Respectful Insolence

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in again.

Yes, I know I’ve used this clip before at least twice and the line in it several more times over the last couple of years. However, sometimes it’s just so completely appropriate to how I’m feeling about a topic I’m about to write about that I just don’t care and have to use it again. This is one of those times. The 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award bestowed upon him by the Atheist Alliance International (a.k.a. Bill Maher, anti-vaccine comedian and host of Real Time With Bill Maher, has decided, after an all too brief absence, to lay down a swath of burning stupid about vaccines again. When last we left Maher, he was busily embarrassing himself on the last two episodes of his television show, first by getting slapped down hard by Bill Frist, of all people (and, after his antics during the Terry Schiavo controversy, Bill Frist comes across as the voice of reason compared to Maher, Maher’s got a serious problem) and next having his arguments dismembered unceremoniously on the season finale of his show, concluding with his having his head handed to him (nay punted right back at him like a smug, smirking football) by Chris Matthews, who compared him to a celebrity Scientologist like Tom Cruise attacking psychiatry.

The horrified look on Maher’s face was priceless. Direct, hit Chris, right below the waterline. I only wish you had had time to finish the job while the woo ship Maher was listing and taking on water.

If you had, I might not have had to see this assault on reason by Maher published on Sunday on–where else?–that bastion of anti-vaccine quackery, The Huffington Post, in the form of a post entitled Vaccination: A Conversation Worth Having, a post that he also crossposted on his own blog here. All I can say is this: If you had any doubts that Bill Maher is an unreconstructed anti-vaccine loon, this post provides conclusive evidence, all topped off with a heapin’ helpin’ of arrogance of ignorance and that special brand of vacuous self-absorption that few aside from celebrities are capable of. Oh, the pain to read this.

First off, Maher is apparently very, very unhappy that he’s been sucked into this debate. More like he’s never actually been called out so publicly for his medical and scientific ignorance before or so clearly revealed to be anti-science when it comes to medicine. He doesn’t like it, not one bit. So he starts out by complaining about how the topic is coming up in every interview he does these days. I also think he was particularly hurt by Michael Shermer’s excellent (but far too polite for the situation) Open Letter to Bill Maher. Never does it cross Maher’s fragile eggshell mind that the reason that the topic of vaccines in general and the flu vaccine in particular are coming up so often in his interviews is because of–oh, maybe, just maybe–his history on the topic. It’s not as though Maher hasn’t been laying down swaths of antivaccine nonsense hither and yon since at least 2005, which was the first time I noticed him. It’s not exactly a secret that Maher’s been an anti-vaccine loon who “doesn’t believe in Western medicine” for many years now. He’s been “questioning” vaccines and “Western medicine” (a code word for science-based medicine among the woo set) for years now, both in his comedy act and on his show. So–surprise! surprise!–when a flu pandemic shows up in 2009 and the government gears up for a mass vaccination program to combat it, why is Maher surprised that the topic comes up a lot on his show or whenever he does interviews? More likely, he’s surprised at the amount of justified criticism he’s taken for his anti-scientific health views. After being given a free pass for at least five years, suddenly people are noticing just how flaky Maher’s medical views are. So now, a month after the most recent season of his show ended, he shows up on that quackfest known as HuffPo to try to defend himself.

The results, predictably, are pathetic. He starts out with an argumentum ad populum, along with a bit of conspiracy-mongering:

I agree with my critics who say there are far more qualified people than me — its just that mainstream media rarely interviews doctors and scientists who present an alternative point of view. There is a movement to stop people from asking any questions about vaccines — they’re a miracle, that’s it, debate over. I don’t think its that simple, and neither do millions of other people. The British Medical Journal from August 25 says half the doctors and medical workers in the U.K. are not taking the flu shot — are they all crazy too? Sixty-five percent of French people don’t want it. Maybe its not as simple as the medical establishment wants to paint it.

Ah, yes. Two big fat logical fallacies. First, there’s the straw man argument. No scientist says that vaccines are a “miracle” and that’s it. What scientists do do is to reject the pseudoscientific, germ theory denialist blather that celebrity idiots like Bill Maher routinely lay down for popular consumption. Are scientists who proclaim the evidence for evolution sound and that for creationism to be “pseudoscience” declaring Darwin to be a miracle and “that’s it”? No, they’re slapping down pseudoscientific, religion-inspired anti-science. Particularly rich is the other logical fallacy on display here, argumentum ad populum (one of my favorite logical fallacies). It’s pretty funny coming from someone like Maher, who in the post points out how he makes fun of religion, saying he’s the “religion guy” not the “vaccine guy.” Here’s a hint: Religion is very, very popular, particularly in the United States. Does its popularity mean that Maher is wrong about it? How about this example? Lots and lots of people believe in ghosts. Does that mean ghosts are real? Lots of people believe 9/11 to have been an inside job. They associate with or are sympathetic to a group known as “9/11 Truthers,” a group that Maher himself has correctly mocked as a bunch of conspiracy theorist loons. Does that mean the Mossad brought down the Twin Towers? Or how about the multiple polls that show that 50% of Americans don’t accept the theory of evolution. Hmmm. Maybe that means there’s a legitimate reason to doubt the theory of evolution. No, I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate controversies to discuss about the flu vaccine. Because a lot of people are afraid of them doesn’t mean they’re unsafe.

Now here’s where it gets hilarious. Bill Maher tries to demonstrate that he’s serious, maaaan! He understands complexity and nuance. Really:

Vaccination is a nuanced subject, and I’ve never said all vaccines in all situations are bad. The point I am representing is: Is getting frequent vaccinations for any and all viruses consequence-free? I feel its unnecessary and counterproductive to try and silence people with condescension. Michael Shermer wrote me an open letter and felt I needed to be told that “vaccinations work by tricking the body’s immune system into thinking that it has already had the disease for which the vaccination was given.” Thanks, Doc, I thought there might be a little man inside the needle. Yes, I read Microbe Hunters when I was eight, I have a basic idea how vaccines work.

Nice condescending snark. And to a buddy like Shermer, too! You don’t think Maher is a bit peeved that Shermer called him out publicly, do you? Given the monumental depths of ignorance that Maher has displayed, though, can anyone blame Shermer for feeling the need to explain the situation to Maher as though he were an eight-year-old before he read Microbe Hunters? I don’t blame Shermer one bit, that’s for sure. Maher needs the blog equivalent of speaking very slowly and spelling things out with very clear enunuciation, and even that probably won’t get the message through. In any case, Bill seems even more condescending when he lectures that vaccines are a “nuanced subject”? Really, Bill? I never would have guessed that you appreciated this fact from your statements on them. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at some things Maher has said. I wonder if he thinks these statments are “nuanced”:

I don’t believe in vaccination either. That’s a… well, that’s a… what? That’s another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur theory, even though Louis Pasteur renounced it on his own deathbed and said that Beauchamp(s) was right: it’s not the invading germs, it’s the terrain. It’s not the mosquitoes, it’s the swamp that they are breeding in.

Yep, lying about Louis Pasteur and saying you “don’t believe” in vaccination sure seems “nuanced” to me. And Maher sure sounds like he understands vaccination when he says things like:

  • “I’m not into western medicine. That to me is a complete scare tactic.”
  • “A flu shot is the worst thing you can do.”
  • “Well, I hate to tell you…but if you have a flu shot for more than five years in a row, there’s ten times the likelihood that you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease.” (Note, as I described, this is a lie hawked by antivaccine macher Hugh Fudenberg.)
  • “A flu shot just compromises your immune system.”

Yep, that’s a pretty nuanced set of views there, Bill. Of course, Maher has an excuse for his lack of nuance:

Some of it can’t be helped, some of that is the nature of the show we do: live, off the cuff, lots of interruptions. Some of it was just from me being overexcited about finally finding a health regimen that actually made me healthier and feel better. And many a time I have wanted to stop the show and clarify a point or provide the nuance I think it deserves, but I am serving many masters, and you have to get out of the way as much as you can so the guests can say their piece.

Really? It seems to me that Bill’s gotten plenty of opportunity to pontificate on vaccines to his heart’s content. Personally, my guess is that a lot of his producers probably wish he’d shut up about vaccines and stick to politics. He only embarrasses himself whenever he discusses medicine. No one expects serious medical discussions from Maher, but, geez Louise, could we at least not have to put up with full blown, full mental jacket paranoid conspiracy theories about “Western medicine”? I do like his excuse that “if he had only had more time,” he’d have…well, read Maher’s own words:

I’m just trying to represent an under-reported medical point of view in this country, I’m not telling a specific pregnant lady what to do. With unlimited air time, I would have, for example, added to my discussion with Dr. Bill Frist on October 2 that, yes, any flu or health challenge can be dangerous when you’re pregnant, and if your immune system is already compromised by, for example, eating a typical American diet, then a flu shot can make sense. But someone needs to be representing the point of view that says the preferred way to handle flus is to have a strong immune system to begin with, and getting lots of vaccines might not be the best way to accomplish that over the long haul.

No doubt if Maher had “more time,” we would have heard more of the same sort of misinformation, ignorance, and misunderstanding of science saying that vaccines harm the immune system, diet and exercise and the right supplements can protect you from infectious disease, and “Western medicine” is plotting to keep you fat, unhealthy, and dependent on its drugs. This is utter nonsense. There’s no doubt that in general it’s a good idea to try to stay healthy through the right combination of diet and exercise, but nutrition and exercise are not going to protect Bill or anyone else from the flu. Has Bill not heard? The H1N1 strain of the flu is actually more dangerous than your average flu for the young. It’s struck down, for example, Prof. Keith Fagnou, a 38 years old chemist, who died from the what appears to have been H1N1 infection is a very short time. He had no underlying medical conditions and was perfectly healthy. H1N1 has been taking a high toll among children, as well. Once again, this is nothing more than more of the same implication from Maher that, if you just “live right” and eat right, you will be somehow magically immune to the flu, combined with the lamest disclaimer ever about Maher’s downright irresponsible and dangerous advice telling pregnant women not to get vaccinated against H1N1, advice that has the potential to result in deaths and complications.

Maher then makes this virtually explicit and gets despicable:

Now, sometimes it’s OK to fuck with nature — I believe “intelligent design” is often anything but intelligent; that “God’s perfect universe” is actually full of fuck ups and design flaws, like cleft lips and Down Syndrome — so correcting nature is sometimes the right thing to do. And then, sometimes its not. For me, the flu shot is in the “not” category.

Nice sensitivity, there, Bill. I’m sure people with Down Syndrome and cleft lips like to be referred to as “nature’s fuck-ups.” His lovely sensitivity, aside Maher has a germ of a point, but not in the way he thinks. Nature is indeed a harsh mistress. There are all sorts of microbes out there that routinely cause disease and death, yes, even to perfectly healthy (or seemingly so) middle-aged comedians who think that their bitchin’ diet protects them from anything. These microbes can’t be reasoned with. They don’t respond to “intention.” They don’t care that much about your diet or what supplements you take. Vaccines can help us overcome that. Moreover, there’s no logic there. Down syndrome can’t be corrected, while cleft lips can. Flu can be prevented. Not as effectively as we might like, given the vagaries of having to guess the flu strain against which we need ot vaccinate each year, but the risk-benefit ratio for prevention is clearly in favor of vaccines. Moreover, there’s nothing “unnatural” about the flu vaccine, as Maher implies. It simply activates the immune system using the same sets of antigens that the flu virus itself does.

But what really bothers me about this part is that Maher seems to have fallen for what is one of the most despicable parts of “alternative medicine,” namely the thinking, every bit as magical as any religion that Maher mocks, namely that , if you only just eat the right foods, take the right supplements, and do the right things, you’ll never get sic. Here’s the despicable part. The implied converse of that world view is that if you get sick it must be your fault for not doing the right things. That smug attitude permeates the entire post, particularly the part where Maher disparagingly says that the flu vaccine might be worthwhile if you’re sick already or your immune system’s somehow compromised then you might need the flu vaccine. Maher, of course, being among the “righteous” (namely an alt-med aficianado who does everything right, or at least so he thinks) he doesn’t need vaccines.

And to listen to Maher, his audience is bright. Oh so bright. So much brighter than those stupid rubes and sheeple like Britney Spears who just do what they’re told and get vaccinated. Too bad Maher isn’t bright enough to realize that he’s far more of a stupid rube and sheeple than the worst parody he can come up with of people who accept the efficacy and safety of vaccines. He’s been fed a bunch of antivaccine nonsense and lapped it up eagerly like, well, a sheep, as he demonstrates when he regurgitates the formaldehyde gambit and claims that there’s insect repellent in vaccines (the former of which I’ve deconstructed here and the latter here), clearly proving that he’s learned absolutely nothing.

But how can that be? Maher’s so smart! Just like his audience! Just ask him! That’s when Bill Maher Super Genius takes pity on us poor ignorant schlubs who just don’t understand:

But just to reassure all those people who have such a romantic attachment to vaccines: I know, there are vaccines that have had their battles with the bad guys and won — great! And if you have a compromised immune system and can’t boost it naturally, as in poor countries where the children are eating dirt, then a vaccine can be a white knight — bravo!

Yep, if you have an emotional attachment, it’s OK! Of course, to Maher, no vaccines are needed for us upstanding white people in rich countries! Bill doesn’t think most of us need them. Only those poor blighted colored people suffering in poverty need them. (Yes, that’s what Bill sounds like to me.) And Maher parrots again the anti-vaccine claim that it wasn’t the polio vaccine that eliminated polio, citing “interesting facts on the other side.” That is simply not true. The vaccine eliminated polio from the U.S. After all, 50 or 60 years ago, American cities still lived in fear of summer polio outbreaks, often leading to the closing of public swimming pools and other measures. Sanitation wasn’t particularly bad back then. Actually, it was pretty good. Yet we still had tens of thousands of cases of polio a year. Whenever vaccination efforts flag, polio returns.

What’s really hilarious are the “experts” that Maher cites. They include the grande dame of the anti-vaccine movement and founder of the National Vaccine Information Center (what a wonderfully Orwellian name!), Barbara Loe Fisher. Suffice it to say that she runs the one of the oldest and largest anti-vaccine organizations in the country, one that just held a quackfest a month and a half ago in which the anti-vaccine movement cleverly camouflaged itself as a seemingly legitimate medical conference. Maher’s second cited expert is–get this!–Dr. Russell Blaylock. You remember Dr. Blaylock, don’t you? I recently discussed his crank magnetism in response to his being featured in Suzanne Somers’ recent paean to cancer quackery, Knockout. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a taste again:

Let’s put it this way. A physician lionized on Alex Jones Prison Planet TV is not exactly–oh, how shall I put this?–the most reputable or reliable of medical sources. Suffice it to say that this is the same Alex Jones whose websites, Prison Planet and Infowars, are chock full of New World Order and Illuminati conspiracy woo. Blaylock also is a passionate believer in the myth that vaccines cause autism.

