Respectful Insolence

Here we go again. The 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award, anti-vaccine wingnut and lover of cancer quackery Bill Maher, decided to use the occasion of the season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher to answer some of the criticisms that have been leveled against him. All I can say is this: I’m incredibly grateful that this is the season finale of Maher’s show. I don’t think I can take much more of his moronic anti-science stances being proudly trumpeted

It was painful to watch and showed very much that Bill Maher still doesn’t get it. In fact, if anything, he escalated his quack arguments to a whole new level. True, he states up front that he isn’t a germ theory denialist, lamely claiming that maybe he was a “bit too cocky” when he said that diet and healthy living (plus avoiding the ubiquitous “toxins”) would protect him from the flu, but that’s a load of steaming, stinking, toxin-laden bullshit, as my posts on the subject over the last five years show. Here is but a small sampling:

No, what Maher has said in the past was far, far more than just arguing that a healthy diet and exercise can maximize your resistance to infection with the flu or other infectious diseases, which is true but in a trivial sort of way. If that’s all Bill Maher had said, then I would have had little or no problem with him. But that’s not all that he said or even what he said. Rather, he parroted a lie about Louis Pasteur that he had “recanted” on his deathbed, echoing the same sorts of false “deathbed conversion” stories that circulate claiming that Charles Darwin recanted about evolution. The implication was plain: That Pasteur had doubted germ theory on his deathbed and come over to his rival, Antoine Beauchamp, who had claimed that it wasn’t the microbes that caused disease but rather the “biological terrain.” While it is true that immunosuppressed or debilitated patients are more susceptible to various infections, many, many pathogenic microbes can still cause serious disease in perfectly healthy people. The strain of virus responsible for the 1918 influenza pandemic, for instance, tended to kill younger and healthier people. Indeed, it got started in the U.S. in an Army barracks, and it doesn’t get much healthier than young men between the ages of 18-22 in the military. Similarly, the current H1N1 (a.k.a. “swine flu”) pandemic shows disturbing signs of similarly affecting the young more severely. Maher also said on many occasions that he views disease as being due to “aggregate toxicity” from all the “toxins” of modern life and the “poisons” that we ingest.

Bill Maher’s claim that he is not a germ theory denialist rings hollow. He mouths the words, but his history shows otherwise.

Then Bill goes completely off the rails:

…I do understand the theory of inoculation. Yes, you give someone a little bit of the disease and it fools your body into providing antibodies which fight it. Brilliant! Bravo! Maybe there is some occasions where inoculation is a wise thing to do. I hope not. I hope I would never have to have one because, you know, to present it just as this genius medical advancement, no, it’s actually a risky medical procedure that begs long term cost-benefit analysis.

If anyone still doubts that the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award (Bill Maher) is anti-vaccine, pure and simple, to his very core the above statement should lay to rest any doubts. Vaccination is not a “risky medical procedure.” It is among the safest medical procedures there is. Depending on the disease, it is also among the most effective. Arguably, no medical intervention ever envisioned by human beings has saved more lives at so low a cost and so low a risk as vaccination. His ignorance is just as toxic as any of those “toxins” he fears, particularly his ignorance that vaccination has undergone and continues to undergo long term cost-benefit analyses, safety monitoring, and study.

The 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award is an anti-vaccine loon, plain and simple. He then goes on to prove it even more conclusively:

I mean if you don’t believe me, just look on the CDC website as to what is in the swine flu vaccine. You know, aluminum, insect repellent, formaldehyde, mercury, you know, that’s right on their website. Don’t take it from a talk show host.

Oh, no! TOXINS! Injected into the children! Oh, the humanity!

I suppose I should be relieved that the the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award didn’t parrot the anti-vaccine lie about “antifreeze” or “fetal parts” in the vaccines. I suppose I should be grateful for small favors. Of course, mercury is so….2004 or 2005. For one thing, it hasn’t been in chldhood vaccines other than the flu vaccine since late 2001. More importantly, numerous studies have failed to show a link between mercury and autism–or any other neurological condition, for that matter. The idea that mercury in vaccines somehow causes autism is a failed hypothesis, so much so that anti-vaccine zealots started to distance themselves from it two years ago. Why do you think they came up with “too many too soon” and “green our vaccines“?

Meanwhile, aluminum is the new mercury, even though it has an excellent safety record going back 80 years as an adjuvant in vaccines. Come to think of it, the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award blamed the flu vaccine and its aluminum for Alzheimer’s disease, parroting yet another anti-vaccine lie from another anti-vaccine whackaloon named Hugh Fudenberg, and he was doing it back in 2005! So this latest bit on aluminum is nothing new for the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award. As for formaldehyde, as I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions before, that’s one of the all-time dumbest anti-vaccine arguments of all. Indeed, when our resident anti-vaccine apologist pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon tried the “formaldehyde gambit,” I schooled him so hard that he never repeated it again.

I will admit that the “insect repellent” gambit is a new one on me. I looked at the CDC list of vaccine ingredients and couldn’t find anything resembling a pesticide or insect repellant chemical. I may not know enough to have identified it; so I did a bit of digging. Guess where I found this one? Really, take a guess? Surprise, surprise! I found it on the uber conspiracy website Rense.com, which complains about the adjuvant MF59, stating that it is made up of Tween 80, squalene, and Span85, about the last of which it says:

Span85: Patented by the now defunct Chiron (bought by Novartis). Its chemical name is Sorbitan Trioleate. It is an oily liquid used in medicine, textiles, cosmetics, and paints as an emulsifier, anti-rust agent, and thickener. [Some factories in China specialize only in manufacturing Tween 80 and Span 85.] According to the Pesticide Action Network North America [PANNA], this chemical is used as a pesticide. It is also used as an adjuvant and is “toxic to humans, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity.”(16)

This is just plain silly, because, as revere has pointed out, the H1N1 vaccines used in the U.S. have no adjuvant, MF-59, squalene, or otherwise. Indeed, he was concerned about the lack of an adjuvant because without an adjuvant the vaccine requires more antigen to provoke an immune response. Given that the U.S. has purchased a lot of antigen, thus squeezing the supply for other nations, revere concluded that the U.S. should use an adjuvanted vaccine as well, particularly given that MF59 has been used in Europe for a dozen years without mishap. Basically, Maher’s whine appears to be an even more ridiculous version of the “squalene gambit.” Again, remember that the dose makes the poison. As is the case for aluminum, there is no good evidence that squalene or MF59 is harmful at the doses used in vaccines and plenty of evidence that it is safe. It’s also possible Maher may have meant polyoxyethylene sorbitan, which is sometimes be used in an insect repellents. Whatever the case, it’s nothing more than using scary chemical names. I guess the “insect repellent” gambit is the new “formaldehyde” and “fetal cells” gambit, if you know what I mean.

Next, Maher will be complaining about the dihydromonoxide in vaccines. After all, it’s the biggest component, and it can kill!

In any case, that’s not all the pseudoscientific nonsense that the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award lays down. He immediately launched into a diatribe blaming his childhood allergies on vaccines or perhaps the “mercury they drilled into my teeth,” plaintively arguing, “So, I’m not a nut for asking…They do some stupid things, and you’re not a nut for asking.”

Oh, goody. The old “I’m just askin'” gambit. Ugh. Actually, Bill, you are a nut for asking because the questions you ask reveal that you have no clue what you’re talking about.

But that’s not the worst. This is:

People have said, “Well, Bill, there are people now dying of the swine flu who were in good health.” By whose standards? Hospitals serve Jello. They have fast food franchises in their lobby. The autopsy report on Michael Jackson came back, and they said he was in good health. OK, to me he looked a little pale. So, I don’t always agree with what Western medicine says means good health.

Holy flaming non sequitur, Batman!

Finally, we have the “censorship gambit,” with the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award pontificating after Chris Matthews asks him why countries require vaccination before you can enter them, asking rhetorically if they’re all wrong:

What I know is that what Western medicine likes to do is to close off debate.

Bullshit, Bill. Bullshit.

It’s scientific medicine where the debate occurs. There’s been endless debate over who should be vaccinated, how effective the vaccine is, how bad the pandemic is going to be, who’s at most risk for the swine flu. That’s exactly what scientific medicine (referred to disparagingly by the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award as “Western medicine”) excels at. The problem is that the debate over whether vaccination works and is effective has already occured and didn’t go the way Bill Maher believes. He doesn’t like that. Maher even spews the easily refuted claim that it wasn’t the polio vaccine that eliminated polio.

The stupid, it burns. Paralyzingly. As if Maher contracted polio of the intellect.

Chris Matthews was brilliant, though, when he asked Maher why he’s “fighting this fight.” Maher’s lame response:

Just to say that we need a debate about it. Just to say that the science is not settled. What I was attacked for was to say that I don’t believe in this, that we should look into it, and lots of people feel the same way. This is not settled science like global warming. That’s what they’re trying to say, that it’s as crazy as fighting global warming or evolution.

Actually Bill, the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award, I’ll tell you something: It’s arguably even crazier than fighting global warming or evolution. As harmful as anti-evolution or AGW denialism can be, the consequences are far off in the future, particularly for AGW denialism, where it’ll be decades at least. That makes it hard for many people to understand the harm, and perhaps somewhat understandably so. For anti-vaccine pseudoscience like what Bill Maher spews, the public health consequences are immediate and severe. People will die now, possibly lots of people, particularly children. Chris Matthews nailed it perfectly, too, when he compared Bill Maher to Tom Cruise denouncing psychology and therapy. The horrified look on Bill Maher’s face after that accusation was priceless. I suspect that Maher had never had his medical ignorance so pitch perfectly called out before.

Unfortunately, there’s little or no hope that Maher will change, I’m afraid. After all, he was clearly responding to criticism from the New York Times and possibly Michael Shermer’s open letter to him yesterday. The very fact that Maher went out of his way to say that he is a germ theory denialist tells me that maybe, just maybe, my criticisms have bubbled up through various others to penetrate the southern California, celebrity woo culture in which Maher thrives, to bother him a bit. After all, at the risk of partaking of the arrogance that the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award has in abundance, I was one of the earliest bloggers, possibly (although I’m not sure about this) the earliest, to point out Maher’s germ theory denialism. Certainly, I was hammering this home long before PZ Myers, Michael Shermer, or virtually any other skeptic other than perhaps Skeptico (who is probably the only one who started in on Maher before I did) had even heard of Maher’s promotion of quackery. I’ve been the most consistent at hammering away at him for it over the years.

