Respectful Insolence

No màs! No màs! I surrender!

I give up!

I tried. I really, really did try. I tried really, really hard not to look at the flaming idiocy of Bill Maher again, much less comment on it again. Here I am, in Chicago at the American College of Surgeons annual meeting, taking in all sorts of surgical goodness, trying to take a break from blogging. It’s not so much to ask, is it? I didn’t think so, anyway.

Then, exactly a week after he accepted the Richard Dawkins Award, Bill Maher couldn’t help it but let his freak flag fly! In fact, he started out an interview with Bill Frist by asking:

“Conservatives always say about health care, especially, you know, are you going to let the government run health care? They screw everything up. So why would you let them be the ones to stick a disease into your arm?”

After Bill Frist interjected to ask whether Maher was talking about the swine flu vaccine Maher continued, “I would never get a swine flu vaccine or any vaccine.”

That’s right, the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award is an anti-vaccine wingnut, and he couldn’t even wait a week to spew even more pseudoscience to dishonor the name of Richard Dawkins. Look for yourself:


But even that wasn’t enough. I decided to try assiduously to avoid this latest bit of antivaccine lunacy from the idiot known as Bill Maher, a.k.a. the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award, courtesy of the Atheist Alliance International. After all, it’s just par for the course. It’s nothing that those of us who have followed Maher for the last four years hadn’t known about for a long time. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before. So, even though the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award was there spewing his anti-vaccine nonsense on his HBO television show, initially I didn’t see much point in dredging this up again. After all, as I had already listed multiple examples of Maher doing exactly the same thing in a post in which I suggested that people ask Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins some questions.

But, you, my readers wouldn’t relent. You kept sending me links to the video, beginning Friday night, and you didn’t stop. Even then, even though the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award was spewing his usual brand of anti-vaccine nonsense, the same sort of nonsense that he had been spewing for years before he received the Richard Dawkins Award and which anyone who had clue one about Maher would have easily discovered before giving him the Richard Dawkins Award, still I held back. After all, I was in Chicago, having a good time, and looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends and colleagues whom I only get to see maybe once a year. Maher could wait. Or I could just let this latest idiocy pass. After all, there’s sure to be more idiocy from his lips sooner or later. It’s inevitable, because the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award is a complete and total flaming wingnut when it comes to medicine. In fact, I’m surprised that the NVIC didn’t invite him to its latest conference to be the entertainment. Either that, or next we’ll be seeing him blog for the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism before long.

Then it was pointed out to me that P.Z. Myers had referred to Maher as a “moron on medicine,” which is, of course, completely true. Even though it seemed that the universe had turned inside out, with PZ blogging about anti-vaccine loons and me blogging about evolution and showing Richard Dawkins trying to wade through the burning sea of stupid that is Bill O’Reilly, still I held back.

Then I was told that there was a post on that repository of antivaccine pseudoscience and lies, The Huffington Post, calling Bill Maher out for his anti-vaccine rant at Bill Frist.

Now that, I couldn’t allow to stand. The repository of all medical woo and anti-vaccine lies all the time called out the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award for his dangerous anti-vaccine pseudoscience, and I hadn’t? Oh, no, no, no, no, no! That’s my territory! So out of my blog break I now come for the moment.

Let’s just put it this way. The flu vaccine doesn’t give you the flu; diet and exercise will not make you somehow magically immune to the flu; and Bill Maher’s advice is potentially deadly to anyone who listens to him. In comparison, Bill Frist looks like the epitome of science and reason, and that‘s saying something. In fact, I did so love the part where Maher said to Frist, “You say that as though I’m a crazy person,” and Frist replied, “Well, here you are.”

The look on Maher’s face was priceless. So was the smirk and shrug Maher did when Frist told him point blank, “You’re wrong” and “look at the science.”

After that, Bill went on to rant about how he cannot believe that a “perfectly healthy” person died of the flu, and things deteriorated from there. into the purest nonsense. Here’s a hint for Bill: Reality doesn’t care what you do or do not “believe.” Really. It doesn’t. Worst, Maher tried to twist evolutionary arguments to claim that vaccines are useless because “viruses are always mutating,” after which he went on to give highly dangerous advice, namely that pregnant women should not get the swine flu vaccine. Most pathetically, Maher also quoted Jonas Salk about live virus vaccines having the potential to cause the disease they are directed against, showing clearly that he doesn’t understand the difference between an attenuated live virus vaccine and a killed virus vaccine–or, these days, a vaccine made of recombinant viral protein antigens.

And the AAI gave this wingnut the Richard Dawkins Award.

You know, I’m not going to let the AAI forget it, either. From here on out, each time I blog about Bill Maher’s support for quackery, his science-free hatred of vaccines, or his claims that healthy living will magically protect people against deadly infectious diseases, I am going to refer to him as the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award.

Because that’s what Bill Maher is.

He’s an anti-vaccine, quackery-supporting font of flaming moronicity every bit as bad as Ken Ham, Michael Behe, or any flak from the Discovery Institute. His views on medicine are every bit as much ideology driven as any view on evolution from a creationist. Indeed, the vitalism from which Maher’s germ theory denialism derives is every bit as much a mystical, religious viewpoint as that of the worst hard core young earth creationist. And he’s the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award.

Good going, AAI.

ADDENDUM: Yes, as has been pointed out in the comments, this is the perfect description for how I felt having to blog about this again:

Actually, I’m sure I’ve used this clip before. At least twice. But it fits, so I’m using it again.

Comments

  1. #1 Jennay
    October 12, 2009

    Bill doesn’t know a lot of very basic things, only one of which is: “Take turns.”
    I can’t stand to listen to conversations where one person won’t let the other talk.

  2. #2 SciencePundit
    October 12, 2009

    I guess you’ll never be invited as a guest on the prime time HBO show hosted by the 2009 Richard Dawkins Award winner.

  3. #3 Bill Owen
    October 12, 2009

    Keep telling us how good your medicine is. The actions of your industry prove everyday you are cold blooded killers that do what you do for money.

    “A CIGNA employee gave the finger — literally — to a woman whose daughter died after the insurance giant refused to cover her liver transplant.

    Hilda and Krikor Sarkisyan went to CIGNA’s Philadelphia headquarters, along with supporters from the California Nurses Association, to confront the CEO Edward Hanway over the death of her 17-year-old child.

    In 2007, Nataline Sarkisyan was denied a liver transplant by the company, on the grounds that the operation was “too experimental” to be covered. Nine days later it changed its mind, in response to protests outside its office. It was too late: Nataline died hours later.

    “CIGNA killed my daughter,” Nataline’s mother Hilda told security.

    Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/08/cigna-employee-flips-off_n_314189.html

  4. #4 Paul
    October 12, 2009

    @Bill Owen
    It was medicine that was going to provide the liver transplant. Get your outrage straight.
    But, more to the point, WTF does this have to do with that flaming asshole Maher?

  5. #5 Joseph C.
    October 12, 2009

    Keep telling us how good your medicine is. The actions of your industry prove everyday you are cold blooded killers that do what you do for money.

    Happeh, if you’re going to bash medicine, you should include a story that actually backs you up. That link is about an issue with an insurance company and it presumes that a liver transplant would have had value. It’s no secret that doctors aren’t exactly fond of insurance companies.

  6. #6 Joseph C.
    October 12, 2009

    I never thought I’d fall on the side of Bill Frist on anything, especially after his despicable abuse of his medical training in the Terry Schiavo debacle. It’s a strange world when we pay a who doesn’t know a macrophage from a Big Mac millions of dollars to get on TV and embarrass himself in front of a friggen’ transplant surgeon. Richard Dawkins must be off crying somewhere.

  7. #7 DrRachie
    October 12, 2009

    *Facepalm* please. Why did AAI give this guy this award? Precisely what is the award for exactly? I don’t understand. I am at a loss.

  8. #8 DrRachie
    October 12, 2009

    @Bill, I always get my health care information from the HuffPo too. Very reliable source, it is.

  9. #9 Pablo
    October 12, 2009

    So Bill Frist slaps Maher down, but all Richard Dawkins can do is to say that he “doesn’t agree with his views on medicine”?

  10. #10 the bug guy
    October 12, 2009

    I salute the resilience of your brain cells. I had to stop halfway through to prevent irreversible damage.

  11. #11 Joel
    October 12, 2009

    @Bill Owen
    Heck, in this very interview Bill Maher attacks a plan to reduce American’s dependency on the insurance companies willing to let their customers die rather than fulfill their contractual obligations and pay for the medicine.

    You’re so off-target I’m struggling to believe I’m not feeding a troll.

    @DrRachie
    It was awarded for the film Religulous, at the expense of the other criteria.

  12. #12 James
    October 12, 2009

    Keep it up!

    Dawkins and Myers have let their anti-religion obsessions over-ride their commitment to science.

  13. #13 titmouse
    October 12, 2009

    Juliet Dawkins, Richard’s daughter, is in med school.

    How I’d love to be a fly on the wall during a family discussion of the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award for reason and science.

  14. #14 JD
    October 12, 2009

    Well, you were right Orac. And I don’t hate to say it.

  15. #15 Passing Through
    October 12, 2009

    I’m sorry for the off-topic comment, but since a recurring topic on this blog is Andrew Wakefield, I feel it’s only off-topic for this post and well on-topic for the blog.

    Apparently back in August, an anonymous editor altered the Wikipedia entry on Wakefield to slant the coverage in Wakefield’s favor. You can see the changes the editor made here: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Andrew_Wakefield&diff=prev&oldid=308886442 . Some of those changes were subsequently, properly, reverted. Others remain to this day (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Andrew_Wakefield&diff=319272715&oldid=304828931); particularly I noted that the article claims “All but 2 of the children [in Wakefield's study] who regressed were found to have the same enterocolitis.” This of course distorts the truth, since the majority of the children in whom Wakefield “found” enterocolitis were previously examined by others looking for inflammatory bowel disease who found no abnormality in that area.

    If any readers here wish to try and fix the slanting of the entry, remember that Wikipedia does have rules governing content, and citing the rules when making corrections is the likeliest method of making lasting changes. The anonymous editor’s claims about nearly the children all having the same enterocolitis, for instance, was inserted with no citation; if someone replaced that sentence with one spelling out that Wakefield claimed enterocolitis in all but two of the children, but subsequent examination found that Wakefield was declaring bowel abnormalities where no one else had seen them, and cited a reliable source for that claim (such as http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article5683671.ece# ), it would be difficult for anyone to claim that Wikipedia should remove the well-cited information in order to restore the uncited claim.

  16. #16 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    October 12, 2009

    Bill Owens is just Jealous that Maher gets to have a post calling him a flaming wack-a-loon and he didn’t get anything.

  17. #17 Christophe Thill
    October 12, 2009

    Bill Owen: wrong thread. Please go post this truly tragic story somewhere else. For instance, as a comment to an anti-healthcare system reform post. You know, the kind that argues that the current US system is the best in the world and that it must remain as it is. I’m sure it’s not hard to find.

  18. #18 Calli Arcale
    October 12, 2009

    Insurance companies are known to screw patients out of treatment on occasion, sometimes quite egregiously and systematically, to the point where it could be called fraud.

