Respectful Insolence

If there’s one thing that has irritated me (one might even say, irritated me enough to start this blog), it’s ideology or religion trumping science. Perhaps the most annoying form of this disease is the tendency of the right wing whackosphere to do everything and anything it can to distort and twist science to agree with its ideology, in particular its religion. One area that I used to write about a lot but don’t so much anymore (we bloggers have to subspecialize, I guess, and these days my subspecialty is science-based medicine with only the occasional forays against forms of unreason other than quackery), is “intelligent design” creationism. ID, of course, is nothing more than a “God of the gaps” argument that postulates whenever science can’t explain something fully that “God did it.” Slightly less wacky on the scale of unreason is the unrelenting hostility towards even the hint of an idea that global warming is happening and, if it’s happening, that human activity is contributing to it.

The area of right wing craziness that intersects most directly with my favored targets for not-so-Respectful Insolence tends to be the whole “health freedom” movement. In fact, quackery is the one area where both granola crunching nature mothers and Lyndon LaRouche acolytes can come together, albeit for different reasons. In general, right wingers tend to come to quackery through a distrust of government and government regulation of medicine, resulting in the “health freedom” movement, which is in reality nothing more than the ideology that supplement manufacturers and quacks use to justify “freeing” themselves from pesky government interference into their “right” to sell quackery to the unsuspecting. Left wingers, on the other hand, tend to come to their distrust of conventional medicine and love of woo through a distrust of industry, in particular the pharmaceutical industry.

Be that as it may, this week has been a particularly rich week for hilarious right wing abuses of science. The first is a preview. The second is just pathetic. So let’s start with the first “study,”, just as a little wafer to cleanse the palate.

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Nonsense about contraception and AIDS

Our first entry in the “Whose science is most brain dead?” is this gem of a press release from the Population Research Institute, which describes itself thusly:

The Population Research Institute is a non-profit research group whose goals are to expose the myth of overpopulation, to expose human rights abuses committed in population control programs, and to make the case that people are the world’s greatest resource.

Its mission statement proclaims its mission to be (among other things):

  • To debunk the myth of overpopulation, which cheapens human life and paves the way for abusive population control programs
  • To expose the relentless promotion of abortion, abortifacient contraception, and chemical and surgical sterilization in misleadingly labeled “population stabilization,” “family planning,” and “reproductive health” programs.
  • To defund these programs by exposing the coercion, deception, and racism inherent in them.

This time around, PRI’s trying to “prove” that the use of oral contraceptives–the dreaded “pill”–result in an increased risk of acquiring HIV or of progressing to AIDS if HIV-positive. To argue it, the PRI published a post entitled The Pill’s Deadly Affair with HIV/AIDS. It’s a masterpiece of the same sorts of arguments that creationists and anti-vaccinationists make, beginning with suitably apocalyptic language:

The world’s deadliest killer, HIV/AIDS, and the Birth Control Pill have been carrying on a secret and deadly “love affair” for decades. While women swallowed their “freedom” with the morning orange juice, studies that should have made global headlines yellowed in medical journals, unknown to the general public. Only doctors learned about the pills deadly affair with HIV/AIDS, and they were too busy writing prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives to talk.

More than 50 medical studies, to date, have investigated the association of hormonal contraceptive use and HIV/AIDS infection. The studies show that hormonal contraceptives–the oral pill and Depo-Provera–increase almost all known risk factors for HIV, from upping a woman’s risk of infection, to increasing the replication of the HIV virus, to speeding the debilitating and deadly progression of the disease.1

A medical trial published in the journal AIDS in 2009–monitoring HIV progression by the need for antiretroviral drugs (ART)–saw “the risk of becoming eligible for ART was almost 70% higher in women taking the pills and more than 50% higher in women using DMPA [Depo-Provera] than in women using IUDS.”2

The first reference is an open cohort study that examined HIV1-seronegative female sex workers attending a single clinic in Mombasa, Kenya. Basically, it found that among women who seroconverted, oral contraceptive use was associated with the acquisition of a more complex viral population, a higher HIV-1 plasma viral load, and a faster CD4 cell decline. Of course, as regular readers of this blog know, correlation does not necessarily equal causation, and this study didn’t definitively show much of anything, although its implications are admittedly concerning.

The second study was from 2009 and a bit different. You can tell this from the title: HIV disease progression by hormonal contraceptive method: secondary analysis of a randomized trial. Note the word secondary. That means what is being looked at is was not a primary endpoint of the trial. Basically, the investigators made a post hoc hypothesis and then tested it using already collected data. This is always a dicey proposition, as confounders that weren’t necessarily envisioned in the original trial design can easily creep in. In any case this study examined HIV-positive women in Zambia from a previous randomized trial of IUDs versus hormonal contraception in women infected with HIV whose objective was:

The purpose of this study was to determine whether the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) is effective and safe among women who are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In the results, the investigators observed faster progression in women who used hormonal contraception and concluded:

Women who used hormonal contraception were more likely to experience clinical disease progression than were women who used the IUD. Although this provocative finding is by no means definitive (it was not an a priori hypothesis), if borne out in further investigation, it could have large public health implications.

However, this trial had weaknesses, including the fact that condom use was not recorded, although women’s partners were allowed to use condoms. In any case, it is not at all surprising that the followup study using secondary analyses found the same thing. In fact, it would be surprising if it did not. Moreover, although progression to the point of being eligible for anti-retroviral therapy was worse in women taking oral contraceptives, the risk of death was no higher during the study period. In essence, the study was worrisome but by no means definitive.In fact, the same could be said of both studies. In other words, there is reason to do more research, but there is no “smoking gun,” at least not yet.

PRI next engages in a bit of confusing correlation with causation that would make J.B. Handley blush:

…sub-Saharan Africa has endured decades of contraception-focused population control programs and countless hormonal-contraceptive trials. “Among the six [African] countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic … two in three users in the six countries rely on the OC (oral contraceptives) or injectables,”6 said Iqbal Shah of the World Health Organization.

Likewise, Thailand, praised for a contraceptive prevalence of 79.2% in 2000 and upwards of 70% today, is a land where, “More than one-in-100 adults in this country of 65 million people is infected with HIV.”7 Among Thai women, “Oral contraception is the most popular method.”

On the other hand, Japan’s HIV rate is, at 0.01%, one of the lowest in the world. In this context, it is important to note that the birth control pill was illegal in Japan until 1999, and even today only 1% of Japanese women use oral contraception. Similarly, the predominantly Catholic Philippines, with a longstanding popular resistance to contraception, boasts an HIV “prevalence rate of only 0.02%.”

Gee, you don’t think that maybe–just maybe–there might be confounding factors unaccounted for that could much better explain the differences in HIV prevalence between these different countries, do you? In fact, given the huge differences between the nations compared by PRI, it would be shocking if there were not. For instance, what is the rate of condom usage in Japan? Are there perhaps other factors in African nations that account for the high HIV prevalence other than choice of contraceptives by HIV-positive women? The above passage reminds me, more than anything else, of Generation Rescue’s cherry-picked “data” that ignored nations whose data did not jibe with GR’s predetermined conclusion. Just take a look, for example, at this listing of HIV prevalence by nation. Note how the vast majority of nations with high HIV prevalence are in Africa. However, there are some African countries with rates comparable to North America, countries such as Libya and even Somalia. Why are there such huge differences? One thing we can say is that, absent a lot more convincing evidence encompassing many more nations, it’s ridiculous to blame differences in oral contraceptive use for ten- or hundred-fold differences in HIV prevalence.

Of course, to PRI, it’s all a horrible conspiracy by pro-death, anti-children forces to lie to HIV-infected women so that they use a product that makes them die faster:

Yet population control groups continue to lobby for more contraception, not less. Take Dr. Willard Cates, president of the Institute for Family Health of Family Health International (FHI), one of the major purveyors of hormonal contraception to the developing world. Wrote Cates to the Journal of American Medical Association, “Preventing unintended pregnancies among HIV-infected women who do not currently wish to become pregnant is an important and cost effective way of preventing new HIV infections of infants. … More must be done to ensure access to safe and effective contraception for HIV-infected women.”

Obviously, FHI’s concern here is less to prevent the infection of preborn infants, than to continue to contracept as many women as possible with your tax dollars and mine. What the organization refuses to admit, however, is that by doing so it is arguably contributing to the spread of the HIV virus.

How many lives are being lost because we continue to ship boatloads of hormonal contraceptives to a continent and to countries laboring under an HIV/AIDS pandemic? Isn’t it time that we stopped?

Actually, what we should stop doing is spreading misinformation and exaggerations designed to frighten women.

Right there–right in this the above passage–you see the conspiracy mongering mindset. It is not enough to accuse physicians of doing something that may increase the rate of AIDS progression in women, but they have to be doing it not just to prevent maternal-fetal transmission of virus but because they want to “contracept as many women as possible,” damn the cost. Never mind that having a child as an HIV-positive woman is very risky to the child if antiretroviral therapy is not readily available. Avoiding pregnancy is a very sensible thing for an HIV-positive woman to do under most conditions. It may well be that hormone-based contraception may increase the risk of HIV progression, but the picture is nowhere near as clear as PRI would lead you to believe. Indeed, a review article in Endocrine Reviews from this year by an author of the Zambia studies concludes:

The data summarized here suggest that hormonal contraception may exert a significant effect on the susceptibility to HIV-1 infection as well as on the progression of the ensuing disease. However, the epidemiological data obtained so far are inconclusive. More detailed and comprehensive studies are needed to provide information as to which type of contraception should be used by HIV-1-infected women and women at high risk of infection. Optimally, these studies should involve large numbers of subjects at high risk of HIV-1 exposure; employ randomized, controlled, and safe administration of defined doses of contraceptives; and control for other confounding factors such as genital infections. Although such studies may be financially demanding, their cost is justified by the importance of the question and the potential impact on the spread of HIV-1 epidemic. Importantly, data obtained in the nonhuman primate model strongly suggest that estrogen enhances the natural protective properties of the female genital tract tissue and decreases its susceptibility to virus transmission.

