Texas is officially the most anti-science state in America

As long as the Republican Party runs the state of Texas, then its strategies and beliefs are equal to the beliefs of the state itself. The Texas Republican Party just published its platform of beliefs (pdf), filled with nonsense, craziness, and denialism. I’ll stick with the anti-science junk, but you can amuse yourself with everything from immigration to voter ID.

Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate repeal of the Endangered Species Act. We strongly oppose the listing of the dune sage brush lizard either as a threatened or an endangered species. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.

Obviously, a knock against global warming, or at least, that Texas’ oil and gas interests take precedence over global warming, endangered species, and the EPA! Apparently, the dune sage brush lizard is of critical importance to the Texas political process!

 RU 486 – We urge the FDA to rescind approval of the physically dangerous RU-486 and oppose limiting the manufacturers’ and distributors’ liability.

It is not physically dangerous, because out of 1.52 million uses, there were around 2200 adverse events (pdf), or around 0.14%. That’s less than smoking. Or drinking. Or walking across the street.

Morning After Pill – We oppose sale and use of the dangerous “Morning After Pill.”

No. Not dangerous either.

Fetal Pain – We support legislation that requires doctors, at first opportunity, to provide to a woman who is pregnant, information about the nervous system development of her unborn child and to provide pain relief for her unborn if she orders an abortion. We support legislation banning of abortion after 20 weeks gestation due to fetal pain.

There is little evidence that a fetus feels pain prior to 30 weeks of gestation. This is merely a method for anti-abortion and anti-women individuals to promote some sort of viability in a fetus.

Religious Freedom in Public Schools – We urge school administrators and officials to inform Texas school students specifically of their First Amendment rights to pray and engage in religious speech, individually or in groups, on school property without government interference. We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents.

Actually, the First Amendment prevents the establishment of religion by government, which includes government sponsored institutions like public schools. 

Health Care and Nutritional Supplements ― We deplore any efforts to mandate that vitamins and other natural supplements be on a prescription–only basis, and we oppose any efforts to remove vitamins and other nutritional supplements from public sale. We support the rights of all adults to their choice of nutritional products, and alternative health care choices.

Because real medicines that actually do real things require regulation. Vitamins and supplements that don’t do anything and have no evidence supporting their efficacy prefer not to be regulated. And the Republicans want that dishonesty to continue.

Immunizations ― All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves or their minor children without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.

Vaccines save lives. Any other rationalization does not save lives.

Well there’s your Republican lunatics in Texas. Maybe one day the demographics change enough that a more progressive group of people run the state, removing the insanity.

Federal Appeals Court rejects climate change denialism

A Federal Court of Appeals rejected a claim that the evidence for climate change is too uncertain for the Environmental Protection Agency implementation of the Clean Air Act. The case, Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc., et al., v. EPA, involved a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of the Clean Air Act, filed by a number of states and industry groups. The challenge was based, in part, on the idea that the evidence that anthropogenic climate change is a threat to public health and welfare is shaky. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found otherwise.

According to the court’s decision (pdf), 

The body of scientific evidence marshalled by EPA … is substantial. EPA’s scientific evidence of record included support for the proposition that greenhouse gases trap heat on earth that would otherwise dissipate into space; that this ‘greenhouse effect’ warms the climate; that human activity is contributing to increased atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases; and that the climate system is warming. Based on this scientific record, EPA made the linchpin finding: in its judgment, the ‘root cause’ of the recently observed climate change is ‘very likely’ the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

In a June 26, 2012 article, E.P.A. Emissions Rules Backed by Court, The New York Times summarized, 

The judges unanimously dismissed arguments from industry that the science of global warming was not well supported and that the agency had based its judgment on unreliable studies. “This is how science works,” they wrote. “The E.P.A. is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”

In addition to upholding the E.P.A.’s so-called endangerment finding, the court let stand related rules setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and limiting emissions from stationary sources. Opponents had also challenged the agency’s timetable for enforcement and its rules singling out big polluters, but the court said the plaintiffs lacked the standing to do so.

In other words, there is no scientific controversy regarding global warming, and that those who deny global warming use scientifically invalid propaganda. 

via Court dismisses attacks on climate science | NCSE.

Whooping cough outbreak in Iowa

The Iowa Globe-Gazette is reporting an outbreak of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa which has risen to 78 suspected or laboratory-confirmed cases since May 16, 2012. Disease-prevention specialists with the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health have encouraged residents to follow guidelines to preserve the safety and health of people in the area.

According to to Karen Crimmings, a disease prevention and investigation service manager for the department,

We recommend people seek medical attention if they are experiencing a persistent cough. It’s very important that individuals being tested for pertussis finish five days of antibiotics before going anywhere in public.

Crimmings said that 78 cases is a fairly significant number of cases for the area, but that the spreading of the illness appears to be slowing down at the local level.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that can be lethal for infants, especially those who are too young to have received the pertussis vaccine (either Tdap or DTaP) or who have not developed sufficient immunity from the vaccines. Adolescents and adults who have not gotten a pertussis vaccination since childhood are no longer immune to pertussis and can pass the disease to susceptible infants. Those adults should contact their health care provider to get vaccinated. Symptoms of pertussis include coughing fits, difficulty breathing, vomiting and coughs that end with a high-pitched whoop sound when inhaling after multiple coughs.

Vaccines save lives.

via Pertussis cases rise in Iowa county | Vaccine News Daily.