    A hospital in California had a problem with some technicians seriously screwing up radiation dosages during brain scans, putting patients at some increased risk of long-term effects.

    Therefore flu vaccines don’t work.

    Huh? I think I missed something there.

    Of course, if one wished to simply point at the failures of different forms of medicine, there is no shortage of targets. Just a few days ago, a bunch of people attempting to purify themselves died in a sweat lodge near Sedona, Arizona. I don’t think “alternative medicine”, whatever that is (besides medicine that doesn’t enjoy having to explain itself), really has the moral high ground. Wouldn’t it be more productive to disregard the petty bickering and just focus on the science? So you can know what works, rather than avoiding the science just so you can avoid finding out that “alternative” medicine is often neither safe nor effective?

    Would you *really* prefer medicine where the difficult questions (like those concerning the radiation dosages at Cedars-Sinai) is not allowed? That’s alternative medicine. Alt med doesn’t tell you when half its patients die. That makes it look a lot safer than regulated medicine, but it’s an illusion deliberately fostered to bolster profits.

    Think about that.

  19. #19 Militant Agnostic
    October 12, 2009

    I was interesting to see all the “Holy Shit! Orac was right after all” comments when this was posted on Pharyngula.

  20. #20 Katharine
    October 12, 2009

    Bill Owens, MEDICINE DOES NOT EQUAL THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.

    It’s simple as that.

  21. #21 Anthro
    October 12, 2009

    It would be fitting if the 2009 Dawkins Award were to die of lung cancer due to excessive pot smoking; I’m sure he thinks he’s immune due to his “healthy” living.

  22. #22 Dangerous Bacon
    October 12, 2009

    Bill Owen: “The actions of your industry prove everyday you are cold blooded killers that do what you do for money.”

    Well, of coure. That explains my death’s head tattoo and uncanny resemblance to Daddy Warbucks.

  23. #23 JayZee
    October 12, 2009

    Blechhhh…all this pussy footing around, why not just take on the elephant in the room?

    “Iatrogenic disease.”

    start small with SMON–a model of the iatrogenic disease.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15152488

    im not surprised Japan banned tamiflu for children.Kids in the US or who travel to the US for treatment, not so lucky.

    FIRST VICTIM DIES IN US FROM SWINE FLU!

    “Health officials said Wednesday that a nearly 2-year-old Mexican boy is the first confirmed U.S. death from swine flu. “

  24. #24 Denice Walter
    October 12, 2009

    Just as an aside: many woo-providers and enablers are public people who have TV or radio shows and appear as performers or at upcoming anti-vax conventions.This fall and winter might be a very active flu season.By odds alone,*some* of them will *have* to come down with the flu.Now I’m not taking any bets… I wonder how these absences would be explained?

  25. #25 Dan Weber
    October 12, 2009

    So has Maher gone back on the HPV vaccine? Or is that one still good because the religious right doesn’t like it?

  26. #26 Prup (aka Jim Benton)
    October 12, 2009

    Let me try and give a parallel. A couple of years ago, an ‘avowed atheist’ was running for Attorney General of a Southern State — I think it was Alabama. Imagine a blogger with a small atheist blog had seen this headline and had thought “Gee, i’ve been sick with the flu and haven’t given this week’s Atheist of the Week Award yet. This guy must have guts, let’s give it to him.”

    So he does, and then he reads the article more closely and discovers that while this person does claim to be an atheist — he has since claimed he has converted to Fundie Christianism, but that came later — he is also a White Supremacist of the Stormfront variety.

    How long do you think it would take for the poor blogger to live that down, if he didn’t close his blog in shame? How worse would it have been if he had continued to defend the award, saying ‘well, the facts were right, he DID run for office as a proclaimed atheist’ rather than immediately apologizing and withdrawing the award publicly?

    Yet he would be a small blogger who was giving an insignificant award, and who had no time to do research. How many months passed between the announcement of the award and its bestowal?

  27. #27 Sastra
    October 12, 2009

    Good going, AAI.

    No, it was very bad going, and a mistake of the first order.

    Why was he chosen? As an extension I think of the spirit of Richard Dawkins’ OUT Campaign: do not fear speaking out against sacred cows like religion. As a mainstream public figure, he’s not just preaching that particular message to the usual choir. Satire and humor are particularly important weapons in breaking the spell against openly criticizing faith. Until this spell is broken, skepticism also tends to be muffled because skeptics, like atheists, tell people what they don’t want to hear, and they’re not always nice about it. I suspect that one of the reasons behind quackademic medicine’s shocking inroads into legitimate forums is the widespread underlying assumption that one mustn’t challenge people’s “deeply held beliefs” on alt med because, like with religion, they are comforted. And much of alt med has roots in spirituality and faith, and those are supposed to be off bounds to criticism. Science is trumped by an attitude that defers to sensitivity.

    Maher is, of course, wildly inconsistent. According to PZ, Dawkins told him that he wanted to bring up alternative medicine on the Real Time show, and he was told Maher thought it was “too personal.” WTF??? I would have expected him to be all for it. Shhhttt.

    No, you shouldn’t let anyone forget this. It wasn’t a good idea to let the Dawkins Award slide temporarily into an OUT Award; the emphasis will be on the word “temporarily,” I think. Can’t defend the choice, won’t try — but there is an aspect which isn’t totally unreasonable.

    Of course, Maher isn’t totally unreasonable all the time either, and maybe that only makes it worse. Add hypocrite to his defects.

  28. #28 Alex
    October 12, 2009

    He actually said he would recommend pregnant women not to get vaccinated. One of the most dangerous comments I’ve heard on TV in a long while…

  29. #29 Uncle Dave
    October 12, 2009

    Maher is another example of one whom has likely never had a disease or ailment that required any sort of serious medical attention. Very similar to those that like thier health insurance, this group is mostly comprised of individuals that have not made any noteworthy insurance claims with an insurance company. Of course they like thier insurance company, I like mine too, but I have not tested my insurance company yet with a serious claim.

    If Bill were to get some sort serious illness or god forbid cancer, it would be interesting to see where he would seek medical attention once his own ass is on the line.

    People can be qutie adamant about thier beliefs, up until the point where they have to consider into funeral arrangements.

  30. #30 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 12, 2009

    It’s hard to figure out what connections exist in JayZee’s mind between the various subjects he mentions. What exactly does SMON and the hypothesis that it was caused by clioquinol (a hypothesis that a little research will show is far from universally accepted) have to do with Tamiflu – except in a mind so dull that it can only think in the broadest categories and consequently believes that if one preventative medicine has been shown to have dangers, all preventative medicines must thus be equally dangerous? And is it idiocy or an attempt to deceive that leads JayZ to announce FIRST VICTIM DIES IN US FROM SWINE FLU! in all capitals – and leave out the fact that that first death occurred at the end of April 2009, and has been followed by many more since then?

  31. #31 JayZee
    October 12, 2009

    SMON–a model of the iatrogenic disease.

    *crickets chirping*

  32. #32 Neuroskeptic
    October 12, 2009

    Have you read that paper JayZee? I doubt you can read Japanese, since you can scarely read English.

  33. #33 Prometheus
    October 12, 2009

    Hoo boy! It’s a target-rich environment in the comments!

    “Bill Owen” comments (way off-topic):

    In 2007, Nataline Sarkisyan was denied a liver transplant by the company, on the grounds that the operation was “too experimental” to be covered. Nine days later it changed its mind, in response to protests outside its office. It was too late: Nataline died hours later.

    So, an insurance company (which – I have to note – does not provide medical care) denies payment for a liver transplant and a young girl dies nine days afterwards. Perhaps “Bill Owen” isn’t aware that liver transplant – even in cases as “straightforward” as acute liver necrosis from mushroom poisoning – has a high mortality rate. There is also the bit about needing to find a donor – livers don’t “keep” well in the ‘fridge.

    If this young girl was so ill that she died only nine days after her physicians requested a liver transplant (let’s call it two weeks, to allow for time it took the insurance company to reject the claim), then she was probably too ill to wait for a donor. I don’t have very recent data, but the waiting period for a liver was several days (in acute illnesses) to several months. The waiting period, by the way, is governed largely by the availability of compatible donors.

    While this may be a “fail” for insurance companies, I don’t see how it was a “fail” for medicine. Perhaps “Bill Owen” has been confused by recent political discussions where pundits have a hard time differentiating between “health care” and “paying for health care”. For “Bill Owen’s” benefit, doctors and nurses provide the former, insurance companies (including Medicare and Medicaid) provide the latter.

    JayZee comments (again, way off-topic):

    start small with SMON–a model of the iatrogenic disease.

    JayZee seems unaware that the SMON problem happened in the 1950′s to early 1970′s. Japan took clioquinol off the market in 1970. While the problem can be traced to an overuse of clioquinol in otherwise uncomplicated diarhhea, the connection was made and internal use of the drug ceased.

    So, this example of how an uncommon complication of a widely (over)used drug was detected and the proper steps taken is an indictment of modern medicine because……?

    Given that doctors and researchers are not (yet) all-knowing and able to see into the future, I think that this was a pretty good outcome. A problem with a particular use of a drug arose, was detected and corrective measures put in place. Too bad that doesn’t happen with “alternative” medicine.

    Finally, to Bill Maher – this is an example of how an organization can be hurt by associating themselves with someone who supports just one part of their agenda. While Bill Maher has “broken the ice” with his religion-mocking movie, Religilous, his amorphous “spirituality” and his anti-science positions are not a good “fit” with the AAI.

    By giving Bill Maher an award – let alone the “Richard Dawkins Award” – the AAI has “linked” themselves to Maher in the minds of many people (me included). I think that they will come to regret this, since Bill Maher is not an atheist (he just hates “organized religion” – he has repeatedly talked about his own “spirituality”) and does not support a rational, scientific view of the universe (quite the opposite, in fact).

    When you lay down with the dogs, you get up with fleas.

    Prometheus

  34. #34 PZ Myers
    October 12, 2009

    I think it’s a good idea to shackle the AAI to this choice, too — it will encourage them to be much more careful in making selections in the future.

  35. #35 Diane G.
    October 12, 2009

    19
    I was interesting to see all the “Holy Shit! Orac was right after all” comments when this was posted on Pharyngula.

    Posted by: Militant Agnostic | October 12, 2009 10:46 AM

    EXACTLY! I nearly posted as much on PZ’s relevant thread, but was too chicken. Orac’s been providing more info than one could possibly need to reach the conclusion that this awardee choice was wrong, wrong, wrong, and it’s only when PZ posts a clip on his blog that people wake up?

    This phenomenon of not appreciating real info till it hits personally regularly drives me up a wall–about every other week someone’s in the paper campaigning for child seats, bike helmets, etc., because they “never realized how important these things were” till their own child died for want of one…Somehow I didn’t expect the same kind of reaction from the self-styled rational community…

    And with Prometheus, I am extremely wary of Maher’s inscrutable position on matters metaphysical…since his positions aren’t at all based in the reality community, I would not be at all surprised to hear him championing some strain of New Age mystical woo some day, as long as it was politically leftwing enough. It’d be fun to see AAI, Dawkins, PZ, et. al., tap dance out of that…

  36. #36 Pablo
    October 12, 2009

    EXACTLY! I nearly posted as much on PZ’s relevant thread, but was too chicken. Orac’s been providing more info than one could possibly need to reach the conclusion that this awardee choice was wrong, wrong, wrong, and it’s only when PZ posts a clip on his blog that people wake up?

    thirded

    I am trying to figure out, how is this a surprise to anyone who has been around at all? PZ even participated in the discussion and linked Orac’s blog. This is old news.

