Cult science – the raptor enjoys hunting down pseudoscience

Skeptical Raptor checking out cult science

The Skeptical Raptor hates begging. He’d rather just get his meals from ripping apart the ignorance of pseudoscience. Before the advent of crowd-funding, like GoFundMe, we probably would have shut this website down, because the cost to run it is so high. We do feel as this website serves a function in the community as a resource to fight cult science, like anti-vaccination and anti-GMO pseudoscience.

Every day, we check who links to an article here. We are always surprised when a legal article about vaccination, from Professor Dorit Reiss, gets a link from an Italian website. Maybe some Italian law student is looking for a way to figure out how to figure out a ruling of the Italian court system. Maybe an Italian parent heard a rumor about how Americans do things with vaccines, and gets clarification.

This website is here to provide evidence and arguments to reject cult science and bad pseudoscience. That’s all.

We need to raise funds to improve the experience. We get too many 404 errors when the servers get overloaded. The front page, though much better than it was just two years ago, needs to be modernized. The website needs to be speedier and more efficient, something outside of the skills of one 65 million year old dinosaur. And that’s only marginally a metaphor.

Amazingly, we’ve raised about ⅙ of the funds that should be sufficient to get most of the things done. We need to move to a more powerful server. We need to clean up code. And we need to redesign the pages (probably the hardest thing to do).

The feathery dinosaur doesn’t want to beg, but we can’t run this place alone. If you’ve found this place at all useful, throw a few shekels this way. Bars of gold are also acceptable.

We’re not threatening shut down of Skeptical Raptor. We’d plot along as best we can. But it’s important to keep some of the articles here in the #1 hit parade of Google Hits for vaccines and other subjects. If you want to debunk “bananas cure cancer,” go ahead and google it. An article here is usually number 1 or 2 on Google hits.

Please contribute whatever you can.

 

Vaccines. Autism, Italian Court of Cassation – they get it right

Vaccines, autism, Italian court of Cassation

Twice before we have examined a decision by a low-level Italian court that claimed a link between vaccines and autism. One decision was already overturned on appeal. The other appeal has not, to my knowledge, been decided yet, but the decision is just as ill-founded.

In spite of their problems these decisions were heralded by anti-vaccine activists as demonstrating once and for all that vaccines cause autism, despite the extensive science showing otherwise. I have said this elsewhere and will repeat: if your best evidence that vaccines cause autism are two (badly reasoned) low-level court decisions from another country, you have a very weak case.

Now, even that weak case has suffered a serious blow.

Continue reading “Vaccines. Autism, Italian Court of Cassation – they get it right”

Italian Court Supreme Court rules against vaccine-autism link

vaccine-autism link

Over the past few years, Italian courts have rule several times on the claims that there is a vaccine-autism link. As a result, I have written about a few of those cases, starting in 2012, where an Italian provincial court rejected all of the scientific evidence, and accepted MrAndy Wakefield’s fraudulent work as a basis of the decision.

Some individuals created a manufactroversy out of this ruling about the vaccine-autism link. But let’s be clear about one point – courts are not structured nor charged with rejecting the scientific consensus, unless a case could be made of massive fraud. Courts make decisions based on the facts presented (science uncovers facts) and the law. Moreover, courts are highly biased, and they often rely on emotional arguments. Continue reading “Italian Court Supreme Court rules against vaccine-autism link”

Anti-GMO articles retracted – shocking news

Anti-GMO articles retracted

I’ve written this about 1 million times online (give or take 990,000) – the only thing that matters in science is evidence. Not opinion, not anecdotes, not bad research. The science that supports the safety and productivity of GMO crops is overwhelming, while one more of the anti-GMO articles has been retracted.

Science wins. And I guess lies and manufactured data don’t.

If this sounds familiar, it is. I wrote about a few weeks ago, discussing  a paper, by Federico Infascelli and other colleagues, an animal nutrition researcher at the University of Naples in Italy, who attempted to show that GMO soybeans consumed by female goats could pass modified genes into the blood and organs of baby goats.

According to an article in Retraction Watch, there was a lot more going on. The good people at Retraction Watch translated an article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which claimed that “an investigation suggests that Infascelli has manipulated images to suggest GMOs are harmful. He could face fines and be suspended from the university.”

Retraction Watch also  that La Repubblica “also reported that a committee appointed by the rector of the university, Gaetano Manfredi, found errors in Infascelli’s data that suggested he had manipulated the results to show GMOs were harmful.”

