Respectful Insolence

It’s finally here! The long expected episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, in which the boys take on the anti-vaccine movement in their usual inimitable fashion, will premiere tonight on Showtime at 10 PM. It’s even the eighth season finale, which is appropriate. If there’s a form of “bullshit” other than the irrationality that is the anti-vaccine movment that represents a threat to public health more profound, I have a hard time thinking of it, and it’s hard to believe that Penn and Teller did nearly eight seasons of their show without taking it on.

Here’s a preview:

Unfortunately, anyone who’s read this blog regularly will recognize much of the stuff that Carl (the guy in the clip) says as typical anti-vaccine fare: that doctors are only in it for the money and keep us sick on purpose to make money (through vaccines, among other things, of course), that the pharmaceutical companies control everything, etc. My favorite line, of course, is “Thank God for the Internet.” I can see why cranks would say that and have no doubt that Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, Jake Crosby, Kim Stagliano, Barbara Fisher, Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill, and the rest of the anti-vaccine crew we’ve come to know but not love here probably get down on their knees each and every morning before they start spewing their misinformation and thank God for the Internet. No doubt after they see this episode the anti-vaccine movement will howl that they aren’t that irrational, but, you know what? They are. They really are. They may be smart. They may even be rational in most areas of their lives. But when it comes to vaccines…it’s all too often sheer craziness.

Unfortunately, I don’t have Showtime as part of my cable package. (It seems as though I have every premium channel but Showtime. And Cinemax, too, I guess.) I’m actually half tempted to call the cable company and add Showtime for the month just to see this episode, but I’ll probably restrain myself. I’ll see the show eventually, either through some site that streams it or, if I have to, I might even resort to BitTorrent, although I hate to do that for anything other than non-U.S. shows (like Mitchell and Webb, for instance) that I can’t get any other way or have to wait months or years before they make it to our shores.

In the meantime feel free to come back to this post after tonight’s airing and let me know how well (or badly) Penn and Teller handled the issue.

Comments

  1. #1 seborgarsen
    August 12, 2010

    I hope this will be streamable somewhere in Europe, thank god for the internet.

  2. #2 Todd W.
    August 12, 2010

    I, likewise, do not have Showtime, alas and alack! Also hope it streams somewhere I can watch it.

  3. #3 Jeremy L
    August 12, 2010

    “You got that on the internet, it must be a conspiracy theory.”

    “No. It’s just knowledge.”

    I also love it when people don’t see the problem when they say, “I don’t care what anyone says, this is what I believe.”

    I don’t care what anyone says, my femur is the horn of a unicorn.

    This is going to be gold.

  4. #4 Rene Najera
    August 12, 2010

    I can see why cranks would say that and have no doubt that Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, Jake Crosby, Kim Stagliano, Barbara Fisher, Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill, and the rest of the anti-vaccine crew we’ve come to know but not love here probably get down on their knees each and every morning before they start spewing their misinformation and thank God for the Internet.

    They more than likely don’t. The sense I get from a lot of their “personal” writings is that they’re very angry at God for allowing autism to “steal” their children. (While the autistic child is in the background, waving, saying, “Hey, I’m right here, Mom!”) Seriously, they go through all the stages of grief once they know their child is autistic… And that’s worrying for so many reasons.

  5. #5 Pablo
    August 12, 2010

    While all indications are that P&T aren’t going to go kindly on the anti-vaxxers, I don’t expect much for this program. Granted, it was taped before Wakefield got struck off, but Penn did a brief promo piece for it, after Wakefield had been struck off, and it wasn’t very good. All he kept saying was that Wakefield “was NOT a doctor” over and over again.

    The fact that they are siding with the establishment on this one is good, and certainly out of character, but I sure hope their analysis goes deeper. I don’t count it, though

  6. #6 dean
    August 12, 2010

    I heard Penn interviewed about this show on a local radio station. At one point he said “Clearly some people have been more willing to listen to a former playboy bunny and her big knockers talk about this than they are the scientists’ explanations. We’ve decided that to reach these people we need to get a former playboy bunny with BIGGER knockers to explain why the anti-vaccers are crazy.”