Yep, there’s a convincing “expert” beloved of the very 9/11 Truthers and conspiracy theorists Maher likes to mock.

But who, pray tell, is Maher’s third “expert”? If you haven’t read his post yet, take a guess. I bet you can figure it out. That’s right, it’s our old friend Dr. Jay Gordon! You remember Dr. Jay, don’t you? The likable but extremely misguided pediatrician who thinks that anecdotes trump science and epidemiology and who insists, even though he’s been forced to admit many times that there’s no evidence for his beliefs, that vaccines cause autism. Nice guy or not, a credible voice on vaccines, Dr. Gordon is not. Gee, I wonder if it was Dr. Jay who taught Maher the formaldehyde gambit. Let’s put it this way. Choosing these “experts” to listen to regarding vaccines is akin to choosing Casey Luskin or William Behe as “experts” on evolution or Orly Taitz as an “expert” on Barack Obama’s biography.

Strike three! Maher’s out!

Well, not quite. Like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, to hilariously pathetic effect Maher just refuses to admit when he’s been defeated:

While we’re on the subject of bacteria, let me say clearly I understand germ theory also — I believe they also covered that in Microbe Hunters — nor have I ever said I was a “germ theory denier.” What I’ve been saying is that Western medicine ignores too much the fact that the terrain in which bacteria can thrive is crucial and often controllable, which shouldn’t even be controversial. I don’t care what Louis Pasteur said on his death bed — it was probably, “Either the curtains go or I do” — that’s not the point!

Gee, I think a little bit of Orac penetrated that celebrity bubble of Maher’s, don’t you? Of course, Maher leaves out what he’s really said, namely this to Dr. Bernadine Healy:

You’re in denial, about I think is a key fact, which is it is the at… people get sick because of an aggregate toxicity, because their body has so much poison in it, from the air, the water… Yes, much of it is not our fault and we can’t control it. But a lot of it we can and even the food people think is good for them, is bad, and I’m not presenting myself as a paradigm. I do cruddy things to my body too and I enjoy them. But when I do them, I’m not in denial. I’m not eating fat free cheese and saying: “You know what, I’m healthy for eating this.” I’m saying: “Oh yeah, this is chemical goop and this is killing me.

You know, what I don’t understand is this. If vaccines “compromise your immune system” and flu shots are “the worst thing you can do,” then why on earth would they be expected to help people with supposedly weakened immune systems such as those poor children in Africa living in filth that Maher mentioned earlier? Wouldn’t vaccines make the situation worse and harm all those children with “weakened immune systems”? Do I detect a bit of damage control here? A bit of “readjustment” of the story, so to speak? A bit of using whatever sticks, even if the result is a contradictory mess of nonsensical arguments? Is the Pope Catholic?

But, really, you nasty skeptics who criticize poor, poor Bill, Bill Maher is the “real” skeptic! Not you! HimJust ask him:

And it’s precisely because I am a Darwinist that I fear the overuse of antibiotics, since that is what has allowed nasty killer bugs like MRSA to adapt so effectively that they are often resistant to any antibiotic we can throw at it. There are consequences to vaccines and antibiotics. Some people want to study that, and some, it seems, want to call off the debate.

Instead of setting up this straw man of me not understanding germs or viruses, let’s have a real debate about how much we should use vaccines and antibiotics. Of course it’s good that we have them in our arsenal, but isn’t the real skeptic the one who asks if these powerful but toxic methods do harm to what actually is a a very good defensive system, the one you were born with?

So much crank magnetism, so little energy left in my aching hands to type more responses! I do like the little nod to the straw man logical fallacy. Unfortunately for Maher, I don’t think he quite understands what it is. Be that as it may, note how Maher cleverly, but ignorantly, conflates two quite different issues, the issue of antibiotic resistance, a serious problem, with vaccines, as though the consequences of vaccines are horribly resistant bugs like MRSA or vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, wrapping them all up in “Darwinism” in order to show his science and skeptical cred. Look! See! I like real science and you don’t! They aren’t the same thing, though, and Maher doesn’t know what he’s talking about, as usual. As I’ve seen commenters say here and elsewhere, smallpox vaccination didn’t result in resistant strains of smallpox. It resulted in the eradication of smallpox! But, hey, to point that out is to “muzzle” Maher, to try to call off debate! Yes, Maher wants open “debate”! Just like creationists do! Just like 9/11 Truthers do! Just like Holocaust deniers do! Just like Moon hoaxers do!

I’m just asking questions, you know. Teach the controversy! Come on, Bill, it’s not “suppressing debate” to call a medical ignoramus a medical ignoramus. Make no mistake, you are a medical ignoramus.

Of course, contrary to Maher’s assertions, in reality these very issues are debated, frequently and loudly, in scientific conferences, in policy forums, and at the highest levels of science, industry, and government. The key words are “in reality.” In science, these things are debated in reality, not in the fantasy world of woo in which Maher lives. True, he denies that he’s a conspiracy monger and even tries to convince us that he isn’t, but he fails miserably. I guess ranting about how drug companies just doesn’t convince me. But that’s just me. Of course, to Maher, we “not true skeptics” are nothing but sheeple doing what the government tells us to do:

I believe in science and I believe in studies to determine the truth. I also believe Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon was correct when he said recently on MSNBC: “If you’ve got a checkbook in this town, you can get just about any set of facts you want.” So if I remind you of a conspiracy theorist, you sometimes remind me of Britney Spears when she said “we should just do whatever the president says to do, and not ask questions and just support him.” The medical community can be brutal on dissent, which would hold more weight if I thought this was a terribly healthy country, which it isn’t.

Maher sure has a funny way of showing his “belief” in science and studies. Again, maybe it’s just me, but parroting the misinformation and canards of the anti-vaccine movement, misusing and abusing invocations of evolution, and citing die hard anti-vaccine advocates and anti-vaccine apologists doesn’t strike me as being particularly devoted to science, and Maher sure does like the fallacy of the golden mean, a.k.a. the argument to moderation or the middle ground fallacy:

I always ask my friends when they go to the doctor for something, “Did your doctor ask you what you eat?” The answer is almost always ‘no,’ and a lot can be cured with diet and a healthier lifestyle. (And a lot can’t. I also understand the role of genetics and generations of artificial selection). But Americans don’t want to hear that, so doctors don’t push it. It’s easier and more profitable to write a prescription for Lipitor. They’re not bad people, and at the end of the day, you can’t make someone eat right. I like and respect all the M.D.s I’ve had over the years, and for the record, I have a naturopath doctor and I have a Western doctor. I would make an analogy to Republicans and Democrats: in both politics and health, I don’t commit to either party because I’m on the side of the truth, whoever has it. In both cases, I’m an Independent.

That’s odd. Every doctor I’ve ever had since becoming an adult has always badgered me about what I eat and whether I get enough exercise (which I don’t). Ditto friends’ doctors and families’ doctors. Ditto every primary care doctor whom I know. If what Maher says is true, I have to wonder how they train the doctors out in Malibu. But notice how Maher, true to his alt-med proclivities, blames the victim. To him most diseases are caused by lifestyle and can be “cured” (not just managed, cured) with diet, supplements, and exercise, although he does acknowledge, apparently, that some diseases have a genetic component. How nice. But check out that fallacy of the golden mean, otherwise known as the fallacy of moderation or the middle ground fallacy. Note how he assumes that “Western medicine” is the equivalent of naturopathy and that, as a result, it’s a good idea to have both a naturopath and an evil allopathic–sorry, I mean “Western”–doctor.

Unfortunately for Maher, science and medicine are not politics or religion. You don’t just split the difference and pat yourself on the back for your wisdom. It may work that way in politics, but it sure doesn’t in science. It’s obvious from this pathetic “defense” of his anti-vaccine and anti-science views that Maher doesn’t really know what science is or how it works. He thinks he does, but he doesn’t. He thinks he understands something about medicine, but he doesn’t. He thinks he’s a skeptic, but he’s not–and never will be. He denies being anti-vaccine, but he clearly is.

No doubt, if Maher were ever to see this, he’d call my pointing out his ignorance as “stifling debate.”

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Comments

  1. #1 Dr RJ
    November 17, 2009

    Is the United States the only country in the world where people actually give a tinker’s cuss what celebrities have to say about issues that are completely beyond their comprehension?

  2. #2 DrFrank
    November 17, 2009

    I’m pretty sure that here in the UK the general populace would generally give more credence to what nude model Jordan says about vaccination than an emeritus professor of epidemiology.

    However, as far as I’m aware the bulk of UK anti-vaccination came from the tabloid media such as the Daily Mail (terrifying because its readers believe that it’s a newspaper) rather than vocal celebrities.

  3. #3 UK Visitor
    November 17, 2009

    DrFrank

    In fact if you check up Maher’s use of the British Medical Journal,

    The British Medical Journal from August 25 says half the doctors and medical workers in the U.K. are not taking the flu shot — are they all crazy too?

    The poll he refers to is only about NURSES not doctors, and the proportion mentioned is a THIRD not a half. It also doesn’t specify on what grounds one third of nurses would reject the offer of vaccine.

    Plus, anyone working in the field will tell you even this doesn’t sound very representative of public attitudes to vaccination in the UK anyway: most people want it for the perfectly good reason that swine flu is killing people here.

    As Orac says, what’s most striking is how well Maher’s views slip into the 9/11, anti-evolution paradigm: ‘we’re just asking questions…’. Yeah, sure.

  4. #4 Vindaloo
    November 17, 2009

    Another epic slapdown and a great read. I wonder if quack-lovers like Maher realize their words on non-print media are often transcribed and kept for good on various sites. Surely he can’t think that people will give him a bye on the obvious hypocrisy or does he really think that little of his audience?

  5. #5 MI Dawn
    November 17, 2009

    I saw this last night from Bad Astronomy and wondered when you would have something up on it! I bow to your ability to read through his crap…I gave up after seeing formaldehyde, then skimmed down and saw Barbara Loe Fischer and quit.

    Bill Maher is an idiot and if I ever watched him, I’d quit just thanks to this nonsense.

  6. #6 Grant
    November 17, 2009

    I had a poke at Maher’s “considered words”—his phrase, not mine—on my blog a little earlier: http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2009/11/17/what-comedian-and-vaccine-critic-bill-mayer-wrote/

    A bit of a hurried affair, Orac always manages to write more than I ever could! :-)

  7. #7 DrFrank
    November 17, 2009

    @UK Visitor #3

    I hadn’t checked up on that particular factoid – I’d assumed that it would be some significant distortion of the facts, though. Hell, it came from Bill Maher ;) However, I have now taken a look at it.

    A link to the BMJ editiorial can be found here.

    More than 75% of healthcare workers responding to a survey in Leicester, UK, indicated willingness to accept a pandemic vaccine.6 However, this survey was conducted when the main pandemic risk appeared to be H5N1, which is associated with a high case fatality rate, rather than the current H1N1 strain, which is associated with relatively low mortality. In the linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.b3391), Chor and colleagues show that, in a sample of 2255 healthcare workers in Hong Kong hospitals, the intention to accept pre-pandemic vaccines increased from 28.4% for H5N1 vaccine during the World Health Organization alert phase 3 to 47.9% for H1N1 at phase 5.7 An online poll just conducted by the Nursing Times reports that 37% of frontline nurses who replied were currently planning to be vaccinated, 33% were undecided, but 30% were not planning to be vaccinated.

    Note that the willingness figure for the UK was actually 75% (in the survery in question for H5N1), with lower figures from a study in Hong Kong. Online poll results mean bugger all, as PZ demonstrates time and time again ;)

    I put the blame on measles being endemic within the UK again on tabloid media (such as the Fail) that sell shocking stories with no regard for fact checking.

  8. #8 BigHeathenMike
    November 17, 2009

    Dammit, I do a post on a topic and you do one the same day on that very same topic! Damn you and your prolific posting!

    Well done, sir. You win this round.

  9. #9 mk
    November 17, 2009

    You don’t just split the difference and pat yourself on the back for your wisdom. It may work that way in politics, but it sure doesn’t in science.

    It doesn’t work in politics either. Can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone so proudly exclaim: “I watch both FOX and MSNBC!” …thinking that makes them well informed and oh so independent. Well, it doesn’t! Not even close.

  10. #10 Tsutsugamushi
    November 17, 2009

    Hmm, Clearly you missed the part about how the medical community conspires to make up scientific research. Ever notice how they all come up with the “to relax and get plenty of fluids…”-gambit. Details here: http://worldofweirdthings.com/2009/11/17/what-your-doctor-doesnt-want-you-to-know/

  11. #11 Pablo
    November 17, 2009

    I am disappointed that the heading is not

    “THE 2009 Richard Dawkins Award Winner flames out…”

    Never forget, folks, this is they guy that won the award for doing great things for atheism. Apparently that means promoting anti-science whackery.

  12. #12 Paul Browne
    November 17, 2009

    Excellent work Orac. Bill Maher has clearly lost it where medicine is concerned, but then that’s what happens when you hang out with cranks like PeTA/PCRM for too long.

  13. #13 JohnV
    November 17, 2009

    I dunno, I think we should give the Maher guy a chance. Afterall, Richard Dawkins hand delivered the Richard Dawkins Award to this guy.

    Haha just kidding. I’ll take my science and medicine ideas from people who don’t just use them as ways to attack religion.

  14. #14 Sigmund
    November 17, 2009

    Pablo #11 said:
    “Never forget, folks, this is they guy that won the award for doing great things for atheism. Apparently that means promoting anti-science whackery.”
    The problem with the award is not the atheism part but the wording of the award that claims that the recipient promotes scientific understanding (or words to that effect!). If it was simply an award for promoting atheism then there would be no problem with Maher as recipient. Atheism is simply a lack in belief in religion. It is not a belief in pro-science reasoning – despite the fact that many, although not all atheists (Bill Maher being an obvious example) are pro-science.