Yeah, I know I’m being a bit pissy and perhaps even a bit petulant and childish, but I think I’m entitled to indulging the less savory sides of my personality in this case, at least just a little bit. Please indulge me. While I’m glad to see others finally–finally–waking up to what a pseudoscientific whackaloon Maher is, it’s hard for me not to remember four and a half years of sounding the alarm, with very few paying much attention except for sporadically. Certainly the AAI didn’t pay any attention whatsoever.

My annoyance at the sudden outrage of Johnny-come-lately’s aside at something that those of us who have been paying attention have known at least since 2005, the charge of germ theory denialism clearly got to Maher. It really appeared bothered him. However the chickens finally came home to roost, Maher has at long last been confronted with just how batshit insane science-based physicians and rational lay people think he is on the issues of vaccination, the flu, and infectious disease in general, and he doesn’t like it one bit, particularly being appropriately compared to AGW denialists, creationists, and, above all, Tom Cruise. Unfortunately, instead of doing what rational, science-based people do when faced with science and scientists telling him he is wrong, it is abundantly clear that the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award, Bill Maher, is simply retreating further and further into quackery, anti-vaccine lies, and pseudoscience.

ADDENDUM: Ye gods! The world has truly turned upside down. There’s another post on that vast repository of antivaccine woo, The Huffington Post, entitled Bill Maher Is Still Wrong About Swine Flu Vaccine. When I see three posts in less than a week on HuffPo defending the swine flu vaccine, I worry. A lot. I seriously fear that it’s a sign of the Apocalypse.

In any case, the usual cast of HuffPo anti-vaccine wingnuts have already descended. Here’s another chance to lend some tactical air support.

Comments

  1. #1 Sastra
    October 17, 2009

    Certainly the AAI didn’t pay any attention whatsoever.

    Not enough.

    When I see three posts in less than a week on HuffPo defending the swine flu vaccine, I worry. A lot. I seriously fear that it’s a sign of the Apocalypse.

    I once read a book on conspiracy theories which suggested that the best way to deal with them is to flip them around: “they” want you to think there’s a conspiracy, and “they” don’t want you to know that there isn’t. Maybe Maher can be persuaded to see this issue not just as science vs. pseudoscience, but David vs. Goliath with the anti-vaxxers as Goliath, and the brave maverick doctors fighting with only the facts on their side.

    I hope he’s challenged more and more on this “Western medicine” crap. It’s not western, it’s science-based. And implying that modern non-western cultures don’t handle or understand science the way the Europeans do, is racist.

    And what’s the problem now with Jello?

  2. #2 Kimball C Atwood
    October 17, 2009

    O,

    Don’t let Maher get away with the “…I do understand the theory of inoculation” BS, either. He proves that he doesn’t understand the theory in his very next sentence:

    “Yes, you give someone a little bit of the disease and it fools your body into providing antibodies which fight it.”

    Er, that would be a big “no,” unless he’s referring to the antiquated and irrelevant practice of “variolation” for smallpox. Immunizations don’t “give someone a little bit of the disease.” What they give is material (antigen) that does NOT cause the disease in question but that mimics molecular features of the pertinent infectious agent well enough to induce the immune system to mount a response that will be effective against that agent.

    For immunizations against viral diseases the material consists, typically, of killed viruses (eg, Salk vaccine for polio) or attenuated viruses (eg, Sabin for polio) or, in the example of smallpox vaccine, a closely related naturally-occurring virus that is not very dangerous to humans except in rare instances. That related virus, for those who don’t know, is the vaccinia virus, the cause of cowpox and the key to the discovery of vaccination more than 200 years ago: the “complexion of a milkmaid.”

    The “vacc-” in vaccination thus derives from the Latin word for “cow.” Technically, other vaccinations are not vaccinations but “immunizations,” although at this point the word, and especially the version that refers to the inoculum (“vaccine”), has stuck for so long that it has become synonymous with “immunization.”

    There are also other substances in vaccines, such as immune “adjuvants”–substances that non-specifically enhance the immune response–and preservatives. These are important for the safety and efficacy of vaccines, are present in minute quantities and are about as certain as measurements allow to be harmless; but as we all know they are portrayed as terrible “toxins” by the anti-vax crowd.

    I know that you know all this stuff, but sometimes it is apparent in online discussions that many do not (Maher, obviously, is one, but some who favor immunizations also seem not to). Hence the brief pedantry.

    KA

  3. #3 Orac
    October 17, 2009

    I don’t mind the pedantry this time. I guess I was more interested in the new and heretofore unknown (at least to me) “pesticide” or “insect repellent” gambit. Oh, well.

  4. #4 titmouse
    October 17, 2009

    I was scratching my head, wondering about the “dey givs ya JELLO fer cryin’ out loud!” meme. This is not the first time his slagged the colorful, jiggly dessert.

    I did not realize that Jello had become some sort of icon representing “crap food that slowly kills you.” I’d thought that position had been taken by the infamous Twinkie.

    Uncle Google reports that the “Jello-bad” meme is touted by PETA. Makes sense.

    Maher may absorb many of his “it’s common knowledge” health notions from chit-chat at West LA cocktail parties.

  5. #5 Jen
    October 17, 2009

    “The strain of virus responsible for the 1918 influenza pandemic, for instance, tended to kill younger and healthier people. Indeed, it got started in the U.S. in an Army barracks, and it doesn’t get much healthier than young men between the ages of 18-22 in the military. ”

    The 1918 flu fascinates me, especially the fact that so many were found to have lung hemorrhaging, which is not typical for influenza. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I wonder how many of those deaths were actually due to aspirin misuse?

    http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/606060

  6. #6 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    October 17, 2009

    And what’s the problem now with Jello?

    It’s pure concentrated evil in jiggly form.

  7. #7 SC (Salty Current)
    October 17, 2009

    It’s pure concentrated evil in jiggly form.

    Like Jenny McCarthy.

    Oh – sorry. That’s pure concentrated stupid.

  8. #8 titmouse
    October 17, 2009

    …”they” want you to think there’s a conspiracy…

    This comment caused me to travel back in time where I found my grandfather and then shot him with a

    *poof!*

  9. #9 T. Bruce McNeely
    October 17, 2009

    Orac,
    This seems like turning an ocean liner 180 degrees – it requires a lot of time and persistence. Don’t worry about repeating this topic, it’s what we need. I just gave an introductory lecture to a college class on infection control, and of course, discussed immunization in health care workers. I got a lot of questions about vaccine safety, especially autism. Thanks to your blog and others, I was able to answer these questions confidently and (granted by the feedback I got) politely and effectively.
    Jen,
    I have seen an abstract that discusses the possibility of ASA toxicity in the 1918 flu epidemic (can’t find it at the moment). The cause of death among young people was probably diffuse alveolar damage, AKA adult respiratory distress syndrome. Basically, the alveolar walls of the lungs become damaged, allowing protein-rich fluid and blood to seep into the alveolar spaces. This of course prevents gas exchange, and the patient suffocates. This is associated with viral illnesses, such as influenza and Hantavirus. It also can be associated with ASA toxicity, and the doses they were using in 1918 were extremely high. Perhaps an additive effect?

  10. #10 Peter Beattie
    October 17, 2009

    Could you perhaps comment on this recent “Atlantic” article, “Does the Vaccine Matter?”

  11. #11 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 17, 2009

    Wow, he came soooo close to parroting the antivax canard about how the polio vaccine didn’t really eradicate polio. What a dick.

    Hey, Peter Beattie, there was some discussion of the Atlantic article on SBM and also here.

  12. #12 Seth Manapio
    October 17, 2009

    “Actually Bill, the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award, I’ll tell you something: It’s arguably even crazier than fighting global warming or evolution. ”

    —————–

    Actually, Orac, it’s unarguably crazier than fighting global warming. Just by counting double blind, placebo controlled studies alone, it’s easy to see that AGW is losing to inoculation by, oh, several thousands… probably tens of thousands… to zero.

    Sure, Climate Science has simulation… but we wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, accept a new cancer treatment on simulation alone. My point isn’t that Climate Science doesn’t have a solid case for AGW, it’s that the case that inoculation works is incalculably stronger than contemporary science and computation are capable of making the case for AGW.

  13. #13 VolcanoMan
    October 17, 2009

    I watched the show and while I *like* Maher, I am always struck by his incredible ignorance when dealing with health care. While he sides with science in pretty much every other area, he seems to think that there is a big medical science conspiracy between thousands of doctors and researchers, designed to put money in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry. While the health care sector has a good deal of political clout and frankly, is very profitable, the process of science is at least in theory objective; while some researchers may be tweaking their data to serve the companies that fund the research, a conspiracy of the magnitude he believes in is simply impossible. Vaccines work; if they didn’t work, if they carried unacceptable risks, if there has not been sufficient debate and discussion on the topic for us to be sure (as he seems to fear), there is no way billions of people would be getting vaccinated everywhere on Earth. There are rare complications, and yes, it’s possible that there could be unforeseen effects in the future; however, if we’re going to worry about that, we should worry far more about the crap we’re putting into the environment which we KNOW causes cancer, infertility, and a wide range of diseases.

    I cannot understand why such a rational, science-accepting person is so happy to ignore the scientific data which shows just how many lives have been saved by relatively inexpensive, almost always harmless procedures.

  14. #14 Elsie
    October 17, 2009

    Just wanted to give a quick thanks to you for continuing to deconstruct Maher’s lunacy. I’ve got no problem indulging you, and am thankful for the time you spend on this.

  15. #15 Heidi Anderson
    October 17, 2009

    He is an atheist, less attractive, silicone free Jenny McCarty with a penis.

  16. #16 MartinH
    October 17, 2009

    Maybe Maher would be happier with vaccination if he knew that its roots apparently lie outside “Western” medicine.

    early innoculation

  17. #17 IBY
    October 17, 2009

    He is so shallow in his thinking, especially when he supported the HPV vaccines just because the right wingers went crazy about it.

  18. #18 Kewalo
    October 17, 2009

    I am so glad to read that I’m not the only one that is upset about Maher’s show last night. I just googled his name to see if anyone else was as upset as I was when I came across your site.