    My prediction: instead of learning from the beating, it will actually strengthen Maher’s resolve. Anything supported so strongly by Bill Frist MUST be bad.

  37. #37 Isis the Scientist
    October 12, 2009

    Preach on, Brother Orac. And enjoy Chicago. If you have a chance to visit with Mrs. Orac, the spa in the W hotel is amazing.

  38. #38 Robert S.
    October 12, 2009

    Just when you thought you were out

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU

  39. #39 IR
    October 12, 2009

    Prometheus@33: well-written.

  40. #40 Siamang
    October 12, 2009

    Time for a Bill Maher award.

    I say we give it out to some 9/11 “truthers”.

  41. #41 sailor
    October 12, 2009

    In Defense of Bill Maher
    First of all let me say that I agree with Orac’s final paragraph, so I am certainly not going to defend Bill on his attitude towards vaccines. However, behind his faulty and warped pronouncements, is a spark of something I find admirable; skeptism about the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Orac himself has tasted of this cup in as much as he has posted insolence on some bad science practices. Unfortunately, in Bill Maher’s case, he has drunk so deeply and blindly he has become dangerously ignorant, while Orac is just properly skeptical.
    On the other hand, when I read some of the comments on skeptical blogs, I find an attitude of credulity when it comes to science that does not seem to me to be healthily skeptical. Don’t get me wrong I am absolutely convinced by the evidence that, when properly applied, science can and does provide the purest form of truth. However, science is a human endeavor that cost money, so it not necessarily always properly applied, there is often a political element and any one that supposes big pharma has your best interests at heart, as opposed to profits, is being incredibly naïve.
    I could rant at length on the misapplication of science from using lead as an additive in gasoline, to the obfuscation of the link between cancer and smoking by the tobacco industry, to the current muddying of the evidence on global warming by the fossil fuel industry.
    But instead, let us just take one facet of faith of the skeptical movement that I think is unwarranted. That all non-traditional approaches to health are untested, and anything that is scientifically shown to work best will end up as your treatment. Right now one of the big debates about health care is how to contain costs. And one thing that has been shown is that Americans who can afford it are often over-tested and treated. The basis of this problem was well espoused by George Bernard Shaw in his play “Doctor’s Dilemma”. When you have a system that pays for providing services, there is a strong incentive for the doctor and supporting cast to provide those services, not get you better.
    I think we will agree that most woo practitioners are misguided at best and frauds at worst. However, there are approaches to health that do have science behind them that get ignored because they are not part of most doctors thinking and routine. I seem to remember in Abramson’s book Overdosed America (this book should be part of every skeptics library, but keep in mind some of the more pernicious crimes against good science perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry that he mentions, have now been taken care of by the journals) that a study was once done comparing the effect on heart heath of prescribing statins as compared with advising patients about exercise and diet. The latter was found to more effective, but the former is the standard practice. It is much easier for the doctor, and makes lots of money for the drug industry.
    When was the last time your doctor talked to you about diet and whether you are eating enough green vegetables and fruit? If the answer is something other than never, you have a good doctor. There is science behind the preventative value of good food, but it does not often get into medical practice.
    When I was a student, there was really excellent scientific evidence that stress could cause stomach ulcers. Not just stress, but a particular kind of stress in which responsibility for others was involved. The experiments were on chimps, but they were very convincing. So for years, this was integrated into medical practice. Then we made another discovery; helicobacter pylori, that was also clearly implicated in ulcers. Now, as far as I know medical practice for ulcers seems to be centered on getting rid of helicobacter pylori. It is easily done with an antibiotic; counseling on stress has been completely forgotten.
    So yes science works, but both the filtering of what science gets done and which treatment you receive may need questioning. Mill Maher is a nut, but just a tiny grain of the skepticism, which is the basis for his attitude, could be beneficial.

  42. #42 titmouse
    October 12, 2009

    However, there are approaches to health that do have science behind them that get ignored because they are not part of most doctors thinking and routine.

    I’m afraid that a billion dollars and ten years later, we’re still waiting for NCCAM to find some alternative therapy that actually works.

    Humans can be corrupted consciously or unconsciously. So it’s no surprise that scientific studies can be corrupted. This is why we expect important studies to be replicated by independent parties before we take them seriously.

    Americans should want their billion dollars back. They should also ask for NCCAM to be shut down.

  43. #43 jean k
    October 12, 2009

    @32, 33. Happeh = JayZee, perhaps?

  44. #44 sailor
    October 12, 2009

    Titmouse, no argument, I was not arguing for any of the standard woo.I would not argue for anything that was not, or could not be supported by science.

  45. #45 Pablo
    October 12, 2009

    a study was once done comparing the effect on heart heath of prescribing statins as compared with advising patients about exercise and diet. The latter was found to more effective, but the former is the standard practice.

    Honestly, where do people get this nonsense?

    Every doctor I ever hear talk will always go on and on and on about getting a good diet and exercise. My doctor constantly goes on about it. I’ve mentioned here before about how I listen to Dr Radio (XM 119, Sirius 114) and every one of the doctors on there will go on about exercise and diet – to the point where I get tired of it (and turn the channel).

    The problem is NOT that doctors don’t prescribe exercise and diet, it is that PATIENTS don’t want exercise and diet. They would rather take a pill

    When was the last time your doctor talked to you about diet and whether you are eating enough green vegetables and fruit?

    Try “every time I’ve been to the doctor” for a physical exam, which is about every 18 mos for the last 10 years.

    And I see no reason to think that my doctor is anything unusual at all.

  46. #46 Benjamin Geiger
    October 12, 2009

    A message from Almighty God:

    “GOP politician tries to convince atheist to respect science. http://is.gd/4fK7d Wait, what?”

  47. #47 JayZee
    October 12, 2009

    JayZee seems unaware that the SMON problem happened in the 1950′s to early 1970′s. Japan took clioquinol off the market in 1970.
    *The disease, called SMON, was blamed for over ten years on various viruses – look out it’s the bird flu- it’s the swine flu no it’s the Foo flu.

    So, this example of how an uncommon complication of a widely (over)used drug was detected and the proper steps taken is an indictment of modern medicine because……overused is an understatement *20 years of drug induced mortality and morbidity with the same one drug?

    Given that doctors and researchers are not (yet) all-knowing and able to see into the future, I think that this was a pretty good outcome.*That’s easy for you to say, Spanky.The outcome smells bad.

    A problem with a particular use of a drug arose, was detected and corrective measures put in place.*No.The first reaction was to increase the dose of clioquinol?..you would think one of these dum dum md’s would have thought ..Ok the patient is getting worse on this drug (hemorrhagic diarrhea and paralysis now) is increasing the dosage really a good idea?…Yea…just jab away

    Too bad that doesn’t happen with “alternative” medicine.
    …when you find the bodies let me know.ASAP.

    Finally, to Bill Maher – this is an example of how an organization can be hurt by associating themselves with someone who supports just one part of their agenda.
    Bill has a good soul and yet this forum wishes him a painful suffering cancer death.wtf? lol ..because he received an award.

    By giving Bill Maher an award – let alone the “Richard Dawkins Award” – the AAI has “linked” themselves to Maher in the minds of many people (me included). I think that they will come to regret this, since Bill Maher is not an atheist (he just hates “organized religion”
    *The AAI can give the award to anyone they want to and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.You’ll just have to suck on that.lolz

  48. #48 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 12, 2009

    Bill has a good soul and yet this forum wishes him a painful suffering cancer death.wtf?

    wtf, indeed. I wonder if JayZee draws a lot of the “evidence” in his argument purely from voices in his head. I’ve yet to see anyone in this post or any other on this blog wish Maher “a painful suffering cancer death”; even in the unlikely event that JayZee can actually point to some such comment which a reasonable person could interpret as wishing for such an outcome, his claim that “this forum” as a whole wishes that would still be a straw man.

  49. #49 KB
    October 13, 2009

    I just googled “dr. j anthony morris,” and the first result is a whale.to website. He seemed to be quoted all over the crazysphere. This is where Bill Maher thinks info is legit? I didn’t look very hard, but most of the websites that quote Dr. Morris are rambling nonsense.

  50. #50 Stu
    October 13, 2009

    The disease, called SMON, was blamed for over ten years on various viruses – look out it’s the bird flu- it’s the swine flu no it’s the Foo flu.

    Ah, yes, the “science has been wrong before” gambit. You know what, I’m not even going to google that shit. It’s a cheap and very pathetic point. No score. Thank you, try again.

    20 years of drug induced mortality and morbidity with the same one drug?

    [Citation needed]

    Given that doctors and researchers are not (yet) all-knowing and able to see into the future, I think that this was a pretty good outcome.*That’s easy for you to say, Spanky.The outcome smells bad.

    Well, Spankarino says we should just bleed people instead. You know, once you throw out evidence, why not?

    And if so, why?

    The first reaction was to increase the dose of clioquinol?..you would think one of these dum dum md’s would have thought

    Wait, what? I assume you can name every part of the human intestinal system and point out the boundaries on a chart, correct? Or am I correct in assuming that between someone who spent around a decade learning about the human body and oh, random ass-clown on the Internet, my safest bet is with the person who put in a significant amount of their prime party years learning how to cure human beings?

    What do you do for a living? Dum-dee-dum-dum, come on, short stop, put up or shut up.

    ..Ok the patient is getting worse on this drug (hemorrhagic diarrhea and paralysis now) is increasing the dosage really a good idea?…Yea…just jab away

    Sadly, I have no idea. I’m not A MEDICAL FUCKING DOCTOR. Are you? Do you have a better idea?

    Too bad that doesn’t happen with “alternative” medicine.

    Nothing happens with alternative medicine. Because, well, it doesn’t do anything. By design. If you don’t understand how hucksterism works, well, I’ve got some great New Orleans real estate to sell you.

    …when you find the bodies let me know.ASAP.

    That would be almost funny if you were right. Or funny. Or accurate. Or coherent.

    Finally, to Bill Maher – this is an example of how an organization can be hurt by associating themselves with someone who supports just one part of their agenda.

    That is the most incoherent sentence I sincerely hope to read this year. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

    Bill has a good soul

    Hi. This is reality calling. There is no such thing as a soul. If you disagree, please define, in 100 words or less, what the hell a soul is. For starters.

    and yet this forum wishes him a painful suffering cancer death.

    [Citation needed]

    the AAI has “linked” themselves to Maher in the minds of many people (me included).

