Study: Vaccine against bacterial meningitis shows promise

Study: Vaccine against bacterial meningitis shows promise – USATODAY.com.

The study is published in the Lancet (how ironic), and the conclusions (from the original study) state that 91-100% of participants (who received the vaccine) had high titers of antibodies for each strain of meningococcal B.  By the way, the placebo group were in the 29-50% range for the placebo group.

Just in case you might wonder if there’s a placebo effect that causes an immune response to the bacteria, it’s probably not.  There is usually a background seropositive individuals in a population, since individuals may be exposed to the bacteria on a usual basis.  Even at 50%, the risk is so high that the vaccine (which is nearly 100% effective) is still necessary.

One more conclusion from the authors of the Lancet article:

No vaccine-related serious adverse events were reported and no significant safety signals were identified.

Just in case anyone was wondering.

Rosa Rubicondior: Where Creationists Get Confused.

Rosa Rubicondior: Where Creationists Get Confused..

Modern Tree of Life

Creationists utilize numerous logical fallacies to either “disprove” evolution (using rhetoric and religious text) or to “prove” creationism.  Usually, however, they stick with trying to showing how evolution is wrong, thereby, implying that creationism is correct.  (I’m going to set aside the fallacy that by simply disproving evolution one proves creationism, you still have to provide evidence for creationism itself.)

I could list them all from “it’s only a theory”, which ignores the fact that a scientific theory stands at the top of hierarchy of scientific thought, essentially considered a fact, to Charles Darwin renouncing evolution on his deathbed, which he didn’t.  One of my favorites is the wholesale misunderstanding (either intentionally or through complete ignorance of science) of taxonomy.  As Rosa Rubicondior states:

Creationists, either disingenuously, or because of genuine ignorance, seem to have missed the whole point of taxonomy, so they continually make idiotic mistakes which, even though they might imagine them to be valid arguments against evolution, are recognised by those who understand the subject as evidence only of their ignorance. And, with so much information readily and freely available, this ignorance can ONLY be either deliberate or feigned. No one remotely interested in the subject has any excuse for their level of ignorance.

If any has ever heard the creationist meme of “if man evolved from apes, then why are there apes still around,” then you would understand the statement above.  Simply put, man evolved from a primate common ancestor (which lead to all the great apes, including chimpanzees and gorillas) about 4-8 million years ago.  The common ancestor is not around, but human primate relatives do.  In biological terms, the divergence into the various great apes (Family Hominidae) is quite recent.  The evidence is not based on supposition and guesswork, there are vast amounts of scientific literature supporting this family tree.

I find these types of arguments from creationists show a complete lack of knowledge of biological sciences, except at the most superficial level.  If one looks at the tree of life as a bunch of endpoints without understanding how the tree is built.  Of course, if they read these posts from Rosa Rubicondior and others, they would understand it.  But I guess I’ll have to agree with Rosa:

Even more unforgivable are those who assiduously maintain their own ignorance by refusing to read anything, like this blog, which might cause them to abandon their cherished beliefs, for these are the people who are quite deliberately and consciously fooling themselves into believing what they know to be false.  These will be the ones who are constantly asking what they like to think are the ‘killer knock-down’ questions of biologists and who then ignore the answers and ask the same questions again next week.  You only need to read their sanctimonious condescension and pretence to have greater knowledge than the scientists who spend years learning and researching the subject, to see what they are getting out of their intellectual dishonesty.

I wish there were creationists who actually had a scientific background (and there are a few), because the debate is just dull with those who are not.  Their knowledge of science is so lacking that I wonder if they consider how much evolutionary science is built into the medical care they receive.  Of course, I guess that’s why faith healing exists.

Oklahoma bill attacks evolution and climate change

Oklahoma bill attacks evolution and climate change | NCSE.

Not only is the sixth evolution denialist bill proposed by state legislatures since the beginning of the year (which is about 3 weeks long so far), it throws in climate change denialism for good measure.

Josh Brecheen, the sole sponsor of the bill, states that:

“Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored. … Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable.”

Which renowned scientists?  Are there any?  Almost every scientist (renowned or otherwise) accepts evolution as a virtual fact.  Academic freedom means that a teacher teaches science (or history or whatever the discipline) without interference from government.  So, does the Department of Biology at the University of Oklahoma teach Intelligent design as a scientific theory?  It isn’t.

Glad I live in California.  This stuff just doesn’t happen here.

MRSA in pork products: does the “antibiotic-free” label make a difference? : Aetiology

MRSA in pork products: does the “antibiotic-free” label make a difference? : Aetiology.

It’s interesting how science seems to be slowly debunking the healthiness (whatever that might mean) of natural, organic, hormone-free, or, in this case, antibiotic free foods.

Actually, the author does not make any comment on the possible “healthiness” of antibiotic-free pork, only that you probably cannot assume that you your pork is “cleaner” than other pork products.

Objective rating calculator for pseudoscientific works

I saved this list from something I read a few years ago, when I first became interested in pseudoscience (not from a pure profit standpoint, just to be a cantankerous debater).  It’s quite useful.

How to rate a work of pseudoscience:

A thirty-one-point checklist for rating contributions to the field of archaeology that claim to be revolutionary or to overturn long-accepted ideas. The higher the score, the more ‘controversial’ the book and the more money its author can hope to make from sales, lecture tours, television spin-offs and so on.