  15. #15 ENT-TT
    November 17, 2009

    I have a very, very bad feeling about this.
    Most Americans with half a brain wouldn’t listen to Carry or McCarthy and think, “oh, there’s a bastion of reason!” Unfortunately (as Orac stated quite well with “science is not politics”), Billy here has an established audience, he’s got “popular credibility” forged with years of raging against bad politics (ironic!), and he knows how to play that golden mean. Hell, I used to like watching his show, back when he was only a comedian, and spent his time stroking my ego by bashing politicians. Now he’s made himself up to be a “voice of the people”, but in such a slipshod and retarded way that he can’t help but bring controversy on himself personally.
    Trying to correlate science with political motivations is just painfully stupid, and I almost shat myself when I read that clip about MRSA and anti-biotic resistance. How many people aren’t going to see through that? He obviously managed to convince himself, and now probably a large number of people. That’s going to cause some serious damage. How many ignorant mid-liner’s are going to think, “maybe all antibiotics are bad”? How many who disagree with him on principle (but not through education) are going to ignore the facts and take antibiotics inappropriately, for things like viral infections, just to spite him (because he’s an idiot)?
    In respect for the comparison of Maher to Cruise, I keep catching myself wondering how many antivaxxers are also Hubbardologists. Is there any data linking support of one for the other? They’re both big on homeopathic horse-shit. They’ve both been brainwashed. They both like to convince people to give them money for no good reason. Actors seem to flock to them, and give them a loud voice. They both have a right to their retarded opinions, and they both try to use that right as an excuse to harm people. However, lizards and frogs are both cold-blooded, have four legs, lay eggs and eat bugs, but they aren’t the same Class, let alone the same species. I have enough presence of mind to know that one group is not necessarily the other, but I still catch myself wondering if it matters. That same problem which just affected me is going to propel this issue to new lows of stupidity, because people are going to want to believe whatever triggers their personal laws of primacy, logic be damned. That’s what we’re up against.

  16. #16 storkdok
    November 17, 2009

    Ugh. My head is about to explode.

    My mother went to see her internist. When she asked the nurse about getting the H1N1 flu vaccine (she is in a high risk group), the nurse told her no one should get it, it was a “New” vaccine, had no safety studies, and there were many dangerous chemicals in it, and she would get GBS from it. When my mother told the doctor what his nurse said, he was surprised. But then he told her she didn’t need it. I am so pissed off. I am tempted to call him on it, but I know I’ll never get through, especially with a 3 hour time difference.

  17. #17 Joseph
    November 17, 2009

    Maher:

    I believe “intelligent design” is often anything but intelligent; that “God’s perfect universe” is actually full of fuck ups and design flaws, like cleft lips and Down Syndrome

    That’s completely ableist, and I wouldn’t have expected anything else from Maher, because he says stuff like that.

    Of course you don’t go looking for disability and if you can avoid it, that’s a good thing. But you should have a bit of tact when you refer to entire types of people. People with Down Syndrome generally can read, and so can their parents. They don’t need to hear from some asshat celebrity that they are nature’s “fuck ups.” It’s no different to insulting a whole race or sexual orientation.

  18. #18 Ric
    November 17, 2009

    “fragile eggshell mind”? I think Orac’s been listening to a little “Peace Frog” by the Doors. :)

    Good read, BTW.

  19. #19 Calli Arcale
    November 17, 2009

    Did the doctor actually say she didn’t need it, or that she didn’t need it *enough*? I have asthma, but have been told I don’t need the vaccine enough. The clinics around here don’t have anywhere near enough to go around, so they’re rationing it.

  20. #20 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 17, 2009

    If Maher is so “healthy”, why the hell does he have TWO doctors?

  21. #21 Todd W.
    November 17, 2009

    @T. Bruce McNeely

    He has the real doctor to fix him when the environmental aspects beyond his control screw him up, and then the fake doctor to fix what the real doctor does.

  22. #22 storkdok
    November 17, 2009

    @Calli

    He said she didn’t need it at all. She is diabetic and has asthma.

  23. #23 BB
    November 17, 2009

    Storkdok and Orac, what’s with all the health care workers making specious claims about the safety and efficacy of H1N1? So upsetting that they are spreading lies.

  24. #24 Shawn
    November 17, 2009

    He even is getting roundly trounced over at the conservative site Big Hollywood. http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/bighollywood/2009/10/19/the-bill-maher-meltdown/

  25. #25 Todd W.
    November 17, 2009

    @Orac

    OT, were you going to comment, at all, on the new Federal recommendations regarding screening for breast cancer?

  26. #26 Pablo
    November 17, 2009

    The problem with the award is not the atheism part but the wording of the award that claims that the recipient promotes scientific understanding (or words to that effect!).

    Where I disagree is in calling that a “problem with the award.” Given that it is the Richard Dawkins Award, the requirement for promoting scientific understanding is critical.

    Sure, you can have an “atheist award” to focus just on atheism with rational thought be damned, but it would be an insult to associate that with Prof. Dawkins, who is first and foremost, a scientist, with atheism a consequence of that.

  27. #27 Roger Boumsky
    November 17, 2009

    Orac and the medical community flame out again. Once more expensive drugs have been shown to be less effective than cheap drugs. Orac and his fellows develop and prescribe drugs for income generation. Not for curing health problems.

    “….That’s what happened Monday, when doctors formally reported that lowly niacin, a B vitamin, did a significantly better job of shrinking artery plaque than a billion-dollar blockbuster called ezetimibe, the active ingredient in the cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin.

    “The results are very clear,” says lead investigator Allen Taylor of the Medstar Research Institute. “Niacin was superior.”

    The medical community can’t make much money prescribing Niacin. But prescribing Zetia? Here comes the money train!

  28. #28 Gus Snarp
    November 17, 2009

    I love the pointing out of Maher’s fallacies here. There is one more fallacy of which Maher is a perfect example, even if he doesn’t actually commit it: the appeal to (or argument from) authority. Maher is a smart man. He says some really smart things, particularly about religion, but he also holds some mind-bogglingly ignorant views about other topics, such as vaccination. Let this be a lesson to all of us, just because someone is smart, has good ideas, and is right or in agreement with us about one thing, doesn’t automatically mean that every thing that comes out of his mouth is equally smart or right.

    Maher has a bit of a history of jumping to conclusions on political matters too. I think he’s made some really good arguments, but equally many idiotic ones. That’s probably the key to his success, actually.

  29. #29 Tacroy
    November 17, 2009

    I’m not eating fat free cheese and saying: “You know what, I’m healthy for eating this.” I’m saying: “Oh yeah, this is chemical goop and this is killing me.”

    Oh man Bill, don’t look now but your Aquafina is full of chemicals – in fact, water is a chemical! You’d better stop drinking it, because it’s killing you.

  30. #30 Pablo
    November 17, 2009

    He says some really smart things, particularly about religion, but he also holds some mind-bogglingly ignorant views about other topics, such as vaccination.

    I will admit, given his demonstrated lack of ability to think, I am starting to reconsider my assessment of his religious views, too. That my views might agree with his is beginning to give me pause…

  31. #31 Dr. Steve
    November 17, 2009

    Roger Boumsky:

    Amount of money I make for prescribing (recommending) niacin- $0.
    Amount of money I make for prescribing zetia or vytorin – $0

    Specious argements by someone who has never tried to treat coronary artery disease – priceless.

    Truth is, ezetimibe is more of an adjunct to statins or for people who can’t tolerate statins. And, BTW, a lot of people can’t tolerate niacin – it may be a simple B-vitamin, but it is a simple B-vitamin that causes a good deal of flushing, itching, and liver problems.

  32. #32 Pablo
    November 17, 2009

    I’m not eating fat free cheese and saying: “You know what, I’m healthy for eating this.” I’m saying: “Oh yeah, this is chemical goop and this is killing me.”

    LOL!!!!

    Water is a trivial example (although, to be fair, water can be pure and therefore is not necessarily “chemical goop,”), but I’m trying to figure out what food he eats that ISN’T “chemical goop.” Have he ever considered the chemical composition of organically grown broccoli? It’s nasty!

  33. #33 Pablo
    November 17, 2009

    But Dr Steve, you are neglecting all the kickbacks you get from Big Pharma if you prescribe their drugs. For example, you get to spend those delightful free dinners with sales reps instead of being with your family, for example, and you can’t ignore all those free pens.

    You are just a shill for the man, and you don’t even know it.

  34. #34 SC (Salty Current)
    November 17, 2009

    (And a lot can’t. I also understand the role of genetics and generations of artificial selection).

    I’ve been trying to think through the implications of this phrase in the context of the post, but I’m not sure I want to know exactly what he means here.

  35. #35 bob
    November 17, 2009

    Roger Baumsky, what on earth does anything you’re saying have to do with Bill Maher? Do try to stay on topic, champ.

  36. #36 Katharine
    November 17, 2009

    Of course you don’t go looking for disability and if you can avoid it, that’s a good thing. But you should have a bit of tact when you refer to entire types of people. People with Down Syndrome generally can read, and so can their parents. They don’t need to hear from some asshat celebrity that they are nature’s “fuck ups.” It’s no different to insulting a whole race or sexual orientation.

    As much as I think Maher is totally nuts when it comes to medicine, he is right on this one. Down’s Syndrome produces statistically maladaptive symptoms consistently with the same mutation; in essence, Down’s Syndrome is the result of a fuck-up in nature’s workings that occurs statistically more often in, for example, children of older mothers or older fathers. Race differences and sexual orientation differences are not, when you take away people’s idiotic prejudices, maladaptive in and of themselves, but the mental retardation produced by Down’s Syndrome is.

    Glossing over this and slapping the label ‘able-ism’ on it misses the point.

  37. #37 Pablo
    November 17, 2009

    Roger Baumsky, what on earth does anything you’re saying have to do with Bill Maher? Do try to stay on topic, champ.

    killjoy

  38. #38 cm
    November 17, 2009

    Would Bill Maher volunteer to be injected with live polio or smallpox?

    No? Why not, Bill? Your healthy diet ought to protect you, right?

  39. #39 Todd W.
    November 17, 2009

    @cm

    Would Bill Maher volunteer to be injected with live polio or smallpox?

    No? Why not, Bill? Your healthy diet ought to protect you, right?

    He would not volunteer, because of the evil needles and the “unnatural” method of infection. What you’d need to do is offer to expose him to the viruses the natural way. Then he would have no excuse for refusing such an experiment.

  40. #40 Dan Howland
    November 17, 2009

    Normally, I wouldn’t wish the flu on anybody, but would someone who followed Maher’s advice and who currently has the flu PLEASE sneeze repeatedly in his face?

    Or, I don’t know, when he’s not looking, lick the edge of his coffee cup?

  41. #41 Dawn
    November 17, 2009

    Um…Roger: cherry-picking the results is not a good thing. You dropped an important part of the results:

    Published at http://www.nejm.org November 15, 2009

    This comparative-effectiveness trial shows that the use of extended-release niacin causes a significant regression of carotid intima–media thickness when combined with a statin and that niacin is superior to ezetimibe.

    So, the patients are not taking Niacin alone. And, if you read the abstract, the members’ cholesterol levels were already well controlled on statins. The results do show that the niacin group benefited more than the exetimibe group:

    Results The mean HDL cholesterol level in the niacin group increased by 18.4% over the 14-month study period, to 50 mg per deciliter…and the mean LDL cholesterol level in the ezetimibe group decreased by 19.2%, to 66 mg per deciliter (1.7 mmol per liter) ….Niacin therapy significantly reduced LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels; ezetimibe reduced the HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. As compared with ezetimibe, niacin had greater efficacy regarding the change in mean carotid intima–media thickness over 14 months (P=0.003), leading to significant reduction of both mean (P=0.001) and maximal carotid intima–media thickness ….Paradoxically, greater reductions in the LDL cholesterol level in association with ezetimibe were significantly associated with an increase in the carotid intima–media thickness….The incidence of major cardiovascular events was lower in the niacin group than in the ezetimibe group (1% vs. 5%, P=0.04 by the chi-square test). ”

    However, it does not mean Niacin alone is superior to niacin and a statin.

    (I had to remove a lot of the P values because the GT and LT signs messed up the HTML tag…can anyone tell me how to keep them in withour messing up HTML?)

  42. #42 Joseph C.
    November 17, 2009

    The medical community can’t make much money prescribing Niacin. But prescribing Zetia? Here comes the money train!

    The study you’re talking about was designed to compare adjuncts to statin therapy for CVD. In other words, both arms of the study used drugs courtesy of “Big Pharma”.

    You === fail.

  43. #43 Joseph C.
    November 17, 2009

    Actually, Boumsky is most likely just our old friend H*ppeh again.

    Everyone say, “Hi H*ppeh!”

  44. #44 Kimberly
    November 17, 2009

    ‘You know, what I don’t understand is this. If vaccines “compromise your immune system” and flu shots are “the worst thing you can do,” then why on earth would they be expected to help people with supposedly weakened immune systems such as those poor children in Africa living in filth that Maher mentioned earlier? Wouldn’t vaccines make the situation worse and harm all those children with “weakened immune systems”? ‘

    Yes, yes they would. Maher considers himself one of the “progressive”, educated elite, and among that crowd it’s unacceptable to have a conversation without shoehorning in at least one comment about how much one cares about the poor and oppressed in the world. Thus, he has to talk about how vaccines are perhaps necessary for people who aren’t as fortunate as us. Because this statement is most likely reflexive and insincere, he doesn’t notice the disconnect between that, and saying that vaccines are harmful.

    Meanwhile, the people who actually DO care about the children in Africa are there working their butts off to educate the population about HIV and to raise money for anti-viral medications. Funny, it’s almost like there’s a relationship between supporting vaccines/Western medicine and actually caring about curing sick people.

  45. #45 wfjag
    November 17, 2009

    Maher is just playing to the type of person who watches his HBO show, and think it’s entertaining. What sort of folks? Try those described in “The New Plague” by Dr. Snyder on the Gotham Skeptic Blog, http://www.nycskeptics.org/blog/?p=1078

    Being anti-vac is, among the upper socio-economic cultural elite in places like the Upper West Side, the “trendy way to die.” Preventable diseases that, a few years ago, were only seen among the poorest of the poor who failed to take advantage of even the most basic social-welfare programs, are now more prevalent among the children of the elite than the poor.

    But, Maher is, if nothing else, a weather vane of his audience. If Palin’s book swings the attitude of his audience, he’ll become more born again than Jimmy Swaggart — and likely invite Jimmy to Hef’s Mansion for the next party, too.

    So, no, I see nothing stupid about Maher. Rather, he’s just someone who has figured out that the snake oil of the 21st century is sold on subscription cable rather than out of the back of a wagon.

  46. #46 Michael
    November 17, 2009

    One thing I don’t get about germ theory deniers- how do they explain why biological warfare works? Take the 2001 anthrax attacks, for example- the people who were exposed to the anthrax spores got anthrax, a rare disease. How can you explain that without the germ theory?

  47. #47 Marnie
    November 17, 2009

    I think Maher’s biggest problem is that he believes that because he doesn’t get a lot of illnesses, it is obviously because of what he eats. He may be someone who happens to take good preventative measures (like washing his hands frequently) and he doesn’t spend time around children (good ol’ cootie factories that they are) but instead of seeing himself as someone who avoids contaminating himself with germs, he assumes, like the baseball player that always wears his lucky underwear, that it’s his diet that protects him. Of course, the nice thing is, he even admits to veering from the ideal which means that when he does get sick, it’s not the germ but his choice that’s the blame. Clearly, his fat free cheese (oxymoron if there ever were one) poisoned his body, not the germs.

