Vaccine denialists declare first week of November Vaccine Awareness Week

October 18, 2010

I've been infected! OH NOES!!

I just got my flu vaccination today, so that may mean the zombie apocalypse has begun. But it seems quite appropriate that the day I got my vaccine, anti-vaxxers Barbara Loe Fisher and Joe Mercola declared November 1-6 “Vaccine Awareness Week” (VAW). Of course their real agenda is to use this time as a vaccine misinformation week. But the defenders of science-based medicine are more than happy to embrace this week themselves and, thanks to Orac, are now planning to organize to take vaccine awareness back from the ideologues.

Steven Novella is also game as is PalMD. And they’re inviting other science bloggers to join in writing articles debunking anti-vaxxer bullshit.

Now they’re collecting their own army of expert bloggers but even though I’m not a medical professional or even a scientist, I’ve certainly got an intermediate understanding of many of the facts that anti-vaxxers ignore and so am more than happy to help at least drown out some of the anti-vaxxer noise that week with some good information. So stay tuned. If they want a vaccine awareness week, we’ll give ‘em one.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 2.15.10

February 16, 2010

1. Ken Ham doesn’t understand why real museums don’t get mocked for featuring saddled dinosaur rides for kids – PZ Myers sums out quite concisely how Ham just doesn’t get it:

Yes, other places will display dinosaurs as fun exhibits for the kids, and I have no problem with that. The natural history museum at the University of Utah had a talking dinosaur out front — throw a coin in its mouth, and it would roar and thank you for your donation, and my kids were always pestering me for my spare change. That’s fine; they knew it was for fun, and when you went upstairs, you saw serious displays of real fossils with accurate ages and relationships posted by them, and no one argued that they could talk, or that people coexisted with them, or that they could be saddled and ridden.

2. Jim Carrey blocks Orac on Twitter – It’s truly sad that Jenny McCarthy took a talented guy like Jim Carrey, who only sometimes pretended to talk out of his ass and turned him into a guy who really talks out of his ass. Last week I responded to Jim and Jenny’s insipid and delusional letter defending the indefensible Andrew Wakefield. And Orac had responded on his blog too. He also decided to send his reply to Carrey directly via Twitter a whole bunch of times. Carrey’s reply initially was to throw a few insults back at Orac:

@oracknows BS

@oracknows have a smoke. science says it’s healthy. ;^)

science bloggers and media snow jobbers, if selling your soul to big pharma has you depressed, try Abilify + “Show Me The Monkeys!” RT ;^)

Then eventually, Carrey decided to block Orac. Orac has since declared it “a badge of honor.” And just for fun, I also tweeted Carrey.

3. Facilitated Communication debunked againI’d blogged about the Rom Houben case before and how this coma patient was being repulsively used by either a scammer or self-deluded individual. Now the truth comes out once and for all. And guess what? No real Facilitated Communication took place. Shocker:

Laureys has now carried out those tests, and his results hold that it wasn’t Houben doing the writing after all. The tests determined that he doesn’t have enough strength and muscle control in his right arm to operate the keyboard. In her effort to help the patient express himself, it would seem that the speech therapist had unwittingly assumed control. This kind of self-deception happens all the time when this method — known as “facilitated communication” — is used. (As a result, the things that Houben was attributed as saying to SPIEGEL for an article printed in November 2009 were also not authentic.)

In the more recent test, Houben was shown or told a series of 15 objects and words, without a speech therapist being present. Afterward, he was supposed to type the correct word — but he didn’t succeed a single time.

Too bad they didn’t conduct this same exact test when us skeptical bloggers explained it to them months ago.

As I wrote on December 2:

And it’s not like this hypothesis would be hard to test. We could blindfold the facilitator or show the motionless body of Houben one image and the facilitator another image without either seeing the other’s image to find out which image is identified. If the image shown only to Houben is identified, congratulations, facilitated communication works. But if, as I suspect, the image seen only by the facilitator is identified, congratulations, facilitated communication is a fraud.

And skeptical bloggers far more popular than me said the same thing.

4. Barbie becomes a computer engineer! – This is further proof of the enormous power wielded by internet nerds!

5. New study shows atheists are ‘just as ethical as church-goers -

Dr Hauser added: “The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.

