Science deniers use false equivalence to create fake debates

This article has been updated and can be found here

If you read a news article, Google a scientific topic, or watch TV, 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 equivalence to make it appear that the often minority, and scientifically unsupported viewpoint is equivalent to the scientific consensus which is based on huge amounts of published evidence.

From listening to the screaming and yelling, you would think that scientists aren’t sure about evolution, vaccines, global warming, and the age of the earth (or even the age of the universe). There are even those who think there’s a debate that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. It’s because some news sources think there’s a debate, so bring one person to represent one side, and one for the other, and the person screams the loudest often wins.

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Martin Shkreli – skyrocketing prices of an anti-parasitic drug

Martin Shkreli

This article is #12 of the 12 most popular posts on Skeptical Raptor during 2015. Stay tuned, I’ll be reposting the rest of them through New Year’s Day.

It is a story about Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceutical skyrocketing the price of pyrimethamine. Of course, he just got arrested for securities fraud, so it’s clear that Shkreli’s character is precisely what we thought it was.

Over the weekend, my newsfeed on Twitter and Facebook exploded with outrage and indignation about a story that was published in AddictingInfo.org and other outlets regarding skyrocketing prices of an anti-parasitic drug – pyrimethamine (trade name Daraprim) – which is used to treat parasitic infections, like toxoplasmosis and malaria.

Pyrimethamine is frequently used in AIDS patients whose suppressed immune systems allow frequent parasitic infections like toxoplasmosis. As opposed to the AddictingInfo headline, stating that pyrimethamine is a “60 year old cancer drug,” there is no evidence that it was ever a “cancer drug.” It may have been used as such 60 years ago, but today it is not.

So let’s review some of the issues around this drug, and what are facts, and what are most certainly not. But one more thing, does this price increase really matter?

Continue reading “Martin Shkreli – skyrocketing prices of an anti-parasitic drug”

Mashing up the Walking Dead and science denialism

The Walking Dead and science denialism

I am really impatient with science deniers, so I saw something that will allow me to mash up two of my favorite subjects – the Walking Dead and science denialism – and it makes me happy. I know, you want to know how I can possibly combine the Walking Dead and science denialism – you’re just going to have to read on!

I know it’s shocking, but I find it difficult to be really civil towards science deniers. Partially, it’s because no matter how much evidence you present, science deniers rely on logical fallacies like strawman arguments, arguments from ignorance, post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies, and so many others.

Or they rely upon all of their biases. Confirmation bias, yes. Selection bias, yes. Cognitive biases, yes. And that logical fallacy that’s also a form of bias – cherry picking. The denialist’s favorite fruit has got to be cherries, because they’re picking them all day long.

Then toss in a big dollop of Dunning-Kruger effect, and it’s really difficult to take any science deniers very seriously. They take themselves seriously, despite their total lack of affirmative or negative evidence.

The only thing that matters in science is evidence. That’s it, that’s the beginning and the end of the story. I don’t care if you’re a man, woman, alien, immigrant, liberal, conservative, a janitor, a professor, black, white, or a Nobel Prize winner. If you lack evidence, you have nothing.

If you think there are debates to be made in settled science, that means you get the denialism card, no matter who you are. If you are an MD, and think that vaccines don’t work, then why should I consider your opinion on anything in medicine to be valid, when you’re denying some of the basic principles of medicine – the Germ Theory, for example.  Continue reading “Mashing up the Walking Dead and science denialism”

Bill Gates vaccinations in Africa – antivaccine hatred

The antivaccination cult really despises Bill Gates’ vaccinations in Africa. Not that he actually gives the vaccines, his foundation supports vaccinating kids in Africa, so that they have a better chance to survive.

One of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research and bringing healthcare (including vaccinations) to underdeveloped countries is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationlocated in Seattle, Washington.

There is nothing more admirable and moral than a person who has built incredible wealth, and then decides to give it back to the world in a way that cannot be measure monetarily. Bill Gates’ foundation is working to eradicate polio and HIV in countries where they are the some of the leading causes of death.

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2012 Top Ten list for new drug approvals

pharmaceutical researchThe US Food and Drug Administration recently announced (pdf) that it had cleared 35 new drugs during 2012, of which 31 were novel therapies. This is in addition to the literally hundreds of approvals for changes in already approved drugs for changes in packaging, manufacturing, and dozens of other reasons. 

In no particular order, here are the top 10 most interesting of the approvals based on my subjective viewpoint, which includes innovativeness, seriousness of disease, and other random factors. In others, no different in importance than all those end-of-year top 10 movie lists. So here we go: Continue reading “2012 Top Ten list for new drug approvals”

Circumcision–separating science from opinion

Circumcision is one topic that certainly brings up more emotion than just about any medical procedure. In fact, the same level of rhetoric is used for and against circumcision that one hears with regards to vaccines, or even abortion. Recently, the city of San Francisco attempted to ban the practice, but a judge ruled that only the state could regulate medical procedures. During the summer, a German court banned circumcision for religious purposes, though a German court banning a Jewish practice must have blown up irony meters across the world.

In any discussion about circumcision, there is general consensus that female circumcision, or female genital mutilation, is an abhorrent non-medical procedure that is simply an anti-female procedure in many male-dominated societies. We’re not talking about that, and any comparison between male and female circumcision is a strawman argument. It is also clear that part of the anti-circumcision argument centers around secularism and atheism, because male circumcision is integral to both the practice ofJudaism and Islam. That is a valid argument, and there could even be a concern that unskilled individuals performing ritual circumcisions could cause serious complications. I personally could care less about religious rituals as long as they don’t harm anyone, so this is where we need to determine what the evidence tell us.  Continue reading “Circumcision–separating science from opinion”

Anti-vaccine lunatic proud to spread infection to unsuspecting children

That is a screen shot from a Facebook posting on July 14, 2012 where a mother describes how she took her child, infected with chickenpox (Varicella zoster), to a baseball game. And she bragged how she probably infected others (probably most were vaccinated, which indicates he level of understanding of immunizations). She was so proud of attempting to infect others with her son’s chickenpox that she had to tell everyone about it. The stupidity of her actions were beyond comprehension by me. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine lunatic proud to spread infection to unsuspecting children”

Gates contributes $750 million to Global Fund

Gates contributes $750 million to Global Fund | Vaccine News Daily.

Bill Gates, founder and former chairman of Microsoft, is contributing a huge amount of money to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.  The Global Fund provides grants (through an application process) to evidence-based  and cost-effective healthcare interventions for infectious diseases.  They are large supporter of vaccines as the primary step to prevent infectious diseases.

I’ve never been a fan of Microsoft, but I think Bill Gates’ legacy is probably going to be more about his charitable work than Microsoft Windows.  And his contribution to the Global Fund, about which there are unsubstantiated rumors (my assumption is that Gates wouldn’t have contributed $1.00 if they were true) regarding their finances, is critical to their strategy of eliminating infectious diseases.  Global Fund’s success is documented:

New HIV infections are declining in many of the countries most affected by the epidemic. More and more countries are in a position to target the elimination of malaria from their territories. The world is on course to halve TB mortality by 2015 in comparison with 1990.

Since its inception in 2002, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been a major engine driving this remarkable progress.

We should applaud Bill Gates and the Global Fund.