Are vaccine deniers shills for Big Cemetary?

July 29, 2010
Measles. This child shows a classic day-4 rash...
Image via Wikipedia

Today brought two deeply disturbing news stories that seem quite related to our psychotic anti-vaccine friends. First, a new report places my home state of New Jersey (also home to massive anti-vaccine campaigns) a disgraceful #45 on the list of vaccine protected states. In the U.S., only five other states and the District of Columbia are less protected by vaccines than New Jersey.

New Jersey’s immunization rate for children under 3, at 68.5 percent, is significantly lower than the national average of 76.1 percent and is woefully behind the 90 percent that public health authorities consider optimum for providing “herd immunity.”

And though I’d almost rather not distract from this horrible news, I think it is worth noting that New Jersey, despite having one of the worst vaccination rates in the country, also has among the highest rates of autism in the country, yet another inconvenient fact anti-vaxxers don’t want you to think about.

The other related news story is this report that hundreds of people in Tarrytown, New York have been exposed to measles, which has been tracked back to its source, a single unvaccinated person infected with the virus:

Exposure to the infected person may have occurred either Friday at a social event attended by 200 high school students from abroad at the EF International Language School on Marymount Avenue or between 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or Eva’s Hair Salon in the Westchester Marriott Hotel on White Plains Road in Greenburgh.

More than 900 people from the East Coast are believed to have been at the hotel during the time period. The infected individual stayed at the Marriott, but did not visit Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or the hair salon. However, airborne transmissions of the measles virus could have reached the restaurant or salon due to shared ventilation systems with the hotel.

And this is only the beginning. If the anti-vaccine movement is not stopped, we’ll see more outbreaks, which will inevitably lead to deaths. And if these viruses are allowed to rise again, there is no telling what level of destruction they will bring upon an unprotected populace. The power of an atomic bomb is insignificant compared to that of a well evolved virus.

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Wishing I was in Vegas right now

July 11, 2010

This weekend almost every atheist and skeptical big name you can think of is in Las Vegas. From all over the world, they’ve converged on The Amazing Meeting 8 (TAM8), a several day long conference celebrating all things skepticism. It’s gotten bigger every year. Last year’s TAM7 surpassed 1000 attendees. This year I hear it’s got 1300.

I’ve never been to a TAM and this was supposed to be the year I started attending. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do it this year though. However, I vow to attend TAM9 next year. Until then though, I’ll have to settle for The Friendly Atheist‘s Live-Blogging descriptions of the entire conference, thus far found here, here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE 7.11.10 – and here’s the link to the Live blog from the last day of TAM8.

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U.S.: atheists rising, religious falling

March 9, 2009

The latest American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) suggests that religion is losing ground in the U.S. while the number of atheists and those unaffiliated with any religion are rapidly rising in every state.

This, I think, is further vindication that those who have been taking a more aggressive approach in promoting atheism and critical thinking in recent years, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, among many others–have been changing minds despite the insistence of critics even within the atheist “community” that they’ve only turned more people off to atheism.

The information regarding the statistics outlined in the new study can be found by clicking the link above. But here are some of the key findings:

• Catholic strongholds in New England and the Midwest have faded as immigrants, retirees and young job-seekers have moved to the Sun Belt. While bishops from the Midwest to Massachusetts close down or consolidate historic parishes, those in the South are scrambling to serve increasing numbers of worshipers.

• Baptists, 15.8% of those surveyed, are down from 19.3% in 1990. Mainline Protestant denominations, once socially dominant, have seen sharp declines: The percentage of Methodists, for example, dropped from 8% to 5%.

• The percentage of those who choose a generic label, calling themselves simply Christian, Protestant, non-denominational, evangelical or “born again,” was 14.2%, about the same as in 1990.

• Jewish numbers showed a steady decline, from 1.8% in 1990 to 1.2% today. The percentage of Muslims, while still slim, has doubled, from 0.3% to 0.6%. Analysts within both groups suggest those numbers understate the groups’ populations.

Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky-Lexington, says that most national telephone surveys such as ARIS undercount Muslims, and that he is conducting a study of mosques’ membership sponsored by the Hartford (Conn.) Institute for Religious Research.

Meanwhile, some Jewish surveys that report larger numbers of Jews also include “cultural” Jews — those who connect to Judiasm through its traditions, but not necessarily through actively practicing the religion.

Meanwhile, nearly 2.8 million people now identify with dozens of new religious movements, calling themselves Wiccan, pagan or “Spiritualist,” which the survey does not define.