    Which is the entire motherhumping problem people had with them doing it. Pea-brains such as you would have severe trouble dissasociating the two. Maher’s anti-religious (note, for the record, hello, please stick with me, that does NOT mean atheist, because yes, we are aware that Maher isn’t even an atheist — deist at best — and yes, there was quite an uproar in the atheist community over his award, wait, where was I) credentials are very much appreciated, and their limits VERY well known. Gotchas work a lot better with the uninformed.

    The AAI can give the award to anyone they want to and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

    You just did a little jig, didn’t you? Oh, come on, fess up…

    You’ll just have to suck on that.lolz

    YEAH! TOTALLY! WAHAH!

    Wait. Are you fucking serious? Please, please, please tell me you haven’t hit the ripe old age of 20 yet. “lolz”? For fuck’s sake. For fucking fuck’s sake. Please tell me you’re a misguided teen.

  51. #51 Stu
    October 13, 2009

    The disease, called SMON, was blamed for over ten years on various viruses – look out it’s the bird flu- it’s the swine flu no it’s the Foo flu.

    Ah, yes, the “science has been wrong before” gambit. You know what, I’m not even going to google that shit. It’s a cheap and very pathetic point. No score. Thank you, try again.

    20 years of drug induced mortality and morbidity with the same one drug?

    [Citation needed]

    Given that doctors and researchers are not (yet) all-knowing and able to see into the future, I think that this was a pretty good outcome.*That’s easy for you to say, Spanky.The outcome smells bad.

    Well, Spankarino says we should just bleed people instead. You know, once you throw out evidence, why not?

    And if so, why?

    The first reaction was to increase the dose of clioquinol?..you would think one of these dum dum md’s would have thought

    Wait, what? I assume you can name every part of the human intestinal system and point out the boundaries on a chart, correct? Or am I correct in assuming that between someone who spent around a decade learning about the human body and oh, random ass-clown on the Internet, my safest bet is with the person who put in a significant amount of their prime party years learning how to cure human beings?

    What do you do for a living? Dum-dee-dum-dum, come on, short stop, put up or shut up.

    ..Ok the patient is getting worse on this drug (hemorrhagic diarrhea and paralysis now) is increasing the dosage really a good idea?…Yea…just jab away

    Sadly, I have no idea. I’m not A MEDICAL FUCKING DOCTOR. Are you? Do you have a better idea?

    Too bad that doesn’t happen with “alternative” medicine.

    Nothing happens with alternative medicine. Because, well, it doesn’t do anything. By design. If you don’t understand how hucksterism works, well, I’ve got some great New Orleans real estate to sell you.

    …when you find the bodies let me know.ASAP.

    That would be almost funny if you were right. Or funny. Or accurate. Or coherent.

    Finally, to Bill Maher – this is an example of how an organization can be hurt by associating themselves with someone who supports just one part of their agenda.

    That is the most incoherent sentence I sincerely hope to read this year. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

    Bill has a good soul

    Hi. This is reality calling. There is no such thing as a soul. If you disagree, please define, in 100 words or less, what the hell a soul is. For starters.

    and yet this forum wishes him a painful suffering cancer death.

    [Citation needed]

    the AAI has “linked” themselves to Maher in the minds of many people (me included).

    Which is the entire motherhumping problem people had with them doing it. Pea-brains such as you would have severe trouble dissasociating the two. Maher’s anti-religious (note, for the record, hello, please stick with me, that does NOT mean atheist, because yes, we are aware that Maher isn’t even an atheist — deist at best — and yes, there was quite an uproar in the atheist community over his award, wait, where was I) credentials are very much appreciated, and their limits VERY well known. Gotchas work a lot better with the uninformed.

    The AAI can give the award to anyone they want to and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

    You just did a little jig, didn’t you? Oh, come on, fess up…

    You’ll just have to suck on that.lolz

    YEAH! TOTALLY! WAHAH!

    Wait. Are you fucking serious? Please, please, please tell me you haven’t hit the ripe old age of 20 yet. “lolz”? For fuck’s sake. For fucking fuck’s sake. Please tell me you’re a misguided teen.

  52. #52 DFS
    October 13, 2009

    Thank you Pablo. I get so sick of the “mainstream medicine never talks about nutrition” canard. I have mild hypertension and have had elevated bad cholesterol readings, and the first thing my physicians mentioned was diet.

    But yes I was cringing during the conversation bw Frist and Maher and immediately thought about Orac. Never thought Id be on Frist’s side but Maher was so obstinate in his ignorance.

  53. #53 JayZee
    October 13, 2009

    Posted by: Stu | October 13, 2009 1:18 AM

    Posted by: Stu | October 13, 2009 1:16 AM

    Finally, to Bill Maher – this is an example of how an organization can be hurt by associating themselves with someone who supports just one part of their agenda.

    That is the most incoherent sentence I sincerely hope to read this year. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

    Stewy! you’re in the weeds here.. at least you admit how easy it is to debunk Prometheus.Try reading the whole thread first and thanks for your help, stoopid.

    …lolz!

  54. #54 MikeMa
    October 13, 2009

    JayZee,
    The bodies are everywhere. Every child that doesn’t get vaccinated because of woo-crap is a body at the doorstep of alt-med. That includes those that suffer from reduced herd immunity. Everybody who gets a homeopathic remedy rather than seeking real help for what ails them is a body sacrificed to alt-med. You don’t need a scalpel or a bad reaction to a drug to see the bodies. Neglect and stupidity have a far higher kill rate.

  55. #55 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 13, 2009

    and yet this forum wishes him a painful suffering cancer death.

    [Citation needed]

    *crickets chirping*

    For the record, BTW, the unusual phrasing “Finally, to John Q. Random” as a way of saying “Finally, regarding John Q. Random” is going to be confusing when the sentence is removed from the context that originally clarified it.

  56. #56 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 13, 2009

    Nothing happens with alternative medicine. Because, well, it doesn’t do anything. By design.

    Sadly, that’s not the case with all alternative medicine, not by a long shot. It’s true that homeopathic remedies are just water and therefore unlikely to do any direct harm, but the indirect harm is still there; just four months ago a couple was convicted of letting their nine-month-old daughter die from skin infections that, contrary to the delusions of the parents, homeopathic ointments and drops did nothing to treat.

    And of course outside the realm of homeopathy, many “alternative medicine” practices really do have powerful and drastic medical effects. Practitioners and patients just delude themselves that the only effects they’re inducing are the ones they want. The most notorious example is probably the Scientologists with their “Purification Rundown”, which purportedly cures radiation poisoning; when the patients experience the flushing symptoms of a niacin overdose, the Scientologists think this is actually the niacin “running out” the radiation.

  57. #57 Dangerous Bacon
    October 13, 2009

    sailor: “…a study was once done comparing the effect on heart heath of prescribing statins as compared with advising patients about exercise and diet. The latter was found to (be) more effective, but the former is the standard practice. It is much easier for the doctor, and makes lots of money for the drug industry.”

    Yup, millions of Americans are eager to begin dieting and exercise, but MDs just put them on drugs instead. I can tell you that it’s incredibly easy to start dieting! I’ve done it a thousand times.

  58. #58 sailor
    October 13, 2009

    Dangerous Dragon,
    There was no enforcement in the study it was just advice, and even at that level it was effective. I suspect getting people to exercise more was a big part of it. Loosing weight is obviously hard, switching to healthy foods not as hard.
    I am actually encouraged to read here that a number of people have had their doctors talk to them about diet and exercise. I never have.

  59. #59 SC (Salty Current)
    October 13, 2009

    Orac’s been providing more info than one could possibly need to reach the conclusion that this awardee choice was wrong, wrong, wrong, and it’s only when PZ posts a clip on his blog that people wake up?

    I think a few people are missing the point. There was at least one thread on Pharyngula weeks ago about the conference in which people tore into Dawkins about it, and at least one on RD.net (which I didn’t read till the other day) where people did the same thing. Only some people were saying that they were OK with his getting the award; most – including myself – I think recognized that “this awardee choice was wrong, wrong, wrong.” But there was also the matter of how the situation should be handled. Some people (many of whom, like Sastra, disagreed with the choice of awardee; many of whom don’t read this blog regularly) thought Dawkins’ public rejection of Maher’s views on medicine at the ceremony was enough. As I said on the Pharyngula thread, I think – with the information I have now (and that Dawkins had prior to the event) – that he should have refused to present the award or to participate in the ceremony, and should have been public about why. I don’t think he should have been defending the presentation of the award to Maher in any way after he had this information. However, he did not select Maher, and I don’t believe the selection committee would have been right to revoke the award after it had been offered. (Not sure if that’s what Knockgoats was suggesting.) In short, I don’t think for the most part it was a matter of commenters realizing that this was a bad choice, but of coming to appreciate that a stronger stance should have been taken. I’m curious: What, prior to the event, were you suggesting Dawkins or the AAI should do?

    EXACTLY! I nearly posted as much on PZ’s relevant thread, but was too chicken…This phenomenon of not appreciating real info till it hits personally regularly drives me up a wall–

    This phenomenon of people being too cowardly to say something to the relevant individuals and then scampering over to another blog to talk about and misrepresent them behind their backs personally regularly drives me up a wall.

    And I have no idea how this case is an illustration of that. PZ has posted several times over the previous months about medical pseudoscience, often linking here. I and others have posted links to Orac’s posts on numerous occasions (though I haven’t been reading here much in the past few months, or following the Maher issue – ever occur to you that everyone doesn’t have all of the “real info” at the same time you do? – which is why I also wasn’t commenting on it). Your reading is quite simplistic.

  60. #60 Pablo
    October 13, 2009

    What, prior to the event, were you suggesting Dawkins or the AAI should do?

    When Dawkins learned of Maher’s loopy medical views, he responded with a comment on Myers’ blog that was effectively, “I didn’t know about his medical views, but I still think his movie was funny and I am pleased to be associated with him in giving him this award.”

    You’re right. It’s not like he could have expressed any misgivings about the award, and said something like, “I didn’t realize he was so anti-science in his medical views. I wouldn’t have been as supportive if I had known. Oh well, nothing we can do about it now.”

    I’m sure that would have been impossible for him.

    Yet, to the end, he has been nothing but supportive. Even PZ reports that, while Dawkins doesn’t agree with his medical views, he still thinks the movie deserved appreciation. However, no one responded to my question about what Dawkins thinks that appreciation should be, and whether Dawkins actually still thinks he is a good person to get the award. Dawkins could very easily make that clear.

    As for the AAI, if what PZ Myers reports is true, I’m still not sure that they get the problem. PZ keeps going on about how this has opened their eyes, and from now on they will do a better job of “vetting” their nominees. That’s not the issue. It has nothing to do with whether they sufficiently looked into Maher’s background, it is about whether they even cared about his other views.

    Revisionism aside, there were still plenty of folks who, like Richard Dawkins, even after learning of Maher’s anti-science views, were still dismissing them on the grounds of, “It’s an atheism award, and has nothing to do with his medical views.” What I’d like to think is that the AAI has learned is not that they need to do a better job of “vetting” nominees, but that they have to care about more than just whether the person has done something anti-religion. That a good chunk of the atheist community isn’t in it for the sake of atheism, but think that it goes well beyond that.

  61. #61 trrll
    October 13, 2009

    And of course outside the realm of homeopathy, many “alternative medicine” practices really do have powerful and drastic medical effects. Practitioners and patients just delude themselves that the only effects they’re inducing are the ones they want.