In other words, the data are conflicting, and what can be said is that progesterone-based OCPs may increase the risk and estrogen-based OCPs may decrease the risk of HIV transmission. There’s no conspiracy to hide this data, either. It is clearly an active area of investigation. Of course, if, as PRI has, you’ve already made up your mind, no further investigation is necessary.

The next example of right wing “science” makes the above nonsense look like Albert Einstein, Watson and Crick, and Louis Pasteur all rolled into one.

Oh, noes! The fetal DNA in vaccines is giving the kids teh autism!

There is a definite right wing strain in the anti-vaccine movement. True, there are plenty of stereotypical “natural” granola-crunching, hemp-wearing liberals who don’t vaccinate, there are also a lot of right wing, “health freedom” types, and there are also a bunch of normal people without strong political views who are often colleged educated and, in the arrogance of their ignorance, think that they can interpret the science better than scientists. There are also those who don’t know a lot but have become alarmed at the claims of the anti-vaccine movement and been, in essence, frightened out of vaccinating. However, as pseudoscientific and ridiculous as the anti-vaccine movement, it takes the grafting of fundamentalist religion onto anti-vaccine beliefs to produce pure IDiocy–I mean idiocy this time.

See this story on LifeNews.com entitled Study Confirms Link Between Autism and Use of Cells From Abortions in Vaccines, this story on American Life League entitled EPA Study Confirms Change Point in Autism Disorder Rate; Correlates with Aborted Fetal DNA Introduced in Vaccines, and this blog post by Jill Stanek entitled Vaccines made with fetal cells causing autism? What is causing this disturbance in the anti-abortion Force? Apparently, it’s this “study” presented in the April 2010 newsletter of the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute (SCPI). We’ve encountered SCPI and its thermonuclear burning stupid before. In brief, SCPI is an anti-abortion organization that promotes the idea that vaccines using human cell lines derived from aborted fetuses over 40 years ago is akin to having aborted those fetuses yourself and injecting their ground up remnants into your child.

Let’s see how these wingnuts confused correlation with causation in a manner so flagrant that even Generation Rescue would hesitate to use it. Indeed, Age of Autism has yet to mention this study, and that should tell you something. SCPI explains right here:

The 2010 publication from the US Environmental Protection Agency analyzed a subset of worldwide autism disorder incidence data and identified 1988 as a critical ‘change point’ in the rate of rise of autism. Our internal analysis, utilizing data from the US Department of Education, from the California Department of Developmental Services, as well as all of the data analyzed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Computational line fitting methods, called hockey-stick analysis, identify 3 clear change points in US autism disorder trends; 1981, 1988 and 1995. Prior to 1980 US autism rates were below 5 per 10,000 children and the slope of the line connecting each year was close to zero. From 1981 to 1988 the slope of the line rose to 0.7, from 1988 to 1997 the rate of rise rose to above 2.0, and by 2002 the slope of the line connecting each year had risen again to 3.5.

What happened in the US in 1980, in 1988 and in 1995 that may be associated with these points at which autism disorder incidence began to rise and then to rise more rapidly? Among suggested culprits are watching too much TV, playing too many computer games, microwave ovens, cell phones, a glut of child psychiatrists and psychologists, financial incentives to diagnose children with autism, internet communications and mercury in vaccines.

The study being examined was published by McDonald and Paul a couple of months ago in Environmental Science & Technology and can be found here. Basically, the investigators looked at the incidence of autism using three studies: (1) Honda and coinvestigators for Kohoku Ward, Yokohama, Japan; (2) Lauritsen and others for Denmark; and (3) the California Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) for California. In Denmark, Japan, and California, McDonald and Paul found what they considered to be changepoints for cumulative autism incidence in 1987 for California and Denmark and 1988 worldwide. There was no changepoint in the Japanese study; autism incidence increased continuously over the study period. Yet somehow that didn’t stop the authors from lumping all three studies together to produce an overall changepoint. In any case, it’s unclear just what this changepoint means, if anything. One interesting point that was made in the paper was that broadening of the diagnostic criteria for autism did affect the cumulative incidence in California and Denmark, but that the Japanese study used a uniform criteria set for the whole study period. Guess which study showed no changepoint? In any case, McDonald and Paul don’t even mention vaccines, much less fetal DNA.

Not satisfied, though, apparently SCPI did its own “internal analysis,” which resulted in this graph, apparently of the California data:

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The changepoints claimed by SCPI are 1980, 1988, and 1995. SCPI also claims that its changepoints were verified by McDonald and Paul but provide no evidence that this is so. There is a superscript, but it leads to nothing that I can find. No real description of how this “internal analysis” was carried out is provided, other than calling it “iterative hockey stick analysis.” If there’s one thing about iterative analyses of these types, they are prone to artifacts and false positives.

So what happened in 1980, 1988, and 1995 that caused these “changepoints,” you wonder? I think you know what the answer will be. It’s the vaccines, of course! But not just any vaccines, evil vaccines containing ground up fetal parts. Well, not ground up fetal parts, but vaccines in which cell lines derived from human fetuses over forty years ago are used to grow the vaccine viral stock. But it’s the nasty DNA, which must somehow “remember” the trauma of abortion from so long ago. Either that, or the DNA is indelibly tainted with the evil of abortion. Or so it would appear that the argument goes, because there’s really no plausible reason to postulate that incredibly tiny amounts of degraded DNA that might remain from those cells–if any remains at all–could somehow cause autism.

Of course, apparently the tainted DNA from ground-up murdered babies is so powerful in causing autism that it can do so immediately. What do I mean? Look at the graph. These changepoints correlate within a year to the changepoints. The rubella vaccine was approved in the U.S. in 1979, and the first changepoint detected was in 1980. The second dose of the MMR vaccine was added to U.S. recommendations in 1988, and in 1988 there is a changepoint. Then the chickenpox vaccine was recommended in 1995, and there was a changepoint in 1995. No delays, even though autism is usually diagnoses between the ages of 3 and 5. Particularly amusing is that the second dose of MMR is usually given between ages 4-6 years, which is after when most autism is diagnosed. Damn the power of that fetal DNA! It can go back in time to give children autism preemptively, apparently knowing that the U.S. immunization schedule would expand to include a second dose of MMR in 1988! Of course, looking at the graph I don’t find these changepoints to be particularly convincing. The authors claim they see similar “changepoints” in Denmark, the U.K., and Canada that correlate with “the introduction of human fetal DNA contaminants in childhood vaccines,” but they show no data. My guess is that the “quality” of their analysis for these countries is just as dubious and that their confusing correlation with causation just as hilariously off-base.

If you want to get a flavor for just how hysterical SCPI is, check out this passage:

Wouldn’t you want to know if the vaccines your child is receiving were produced using aborted fetal cells? Wouldn’t you want to know if the vaccines your child is receiving contain residual aborted fetal DNA? Sound Choice is working with other nonprofit organizations, with state medical societies, and with state legislators to introduce Fair Labeling and Informed Consent, requiring that parents be informed when vaccines are produced using aborted fetal cells and that they be clearly informed of alternatives available to them.

And wouldn’t you want to know if evil humors had been introduced into your vaccines? Wouldn’t you want to know if there’s formaldehyde in your baby’s vaccines? Oh, wait, there is formaldehyde in vaccines, but your baby’s body makes more formaldehyde from normal metabolism in a day than any several vaccines contain. That example aside, if you want pure intellectual dishonesty, look at this passage:

Wouldn’t you want to know whether the introduction of fetal DNA to our childhood vaccines is safe? As the FDA authors of a 2008 paper about the cancer dangers of residual human DNA state “Whether this residual cell-substrate DNA can induce tumors in vaccine recipients and thus represent a risk factor has been debated for over 50 years without resolution.” (Biologicals 2008 vol 36 pages 184-197). After 50 years of debate about the dangers of using human fetal cell lines for vaccine production, isn’t it time we did the studies to determine whether this is safe or not?

It doesn’t get more intellectually dishonest than this. The article is not about vaccines against childhood infectious diseases but rather about cancer vaccines in clinical trials as strategies for the prevention and therapy for cancer. Cancer vaccines use plasmids to make proteins, usually oncogenes, as targets for the immune system and an immune reaction. The reason, of course, is that the idea behind such vaccines is to try to get the immune system to attack proteins that drive the cancer cell’s growth. This is a very different thing from even a significant contamination with fetal DNA, if there even is measurable contamination with fetal DNA in these vaccines, but SCPI conflates the two as though they were comparable.

Either SCPI is clueless or lying. Take your pick. And idiots like Jill Stanek fall for it, hook, line, and sinker:

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the same sort of ideological culprits we see covering up the abortion-breast cancer link are also involved here.

Funny she should mention the “ABC” link. It’s so appropriate. In fact, the ideological culprits who push the ABC link based on no convincing evidence are very much like the anti-vaccine loons pushing the dreaded “fetal parts” in vaccines.