    I don’t know whether that was hoopla or not, but it is an amusing take on the problem.
    I’m a little more optimistic than Pablo about how this show will turn out: Penn also said that one of the show’s producers has an issue with the anti-science folks – I really don’t remember whether the producer does or does not have an autistic child – and they had worked very hard to get the science part across.

  7. #7 MikeMa
    August 12, 2010

    I pay for HBO but periodically get Cinemax and Showtime seemingly at the whim of my cable company. I will try to see if I can watch this, and like others, hope for the best.

  8. #8 Pablo
    August 12, 2010

    Dean, I hope you are right and I am wrong.

  9. #9 Calli Arcale
    August 12, 2010

    Rene Najara — I’m not sure it’s disturbing simply that a person goes through the stages of grief upon learning their child is disabled. It’s actually quite a normal thing to do if you’ve just learned that your life is going to be changing quite dramatically. I have a friend whose child was severely disabled by trauma; he grieves for that.

    Don’t suggest there’s something wrong with grieving the future your child will not have or the future *you* will not have, because then you shame almost everyone whose child is disabled, because it implies they’re screwed up if they can’t immediately accept this new reality.

    It’s not the grief that’s disturbing. It’s the refusal to complete the grieving process and get on with things that’s disturbing. Many of the autism anti-vax militia are stuck in one of the stages of grief, unable or even unwilling to go on. Many actively avoid reaching the “acceptance” stage, and will denigrate people who have. “I will never accept this for my child!” they will scream, as if coming to terms with their child being autistic is some sort of surrender or betrayal.

  10. #10 Pablo
    August 12, 2010

    As to the linked video…

    Does anyone else find it odd/strange/bizarre/fascinating that so many of these whackos have the attitude, “We are all being duped. There are distractions, distractions, distractions, meant to hide our eyes from the TRUTH”?

    But it’s not really that. It’s “YOU are all being duped. _I_ am the only one who REALLY gets it. I don’t fall for the distractions, and I can see through their lies. You are deluded fools, I am the smart one.”

    How much of the whackaloon results from the attitude of, “I’m smarter than everyone else because I can see through the lies”?

  11. #11 Rene Najera
    August 12, 2010

    @Calli
    My apologies. It seems I was not clear in the message, and that is something inherent in writing. The tone and inflection were off.
    At any rate, my disturbance comes from parents writing off their children altogether, as if the child had truly died. Those parents go through all the stages, and then they’re still angry that the child is “gone”. The child doesn’t get loved under the excuse of “what for?” The child is not taken places, staying home all day. The child is not even talked to and acknowledged to be a sentient being. That’s what upsets me.
    Again, I apologize if I wrote something to upset you. I hope this clarifies it.

  12. #12 dean
    August 12, 2010

    “I hope you are right and I am wrong.”

    I agree. It will be interesting.

  13. #13 Denice Walter
    August 12, 2010

    Perhaps the “literary” efforts ( blogs, books, op-ed tirades, comments ) of the anti-vax *parents* might be a misguided attempt at self-therapy : first establishing the nature of the problem then discovering feasible solutions. However, as is often the case, the results are only as functional as the therapist( in this case: not very) and are directed at the *wrong* subject. If you think about it, these parents probably spend a great deal of time *talking* and *writing* about autism and seeking out like-minded parents for discussions and fund-raising as well as “providers” who can effect a “cure” _and_ often spend a great deal of money on woo-begone, often dangerous products and procedures: this probably amounts to *less* time interacting with their child and *less* money for effective therapy (or for enjoyable recreation for parent and child).If I should diagnose myself and attribute my headache to faeries’ spells, I won’t be driving to the store for acetaminophen anytime soon.

  14. #14 Calli Arcale
    August 12, 2010

    I’m sorry, Rene, I didn’t mean to give the impression I was angry. I’m not. I just have a different opinion; I don’t think it’s really that they’ve completed grief as if the child is dead but rather than they are stuck in an early stage of grief.

    I’m also not sure it’s true that these people act as if the child is dead. They don’t believe the child is dead or a changeling; they deeply love the child. (The ones who act as if their child is dead are the ones who are arrested for murdering or abandoning the child.) The problem is that they are not through the stages of grief. You say they’re still angry that the child they wanted is gone — well, that alone is evidence they really have not gone through all the stages. They’re trapped in the anger phase.