    Thank you for saying what needs to be said. Maher is completely ignorant of the facts and I’m astounded. I have to admit it gave me a laugh to see the deer in the headlights expressions on the panelist faces. Thank goodness Gov. O’Malley spoke up and I’ve sent him an email thanking him.

    I’m old enough to remember seeing the lines of iron lungs filled with children on the news and my mother collecting for the March of Dimes. Before Sabin and Salk the US was a place where every parent, every summer, was afraid of losing their children. The only polio epidemic in the US since then was a religious school that didn’t believe in innoculations. Too bad that Maher isn’t a few years older.

  19. #19 Diane G.
    October 17, 2009

    While I’m certainly in agreement with Orac, I’m apparently the only one who saw just perhaps the faintest glimmer of Maher’s opinion beginning to “evolve” in a postive way on this matter. First, the fact that he seems to be more on the defensive than the offensive (as has up to now seemed the case) makes me think he is paying attention to all the public criticism, and possibly beginning to redefine his position, albeit by micro babysteps. Secondly, the fact that he got serious contradiction from guests on this show, as well as from Frist, seemed to startle him and I thought I saw just a ghost of uncertainty in his face. I thought the deer-in-the-headlights looks were mostly from him!

    In the last few vid clips that have been posted on these blogs, he’s looked as if he feels very out of his depth in matters scientific, referring to notes and being unable to come up with satisfactory rejoinders to his guests’ challenges.

    It was also encouraging that some of the guests’ comments received as many laughs and/or applause as Maher’s did.

    I’m never accused of optimism, but perhaps continual pressure is in fact inducing doubt in his heretofore firm convictions.

    Not, of course, quickly enough to benefit those who really need to get that flu vaccine NOW.

  20. #20 Brian English
    October 17, 2009

    So what was that award Maher won in 2009?

  21. #21 Jen
    October 17, 2009

    Harold Pollack’s piece “Get Your Flu Shots – And Ignore Bill Maher” could really use some help in the comments. There’s a lot of anti-vaccine rhetoric so far. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harold-pollack/get-your-flu-shots–and-i_b_324803.html

  22. #22 skippy
    October 17, 2009

    keep fighting the good fight, orac. these anti-vax nuts and their jenny mccarthyism are more than annoying, they are dangerous.

  23. #23 guildsman
    October 17, 2009

    I hope someone is going to counter the nonsense that this article in the Atlantic is going to generate: Does the Vaccine Matter? – http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200911/brownlee-h1n1. It’s a recipe for denialist’s to dance in celebration…

  24. #24 Kimball C Atwood
    October 17, 2009

    “Maybe Maher would be happier with vaccination if he knew that its roots apparently lie outside ‘Western’ medicine.”

    Except that vaccination’s roots do not lie outside of “Western” medicine. Not that it matters, of course, because the issue is truth, not geography; but what you are referring to is “variolation,” not vaccination, as the link that you provide explains.

  25. #25 Kimball C Atwood
    October 17, 2009

    “Maybe Maher would be happier with vaccination if he knew that its roots apparently lie outside ‘Western’ medicine.”

    Except that vaccination’s roots do not lie outside of “Western” medicine. Not that it matters, because the issue is truth, not geography; but what you are referring to is “variolation,” not vaccination, as the link that you provide explains.

  26. #26 daijiyobu
    October 17, 2009

    To quote comedian Bob Nelson

    (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BerJdS2VJhA ):

    “because the mind is a terrible thing, and it must be stopped in this lifetime. Before it kills somebody.”

    -r.c.

  27. #27 SC (Salty Current)
    October 18, 2009

    I have to second (third I think at this point) the request to you – and/or revere – to write a response to the Atlantic article. (Especially the part about Jackson and Group Health.) I’ve already seen it mentioned at least four times in comment threads today.

  28. #28 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 18, 2009

    And I’ll ‘fourth’ that request. I’ve been involved in discussions on Facebook today about that article–it really freaked a lot of people out, apparently. Mind you, this FB discussion basically pits me against the woo-woo queens of Eugene who say things like:

    “I know a mother in town who’s three year old got the swine flu. Although she even needed to stay in the hospital, her daughter made it through and is stronger for it. I believe that more important than the vaccine is making sure our children have healthy strong immune systems. We have such wonderful healers in our town to help our families live healthy lives. I believe the vaccine’s effectiveness really can not compete with our own anti- flu resources.”

    I know. It burns. And I feel so very powerless against the depth of this ignorance. I responded that the best way to “make sure our children have healthy strong immune systems” where the swine flu is concerned is to give them the fucking vaccine, but I’m sure I’ll be ignored. Hat’s off to you, Orac, Dr. Atwood for enduring such incandescent stupid on a daily basis.

  29. #29 MS2
    October 18, 2009

    Thank you again for your extensive deconstructions. You should feel a sense of accomplishment in starting a movement to bring the insolence on this guy. This blog obviously takes a lot of work, it does show, and we all appreciate it.

  30. #30 Neill Raper
    October 18, 2009

    Seth @ 12
    Oh come on. Climate science is not just “running simulations”. There are countless methods of measuring past concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and past temperatures. The link between greenhouse gasses and the greenhouse effect is solidly confirmed by all of these multiple lines of evidence, all based on emperical observation of geological strata and ice cores combined with contemporary measurements of current temp and gas emissions, and the link between certain human activities and the release of these greenhouse gasses is solid as a rock as well. They are not just running simulations. Perhaps you are confusing AGW itself with the projected effects of AGW.

    At a point more evidence simply becomes superfluous to the insanity of arguing against a certain position. Yet another positive result for vaccines or AGW will not make me more convinced of these positions because I am already as convinced as I really can be of anything. Anyone who wishes to deny the reality of AGW or the safety and effectiveness of vaccines has already reached a plateau of insanity that indicates either the maximum in self delusion or that they have simply been lied to and indoctrinated.

  31. #31 titmouse
    October 18, 2009

    Diane G:

    I’m apparently the only one who saw just perhaps the faintest glimmer of Maher’s opinion beginning to “evolve” in a postive way on this matter.

    Your optimism inspired me to write a little essay:
    Pod People Screening Exam

  32. #32 MC Iced Borscht
    October 18, 2009

    You are correct that almost no one of a skeptical bent has taken Maher to task in recent years, and that is frustrating. I recall making a Facebook comment critical of Maher’s movie when it came out. I noted that he was a horrible ambassador for atheism. Immediately, of course, some shrill stranger got angry with me and hit me with this rejoinder: “Well, I’m sure you feel that way about Dawkins and Harris too.

    I didn’t have the heart to tell this wayward commenter and ardent Maher supporter that my disgust with the braying little man was due to his constant intellectual short-cuts and not his position as a so-called “atheist.” Most galling about Maher’s “atheist” film was that I knew it would wrongly perpetuate his status as a person of “reason.”

    I’ve commented on the JREF messageboard enough to know that the skeptical community is very left-leaning, and they are they are willing to allow themselves blind spots with the Mahers and Michael Moores of the world. Free passes in all spheres of thought, basically, to anyone who might vote like them. That’s intellectual laziness. (I respect and appreciate PZ Myers a great deal, but I recall that, several months ago, he blogged something to the effect of “Say what you will about Michael Moore, but he’s usually right.” Um…what?)

    Anyway, I don’t meant to hijack the issue at hand (re: Maher’s stupidity) with a descent into politics. I’m a political agnostic who does not adhere to any one party’s ethos. But I do think politics played a part in many a skeptic and/or atheist getting charmed by Maher’s shtick.

    The enemy of whoever-your-enemy-happens-to-be is not necessarily your friend. Why do skeptics, of all people, not get this? I suppose now they are starting to (thanks to Orac, Skeptico and Michael Shermer) but, wow…blind spots.

    WTF.

  33. #33 Diane G.
    October 18, 2009

    31
    Your optimism inspired me to write a little essay:
    Pod People Screening Exam

    Posted by: titmouse | October 18, 2009 2:26 AM

    LOL! Nice tale. (I’ve had boyfriends like that…well, except for the conversion…) And I’m chuckling at the coincidence that I just showed my daughter IOTBS last week-end (1978 version).

    Really, I’m no Maher fan. In another thread I commented, about his shakey a-religionism, that it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he someday embraced and trumpeted some New Age woo spirituality BS…

    I just thought he looked a little less sure of himself in the above posted clip. If Shermer can change on AGW, a position he was probably disinclined to accept for political reasons, maybe there’s hope for Maher…?

  34. #34 DFS
    October 18, 2009

    “(I respect and appreciate PZ Myers a great deal, but I recall that, several months ago, he blogged something to the effect of “Say what you will about Michael Moore, but he’s usually right.” Um…what?)”

    OK, I’ll bite. What has Moore been so often and patently wrong about? (and btw I hate the tendency beyond some on the political left to uncritically embrace pseudoscience and altie med)

  35. #35 Dan the Man
    October 18, 2009

    Where the frigging hell did he get that B.S information about properly prescribed pharmaceuticals killing 100 000 people a year? Ive never heard that rot before. Sounds like a made up figure to me. He probably heard it from Jenny Mcarthy.

    What a complete tool.

  36. #36 alec
    October 18, 2009

    Orac, I love you. But please please stop saying you were talking about him first. It’s pointless and distracts from your real arguments. People who are reading this and becoming convinced might suddenly be turned off and suspicious of your motives when you drop “I’d like some credit for talking about him first” into the piece like an anvil.

  37. #37 snerd
    October 18, 2009

    alec: Nope, The fact that Orac noticed this first (or at least first-ish) is important – the ‘skeptical movement’ is just as prone to demagoguery as anything else, and anyone with a scientific bent should understand that the easiest person to fool is yourself, so you need to be on guard against that.

    Besides, concern troll is concerned.

  38. #38 Martin Andersen
    October 18, 2009

    I wish someone would say to Bill that if one was a little prone to conspiracy theories, one might think Bill only had this stance on vaccines because he has noticed all the attention it gets him.

  39. #39 John Grant
    October 18, 2009

    As harmful as anti-evolution or AGW denialism can be, the consequences are far off in the future, particularly for AGW denialism, where it’ll be decades at least.

    Um, the consequences of AGW are already around us. To say they’re not going to be felt until decades in the future is, I’d suggest, somewhat irresponsible in that it gives too many people an excuse for not doing anything right now.