When the religious engage in denialism

The two examples above are prime examples of favorite techniques of denialism, only placed on steroids. They’re taken to an extreme, so much so that they are in essence unintentional parodies, examples of burning stupid so intense that they could melt diamonds. In the case of the claim of contraception causing an increased susceptibility to HIV/AIDS, there is a germ of truth there, but the opponents of contraception turn a reasonable potential scientific concern that progesterone-based OCPs might increase the risk of HIV transmission and progression into the complete certainty that all oral contraceptives will cause women at risk for HIV infection to contract HIV and have it rapidly progress until it kills them. Ironically enough, Jill Stanek’s mention of the abortion-breast cancer (ABC) claim was appropriate, just not in the way that she thinks it is. Proponents of the ABC claim take what may once have been somewhat reasonable concern (that abortions might increase the risk of breast cancer) but for which multiple studies have provided no evidence of support, strip it of all nuance to make the claim that if a young woman has an abortion she will almost certainly develop breast cancer that will killer, and then ignore the bulk of evidence that doesn’t support a link between abortion and breast cancer. The result is, more often than not, a conspiracy-laden rant about how physicians want to cause more breast cancer by aborting more babies.

The claims that fetal DNA in vaccines cause autism are different from ABC fear mongering in that they are not only nearly completely implausible based on science (not as implausible as homeopathy, but working on it). In fact, there is evidence of astounding intellectual dishonesty in the claim that fetal DNA in vaccines is somehow responsible for the “autism epidemic.” There is bad science there, to be sure. There is the torturing of facts and the twisting of reason into a pretzel, no doubt. But there is also the comparison of a study that has nothing to do with vaccines against infectious disease and misrepresenting it as being relevant to the claims that DNA from aborted fetuses somehow cause autism–and that’s just one example of the breathtaking intellectual dishonesty behind this claim. Truly, it’s JPANDS-worthy, and I predict that’s exactly where this will be published.

Religion is a powerful thing, as is far right wing ideology. When the two are combined, it is a logic distortion field reaches a strength that can only be likened to a field formed by a black hole of stupid, a field, which appears able to suck any last vestige of thought from otherwise intelligent people and draw it irrevocably beyond its event horizon. Fundamentalist religion leads such people either to ignore science or, unable to ignore it, to try to torture science into submission, damn the price. Who cares if HIV-positive women forego contraception? Who cares if women think that abortion somehow raises their risk of breast cancer to a near certainty? Who cares if parents stop vaccinating?

None of it matters. Only “proving” one’s ideology does. The results, sadly, are often unintentionally hilarious, although the victims aren’t laughing.

Comments

  1. #1 agashem
    April 23, 2010

    “Wouldn’t you want to know that there is aborted fetal DNA in your child’s vaccine” Why would I want to know that? I also don’t need to know what is in my computer to make it run. Boy I wish these people would stop all this nonsense.

  2. #2 Alison Cummins
    April 23, 2010

    From http://www.prb.org/pdf/ContraceptiveSafety_Eng.pdf

    (Figures are for the US/ North America)

    Lifetime risk of maternal death:
    1 in 3,700, or 27 in 100,000

    Converting this to annual risk of maternal death between the ages of 15 and 44 I get 1 in 111,000, or 0.9 in 100,000.

    Making the assumption that without hormonal contraception birthrates would double, I get a projected annual risk of 1.8 per 100,000 of maternal death throughout the reproductive years.

    Annual risk of death for oral contraceptive users:
    nonsmokers: 1 in 66,700 or 1.5 in 100,000
    heavy smokers: 1 in 1,700 or 58.8 in 100,000

    … Wait. This isn’t at all what I expected to see. When I was distributing birth control information back in the early 80s, before low-dose pills, risk of death from no contraception was something like 10-50 times as high as risk of death from any kind of contraception. I’m clearly doing it wrong. It’s not possible that five or six pregnancies and labours are as safe or safer than 30 years of low-dose contraceptives.

    Is it?

    Someone please fix!

  3. #3 Joseph
    April 23, 2010

    No real description of how this “internal analysis” was carried out is provided, other than calling it “iterative hockey stick analysis.”

    Apparently, this “hockey stick” analysis does exist, and it’s not just a reference to Michael Mann’s global warming “hockey stick.”

    Either way, I’ve looked at California DDS data and IDEA data up and down, and I don’t believe there’s any discernible “change point” in it. In fact, administrative prevalence in both data sets (in any cohort) fit a Bass Diffusion Model remarkably well, as I last argued here.

    Besides, if an environmental risk factor is abruptly introduced, you’d expect to see a “step change” (in a narrow cohort, like the 3-5 one), but there’s no such thing. A “change point” (if one actually existed) could simply be the result of a change in diagnostic criteria.

  4. #4 Paul Browne
    April 23, 2010

    Thanks for trawling through all thet merde Orac, I’d hate to have had to do so myself.

    Still if you want to see how misrepresentation, conspiracy theory and straw man construcion on an epic scale is just as alive on the far left of the political spectrum as on the far right look no further than some of the anti-vivisectionist Ray Greek’s latest efforts to attack basic research in general and animal use in it in particular http://speakingofresearch.com/2010/04/23/laying-the-foundations-of-medical-research

  5. #5 Dianne
    April 23, 2010

    Making the assumption that without hormonal contraception birthrates would double

    That’s your problem or at least a problem. A woman using no birth control has about a 70% chance of getting pregnant. One using hormonal contraception has a less than 1% chance. The difference is far more than double.

    The risk of using hormonal contraception increases dramatically with age as well so of the deaths in the 15-44 year old age range the vast majority occur in the 35-44 age group. Older women, especially smokers, might consider alternate methods of contraception. Particuarly since fertility decreases-somewhat-with age and so they’re less likely to be hyperfertile than a 20 year old. Of course, each case is individual, etc.

  6. #6 mingfrommongo
    April 23, 2010

    >1 agashem, Of course it’s important to know what’s in a vaccine. That’s the only way to know they’re safe and effective and that the anti-vaxxers are nuts. Aborted fetal DNA in vaccines has not been shown to cause any problems, and the vaccine works. Cool, sign my kids up.

    That “study” just seems like an attempt to get the anti-abortion lunatics to start killing vaccine researchers, too. Evil, just evil.

  7. #7 Denice Walter
    April 23, 2010

    Of course,more experienced woo-meisters attempt to bridge the ideological divide(and increase their customer base)by ramping up mistrust of *both* governmental agencies/regulation *and* the pharmaceutical industry,tossing in some mysticism or “spirituality” for good measure.I can see the ad now:Mikey drinking his custom blenderized,herbo-magic,organically pure,living-chloro-green,vita-mix smoothie,*free* from governmental intervention and pharma intoxication,as he regards the eternal,great hulking Pacific Ocean,saying,”Ooooo,*mysterioso*!”(with my apologies to Tom Wolfe)

  8. #8 Noadi
    April 23, 2010

    Maternal death rates directly associated to pregnancy and birth are incredibly easy to calculate because it’s very obvious when someone dies in childbirth to say that was the cause.

    However the death rate for contraceptive use is just an estimate because it’s very difficult to conclusively say that any one death is related to contraceptive use. I’m not sure how they calculated the risk but it would be unsurprising that it would be an overestimate.

    Now assuming the risk numbers are correct you have to consider the age ranges shown as well. Risk for someone under 35 (the main childbearing years) is .5 in 100,000. 35-44 it jumps up much higher. This tells me that older women should be very careful when choosing birth control and that non-hormonal methods may be best for that age range. Same for smokers, especially those over 35. However under 35 the risks from oral contraceptives is less than that of pregnancy by a good deal.

  9. #9 Pablo
    April 23, 2010

    Of course it’s important to know what’s in a vaccine. That’s the only way to know they’re safe and effective and that the anti-vaxxers are nuts. Aborted fetal DNA in vaccines has not been shown to cause any problems, and the vaccine works. Cool, sign my kids up.

    How do we know that fetal parts in vaccines don’t cause autism? Because we know that vaccines themselves don’t cause autism!

    Blaming fetal remnants in vaccines for vaccinations is assigning a cause to a non-event.

    As I described in a separate recent thread, the effects of components in the vaccine cannot be more than those of the vaccine itself. The number of cases of autism caused by ground up babies in vaccines cannot be more than those caused by the vaccine. The number of deaths caused by pig DNA in some vaccine (I know, it was pig DNA) is not larger than the number of deaths caused by the vaccine.

    There is no indication that vaccines cause autism. Thus, there is no indication that fetal remnants in vaccines cause autism.

    Even assuming there were “jumps” in 1979, 88, and 94, you can find anything that happened in all three years and they are just as likely to have caused it as babybits. Maybe there were “New and Improved Formulas” of Tide laundry detergent those years? It doesn’t matter that laundry soap is not associated with autism, that is no different from vaccines.

  10. #10 Alison Cummins
    April 23, 2010

    “The difference is far more than double.”

    Yes, the difference between conceptions per year for couples using hormonal contraception and using no contraception at all is far more than double. However, methods of non-hormonal contraception do exist, as does abortion. My Protestant grandmother’s reproductive years were between 1935 and 1965. She was married for 20 of those years and had three children. My Catholic grandmother, about the same age and and married at about the same time, had 11 children. I don’t attribute the difference to the use of hormonal contraceptives.

    You have a good point about the difference between the beginning and end of the reproductive years. So here I redo my calculations based on the assumption that all live births are to women between the ages of 15 and 35.

    *** *** ***
    Lifetime risk of maternal death:
    1 in 3,700, or 27 in 100,000

    Converting this to annual risk of maternal death between the ages of 15 and 35 I get 1 in 74,000, or 1.4 in 100,000.

    Making the assumption that without hormonal contraception birthrates would double, I get a projected annual risk of 2.8 per 100,000 of maternal death for the first 20 reproductive years.