    I’ve noticed the odd “better the devil I don’t know than the devil I do” phenomenon of people responding to reports of adverse effects from pharmaceutical products by switching to “nutritional supplements” that contain similar pharmacologically active ingredients, but which have not been tested in large clinical trials. I knew of a number of cases of women switching from estrogen to phytoestrogen supplements after the news came out of the (rather modest) risks of hormone replacement therapy. And of course, there are people who imagine that it is safer to get their statins from red rice yeast than from a purified, tested pill.

  62. #62 SC (Salty Current)
    October 13, 2009

    When Dawkins learned of Maher’s loopy medical views, he responded with a comment on Myers’ blog that was effectively, “I didn’t know about his medical views, but I still think his movie was funny and I am pleased to be associated with him in giving him this award.”

    No kidding. I was commenting on that thread:

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notesarchive.php?id=2929

    Since I was debating another matter at the time, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to that discussion. People were criticizing him there and – as I recently learned – at his own site. I was neither arguing with them nor supporting Dawkins (or Sastra, for that matter). There weren’t any “Holy Shit! Orac was right after all” comments in the sense that MA and others appear to be talking about.

    You’re right. It’s not like he could have expressed any misgivings about the award, and said something like, “I didn’t realize he was so anti-science in his medical views. I wouldn’t have been as supportive if I had known. Oh well, nothing we can do about it now.”

    I’m sure that would have been impossible for him.

    Are you high? Did you read my comment? What I said I think he should have done? This is stronger than what you’re suggesting (which is actually arguably weaker than what he ultimately did do, which was to criticize Maher’s medical views at the ceremony). You’re not responding to my question at all, by the way. I was asking what you guys, in the days/weeks prior to the conference, were suggesting Dawkins and the AAI should do with regard to the ceremony.

  63. #63 bob
    October 13, 2009

    SC, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to speculate about what Dawkins or PZ should or shouldn’t have done about this. Hundreds of comments and dozens of blog posts have gone over that already … many of them are there for your reading pleasure, if you scroll down a bit.

    I think it’s clear that we need to focus on the future: how will something like this be avoided? PZ seems to think that this was embarrassing enough to prevent a similar situation in the future, and frankly doesn’t seem that worried about it. I think he’s being naive. The AAI, for their part, doesn’t seem worried at all, and hardly even acknowledges any problem; Dr Benway has done some nice digging to uncover this.

    What do you think? Do you think these problems will resolve themselves? I personally don’t. Atheism, for better or worse, has progressed (numbers-wise) enough that being an atheist doesn’t automatically mean you’re rational, pro-science, skeptical, or even thoughtful. So, organized atheism promotion needs to do one of two things: (i) drop the tangential stuff like science promotion and focus solely on atheism, or (ii) change its focus to something like general skepticism. Translation: you need to either embrace cranks like Maher because they’re atheists, or reject them from the get-go by promoting skepticism rather than mere atheism.

  64. #64 Pablo
    October 13, 2009

    I was asking what you guys, in the days/weeks prior to the conference, were suggesting Dawkins and the AAI should do with regard to the ceremony.

    I made the exact same suggestion about what Dawkins could have said before the award was given. Granted, I am just a voice in a sea of comments, but hey, it was one. Then again, Orac was very vocal in his criticism of Dawkins’s lack of response.

    And I want to hear more about how he criticized Maher’s medical views. The reports I heard were that he said he didn’t agree with them. How much beyond that did it go?

    Of course, even while “criticizing” his medical views, Dawkins still has not, as far as I have heard, expressed any misgivings about giving Maher the award. Even PZ’s comments have suggested that Dawkins still thinks he was a good person to give the award to. Again, what has Dawkins done to suggest otherwise?

    Unlike you, I recognize that backing out of the award presentation could be viewed as a bad thing. I wouldn’t have had any problem with him doing it, but I think it is a little too far to think that is what should have been done. There were other strategies that are less extreme but would still be effective. Little things would help, without having to grandstand.

  65. #65 Travis
    October 13, 2009

    I have been working part time doing some web development work for a local heart institute and they certainly push prevention and healthy lifestyles, they have a large prevention and rehabilitation group and do research in this field. In fact almost all the literature I have seen involves these aspects. Of course they are also pragmatic and know that not everyone is going to actually be able to benefit from these things.

    Actually, this makes me think of a recent article in their newsletter entitled “Controlling Hypertension: The Efficacious and the Effective”

    It is about the difference between efficacious and effective treatments, and the reality of treating heart disease.

    The article can be found here if anyone is interested
    http://www.ottawaheart.ca/UOHI/doc/TheBeat-v4i2-Eng.pdf

  66. #66 SC (Salty Current)
    October 13, 2009

    I made the exact same suggestion about what Dawkins could have said before the award was given. Granted, I am just a voice in a sea of comments, but hey, it was one. Then again, Orac was very vocal in his criticism of Dawkins’s lack of response.

    I never said he wasn’t, and I agree with him about Dawkins’ lack of response. My question, I repeat, was about the granting of the award at the event. [And the reason I asked was not to suggest that Orac or anyone else hadn’t been vocal in criticizing Dawkins, but that Knockgoats on the recent Pharyngula thread – who was the only one, I think, to say something about Orac having been right – appeared to be referring to refusing him the award altogether (though I may well be wrong – he could have meant what I’m saying). (Note that Knockgoats wasn’t supporting Dawkins on this previously, either – I think that like me he didn’t feel sufficiently informed to comment on what Dawkins should do, or wasn’t around for any of the discussion.)I didn’t recall Orac’s having said that they should retract the award, but he or others may have. I’m interested to know what he and others did and do think.

    I really don’t see where this defensiveness is coming from. I never suggested that Orac or anyone else wasn’t criticizing Dawkins earlier. I’m simply saying that the presentation of Pharyngula or RD.net commenters as having had some epiphany about the incorrectness of the choice of Maher for this award after seeing the video is mistaken. From what I can see, those of us who were posting on the recent thread were not among those condoning the choice of Maher for the award or Dawkins’ defenses thereof.

    Unlike you, I recognize that backing out of the award presentation could be viewed as a bad thing.

    Gosh, I never considered that. *eyeroll*

    And I want to hear more about how he criticized Maher’s medical views. The reports I heard were that he said he didn’t agree with them. How much beyond that did it go?

    Of course, even while “criticizing” his medical views, Dawkins still has not, as far as I have heard, expressed any misgivings about giving Maher the award…

    No, I don’t believe he has (at least publicly). And I’ve been criticizing him for that, including on this thread, so I don’t know who you’re addressing here.

    There were other strategies that are less extreme but would still be effective. Little things would help, without having to grandstand.

    So publicly stating that they shouldn’t be giving him the award (and then giving it to him) is a little thing, effective, and not grandstanding; criticizing him publicly at the ceremony is a little thing and perhaps not grandstanding enough to be effective; but publicly refusing to bestow the award would be a big, grandstanding, effective thing. OK. How would it be consistent or present a clear message to declare publicly that you don’t think someone should be receiving an award in your name and then proceed to personally award it to him?

  67. #67 Pablo
    October 13, 2009

    How would it be consistent or present a clear message to declare publicly that you don’t think someone should be receiving an award in your name and then proceed to personally award it to him?

    Because if you are still going to give him the award, then you should give him the award.

    There is a third option here which neither of us has addressed: don’t give him the damn award. You want to grandstand, then come out and do it right. Pull it back, and let him know why. I don’t see that as any worse than your option, so I don’t know why you wouldn’t go all the way.

    However, do you really not think there is a difference between a humble “mea culpa but it’s inevitable” in a comment on a blog and not showing up at an award ceremony to give the award?

    Of course, the problem with both our positions is that they actually depend on RD actually having any second thoughts about giving him the award.

  68. #68 SC (Salty Current)
    October 13, 2009

    I really don’t see how any strong, consistent message could have been sent without refusing to attend the ceremony/present the award as a matter of conscience.* Previous statements about disagreeing with the selection would have been undercut by the bestowal of the award (which, again, carries his own name), and very strong criticisms of the awardee at the award ceremony itself would have come across as – and been, in my view – ambushy and assholish.

    *Of course, it doesn’t appear Dawkins took it seriously enough to consider it a matter of conscience, which is the problem.

  69. #69 JohnV
    October 13, 2009

    “Hi Bill, this is Joe from AAI. Yeah so, we were planning on giving you this award for science and reason. But it turns out that despite your making a movie that makes fun of religion, you aren’t really a science and reason kind of guy. So we can’t really give you this award because it will make us looks like jackasses who don’t look into the views of people to whom we give awards.”

    “Hi AAI, this is Richard Dawkins. So yeah, you give out this Richard Dawkins award for science and reason, and we had even hooked up this year and I was going to personally hand it out. It is being awarded to this great guy who hates religion so much he made a movie about it. But I’ve been informed by a bunch of people that the prospective-recipient isn’t really that much into science or reason so I think I can’t really participate. I mean if I did, it would make it look like I’m doing what I do because I hate religion and not because I’m all about science and reason. I mean, who would want to give the impression that evolution is great and must be respected, but germ theory of disease is for assholes and some shitty little consensus that no one who matters cares about. Yeah so I can’t give out this award because I don’t want to give that impression.”

  70. #70 SC (Salty Current)
    October 13, 2009

    Because if you are still going to give him the award, then you should give him the award.

    That is meaningless as written.

    There is a third option here which neither of us has addressed: don’t give him the damn award.

    I addressed it in my first post on this thread, FFS. Perhaps you should read that again, more closely.

    You want to grandstand, then come out and do it right. Pull it back, and let him know why. I don’t see that as any worse than your option, so I don’t know why you wouldn’t go all the way.

    This isn’t about grandstanding. I don’t believe that the selection committee, having informed him of the award, could then rescind it. This is worse than my option, because it would be the people who offered him the award taking it back. But Dawkins (due to a stupid process that he should never have agreed to in the first place, but which left him in a tough spot) was not the one who selected him for the award. He could honorably say that he couldn’t in good conscience personally bestow this award on this person at the ceremony. Then it would have been up to Maher whether he wanted to attend or not. None of these options is ideal, and all leave the organization looking bad. But this is the result of a dumb selection process and a committee that failed.

    However, do you really not think there is a difference between a humble “mea culpa but it’s inevitable” in a comment on a blog and not showing up at an award ceremony to give the award?

    Aside from the facts that the selection wasn’t his fault and his presenting the award wasn’t inevitable, of course I think there’s a difference. The former is completely ineffective in spreading the message about Dawkins’ and the organization’s commitment to science and reason, and makes him appear mealy-mouthed. The latter (I didn’t suggest that he simply not show up – how ridiculous) makes clear to people within and beyond the organization what they stand for.

    Of course, the problem with both our positions is that they actually depend on RD actually having any second thoughts about giving him the award.

    Yes, as I said in my cross-post.