Ya think?


News From Around The Blogosphere 10.22.09

October 23, 2009

1. Man ran down “too Westernized” daughter – An Iraqi man alleged ran down his daughter and her friend with a car because he believed she’d become “too Westernized.” The man, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, was last seen in a gray or silver Jeep Grand Cherokee, which I assume was the same car used to run down his daughter, so apparently it still drives. Now if that doesn’t raise sales, I don’t know what will. Too bad the Cash For Clunkers program ended.

2. Can a Japanese algorithm predict when you’re going to die? – I wouldn’t bet on it, but you gotta love the headline.

Does it work? Well, according to the team’s paper, published online here, the doomware has achieved “a moderate level of accuracy”.

3. Orac a shill for Suzanne Somers? – I guess this is the conclusion that Jake Crosby over at Age of Autism must accept since her book was advertised on Orac’s blog.

4. Whose side is Susan Hutchison? -According to her profile:

She is the executive director for the Charles Simonyi Fund for the arts and sciences which among other things, supports the work of atheist Richard Dawkins. She’s also served on the board of the Discovery Institute, which promotes the idea of intelligent design…

5. Atheists already donate 6% of Secular Student Alliance’s goal to raise $50,000 – It’s a great start but there’s still a long way to go. I urge anyone who can afford to donate to do so, even if it’s only a little bit.

6. Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson faces possible charges – I always hate when I have to defend the rights of Holocaust deniers, expecially ones who are also religious authorities, but sometimes protecting freedom of speech means having to defend horrible people. Even though not about his arrest, I highly recommend Chris Hitchens’ superb defense of David Irving’s work being published because of his passionate defense of even the worst kind of speech.


Skepacabra cited on Respectful Insolence

July 27, 2009

chupacabra.gifBeing cited by Orac is a badge of honor for us skeptical bloggers with smaller readerships, so thanks Orac!

Last week, I expressed my surprise and dismay that the Atheist Alliance International chose Bill Maher for the Richard Dawkins Award. I was dismayed because Maher has championed pseudoscience, including dangerous antivaccine nonsense, germ theory denialism complete with repeating myths about Louis Pasteur supposedly recanting on his deathbed, a hostility towards “Western medicine” and an affinity for “alternative medicine,” a history of sympathy to HIV/AIDS denialists, and the activities of PETA through his position on its board of directors, all facts that led me to liken his receiving the Richard Dawkins Award to giving an award for public health to Jenny McCarthy. I was not alone, either. Larry Moran, Matt D., and Skepacabra agreed with me.

This was the beginning of Orac’s response to fellow atheist/science blogger Jason Rosenhouse’s defense of Bill Maher’s receiving of the Richard Dawkins Award:

Jason also virtually concedes that Maher is not really an atheist, waving it away by saying:

“The fact that he has some vague belief in a higher force in the universe hardly negates all of the good work that he is done in areas of relevance to the award. He has defintely raised awareness of the nontheist life stance through the media and the arts, and certainly helps teach acceptance of the nontheist lifestyle, just as the award describes.”

Well, yes, but that’s only one criterion out of four, and fortunately Skeptico has already addressed this argument. In any case, Jason appears to be conceding that, at best, Maher meets only 2/4 criteria, with 1/4 (science) an EPIC FAIL and the other 1/4 questionable at best. If Jason thinks that’s the only criterion that matters and is willing to ignore the rest, I guess there isn’t much more to say other than that, personally, when an award is given, I prefer that the recipient actually meet all of the listed criteria. (I’m funny that way.) The recipient doesn’t have to meet all of them equally and could even be a little shaky on one or two of them. But miss any one of them by so much that he might as well be on another planet? I don’t think so. As I’ve pointed out before, Maher’s views on medicine and science would have made him a perfect “victim” of one of Richard Dawkins’ deconstructions in part 2 of his BBC documentary Enemies of Reason, right there with the homeopaths, crystal users, and various other woo believers.

Rational person that Rosenhouse is, he did concede at least some points to Orac in the comments section:

You are also right that I really, really like Bill Maher and do not like to see him criticized so harshly for what I take to be an annoying side note to an otherwise solid body of work. Perhaps this biases me in his favor. On the other hand, perhaps the fact that the issues on which he is bad are precisely the ones you care most about biases you against him.