    I used an analogy in another context, but I think it applies here. I went 10 years without seeing a dentist and I had no cavities. I could then decide that seeing a dentist twice a year is a scam, that all that plaque removal is unnatural and reduces your defenses against cavities and that there is a conspiracy to get people into dentists offices often to line the pockets of greedy big-dent.

    Or, I could say that the combination of my good dental hygiene and some part of my genetic makeup, make me less prone to cavities but that it is still good advice for me and the public at large to go to the dentist.

    You don’t make recommendations and policies based on exceptional anecdote, you make recommendations based on sound, scientifically tested, reviewed and retested evidence. Yes, there will always be exceptions to the norm, but it’s bad advice to tell people not to go to the dentist because some people don’t need it and it’s bad advice to tell people not to get vaccines because some people are less likely to be exposed to pathogens.

  48. #48 UK Visitor
    November 17, 2009

    Marnie,

    You’re right, it’s superstition. Here’s a non-celebrity version on the Patient UK website:

    Three yrs ago I was diognosed with Prostate cancer.I had the Bi opsy and the readings. I decided not to have treatment, instead I looked the subject up on the internet. I declined treatment and opted to have check ups every six months. I saw on the internet that eating dark chocolate and drinking pommegranit juice provided the ani bodies to help stop the problem progressing. So far it seems to have worked for me as my latest reading is said to be normal @5-63 down from 25.something. I would welcome comments, please

    That was the joke, this is the punchline:

    re my 1st post regarding P>C> I made an error in stating I had prostate cancer. It should have read as follows, A high PSA reading. I apologise for this. BUT I have managed to bring my readings down by eating dark chocolate ane drinking red juices.

  49. #49 Gus Snarp
    November 17, 2009

    In related news my pregnant wife just called to let me know that she and my 3 year old were finally able to get their swine flu vaccines today.

    Unfortunately I won’t become high risk enough to get one until the baby is born in February, so I’ll just hope supplies hold out or improve and that he gets enough immunity from her vaccination.

  50. #50 Dan
    November 17, 2009

    I’m not getting a swine flu shot. It’s not that I’m afraid of vaccines, though. It’s just that I’m not afraid of the swine flu. It’s kind of funny how the author of this blog resorts to smugness and snarkiness in an effort to criticize Bill Maher for beig smug and snarky: “Hello, Teakettle, this is Pot!”

  51. #51 Scott
    November 17, 2009

    It’s just that I’m not afraid of the swine flu.

    Then you’re a fool.

    It’s kind of funny how the author of this blog resorts to smugness and snarkiness in an effort to criticize Bill Maher for beig smug and snarky: “Hello, Teakettle, this is Pot!”

    An illiterate fool at that, apparently. If you think Bill was being criticized for “being smug and snarky”, then you clearly didn’t actually read the post AT ALL.

  52. #52 Todd W.
    November 17, 2009

    @Dan

    I’m not getting a swine flu shot. It’s not that I’m afraid of vaccines, though. It’s just that I’m not afraid of the swine flu.

    Well, hopefully you are not in any of the risk groups. And even more importantly, I hope you do not come into contact with a single person in a high risk group.

    If supply holds out after the high risk groups in my area have received it, I’m planning to get it myself. Like you, I’m not really afraid of H1N1 for myself, but I really would prefer not to become a host to spread it to others, like my immunocompromised friend, or any of the people on the bus/train every day who might be adversely affected. Must be the altruist in me.

  53. #53 squirrelelite
    November 17, 2009

    Thanks, Kimberly

    When I think about “the people who actually DO care about the children in Africa are there working their butts off to educate the population about HIV and to raise money for anti-viral medications”, I always think about my aunt who got a B.S. in nursing from Ohio State in the 50′s and worked for about 30 years training nurses and providing health care to the people in northwestern Zambia.

    She worked at Mukinge Hospital in Kasempa province and you can find some information at this link.

    http://www.webmissions.org/mukinge/general_information.htm

    There is also a page at the same website about their HIV/AIDS program.

    I noticed that they run serology tests for HIV and provide basic drugs.

    The HIV/AIDS page also notes that their program has helped reduce the percentage of pregnant women who test HIV positive from 13% in 1997 to 10% in 2001.

    I also remember a separate link about how a few years ago the U.S. government selected Mukinge Hospital to run a pilot program for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

    It won’t do anything to reduce the disconnect in Bill Maher’s brain, but when I think of people using Modern/Western medicine to cure or at least treat people in Africa and also train them to do it themselves (Mukinge has trained over 700 nurses), I always think of my Aunt Marge and Mukinge Hospital.

  54. #54 bob
    November 17, 2009

    Dan, you know what I find funny? Your risk-reward calculations. Also, Orac isn’t criticizing Maher for being smug and snarky, he’s criticizing him for being an antivax crank. Nice work completely missing the point of both vaccination and this article in one short paragraph, though. Bravo.

  55. #55 Sid Offit
    November 17, 2009

    Those woo meisters at the Mayo Clinic are at it again. Maybe Michael Shermer can write them a letter too.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/influenza/DS00081/DSECTION=prevention
    From MayoClinic.com
    Special to CNN.com
    These steps can help you stay healthy, even at the height of flu season
    Eat right, sleep tight. A poor diet and poor sleep both lower your immunity and make you more vulnerable to infections. A balanced diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and small amounts of lean protein works best for most people. On the other hand, the amount of sleep needed for a healthy immune system varies from person to person. In general, adults seem to do best on seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Older children and teens need more rest — between nine and 10 hours every night.
    Exercise regularly. Regular cardiovascular exercise — walking, biking, aerobics — boosts your immune system. Exercise won’t prevent every infection, but if you do come down with the flu, you may have less-severe symptoms and recover more quickly than do people who aren’t as fit.

  56. #56 Dan
    November 17, 2009

    @Scott
    I don’t think I’m a fool. I did read the blog. I got the point: Bill Maher is an idiot for being skeptical of the swine flu vaccine. But the author of the blog, like you, loses my interest as soon as the name-calling and ad hominem attacks begin. How about making the case for the vaccine instead of berating anyone who disagrees with you. Attack the person’s ideas, not the person, and you might do a better job of making your point.

  57. #57 bob
    November 17, 2009

    Sid Offit, there is a difference between “boosting the immune system” and having a functional immune system. If you’re malnourished, your immune system is one of many things that’s going to be negatively affected. You aren’t one for subtle distinctions, huh?

    And, what does this have to do with Bill Maher, or alternative medicine in general? Since when is the recommendation to “eat well and exercise” in any way “woo”? I’ve never had a doctor NOT tell me that. Oh, wait, it’s yet another alt-med lie. Color me shocked. Dishonesty and misconstrual from alt-med proponents? What is the world coming to?

  58. #58 Todd W.
    November 17, 2009

    @Sid Offitt

    Way to cherry pick, Sid! And you even picked stuff that supported Orac’s statement that living healthy will not, in and of itself, prevent infection! Well done!

    For those who don’t bother to follow the link, here is the list of recommendations from the Mayo, in order:

    Get a flu shot
    Wash your hands
    Eat right, sleep tight
    Exercise regularly
    Avoid crowds during flu season

  59. #59 Dangerous Bacon
    November 17, 2009

    Oopsie, Sid. You left out the very first intervention recommended by the Mayo Clinic in that article re flu prevention:

    “Get an annual flu vaccination. The best time to be vaccinated is October or November. This allows your body time to develop antibodies to the flu virus before peak flu season, which in the Northern Hemisphere is usually December through March. However, getting a flu shot later in the flu season may still protect you. It takes up to two weeks to build immunity following a flu shot.”

    Did you think we wouldn’t notice your omission?

    By the way, America is far from the only country that pays attention to celebrity dimwits when they give health advice. Britain has Prince Charles, devotee of coffee enemas, homeopathy and the like. And unlike Maher, Charlie is involved in marketing quackery.

  60. #60 Sid Offit
    November 17, 2009

    @bob

    what does this have to do with Bill Maher

    Seems Orac doesn’t believe nutrition can play a role in fighting infectious diseases. I do.

    …we would have heard more of the same sort of misinformation, ignorance, and misunderstanding of science saying that…, diet and exercise and the right supplements can protect you from infectious disease,

    nutrition and exercise are not going to protect Bill or anyone else from the flu

  61. #61 Liz Ditz
    November 17, 2009

    Roundup of bloggers critical of Maher’s article, including this post.

    I’m tired of Maher’s smug stupidity. I wonder what Attilla the Mom would have to say to Maher. Her son has been on a ventilator since October 25. Complications from H1N1.

  62. #62 Todd W.
    November 17, 2009

    @Sid

    Once more, cherry picking! You left out:

    There’s no doubt that in general it’s a good idea to try to stay healthy through the right combination of diet and exercise

    You also ignored the context, that Maher appears to be of the opinion that if you “live right and eat healthy”, you will not get the flu (or any of a host of other illnesses)…as in, completely immune. What Orac is saying, and what you are missing, is that good nutrition and exercise will not grant immunity.

    0 for 2, Sid.

  63. #63 Sid Offit
    November 17, 2009

    @D. Bacon

    Oopsie, Sid. You left out the very first intervention recommended by the Mayo Clinic in that article re flu prevention

    Does that negate the point about nutrition? If not, it’s irrelevant to the nutrition discussion

  64. #64 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 17, 2009

    Dan:
    I guess you are unable to read the parts where Orac takes down Maher’s enormous logical fallacies. That’s attacking ideas, as far as I’m concerned. The insults are just a bonus.

    BTW, Scott’s statement @51 isn’t an insult. It’s a description.

  65. #65 Carl
    November 17, 2009

    Minor terminology nit: “If you get sick, you ate the wrong foods or did the wrong things” is not the converse of “If you eat the right foods and do the right things you won’t get sick”; it’s the contrapositive. The converse would be “If you don’t get sick you must eat the right foods and do the right things.”

    The contrapositive is always logically equivalent to the original statement; the truth of the converse is unrelated to the truth of the original.

  66. #66 Scott
    November 17, 2009

    @Scott
    I don’t think I’m a fool. I did read the blog. I got the point: Bill Maher is an idiot for being skeptical of the swine flu vaccine. But the author of the blog, like you, loses my interest as soon as the name-calling and ad hominem attacks begin. How about making the case for the vaccine instead of berating anyone who disagrees with you. Attack the person’s ideas, not the person, and you might do a better job of making your point.

    So you don’t bother to read, and then attack the author for the content that you didn’t read. Even if your foolish swine flu comment didn’t prove you to be a fool, this certainly does.

    Some levels of idiocy are sufficiently deep that calling them that is the only reasonable option.

  67. #67 Ben
    November 17, 2009

    Maher:”There is a movement to stop people from asking any questions about vaccines…”

    Ummmm… where have we heard this before? Maher’s favorite target, the Christianist Right? Complaining that Big Science and the almighty forces of secular humanism won’t ‘Teach the Controversy’?

    Good catch on Bill’s snarky attack on Michael Shermer for Shermers’ daring to explain to Bill how vaccines work:
    “[V]accinations work by tricking the body’s immune system into thinking that it has already had the disease for which the vaccination was given.”
    “Thanks, Doc, I thought there might be a little man inside the needle.”

    It’s whack that Maher won’t take the time to crunch the numbers or digest peer-reviewed articles… and then takes it as an attack on his IQ when someone explains things in layman’s terms to him.

  68. #68 BAllanJ
    November 17, 2009

    Well, at least we Canadians haven’t been listening to Maher very much… more than a quarter of us have now had the h1n1 vaccine (adjuvented for most, non-adjuvented for pregnant women). I had it a couple weeks ago (since I have diabetes) and the general public is getting it now. I had to stand in line (well, there were chairs…I decided to stand)for almost half an hour at a setup in a shopping centre, but there was no other cost. They’re expecting to have everyone done that wants it by early December.

    As far as I know there have been no adverse reactions to the vaccines….although Maher probably thinks we aren’t letting natural selection weed out those of us with poor immune systems or a poor diet, so in the long run we’ll be at a disadvantage.

  69. #69 Everbleed
    November 17, 2009

    If all the woo-wunderful people out there were to simply abandon “Western medicine” it is likely they would begin to die off at a quicker rate than their non-woo brethren; thus producing fewer offspring; and thereby generally ENHANCE humanity by their absence. Both the gene and the meme would die out.

    I suppose the problem is we don’t have the time for that scenario to play out.

    We’re screwed. But I still like the idea of heckling the mis-guided and gullible for their intellectual laziness. If there is any great accomplishment Orac can take some fat credit for… It is getting OTHER people, especially journalists, to take a stab at Mahar. Ravens on the dead squirrel.

    Go Orac. Go. Never surrender. You are not alone.

  70. #70 muteKi
    November 17, 2009

    “I’m just trying to represent an under-reported medical point of view in this country, ”

    I can only wonder about Maher’s opinion on the Flat-Earth Society. Given that they, too, represent an under-reported theory on the shape of the Earth and space, shouldn’t they get more attention?

  71. #71 Joseph
    November 17, 2009

    @Everbleed: You’re assuming irrationality is heritable. There’s no evidence of this that I’m aware of.

  72. #72 jre
    November 17, 2009

    I attempted to leave a comment on Maher’s blog, but comments appear to be “restricted to team members.” And the HuffPo queue is up to 26 pages by now. So, what the hell — rather than let all that annoyance go to waste, I’ll post it here. And if anyone knows how to get these words up on Maher’s blog and feels like doing it, consider them to be in the public domain.

    … I’ve never said all vaccines in all situations are bad.

    Oh, baloney. What you said in this most recent of your many foot-in-mouth episodes was

    Why would you let [the government] be the ones to stick a disease into your arm? I would never get a swine flu vaccine or any vaccine.

    And it’s the same for your comments about Pasteur, and saying the the 1918 flu deaths were from the swamp (not the mosquitoes), and that you’ll never catch sick on an airplane, and the “ur an idiot” twitter.
    It’s understandable that you want to wiggle out of this one, but your wiggle room is gone.
    You have just too much history on this issue.
    So, when you say to Michael Shermer

    I have a basic idea how vaccines work.

    the rest of us have to break it to you:
    No, Bill, you don’t. You really don’t, no matter how much you think you do.

    Your ideas regarding vaccines, and infectious disease generally, are a mush of folklore and paranoia.
    Your public attitude toward science is a pro forma reverence that comports nicely with your disdain for religion and pinheaded conservatism.
    But there is nothing behind it.