  71. #71 Credentialed
    October 13, 2009

    Travis @ 65: Thanks for sharing that article. I think it did a good job of explaining the reality of many medical treatments. There are many effective pharmacotherepeutic tools out there that work best in concert with behavioral changes. Patients, however, often prove to be stubborn creatures of habit that regularly fail to maximize their own chances…

  72. #72 Pablo
    October 13, 2009

    The former is completely ineffective in spreading the message about Dawkins’ and the organization’s commitment to science and reason

    Spreading it to whom?

    It would have been very effective at spreading the message to those who have been most vocal in opposing the selection.

    It would not have been effective for those who gave Maher a standing ovation, who either don’t know or care about Maher’s anti-science views. I will admit that making a show of it at the ceremony would be more effective in that regard, but would have far more potential backlash. But then, in that respect, so would rescinding the award.

    And you think not attending is ridiculous? I think he would have to NOT attend. In terms of making a statement, he can’t come and say, “I support the AAI, but not their choice for the award.” The expedient way to do it is to wash his hands of the whole mess and not be part of it.

  73. #73 cm
    October 13, 2009

    Frist should have kept up on the one place where he got to Bill Maher, and you could see it on his face: polio.

  74. #74 SC (Salty Current)
    October 13, 2009

    Spreading it to whom?

    Anyone who doesn’t read a handful of blogs.

    It would have been very effective at spreading the message to those who have been most vocal in opposing the selection.

    Not even to them. Would have sounded a lot like placating or damage control to some people, especially those who expect actions to match words. You haven’t addressed my comment about inconsistent messages.

    It would not have been effective for those who gave Maher a standing ovation, who either don’t know or care about Maher’s anti-science views.

    Perhaps they would have known more had Dawkins refused to present the award and explained why.

    I will admit that making a show of it at the ceremony would be more effective in that regard, but would have far more potential backlash. But then, in that respect, so would rescinding the award.

    I’m not even sure which actions or combinations you’re talking about at this point. But I think standing on principle (as in the scenario I’m suggesting) usually requires facing backlash (it’s certainly not like Dawkins has shied away from controversy). He was less mealy-mouthed in defending the award on blogs than he would have been had he thrown a bone to his critics while not being genuinely convinced by them. My problem is that he doesn’t appear to have been convinced. I find that confusing.

    And you think not attending is ridiculous? I think he would have to NOT attend.

    This is exhausting. I think simply “not showing up” at the ceremony would be ridiculous. Stating beforehand that he refused on principle to bestow the award or attend the ceremony (again – read my friggin’ first post) is not the same as simply not showing up.

    In terms of making a statement, he can’t come and say, “I support the AAI, but not their choice for the award.” The expedient way to do it is to wash his hands of the whole mess and not be part of it.

    That’s ridiculous.

    OK. I have to get ready for work (and attend to other blogs :)). Won’t be able to return till tonight, but I will.

  75. #75 marcia
    October 13, 2009

    Hey, Bill.

    Read this:

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami-dade/story/1279559.html

    October 13, 2009
    Study: Swine flu deadliest to healthy, relatively young adults
    Doctors learn they don’t entirely understand the H1N1 flu virus. New studies say it hits otherwise-healthy relatively young adults the hardest.

  76. #76 Rjaye
    October 13, 2009

    There were a couple of posts about vaccinations on this post, and I thought I’d throw out my experience…

    I was planning on getting both the “regular” flu vaccine and the H1N1, but because the first doses here in Washington state were given to health care providers, and then children and vulnerable adults (which I am one), my medical clinic ran out of vaccine last week. My doctor was a little upset when she met me for my appointment as she had wanted to vaccinate me.

    It’s going to be at least 3 weeks for more vaccine to come into our area. I was supposed to get it then.

    I ended up getting H1N1 a few days ago, and I spent time in the hospital. I have never been that sick in my life. I had a fever of 103.5 degrees, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I was released this morning, and my clinic has called twice to check on me.

    I am still sick, and I still can’t eat, but I’m “nutritionly enhanced” so I’m not worried about that. But for those people ragging on how the flu vaccine is unnecessary, screw you. I will tell my friends to get their vaccines, and I will call people on their ignorance when they start spouting about how “allopathic medicine” is poison.

    Every weekend in the local paper nearly a whole page is devoted to classes offered by the hospital and various clinics to support people maintain healthy habits. So, I guess these people who are critical of doctors supposedly not encouraging healthy habits have never been to a doctor, and since they don’t know about the healthy living classes offered to people trying to be healthy, they don’t read the newspaper.

  77. #77 Diane G.
    October 13, 2009

    In defense of my comment @ #35:

    Orac’s been providing more info than one could possibly need to reach the conclusion that this awardee choice was wrong, wrong, wrong, and it’s only when PZ posts a clip on his blog that people wake up?

    …these comments were posted at Pharyngula when PZ posted the same vid as above:

    What a dangerous, irresponsible idiot Maher is. After seeing this, I agree with Orac that whatever the fallout, Dawkins should have refused to give him the AAI award.

    After seeing this, I agree with Orac that whatever the fallout, Dawkins should have refused to give him the AAI award.

    I was just thinking the same thing. I don’t think the people who selected him – who didn’t do their research and made a huge error – could then take it back, but Dawkins personally should have refused to present the award or attend the ceremony, publicly stating why he was doing so.

    When the business of giving him the award was being argued here, I dismissed it as irrelevant infighting. I recant. I didn’t realize he was so adamant and so wrong.

    In response to this:

    EXACTLY! I nearly posted as much on PZ’s relevant thread, but was too chicken…This phenomenon of not appreciating real info till it hits personally regularly drives me up a wall–

    This phenomenon of people being too cowardly to say something to the relevant individuals and then scampering over to another blog to talk about and misrepresent them behind their backs personally regularly drives me up a wall.
    And I have no idea how this case is an illustration of that. PZ has posted several times over the previous months about medical pseudoscience, often linking here.

    I call strawman. My remark referred to the sample comments copied above about not realizing that Maher was so loony until PZ posted this vid.
    As to the “too cowardly” remark—just how did I misrepresent anyone?

    @#69
    “Hi Bill, this is Joe from AAI. Yeah so, we were planning on giving you this award for science and reason. But it turns out that despite your making a movie that makes fun of religion, you aren’t really a science and reason kind of guy. So we can’t really give you this award because it will make us looks like jackasses who don’t look into the views of people to whom we give awards.”
    “Hi AAI, this is Richard Dawkins. So yeah, you give out this Richard Dawkins award for science and reason, and we had even hooked up this year and I was going to personally hand it out. It is being awarded to this great guy who hates religion so much he made a movie about it. But I’ve been informed by a bunch of people that the prospective-recipient isn’t really that much into science or reason so I think I can’t really participate. I mean if I did, it would make it look like I’m doing what I do because I hate religion and not because I’m all about science and reason. I mean, who would want to give the impression that evolution is great and must be respected, but germ theory of disease is for assholes and some shitty little consensus that no one who matters cares about. Yeah so I can’t give out this award because I don’t want to give that impression.”
    Posted by: JohnV | October 13, 2009 1:08 PM

    John V FTW!

  78. #78 SC (Salty Current)
    October 14, 2009

    In defense of my comment @ #35:

    Orac’s been providing more info than one could possibly need to reach the conclusion that this awardee choice was wrong, wrong, wrong, and it’s only when PZ posts a clip on his blog that people wake up?

    …these comments were posted at Pharyngula when PZ posted the same vid as above:…

    Have I stumbled into Dr. Isis’ blog? What is going on? Those (except the last about recanting) are my and Knockgoats’ comments that I’ve been discussing here. I’m explaining to you that I knew he was a loon, and never thought he was a good choice for the award. Knockgoats was evidently aware of this as well. Other people were arguing this, and I was listening to them. I and probably Knockgoats didn’t know that he was so obscenely irresponsible as to offer advice like that on his show, publicly saying things like he was in that video. (Sorry – Knockgoats is a Brit and doesn’t regularly read this blog, and I was – and am – trying to report on a coup and at the time to address another issue with regard to the conference.) But Knockgoats said he agreed with Orac not that it was a bad choice – that was a given – but that he should have refused to give him the award regardless of the fallout. This is a different question (and I’m not sure Orac ever proposed this, which is why I asked). You misrepresented us as “not realizing that Maher was so loony until PZ posted this vid,” and if you had had the guts to post at Pharyngula you could easily have learned the history, as you can by reading this thread. I still don’t get the bit about not appreciating real information till it hits home – we simply gained new information.

    I’m legitimately curious if Orac and others who knew more than I did thought, like Pablo, that it would have been OK if Dawkins had given him the award as long as he said in some comment thread “Yeah, bad choice, but it’s done.” If so, I disagree with that.

    I should add that I was giving this some thought this afternoon, and while I stand by what I think he should have done, I do really feel for Dawkins. While I’m troubled that he’s – publicly at least – trying to separate the spheres and seriously defending the selection, I do recognize that he was put in a difficult position by this choice. It’s easy to criticize from the sidelines, but much harder to make these decisions when you’re at the center of the storm.

  79. #79 SC (Salty Current)
    October 14, 2009

    By the way, I suspect the only reason Knockgoats happened over here to gain any familiarity with Orac’s views was that I posted a link at Pharyngula to this revolting bit:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/10/my_last_entry_on_the_maher_issue_probabl.php#comment-1978576

    I called her a “disgustingly callous moron,” which was probably too polite. She hasn’t responded to my comment or to others. Not exactly surprising.

  80. #80 Diane G.
    October 14, 2009

    Salty, I really don’t care about the in-group history at Pharyngula. I don’t have the time to keep track. When I read “After seeing this, I agree with Orac,” I take it at face value.

    Whereas Orac has been writing about this AAI faux pas, replete with links & vids, since at least late July, and PZ has been linking to those posts, I would have thought there would have been plenty of time for Pharyngulites to acquaint themselves with Maher’s woo-ness.

    As to that Isis comment you reference, I actually agreed with part of it, as I mentioned here:

    my_last_entry_on_the_maher_issue_probabl.php#comment-1979217

    (What about her comment did you disagree with? Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to converse with someone who called him/her a “disgustingly callous moron…”)

    FWIW, not much I’m guessing:
    and_now_for_a_little_local_net.php#comment-1959124

  81. #81 Diane G.
    October 14, 2009
  82. #82 SC (Salty Current)
    October 14, 2009

    Salty, I really don’t care about the in-group history at Pharyngula. I don’t have the time to keep track.

    OK, what the hell? You were referring to comments made by me, personally. I was explaining that you were wrong about the nature of my previous and changed views.

    When I read “After seeing this, I agree with Orac,” I take it at face value.

    Yes, I think you read it and my comments superficially. If you weren’t such a coward, you would have posted at Pharyngula and I (and I’m sure Knockgoats) would have responded politely.

    Whereas Orac has been writing about this AAI faux pas, replete with links & vids, since at least late July, and PZ has been linking to those posts,

    I’m not going to repeat what I’ve already said, as apparently you’re too dense to follow it, but I don’t recall PZ linking to many of Orac’s posts on this over the months. (I could be wrong, and just missed them. Just did a search, though, and I’m finding “The Maher Conundrum” from a couple of weeks ago, which I vaguely recall but didn’t have the chance to investigate further. In any event, that post was mainly about how to approach the ceremony for attendees and Dawkins. I’ve now asked several times what people thought Dawkins should have done, and received precisely one reply.) Nor do I recall Orac posting on the threads about this there, which he had time to do when it came to substanceless sniping about the accomodationist issue.