Now he concedes that he’s probably defending Maher more because of personal bias. Fair enough. Before a week ago, I too was in denial of how anti-medicine Maher was. Of course, I changed my mind when presented with more evidence. Also, while he concedes to being a bit biased, it’s bullshit to accuse Orac of being biased against Maher’s anti-medical position, something Orac himself calls Rosenhouse on in a later comment. To downplay this by suggesting an anti-medical position is just Orac’s pet issue because he’s a doctor is absurd.


Congratulations Orac!

January 26, 2009

The blog Respectful Insolence is one of my favorite sources for updates on the latest nonsense being perpetuated by medical quacks. And now I’m happy to announce that that blog has won the 2008 Medical Weblog Award for Best Health Policies/Ethics Weblog of 2008.

Way to go, Orac!


News From Around The Blogosphere 01.06.09

January 6, 2009

Orac’s blog Respectful Insolence nominated again for Medical Blog Awards - Please vote for it. I can’t express enough how great this blog is. Orac has been one the most important critics of anti-vaccination quackery and more people should know what he has to say. Plus, when I co-founded Stop Jenny McCarthy a few months ago, he supported me (Note: unfortunately, since that blog entry, our URL changed to just http://www.stopjenny.com, which is why his link doesn’t work). The blog Science-Based Medicine, which he also writes for along with Steve Novella, Val Jones, and other awesome bloggers is nominated as well. As is Val Jones’ regular blog, Better Health.

And another of my favorite science bloggers, Phil Plait, gets a favorable book review from the Washington Post.

thank-god-im-an-atheistConservapedia reveals atheism has many causes though they don’t reveal the cure – Though I think the real cause of atheism is The Bible. I mean have you ever sat down and actually read the thing? How could you not become an atheist after that?

The Gideon Bible reaches the Big 100 – Yup, it’s been a whole 100 hundred years since a bunch of giant douches came up with the idea to populate almost all the hotels in America with Gideon Bibles.

It’s a ghost! An Irish Ghost! – Everyone hide your Guiness!

How to bend a spoon with just your mind -

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyEinstein’s Relativity: Fundamental Abnormality? – “Physicists at Indiana University have developed a promising new way to identify a possible abnormality in a fundamental building block of Einstein’s theory of relativity known as “Lorentz invariance.” If confirmed, the abnormality would disprove the basic tenet that the laws of physics remain the same for any two objects traveling at a constant speed or rotated relative to one another.”

THE FUNNIES:

In the future, vaccines will turn kids into brats


News From Around The Blogosphere 01.01.09

January 2, 2009

Teacher terminated over marriage – A woman who worked at Central Catholic High School was fired because her fiance was divorced. Actually I believe that according to “traditional marriage,” there’s no such thing as divorce, meaning this would be polygamy, which is fully endorsed in The Bible. So what’s the problem? This is what happen, folks, when you give religion even an inch into the doorway of your bedroom. It’s only a matter of time before they start dictating who you can talk to.

Orac is nominated again for Best Medical/Health Issues Blog of 2008 – Maybe next year Age of Autism (though I doubt it). And Autism Vox was another nominee. Congratulations you guys and good luck.

ERV recounts the epic fails of Intelligent Design’s Christmas past

Another reason for the Religious Right to hate Harry Potter – Daniel Radcliff is an atheist.

The Happiness Myth - A review of Jennifer Michael Hecht’s latest book.

Hecht previously wrote Doubt: A History,which reminds me to recommend everyone go out and see the new film, Doubt, which I think is hand’s down one of the best films this year with brilliant performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. Who would have thought a film about skepticism would be a serious Oscar contender?

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyOrigin Of Species In Oceans Challenged -

“New evidence uncovered by oceanographers challenges one of the most long-standing theories about how species evolve in the oceans.

Most scientists believe that allopatric speciation, where different species arise from an ancestral species only after breeding populations have become physically isolated from each other, is the dominant mode of speciation both on land and in the sea. The key to this theory is the existence of some kind of physical barrier that operates to restrict interbreeding (gene flow) between populations so that, given enough time, such populations diverge until they’re considered separate species.