  40. #40 Anthro
    October 18, 2009

    I am as concerned about Maher and his ability to spread “the stupid” as anyone, but the bigger concern is the gazillions out there who think the same way. You just have to look at the “bestsellers”, often written by MD’s, that are touted everywhere from Oprah, to coops, to Amazon, to PBS pledge drive programming to see where this anti-medical industry stuff comes from. I have attempted many times to take on an employee at the coop or Whole Foods who is touting some “cleanse” or other dubious potion to a (totally UNskeptical) customer–to NO avail. They simply look at me as though they are trying to be kind to a mentally disabled child.

    Having said that, I, too, see a glimmer of hope for Maher and will watch him carefully for signs of progress. It would be awesome if he comes around, because he has the potential to influence so many.

  41. #41 Orac
    October 18, 2009

    Even though he doesn’t mention it explicitly in his post, Mark Crislip has stated that he wrote the following more or less as a response to the execrably bad Atlantic article:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2040

    I’m not sure there’s much that I can add.

  42. #42 Everbleed
    October 18, 2009

    I don’t think Orac is being childish at all. I, like many others, am glad he has continued his scream.

    VolcanoMan (#13) expressed my confusion as well, and maybe hits on why we find Maher so infuriating. Maher is supposedly “one of us” but he has demonstrated himself to be a “traitor” to science and reason. I also now believe Maher to be a total asshole and would tell that to his face given even the slightest opportunity.

    Orac is right. Watching that nearly six minute clip was really painful and by the end of it I hated Maher’s smug bone-headed, asshole persona. He is a dick. Plain and simple.

    What was worse than Maher where the people, (maybe the majority), in the audience who cheered Maher on! Only the panel kept me from losing all hope. Had I been in the audience I would have screamed out loud that Maher was full of crap. We have lost our balls. Don’t want to be rude and all.

    I live in a town literally overflowing with nut cases spewing this shit all day, everywhere. Saying anything contrary is economic and social suicide here. I admire, applaud and respect Orac for his courage, his tenacity and his outrage. He is no child.

    Orac also hits a big nail squarely when he slams the media for presenting “both sides of the story”. It is astounding that the National Geographic and the National Enquirer are given equal weight. America is losing its collective mind.

    I see no difference between Maher and every mutant creature currently pitching vomit on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, except that in Maher’s case even THEY hate him. Now THAT is an accomplishment… being a universally despised asshole.

    Sic ‘em Orac.

  43. #43 Skeptico
    October 18, 2009

    I just can’t watch Maher any more – 30 seconds of that clip was all I could stand. Pity, because he can be funny on other subjects. Anyway, Orac should be applauded for keeping this up front and center. (And thanks for the plug.) It’s good to know that the criticisms are beginning to get to Maher, even if he’s too thick to understand where he’s going wrong.

  44. #44 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 18, 2009

    Well, I don’t mean to sound pissy or petulant, but I linked to Mark Crislip’s article way back at comment number 11…kidding!

    Actually, Orac, as much as I love reading Dr. Crislip’s posts, I was really hoping that something shorter and more to the point might emerge– a slightly more accessible and specific rebuttal piece, I guess. If I try to counter the woo-queen idiot I quoted in my comment #28 upthread with pages of excerpts from clinical studies, I will fail. Yes, I can parse this into lay terms and pass on the info, but it’s also nice to be able to refer said laypeople to a corroborating primary source they can actually understand. I’d thought of linking to one of the recent HuffPo articles, but I didn’t really want to drag Bill Maher The 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award into the picture.

    Harriet Hall’s Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering post on SBM from September is another good resource–more readable, as it’s broken down into ‘Claim’ vs. ‘Fact’ point by point, but it delves into a lot of the really whacked-out fear mongering that the Atlantic article didn’t touch. I think that’s why it (the Atlantic article) was so effective, because it sounded relatively rational and non-conspiratorial.

    Anyway, if anyone comes across a relevant article anywhere, I’d really appreciate a linky here.

  45. #45 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    October 18, 2009

    I know this is off topic, but

    I was intrigued by Maher’s comment that he is not having sex with his interns. Now, I don’t know if he has or has not, but other talk show hosts (and indeed, other famous people) have had sex with their interns or other employees. Well known people have been wrong on this before. Am I nuts for thinking we should have the debate on this subject? After all, if there’s one thing well known people do it’s try to shut down the debate.

  46. #46 Chris
    October 18, 2009

    Jennifer B. Phillips:

    Actually, Orac, as much as I love reading Dr. Crislip’s posts, I was really hoping that something shorter and more to the point might emerge– a slightly more accessible and specific rebuttal piece, I guess.

    You were expecting shorter from Orac!?!!!

  47. #47 MartinH
    October 18, 2009

    “Maybe Maher would be happier with vaccination if he knew that its roots apparently lie outside ‘Western’ medicine.”

    Except that vaccination’s roots do not lie outside of “Western” medicine. Not that it matters, because the issue is truth, not geography; but what you are referring to is “variolation,” not vaccination, as the link that you provide explains.

    Not to get too pedantic about it, but Wikipedia quotes at least one source which describes this as an early form of vaccination. It seems pretty clear the technological roots of vaccination – or, if you prefer, of the practices that inspired the the invention of vaccination – lie outside of the European tradition, even if the conceptual framework for understanding it is part of so-called “Western” medicine. Significantly, the risk/benefit analysis seems also to have been part of the earliest thinking, as the move to Variola minor demonstrates.

    Wherever it originated, it still seems to have been “scientific” medicine.

  48. #48 Ovy
    October 18, 2009

    This is frightfully depressing, to see such a liberal secularist star burn out like this. I apologize for defending him against you back when it was first announced he won the Dawkins award, Orac. I had hoped he changed his position on vaccines as he had on God, but I see his thinking is less methodological and more ideologically now. Depressing, indeed…

    He sounds so much like a creationist. Damnable fool!

  49. #49 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 18, 2009

    Chris @ 46:
    heh–far be it from me to interfere with the great man’s mojo. I’m actually not trying to elicit a response from him, specifically, but I think someone should do it. I am not a fan of the Mooney-Kirschenbaum model of science communication, but I do feel that public health issues like this present an opportunity for docs to step into the science communicator role and submit organized rebuttals against overwhelming flow of anti-vax and similar crap that flows from the media. I’m just hoping that some of the M.D. bloggers or science communicators will rally around this cause and lobby as hard as they need to to get ‘our’ side some press as well. There have been many splendid blog posts on the topic, but by and large they have been geared toward the already-rational readers, and many, like Dr. Crislip’s have been a bit dense by lay-public standards.

  50. #50 SC (Salty Current)
    October 18, 2009

    Well, I don’t mean to sound pissy or petulant, but I linked to Mark Crislip’s article way back at comment number 11…kidding!

    Pissiness and petulance totally understandable. :) I clicked on it (thanks), but your link went to the end of the comment thread and I wasn’t seeing the connection until Orac’s remark.

    I’m not sure there’s much that I can add.

    Well, the way it tells the story of “vaccine skeptics” and what it presents as Establishment views seem to me a problem, beyond the question of efficacy per se:

    …When Lisa Jackson, a physician and senior investigator with the Group Health Research Center, in Seattle, began wondering aloud to colleagues if maybe something was amiss with the estimate of 50 percent mortality reduction for people who get flu vaccine, the response she got sounded more like doctrine than science. “People told me, ‘No good can come of [asking] this,’” she says. “‘Potentially a lot of bad could happen’ for me professionally by raising any criticism that might dissuade people from getting vaccinated, because of course, ‘We know that vaccine works.’ This was the prevailing wisdom.”

    Nonetheless, in 2004, Jackson and three colleagues set out to determine whether the mortality difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated might be caused by a phenomenon known as the “healthy user effect.” They hypothesized that on average, people who get vaccinated are simply healthier than those who don’t, and thus less liable to die over the short term. People who don’t get vaccinated may be bedridden or otherwise too sick to go get a shot. They may also be more likely to succumb to flu or any other illness, because they are generally older and sicker. To test their thesis, Jackson and her colleagues combed through eight years of medical data on more than 72,000 people 65 and older. They looked at who got flu shots and who didn’t. Then they examined which group’s members were more likely to die of any cause when it was not flu season.

    Jackson’s findings showed that outside of flu season, the baseline risk of death among people who did not get vaccinated was approximately 60 percent higher than among those who did, lending support to the hypothesis that on average, healthy people chose to get the vaccine, while the “frail elderly” didn’t or couldn’t. In fact, the healthy-user effect explained the entire benefit that other researchers were attributing to flu vaccine, suggesting that the vaccine itself might not reduce mortality at all. Jackson’s papers “are beautiful,” says Lone Simonsen, who is a professor of global health at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., and an internationally recognized expert in influenza and vaccine epidemiology. “They are classic studies in epidemiology, they are so carefully done.”

    The results were also so unexpected that many experts simply refused to believe them. Jackson’s papers were turned down for publication in the top-ranked medical journals. One flu expert who reviewed her studies for the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote, “To accept these results would be to say that the earth is flat!” When the papers were finally published in 2006, in the less prominent International Journal of Epidemiology, they were largely ignored by doctors and public-health officials. “The answer I got,” says Jackson, “was not the right answer.”

    This just has something of an Expelled flavor to me, and I fear people are going to ignore the preponderance of the evidence if they believe in a conspiracy to make absolute claims and silence “dissenters.” (Also, Jackson appears to be with the research arm of an HMO.

    http://www.grouphealthresearch.org/

    I can’t make heads or tails of their funders or research priorities – which do include sCAM. I’m not in the know as far as how this process works and if this affiliation – if I’m even understanding it correctly, which I may very well not be – should be of any interest at all, and so would appreciate some information from those who know more.) They’re presenting this one bit of research as somehow a shattering blow to some established “doctrine.” So I guess what I’d like to read, including anything from the past (I’ve looked but am not finding it), is something about the people “cited” in the article and how they and their research fit into the larger picture. I know Crislip’s post (and revere’s which I’ve linked to at Pharyngula) address and rebut the substance of some of the claims, but I’m concerned it may not be enough.