    I would have thought there would have been plenty of time for Pharyngulites to acquaint themselves with Maher’s woo-ness.

    I give up. Skimming the conundrum thread, it’s obvious that people were familiar with his wooness. That’s not what I – not “Pharyngulites,” but one of the people you referred to here – was talking about on the recent thread. Sheesh.

    As to that Isis comment you reference, I actually agreed with part of it, as I mentioned here:…

    [from that:]

    “Dawkins is certainly at the pinnacle, and it is obviously sci-bloggily incorrect to criticize him.”

    What a pile of horseshit that comment was. As I mentioned on the recent thread you were referring to, I criticized him to him (i.e., when he was around and apparently reading) on a Pharyngula thread a few weeks ago. Ophelia Benson and I criticized the conference organizers. I’ve been criticizing Dawkins throughout this thread, while trying to keep in mind that he was put in a difficult spot. As I said, from what I’ve just read people were criticizing him for this on his own site weeks ago, and were at Pharyngula as well. So you’re full of shit.

    (What about her comment did you disagree with?

    If no one’s going to read my comments, I see little point in continuing here. I said on the recent Pharyngula thread and here that I would not find it acceptable for the committee to revoke the award. That would have been a trashy move, more about their own stupidity than the principles at stake.

    Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to converse with someone who called him/her a “disgustingly callous moron…”)

    Her comment, which I won’t reproduce again because I found it sickening, about the “atheist equivalent of altar boys,” was deeply offensive. She was taking a tragedy and crime perpetrated by her own monstrous church and trying to use it to score cheap rhetorical points against atheists. She’s a sinvergüenza of epic proportions. The comment also, as a few of us pointed out, made no sense. And if you’ve read those threads you linked to, you’ll see that I continued to respond to her and her loopy (some, not all) commenters long after her insane rant at me, so your “Gee, I can’t imagine why…” bit isn’t cutting it.

  83. #83 SC (Salty Current)
    October 14, 2009

    And:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/09/and_now_for_a_little_local_net.php#comment-1959124

    Aw, fuck. *kicks self* Thanks. I appreciate it.

    By the way, the link I think you were looking for is:

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2009/08/alan-sokal-science-and-politics.html
    :) Hope you’ll continue to read (and comment, if you’d like!), despite our differences here.

  84. #84 SC (Salty Current)
    October 14, 2009

    And:

    Aw, f*ck. *kicks self* Thanks. I appreciate it.

    By the way, the link I think you were looking for is:

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2009/08/alan-sokal-science-and-politics.html
    :) Hope you’ll continue to read (and comment, if you’d like!), despite our differences here.

    [My comment was held for moderation, so I de-linked part and de-sweared another. Trying again.]

  85. #85 SC (Salty Current)
    October 14, 2009

    Some clarification, as I realize my comments may have led to confusion (I’ll cease trying to speak for Knockgoats – we’ve been in agreement on so many issues over so many months that it’s easy to fall into the habit of assuming shared thinking):

    I hadn’t seen Maher’s show, and knew nothing of his wooist views, before a thread about his film (which I enjoyed*) at Pharyngula. IIRC, some of the comments there raised some flags for me. I then saw some more comments about it on the “…by Committee” thread, to which I wasn’t especially attentive for the reasons I’ve noted. (I wasn’t reading here much at that point due to the other concerns I’ve discussed and also to Orac’s interventions in the accomodationist debates; I regret this last, since I should have put that aside, as I have political differences, in the face of his solid stance on skepticism in general.)However, I did at that point fully recognize that Maher was a wooist and completely undeserving of the award, and agreed with those calling for some response from Dawkins. I was not, however, certain of what I thought Dawkins should do. After seeing that video, I saw how blatantly antiscience and egregiously irresponsible Maher was on his show, and felt that Dawkins – whatever the fallout – should not have allowed himself to be linked to this dangerous clown. That’s the history. Sorry for the long post.

    *I found it entertaining as a movie-goer and atheist (and the end was rather poignant). As a documentary connoisseur,…well, between Religulous and The Sorrow and the Pity lies a vast chasm.

  86. #86 Diane G.
    October 14, 2009

    Peace, Salty. :-)

    And thanks for the help with yet another instance of my dyslinky. In trying to see where I went wrong with that, I was happy to see you carrying the torch for Ophelia…& women as a whole. (Not bad for a “d00d”–heh!)

    BTW, I also agreed with you about Religulous. Though I did see it before I knew so much about Maher’s irrationality…sigh.

  87. #87 E.V.
    October 14, 2009

    Diane G, you do know S.C. is every inch a woman, no? (or was that “heh” intended to be ironic?)

    I was beginning to worry that our feisty SC was casting pearls before swine like those of another blog but I see sharper intellects prevail here among the very astute such as Pablo, Stu, et al.

    I would remind everyone that Respectful Insolence and Pharyngula are not in competition – no wagering, please.

  88. #88 Diane G.
    October 14, 2009

    E.V., yes–irony. I got quite a kick out of the dust-up that reference came from…sorry I wasn’t being as clear as I intended to be.

    (Also–rather surprised that anyone besides me & SC are still reading this thread! :D )

  89. #89 E.V.
    October 14, 2009

    Yeah, SC got a rather rude welcome from Isis when she had ridiculously surreal position of having to defend her sex/gender to a bizarre group of psycho-fans sycophants and an apparent shoe fetishist. I’m Sorry if you’re a fan of Isis, but she lost me after one incoherent rambling post about misogyny and shoes and then reassured my opinion after the atheist butt rape post here.

    There are days that I’m so gung ho for Orac and others – not so much but I’ll refrain from kvetching for the moment.

    We all tend to feel our particular paradigm is the paramount position and deserves the utmost attention. I think Orac can voice his complaints to Woomeister Maher and perhaps gain some PR by asking to present the facts to him and the damage he and Jennie McCarthy have wreaked. If he’s looking for Dawkins or PZ to make the public argument so that he can maintain his semi-anonymity, then he needs to make that clear to PZ & RD. I understand his reticence to go public with so many college educated magical thinkers in the US these days who still think woo is the shit. Being anti-woo is not good for bid’ness with the public at large. I’m sure there are those willing to be the public face against antivaxers yet who need someone to cite critical info tand be tech support to bolster their arguments.

  90. #90 E.V.
    October 14, 2009

    Final word: the Isis/Judy Tenuta shtick is beyond tiresome. Thank you and good night.

  91. #91 Diane G.
    October 14, 2009

    It didn’t take me long to discover I don’t care for Isis’s writing, so I haven’t spent much time there–but I had to check out the thread SC got involved in when not only PZ but Greg L. both linked to it. (Serendipitously, it did bring some attention to Salty’s blog. :) )

    Orac’s repeatedly pointing things out on SB seems pretty public to me. I for one didn’t see it as asking PZ/RD to carry the freight so much as expecting them to naturally object once they learned the depth of Maher’s lunacy. I expected RD to realize how very contrary to what he stands for it would be to honor Maher…

    Saying something to a few hundred AAI convention-goers can hardly compete with the hay Maher can make with his celebrity platform.

    Having been to similar conferences, when half the speakers are there to also sell something (in RD’s case, his latest book), nothing surprises me any more. Disappoints, yes, but doesn’t surprise.

    Please don’t think of me as an Orac-acolyte. I’m not familiar enough with his other stances…in fact, I suppose it was PZ’s July link that brought me here on this issue…(Nothing personal, Orac! I’m just too contrarian to agree with anyone all the time. :D )

  92. #92 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 14, 2009

    A couple of comments on EV’s post:

    1. The fact that ‘Orac’ posts voluminous (though slightly less insolent) amounts of blazing anti-woo elsewhere under his real name should assuage any concerns you might have about him fearing professional repercussions for speaking his mind on these issues.

    2. I agree completely with your opinions on Isis. I have tried to restrain myself from piling on, and I won’t wax too expansive about it here, except to note that in addition to her aforementioned incoherence, cognitive dissonance, hypersensitive responses to any opinions that fall outside her tightly corseted model of a True Feminist, and excessive trumpeting about her scientific prowess, on one rare occasion that she attempted to blog about peer reviewed scientific research, the result was a unkempt display of credulous garbage.

    3. I hope it will not be considered to ‘kvetchy’ to note that, although Orac did point out Isis’s misapprehensions regarding this study (on electroacupuncture)–in fact he devoted a blog post to it–he was uncharacteristically gentle in doing so. I further note that Isis did not back off of or attempt to restate her erroneous interpretations one bit in the brief dialog that followed.

    4. Judy Tenuta lived in her parents’ basement for most of her life, including during the peak (such as it was) of her comedy career. Those grandiose goddess personas can obscure a whole mess of dysfunction.

  93. #93 Diane G.
    October 14, 2009

    Most interesting, Jennifer. Thanks for the background.

    I did recognize the “tightly corseted model of a True Feminist” (heh) allusion–probably why I first developed an aversion to said author…

    From the “outside,” it is sort of interesting to observe how various, uh…cliques?…seem to form amongst Sci-bloggers; and am I wrong, or are there other sets of blogs here with completely different cadres? So many blogs, so little time…

  94. #94 Pablo
    October 14, 2009

    Not related to Isis, but I happened to catch Richard Dawkins on Thom Hartmann’s show this afternoon on Air America. Hartmann had a lot of praise for Dawkins, and was very familiar with Dawkins’s books and stuff in it. They talked a lot about creationism and evolution. Well done.

    Of course, not 1/2 hour before, Hartmann had casually mentioned how he didn’t trust giving vaccines to kids…

  95. #95 Diane G.
    October 14, 2009

    Pablo, wow. And what a lost opportunity.

    Well, if nothing else, this discussion is making me feel better about all the “good stuff” I thought I was missing by being chronically out-of-the-loop, culture-wise.

    Except for prestigious publications, of course…:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/amvo/parents_against_swine_flu_vaccine

  96. #96 SC (Salty Current)
    October 14, 2009

    Oh, hey E.V.! (This is pretty fun – like running into people you know in another city.)

    Peace, Salty. :-)

    Peace, dude. (Just published your comment.) Pablo, too.

    (Overreact? Me? Never!)

    Apropos of nothing, Deltoid (where I lurk from time to time) has some cool commenters.

    I would remind everyone that Respectful Insolence and Pharyngula are not in competition – no wagering, please.

    Of course not. That would be silly. Traffic-wise, Pharyngula‘s in another league.
    :P

    *runs*

  97. #97 Marcus Ranum
    October 15, 2009

    OMG – that Maher guy is a complete, utter, asswipe. I can’t believe he’s stuck on Salk’s comment from the 50s. He has to be living in a deliberate mental vacuum.