    It’s very difficult for parents of a disabled child to work through their grief because of the problem of the child seeing the grief and taking it personally. It’d be very hard not to. “I’ve ruined their lives by being this way. This is my fault. They can’t love me when I’ve hurt them so much.” So parents of disabled children must walk a very difficult tightrope. You can’t keep a stiff upper lip all the time and remain sane, but at the same time, you need to stay strong for the child, and never let them doubt your love for them.

    That, I think, is where people often go wrong. They involve the child in their grief for what the child has lost. It’s understandable, but if you do that, then it becomes about your pain first of all, not the child’s pain or even the child’s actual *life*. I’ve seen too many videos of these people talking about it all right in front of the child, without regard for the child’s feelings, and that’s a big mistake. There’s a reason why educators prefer to have conferences without young children present; it’s because it’s not right to talk about them in front of them. But a lot of parents forget that, and not just parents of disabled children. There is a certain vogue these days to involve your children in absolutely everything which I think may be to blame. While on some levels that’s laudable, on others it is not. Our children are neither our peers nor our pets.

  15. #15 Andrew S.
    August 12, 2010

    @dean

    I heard Penn interviewed about this show on a local radio station. At one point he said “Clearly some people have been more willing to listen to a former playboy bunny and her big knockers talk about this than they are the scientists’ explanations. We’ve decided that to reach these people we need to get a former playboy bunny with BIGGER knockers to explain why the anti-vaccers are crazy.”

    I don’t know whether that was hoopla or not, but it is an amusing take on the problem.

    If watching this show for years has taught me anything, that’s no hoopla. They find a way to interject breasts into every episode (even if you wouldn’t think it would otherwise fit).

    I’m a little more optimistic than Pablo about how this show will turn out: Penn also said that one of the show’s producers has an issue with the anti-science folks – I really don’t remember whether the producer does or does not have an autistic child – and they had worked very hard to get the science part across.

    They generally do a good job with their subjects. I don’t think this will be any different. They’ll get the right message across, and they’ll get the science correct.

  16. #16 Calli Arcale
    August 12, 2010

    Pablo @ 10:

    How much of the whackaloon results from the attitude of, “I’m smarter than everyone else because I can see through the lies”?

    I think it’s a very large part of it. Everybody likes to feel smarter than other people, whether they admit it or not. Most people don’t want to be the *smartest* (it’s comforting to know somebody smarter is in charge) but we’d all like to think of ourselves as being above average. We all want to live in Lake Woebegone, so to speak.

    It’s also why an “emperor’s new clothes” affect protects the duped from realizing that they’ve been duped.

  17. #17 Pablo
    August 12, 2010

    Agreed, Calli, but I tell you, the smugness of it is really annoying.

  18. #18 Rogue Medic
    August 12, 2010

    Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong. – H.L. Mencken.

    He could have been describing the current conspiracy theorists, except for the part about the solution being well-known. They seem to believe that they have, through their special abilities, come across a solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and perfect wrong.

    I think that this is one of the reasons that so much snake oil is sold as a panacea – a panacea being a solution to every human problem.
    .

  19. #19 Scote
    August 12, 2010

    Sounds like it should be a good show, at least on the science side. However, Penn and Teller are staunch Libertarians, a position which clearly influences their show, so I don’t take it as assumed that they are for government mandated vaccines even if they are safe and efficacious.

  20. #20 Todd W.
    August 12, 2010

    @Scote

    Actually, in Penn’s follow-up mentioned by Pablo, he states pretty unequivocally that he is in favor of “The Man’s” stance on vaccines. Given his staunch libertarian leanings, that kinda says something.

  21. #21 Jojo
    August 12, 2010

    I thought they pretty much debunked the stages of grief in 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology.

  22. #22 Pablo
    August 12, 2010

    Todd is right (#20). In fact, in his follow-up, Penn makes a big deal out of the fact that this is an unusual situation because they are usually anti-establishment, but in this case, they are siding with the Man

  23. #23 walt
    August 12, 2010

    Regarding stages of grief: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s groundbreaking work centered on observations of people living with their own terminal illness. What some who is dying goes through is now generally regarded as different than what someone who has experienced loss feels.

    People seem to be unable to distinguish between the two situations, which baffles the shit out a lot of people who work in counselling/grief circles.