    I mean, people have asked me for more Honduras updates, and:

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2009/10/honduras-update-10-18-09-thank-you-al.html

    It’s the least you could do. :P

  51. #51 Anthro
    October 18, 2009

    Arghhhh! I don’t know how to send this directly to ORAC and I’m sure he’s busy, but someone needs to get over there and say something about the extremely small studies Ullman cites as “proof”!
    I know what’s generally wrong with them, but not qualified on the specifics.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/homeopathy-for-allergies_b_320998.html

  52. #52 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 18, 2009

    Pissiness and petulance totally understandable. :) I clicked on it (thanks), but your link went to the end of the comment thread and I wasn’t seeing the connection until Orac’s remark.

    I’m actually neither pissy nor petulant, just taking a good-natured poke at our esteemed host. :) And, yeah, weirdly the link does go to the end of the thread. I think I was trying to link to Dr. Crislip’s comment on that post in which he says that he wrote it as a response to the Atlantic article. Oh well.

    And I completely agree that the Atlantic’s claims about ‘hushed up’ research, etc. need to be countered, specifically and clearly. Your suggestions for how to target that are excellent. Thank you, SC.

  53. #53 Sid Offit
    October 18, 2009

    @ Dan the Man

    Where the frigging hell did he get that B.S information about properly prescribed pharmaceuticals killing 100 000 people a year? Ive never heard that rot before. Sounds like a made up figure to me. He probably heard it from Jenny Mcarthy.

    What a complete tool.
    —————————————–

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/92265
    When Drugs Do Harm
    A New Study Says That Some Medicines, Even If Properly Prescribed, May Kill As Many As 100,000 Americans A Year

  54. #54 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 18, 2009

    When Drugs Do Harm
    A New Study Says That Some Medicines, Even If Properly Prescribed, May Kill As Many As 100,000 Americans A Year
    From the magazine issue dated Apr 27, 1998

    Well, Bill’s info is cutting edge indeed. And I love how the lead off story that they use is a death that wasn’t even firmly attributed to rx death in the first place.
    The currency of his sources not withstanding, what’s missing here is a comparison of the 100,000 to the number of people on meds that year who didn’t die. But I guess dreary old percentages don’t sound as impressive as part of a Maher rant. Better to just let that 100,000 figure hang out there . Ooh! What a lot of people! That Eeeeevil Big Pharma!
    *fist shake*

  55. #55 DJ Iced Borscht
    October 18, 2009

    OK, I’ll bite. What has Moore been so often and patently wrong about?i>

    DFS, I assume you’re asking this seriously, so I’ll supply my immediate thoughts in response. (Even though I’m drifting off-topic again.)

    Let’s start with Moore’s latest film. I do hope to see it, as I cede that Moore is a brilliant propagandist, but for now all I have to go on are the various synopses of fawning AND critical movie reviewers.

    I’m told that the central thesis of CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY is “we should replace capitalism with democracy.” Again: what?? We should replace an economic system with a political one? If I’m not mistaken, even the 2009 Richard Dawkins Award Recipient, the esteemed voice of reason Bill Maher, stumbled upon the error in that logic.

    Second, maybe I’m just a jerkfaced cynic, but I do think that Moore’s “brave” and “noble” ambush of Charlton Heston in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE was little more than an excuse to exploit the memory of a dead child for Moore’s own narissistic pleasure.

    And with regard to SICKO, it seems Moore would have us believe that Cuba, despite being an island prison that severely curtails and violates the basic human rights of its citizens, is nevertheless a groovy, hip place because its health care system is so well-conceived. I guess a healthy populace (if we are to believe that the people of Cuba ARE truly healthy) is better than a free one.

    Christopher Hitchens, though, has put All Things Moore in a much more thought-provoking light than any of my whiny scribblings:

    http://slate.msn.com/id/2102723/

    The following Hitchens quote regarding FAIRENHEIT 9/11 captures the entire spirit of Hitch’s scathing and well-argued critique of Moore:

    “…Moore is a silly and shady man who does not recognize courage of any sort even when he sees it because he cannot summon it in himself. To him, easy applause, in front of credulous audiences, is everything.”

    That’s merely Hitchens’ opinion, of course, but his argument against Moore’s manipulative style of film-making (and the many lies, half-truths and flat-out errors that accompany said style of film-making) is a persuasive one.

  56. #56 SC (Salty Current)
    October 18, 2009

    60 Minutes on H1N1, any minute now (when silly blow-out football is over):

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/16/60minutes/main5390519.shtml?tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel

    DJ Iced Borscht,

    You’ve presented not a single item of substance. Please try harder.

  57. #57 Sid Offit
    October 18, 2009

    @ORAC

    after Chris Matthews asks him why countries require vaccination before you can enter them, asking rhetorically if they’re all wrong:
    ————————-
    An argumentum ad populum is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it

  58. #58 SC (Salty Current)
    October 18, 2009

    [Oh, FFS. Sloppy-ass idiots. Will this game never end?]

    Question: Do the anti-vaccine people oppose UNICEF’s immunization efforts in Africa, Asia,…? What is their position on this?

  59. #59 Courtney Franklin
    October 18, 2009

    Sid, That’s a weak example of ‘An argumentum ad populum’
    I would of picked Bill’s quote saying that 100,000s of people believe there is an issue to vaccines. Then on that’s based around that countries require vacciantions due to the evidence of the effectiveness.

  60. #60 titmouse
    October 18, 2009

    Orac,

    Just wanted you to know I’m shamelessly using you. I’m tryin to interest the skeptics with mad creationist-thumping skillz over at RD.net in our battle with the woos. Medical science scares them so they need some encouragement.

  61. #61 DFS
    October 19, 2009

    DJ Iced

    I assume you were serious in your response so I’ll point out why I dont think it demonstrates Moore being repeatedly wrong about any factual assertion.

    His approach with Charleton Heston may make him a jerk, but still doesnt demonstrate him being factually wrong. He turned on the camara and Heston said what he said.

    You construct a straw man with the Cuba argument. The comparison was with the delivery of health care in Cuba vs the United States. There was no endorsement of every aspect of Cuban life. In fact I believe making the comparison to Cuba, with all its problems, sharpens the critique of the American health care system

    As for the new film I cant speak to it since I havent seen it, but I think the argument he is making is that capitalism has become quite undemocratic in its net effect. And political systems are inextricably linked with economic systems. I’m sure you have no problem seeing that when it comes to socialist communist command economy countries.

    The appeal to the authority of Hitchens doesn’t really sway me. He obviously has a political axe to grind himself.

  62. #62 DLC
    October 19, 2009

    Someone please tell Maher to turn up the brightness a bit . .. that control seems to be broken on my teevee.

    Look, Bill, while you’re doing your research fellowship at Google U, why not dig into pubmed ? or even google scholar ?
    come on, Bill, put forth a bit of effort.
    Look, not every study that comes down the pike is good. We all know that. But really now, you can’t just junk every study but the ones that support your iconoclastic ideas.
    Science either works or doesn’t work, Bill.

  63. #63 Jud
    October 19, 2009

    I’m not sure there’s much that I can add.

    Dunno about that – I’d especially like Orac’s take on this bit of anecdote marshalled to bolster the Atlantic article’s argument, which seems as if it might be right up Orac’s alley (I realize there are big problems with an analogy to flu vaccine even if the anecdote is correct, but first things first):

    In the 1980s and ’90s, for example, cancer specialists were convinced that high-dose chemotherapy followed by a bone-marrow transplant was the best hope for women with advanced breast cancer, and many refused to enroll their patients in randomized clinical trials that were designed to test transplants against the standard—and far less toxic—therapy. The trials, they said, were unethical, because they knew transplants worked. When the studies were concluded, in 1999 and 2000, it turned out that bone-marrow transplants were killing patients.

    So how fair and accurate is the author’s summary of the situation?

  64. #64 Calli Arcale
    October 19, 2009

    Jello? JELLO??? That’s his slam-dunk evidence for hospitals being out to kill people? Forgiving the fact that it’s a total nonsequitor, gelatin desserts (regardless of brand name) are actually a very good method of providing both liquids and nutrition to some desperately ill people.

    Mind you, he has an ulterior motive with his hate on Jello. The real reason he brought that up is because he’s a PETA supporter. Jello is made with gelatin, which is an animal product. Its one of the main products to come out of rendering plants. Back in the olden days when everybody had the kind of health care Maher apparently wants them to have, people made their own gelatin by boiling animal bones. If you have a big ham dinner, you can boil the remains for soup stock and gelatin.

    So he’s actually not mentioning that out of health concerns but out of animal rights concerns. He can’t even stay on message for antivax propaganda; he has to get his animal rights nuttery in.

    I did some checking. That awful horrible scary stuff that’s not actually in flu vaccines, because for some ridiculous reason we don’t use adjuvant in our American flu vaccines? They’re not pesticides at all. They are ingredients in pesticides, but so is water. It’s pretty seriously disingenuous of the antivaxxers to make this claim. They have to know they’re lying at this point. It’s more tenuous than the “fetal cells” claim, and they can’t claim ignorance as they can with the “antifreeze” claim. To have discovered that these chemicals are in pesticides, they have to have looked enough to know that they are not, themselves, pesticides. In short, this claim is evidence that either Maher is willfully lying to foster false propaganda against vaccines, or he has swallowed somebody else’s false propaganda, hook, line, and sinker.

    Span85: a surfactant. Also found in Silly String, yet *oddly* the antivaxxers only mention pesticides….

    Polysorbate 80 (generic name for Tween 80): a surfactant and emulsifier. Actually also edible; this is found in many ice creams, where it keeps the milk proteins from sticking to the milkfat. (Not that PETA-fan Maher would appreciate that.)

    Squalene: vital chemical produced by the bodies of almost everything. You eat it even if you’re a vegan. List of uses is too long to enumerate. Ironically, one use is in naturopathic medicine. It’s in shark oil and flaxseed oil capsules. OMG! The conspiracy includes supplement manufacturers! Somebody tell Maher!

  65. #65 Denice Walter
    October 19, 2009

    Holy mackerel! It must be getting crowded up there on the flu anti-vax bandwagon: Jenny McC & Co. ( see Generation Rescue) are offering support to a pro football cheerleader who developed problems following her flu shot.