    Annual risk of death for oral contraceptive users under 35:
    nonsmokers: 1 in 200,000 or 0.5 in 100,000
    heavy smokers: 1 in 5,300 or 18.9 in 100,000

    Which suggests that for non-smokers, five or six live births is about five or six times as dangerous as 20 years on low-dose pills — or that a single pregnancy, labour and delivery carries about the same level of risk for non-smokers as being on the pill until they are 35. Which honestly, would surprise me. I would have expected the difference to be much greater.

  11. #11 Liz Ditz
    April 23, 2010

    David Kirby weighs in See it is TOO the vaccines!

  12. #12 Greg Fish
    April 23, 2010

    Likewise, Thailand, praised for a contraceptive prevalence of 79.2% in 2000 and upwards of 70% today, is a land where, “More than one-in-100 adults in this country of 65 million people is infected with HIV.”7 Among Thai women, “Oral contraception is the most popular method.”

    You know, I bet about 80% of Thai women drink coffee. Using the logic above, I’ve just definitively proven that coffee is one of the culprits in HIV infections. Obviously, the coffee I just had is now working its way through my system is waiting for the right time to attack my immune system. I will support this with some negative finding about coffee drinking for patients of a single clinic in a country in which the use of contraception is alarmingly low, the prevalence of HIV is incredibly high, and neither factor is being taken into account to determine causality.

    I wonder, do these people train to be so blatantly dishonest and have such an utter disregard for the facts, or is it just a natural talent?

  13. #13 MikeMa
    April 23, 2010

    Greg Fish
    The same correlation/causation argument might work for other environmental effects:
    low levels of education = high levels of HIV
    high value for religion = high levels of HIV

    I’m sure with a little bit of effort both of those correlations could be made. You might even be able to split the religious theme up and correlate by sect. I’d bet that the more devout the catholic, the higher the levels of HIV. The pope and his stupid disappearing condoms trick pretty much insured that in Africa at least.

  14. #14 sheldon101
    April 23, 2010

    RE: “Oh, noes! The fetal DNA in vaccines..” .
    Age of Autism’s David Kirby posted at Huffington-Post around the time Orac did. EPA Study: Autism Boom Began in 1988, Environmental Factors Are Assumed http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/autism-vaccine-epa-study_b_548837.html

    Even though Kirby links to the full article at http://www.all.org, his article never mentions the word ‘fetal’

  15. #15 Will
    April 23, 2010

    I’d love to see you take on the anti-contraceptive crowd’s claims some more.

  16. #16 dogmatichaos
    April 23, 2010

    “a logic distortion field reaches a strength that can only be likened to a field formed by a black hole of stupid, a field, which appears able to suck any last vestige of thought from otherwise intelligent people and draw it irrevocably beyond its event horizon”

    While I appreciate the attempts you’re making at fully-encapsulating the level of stupidy being promoted, I feel as if the “wordiness” detracts slightly from your overall point. It is for this reason that I suggest you take a page from James Cameron, and use a fictional sci-fi concept equally as stupid to describe their level of stupid: a “flux-vortex of stupidity” if you will.

  17. #17 David N. Brown
    April 23, 2010

    I don’t care for the tone taken toward the Population Research Institute. Their mission statement, at least, strikes me as a well-reasoned and non-partisan argument. Forced or coerced abortions and sterilizations do happen, particularly against minority populations that are already vulnerable to abuse. “Pro-choice” and “pro-life” groups should have no trouble agreeing that such policies are unacceptable.

  18. #18 Ian
    April 23, 2010

    That’s a bit of a straw man though, David. Nobody is denying that these things are happening. The position being taken is that they are distorting statistics and facts to serve an underlying non-scientific agenda (that oral contraception causes HIV/AIDS). Whether or not they have a point in another argument is immaterial.

    For example, right now I disagree with your statement despite the fact that I usually agree with most of your postings and the articles on your site. I choose to be polite about it, but I could become entirely polemic without affecting the veracity of my position – you’d just be less likely to respond calmly if I was mean.

  19. #19 Orac
    April 23, 2010

    While I appreciate the attempts you’re making at fully-encapsulating the level of stupidy being promoted, I feel as if the “wordiness” detracts slightly from your overall point. It is for this reason that I suggest you take a page from James Cameron, and use a fictional sci-fi concept equally as stupid to describe their level of stupid: a “flux-vortex of stupidity” if you will.

    Amusing wordiness is how Orac rolls.

    Most of the time, anyway.

  20. #20 Ian
    April 23, 2010

    Also, apparently the word ‘polemic’ doesn’t mean what I want it to mean.

  21. #21 Pablo
    April 23, 2010

    I’d love to see you take on the anti-contraceptive crowd’s claims some more.

    My favorite is the “the pore size on a condom is X times bigger than HIV, so it doesn’t stop the virus from being transmitted.”

    Apparently, they’ve never blown a condom up like a balloon or seen Bachelor Party. Unless they think those big nitrogen (N2) molecules are bigger than the pores in the rubber…

  22. #22 Ian
    April 23, 2010

    The “holes” might be bigger than the virus, but that’s hardly the point. The virus doesn’t stream through on its own through the luminiferous ether, it travels in fluid. The “holes” are far too small to allow the passage of any kind of fluid.

    Or, as Pablo notes, air.

  23. #23 Joseph
    April 23, 2010

    I’ve read the EPA paper, and I now see how they did it:

    This approach uses ordered data and piecewise linear regression to split the response variable into two groups, generating a linear regression for each group. The point of intersection for these regression lines and the residual sum of squares for the two regression lines are determined. This process is repeated until an intersection point is found that minimizes the residual sum of squares value; this is the changepoint.

    So they split the X axis in two groups. The “best” split point is the one that minimizes the least square sums of the linear regression errors (or residuals) of linear fits for both group’s observations.

    Presumably, after they’ve split the data in two groups, they in turn split each group in two sub-groups, and so on.

    The way they determine if a “change point” is significant at the 95% confidence level is by comparing the confidence intervals of the slopes of each group. If they don’t overlap, it’s significant.

    This all looks like nonsense to me. Consider a cumulative incidence curve that results from awareness (word of mouth, etc.) This would look approximately like a logistic function – it would pretty much have to. If you perform a “change point analysis” on any logistic response, using the methodology described in this paper, it’s obvious that you will find “change points”, provided you have enough data points for statistical power.

    So finding “change points” like this is irrelevant to whether the cause of the rise is environmental, social or administrative. It’s also non-obvious how you interpret the value of a “change point.” It seems meaningless on the surface.

    Another weakness of the paper is that it cites Hertz-Picciotto & Delwiche (2009) as credible.

    The stuff the anti-vaxers did with the results is a different matter altogether.

  24. #24 Pablo
    April 23, 2010

    The “holes” might be bigger than the virus, but that’s hardly the point.

    The problem is, that is the “point” that the anti-contraceptive likes to make.

    The virus doesn’t stream through on its own through the luminiferous ether, it travels in fluid. The “holes” are far too small to allow the passage of any kind of fluid.

    Or, as Pablo notes, air.

    Well, I figured more people might have experience filling a condom with air (or at have seen it that way, as in Bachelor Party (what? you thought those were balloons?)) than have filled one up with water.

    But yes, you are right. Water doesn’t get through, either, despite being smaller than the pores (although water has stronger intermolecular forces, creating a more complex structure, unlike N2, which has basically nothing; Helium, btw, IS small enough to diffuse at a more significant rate)

  25. #25 JB Handley
    April 23, 2010

    Orac:

    The rise in autism and the rise in the number of vaccines given to children are highly correlated, and honest scientists concede that diagnostic substitution and improved diagnosis don’t explain the explosion in autism cases.

    Let’s just say for a moment that these changes in autism cases are real, what’s on your list (or those of your devoted readers) of possible culprits?

    For me, it’s the vaccines:

    - Number of shots went way up while autism cases skyrocketed
    - Proven to cause brain damage in SOME kids
    - Thousands of parents report changes in development after shots

    I know, I’m a simple guy, but this may also be a simple epidemic, since all epidemics are simple.

    JB Handley

  26. #26 Screechy Monkey
    April 23, 2010

    Orac, what you say in this post about the role of religion in this woo makes me wonder how you can also say things like:

    I’ve come to realize that the religion-atheism wars are irrelevant to my life. I’m interested in science and critical thinking. I don’t really care about religion one way or the other. That’s been true for a while. What’s new is that I don’t really care that much about atheism one way or the other any more.

  27. #27 Calli Arcale
    April 23, 2010

    Much as I hate to agree with the anti-contraception loonies, there is a tiny nugget of truth. Some condoms really are somewhat permeable to some viruses. These would be the ones made out of sheepskin. (Well, they call it skin, because nobody wants to think about the fact that it’s actually basically intestinal membranes, which may bring up a disturbing visual of sodomizing a sheep. Or of sausage, depending upon one’s predilections.) Sperm can’t get through, but viruses can. I’m sure the rate of HIV infection is greatly reduced by preventing semen from splashing directly into the other person, though, so a “natural” condom isn’t ineffective against STDs — it’s merely a bit *less* effective.

  28. #28 Pablo
    April 23, 2010

    Calli – is that based on empirical detection of viral transmission rates, or supposition?

    Again, as Ian notes, if it holds water, it holds viruses.

  29. #29 Joseph
    April 23, 2010

    The rise in autism and the rise in the number of vaccines given to children are highly correlated, and honest scientists concede that diagnostic substitution and improved diagnosis don’t explain the explosion in autism cases.