  24. #24 DLC
    August 12, 2010

    Yes, the antivaxers have the same attitude as any other conspiracy nut. They Want to Believe. not in reality, or in a reality-based, science-based system of thinking, but in what their wish fulfillment centers tell them Must be right.
    If nothing else, at least Television’s The X-Files
    gave us a couple of characters to point at as examples.
    See any of the episodes with “The Lone Gunmen”.

  25. #25 Travis
    August 12, 2010

    As a former UFO/Paranormal nut I agree with DLC. The thinking transfers really well to these people, it is just transferred to a different topic. Though I would not be surprised if many of these people are also UFO conspiracy people. Actually, does anyone know of any of the well know anti-vax people have ever talked about this?

  26. #26 RJ
    August 12, 2010

    “The sense I get from a lot of their “personal” writings is that they’re very angry at God for allowing autism to “steal” their children. ”

    So true! Angry at God. Angry at anyone else that inflicted this situation upon them.

    Only the biggest of narcissists would feel that way. (And, of course, there is no self-realization mechanism present in a narcissist to recognize this)

    Funny, AoA isn’t advertising a program on vaccines on P&T tonight. Oh, that’s right. They’re all about autism over there. (I love the posting the other day that autism shouldn’t be considered a psychiatric condition anymore, but rather an immunological/gastrointestinal disorder. Hey, thanks for the medical advice from a bunch of internet bloggers!

  27. #27 Sid Offit
    August 12, 2010

    I’ll wait to hear what Teller has to say before I make up my mind

  28. #28 René Najera
    August 12, 2010

    Troll… I mean, Sid, we all know where you stand. You’re not going to change your mind. You believe in vaccines and all the public good they can do, but you relish in trolling around for responses. Here, you have your response/treat, now go away. (Which you’re not, because I just fed you, and, like all good pets, you’ll stick around for more.)

  29. #29 Gingerbaker
    August 12, 2010

    Dweeb in video:

    “Follow the money, follow the money…”

    Follow the money?? The doc charges $15.00 for a vaccine that eliminates the need for $100,000 in hospital, doctor and pharmaceutical treatment charges and we’re supposed to follow the money?

    No wonder the maroon is easily distracted my a musical awards show.

  30. #30 Pablo
    August 12, 2010

    Follow the money?? The doc charges $15.00 for a vaccine that eliminates the need for $100,000 in hospital, doctor and pharmaceutical treatment charges and we’re supposed to follow the money?

    But see, the key is that doctors are all banding together as part of a conspiracy to boost the profits of the pharmaceutical companies. Sure, that $15 doesn’t sound like much, but if the pharmaceutical companies can get 100 000 doctors to act in concert, that makes them $1.5 mil. At that point, your $100K sounds pretty paltry, doesn’t it? Bwahahahahaha!

    Given that all it takes for them to get the doctors on their side is to offer them some free pens and notepads and the occasional free dinner that the doctors love to go to during their precious free time off of work, how can Big Pharma go wrong? It’s all too easy…

  31. #31 Todd W.
    August 12, 2010

    @Pablo

    Given that all it takes for them to get the doctors on their side is to offer them some free pens and notepads and the occasional free dinner that the doctors love to go to during their precious free time off of work, how can Big Pharma go wrong? It’s all too easy…

    Except when the hospital bans all industry gifts to doctors…

  32. #32 TBnSuch
    August 12, 2010

    Pablo (@30)

    Free pens and notepads? How about the large amount of published work on the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing disease?

    Data on the cost effectiveness of vaccination is readily available. Here is one example from a mumps outbreak; http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/16/3/426.htm . Sure, big pharma makes money off of vaccines, but treatment of the disease (not to mention patient outcomes) are much better off with them. An ounce of prevention…

  33. #33 Roger
    August 12, 2010

    RJ@#26
    You are forgetting there some of those who have an autism diagnosis,but who have it as part of a more complicated genetic syndrome.These often doinclude some sort of inborn immune and gastrointestinal disease,especially if there is inborn metabolic disease involved.