  66. #66 Just Sharing the Facts
    October 19, 2009

    What Causes Autism & Has Science Really Ruled Out Vaccines?
    CDC and AAP Says Science Answers the Question But Many Others In Government Don’t Agree

    http://www.safeminds.org/news/pressroom/what-causes-autism-has-science-ruled-out-vaccines.html

  67. #67 Todd W.
    October 19, 2009

    @Just Sharing the Facts

    Apparently the folks at Safe Minds are not aware of the recent British study that found the rate of autism in adults was about 1 in 100, as well.

    http://www.ic.nhs.uk/statistics-and-data-collections/mental-health/mental-health-surveys/autism-spectrum-disorders-in-adults-living-in-households-throughout-england–report-from-the-adult-psychiatric-morbidity-survey-2007

  68. #68 Kevpod
    October 19, 2009

    Maher was recently asked how he was affected by the recession, and replied that he was enjoying it because it’s easier to get good tables in restaurants.

    He spends too much time smoking dope in Hef’s grotto.

  69. #69 Douglas McClean
    October 19, 2009

    I’m not up to speed on the happenings in crazytown, apparently. What, exactly, do these people think happened to polio if it wasn’t eradicated by the vaccine? (I can already tell I am going to regret asking this.)

  70. #70 Todd W.
    October 19, 2009

    @Douglas McClean

    What, exactly, do these people think happened to polio if it wasn’t eradicated by the vaccine?

    They say that polio was already on a decline before the vaccine was introduced, and that it just naturally petered out. Often, they’ll cite improved hygiene and sanitation as the operating component. Rather interestingly, however, is that they fail to take note or acknowledge the sudden, drastic drop in cases when the vaccine became available and an eradication program was started.

  71. #71 Militant Agnostic
    October 19, 2009

    Todd W.

    They say that polio was already on a decline before the vaccine was introduced, and that it just naturally petered out. Often, they’ll cite improved hygiene and sanitation as the operating component. Rather interestingly, however, is that they fail to take note or acknowledge the sudden, drastic drop in cases when the vaccine became available and an eradication program was started.

    It’s even worse than that – It is my understanding that polio became a major problem due to improved hygiene and sanitation. When people were emptying their chamber pots out of their windows and locating their outhouses next to their water wells, most people got polio as infants, acquiring immunity without suffering much harm. Once it became harder to catch, children didn’t get it until they were at an age where it could do serious damage.

  72. #72 Chris
    October 19, 2009

    Todd W.:

    They say that polio was already on a decline before the vaccine was introduced, and that it just naturally petered out.

    Then the loonies will also say that polio has been renamed “meningitis” or some other disease. When that in countered with the fact that microbiologists can actually identify the microbe, it is revealed that “Pasteur recanted germ theory on his deathbed” and other idiocies that reveal they are idiots.

  73. #73 John M.
    October 19, 2009

    Jello is ground up cow hooves in a soup of corn syrup and food coloring. I’m with you guys on Maher’s medicinal quackery, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. That stuff is not exactly for the health nut.

    (Just a side note. Please slam PETA for their nuttery, but don’t think that conditions at factory farms aren’t absolutely horrific. Our system is anything but natural. Some animal rights folks may be crazy, but they get a few things right. Why can’t anyone find middle ground on this topic?)

  74. #74 Fraser H
    October 19, 2009

    By constantly referring to Bill Maher as the “2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award” you are taking the heat off from AAI, and heaping it all on Richard Dawkins. Yes, some of the criticism should be leveled at Richard Dawkins, but AAI are definitely the predominantly culpable group in this debacle. It may be more clumsy writing “the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award from AAI” but it at least identifies the guilty parties.

  75. #75 Kimball C Atwood
    October 19, 2009

    “It seems pretty clear the technological roots of vaccination – or, if you prefer, of the practices that inspired the the invention of vaccination – lie outside of the European tradition…”

    Nope. Not that it really matters from the scientific point of view, and we agree upon that. Nor do I have some ego-stroking need to defend “Western” or “European” medical tradition as though it were the Red Sox Nation of health care. It’s just that there is historical accuracy and there isn’t.

    Variolation will necessarily be discussed in any history of vaccination, but that doesn’t make it vaccination. Nor was variolation the basis for the innovation of vaccination, although the former was known to vaccination’s innovators and was even used to prove its efficacy.

    The history is approximately this: in 18th century England (and to some extent in continental Europe, I’ve read somewhere), several people noticed that young milkmaids commonly contracted a one-time, mild, skin-eruption sort of disease that appeared similar to blisters on cows’ udders. Milkmaids were also noticeably free of smallpox–which was apparent even without data, because milkmaids lacked the telltale facial scars of smallpox that were otherwise nearly universal among those old enough to have lived through the most recent epidemic.

    A few people in England, who wondered if there may be a cause and effect relation between the two observations, rubbed pus from cowpox blisters onto the skin of uninfected children and claimed to have thereby rendered those children immune to smallpox. One or two of these “investigators” may have even written reports.

    By around 1790, Edward Jenner, knowing of these claims and finding them believable, did the first systematic study of the method, which he dubbed “vaccination” because of the apparent origin of the eruption. He serially vaccinated several children using pus from the active skin lesions of the previous subjects. After each child had recovered from the cowpox infection, Jenner challenged him or her with variolation (dicey, obviously, but those were more desperate and heroic times): none got sick. Jenner published this series and reasonable people eventually “got it.”

    The idea, the name, the method–all locally grown.

    KA

  76. #76 Paul
    October 19, 2009

    Then the loonies will also say that polio has been renamed “meningitis” or some other disease. When that in countered with the fact that microbiologists can actually identify the microbe, it is revealed that “Pasteur recanted germ theory on his deathbed” and other idiocies that reveal they are idiots.

    More directly on topic, Maher would say polio went away because public restrooms are cleaner nowadays.

    I wish I was kidding.

  77. #77 HPMac
    October 19, 2009

    @ John M:

    I think the PETA people are crazy.

    I’m not a vegetarian.

    But we buy naturally nested eggs, free range chicken, and beef. We try to buy “humane” meat. So I agree with you, the slaughterhouse paradigm needs some work.

    But those PETA people aren’t just crazy: they’re hypocrites. They often kill domestic pets surrendered to them instead of finding them new homes. Because of course, it’s cruel for us to have cats and dogs as pets.

    I just can’t with those people.

    (And I apologize for the OT post, and this is my first post on this blog, and ORAC has become my new favoritest blog to read.)

  78. #78 skepville
    October 19, 2009

    @John M:
    Word.

  79. #79 Douglas McClean
    October 19, 2009

    :facepalm:
    I knew I was going to regret asking. Thanks for the info, everybody!

  80. #80 Prometheus
    October 20, 2009

    Atwood @75

    “Variolation will necessarily be discussed in any history of vaccination, but that doesn’t make it vaccination. Nor was variolation the basis for the innovation of vaccination, although the former was known to vaccination’s innovators and was even used to prove its efficacy.”

    …….aaaaand vaccination would not have been a viable proposition or procedure but for variolation and brilliant courageous people promoting it and risking death and disfigurement for fifty years prior like Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

    Sigh. I guess we are not done being in love with the leitmotif of the lone genius. Jenner=Merlin.

  81. #81 Kimball C Atwood
    October 20, 2009

    Prometheus @ 80:

    I’m surprised at you. Do you really think that this discussion is as superficial as [my] “being in love with the leitmotif of the lone genius”? My point was simply that 18th century observations of milkmaids, cowpox, etc., were sufficient to have led to purposeful vaccinations, and that variolation needn’t be invoked to understand that history. I continue to argue that point; I don’t deny the history of variolation, but I don’t see how “vaccination would not have been a viable proposition or procedure but for variolation,” Franklin et al notwithstanding. Purposeful vaccinations sprang from people noticing accidental vaccinations, period.

    Nor do I think Jenner=Merlin. Jenner, as I wrote, wasn’t the first, nor was there a “lone” innovator. Jenner’s contribution was to have paid attention to the phenomenon, including claims of other innovators, and then to announce it to the world by performing a systematic trial and adequately reporting that trial. That’s simply a statement of fact, from which inferences about historical leitmotifs, hero-worship, “Western” chauvinism or anything else are unwarranted.

    Jenner’s was among the top 1-5 contributions to medicine and public health of all time, but one that almost certainly would have been soon offered by someone else if not him, because as is usually the case for such breakthroughs the stage was already set, as I thought I made clear in #75–which, of course, is the general rebuttal to the “leitmotif of the lone genius” version of history. Nor was what Jenner did indicative of genius. He was in the right place at the right time, he was a good observer, he had enough chutzpah, and proved himself a competent experimenter and reporter. Fine. But it wasn’t rocket science. ;-)

    Why should describing a relatively simple and uncontroversial history feel like stumbling through a maze of traps set by the PC police?

  82. #82 Ed
    October 21, 2009

    I’m glad I came upon your blogs regarding the issue of vaccination; they really helped clear up a lot of things I was confused about. In fact it was Bill Maher who planted the seed of doubt in my brain two weeks ago. I watch Maher religiously (pardon the pun) because I always appreciate a person who tells it like it is, and usually he is right on the money. Not this time.

    I learn something new every day; I didn’t even know there WAS such a thing as germ theory! Also, your blog (Cries The Antivaccinationist…) informed me on the vaccine much better than the damn CDC did!

    To me it still seems as if the swine flu is so rare in comparison to the seasonal flu that it’s not even worth the worry. Overall there’s so much hype about these sort of things and it’s become an issue of the Media who Cried SARS. I might not get it simply because in all honesty I’m probably as likely to catch a shark bite while surfing than I am to catch the H1N1 virus. But I guess it’s better to be safe…

  83. #83 Ed
    October 21, 2009

    By the way, I just noticed that the tagline of your blog – “A statement of fact cannot be insolent” – is eerily similar to mine – “Truth is never offensive”. Trippy.

  84. #84 titmouse
    October 22, 2009

    To me it still seems as if the swine flu is so rare in comparison to the seasonal flu that it’s not even worth the worry.

    About 60% of flu-like illness is H1N1 right now.

    http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/pdf/External_F0940.pdf

    The graphs on the last page reveal why doctors are worried about H1N1. Note how this year the 18-49 years old group has been getting the flu so much more than previous years. Does that indicate that things will be getting a lot worse over the next few months? Or will this peak and fade? I don’t think we know yet.

    There’s a shortage of vaccine in many places. But if you live with a pregnant woman or young child you should make an effort to get vaccinated for H1N1.

  85. #85 Seth Manapio
    October 23, 2009

    Anyone who wishes to deny the reality of AGW or the safety and effectiveness of vaccines has already reached a plateau of insanity that indicates either the maximum in self delusion or that they have simply been lied to and indoctrinated.