And Infascelli’s research improprieties continue to grow.

Continue reading “Anti-GMO articles retracted – shocking news”

Italian court says vaccines cause autism – wrong

mmr autism

So, here we ago again with the trope that “courts confirm that vaccines cause autism.” It all started when I saw a Facebook meme (the lazy person’s way of transmitting information) that stated that some obscure Italian court rules that MMR causes autism. These memes are backed up by blog posts from the usual suspects claiming that courts are confirming that vaccines cause autism mostly based on a oft-ridiculed year-old Italian Provincial Court ruling.

So now because an Italian court says vaccines cause autism (well, actually more specifically the MMR vaccine), we get to reject the mountains of evidence that state unequivocally that vaccines do not cause autism.

If this were just a one-off issue with vaccine denialism in the Italian court system, we could all make mocking jokes about Italy, but apparently it keeps happening.

Continue reading “Italian court says vaccines cause autism – wrong”

Incompetent Italian court vaccine ruling – good comedy

 

Professor Dorit Reiss recently posted an article here about a 2014 ruling from an Italian court in Milan that awarded compensation to a child that was claimed to have developed a neurological deficit after receiving GSK’s hexavalent vaccine, which protects children against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), Haemophilus influenzae type B and hepatitis B. Essentially, the decision was based on one so-called “expert” who seemed to think the tropes of the antivaccination world were scientifically based.

Professor Reiss pretty much debunks the legal arguments for that case by actually reviewing the court ruling rather than accept the word of various biased blogs and “news reports” out there in the world.

Of course, I’m not a legal scholar (nor do I play one on the internet), but Italy’s reputation as the center of legal interpretation of science is almost at the level of good comedy given its history. Italian court vaccine rulings would be great comedy if only it didn’t put children in harm’s way.

Remember, a previous Italian provincial court decided that vaccines cause autism, by accepting MrAndy Wakefield fraudulent claims over the consensus of science–vaccines do not cause autism. Update–an Italian appeals court overturns this Italian court vaccine ruling because of the lack of scientific evidence.

And let’s not forget about the Italian court that convicted six geologists for manslaughter because they could not accurately predict earthquakes (which no one can do, unless you’re a psychic). If this weren’t actually true, you’d think I was making this stuff up. Continue reading “Incompetent Italian court vaccine ruling – good comedy”

Manufacturing a controversy about the MMR vaccine

Here we go again with the trope that the MMR vaccine causes autism. The Daily Mail, a British middle market tabloid, has published an article, MMR: A mother’s victory: The vast majority of doctors say there is no link between the triple jab and autism, but could an Italian court case reignite this controversial debate?, that is attempting to create a controversy out of thin air about the MMR vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella. The article is referring to an insane Italian court ruling which, despite all evidence to the contrary, blamed a child’s autism on the vaccination.

Update–in February 2015, an Italian Court of Appeals overturns the decision by the Provincial Court, so the vaccine denier claim that “Italian courts state that vaccines cause autism” can be dismissed. Mostly.

Continue reading “Manufacturing a controversy about the MMR vaccine”

Vaccine denialists getting even more desperate to find link to autism

Generally, you know when a group is trying very hard to find support for their fringe beliefs when they have to find an insignificant court ruling in a small city in Italy. It’s like confirmation bias taken to the highest level of fallaciousness, trying to find that one irrelevant item that supports their pseudoscientific beliefs. In this case, it was a court in Rimini, Italy, a small city on the northern Adriatic coast. The court ruled that an anonymous child was diagnosed with autism about a year after receiving the MMR vaccine, which is a very safe vaccine that prevents mumps, measles and rubella, all diseases that are harmful to children. Continue reading “Vaccine denialists getting even more desperate to find link to autism”

Good job vaccine denialists

The anti-vaccinationsts have had a lot of success in Europe recently.  According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, they report these rather gloomy statistics for measles during the Jan-Oct, 2011 time period:

  • France–nearly 15,000 measles cases
  • Italy–over 4,500 cases
  • Spain–almost 1,900 cases
  • Europe–over 28,000 cases

Measles is a totally preventable disease with an extremely safe vaccination.  And even though there is a belief that measles is not that dangerous, acute measles has a 15% mortality rate.

I see these stories, and I wonder if the anti-vaccination zealots sleep at night knowing the harm they cause.