. . .

Research by Dr Philip Sexton formerly of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (now at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego) and Dr Richard Norris (also of Scripps) suggests, however, that this mode of diversification may not be as prevalent for oceanic creatures as it is for land dwellers and somewhat controversially, they assert that the above model of speciation may actually be very rare in the world’s oceans.”

Now of course we can expect creationists to claim this is proof that Evolution is entirely wrong but of course that’s just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This is just a broadening of our knowledge of how Evolution works. Science, unlike religion, is willing to admit error and correct mistakes according to the evidence.

‘Missing Link’ In Spider Evolution Discovered – “New interpretations of fossils have revealed an ancient missing link between today’s spiders and their long-extinct ancestors. The research by scientists at the University of Kansas and Virginia’s Hampden-Sydney College may help explain how spiders came to weave webs.” And here’s a new transitional fossil for creationists to deny.

Now what you’ve all been waiting for:  FIGHTING MONKS!!!

Was the Where’s Matt viral video a hoax? – Very funny stuff.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.24.08

December 25, 2008

But Faux News told me atheists hate Christmas? – Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris explain what they’re doing for Christmas.

Michael Egnor of the creationist Discovery Institute returns to attack Steve Novella and Orac - Novella and Egnor have been battling it out for some time on their blogs. Every time this has resulted in Egnor making tired logically fallacious arguments to knock down materialism in order to leave room for his own brand of nonsense. And every time Novella has demolished every one of Egnor’s arguments. Now Egnor is moving onto defending “Alternative Medicine” against both Novella and Orac, both of which in addition to having their own blogs, write for the Science-Based Medicine blog. And once again, Steve Novella knocks down his logical fallacies. Orac also responds here.

Did an angel save this woman’s daughter? – Nope.

Festive medical myths – Some of these overlap with those covered in a video embedded in a previous blog.

Inventive things for atheists to autograph – Some people have had Richard Dawkins sign a banana, of course referencing Ray Comforts infamous “atheist nightmare.” Someone has gotten Matt Stone of South Park to autograph a Bible. And resurrecting Crackergate, someone has gotten PZ Myers to autograph an unconsecrated communion wafer:

Has your Nintendo Wii been beating you up? - Or did you just fall down some stairs?

According to Dr. Dev Mukerjee of Broomfield Hospital: “There has been a 100 percent increase in patients complaining of Wii-itis.” Turns out, Wii-itis is their word for playing so much Wii that you injure yourself. Astonishingly, up to ten people per week are being “hospitalized with injuries caused by playing Nintendo Wii games,” which has forced medical personnel to “issue warnings of the dangers associated with the video game system.”

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyChocolate, Wine, Tea Improve Brain Performance -“According to Oxford researchers working with colleagues in Norway, chocolate, wine and tea enhance cognitive performance.

The team from Oxford’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway examined the relation between cognitive performance and the intake of three common foodstuffs that contain flavonoids (chocolate, wine, and tea) in 2,031 older people (aged between 70 and 74).”


New Type Of Laser Discovered -“A Princeton-led team of researchers has discovered an entirely new mechanism for making common electronic materials emit laser beams. The finding could lead to lasers that operate more efficiently and at higher temperatures than existing devices, and find applications in environmental monitoring and medical diagnostics.”

Unwanted Memories Might Be Erasable – “In a discovery that may one day lead to the ability to erase debilitating painful memories and addictions from the brain, researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have found that a molecule known to preserve memories – PKMzeta – specifically stores complex, high-quality memories that provide detailed information about an animal’s location, fears, and actions, but does not control the ability to process or express this information. This finding suggests that PKMzeta erasure that is designed to target specific debilitating memories could be effective against the offending memory while sparing the computational function of brain.”

THE FUNNIES:

To all of our friends. . .
and a couple of our enemies:

Happy Saturnalia!
Happy Yule!
Happy Dies Natalis Solis Invicti !
Happy Kwanzaa!
Merry Christmastide! (aka Christmas!)
Happy Festivus!
Happy Chrismakkah!
Happy Monkey!

And to Bill O’Reilly: Happy Chanukkah!

