strangely, people seem to endow “nature” with a special status that is ridiculous. As if nature was for the benefit of humans, rather than being just plain random events.

Evolution proceeds along a random process where environmental changes select for certain mutations over time (and yes, I’m oversimplifying the process), which is called natural selection. Moreover, there are random mutations that just occur that provide no benefit to the organism, although they might in the future because of some environmental change.

Nature has no goal. It has no guidance. It has no underlying value of good or evil. Unless you believe that some higher being controls it, and at that point, you’re a creationist, claiming that “nature” is better than the alternative is ridiculous.

So, we’re going to talk about how humans genetically modified crops have moved from the early days of waiting for a random, beneficial mutation to the modern world of bioengineering.

Read More »Humans have genetically modified crops for 10,000 years — yes, it’s true