    Show your work, JB. Do you have a graph or something? How do you know the series are “highly correlated”?

    I’ve actually looked at data on administrative prevalence and vaccine coverage of various vaccines. While you generally see a rise in both data sets for the period with available data, the series behave quite differently.

  30. #30 Orac
    April 23, 2010

    I know, I’m a simple guy, but this may also be a simple epidemic, since all epidemics are simple.

    And the fact that you would say something as mind-bogglingly silly as “all epidemics are simple” demonstrates just what a simple (and ignorant) guy you are.

  31. #31 Ian
    April 23, 2010

    @JB Handley

    The number of rap records sold is also highly correlated with the rise in autism. So is the world’s population, and the national debt. So is the drop in popularity of Archie comics.

    These are all, by your standard of evidence, plausible explanations for the rise in autism. Of course, they are also ridiculous. If you don’t even want to pretend to understand the science, that’s one thing. But don’t then turn around and make claims that have no credible evidence supporting them.

    And I don’t know who told you that all epidemics are simple, but you should find that person and punch them in the genitals – hard.

    Any alternative explanations I might try to offer would be pure speculation. However, failure to have an alternative explanation doesn’t make your refuted explanation plausible, nor does it cancel the criticisms of your position.

    I think that, on its face, your organization is highly effective in raising awareness of autism and the effect it has not only on individuals, but families. How sad, therefore, that you cloak yourself in this insistence that vaccines must be the cause, rather than admitting the science is against you and using your influence to educate people about the evidence, not distract them with conspiracy theories and unfounded and illogical accusations.

  32. #32 Pablo
    April 23, 2010

    And the fact that you would say something as mind-bogglingly silly as “all epidemics are simple” demonstrates just what a simple (and ignorant) guy you are.

    He should go to the next epidemiology conference and say it there. They are all wasting their time!

  33. #33 JohnV
    April 23, 2010

    @Ian

    “The number of rap records sold is also highly correlated with the rise in autism. So is the world’s population, and the national debt. So is the drop in popularity of Archie comics.”

    Oh. My. God. It’s correlated with the decrease in Pink Floyd album releases. DAVE AND ROGER YOU NEED TO MAKE MORE NEW CDS BEFORE EVERYONE GETS AUTISM.

  34. #34 Prometheus
    April 23, 2010

    “…honest scientists concede that diagnostic substitution and improved diagnosis don’t explain the explosion in autism cases.”

    A scientist can be both honest and wrong.

    In addition, even if diagnostic substitution and improved diagnosis can’t explain the rise in autism prevalence, that doesn’t mean that vaccines are the only other logical cause.

    Only the simple-minded see anything about autism – or anything else in biology – as simple.

    Prometheus

  35. #35 FreeSpeaker
    April 23, 2010

    Another thing that is highly correlated with the rise in Autism is the spreading of flourescent lighting. We even have compact bulbs now.

  36. #36 Dr. T
    April 23, 2010

    “… Slightly less wacky on the scale of unreason is the unrelenting hostility towards even the hint of an idea that global warming is happening and, if it’s happening, that human activity is contributing to it….”

    Your lack of skepticism on global warming is appalling. There is no reliable evidence of a significant global warming trend, and there is no evidence of anthropogenic global warming at all.

    I was a chemist before I became a clinical pathologist, and I know about the physical chemistry of gases and liquids. Which means I know a lot about the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect (studied in sealed greenhouses kept at very warm temperatures and nearly 100% humidity at close to sea level) has never been shown to apply to the planet as a whole with its miles-thick atmosphere, variable humidity, greatly variable temperatures, variable cloud cover, large and deep oceans, and huge ice caps. Extrapolating from a greenhouse to the planet is like extrapolating from a skin cell culture to a living human.

    I read and commented on the final draft of the 2004 IPCC report. It was the shoddiest piece of “scientific” work I ever encountered. Most of the results were based on unproved (and unlikely) assumptions, incomplete or bad data, computer models that ignored reality (such as cloud formation and the effects of clouds on planetary albedo and solar warming), etc. Most of the warming trends of the late 20th century were seen in metropolitan areas: the climatologists failed to remove temperature data that was known to be corrupted by urbanization.

    There were 25 different predictive climate models in the IPCC report. Every one of them failed to meet the IPCC’s minimum standards at predicting 1991-2000 global temperatures after being trained with data from earlier in the century. The IPCC created a “meta-model” from 24 of the 25 failed models. The “meta-model” had no scientific basis at all; it was just statistical weighting applied to the original models. The IPCC got the “meta-model” to pass muster (95% of “zone” temperatures predicted within 2 degrees centigrade), but only by putting in a fudge factor that predicted polar region temperatures 6 degrees centrigrade higher than observed temperatures. Polar temperatures (especially in the southern hemisphere) are important drivers of global climate. To use a model that was known to overestimate polar temperatures was fraudulent. Of course, that flawed “meta-model” predicts melting of the ice caps, sea level increases, and coastal flooding, which is exactly the result that the IPCC, the environmentalists, and power-hungry governments desire.

    So, how about living up to your reputation as a skeptic and science-based thinker and acquiring some doubt about global warming? There are plenty of web sites with reliable information that are trying to counteract the global warming hype/hoax. (Kind of like what you are doing about woo and anti-vaccination misinformation.)

  37. #37 Sullivan
    April 23, 2010

    Mr. Handley loses me at “honest scientists”. I guess I figure the guy who wrote this piece of pseudoscience:

    http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/special_report_autism2.pdf

    In which the autism rate between France and the US is compared. The pseudo study draws the conclusion that the French have a much lower rate of autism and a lower number of vaccines which “lends credibility” to the idea that vaccines cause autism.

    He neglected to point out that the French data are for people born between 1976-85 and the US data are for kids born in 1994. For anyone with Mr. Handley’s familiarity with the situation, this can not be a simple oversight.

    This is but one example.

  38. #38 Ian
    April 23, 2010

    Plus one time I saw Global Warming adopt a kitten. If it was so bad, would it be nice to kittens? I think not!

  39. #39 Sullivan
    April 23, 2010

    “better diagnosis” is such a vague term.

    Is diagnosing children at a younger age an example of “better diagnosis”?

    Is inclusion of milder autism cases “better diagnosis”?

    http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/cceh/Epipaper1208.pdf

    How about “diagnostic accretion” where children born today are more likely to be given autism *and* mental retardation diagnoses where the same child would have had only a mental retardation diagnosis?

    How about Peter Bearman’s work?
    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/media/video/speaking-of-science/bearman.shtml

    He showed that there is an diagnostic changes from mental retardation to autism account for about 25% of the increase. 16% for changes from the other side of the spectrum (PDD-NOS and Asperger).

    Wouldn’t those classify as “better diagnosis”?

    Prof. Bearman says about 11% is from older parents (possibly that genetic epidemic everyone seems to say is impossible).

    Also, social networking seems to account for a very large part of the increase.

    They haven’t found all the reasons for the increases. But to say that “better diagnosis” isn’t valid is just either ignorant or an attempt to mislead.

  40. #40 phoenixwoman
    April 23, 2010

    Speaking of right-wing loons getting involved in the health care debate, Nevada Republican Senatorial candidate Sue Lowden — she who wants Harry Reid’s job — is a big fan of a health care system involving doctors accepting chickens as payment: http://blog.buzzflash.com/analysis/1027

    To that end, a Lowden Plan Medical Cost Calculator was created to tell prospective patients the costs, in chickens, of typical medical procedures: http://lowdenplan.com/

  41. #41 Joseph
    April 23, 2010

    There is no reliable evidence of a significant global warming trend, and there is no evidence of anthropogenic global warming at all.

    @Dr. T: Sure there is. The trend is statistically significant in the last 40 years and in the last 150 years. The “sceptic” talking point to the effect that the warming could be due to the urban heat island effect is simply false. The data has been analyzed to check if this might be a major problem, and at least one data set (GISTemp) specifically corrects for any such effect. Claims of a systematic bias have been debunked as well.

    The greenhouse effect (studied in sealed greenhouses kept at very warm temperatures and nearly 100% humidity at close to sea level) has never been shown to apply to the planet as a whole with its miles-thick atmosphere, variable humidity, greatly variable temperatures, variable cloud cover, large and deep oceans, and huge ice caps.

    Nonsense. The temperature of Earth can’t possibly be what it is without its atmosphere. Look it up.

    Most of the warming trends of the late 20th century were seen in metropolitan areas

    That’s simply false. There’s literature that covers this topic, but I can also tell you it’s false as someone who has written open source software that analyzes the GHCN v2 database (GHCN Processor) and who has looked into exactly this issue recently (last time here.) Briefly, there’s an effect if you look at really big cities, but this effect is not discernible once you combine all available stations world-wide.

    So, how about living up to your reputation as a skeptic and science-based thinker and acquiring some doubt about global warming?

    Being a skeptic is not the same as being a cynic or a doubter of all claims. Plus the scrutiny you want to apply to the scientific consensus should be applied to pseudo-skeptics, with at least the same level of enthusiasm. So why don’t you?

  42. #42 Orac
    April 23, 2010

    I wondered how long it would be for an AGW denialist to pop up in the comments here, given my offhand remark about AGW. In fact, that remark was put there on purpose to see if it would attract any AGW denialists, so that I could point out this link:

    http://www.grist.org/article/series/skeptics/

    Suffice it to say that “Dr. T” has no clue what he is talking about, as do most “climate skeptics.” For one thing, even most AGW denialists admit that the earth is warming; they just dispute whether the warming trend is due to human activity.

  43. #43 MikeMa
    April 23, 2010

    But but but CO2 is plant food!

