Syracuse University mumps outbreak – bad anti-vaccine math

Syracuse University mumps outbreak

Partially because I’m an alumnus, and partially because I watch new reports about infectious disease outbreaks all over the world, I’ve been following the recent Syracuse University mumps outbreak. As of 13 November 2017, Syracuse University (SU) Health Services has reported 41 confirmed cases and 78 probable cases of the mumps on the SU campus.

One of the age-old tropes of the anti-vaccine statistics world is that kids who have been vaccinated against the mumps (or measles or any disease) are more likely to get mumps (or any disease) than those who are not vaccinated. I squashed this myth before, but you know what happens – the anti-vaccine zombie tropes tend to reappear over and over and over and over again.

Now, the anti-vaccine statistics deniers have jumped into the Syracuse University mumps outbreak with their alternative facts, or should I say alternative math. So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. We will take down this trope. Continue reading “Syracuse University mumps outbreak – bad anti-vaccine math”

Where’s the common sense in the GMO discussion?

gmo_protestMy job here is to push science, and push it hard.  And I’m not pushing “science” as some esoteric philosophy of academia, but as a relatively easy system of gathering evidence in support of (or alternatively, in refutation of) what people believe. There isn’t some button you push to get “science”, even though way too many people think that click on a Google search qualifies as science (and evidence supporting their “science”). I try to call out false equivalences, that is, that all evidence is equal, even if one side of the “debate” has low quality or even no evidence. I try to provide methods to rank evidence, so that an average reader can get an indication of the quality of evidence supporting a pseudoscientific or anti-science belief, which allows anyone to make a better critical analysis of what is written.

But sometimes, you don’t even need science. Just common sense, something woefully lacking in many of the anti-science memes that seem to easily circulate across social media these days.

When I wrote an article about Richard Dawkin’s comments on genetically modified organisms (GMO) agriculture, I got a lot of comments on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and comments here. One of those sources lead me to an article by one of the world’s top scientists, Nina Fedoroff, a Penn State University faculty member, who actually studies biotechnology, and, more specifically, in the field of transposable elements or “jumping genes,” one of the major beliefs of GMO refusers. Her scientific bonafides are public, including being past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, probably one of the most prestigious institutions in science. That she is also an alumna of Syracuse University is just a bonus.  Continue reading “Where’s the common sense in the GMO discussion?”

Consequences of AIDS denialism–African American Female HIV Rates

Yesterday, I responded to an article that I read, where the author wanted African-Americans to refuse HIV testing because of…pseudoscientific nonsense. I refuted the 10 claims of the AIDS denialist without too much trouble, though I doubt that the denialist will care that much. An AIDS denialist, for those who might not know, is someone who denies the link between HIV and AIDS, blaming AIDS on something else (other than the scientifically supported HIV infection).

There are consequences to denying real science. Vaccine denialists are leading to an increase in communicable diseases that were once almost unknown. Climate change denialists may lead us to finding New York City under a few meters of water.  Continue reading “Consequences of AIDS denialism–African American Female HIV Rates”