  • 5 points starting credit.
  • 1 point for every statement that is in conflict with generally accepted theories.
  • 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
  • 3 points for each internal inconsistency.
  • 5 points for every supposition that is maintained despite prodigious archaeological evidence to the contrary.
  • 5 points for each instance of spurious data expressed as fact.
  • 5 points for each dark hint that a piece of otherwise widely-accepted evidence is faked.
  • 5 points for each authoritative reference to Richard Hoagland, Edgar Cayce, Immanuel Velikovsky, Erich von Däniken, Jacques Bergier, Thor Heyerdahl, Zecharia Sitchin, Charles Berlitz, Andrew Tomas, John Anthony West, Michael Dames, Graham Hancock or Robert Bauval.
  • 5 points for reference to sites of dubious authority, especially Glozel, the ‘Hall of Records’, the Paluxy River human footprints
  • 7 points for each disparaging reference to Erich von Däniken.
  • 7 points for each authoritative reference to Martin Bernal, Cheikh Anta Diop, David Rohl, Peter James, Barry Fell…
  • 7 points for each reference to an exotic location of dubious relevance, including Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Macchu Picchu, Great Zimbabwe, the ‘Candelabra of the Andes’, Nan Matol, Bimini and Glastonbury.
  • 7 points for each reference to an ‘out of place artefact’, including batteries from Babylon, the Antikythera computer, Ancient Egyptian or South American model aeroplanes, the ‘Coso Artifact’, technical drawings at Dendera, the Ica stones, the Acambaro figurines, the ‘Dropa stones’ and crystal skulls.
  • 10 points for each authoritative reference to R A Schwaller de Lubicz, Michael Cremo, Richard Thompson or T C Lethbridge.
  • 10 points for each baseless claim that widely accepted theories are fundamentally erroneous.
  • 10 points for discovering ‘links’ between languages widely separated in time and space (such as Etruscan and Quechua).
  • 10 points for boasting of academic degrees unrelated to the topic at hand, especially proclaiming a PhD on the cover of a book.
  • 10 points for spelling archaeology as archeology in the mistaken belief that it is the correct American spelling.
  • 15 points for boasting of a lack of academic degrees, insisting that formal education is not only unnecessary but also an impediment to creative thought.
  • 15 points for each photograph of the author standing by a ‘mysterious’ structure (preferably, mostly out of shot) in an exotic location.
  • 20 points for lamentations of being misunderstood.
  • 20 points for not including a bibliography.
  • 20 points for every use of a myth or legend as a record of fact.
  • 20 points for defensive citations of real or imagined ridicule inflicted by the academia.
  • 25 points for each evidential mention of Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, Cydonia, the ‘Face on Mars’, the continental shelf, the Bermuda Triangle or Antarctica.
  • 30 points for insisting that if critics cannot disprove a theory, then it must necessarily be true.
  • 30 points for claiming to be the victim of a conspiracy by the scientific establishment.
  • 30 points for extensive footnotes or endnotes.
  • 40 points for professing to be privy to information that is secret or to which no one else has access.
  • 40 points for claiming to have deciphered a previously unintelligible script.
  • 50 points for claims of psychic revelation or firsthand past-life experience.

I think I might use this for the next History Channel series on ghosts, Nostradamus, aliens, sasquatch, or whatever else they push these days.  If they don’t score around 400, I’d be shocked.

BBC News – La Nina ‘linked’ to flu pandemics

BBC News – La Nina ‘linked’ to flu pandemics.

An interesting article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences correlates the La Niña conditions in the equatorial area of the Pacific with flu pandemics.  The authors propose that the La Niña conditions (which upwell colder water to the surface, changes migration patterns of migratory birds.  Since birds are one host for the influenza virus, these changed migration patterns may change how the birds interact with other species moving new influenza subtypes into different parts of the world.

We are, however, a long way from predicting a pandemic based upon a La Niña event.  Right now, the authors can only correlate pandemics and the Pacific circulation patterns in just four cases:  the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Asian Flu of 1957, The Hong Kong Flu of 1958, and the Swine Flu of 2009.  It’s hard to make a case for causality based on these four data points, but the authors do lay out a compelling argument.

Whenever I critique a correlation vs. causation argument, I first determine if the causality is even possible.   I often make the argument that MMR vaccinations cause broken arms in 12-16 year old girls, because a small, but significant proportion of kids being vaccinated get broken arms (or car wrecks, gastroenteritis, an itchy nose, and angry comments to their parents).  However, there is no physiological, biological, or scientific reason why a broken arm might result from a vaccination.

In this article, the authors do make a scientifically plausible case that avian migration patterns do change in La Niña events, so they are on the path to providing outstanding evidence to support this hypothesis.

8 Hunterdon county children diagnosed with whooping cough were behind on vaccines

8 Hunterdon county children diagnosed with whooping cough were behind on vaccines | NJ.com.

So here are more children that should have been vaccinated against a disease that is preventable by a simple vaccination.  It’s just so frustrating.

Oh, one more thing.  There isn’t much evidence that the vaccine is ineffective against new strains of pertussis.  It’s annoying that the writers of this article weren’t better trained in scientific journalism, so that they could ask questions about the efficacy of the vaccine from valid sources of information, instead of one of the vaccine denialists whose information is based on rumor and anecdote.

Andrew Wakefield sues BMJ for claiming MMR study was fraudulent

Andrew Wakefield sues BMJ for claiming MMR study was fraudulent | Society | guardian.co.uk.

Poor Andy.  He writes a fraudulent article in The Lancet, which the prestigious journal eventually has to withdraw and his co-authors disown the same article.  Brian Deer, a journalist for the Sunday Times of London, uncovers the fraud and publishes it in the British Medical Journal.  Andy tries to sue Deer in UK courts, but essentially loses and has to pay all court costs and legal fees.  Eventually, Andy is stripped of his medical license in the UK.

So, I guess the only choice of a fraud is to sue those who told the truth.  Yes, this would be an ironic, even funny story, except for the deaths of children who should have been vaccinated against preventable diseases but weren’t because the parents heard about Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent story.