    The denialists are getting pretty silly in the face of continued evidence for AGW. For those who persist in denial, I know a number of pacific islands for sale really cheap!

    Tuvalu is one such place.

  44. #44 Sid Offit
    April 23, 2010

    Toodaloo Tuvalu

  45. #45 Kelner
    April 23, 2010

    1980 – Reagan wins the presidential election
    1988 – Bush Snr wins the presidential election
    1995 – Neocons take over congress

    Also 1988 was the year Rainman was released. Coincidence??

  46. #46 Pablo
    April 23, 2010

    Also 1988 was the year Rainman was released. Coincidence??

    Definitely not a coincidence, definitely not. Oh-oh, 10 minutes to Wapner…

  47. #47 Randall
    April 23, 2010

    Of course the modern vaccines “remember” that they’re purified from 40-year-old fetus cells: the water has a memory! In fact, we should start using those cells to produce a fertility pill; certainly diluted aborted fetuses would reduce the rate of miscarriage, according to the “like prevents like” hypothesis. Forget rhinoceros horn or elephant tusk; my next “herbal viagra” company is going to be selling ground-up fetus, at 30C dilution of course.

  48. #48 Sid Offit
    April 23, 2010

    Also 1988 was the year Rainman was released. Coincidence??

    You’re right. All autistic have super human powers

  49. #49 David N. Brown
    April 23, 2010

    @18: “That’s a bit of a straw man though, David… The position being taken is that they are distorting statistics and facts to serve an underlying non-scientific agenda (that oral contraception causes HIV/AIDS).”

    I don’t get the impression that they are going so far as to say that. I think they could make pretty much the same point, in clearer and less controversial terms, by saying something like: People who use oral contraceptives are more likely to contract HIV. If so (and I doubt if anyone will put up much argument!), the obvious explanation is that use of “the pill” correlates with higher-risk lifestyles. This would offer a plausible point of reported fact from which discussion can proceed.

    On a broader level, I have noticed backlash against the “population control” argument, well beyond the circles of religious/ political conservatism. An especially noteworthy example is PJ O’Rourke, who has written, “Fretting about overpopulation is a perfectly guilt-free way for `progressives’ to be racist.”

  50. #50 Seb30
    April 23, 2010

    @ 46 dmabus

    Which God? Be precise, give His/Her name.

    Myself, I have a weak spot for Sun Wukong.

  51. #51 Ian
    April 23, 2010

    The studies show that hormonal contraceptives–the oral pill and Depo-Provera–increase almost all known risk factors for HIV, from upping a woman’s risk of infection, to increasing the replication of the HIV virus, to speeding the debilitating and deadly progression of the disease.

    If they’re talking about a meaningless correlation, they’re sure hiding it well.

    Also, accusing progressives of covert racism is a neat way for conservatives to distract from their overt racism. I’ve never heard any progressive call for a selective sterilization campaign against the poor. I’ve only ever seen conservatives do that.

  52. #52 phoenixwoman
    April 23, 2010

    Seb30: Looks like Orac just got Markuzed.

    From http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/plonk.php, aka PZ Myers’ Pharyngula Dungeon of Banned Trolls:

    Miscreant: David Mabus

    Crime: INSANITY

    Comments: Deeply deranged, disturbed individual who believes James Randi has cheated him out of a million dollars, and who vents by spamming websites and email with his angry tirades. Certifiable. Needs immediate mental health care. His real name is Dennis Markuze, and he lives in Montreal, Canada.

  53. #53 Calli Arcale
    April 24, 2010

    Pablo:

    Calli – is that based on empirical detection of viral transmission rates, or supposition?

    Again, as Ian notes, if it holds water, it holds viruses.

    Empirical, though it’s been a long time since I read the data. The thing is, the “lambskin” condoms are made from a substance which evolved specifically to allow nutrients to be absorbed — intestinal membranes. It should therefore come as no surprise that some things can indeed be absorbed through them, including water, without the membrane leaking like a sieve. Sperm can’t pass through; they’re too big. But small viruses can.

    It is still a vast improvement over nothing, though, and they are effective at preventing pregnancy. The main point is that latex condoms (and the more expensive synthetics) are better.

    Incidentally, a second problem with the natural condoms is that they usually don’t fit as snugly, which of course presents some more basic routes of failure, such as slippage. A condom’s no good if it falls off. Also, they smell bad. That can be a bit of a mood killer, which kind of defeats the purpose. ;-)

  54. #54 Calli Arcale
    April 24, 2010

    Ack — second sentence there was also supposed to be in the blockquotes. HTML fail.

  55. #55 F
    April 24, 2010

    36 -

    Extrapolating from a greenhouse to the planet is like extrapolating from a skin cell culture to a living human.

    This can be categorized as not even wrong. So, you think that is how the Greenhouse effect was a) recognized and, b) got it’s name? That is entirely bass-ackwards and smacks of magical thinking focused on words, Mr. Chemist.

    There is no reliable evidence of a significant global warming trend, and there is no evidence of anthropogenic global warming at all.

    It is this belief (and it is only a belief, unsupported by evidence) which is so appalling, as warming trends and the anthrogogenic component are very well supported by evidence.

    So, Mr. Chemist, you tell me, from a strictly chemical level if you like, what happens when you take a solution and add more of one of the dissolved chemicals to it. What happens when all the carbon sequestered in fossil fuels and limestone created in much warmer periods of the planet’s history are released back into the atmosphere?

    I could release a very small quantity of cyanide into your bloodstream. So small, it’s practically nothing! Would you mind? Would you care if a dog peed in your bathwater? It’s only about 0.001 of the solution. No difference, right?

  56. #56 G Barnett
    April 24, 2010

    Wowsers, that dmabus is a hoot and a half, dontcha know.

    I think I’ll double-down on this weekend, nothing happens, prophecy fail and he continues on, oblivious to the string of impotent end-of-the-world predictions that just +1′d themselves.

  57. #57 derelicthat
    April 24, 2010

    dmabus’s comment really reminds me of those monster truck rally ads.

    SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY! GET YOUR FINAL WARNING ON THIS WEEKEND WHEN JESUS H CHRIST TAKES ON ATHEINATOR IN A NO HOLDS BARRED DEMOLITION RALLY!!!!11!

  58. #58 Orac
    April 24, 2010

    The spam filters have been adjusted to account for Mabus’ new sockpuppet and his spam deleted.

  59. #59 Seb30
    April 24, 2010

    @ 52 Phoenixwoman

    I just went to Pharyngula’s dungeon (simple visit only). It was educationnal. Thanks for the tip.

    @ 57 derelicthat

    Note that in his initial post, dmabus didn’t say “Jesus” a single time. If he did in a following post, I missed it.
    It always puzzles me, whenever I meet one of those “repent and worship” guys, that they usually forget to tell you who to worship, and how. Talk about an effective way of converting the unbelievers; as if they wanted us to stay in our wrong ways and go to Hell. And I am not talking about merely choosing between Yahwe, Jesus, Mohamad or Buddah. For all I know, there are a dozen or more of christian faiths to choose from, and most of them state that choosing any of the other faiths will land you in Hell.
    I was sort of curious if he would come back with a more complete precept of faith, but I guess it was misplaced hope. Now I know his background, I see that his post was just wantom ranting.

    OK, I have to stop now derailing the thread any further.

  60. #60 Chester Burton Brown
    April 24, 2010

    “Wordiness” critic,

    Some of us come for the irreverent verbosity, and stay for the sharp logic. Orac doesn’t need style-policing.

    Yours,
    Chester Burton Brown

  61. #61 SLC
    April 24, 2010

    Re David Brown @ # 49

    Is Mr. Brown trying to claim that P. J. O’Rourke is not politically conservative?

  62. #62 Kristen
    April 24, 2010

    When the two are combined, it is a logic distortion field reaches a strength that can only be likened to a field formed by a black hole of stupid, a field, which appears able to suck any last vestige of thought from otherwise intelligent people and draw it irrevocably beyond its event horizon.

    Showed this to my husband, we laughed our asses off. I think without the “wordiness” it would be far less hilarious.

  63. #63 David N. Brown
    April 24, 2010

    Ian:
    “I’ve never heard any progressive call for a selective sterilization campaign against the poor.”
    I have. See Buck v. Bell. Also keep in mind, recent “evangelical Christian” growth has been fastest in Africa and other “non-white” areas. I think a major factor is that conservative Protestantism can complement pre-existing “traditional” elements of the culture.

    SLC:
    I’ve read about three of O’Rourke’s books (not always in full), and I don’t claim to know what his politics are. What I consider relevant to my point is that he is not an outspoken religious conservative. Another example I would give is Noel Malcom’s “Kosovo”, which includes a frank discussion of the role of differing abortion rates in the ethnic mix and resulting political situation there.

  64. #64 ckitching
    April 24, 2010

    The changepoints claimed by SCPI are 1980, 1988, and 1995

    I love how those changepoints coincide with “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” revisions:

    DSM-III (1980)
    DSM-III-R (1987)
    DSM-IV (1994)

    Of course, that couldn’t possibly be related.

  65. #65 Sauceress
    April 24, 2010

    @59 Seb30

    For all I know, there are a dozen or more of christian faiths to choose from

    More like 38,000.
    Check out Wiki.answers “How many different types of Christianity are there”? for a list.

    I’d also recomend looking over Godchecker, which currently features over 2,850 deities to choose from.
    http://www.godchecker.com/

  66. #66 Sauceress
    April 24, 2010

    #64 ckitching

    Of course, that couldn’t possibly be related.