    Too many doctors who believe the idea that “autism” is a 100% neurodevelopmental/psychatric disease in 100% of all patients,is exactly the reason parents of sick children,are driven to all this woo in the first place.All too often their doctors talk just like this.As someone who fought the medical system for years,for a real diagnosis,other than “autism”,I have been lucky enough,in the last year,to finally get diagnosed with a chromosome 22 deletion,an unusual,and serious folate metabolism disorder,and a “milder” primary immune deficiency.And I do not think I am a that different from a lot of these children,the parents claim are “vaccine damaged”.

    But as we all know,genetic diseases are not something the antivaxers believe in.They are very hostile to them,in fact.This would go against their core belief GOD made their child perfect,until the evil vaccines stole their perfect child from them,as Rene @#4 said.

    Religion is not far from the minds of a lot of these people.A point I hope P&T do not ignore.Here is a doozy of a post that made it onto Autism-Mercury last night:

    Regarding religious exemptions,I am no particular religion either.I am a Christian.If one is Jewish,then one could claim that they are prohibited from putting anything unclean in their bodies: hence no pork,no shell fish
    etc…then how could it be allowed to have animal DNA injected?If you are Catholic,then some vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue.

    It seems to me the Catholic Church ought to be all over this one.But if someone pushed me to say by what tenets I decline, then I could just call myself a Biblicist.

    I found this interesting:
    Vaccines contain animal products which require the death of animals.Some vaccines contain the ‘cell line’ from an aborted human baby.Additionally,Hindus and some Buddhists refrain from eating meat.They believe in not killing anything with a face,but also the slaughtered animal will carry the energies of fear,pain,anxiety etc.For meditation purposes it is counter productive to take those negative energies into the body.

    Animals are tortured in the process of making vaccines so it would be extremely undesirable to be vaccinated.Gandhi subscribed to these beliefs and was one of many famous anti-vaccinationists:

    “I abhor vivisection with my whole soul.I detest the unpardonable slaughter of innocent life in the name of science and humanity so called,and all of the scientific discoveries stained with innocent blood,I count as of no
    consequence.” –Gandhi Y1, Dec. 17, 1925

    Vaccinations,not proven to prevent disease,result in death and mental and physical injury. According to Registered Dog Breeder,Ashleigh Oulton in Australia,animal populations become sterile after many generations of being
    vaccinated.This is arguably genocide depending upon the intent behind the policy.

    Maybe this can explain why so many women today are finding it difficult to conceive.We now have several generations of vaccinated individuals.

    Pertinent bible versus to support religious exemption:
    Leviticus:19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes.Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed:
    neither shall a garment mingled of linen [plant] and woolen [animal]come upon thee.

    Lamentations 4.13-15 foreshadows the AIDS pandemic, and other current and coming plagues.It also relays the fear and avoidance surrounding HIV-positive and other infected, sick,and dying people.As you read the first paragraph, consider the fact that religious leaders are encouraging
    > their followers to get vaccinated.Many are even inviting ‘public health’ nurses and vaccine administrators into their congregations to deliver the toxic,and too often lethal,doses:

    “It happened because of the sins of her prophets and the offenses of her priests (and rabbis),who,within her walls, shed the blood of the righteous.They wander in the streets like the blind;they are so polluted with blood that nobody is able even to touch their clothing.Keep away!Unclean!’ people shout at them,’Keep away! Away,don’t touch us!’ They
    flee,to wander here and there; but no nation allows them to stay.”

    Ezekiel 3:18-20 provides a pretty good argument why it’s important to relay these facts concerning vaccines,blood transfusions,sin,and death:

    “When I say to a wicked man,’You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life,that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his
    wickedness or from his evil ways,he will die for his sin; but you will be saved yourself.”

    Ezekiel 5:17 Yes,I will send famine and savage beasts upon you to leave you without children; plague and bloodshed will sweep through you;and I will bring the sword upon you. I, God, have spoken it.”

    “Do not be anxious about anything,but in everything by prayer and supplication,with thanksgiving,let your requests be made known to God.” *~Philippians 4:6* ( I think this means we are to put our faith and trust in GOD and not in a physician or drug company.)

    “Finally, my brothers,whatever things are true,whatever things are honest,whatever things are right,whatever things are pure,whatever things are lovely,whatever things are of good report;if there is any virtue and if there is any praise,think on these things.*~Philippians* *4:8

    “*Whatever things are true”:*There are no conclusive irrefutable studies to prove that vaccines are safe. Thousands of parents have requested information on studies conducted on vaccines proving both efficacy and long-
    term safety only to find they do not exist.go make a request to the CDC for the irrefutable studies which prove vaccine safety and efficacy,but don’t hold your breath while waiting to get this evidence.It won’t come.