  98. #98 Charles Devellennes
    October 15, 2009

    I cannot believe that some people read your blog. Your writing style is atrocious. I have no expertise in medical sciences, and thus don’t know any of the research that the arguments are based on, but I mark 200+ university papers a year and most of my first year undergraduates write better than you. On top of this, you make no serious argument against Maher, and simply make ad hominem attacks on the man (look this term up, it might improve your writing). You could have summarised your pseudo-argument in a small paragraph. I would have liked to know on what basis you reject Maher’s arguments, as I tend to agree with your criticism of his views, but found nothing to quench my thirst for curiosity.

  99. #99 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 15, 2009

    Charles, clean the spittle off your monitor and type “Bill Maher’ into the little search engine box near the top of the left sidebar. If you can man up and tolerate Orac’s ‘atrocious writing style’, you’ll find abundant answers to your questions.

  100. #100 Militant Agnostic
    October 15, 2009

    Charles, what part of “Maher is a dangerous antivaccination loon who spouts ‘medical advice’ that can kill people” don’t you understand. If I did not nest the quotation marks properly please forgive me since I are just an Engineer.

    Orac happens to have a fairly demanding day job so sometimes his proof reading of his posts leaves something to be desired. Cowboy up and read for content not style you might learn something.

  101. #101 ildi
    October 15, 2009

    SC:

    She’s a sinvergüenza of epic proportions.

    Spot-on, and I love learning new words! (I don’t speak Spanish, though, so I’m sure I’m missing some interesting connotations…)

    I was already getting tired of the burning hypocrisy of Isis being part of a cult that is as racist, misogynist, pedophile-protecting and anti-science as the HMC, all the while pointing out the motes in others’ eyes, but the contretemps with you, and the altar boys comparison, was so over top that I finally even quit checking out her shoe collection.

    (Also–rather surprised that anyone besides me & SC are still reading this thread! :D )

    Never forget your audience of lurkers, Diane!

    Judy Tenuta – haven’t thought of her in years. At least she was funny.

  102. #102 Orac
    October 15, 2009

    I cannot believe that some people read your blog. Your writing style is atrocious. I have no expertise in medical sciences, and thus don’t know any of the research that the arguments are based on, but I mark 200+ university papers a year and most of my first year undergraduates write better than you. On top of this, you make no serious argument against Maher, and simply make ad hominem attacks on the man (look this term up, it might improve your writing). You could have summarised your pseudo-argument in a small paragraph. I would have liked to know on what basis you reject Maher’s arguments, as I tend to agree with your criticism of his views, but found nothing to quench my thirst for curiosity.

    I call terminal lameness on your comment. You admit you know nothing about the science behind my criticism of Maher’s support for anti-vaccine views and quackery; so instead you resort to the utterly vacuous and lame tactic of criticizing my writing. Of course, one wonders if this is the only post you’ve ever read of mine (hint: the answer is almost certainly yes), which, BTW, was banged out quickly while I was at a meeting because, well, my fans demanded it. Oh, well. Next time I’ll write you a Shakespearian sonnet. I’ll be Hemingway, Orwell, Dickens, and Mencken all rolled into one happy, not-so-Respectfully Insolent ball of cuddly goodness, just for you.

    Let’s put it this way. If you’re too ignorant or stupid to have figured out the problem with Maher’s anti-vaccine nonsense just from the video alone, then you’re too ignorant or stupid for me to give more than a rodent’s posterior if you like my writing style or not, especially since you don’t appear to be clear on the concept of an ad hominem argument. You keep using that term. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    On the other hand, in the hope that you might be educable, I present here a list of posts, mostly mine but not all, that document Maher’s idiocy are listed in a link here.

    But in case you’re too lazy to make that one extra click to get to the list, I’ll present it here to you:

    Read up, and then try again. Or not.

  103. #103 antipodean
    October 15, 2009

    “but I mark 200+ university papers a year”

    So you’re a teaching assistant with a really low workload then. What’s your point?

  104. #104 SC (Salty Current)
    October 15, 2009

    Posted by: Orac | October 15, 2009 7:28 PM

    OK, give. I’m a fucking idiot who should have known about this long ago.

    :/

  105. #105 titmouse
    October 15, 2009

    Charles Devellennes:

    I cannot believe that some people read your blog. Your writing style is atrocious.

    LOL. And now you are trapped and cannot look away. For such is the power of Orac.

    “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” –Pascal

    Seriously, the guy is a crazy-busy NIH-funded general surgeon specializing in breast cancer research. So sometimes he rambles. Sometimes he takes the scenic ride to his point. Typos and occasional farked up sentences happen.

    But he gets shit done. He finds issues that matter and comments upon them in an engaging manner. For example, this Maher business. He’s been warning the skeptical community about Maher’s dangerous anti-science advocacy for years. The rest of us are only now catching up to him, alas.

    I’m very grateful for his tireless efforts in defense of honest medical science. The vast majority of my colleagues are shruggies.

  106. #106 Passing Through
    October 16, 2009

    I can’t help noting that very little of Bill Maher’s anti-vaccination stance is reflected in his Wikipedia entry, which seems a damned shame if we have the reliable sources the Wikipedia editors claim have never been presented to support the claims that he is anti-vaccination.

  107. #107 Carmen Posada
    October 16, 2009

    I have not read through all the comments. I did read the blog post. Extensive published research exists as to the inefficacy of vaccines in general as well as the contamination in vaccine products as well as the deleterious effects of their including mercury and/or aluminum and/or squalene, etc. Less emotional, religiously fevered ranting and more thoughtful review of this research itself would be of great benefit to you and the general population.

  108. #108 Todd W.
    October 16, 2009

    @Carmen Posada

    Could you please provide some links to a handful of what you feel are the best studies supporting your statement that

    Extensive published research exists as to the inefficacy of vaccines in general as well as the contamination in vaccine products as well as the deleterious effects of their including mercury and/or aluminum and/or squalene, etc.

    Thank you.

  109. #109 Orac
    October 16, 2009

    Extensive published research exists as to the inefficacy of vaccines in general as well as the contamination in vaccine products as well as the deleterious effects of their including mercury and/or aluminum and/or squalene, etc.

    Really? Do tell. Could you provide some citations from the peer-reviewed medical literature to demonstrate the “inefficacy of vaccines in general as well as the contamination in vaccine products as well as the deleterious effects of their including mercury and/or aluminum and/or squalene.”

    Oh, by the way, be aware that I’ve written about all these issues on this blog extensively before. Well, I haven’t written about squalene, but fortunately a friend did here:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=851

    In any case, let’s see what “extensive published research” you can show us to support your assertion.

  110. #110 JohnV
    October 16, 2009

    Carmen you came so close to giving me bingo on my anti-vaccine crank bingo card :(

  111. #111 Wade
    October 17, 2009

    Listen, I do agree with you that Bill is wrong about this but that is his job, to be provactive, to challenge the status quo. He is a comedian/social commentator. You waisting your energy trying to discredit Bill! He is trying to stir up a debate, which is what they pay him to do. And pay him quite well I might add. At least more than your bitter (most likely fat) ass, which is what I believe all this stems from. Jealousy.

    Bill is a smart guy, there is no disputing that. I think he is just trying to empahasise the importance of diet and exercise, in which he is right. I’ve never known an actual healthy person to catch ANY disease. You don’t see Tony Robbins or any fit hollywood actors catching the swine flu. I actually can’t even think of one healthy person I know who has ever caught any harsh disease and I’ve known a lot of people. It’s always the people who make a swamp of their body. Not to say it’s never happend, but you can’t tell me that lifestyle is not a HUGE, if not the biggest, factor in catching a disease. It’s just common sense man! But fat people don’t want to hear any of that. It’s the same as telling an addict that drugs are harmful.

    Am I against vaccines? No. But I do think that it should be debated. Why the fuck not. And don’t be mad at Bill because he can out write you, out wit you, and has a fan base of millions who think he is a BMF. That’s bad mother fucker for you geeky types.

    Maher’s popularity is growing, he is one of the hottest comedians around, and 90 percent of the time is spot on. You act like the guy is an actual fucking scientist. Now maybe if someone who was actually in charge of handing out this vaccine should be lambasted for making such statements, but in this case, it’s not. It is a COMEDIAN.

    Get that? A comedian. So don’t be mad at Bill because you’re not him.

  112. #112 Orac
    October 17, 2009

    My response:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/10/the_2009_recipient_of_the_richard_dawkin_1.php

    Maher is a dangerous pseudoscientific nut when it comes to vaccines. I don’t give a rodent’s posterior for the excuse that he is a COMEDIAN.

  113. #113 Chris
    October 17, 2009

    Wade:

    to challenge the status quo. He is a comedian/social commentator.

    Since when is science decided by the “status quo.” Science is based on observed facts, not opinion. While Maher is welcome to his opinion, he may not make up his own facts.

    Wade continues:

    I’ve never known an actual healthy person to catch ANY disease.

    Then you have not lived for very long, and hang around well vaccinated people (part of being healthy is also getting regular checkups and keeping vaccines up to date). And you observations are just your observations, and the plural of anecdotes are not data.

    Just in the news today it was noted that eleven more children have died of swine flu just in the last week. Explain that away with your obvious celebrity worship.

    Who cares if celebrities get the flu or not? (and why would they tell anyone, why broadcast their medical issues to the world if it was not favorable?) Do you seriously favor health issue information from celebrities over people who have actual medical training?

  114. #114 titmouse
    October 17, 2009

    Wade, first let me say that I’m terribly sorry about your acquired brain injury. I’ll try to avoid using big words or long sentences.

    Listen, I do agree with you that Bill is wrong about this but that is his job, to be provactive, to challenge the status quo. He is a comedian/social commentator. You waisting your energy trying to discredit Bill! He is trying to stir up a debate, which is what they pay him to do.

    TEACH TEH CONTROVERSY BOUT VACCINES!!!!! AHAHAHAAHAHAAAAA!

    Look at the company you keep when you make that argument:
    - AGW deniers
    - ID proponents
    - HIV deniers
    - Holocaust deniers…

    I’ve never known an actual healthy person to catch ANY disease. You don’t see Tony Robbins or any fit hollywood actors catching the swine flu. I actually can’t even think of one healthy person I know who has ever caught any harsh disease and I’ve known a lot of people.

    Guess you don’t know Lance Armstrong.

    Am I against vaccines? No. But I do think that it should be debated. Why the fuck not.

    To quote in brief: “LIKE ARGUING WID A KITCHEN TABLE!!!”

    And don’t be mad at Bill because he can out write you, out wit you, and has a fan base of millions who think he is a BMF. That’s bad mother fucker for you geeky types.

    “Relevance.” Look it up.

    You act like the guy is you’re an actual fucking scientist, Mr. Maher!!!

    Too true.

  115. #115 jim
    October 19, 2009

    So would there be any support here for starting a campaign to shine some light on Maher’s idiocy? I’m in the ad business and have an idea involving a twitter/facebook/website execution… let me know here and we’ll put it together

  116. #116 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 19, 2009

    @Wade:

    At least more than your bitter (most likely fat) ass, which is what I believe all this stems from

    Obvious troll is obvious. Y’can go back to /b/ now.

  117. #117 Scott
    October 19, 2009

    Am I against vaccines? No. But I do think that it should be debated. Why the fuck not.

    So may I assume that you also think we should debate the color of the sky, or what 1+1 equals?

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