    DSM-III-R (1987) vs. second dose of MMRII added 1988
    DSM-IV (1994) vs. chickenpox vax approved in US in 1995

    Maybe those DSM Standards people are all psychics!

  67. #67 Seb30
    April 24, 2010

    @ 65 Sauceress

    Wonderful place, this godchecker site! I love reading about ancient mythologies. And so does my sister, I just forwarded the link to her, I’m sure she will like it too.

  68. #68 maydijo
    April 25, 2010

    This is OT and I hope Orac doesn’t use his powers to bore into my brain because of it, but the commentators on this link are in need of a solid smack-down if anyone wants to take them on: http://www.news.com.au/national/flu-shot-fatality-toddler-dies-12-hours-after-having-vaccination/story-e6frfkvr-1225857872979

    All the old faves are there – vaccines make pharma companies rich, vaccines have toxics, etc. So far no mention of monkey brains and aborted fetuses, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time . . .

  69. #69 SLC
    April 25, 2010

    Re David Brown @ #63

    Mr. O’Rourke describes himself as a libertarian who holds conservative economic views. He not only is an anti-abortionist but also opposes embryonic stem cell research. Quite obviously, he does not identify with todays’ Rethuglican Party, which, given the record of deficits over the last 20 years of Rethuglican administrations, hardly qualifies as a conservative party.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._J._O%27Rourke

  70. #70 stripey_cat
    April 25, 2010

    I suppose it makes sense that the mini-pill may have a bad effect on your immune system. However, I’d like to compare the effect of pregnancies on the progression of HIV! (Yes, I’m aware they were comparing with IUDs, but they require a more skilled practitioner than someone with a list of contraindications.)

    As for the despicable PRI lot – of course they’re concerned about the rights of the poor, oppressed people. It’s nothing to do with an ideological belief that women should be pregnant, dammit! All the evidence of improved family and child welfare, improved education levels and economic outcomes, when women have access to good family planning is part of an evil liberal conspiracy to stop people having babies.

  71. #71 David N. Brown
    April 25, 2010

    @70:
    I wouldn’t make a statement like that without knowing a LOT more about PRI. I’m a seminary student, and also read plenty of Christian media, and I am very skeptical. In my experience, resistance to contraceptives, in and of itself, is nonexistent within “evangelical” circles. Controversy centers specifically on use by teens and/or the unmarried. The only quarter where opposition to all forms and uses of birth control is likely to be encountered is among VERY hardline Catholics.

  72. #72 Calli Arcale
    April 25, 2010

    Hardline Catholics and also certain evangelical groups. I’m not just talking about the disturbingly large polygamous families in the FLDS, but mostly about groups like the Quiverfull people. According to Wikipedia (so no idea how accurate or recent this is), there are a few thousand adherents worldwide. They actively seek to have lots of babies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiverfull

  73. #73 Neil Craig
    April 26, 2010

    “If there’s one thing that has irritated me (one might even say, irritated me enough to start this blog), it’s ideology or religion trumping science.”

    Ah that would explain all the posts about the need for global warming scepticism. And scepticism about the alleged deadly effect of passive smoking. Or the criticism of the open fraud by the “discoverer2 of the “HIV-AIDS link”. Or the criticism of the adopting of the nuclear LNT theory when there is absolutely no scientific evidence for it & a massive amount for hormesis. Or of the “scientists” who started the breast enhancement scare. Or of “peak oil” claimants who can’t do simple arithmetic.

    Or perhaps not?

    Perhaps what you mean by opposing ideology or religion in science is that what you actually want is to limit “science” to being idealogically & religiously aligned with big state fascist scaremongers?

    Or am I wrong?

  74. #74 Calli Arcale
    April 26, 2010

    Yes, you are wrong. Orac is specifically talking about using religion (i.e. codified supernatural belief systems) to overrule whatever science says.

    There are legitimate reasons to ask questions about global warming, secondhand smoke, etc. Because one wants people to behave a certain way is not one of them. The people he describes speaking against contraception, for instance, are using what they represent as science in order to try to dissuade people from using birth control. But what they’re using isn’t science; it’s lies and half-truths dressed up with sciency language, and they’re hoping nobody notices. That’s what Orac is objecting to, and rightly so.

    All topics are open to skepticism. All topics are open to debate. But if one side in a debate lies or misrepresents science in order to conceal their religious motives, it is the responsibility of skeptics to point this out. I would hope you would agree with this responsibility, regardless of your opinions on things like global warming.

  75. #75 squirrelelite
    April 26, 2010

    I agree with your response, Calli.

    I was curious what the nuclear LNT theory was because I didn’t remember that particular acronym and didn’t think it was a mistyping of the nuclear TTB treaty. So, I did a little digging and will clarify (nuclear, not butter).

    A longstanding problem in setting standards for radiation protection is determining just how dangerous repeated low doses are. Most of our data are on lethal and serious non-lethal effects are from brief high dose exposures. But, what everyone on earth experiences is a chronic low dose from space, the environment and their own bodies.

    Because we live successfully with these low doses (although there are probably some negative effects mixed in with all the other long term negative effects of life), there is reason to think that there may be some threshold below which nuclear radiation is less dangerous because the body can repair the damage. Whether there is actual hormesis (a positive effect) is more dubious.

    But, some people argued that low doses were more dangerous. So the LNT hypothesis was adopted not so much as testable science (the required tests would be grossly unethical) but as a practical and political compromise.

    As Wikipedia notes:

    “Consensus reports by the United States National Research Council and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) have upheld that insufficient human data on radiation hormesis exists to supplant the Linear no-threshold model (LNT). Therefore, the LNT continues to be the model generally used by regulatory agencies for human radiation exposure.”

    Here are a couple of useful explanations:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis

    http://depletedcranium.com/on-lnt-and-nuclear-energy/

  76. #76 Kemist
    April 26, 2010

    I suppose it makes sense that the mini-pill may have a bad effect on your immune system. However, I’d like to compare the effect of pregnancies on the progression of HIV!

    Indeed, especially as pregnancy causes increases in hormone secretion that are a 100-fold as high as that which is present in contraceptives. Besides there are other risks than simple death from labor associated with pregnancy – as any woman with MS, Graves disease, and thousand other pregnancy complications can tell you.

    Hormones are hormones, whether they are produced by your body or not. Cells don’t give a damn where they come from.

  77. #77 Vicki
    April 26, 2010

    Calli–

    Well put.

    The obvious question I would ask, if the correlation is real (rather than from cherry-picking the “right” subsets of world data) is, to what extent is this because most people use at most one form of contraception? Someone who is on the pill may be less likely to use condoms. If she’s in a socially or otherwise subordinate position in her relationship(s), it may be hard for her to convince her male partner(s) to use condoms. And the man may use “but you’re on the pill, are you accusing me of cheating on you?” as part of the argument against condoms.

  78. #78 Calli Arcale
    April 26, 2010

    That is a very good point. And indeed, I suspect few women use both the pill and condoms. (I do know people who have indeed used multiple forms of contraception; the word “paranoid” springs to mind, which means even I am prone to thinking it’s overkill when in fact it may be quite reasonable.)

    The issue of birth control in a relationship is complex, and this is because *we* are complex, emotionally speaking. I’m talking about humans, not just women. A great deal is always left unsaid — in fact, this is part of the thrill oftentimes. That intimacy that goes beyond words. But when you are communicating beyond words, every thing you do can be interpreted as a message. Why is she asking me to put on a condom? Why is he asking whether or not I remembered to take my pill? Don’t we trust each other? And that’s in a fairly healthy relationship. If someone actually is cheating, or if one is abusing the other (could be either one), then asking to use birth control or STD prevention can be risky.

  79. #79 David N. Brown
    April 26, 2010

    Calli,
    Very interesting points. A couple interesting reports I have read: First, studies of Americans indicate that “mixed-age” couples are more likely not to use contraceptives at all. (The explanation was that at certain ages, “women start and men stop”.) Second, studies in Africa indicate that the highest risk individuals are a man and multiple “steady” partners.

    Also, going back to religious issues, large families are valued in “traditional” societies, regardless of particulars of religion. This will make people less receptive to contraception, but does not necessarily lead to unconditional rejection. Catholicism throws a fairly distinctive complication: Their historically established teaching is that sex even within marriage is a “necessary evil” for the purpose of procreation. Thus, their doctrine has been that people who can’t or don’t want to have children shouldn’t have sex at all.

  80. #80 Raging Bee
    April 26, 2010

    Well, I guess JB Handley has already run away from his own words, so it’s probably useless to question him here…but I’m gonna do it anyway…

    - Number of shots went way up while autism cases skyrocketed

    And did autism cases stop skyrocketing in places where large populations starting refusing vaccinations?

    - Proven to cause brain damage in SOME kids

    How many, out of how many vaccinated?

    - Thousands of parents report changes in development after shots

    Yeah, the kids kept on growing into adults.

    Handley’s comment here is so transparently stupid I’m thinking he’s running out of steam, and possibly giving up. To me, that’s good news.

  81. #81 Val
    April 27, 2010

    For vaccines, certainty in safety might be better described as validated safe via current mechanisms available for said validation. Sometimes, as in the case of detecting porcine circovirus dna in rotovirus vaccine, finding the flaw is a happy (or unhappy) accident.

    There is a huge world of viruses to test, notwithstanding undiscovered viruses or mutant viral genomes. There is a bit of history with regard to dna tainting vaccines, as with SV40 and the polio vaccine.

    Any scientist knows that there will always be uncertainty and we can only do the best we can. Uhem, I am not a scientist, just a brain picker of smarter people.