    You have no concept of what science-based medicine has learned about disease and prevention.
    You have a grotesque misunderstanding of what scientists actually do.
    And, when anyone points out that what you have said is false, you retreat into a flurry of defensive accusations that the scientific establishment is trying to silence its critics (while protesting that you are not a conspiracy theorist).

    Nobody is persecuting you.
    Far from being suppressed, the anti-vaccine movement has been all over the media.
    A “typical american diet”, for all its many faults, will not compromise your immune system.
    And if you are exposed to a dangerous infectious agent to which you have no immunity, you are likely to get sick.

    It is understandable that you do not enjoy having your nose rubbed in your own superstition, but it is disappointing that you have not taken the time to examine where it comes from.
    It’s not our problem, Bill — it’s yours.

  73. #73 Daniel J. Andrews
    November 17, 2009

    How about making the case for the vaccine instead of berating anyone who disagrees with you

    Absolutely. And let’s make a case for the moon landings and the heliocentric theory while we’re at it.

    The case has been made. You can find that information in the peer-reviewed journals. You can find the stats on how effective those vaccines have been at the CDC, the NIH or from almost any major health organization (provincial, state, federal levels) in most countries (look up incidence of communicable diseases, past and present).

    Todd (http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.html) also has some good information here. Follow his links to ensure he isn’t mistating his case unlike the antivaxx side. E.g. see Sid Offit’s posts above for classic antivaxx/denialist tactics–that is, leaving out parts that contradict your view, and posting a study which actually supports the view you’re disagreeing with).

  74. #74 MI Dawn
    November 17, 2009

    @ Sid Offit: you must go to some really lousy doctors, if your doctor has never discussed nutrition, rest and exercise with you, along with getting needed vaccines. I have never gone to one who hasn’t. Orac has never denied the usefulness of proper diet and exercise either, nor has any one of the other physician bloggers I read.

    You said, “Seems Orac doesn’t believe nutrition can play a role in fighting infectious diseases. I do.”

    Show me any place where Orac has said nutrition can’t play a role in fighting infectious disease. From all I have read, he acknowledges that a healthy diet helps people fight disease. However, it does not prevent infectious disease. You may recover more quickly if you have a healthy diet, because your immune system is in better condition than someone with a poor diet, provided you have no other health conditions. It’s all relative, you know.

  75. #75 David D.G.
    November 17, 2009

    Bill Maher’s comments included:

    And if you have a compromised immune system and can’t boost it naturally, as in poor countries where the children are eating dirt, then a vaccine can be a white knight — bravo!

    I have a coworker who, when asked whether she was going to get vaccinated (for either seasonal flu or H1N1), actually responded with the words, “No, because I used to eat dirt when I was a kid.”

    In reponse to my look of utter confusion, she said, “Translated, that means that I have a good immune system from letting myself get exposed to germs ever since I was a child.”

    All I could do was try not to roll my eyes too conspicuously. I’ve heard this viewpoint before. The woman is in her 60s and is not about to change her entire impression of how disease immunity works just on my say-so. I just hope that I can stay clear of her when she comes down with H1N1 flu — and I also hope that it doesn’t kill her, but that it does scare her into getting vaccinations in the future.

    ~David D.G.

  76. #76 Todd W.
    November 17, 2009

    @Daniel J. Andrews #73

    Actually, factsnotfantasy is maintained primarily by Larian Lequella. He cross-copies my site (http://antiantivax.flurf.net) when I make updates to it. Larian adds other blogs posts and news articles more frequently than I do. Where factsnotfantasy is more blog, my site’s more of a static resource, occasionally updated as I get new info, corrections and time.

    (BTW, I added a digg button to my site, and would appreciate if visitors click it if they like the material.)

  77. #77 Koray
    November 17, 2009

    I’ve never understood how “recanting on one’s deathbed” is supposed to be an argument. Science doesn’t depend on a person’s testimony; if Einstein had recanted on his deathbed about relativity, we’d still have relativity today because of our own studies. These people seem to think Pasteur and Darwin were prophets, not scientists.

  78. #78 Daniel J. Andrews
    November 17, 2009

    Sorry, Todd, Larian; I saw your (Todd’s) name on top of the vax page. I had originally thought it was Larian’s but when I saw your name I assumed I’d been mistaken. I guess I shouldn’t try and post while in a hurry to leave work…I’m heading out to see some entertaining bad science tonight (the movie 2012 :)

  79. #79 Cath the Canberra Cook
    November 17, 2009

    Dawn, to produce < and < signs, you use “& lt ;” or “& lt ;” without the quote marks and spaces. (That’s LT for less than, GT for greater than.)

    If you use preview, copy your whole post and paste it in again. Sciblogs preview tends to muck it up, though there are rumours that it’s being fixed.

  80. #80 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    November 17, 2009

    Actually, I was honored to be mentioned in Bill Maher’s article.

    I would love to shift the argument away from “vaccines do or don’t cause autism” to an acknowledgement that there are a lot more families affected by autism spectrum disorders than ever before and they are not getting respect or funding. The government, the insurance industry and the scientific community need to support their needs.

    No one here or elsewhere will “win” the vaccines/autism debate. Let’s move on, please.

    Best To You All,

    Jay

  81. #81 Cath the Canberra Cook
    November 17, 2009

    Oops. To get > you need “& gt ;”

    It’s quite easy to mess up, even when you do know what you’re doing. I blame the cat. He startled me and then looked so cute and needed a belleh rub, and then I forgot to fix my cut’n’pastes.

  82. #82 Dianne
    November 17, 2009

    if Einstein had recanted on his deathbed about relativity, we’d still have relativity today because of our own studies.

    No one knows what Einstein said on his deathbed because his last words were in German to a nurse who spoke only English. If the US educational system were just a little better, we might know that Einstein’s last words were “Oops, I flipped a minus sign. It’s x2+y2+z2+ct2″ or “Crap. Looks like that crazy quantam mechanics stuff works after all.” Or maybe “Der Erde ist wirklich eine grosse Schildkrotte.”

    Yes, I’m being silly and of course Koray is right. What Einstein said or thought at the end of his life but never provided evidence for is irrelevant.

  83. #83 Scientizzle
    November 17, 2009

    I would love to shift the argument away from “vaccines do or don’t cause autism”

    No. Not as long as you post evidence-free tripe such as “Let me state very simply, vaccines can cause autism…The proof is not there yet. It will be found.” That bold pronouncement and prediction was made nine months ago. Are you backing down from it?

  84. #84 Dianne
    November 17, 2009

    …an acknowledgement that there are a lot more families affected by autism spectrum disorders than ever before and they are not getting respect or funding.

    Are there? Most of the studies I’ve seen have suggested that the apparent increase in autism and ASD is due to improved diagnosis and diagnostic shift away from, for example, mental retardation, rather than changes in the actual rate of the diseases. However, if you have data to the contrary I’d appreciate it if you’d post a reference or link.

  85. #85 Jon H
    November 17, 2009

    Someone needs to write an anti-vax column in agreement with Maher, in the character of a 17th century vaccination-opposing Puritan preacher (with an appropriate name, like ‘Goody Proctor’ or ‘Mightily Oates’ or ‘Temperance Wilson’ or ‘Visit-The-Unbeliever-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets’) , and try to get Huffington Post to run it.

  86. #86 Prometheus
    November 17, 2009

    “Dr. Jay” says:

    Actually, I was honored to be mentioned in Bill Maher’s article.

    Why am I not surprised? One crank celebrity recognising another.

    “Dr. Jay” continues:

    I would love to shift the argument away from “vaccines do or don’t cause autism”…

    No doubt he would, since he has been rountinely trounced in that discussion.

    “Dr. Jay” concludes:

    No one here or elsewhere will “win” the vaccines/autism debate. Let’s move on, please.

    Once again, “Dr. Jay” shows that he has no concept of how science works. The data show no indication that autism is related to vaccines – only “Dr. Jay” and his “years of clinical experience” show a connection. From a scientific point of view, “Dr. Jay” lost that debate before it even started. Showing up to a scientific discussion without data is like showing up to a gun fight with a plastic spork.

    Time to move on, “Dr. Jay”.

    Prometheus

  87. #87 LW
    November 17, 2009

    David D.G., I’m so glad to hear someone else read that phrase the same way I did. I thought “can’t boost it [immune system] naturally, as in poor countries where the children are eating dirt” meant “can’t boost it naturally, the same way it is done in poor countries where the children are eating dirt”. I thought Maher was suggesting that instead of vaccinating children, we should be sending them out back to eat some dirt, so for a moment Orac’s comments were completely baffling to me. But of course, that just shows what a poor communicator Maher is.

  88. #88 LW
    November 17, 2009

    Hi, Dr. Gordon, I’m so glad you dropped by, because there’s a question I’ve been wanting to ask you. Since you’re a pediatrician, your patients must “age out” of your practice after a while. Do you say anything about vaccination to those older patients as they age out? Do you mention to the girls anything about the effects of rubella on developing fetuses? Or do you just leave that to their parents?

  89. #89 Joseph
    November 17, 2009

    I would love to shift the argument away from “vaccines do or don’t cause autism” to an acknowledgement that there are a lot more families affected by autism spectrum disorders than ever before and they are not getting respect or funding.

    @Dr. Jay: I think we can all acknowledge there are a lot more families with children labeled with ASD. Whether families in the past didn’t have autistic children (labeled with other conditions or not labeled at all) is more of a scientific question, resolved by data. The evidence so far indicates that ASD is common in adults as well, so any denial to the effect that autism is an issue that only children have is probably both inaccurate and unhelpful to autistic adults.

    Do you acknowledge that it’s not only necessary to support the needs of the parents of autistic children, but also to support the needs of autistic adults? There are easily 2 million autistic adults in the US, counting recognized and unrecognized.

  90. #90 MI Dawn
    November 17, 2009

    @Cath the Canberra Cook: Thanks! Actually, preview has been working rather well for me today (which is how I knew that the GT and LT signs ere mucking up my HTML.)

    I had to lock my kitteh out of the room just now. He decided that the tablecloth didn’t need to be on the table…

  91. #91 MI Dawn
    November 17, 2009

    And when I don’t use preview, I miss a spelling error….

    WERE mucking up my HTML…

    Or maybe it’s the glass of wine? Nah.

  92. #92 Sid Offit
    November 17, 2009

    @MI Dawn

    Show me any place where Orac has said nutrition can’t play a role in fighting infectious disease.

    I don’t have that exact quote but how’s this bit of Orac from a previous post

    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 (capitalization mine)

  93. #93 Michael
    November 17, 2009

    Sid, this is the gull quote from Orac:”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.”
    What Orac clearly meant was that although diet can affect resistance to disease, there are plenty of germs out there that can kill perfectly healthy people.

  94. #94 Cassidy
    November 17, 2009

    You know, I’ve never had the flu, not once. I get flu shots sometimes, but not every year, eat ok, but not great, get about as much sleep as you’d expect of a grad student, nothing special. I don’t carry antibacterial hand sanitizer or wash my hands every time I pass a bathroom or anything, I spent the last couple years as a tutor and working with kids regularly, but still. Never had the flu.

    And yet, somehow that doesn’t make me think I am somehow better than the nasty little virus, and since my university just got a good-sized shipment of H1N1 vaccine, I am absolutely taking advantage when they dose it out tomorrow.

  95. #95 eb
    November 17, 2009

    “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.”

    I’m sorry, but this comment is so untrue. They may be young, but they are not exactly healthy. They dont eat well, they are not sleeping well, they are in cramped quarters, smoke and drink way too much, and are very stressed. My dad, uncles, brothers, nephews, friends, and my husband were/are in the military, and they were/are always sick! Fit, muscular, run 5 miles under 27 minutes and end up hospitalized with pneumonia after a simple cold. I get so tired of people assuming they are so healthy. That is like saying a bunch of late night partying, stressed out college kids are healthy because they are young. Most of the young 18-22yr olds break all the rules of a healthy immune system. No sleep, eat crap, stressed, drink, smoke, and on and on. Healthy…not hardly.

  96. #96 mythusmage
    November 17, 2009

    When I was a child I got down and dirty. We played in grass and mud and dirt. We also got mumps and measles and chicken pox.

    Getting vaccinated does nothing to stop exposure to germs, getting vaccinated only reduces the chance you’ll come down with the disease you’re vaccinated against.

  97. #97 Jackrabbit
    November 17, 2009

    Am I the one living on another planet? Of course getting vaccinated doesn’t stop exposure to germs. What is your point about vaccines reducing potential harm from preventable diseases? Is that not a good thing?

    When my stepfather in law got “down and dirty” in stream nearby his childhood home, HE GOT POLIO. He is in his sixties and is sinking slowly but surely into the ravages of post-polio syndrome. He contracted polio one year before the vaccine was available.

    P.S. My children got down and dirty in the grass and mud and dirt, but they didn’t contract tetanus or polio, nor did they succumb to secondary blindness or deafness from measles or rubella even though they had daily contact with other young children, thanks to vaccines and herd immunity. Chances are your dog won’t get rabies from my cats either.

    Fuck. I don’t get it.

  98. #98 Greg F.
    November 17, 2009

    @#80 – Dr. Jay,

    … there are a lot more families affected by autism spectrum disorders than ever before and they are not getting respect or funding.

    You’re joking, right? All those billions of dollars being spent on special ed programs, studies and research into treatment options have just randomly vaporized?

  99. #99 Mark
    November 17, 2009

    Orac: “…if you only just eat the right foods, take the right supplements, and do the right things, you’ll never get sic [sic].”
    :-)

  100. #100 Dr. P
    November 18, 2009

    And it’s precisely because I am a Darwinist that I fear the overuse of antibiotics, since that is what has allowed nasty killer bugs like MRSA to adapt so effectively that they are often resistant to any antibiotic we can throw at it. There are consequences to vaccines and antibiotics. Some people want to study that, and some, it seems, want to call off the debate.

    Does somebody want to tell Bill that there’s a potential to decrease antibiotic useage(a real concern)with a successful immunization program. @ 80 , So, to paraphrase your concern about funding for autistic children, you’re saying all of those studies funded to allay irrational fears that could have been addressed by competent medical professionals with the objective information instead of fear mongering,that money could have been used elsewhere more efficiently? Just curious.

  101. #101 Jerry
    November 18, 2009

    You got bills comment about eating dirt wrong, he meant the dirt eaters get healthy immunesystems, so don’t need vaccines.

    “And if you have a compromised immune system and can’t boost it naturally, as in poor countries where the children are eating dirt, then a vaccine can be a white knight — bravo!”

    substitute like for as, see if that makes it clearer to which part of the preceding sentence the offending line is referring.

    The reverse theory, that growing up too clean can cause immunodeficiency was explored by this weeks episode of House

  102. #102 Doug Franklin
    November 18, 2009

    @Storkdoc… most people over 60 already have the antibody, having been vaccinated in the ’70 or actually having had the flu during that period.