War is Over (if you want it)



News From Around The Blogosphere 10.18.08

October 19, 2008
No longer the logo

No longer the logo

Stop Jenny gets 2 more major plugs! First, as with PZ Myers, I made a personal request to Orac to please plug the site, which he did. Then Skeptico followed suit. I don’t know if one of my co-conspirators at Stop Jenny had something to do with that one or if they got the story from one of the other sites where I’ve been pimping it but either way, I’m grateful to everyone helping to make the site a success. You guys are awesome! I’ve also just contacted Phil Plait and requested a mention.

New book: unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity. . . and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons – It’s got some interesting statistics worth checking out.

EPIC FAIL!

And to think they’d maybe be onto something if history would just cooperate and move backwards – The Institute for Creation Research has just claimed that Mendel published his paper on genetics in 1866 to refute Darwin’s theory of pangenesis (which, by the way, was published in 1868).

Aquareidolia:

THE FUNNIES:

The epic battle continues:

And for the exciting conclusion to the cartoon, go here. Personally, I’m with Stephen Colbert:

“Agnostics are just atheists without balls.”

And this site is freakin’ hilarious – palinaspresident.us – It’s an interactive page, so CLICK ON EVERYTHING! And if you keep opening and closing the door, there are 4 different possible things you’ll find on the other side.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Mass Production Of Stem Cells From A Hair – “The first reports of the successful reprogramming of adult human cells back into so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which by all appearances looked and acted like embryonic stem cells, created a media stir. But the process was woefully inefficient: Only one out of 10,000 cells could be persuaded to turn back the clock.

Now, a team of researchers led by Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, succeeded in boosting the reprogramming efficiency more than 100-fold, while cutting the time it takes in half. In fact, they repeatedly generated iPS cells from the tiny number of keratinocytes attached to a single hair plucked from a human scalp.” – Of course this would all be totally unnecessary if the U.S. had a pro-science administration. I’m just sayin’.

Decay Of Brain’s Myelin Causes Physical Decline – “Reporting in the online version of the journal Neurobiology of Aging, Dr. George Bartzokis, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and his colleagues compared how quickly a group of males ranging in age from 23 to 80 could perform a motor task and then correlated their performances to their brains’ myelin integrity. The researchers found a striking correlation between the speed of the task and the integrity of myelination over the range of ages. Put another way, after middle age, we start to lose the battle to repair the myelin in our brain, and our motor and cognitive functions begin a long, slow downhill slide.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 8.15.08

August 16, 2008

Donations for Robert Lancaster and Family – Lancaster, creator of the site StopSylviaBrowne.com, suffered a stroke last week and is on the road to recovery. If you’d like to help, click on the first link to find out how.

Webster Cook and Ben Collard Avoid Expulsion – Cook is the student who’s communion wafer heist sparked Crackergate. As you may recall, I wrote to the university president to defend Cook and his friend Collard and received this dismissive response. Well, I wasn’t alone in writing the university on this matter. And although I don’t know for sure, it’s possible our letters contributed to the university’s decision to not punish Cook and Collard:

On Tuesday, a panel of four students and two administrators, voted unanimously to dismiss all charges against Webster Cook and his friend Ben Collard, saying there was no hard evidence that the two did anything which would merit expulsion or suspension.

Prince Charles claims genetically modified crops are dangerous – He also supports Homeopathy. It jsut goes to show that you can have all the money in the world and a world-class education, and still be a dumbass.

Big Foot hoax story not going away -Nothing new here. Guy claims to have evidence that he won’t show anyone, shows a blurry photograph, and promises of forthcoming evidence that will never come. Though I do get a little bit of comfort from the fact that even the Faux News people don’t hide their obvious skepticism.

Jenny McCarthy emails Orac for help – Boy, did she get the wrong address.

Review – “The Goldilocks Enigma” by Paul Davies – A deeper look on the Fine Tuning Argument

And now for a moment of science:

Big-brained Animals Evolve Faster – “Ever since Darwin, evolutionary biologists have wondered why some lineages have diversified more than others. A classical explanation is that a higher rate of diversification reflects increased ecological opportunities that led to a rapid adaptive radiation of a clade.”


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