    Because we don’t know about certain viruses could it be that we actually transmit them first through vaccines or blood transfusions?

    What follows is not a hand holding drama moment. When I recently came across the information about aborted baby DNA being in the immunizations it was an eye opener. As a parent who is not a scientist I never even asked the question about how immunizations are made. Now I have to play catch up and try to understand it a little better. I find that cell lines for some immunizations were developed from the lung tissue or other parts of about three month gestation babies, or fetus for those of you who need to think of it as a not ever going to be a viable life. I am sure the only thing on the scientist mind was how to get the DNA while it still had enough life in it, as even after a minute the DNA is degraded to about 96 percent.

    How did they preserve the DNA in order to utilize it for the vaccinations? Why did it become important to utilize human instead of animal? Was there a better way to get the DNA, or was it a no brainer because the baby or fetus was going to be taken out anyway? Couldn’t they have gotten the DNA from another source.

    Go ahead and keep on with the name calling. I have as much of a right to find abortion to be a choice that I should never make, as you have a right and a free will to see it as agreeable. Check and see if I have called you anything – but worthy of a conversation about this topic due to your knowledge base. Do you desire to have meaningful back and forth with people who only desire to come across information helpful for determination of right and wrong an issue.

    For me, I feel as if utilization of DNA from babies (or fetus) was worth mentioning.

    What is wrong with looking into the issue with regard to the cell lines and if they may have contributed to some forms of autism. My own daughter seems to have the regressive symptoms in autism when she was diagnosed at three, but progressed quite well even with her severe autism label, until she worsened at ten years old to severe psychosis that looked like schizophrenia. At that time we weren’t sure if she was experiencing some regressive illness. At 17 she is doing much better. I tend to think her autism is a result of familial genetics and not immunizations, only because I see a dash of the autism in my other two…not worth diagnosing in them.

    The fact that I see it as part of my DNA got me to thinking. If DNA had been used from me, in order to develop vaccinations, would the DNA had carried the possibility for autism in those who received the vaccination?

    For the first part of this post I pretty much stole thoughtful online conversation from a virology site. It is http://www.virology.ws/2010/03/22/porcine-circovirus-dna-in-rotovirus-vaccine/…because I read these things to try and understand it all.

  82. #82 Neil Craig
    April 28, 2010

    Calti your claim that this thread is purely about religious use of scientific fraud to support abortion is, of course, wholly untrue as anybody looking at the heading & seeing the mention of vaccines & AIDS but not abortion can see.

    In any case warming alarmism has been defended by the British courts as a religion entitled to religious protection.

    It seems undisputed that LNT is not only wholly devoid of any scientific evidence but that there is a vast amount of evidence, from widely differentiated sources, showing that the opposite is true – that low level radiation is beneficial. Consequently anybody unwilling to denounce those “loons” using it for what they are can never have any claim to be a supporter of scientific truth.

    So once again my suggestion is wholly proven. Far from upholding science this site is once again hypocritically pretending that “right wing loons” are a serious threat to science when in fact it is overwhelmingly “left wing” fraudsters employed by the state to produce false scare stories in the fascist cause who are the problem.

  83. #83 Calli Arcale
    April 28, 2010

    Neil, reread my post. I realize it’s a ways up now, so I ‘ll repeat it. It did not even mention abortion, though it did use contraception as an example of the sort of thing Orac’s talking about.

    You said:

    “If there’s one thing that has irritated me (one might even say, irritated me enough to start this blog), it’s ideology or religion trumping science.”

    Ah that would explain all the posts about the need for global warming scepticism. And scepticism about the alleged deadly effect of passive smoking. Or the criticism of the open fraud by the “discoverer2 of the “HIV-AIDS link”. Or the criticism of the adopting of the nuclear LNT theory when there is absolutely no scientific evidence for it & a massive amount for hormesis. Or of the “scientists” who started the breast enhancement scare. Or of “peak oil” claimants who can’t do simple arithmetic.

    Or perhaps not?

    Perhaps what you mean by opposing ideology or religion in science is that what you actually want is to limit “science” to being idealogically & religiously aligned with big state fascist scaremongers?

    Or am I wrong?

    And I replied:

    Yes, you are wrong. Orac is specifically talking about using religion (i.e. codified supernatural belief systems) to overrule whatever science says.

    There are legitimate reasons to ask questions about global warming, secondhand smoke, etc. Because one wants people to behave a certain way is not one of them. The people he describes speaking against contraception, for instance, are using what they represent as science in order to try to dissuade people from using birth control. But what they’re using isn’t science; it’s lies and half-truths dressed up with sciency language, and they’re hoping nobody notices. That’s what Orac is objecting to, and rightly so.

    All topics are open to skepticism. All topics are open to debate. But if one side in a debate lies or misrepresents science in order to conceal their religious motives, it is the responsibility of skeptics to point this out. I would hope you would agree with this responsibility, regardless of your opinions on things like global warming.

    There. Hopefully that clears things up.

  84. #84 Neil Craig
    April 30, 2010

    As, for example Jones, Mann, Gore etc etc etc have lied & misrepresented science to promote their eco fascist ideology (or in some cases for money given to them by politicians with the eco-fascist ideology) then if the intro you quoted is truthful this is the thing that most annots the author & denouncing it is the purpose of the blog.

    But there are no denunciations of the warming fraids, the LNT lies, the breast enhancment scam, the AIDS fraud etc etc which all happen to be supported by state fascist “left wing” loons.

    Clearly the motivation cannot be as stated. The objective cannot be scientific truth – it is to have more government enforced “truth” irrespective.

  85. #85 MartinM
    April 30, 2010

    As, for example Jones, Mann, Gore etc etc etc have lied & misrepresented science to promote their eco fascist ideology

    Slander. Prove or retract.

  86. #86 Beppo
    April 30, 2010

    “But yes, you are right. Water doesn’t get through, either, despite being smaller than the pores (although water has stronger intermolecular forces, creating a more complex structure, unlike N2, which has basically nothing; Helium, btw, IS small enough to diffuse at a more significant rate)”

    pardon my ignorance, but what’s the mechanism at work here? I know little to nothing about fluids in microstructures. Thanks!

  87. #87 Neil Craig
    May 1, 2010

    MartinM you know perfectly well it has been proven repeatedly not least in the court decision on Gore’s film.

    Obviously applying that standard requires that you, unless a wholly dishonest lying hypocrit, have repeatedly called on the author of this site to apologise prove everything said here or retract it. Not least “tendency of the right wing whackosphere to do everything and anything it can to distort and twist science to agree with its ideology” claimed above. Doubtless if you are not a ciorrupt piece of scum you will be able to point to where you have demanded legal & psychiatric certification of “right wing” bloggers.

    After all if you hadn’t you would just be proving the point I have made about eco-fascists merely hiding behind false claims to scientific impartiality.

    I look forward to retraction or evidence – or alternately to every honest person here denouncing you as a hypocrite :-)

  88. #88 Becky
    May 1, 2010

    “Their historically established teaching is that sex even within marriage is a “necessary evil” for the purpose of procreation. Thus, their doctrine has been that people who can’t or don’t want to have children shouldn’t have sex at all.”

    This isn’t correct. Yes, traditionally Catholic teaching definitely had an anti-sex bias, but there were only a very, very few outliers who thought it was wrong for a married couple to have sex when procreation was impossible. The traditional understanding was that sex was justified by procreation, avoiding conscupisence, and “fulfilling the marital debt.” Still really negative, but someone who was sterile, pregnant, or postmenopausal could still have sex with their spouse.

    I will point out that official teaching now has changed considerably — marital sex is now viewed as a good in itself as it deepens the union between husband and wife. There were a very few hints of this idea earlier in Church history, such as in the sermons of St. John Chrysostom on marriage, but it definitely was not the established consensus. I don’t think most conservative Catholics are actually aware of just how much the Church’s current official position differs from the historical view.

  89. #89 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 1, 2010

    The fact that I see it as part of my DNA got me to thinking. If DNA had been used from me, in order to develop vaccinations, would the DNA had carried the possibility for autism in those who received the vaccination?

    I think you’re getting somewhat confused here. You’re writing as if a) any DNA of the culture medium automatically becomes an inextricable part of the vaccine or other substance cultured in it, and b) if any DNA is present in the vaccine, there is inherent danger to any recipient of the vaccine of developing the characteristics of the organism the DNA codes for.

    Let’s talk about the second point for a second. If this premise was true, where else would we face the exact same danger? Well, any time we’re coming in contact with the DNA of anything besides ourselves. Every time you eat almost any food, you’re eating the DNA of other animals and plants — I’d be surprised if even honey didn’t have in it any of the DNA of the bees that made it.

    Consider, too, that if it really was that easy for people to acquire the genes from others simply by taking in their DNA, the effect would have been employed for positive effect long before now. There are thousands of people out there who suffer from debilitating conditions where, because of a bad gene, their bodies do not produce some substance vital to their continued health. Why don’t we just simply collect DNA from people who have good copies of those genes and inject it into people with the bad genes? If it was really that easy to acquire new characteristics simply by taking in DNA from people with those characteristics, then gene therapy would be a nearly effortless undertaking.

    Is there any sign of these things being so? Of people showing chicken-like characteristics just because they eat chicken? Of any of the many diseases caused by single-gene defects virtually disappearing because curing it is as easy as injecting non-defective copies of the gene? I think the answer is pretty clearly no.

  90. #90 MartinM
    May 2, 2010

    MartinM you know perfectly well it has been proven repeatedly not least in the court decision on Gore’s film.

    Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’ve got nothing. Try again when you’re capable of making a coherent argument in support of your position.

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