  103. #103 Daniel J. Andrews
    November 18, 2009

    Dr. Jay. Have you managed to answer those simple questions that Todd and Prometheus and others have asked you in other comment sections? They keep repeating them for you yet I’ve not seen you answer them. I’m sure they’ll be happy to post them here again for you if you can’t remember them.

    Maybe they should post them at the beginning of every thread that might draw your attention if you’ve forgotten to answer them yet.

  104. #104 Pete
    November 18, 2009

    Sid Offit, quoting Orac:

    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 [capitalization Offit's]

    I think he means in the trivial way that if someone carrying an infectious virus that your immune system has never seen before sneezes in your face, the chances are you’re going to get sick, no matter what you eat.

  105. #105 AD
    November 18, 2009

    Vaccines are just another part of the pharmaceutical industrial complex. They are produced using unsanitary methods and as Kehoe (1984) showed they are little better than placebos. I am disturbed but not surprised that yet another a bought-and-paid member of the medical establishment is espousing these views.

  106. #106 AD
    November 18, 2009

    Haha, jk, since the anti-vaxxers haven’t descended on this blog post I thought I would represent their views, complete with misrepresented (or completely made-up) reference.
    I am disappointed that Maher turns out to be an anti-science wacko when it comes to medicine, given his apparently strictly rational approach to other issues. Perhaps he isn’t just a rationalist continually amazed by the absurd views and policies of our society, but is rather just someone with a problem with authority. Aint no MD telling me what is good for MY body!

  107. #107 Azkyroth
    November 18, 2009

    It may work that way in politics

    No it doesn’t.

  108. #108 Jennifer B. Phillips
    November 18, 2009

    I would love to shift the argument away from “vaccines do or don’t cause autism” to an acknowledgement that there are a lot more families affected by autism spectrum disorders than ever before and they are not getting respect or funding.

    Seriously? Because you’ve had nothing but praise for your associates who have been spreading the message far and wide that autistic children are damaged, soulless, and to be avoided at all costs. It doesn’t seem like to much of a stretch to think that perhaps such sentiments might detract more than a little from this ‘respect’ you speak of.

    And do you suppose that maybe some of the millions of dollars spent on several large studies earnestly exploring the possibility of a link between vaccines and autism, or the extra R & D efforts that went into removing thimerosal from childhood vaccines, all without scientific justification, might have funded a good bit of neurology and genetics research into the mechanisms of autism?

    Really, the hypocrisy is staggering.

  109. #109 DLC
    November 18, 2009

    As I see things, Bill’s problems are that; first, he seems to be a bit too binary. He seems to think that “western” (I hate the term, but he uses it.) medicine does not know everything, ergo it knows nothing. Second, Bill tends to take a good idea (Proper nutrition and exercise) to the illogical extreme.
    This is not uncommon for people in his position, but it is regrettable. Nutrition will not save you from a virus. Being malnourished will make your body weaker and less able to withstand the virus, but eating “super right” will not keep you from becoming ill. It’ll just make you a healthier host.
    Finally, there is no shortage of the Arrogance of Ignorance in Bill’s thinking.

  110. #110 jolly
    November 18, 2009

    I was having a long back and forth email with a local anti-vaxer and finally said I could tell him what kind of studies I would need to see to be convinced that vaccines don’t work and are dangerous. I then asked him what would it take to convince him to change his mind. He stopped emailing me. Ask Bill Maher what kind of information it would take to change his mind, since he says he is just asking for more debate. It is harder to keep moving the goalposts if they are forced to say what it would take. If they won’t say, then they are just like creationists.

  111. #111 Dan
    November 18, 2009

    @scott #66

    I did read the blog. In fact, I wrote “I did read the blog” in comment #56, the one that elicited your response. Just because I didn’t think his insult-riddled scree was INTERESTING doesn’t mean I didn’t read it. I just found its smug, snarky tone kind of ironic, given that ONE OF THE THINGS he criticizes is Maher’s smugness and snarkiness. Yes, I understand that that is not the only thing that he criticizes about Maher’s position. But I can’t be the only one who finds it ironic that Orac complains about Maher’s smugness and snarkiness in a smug and snarky way. Do you really not think that’s ironic? Maybe you don’t know what ironic means? How about this: People who want to get a vaccine, go ahead get one, and people who don’t want to get a vaccine, go ahead and don’t get one. Go shead and call me a name now. That will make me feel bad. And it will make you feel good.

  112. #112 Michael Simpson
    November 18, 2009

    Based on reading Maher’s blog and watching the video, I am convinced Maher knows little or nothing about science. His opinions on Intelligent Design and Global Warming denialism are now suspect. Although his opinions there probably are in line with most of us, it’s hard to reconcile his anti-science attitude on vaccines with his opinions on other denialist positions.

    I contend that Maher has no knowledge or understanding of the scientific method, and has chosen all of his positions based on popularity rather than fundamental understanding. I just don’t see where he has a rational or logical intellect, and I completely dismiss his opinions now on Global Warming and Intelligent Design. I prefer to read those whose scientific understanding is consistent across a number of issues.

    And this Western Medicine strawman is annoying. There is medicine. And there’s unproven and dangerous quackery.

  113. #113 The Tim Channel
    November 18, 2009

    Whether or not you can trust this particular vaccine may not be a point of debate within this forum, though I don’t think there is any debate that you can’t really trust capitalist driven medical care.

    Enjoy.

  114. #114 Joseph
    November 18, 2009

    They are produced using unsanitary methods and as Kehoe (1984) showed they are little better than placebos.

    Scholar doesn’t turn up any papers about vaccines with a Kehoe as first author published anytime between 1980 and 1990. Neither does PubMed.

  115. #115 MikeTheInfidel
    November 18, 2009

    Bill the loon said:

    The point I am representing is: Is getting frequent vaccinations for any and all viruses consequence-free? I feel its unnecessary and counterproductive to try and silence people with condescension.

    Oh, hey! It’s Glenn Beck’s favorite tactic: “I’m just asking questions!”

    The point I am representing is: Is Bill Maher a puppy-raping child sodomizer? I feel its unnecessary and counterproductive to try and silence people with condescension.

  116. #116 Katharine
    November 18, 2009

    I wonder where Jay finished in his medical school class.

    Because, as we all know, what do we call the last person in their medical school class?

    ‘Doctor’.

  117. #117 Owen
    November 18, 2009

    Dan: But I can’t be the only one who finds it ironic that Orac complains about Maher’s smugness and snarkiness in a smug and snarky way.

    No, you’re not the only one. I’m not yet sure I think Orac should do things differently, but yes, I’d say it counts as ironic. I get a guilty pleasure reading this sort of thing (here, Pharyngula, others), but I do my best to avoid that sort of style in my own behaviour.

    People who want to get a vaccine, go ahead get one, and people who don’t want to get a vaccine, go ahead and don’t get one.

    But dude, this last bit is just wrong. Perhaps you don’t know why this compromises herd immunity, or why herd immunity is important, but if that’s the case you really should look it up.

  118. #118 Dangerous Bacon
    November 18, 2009

    Hi Dr. Jay.

    You’re right – let’s move on from debate to your simply answering questions about vaccines and your practice. As we’ve tried to get you to tell us before, how did you determine your guidelines for which patients and their families need H1N1 vaccine, what sorts of high-risk patients do you see, and have you met your goal of not giving the vaccine to anyone this year?

    And one more question – do you see patients in the hospital, where they (and other patients) are likely to be especially vulnerable to H1N1), and have you gotten vaccinated for H1N1 in order to help prevent them from getting a possibly fatal disease from you? What are the policies of any hospital(s) at which you are on staff on the matter of physicians getting vaccinated?*

    Thanks.

    *My hospital system strongly encourages all docs to get vaccinated for H1N1, and even those of us with limited patient contact have complied to protect both patients and ourselves.

  119. #119 1984
    November 18, 2009

    It’s practically impossible to get a link to this post (or PZ Myers) published on Maher’s huffpo comments section. Maher asks for a dialogue and huffpo(o) suppresses it. Shame.

    And of course they even hire supporters of pseudoscience, like “Dana Ullman, M.P.H. is widely recognized as the foremost spokesperson for homeopathic medicine in the U.S.”

  120. #120 Trixster
    November 18, 2009

    @Maher is a smart man. He says some really smart things,

    Bill is only as smart as his researchers. I came to the conclusion years ago that he does not do any of his own research and rarely reads anything other than the notes his researchers present to him. He memorizes talking points.

    I wonder what his (researchers’) thoughts are on vaccinations for pets. I have run across a few loony anti-(pet)vaxxers in the animal rescue scene in my area. Does Bill think that cats get infected with leukemia/rabies/etc because they eat too much junk food and spend too much time napping after catnip binges? I wish somebody would ask him…

  121. #121 Todd W.
    November 18, 2009

    @Sid Offit

    And yet a third example of cherry-picking. Really, Sid. 0 for 3? You must realize that context is very important, hence why you present things out of context. It’s not just the words themselves that are important, but everything surrounding them, as well. Context and subtext.

    Well, Sid’s struck out. Who’s up to bat next? Oh, hello Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP. Have you come across any scientific evidence yet to support your contention that vaccines cause autism? Have you come across any scientific support for your recommendation to delay the vaccine schedule? You know, scientific studies showing that your recommendation is both safe and effective, taking into account the risks of disease due to delaying immunization?

  122. #122 KristinMH
    November 18, 2009

    Picking up on the dirt-eating comments, when I was about four my older sister dared me to eat some dirt. I did because I wanted to know what it tasted like. It tasted like dirt.

    My previous dirt exposure and generally excellent health didn’t stop me from being down for all of last week with flu. Don’t know if it was H1N1 or the regular seasonal variety, but it definitely sucked.

  123. #123 Garth Patterson
    November 18, 2009

    I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find the video of Maher going off. I see the text, but I prefer seeing the _whole_ video to decide for myself please.

    Could you post the video please?

  124. #124 Jessica
    November 18, 2009

    Dan: restating that you read the entire post does nothing to convince me that you actually did, since you show poor understanding of it.

    Even if there had been pomp und snarkumstance magically written in invisible ink that only you can see (see: that is snark) it does nothing to push the issue either way.

    Bill: A is both A and not A.
    Orac: Actually, it is impossible for A to be both A and not A.
    Dan: Well…. Orac’s a MEANIE! And he said A. Three times!

    Well argued sir! (See, there it is again. Keep practising.)

    Basically what happened here was that you wanted to gain rhetorical points in a green-ink kind of way, but you didn’t. Just refusing to acknowledge that will not change it. You need to let it go.

  125. #125 Pablo
    November 18, 2009

    Oh, hello Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP. Have you come across any scientific evidence yet to support your contention that vaccines cause autism?

    Well, if you redefine “scientific evidence” to mean “my personal experience” like Jay does, then he has scientific evidence all over the place. One could say, in fact, that he is the very definition of scientific evidence. In his own mind, at least.

  126. #126 Not-so-innocent bystander
    November 18, 2009

    Garth Patterson,

    What video? Bill Maher wrote a blog post, and Orac is responding to that post.

  127. #127 TMEncalada
    November 18, 2009

    Someone please tell me why my healthy child who died from an immdediate vaccine reaction is expendable, but the child who ‘may’ die from getting something like flu is the one we need to save? Argue all you want, but the loss of that life made it not worth the risk! NOT worth it! WHY is it ok for some to die so others dont have to be sick for a few days or die themselves? It makes no sense to kill a healthy child just to ‘potentially’ save a few others that still might have died anyway. I cant accept this. Nobody should accept this.

  128. #128 Luna_the_cat
    November 18, 2009

    TMEncalada:

    NO child is expendable. Every death is a tragedy. Would you see other mothers lose their children?

    And, this, you see, is the foul and unfair numbers game that people in the horrible real world have to work off of. Whether we vaccinate or not, children will die. But while we vaccinate, 1 child out of something over 1,000,000 will die from the vaccination; if we don’t vaccinate, we know from actual historical records of epidemic disease (even in the clean industrialised Western countries) that as many as 1,000 in 1,000,000 children would die of disease. That is another 999 additional grieving mothers. Would you be happy with that? Of course you have an obvious thing to blame for your loss, and it obviously isn’t fair or right or anything even vaguely like that, that it should be your child out of that 1,000,000+ who ended up with the statistical short straw. But lashing out in such a way that far more people will risk that tragic loss as well isn’t an answer either.

    Say your child did not get vaccinated, because there wasn’t a widespread vaccination regime. Then, your child would have also had the chance to become the 1,000 in 1,000,000 who would die from communicable disease. Can you answer that “what if” with a positive answer that your child would absolutely have been safe without the vaccine? Would your baby have somehow been miraculously protected from death under that scenario?

    I’m terribly sorry for your loss. I am, it’s a horrible thing to go through and I wish with all my heart that no-one had to lose a child that way. I hope time brings some comfort.

  129. #129 dan
    November 18, 2009

    @jessica:

    Orac: Bill Maher, you’re an idiot to be wary of the swine flu vaccine. Your “argument” contains at least two fallacies. Furthermore, you think you’re so smart, and you always speak in a smug, snarky way. Did I mention you’re an idiot? And your audience, too. And you have a fragile, eggshell mind, and you’re a sheeple. And an idiot.

    Dan: Orac’s a meanie.

    Jessica: Dan, you show poor understanding of Orac. And you’re the only one who thinks he’s a meanie. You must not have read his whole post, because if you did, you would agree with it. Therefore, you either didn’t read it all, or you’re too stupid to understand it. And when Orac calls Bill an idiot, he’s not being a meanie, he’s doing that to entertain his readers.

    Dan: Oh, I get it now. Thanks Jessica! I’m letting it go. I learned a lot today!

  130. #130 IslandNative
    November 18, 2009

    Get your vaccinations and DO NOT ask any questions. Accept without question what the television says. Embrace the pyre of stupidity.

    Bill Maher is an “idiot” for having the gall to ask questions. How dare him.

  131. #131 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    November 18, 2009

    Bacon, I have been on staff at the finest hospitals in Los Angeles and elsewhere my entire career. I rarely admit patients but I have frequent contact with residents and in house attendings.

    Straw man, Bacon.

    And as you know–links available–most doctors are not getting the H1N1 vaccine.

    Bacon, change the discussion. You’re just plain boring at this point.

    Jay

  132. #132 Luna_the_cat
    November 18, 2009

    Yes, Jay, I suppose you *must* find it “boring” to be hammered again and again for telling the same falsehoods over and over.

  133. #133 red rabbit
    November 18, 2009

    @eb 95: Really? Always sick?

    We must be going to see an epidemic of young soldiers and partiers dying off because they are stressed out, don’t get enough sleep, and eat crap.