    Posted by: Neill Raper | October 18, 2009 1:09 AM

    Bullshit.

    These are not equivalent positions by any stretch of the imagination, and to think they are is to be a friggin’ idiot.

    Climates are incredibly complicated. We can’t run effective simulations of them, and that is a line of evidence frequently cited. We can’t model their behavior. The math doesn’t work.

    AGW is a strong hypothesis. It is supported by multiple lines of evidence. But it is not as strongly supported as vaccination by any reasonable definition of support, and to pretend that it is is to engage in religion, not science.

  86. #86 Seth Manapio
    October 24, 2009

    Neil Draper wrote: “They are not just running simulations. Perhaps you are confusing AGW itself with the projected effects of AGW.”

    ———-

    In a slightly more reasoned way, allow me to riposte.

    First, I never claimed that anyone was “just” running simulations. I brought up simulations in the context of comparison to a placebo controlled, double blind study: that is, we cannot run a controlled experiment of any kind with the climate, so we do not equivalent data between the two hypotheses. We can run simulation, but simulation is a weaker methodology. So in terms of repeatable, testable, confirmed results, vaccination very good, AGW very, very bad.

    Maher is denying the conclusions of a science that can be verified by direct experiment while mocking those who deny the conclusions of a science that cannot. He is clearly delusional, whereas AGW deniers may merely be ignorant.

    I am aware of the other lines of evidence. I do not “deny” AGW as a hypothesis, even as a strongly supported one. However, as useful as historical data is at providing correlation, it is weaker in providing solid evidence of causation. The correlations are strong enough to warrant action, and the prevailing hypothesis is the best that I am aware of. However, it is certain that these correlations paint an incomplete picture, and therefore it is within the bounds of reason that something important could be being missed. To maintain that something important is being missed would be logically fallacious, but not insane.

    Maher, on the other hand, is point blank pretending that reality is completely other than it is. Even as he is being forced to admit that he was factually wrong on point after point, he continues to cling to the belief that he is a rational, science minded person. This is actually nuttier than someone who just thinks that the earth is to big for us to affect it. Again, ignorance vs. delusion.

    Finally, if you believe that a hypothesis can be separated from it’s predicted results, you are clearly doing this “science” thing incorrectly. If I have a theory of AGW, and the theory predicts that certain things will happen, but those things do not happen, my theory has been falsified. Anthropogenic Global Warming is a theory that maintains not that human beings are adding CO2 to the atmosphere, and not that increased CO2 might lead to higher temperatures at some point in the future, but that human activities will have a specific impact on global climate in a specific timeframe, leading to specific results. The various climate models (which is what a theory of AGW is by the way, a model of climate behavior) stand or fall based on how well they predict the future.

    None of which means that we should not, for example, have a cap-and-trade system of carbon credits. AGW is a creditable, strongly supported scientific hypothesis, and the consequences of failing to act could be pretty freaking dire. Planning for climate change (in case we’re right about the trend but wrong about the cause) and specific prevention activities (because we’re probably right) are definitely indicated.

    But we could be wrong about AGW without radically changing what we think a planet is or how we understand the role of greenhouse gasses. If we are wrong about vaccines, our entire understanding of biology itself is just basically wrong.

    Vaccine denial is the greater madness, and Maher the greater madman.

  87. #87 health_truth_revealed
    October 24, 2009

    I have 10 questions regarding vaccines that doctors and health authorities don’t want to answer. I’ve saved you the trouble of attempting to come up with a credible response by providing the answers, along with quotes from highly revered health experts in the field of immunology and vaccination.

    1. If vaccines are so safe and effective, show me the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that prove this.

    Answer: There aren’t any. http://www.naturalnews.com/z027239_vaccines_flu_vaccine_.html

    “The greatest threat of childhood diseases lies in the dangerous and ineffectual efforts made to prevent them through mass immunisation. There is no convincing scientific evidence that mass inoculations can be credited with eliminating any childhood disease.” — Dr Robert Mendelsohn, M.D.

    2. Other than “cohort studies” that have been thoroughly debunked, where is the so-called “science” backing the idea that flu vaccines work at all?

    Answer: Scientifically speaking, there isn’t a scrap of honest evidence showing flu vaccines work at all. Plenty to the contrary though.

    “There is a great deal of evidence to prove that immunization of children does more harm than good.”– Dr. J. Anthony Morris, former Chief Vaccine Control Officer and research virologist, US FDA

    3. How can methyl mercury be safe for injecting into the human body when mercury is an extremely toxic heavy metal, and one that is deemed to be a hazardous waste upon removal from a patient’s mouth?

    Answer: It isn’t safe at all. Mercury is a poison and probably the most toxic non-radioactive metal in the environment. Along with vaccine adjuvants, it explains why so many people suffer autism or other debilitating neurological side effects after being vaccinated. Children are subject to a myriad of vaccines at an early age these days and the mercury accumulates and compounds in their system.

    “The medical authorities keep lying. Vaccination has been a disaster on the immune system. It actually causes a lot of illnesses. We are changing our genetic code through vaccination.” — Guylaine Lanctot M.D. Canadian author of the best-seller ‘Medical Mafia’.

    4. Why do reports keep surfacing of children and teens suffering debilitating neurological disorders, brain swelling, seizures and even death following flu vaccines or HPV vaccines?

    Answer: Because vaccines are dangerous. The vaccine industry routinely dismisses all such accounts — no matter how many are reported — as “coincidence” or an “underlying medical condition”.

    In the April 15, 1998, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), an analysis of drug side effects found that toxic reactions to correctly prescribed medications make more than two million Americans seriously ill every year and kill over 100,000, putting drug side effects among the top 10 causes of death in the United States. Among children, antibiotics and vaccines cause more adverse reactions than any other.

    5. Why don’t doctors recommend vitamin D for flu protection, especially when vitamin D activates the immune response far better than a vaccine? Why don’t they ever talk about proper nutrition or exercise as well to build immunity?

    Answer: Because vitamin D can’t be patented and sold as “medicine.” You can make it yourself. If you want more vitamin D, you don’t even need a doctor, and doctors tend not to recommend things that put them out of business. Nutritional education is sorely lacking in med school simply because the facilities are largely funded by Big Pharma, who make their billions from pushing drugs.

    “If you want the truth on vaccination you must go to those who are not making anything out of it. If doctors shot at the moon every time it was full as a preventive of measles and got a shilling for it, they would bring statistics to prove it was a most efficient practice, and that the population would be decimated if it were stopped.”– Dr Allinson

    6. Can vaccines give you the disease that they’re designed to prevent?

    Answer: Medical authorities answer this criticism by saying the virus in the vaccine they use is “dead” or “killed”, and therefore can’t induce disease. How then could the body’s defense system illicit a response and build immunity to something it can’t even recognize or perceive as a threat? That argument flies in the face of medicine’s own theory of how vaccines work. In actuality, the viruses are “attenuated” or “weakened”, and numerous studies demonstrate they still have the ability to manifest serious adverse effects and even death.

    “Only after realizing that routine immunizations were dangerous did I achieve a substantial drop in infant death rates. The worst vaccine of all is the whooping cough vaccine… it is responsible for a lot of deaths and for a lot of infants suffering irreversible brain damage. In susceptible infants, it knocks their immune systems about, leading to irreparable brain damage, or severe attacks or even deaths from diseases like pneumonia or gastro-enteritis and so on”. — Dr Kalokerinos, M.D.

    7. If the flu vaccine really works, then why was there no huge increase in flu death rates in 2004, the year when flu vaccines were in short supply and vaccination rates dropped by 40%?

    Answer: There was no change in the death rate. You could drop vaccination rates to zero percent and you’d still see no change in the number of people dying from the flu. That’s because flu vaccines simply don’t work. They just make a lot of people rich.

    Dr. Michael Odent has written a letter in the JAMA (1994) where his figures show a five times higher rate of asthma in pertussis immunized children compared to non-immunized children. He is also quoted in the International Vaccination Newsletter (Sept. 1994): “Immunized children have more ear infections and spend more days in hospital.”

    8. How can flu vaccines reduce mortality by 50% (as is claimed) when only about 10% of winter deaths are related to the flu in the first place?

    Answer: They can’t. The 50% statistic is an example of quack medical marketing. If I have a room full of 100 people, then I take the 50 healthiest people and hand them a candy bar, I can’t then scientifically claim that “candy bars make people healthy.” That’s essentially the same logic behind the “50% reduction in mortality” claim of flu vaccines.

    “No person would permit anybody to get close to them with an inoculation if they knew how they are made, what they carry, and how they have been lied to.” — Dr. Eva Snead, M.D., M.B.A.

    9. If flu vaccines work so well, then why are drug makers and health authorities so reluctant to subject them to scientific scrutiny with randomized, placebo-controlled studies?

    Answer: Although they claim such studies would be “unethical”, what’s far more unethical is to keep injecting hundreds of millions of people every year with useless, harmful vaccines that aren’t backed by a shred of honest evidence. Besides, they don’t need “proof” when there’s so many gullible guinea pigs at their disposal.

    “Public policy regarding vaccines is fundamentally flawed. It is permeated by conflicts of interest. It is based on poor scientific methodology (including studies that are too small, too short, and too limited in populations represented), which is, moreover, insulated from independent criticism.” — Jane Orient MD, Executive Director Association of American Physicians and Surgeons Inc.

    10. Health Canada has reported in the past that between 4,000 and 7,000 people die annually in Canada from the seasonal flu. As of mid-October 2009, only 80 people allegedly died from the H1N1 swine flu virus. How then, can we be in the middle of a high level pandemic outbreak when there have been so few deaths, especially when the normal yearly death toll is immensely higher but doesn’t hardly rate a mention?

    Answer: As usual, the medical industry resorts to lies, skewed statistics and junk science to instill fear and irrational behaviour in the minds of the public. First, the figures for the numbers who die from seasonal flu are exaggerated. The CDC’s own website shows that it combines flu and pneumonia deaths to arise at a figure that is in the thousands, when in reality, flu deaths only amount to a few hundred. Little has been said this year about seasonal flu fatalities, in all likelihood so as not to trivialize the importance of the new vaccine. Of course, there’s no justification for this so-called pandemic, especially when thousands of children are dying every day in the world from malaria.