Republican governor Nikki Haley is anti-vaccine and pro-cancer

The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier reports that Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed a bill that would have provided sixth- and seventh-graders with information about the HPV vaccine. The vaccine would have been provided at no cost to all seventh-graders whose parents allowed them to have the vaccination. The bill had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans in the South Carolina legislature.

The HPV vaccine provides immunity to men and women against several types of human papilloma virus which is associated with with over 20,000 cancers in women and 11,000 cancers in men every year. Governor Haley defended her veto by calling the bill unnecessary and a “precursor to another taxpayer-funded healthcare mandate,” the Charleston Post and Courier reports.

State Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg, S.C.) sponsored the bill and blasted Haley’s move, calling her decision one that… 

puts her own selfish political ambitions ahead of the people of South Carolina. This bill had bipartisan support and gives optional education and preventative vaccines to adolescents in an effort to thwart cervical cancer. This is a common sense approach to a very serious problem. To call this measure unnecessary is demeaning and insulting to the heroic women who fight this cancer everyday. I am deeply disappointed that politics once again has prevailed over women’s health.

In 2007, Haley actually co-sponsored a bill that would provide mandatory HPV vaccinations. It failed to pass through the legislature because it failed to provide opt-outs, which was corrected in the 2012 version.

Let’s be clear here. Haley did not veto this bill because of bad medicine or bad science. She vetoed it purely for political expediency and by doing so, she stands firmly against a simple inoculation that would prevent a deadly cancer. This is not a political issue, it is an anti-cancer issue. 

Vaccines save lives. I guess Nikki Haley doesn’t understand that! Maybe she’ll provide cigarettes for free to the school children of South Carolina.

The Holy Merger: creationism and the Loch Ness Monster

Well, it had to happen–one pseudoscience, creationism, is using another pseudoscience, the nonexistent Loch Ness Monster, as proof. Herald Scotland is reporting that a book, produced by the A.C.E. Curriculum Program and called Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education, informs students that Nessie is proof that evolution never happened.

According to the book, 

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

The creationist logic is apparently that this lone plesiosaur got captured in Loch Ness during the biblical flood. Thus, we can assume, Nessie proves that dinosaurs didn’t die out 65 million years ago. Continue reading “The Holy Merger: creationism and the Loch Ness Monster”

Colon detoxification is full of…it

Listen to the radio for a few minutes. Or watch late night television for a bit. Through the commercials hawking insurance with talking geckos, promoting treatments for erectile dysfunction, and, exhibiting the coolest, fastest, most fuel efficient car, you will run across the reason for all that ails you: your improperly cleaned colon. The treatment is called colon cleansing, and sometimes, detoxifying. It’s one of those silly alternative medicine ideas that hangs around without one single bit of evidence supporting it. Continue reading “Colon detoxification is full of…it”

Measles-outbreak in England hits new areas

Ten measles cases since the start of 2012 has hit St. Helens, a town in the northwest English county of Merseyside, making it the most widespread measles outbreak in the area since the 1980s. There have been 301 confirmed cases, along with 148 probable cases, of measles in Merseyside since the beginning of 2012.

According to a report in the St. Helens Reporter newspaper, Dr Roberto Vivancos, a consultant in communicable disease control with the Health Protection Agency, stated:

This has been the largest outbreak of measles in the North West since the introduction of MMR vaccine 24 years ago and it has demonstrated just why this vaccine is so important in protecting the public health. Parents of young children clearly value the protection, security and peace of mind that the MMR vaccine affords, but there remains a pool of older children, teenagers and young adults who are not vaccinated and remain vulnerable to measles, mumps and German measles. Our message to older teenagers and young adults is that if you were not vaccinated as children, it’s not too late. You should speak to your family doctor about the MMR vaccine because, without its protection, you will remain vulnerable to three potentially very serious diseases.

As I’ve mentioned before, parents should not consider measles a trivial disease. It can be deadly. Unvaccinated adults or older children can infect an infant prior to the chilling being vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Everyone should be vaccinated, even if older.

Vaccines save lives.

via St. Helens hit by measles outbreak | Vaccine News Daily.

Placebos cannot replace antipsychotics

As I’ve discussed previously, placebo effects are mostly a myth, and if a new drug has an effect barely above that of a mythical placebo effect, it’s considered a failure. In a recent article in Reuters Health, Rising placebo response seen in schizophrenia trials, Amy Norton states that clinical trials of anti-schizophrenia drugs, in a class of drugs called antipsychotics, are finding lesser effects because patients are responding positively to placebos (that presumably does not contain anything but sugar).

Treating schizophrenia or any psychosis is difficult because different patients respond in different ways to each drug. For some individuals, these drugs can treat many of the symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations and delusions, which allows them to live relatively normal lives. But for some individuals these same drugs have significant side effects, including sedation, weight gain, and hyperglycemia (which can be serious for a diabetic). Eventually, individuals stop using the drugs because of the side effects and their psychotic symptoms return. Continue reading “Placebos cannot replace antipsychotics”

Naturopathy and diabetes–pure pseudoscience

Let’s be blunt. Naturopathy is pure, unmitigated, undiluted junk medicine (or what many call “woo”). What is naturopathy? It is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that life has a quality independent of physical and chemical laws. In other words, it is no different than homeopathy (one of the core competencies of naturopathy), both of which rely upon denying the basic laws of physics and chemistry. Life may have some quality independent of physical or chemical laws and theories, but treating anything from a viral infection to a fractured femur to any of the 200 or so types of cancer requires medicines and techniques that depend upon real science, whether physics, chemistry or biology. Continue reading “Naturopathy and diabetes–pure pseudoscience”