    It’s not the bullets and OEDs, it’s the lifestyle!

  134. #134 red rabbit
    November 18, 2009

    I did mean IEDs…. I got an image of a stack of dictionaries falling on a soldier….

  135. #135 Todd W.
    November 18, 2009

    @Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP

    And as you know–links available–most doctors are not getting the H1N1 vaccine.

    Care to provide a citation for that?

    Question, what protocols are in place at your institution regarding patient contact for physicians who have not received either the seasonal or H1N1 vaccines? (In addition to my other questions, which are still outstanding.)

  136. #136 Joseph
    November 18, 2009

    I bet that people in the US will start to get the H1N1 vaccine in droves only after some high profile celebrity dies from it. Sadly, anecdotes like that work much better than, say, CDC mortality and morbidity stats.

  137. #137 Militant Agnostic
    November 18, 2009

    I bet that people in the US will start to get the H1N1 vaccine in droves only after some high profile celebrity dies from it. Sadly, anecdotes like that work much better than, say, CDC mortality and morbidity stats.

    In Canada it was a 13-14 year old dying a few days after playing in hockey tournament that did it. I probably won’t be able to get the H1N1 vaccination until well into December now.

  138. #138 PixelFish
    November 18, 2009

    If Maher is such a believer in nuance, why hasn’t he specifically documented which vaccines he thinks are okay to take and under which circumstances instead of leaving his less-erudite* audience to wade through all his nuance?

    *As Maher so clearly seems to perceive them. Not that it reflects reality any more than any other of Maher’s whacky views.

  139. #139 freelunch
    November 18, 2009

    I see that Maher is still refusing to post any of comments people made on his own site. Too bad, I was hoping he would learn something from those who were explaining to him why he was in error in his foolishness and equivocation. My opinion of him has dropped a great deal during this episode.

  140. #140 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 18, 2009

    And as you know–links available–most doctors are not getting the H1N1 vaccine.

    Bullshit.
    Show us the links or STFU.

    Please note that this comment is in line with my policy of being civil to everyone but fools and frauds.

  141. #141 freelunch
    November 18, 2009

    Dear IslandNative,

    I guess it was too much effort for you to actually read what Maher wrote and took too much cogitation for you to understand that Maher was not merely asking questions. No one has attacked him for asking questions. He has been attacked for disingenuously making false claims about vaccinations in the guise of asking questions. Maybe cargo cult adherents like you are unable to see the difference.

  142. #142 Scott
    November 18, 2009

    Please note that this comment is in line with my policy of being civil to everyone but fools and frauds.

    JOOC, which category do you consider Jay to fall into? (Or is it both?) I can see arguments for both (largely based on whether or not he actually believes the moronic garbage he spouts nonstop in hopes of killing off his patients).

  143. #143 Joseph C.
    November 18, 2009

    Whenever Dr. Gordon says anything along the lines of “most pediatricians” or “most doctors” there is no need to ask him for a citation. You can rest assured that he is just making it up, as he does pretty much all the time.

  144. #144 ICED BORSCHT
    November 18, 2009

    Move over, cable news networks and pundits!

    There’s a new sheriff in town, a new KING OF THE DUMB, and his name is William Maher.

  145. #145 Todd W.
    November 18, 2009

    @Joseph C.

    Whenever Dr. Gordon says anything along the lines of “most pediatricians” or “most doctors” there is no need to ask him for a citation. You can rest assured that he is just making it up, as he does pretty much all the time.

    I realize that. I ask more for the people who may be reading, but staying silent. If he has no citation, then he will be shown to be making baseless claims. If he has a citation, then we can examine it and determine whether or not it really supports his claim and whether or not it is a reliable source of information on which to base a clinical decision.

    It’s all for the readers. I have no delusions that I can alter Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP’s ideas or behavior.

  146. #146 Dangerous Bacon
    November 18, 2009

    Dr. Jay has a way of evading questions. He isn’t saying whether or not he got vaccinated for H1N1, and the following response leaves an important matter unclear.

    Dr. Jay: “I rarely admit patients but I have frequent contact with residents and in house attendings.”

    So, Jay, are you interacting with these MDs outside of a hospital setting, or are you roaming through hospitals potentially spreading influenza to vulnerable patients? I’m sure many of the “finest hospitals” in and around L.A. have policies encouraging or mandating staff vaccination for H1N1. Do these policies have relevance for you? Do you think hospitals are in league with Big Pharma too and thus can be ignored?

    The child death toll in the U.S. from H1N1 for April through mid-October ’09 was announced last week at 540 (overall, 3,900 deaths, 98,000 hospitalized, a disproportionate toll affecting pregnant women, diabetics and young people). The CDC calls this outbreak unprecedented.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-11-13-1Aflu13_ST_N.htm

    Does this news give you pause? Are you at all uneasy about your anti-H1N1 position? Are the parents of your patients concerned, or have you been able to suppress those doubts?

    There was a poll a couple months back showing a third of nurses and about half the doctors in the U.K. were not at that time planning to get the H1N1 vaccine. I’ve never seen any survey demonstrating that “most” U.S. physicians are not getting vaccinated. I suspect that significantly greater proportions of pediatricians (hint, hint) are getting the shot so as to protect their patients.

    I realize you must be tired of being reminded of your dangerous ignorance on this issue. But it’s high time you realized how much you’re placing your vulnerable patients and their families at risk through this nonsensical antivax prejudice of yours.

  147. #147 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 18, 2009

    Scott:
    I consider Dr. Jay a fool. I was convinced of this when he approved of parents who subjected their kids to chelation, then acted all surprised when informed of the risks of this misused therapy. He also appears to be “star-struck”. I’ve come to the conclusion that the rich and famous are at real risk of substandard medical care because of this (Michael Jackson, for instance?). Fraud? I’m certainly willing to consider the alternative, or both.

  148. #148 T.Bruce McNeely
    November 18, 2009

    There was a poll a couple months back showing a third of nurses and about half the doctors in the U.K. were not at that time planning to get the H1N1 vaccine.

    Since this poll was taken a couple of months back, and the question included the qualifier “not at that time”, I wonder how much the answer was influenced by the supply shortage of the H1N1 vaccine. For myself, I made a decision to delay getting the vaccine, since there was a shortage in Canada, and I knew that I was at relatively low risk. We are better supplied now, so I got both “swined” and “seasoned” yesterday.

    I’ll bet that poll would show much different results today.

  149. #149 Pepe Silvia
    November 18, 2009

    Good article, thanks for writing it.

  150. #150 Garth Patterson
    November 18, 2009

    This is in response to Msg 126 based on another message here:

    “Based on reading Maher’s blog and watching the video, …” Errmm, that video.

    And the more I read re: Maher’s _opinion_ re: vaccinations, and the near viral, knee-jerk rants against ‘BIG pharmaceutical corporate conspiracies’, he is indeed speaking out his ass, …

    … and is giving free-thinkers a black eye as a result. I mean, what’s next Bill? You going to jump up and down on a sofa touting the wonders of Scientology?

    Gad!

    New Rule! Suspicions of Corporate Malfeasance Alone makes for Piss Poor Science! :-\

  151. #151 dan s
    November 18, 2009

    Blaylock is a hero.

    There is lots of ad hominem attacks, and little refutation of Blaylocks arguments on the merits.

    Most of the so-called “science based medicine” qucks have no idea how misled they are.

  152. #152 dan s
    November 18, 2009

    This is how so-called “science-based” medicine works. The people that trust the FDA and big money medicine are ignorant.

    http://childhealthsafety.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/merckdestroydoccritics/

  153. #153 Joseph
    November 18, 2009

    You know what bothers me about Dr. Jay? It’s not just that he says his vast experience trumps more objective and formally documented scientific observations. He’s very vague about was his experience actually is. He never provides any numbers from his practice. He’s provided anecdotes from his practice, but nothing that we might start to consider “data.” I bet he hasn’t actually thought about his “experience” in a systematic, measurable way.

  154. #154 Joseph C.
    November 18, 2009

    Blaylock is a hero.

    Yes, because a physician who appears on Alex Jones just exudes credibility.

  155. #155 Scott
    November 18, 2009

    @153: He also seems to think that HIS personal experience trumps the personal experience of all other doctors, not just the science.

    The arrogance of considering oneself to be infallible is mind-boggling. Putting a layer of false humility as to how much he supposedly learns from Orac (despite not ever putting any such claimed learning into practice) – well, that’s just insulting our intelligence.

  156. #156 James
    November 18, 2009

    This just in: HBO has renewed his contract..

    http://www.deadline.com/hollywood/hbo-renews-real-time-with-bill-maher/ rel=”nofollow

  157. #157 Calli Arcale
    November 18, 2009

    dan s:

    This is how so-called “science-based” medicine works. The people that trust the FDA and big money medicine are ignorant.

    What makes you think anybody here implicitly trusts “big money medicine”, as you so eloquently put it? Science is the only means we have to determine whether they’re being honest on a particular occasion or not. They may try to hide the data, or spin the data, or frame it in a way that suits their goals, but the data is out there, and we can judge it for ourselves.

    I wish the same were true of the supplement industry, because frankly, they’re exactly the same as Big Pharma. I have no more reason to trust the makers of Airborne than I do the makers of Claritin. The only difference is that I don’t have to just take Schering-Plough’s word for its safety and efficacy. I can look at the studies for myself. I can’t say the same for Airborne Health, Inc, which, as it is not actually required to make the studies available, doesn’t. It cites an unpublished study only. Hmmm…..

    Bottom line: don’t trust anyone who is selling you something. Instead, use science wherever possible.

  158. #158 Todd W.
    November 18, 2009

    @Calli Arcale

    I can’t say the same for Airborne Health, Inc, which, as it is not actually required to make the studies available, doesn’t.

    Minor edit…should read “I can’t say the same for Airborne Health, Inc, which, as it is not actually required to perform studies…” :)

  159. #159 Chris
    November 18, 2009

    Joseph C.:

    Yes, because a physician who appears on Alex Jones just exudes credibility.

    Or who also has a website is mainly a supplement sales site. Blaylock sells something called “Brain Repair Forumula” (it is the main banner on his website). In it he says:

    The powerful, anti-inflammatory supplements that I use in my newly developed O3 Balance Brain Repair Formula, when combined with a brain healthy diet, will maximize your brain’s ability to heal and reduce inflammation (a central mechanism of these devastating neurological disorders).

    I have added nutrients that are known to promote the repair of brain cells and their connections, called synapses. Reducing chronic inflammation also reduces both the risk of brain degeneration and suppresses the central mechanism of neurodegeneration.

  160. #160 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 18, 2009

    Blaylock is also involved in The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and was on the Editorial Board of their journal.

    From Wikipedia:
    The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons is not listed in the major literature databases of MEDLINE/PubMed[35] nor the Web of Science.[36] Articles and commentaries published in the journal have argued:

    that abortion causes preterm birth later in life, and thus birth defects such as cerebral palsy to future children born to women with a history of abortion,[37]
    that the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are unconstitutional,[38]
    that “humanists” have conspired to replace the “creation religion of Jehovah” with evolution,[39]
    that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has not caused global warming,[40]
    that HIV does not cause AIDS,[41][42]
    that the “gay male lifestyle” shortens life expectancy by 20 years.[43]
    A series of articles by pro-life authors published in the journal argued for the existence of a link between abortion and breast cancer;[44][45] such a link was rejected by the U.S. National Cancer Institute[46] and is not recognized by major medical organizations such as the American Cancer Society[47] or World Health Organization.[48]

    A 2003 paper published in the journal, claiming that vaccination was harmful, was criticized for poor methodology, lack of scientific rigor, and outright errors by the World Health Organization[49] and the American Academy of Pediatrics.[50] A National Public Radio piece cited inaccurate information published in the Journal and wrote: “The journal itself is not considered a leading publication, as it’s put out by an advocacy group that opposes most government involvement in medical care.”[51]

    Quackwatch lists JPandS as an untrustworthy, non-recommended periodical.[52] An editorial in Chemical & Engineering News by editor-in-chief Rudy Baum described JPandS as a “purveyor of utter nonsense.”[53] Investigative journalist Brian Deer wrote that the journal is the “house magazine of a right-wing American fringe group [AAPS]” and “is barely credible as an independent forum.”[54

  161. #161 LW
    November 18, 2009

    Hi, Dr. Gordon, sorry I missed your return. I was at work. Perhaps you missed my question. Maybe I should rephrase it:

    You have said that you vaccinate only reluctantly.

    1) Do you vaccinate children against measles, mumps, and rubella?

    2) If so, which do you vaccinate? Only those you personally consider to be at high risk? All but those who have contra-indications established in the medical literature? At what age do you vaccinate?

    3) If you do not vaccinate, what do you do when they “age out” of your practice, perhaps in their teens? Do you discuss with them the risks of being unvaccinated, particularly for girls who may get pregnant? Or do you leave that to their parents?

  162. #162 Militant Agnostic
    November 18, 2009

    T Bruce McNeely @ 160 – didn’t JPANDS also publish something claiming that shaken baby syndrome was a “vaccine injury”? They are beyond vile. I would think that a medical journal would have to be pretty bad to draw condemnation from Chemical & Engineering News.

  163. #163 Preston
    November 18, 2009

    Poor little crazy Birthers, Judge Land and now judge Carter, smack down the crazies (case dismissed),

    Not even “Fake News” Bill O’Reilly believes the crazies, how funny.

    http://belowthebeltway.com/2009/10/29/bill-oreilly-slams-orly-taitz/

    To all the birthers in La, La Land, it is on you to prove to all of us that your assertion is true (TOUGH WHEN YOU KEEP LOSING CASES), if there are people who were there and support your position then show us the video (everyone has a price), either put up or frankly shut-up. I heard Orly Taitz, is selling a tape (I think it’s called “Money, Lies and Video tape”). She is from Orange County, CA, now I know what the mean when they say “behind the Orange Curtain”, when they talk about Orange County, the captial of Conspiracy Theories. You know Obama has a passport, he travel abroad before he was a Senator, but I guess they were in on it.

    In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over the most extreme religious right (people who love to push their beliefs on others while trying to take away the rights of those they just hate) and that’s who they need to extract from their party if they real want to win. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”.

    I heard that she now wants to investigate the “Republican 2009 Summer of Love” list: Assemblyman, Michael D. Duvall (CA), Senator John Ensign (NV), Senator Paul Stanley (TN), Governor Mark Stanford (SC), Board of Ed Chair, and Kristin Maguire AKA Bridget Keeney (SC).

  164. #164 Chris
    November 18, 2009

    Preston, either you think Maher is a birther or you posted on the wrong open window!