    “Anything that implies that immunizations are not the greatest medical advance in the history of public health is ignored or ridiculed. Can you imagine the economic and political import of discovering that immunizations are killing thousands of babies?” — Dr William C. Douglass, M.D. (Honored twice as America’s ‘Doctor of the Year’)

    So pray tell Orac… where’s all that good science? As I’ve clearly exhibited, there’s isn’t any. Flu vaccines (including swine flu vaccines) are based entirely on a vaccine mythology that assumes all vaccines work and no vaccines can be scientifically questioned.

  88. #88 Credentialed
    October 24, 2009

    Your comment is stunningly ignorant and/or deliberately misleading, health_”truth”_revealed. Quick hits, because I don’t want to waste time on a troll like you, but because a different reader may wonder about what you’ve said…

    1)Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies comparing vaccinated vs. unvaccinated are unethical to perform as it would require withholding a valuable medical intervention from some people. Every vaccine has, however, undergoes extensive pre- and post-marketing testing and monitoring.

    2)Who has “completely debunked” cohort studies? You? You don’t even know the difference between methyl mercury and ethyl mercury (see #3). You rig the question by dismissing evidence as “debunked” when you haven’t demonstrated such and then claim there’s no honest evidence. Who’s got the honesty issue here?

    3)Thiomersal is not methyl mercury; it’s an ethylmercury compound. That’s an important difference. Think of the difference between the consumption of methanol vs. ethanol: both can be dangerous in too great a concentration, but methanol has a higher and more severe danger profile…you’re completely dishonest in this question.

    Not to mention that the autism-mercury hypothesis has been completely demolished as without any supporting evidence and contrary to a great number of new studies.

    4) Vaccines have a non-zero risk of side-effects. Very rarely do they cause serious side effects. There is always pressure to increase the safety profile of vaccines. While these results are tragic, vaccines will save many, many more lives and the risk-benefit analysis is clearly in favor of avoiding vaccine-preventable illness.

    Please provide an example of a medical intervention with demonstrable efficacy that has a 100% safety record…

    5) vitamin D activates the immune response far better than a vaccine?
    [Citation needed]. I think you’re just making that up.

    Why don’t they ever talk about proper nutrition or exercise as well to build immunity
    Every doctor I’ve ever known always recommends healthier diets and exercise to their patients. Leading health organizations are always promoting diet and exercise. I think you’ve created a caricature, a straw man, of modern medical professionals. Not honest.

    6) You demonstrate profound ignorance of the development of adaptive immunity here. “That argument flies in the face of medicine’s own theory of how vaccines work”? No…it flies in the face of your complete misunderstanding of immunology.

    Very few vaccines contain live viruses today. Some include attenuated viruses that lack the capacity to replicate at the level of a wild virus and can only cause a minor “infection” that is rapidly and easily contained by the immune system. There is a very low, but non-zero chance that an attenuated virus vaccine could result in a full infection, but that would require unlikely genetic mutations within the virus. Many vaccines contain only antigens and are thus incapable of causing disease.

    7) The virulence of the seasonal flu each year is very different from previous years. Cherry picking the results from one year is akin to pointing to a cooler-than-usual daily weather forecast and claiming it disproves anthropogenic global warming.

    8) I’m beginning to wonder if your math skills are as deficient as you knowledge of immunology…provide a peer-reviewed citation supporting this claim and lets discuss it.

    9) I love getting a lecture on ethics from someone posting willful misinformation…

    10) Yeah…I’m pretty sure your math skills are lacking at this point. Because a still-emerging flu virus has only killed X number by the very beginning of the flu season it’s obviously not dangerous? Is that your argument? If so, it’s stupid.

    People, NVIC is a pseudoscience-pushing organization that misinforms the public. It’s not worth going there. health_truth_revealed has revealed only his/her own ignorance.

  89. #89 Joseph
    October 24, 2009

    1. If vaccines are so safe and effective, show me the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that prove this. Answer: There aren’t any.

    Utter nonsense.

    What’s funny is that this demand for randomized studies comes from the same people who think it’s perfectly OK to believe “natural” treatments are effective just based on anecdotes and testimonials.

  90. #90 Joseph
    October 24, 2009

    3. How can methyl mercury be safe for injecting into the human body when mercury is an extremely toxic heavy metal, and one that is deemed to be a hazardous waste upon removal from a patient’s mouth? Answer: It isn’t safe at all.

    @h_t_r: Are you unaware that there is no methyl mercury in vaccines? Thimerosal is metabolized into ethyl mercury.

    But even if both types of mercury were toxicologically equivalent, you could easily make the same argument about almost anything else: How can methyl mercury be safe to ingest when you eat a tuna sandwich if mercury is an extremely toxic heavy metal, and so on? Any discussion of toxicity that doesn’t consider dosage is meaningless.

  91. #91 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 24, 2009

    @82

    To me it still seems as if the swine flu is so rare in comparison to the seasonal flu that it’s not even worth the worry.

    The key word in that sentence, though, is “seems”.

    Imagine a chessboard. Imagine putting one grain of wheat on the first square of a chessboard, two grains on the second, four grains on the third, and so on, doubling each time.

    It doesn’t “seem” like it would add up to much. But in fact if you put all the arable land on Earth into wheat production the total harvest for 80 years would just about equal it.

    The wheat-and-chessboard problem is a common illustration of the power of exponential growth, and infectious diseases, unless checked, grow exponentially, because with each person they infect they increase the number of people spreading the disease.

    Overall there’s so much hype about these sort of things and it’s become an issue of the Media who Cried SARS.

    The problem is that the most successful result of dealing with a disease that could cause an epidemic is preventing it from causing an epidemic, and yet if they achieve that highest success it destroys the evidence that they did anything of significance.

    I think you might want to look up Ben Goldacre’s account of how the media contacted him on the swine flu issue. Goldacre is a respected British science writer, and he says that in a short space of time two media outlets contacted him asking him for a quote about how the media had overhyped swine flu.

    Read that carefully.

    They didn’t say “You are a person respected for your scientific judgment; do you think the media overstated the dangers of the swine flu?” They simply assumed that because they wanted a “the media overhyped the danger” angle, that he would provide them such a quote.

    I think you have to ask yourself, how much of your belief that the media overhypes the danger of infectious diseases is itself a media creation?

  92. #92 Chris
    October 24, 2009

    I think it is revealing that health-truth-revealed posted what was essentially a list of lies (saying that thimerosal had methylmercury was priceless), and then having the URL link in its name go to Barbara Loe Fisher’s group.

    The anti-vax group I like calling the National Vaccine misInformation Center, because it is full of lots of half truths, and is not updated with new information.

    Oh, and “NaturalNews”… I would suggest that “health_lies_regurgitated” do a search on how that webpage is treated here. Especially the comments about Mike Adams.

  93. #93 Seth Manapio
    October 24, 2009

    Credentialed wrote: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies comparing vaccinated vs. unvaccinated are unethical to perform as it would require withholding a valuable medical intervention from some people. Every vaccine has, however, undergoes extensive pre- and post-marketing testing and monitoring.

    Health Truth Revealed asked many pointed questions and then lied about the answers… including a claim that there are no placebo controlled vaccine studies.

    ——–

    This is false. Double blind, placebo controlled vaccine studies are done in humans and animals. Three seconds on google yielded this study, which is happening right now. Claims that there are no placebo controlled, double-blind studies of vaccine safety and efficacy are total bullshit. Claims that there are no double-blind, placebo controlled trials of flu vaccines are also total bullshit.

    You might wonder whether the claim that the flu season in 2004-2005 was similar to previous years is bullshit as well. It is. Pediatric hospitalization did increase noticeably.

    HTR, Step one: verify a claim. Step two: repeat the claim. You’re doing this “research” thing wrong.

  94. #94 Grant
    November 16, 2009

    Maher has written very similar words in his blog, to the point that he’s re-hashed his statements from his show. I wrote a longish take-down them (well, OK, just a running commentary; see link on my name if you want a re-hash on a re-hash!), then discovered I pretty much could have just pointed at this post… *Sigh*

  95. #95 Theistic Atheist
    November 17, 2009

    On top of it all, you know what makes this award freaking hilarious? It’s main point: “The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist…”

    Medical quack or not (and he seems to be), Maher is not even a freaking atheist!!! Check out the Wikipedia bio of Bill Maher, on his views of religion. Several times, in different venues, Maher denies being an atheist, and says that he believes in some sort of vague higher power.

    The problem is that atheist organizations will seemingly take any opportunity to promote themselves, damn the facts. Since Maher has publicity, we won’t check the facts or let his non-atheism get in the way of giving him an atheist award. Unbelievable!

  96. #96 shawmutt
    November 18, 2009

    “Bill Maher is Tom Cruise crazy! Just be glad its him not you!”

  97. #97 Lucy
    December 9, 2009

    I received the H1N1 shot on 11/23/09. I was 8 weeks 6 Days and my baby died that day!

    I have done research and went to the health dept where my shot was administed and got the lot number. I am shocked to know the vaccine contains toxic ingredients. They are:

    . MF59C.1 is an oil/water emulsion containing 9.75 mg squalene, 1.175 mg polysorbate 80 and 1.175 mg sorbitan trioleate in a citrate buffer. Quantities are expressed per 0.5 ml vaccine dose.

    – Other Ingredients:

    The other ingredients are: thiomersal (MERCURY) (multidose vial only), sodium chloride, potassium chloride, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, disodium phosphate dihydrate, magnesium chloride hexahydrate, calcium chloride dihydrate, sodium citrate, citric acid and water for injections.

    If any of you have had adverse reactions to this vaccine PLEASE report it online at https://vaers.hhs.gov/esub/index

    Also, I am trying to find someone who KNOWS what tests can be ran on my fetus at this early stage to determine EXACTLY if this vaccine contibuted to my fetus’ death. Please email me if you can help.
    info@timothystonefamily.com

  98. #98 han
    December 9, 2009

    Lucy, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I’ve had four early miscarriages myself, and I know how desperately you want an answer, something on which to blame your tragic situation. In my case, as in many others, there were no answers to be found. The sad truth is, something like 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. It is unlikely that the flu shot was the culprit. What happened to you was the result of chance, and not due to anything you did or did not do.
    Testing of the fetus at this stage can tell you if the cause of your loss was a genetic abnormality, but it probably won’t tell you much more than that. Again, I’m sorry, and I hope your sorrow is not compounded by feelings of guilt.

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