  165. #165 Michiganchet
    November 18, 2009

    Nicely written commentary. One sometimes gets very weary of hearing nonsense repeated over and over.
    I am angry that someone who has a celebrity megaphone, and a public voice, refuses to even consider the irresponsibility of his actions. What if Mr Maher, you know, you might actually be. . . wrong!!!! and many people don’t get vaccinated and some die because they listened to you. Would you not even consider this as a possibility, at least on the order of magnitude that your comments about vaccination approach anything near accuracy?

  166. #166 gil mann
    November 18, 2009

    you’ll never get sic.

    Best. Typo. Ever.

  167. #167 Dianne
    November 18, 2009

    And as you know–links available–most doctors are not getting the H1N1 vaccine.

    Adding myself to the list of people who are requesting the link offered. I’d also be curious as to whether there is any information on why, according to these links, doctors are not getting the vaccine. Is it disinclination or unavailability? (I’d love to get vaccinated but haven’t yet because the extremely underfunded public hospital where I work only just got them and is still only giving them to the highest priority patients and staff. I’d have to get pregnant to get it and talk about situations where what you have to do to get the vaccine are not worth it…

    BTW: About that data on the incidence of autism and verification that the increase is real and not artificial…

  168. #168 Pete
    November 18, 2009

    All you people asking Dr Jay for the links he mentioned are being very unfair. He said “links available,” not “links available from me.” Can’t you just cut a rank fraudster well-intentioned doctor some slack?

  169. #169 Redblues
    November 19, 2009

    Maher drives me nuts. He’s just so glib. Yes, some of his commentary is well-reasoned (not by him, but by his writers) and insightful, but then it’s mixed in with the very same kind of flat-earth craziness he complains about in others. When it involves giving people bad medical advice, he’s dangerous. He needs to go back to high school and take basic biology before he spreads anymore of his superstitions.

    I blame Republican, religious-based hostility to science and science education for the fact that people like Maher and Suzanne Sommers and Jenny McCarthy are actually taken seriously in thier ignorance. A high school student should be able to understand and explain how a vaccine works. (Perhaps a high school student could explain it to one of them.) However, due to the absolutely deplorable state of science education in this country, that is not the case. We need an entire generation of people to grow up with a much better basic understanding of science, taught in public schools, before this can change.

    @ TMEncalada #127
    ‘Someone please tell me why my healthy child who died from an immdediate vaccine reaction is expendable, but the child who ‘may’ die from getting something like flu is the one we need to save? Argue all you want, but the loss of that life made it not worth the risk! NOT worth it! WHY is it ok for some to die so others dont have to be sick for a few days or die themselves? It makes no sense to kill a healthy child just to ‘potentially’ save a few others that still might have died anyway. I cant accept this. Nobody should accept this.’

    I’m sorry for what happened to your child, but it is simplisitic to think that this was a calculated act of medical negligence. You’re right, no-one SHOULD accept this, and hopefully more research will prevent such occurrences in the future. However, the problem was the allergy, not the vaccination. No-one deliberately killed your child. Your child was not ‘expendable’, just very, very, unpredictably unlucky. S/he suffered from an exceedingly rare reaction. It wasn’t your one child’s life deliberately traded with the life of another child, but a very very rare risk to take in order to save thousands of people’s lives, including that of your own child. An allergic reaction is an incredibly small risk of vaccinating, but it is far less of a risk than death from the communicable diseases against which we routinely vaccinate. Statistically, your child stood a far greater risk of dying from the disease than of having an allergic reaction to the shot. I realize knowing this does nothing to heal your pain when it’s your own child, and it will not bring your child back, but it is still no justification for risking the lives of thousands of other people. Other people’s lives are not expendable instead either.

  170. #170 David Estlund
    November 19, 2009

    Chris @164

    I think Preston posted the wrong link. It’s here: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200910090052?lid=1069566&rid=35815263

    Beck is toying with his audience by promoting anti-vax paranoia, and O’Reilly called him out on it. O’Reilly is clearly more sane than Maher. And it disgusts me to say that.

  171. #171 Pete
    November 19, 2009

    From the Winnipeg Sun:

    “I don’t listen to Glenn Beck,” he says, coolly. “Do you mean because we both don’t want the flu shot? Half the doctors in Britain do not want the flu shot (according to a report in The Guardian). Tens of millions of people in America don’t want the flu shot. I hardly think this is something that controversial.

    “What I’ve read about what they think I’m saying is not what I’ve said. I’m not a germ theory denier. I believe vaccinations can work. Polio is a good example. Do I think in certain situations that inoculating Third World children against malaria or diphtheria, or whatever, is right? Of course. In a situation like that, the benefits outweigh costs.

    “But to me living in Los Angeles? To get a flu shot? No.”

    Maher likens his position to his politics. “I’ve never said I was a Democrat. I’ve always said I wasn’t. I’m more sympathetic to them, and if I may make an analogy to the medical discussion, much the same way I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, I have a Western doctor and a Holistic doctor. I’m not on anybody’s team. Wherever the truth lies, I’m for that.”

    http://www.winnipegsun.com/entertainment/tv/2009/10/28/11548266-sun.html

  172. #172 DrFrank
    November 19, 2009

    The powerful, anti-inflammatory supplements that I use in my newly developed O3 Balance Brain Repair Formula, when combined with a brain healthy diet, will maximize your brain’s ability to heal and reduce inflammation (a central mechanism of these devastating neurological disorders).

    I heard a rumour that Blaylock’s Brain Repair formula is untested crap that can cause significant brain damage over the long term. Where are all the proper peer-reviewed studies examining long-term safety issues? Surely these studies exist? Or is he actively trying to kill people?

    I don’t know, I’m just asking questions! Why doesn’t he like me asking questions?! What does he have to hide?!!!!11

  173. #173 Redblues
    November 19, 2009

    ‘The powerful, anti-inflammatory supplements that I use in my newly developed O3 Balance Brain Repair Formula, when combined with a brain healthy diet, will maximize your brain’s ability to heal and reduce inflammation (a central mechanism of these devastating neurological disorders).’

    They haven’t worked for him, have they?

  174. #174 Archangl508
    November 19, 2009

    Having been posting on HP in response to Maher’s article for a few days now I have to say its nice to read the comments here and see more people who actually know what they are talking about. The HP anti-vax posters are pretty much insane.

    Well….that and the snark can actuality make it through the censors here.

  175. #175 wfjag
    November 19, 2009

    “I heard a rumour that Blaylock’s Brain Repair formula is untested crap that can cause significant brain damage over the long term.”

    Well, Doc Frank, if you checked the article “We asked Dr. Blaylock to answer the top 10 questions asked about his 03Balance Brain Repair Formula. Here’s what he had to say…” at http://newportnutritionals.com/quest.html then you would know that:

    “O3 Balance Brain Repair Formula is manufactured in the United States.”

    So, there’s none of that fur’n fish oil in Blaylock’s formula. How can you possibly conclude that it’s “crap”?

  176. #176 Nick
    November 19, 2009

    Thank will you.yes .

  177. #177 DrFrank
    November 19, 2009

    So, there’s none of that fur’n fish oil in Blaylock’s formula. How can you possibly conclude that it’s “crap”?

    I’m British, so that *is* evil fur’n fish oil ;)

  178. #178 ICED BORSCHT
    November 19, 2009

    I love that Maher is clearly uncomfortable with suddenly being known as the “anti-vaccine guy.” To add to his discomfort, I recommend that all blog entries from this point forward refer to him as “Bill Maher, LEADER of the Anti-Vaccination Movement.”

  179. #179 Dude
    November 20, 2009

    I agree with most of what you said but I have to point out that, at least in my opinion, it is wrong for you to accuse Maher of being insensitive by calling Down Syndrom, “nature’s fuck-ups.” It seems to me like he was refering to the condition, not the ppl. Just like you can call cancer a “fuck up of nature(or god).” That is not the same as saying cancer victims are nature’s fuck ups.

    I understand that Maher is an idiot when it comes to his anti-vax stand but this is just a cheap shot on your part.

  180. #180 Chris
    November 20, 2009

    And what Maher said is not a cheap shot? Love the reasoning of the fan boys!

  181. #181 Scott
    November 20, 2009

    it is wrong for you to accuse Maher of being insensitive by calling Down Syndrom, “nature’s fuck-ups.” It seems to me like he was refering to the condition, not the ppl.

    Even if that’s really what he meant, he’s still guilty of major insensitivity by not choosing his words more carefully. Gotta go with Orac on this one.

  182. #182 T. Bruce McNeely
    November 20, 2009

    I agree with most of what you said but I have to point out that, at least in my opinion, it is wrong for you to accuse Maher of being insensitive by calling Down Syndrom, “nature’s fuck-ups.”

    Because we all know that Maher is such a sensitive guy, right?

    “To those people who say, `My father is alive because of animal experimentation,’ I say `Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live.’ Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade off.” Bill Maher, PETA celebrity spokesman.

  183. #183 Dan Weber
    November 20, 2009

    When my mother told the doctor what his nurse said, he was surprised. But then he told her she didn’t need it. I am so pissed off.

    If she’s old enough, she may be at low risk from H1N1. Somehow the people before 1950 (give or take) are demonstrating, as a class, high resistance to the disease.

  184. #184 djt
    November 20, 2009

    Orac – how do you think Maher would respond to the Spanish Conquistadors wiping out the Aztecs by introducing small pox, chicken pox, etc. One would think these Aztec were very healthy and not full of toxins but somehow their immune system was unable to mount a fight against these diseases.

    From Wiki “Exposure of these previously remote populations to European diseases caused many more fatalities than the wars themselves, and severely weakened the natives’ social structures.They brought small pox, chicken pox, and measels with them to South America. Recent genetic studies on the skeletal remains of natives peoples find that very few died as a result of violence but rather by disease. One study[citation needed] estimated that up to 85% of the drop in population was due to illness. “

  185. #185 Joseph
    November 20, 2009

    I agree with most of what you said but I have to point out that, at least in my opinion, it is wrong for you to accuse Maher of being insensitive by calling Down Syndrom, “nature’s fuck-ups.” It seems to me like he was refering to the condition, not the ppl. Just like you can call cancer a “fuck up of nature(or god).” That is not the same as saying cancer victims are nature’s fuck ups.

    That’s not the same thing at all. Cancer or diabetes or the flu are not like Down Syndrome. That’s simply because the persons with the conditions don’t perceive them the same way.

    Some conditions make people who they are to a large extent, and it’s difficult to separate the two.

    If I said “homosexuality really sucks,” should gay people not get upset? After all, I simply would’ve said something against the condition of homosexuality, not against gay people.

    Why do you think people with Down Syndrome are opposed to prenatal genetic screening of Down Syndrome, if it’s simply a disease separate to themselves?

    http://www.mnddc.org/news/inclusion-daily/2003/05/053003ukadv.htm

  186. #186 Joseph
    November 20, 2009

    As much as I think Maher is totally nuts when it comes to medicine, he is right on this one. Down’s Syndrome produces statistically maladaptive symptoms consistently with the same mutation; in essence, Down’s Syndrome is the result of a fuck-up in nature’s workings that occurs statistically more often in, for example, children of older mothers or older fathers. Race differences and sexual orientation differences are not, when you take away people’s idiotic prejudices, maladaptive in and of themselves, but the mental retardation produced by Down’s Syndrome is.

    @Katherine: I completely disagree. Non-adaptive traits are not cart blanche to be labeling a whole race or type of person as “nature’s fuck-ups.”

    For one, I don’t believe you can advance a convincing argument that homosexuality, to take one example, is evolutionarily adaptive.

    Second, human equality is not the product of biological equivalence. Even if there were significant neurological and biological differences between races and genders, the concept of civil rights is unaffected.

    Therefore, calling Down Syndrome a “fuck-up” of nature is totally comparable to referring to a race, gender or sexual orientation the same way.

  187. #187 Margaret Cantrell
    November 20, 2009

    Whether or not Bill Maher was being insensitive to people with Down Syndrome in this particular article is debatable. However this is a guy who routinely on his show refers to people he disagrees with as “retarded” and frequently makes jokes about violence against women. Besides being so dead wrong about vaccines, he really is just not a very nice guy..

  188. #188 Joseph
    November 20, 2009

    Maher previously said that children with mental retardation are basically the same as pets, dogs specifically. That’s why his remark about Down Syndrome didn’t surprise me.

    He also has some misguided and false ideas about developmental disability e.g. “they don’t mentally advance at all.”

  189. #189 Prometheus
    November 20, 2009

    One of the many problems with listening to the opinions of television and movie actors (like Mr. Maher) is that they are usually saying things that someone else wrote for them. Thus we have the all-too-common phenomenon of “comedians” being terribly un-funny when they are forced to come up with their own “material”.

    While Mr. Maher is probably more used to coming up with spontaneous witty responses, given the format of his show, I see from his piece in HuffPo that he’s not so good when he’s trying to be serious. He probably should have had one of his writers go over the piece before he submitted it.

    Why anybody would take – or even listen to – the medical advice of a television comic is beyond my understanding. He’s very clearly wrong – about a great many things – and does not have a history of making reasoned, rational analyses of anything, let alone scientific issues, where he has no discernible education, training, experience or – to be brutally frank – innate talent.

    If you need someone to ridicule religion, politics or curreant affairs, Bill Maher may be able to help you out. If you want an analysis of science or medicine, you’d be better off asking your lawn gnome. At least the lawn gnome won’t give you bad advice.

    Prometheus

  190. #190 Antaeus Feldspar
    November 20, 2009

    For one, I don’t believe you can advance a convincing argument that homosexuality, to take one example, is evolutionarily adaptive.

    You’d be best advised not to put too much of your money down on that bet. Sure, it’s difficult to see how homosexuality is evolutionarily adaptive for the individual – it reduces the chances of them having reproductive sex. But when we ask, what is the effect on the population if a percentage of that population is not interested in reproduction? Assuming they are still invested in nurturing the young of their siblings, this means that the ratio of adults caring for young is going to be higher than in a population where every adult is trying to have their own children, and if successful, is going to be nurturing those children in preference to any other.

  191. #191 Flu-Bird
    January 29, 2011

    Bill Maher open mouth insert foot and get used to it sucker

  192. #192 tanya
    February 18, 2011

    Even if you are right, calling Maher names like eggshell mind or whatever isn’t needed. Make your point and back it up we don’t need to have you display your emotions all over the page.

    I am not trying to be rude actually it’s just more people will be interested in what you have to say if it is done without the immature undertone. Good luck.

  193. #193 Chris
    February 18, 2011

    Oooh, look it is a pair of the common Necromancer troll!

    One is also a lovely concern troll. Tanya did it take you over a year to come up with that comment?

  194. #194 Orac
    February 19, 2011

    @Tanya

    No.

    This thread is now closed because it’s nearly a year and a half old.

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