    “*Whatever things are honest”:*If vaccines are honestly safe,why did Congress pass a law in 1986 forcing taxpayers (not vaccine manufacturers)to compensate parents for the vaccine-induced injuries and deaths suffered by
    thousands of vaccinated children every year?

    Most states allow unvaccinated children to attend public school and day-cares provided each one has an exemption form on file with the school.Why do most public schools and day cares inform parents that their child will be denied enrollment unless he is up to date with state-recommended
    vaccines?

    The fact is every school is obligated to provide a waiver form for parents to sign.Yet,unless parents specifically request their child be exempted from vaccination,school administrators remain silent on the issue.

    Honest practice requires honest behavior with honest words. A deceitful practice requires deceitful words and deceitful behavior.There is clearly something deceitful about government immunization programs.

    “*Whatever things are right”:*What is right about allowing the injection of live and dead viruses cultured in aborted fetal tissue into the human body?We Christians are known for our stand against taking the life of an unborn child. Are we to believe that abortion is murder in the eyes of God yet injecting the genetic material of aborted fetuses into ourselves in the name of public health is “right” in the eyes of God?Clearly one cannot believe abortion is wrong and believe vaccines containing the genetic material of aborted fetuses are “right.”

    “*Whatever things are lovely”:*What is lovely about having animal DNA,aborted human fetal tissue and foreign animal viruses,suspended in a cocktail of the most toxic substances known to man,injected into the body so it can find its way into the bloodstream? There are 446 references to “the blood” in the Bible.Throughout the Bible God refers to the sanctity of the blood and the importance of keeping it pure.Would He consider presence of live and dead viruses,foreign human and animal DNA,mercury,aluminum
    and formaldehyde in our blood “lovely?”

    “*Whatever things are of good report*”: The FDA stated that less than 10% of adverse reactions from vaccines are ever reported. Using CDC data,CDC put out two publications on vaccine-induced injuries from 1990-1996.One publication was on vaccine-induced injuries from 1990-1995.They stated
    there were 45,000 vaccine-injured individuals.More alarming is that this figure is LESS than 1% due to gross under reporting.So,at minimum,45,000 x 100=4.5 million Americans have experienced adverse reactions to vaccines.This calculates to a minimum of 900,000 vaccine-induced injuries each year from 1990-1995.Vaccines are not “of good report.”

    1 Timothy 6:20-21

    O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.

    1 Corinthians 6:19

    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,whom you have from God?You are not your own,Acts 15:20

    But should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols,and from sexual immorality,and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

    For more go to:
    http://www.openbible.info/topics/vaccinations

    Your Friday dose of woo a day early?

    Like they say,the stupid,it burns.

  34. #34 Pablo
    August 12, 2010

    Except when the hospital bans all industry gifts to doctors..

    Oh, in that case they just blackmail them.

    “Remember how we USED to give you those free pens and notepads? You will assist us or we will expose your evil and corrupt ways of the past to all your patients, and let your employer know how you stopped by our booth at the AAP convention and ate one of the tootsie rolls from our candy jar…”

    It’s as clear and obvious and makes just as much sense as Annakin Skywalker’s conversion to the Dark Side.

  35. #35 John
    August 12, 2010

    I don’t understand why Penn and Teller are held in such regard, they don’t deserve it. See e.g. their pseudo-skeptical episode on global warming.

  36. #36 Setar
    August 12, 2010

    Not only do I not have Showtime, I will be at work when the episode airs and thus likely unable to stream it.

    Also, hi Roger, nice to see you’ve gone into evangelical nuttery.

  37. #37 Phoenix Woman
    August 12, 2010

    Setar, I’m trying to decide which of the longtime trolls is the normal form of the Roger-isotope/sock puppet. Is it augustine, or dmabus exhibiting unusual amounts of restraint with the capslock key?

  38. #38 Calli Arcale
    August 12, 2010

    He’s quoting the bulk of that from an anti-vaxxer forum. It’s certainly grade-A crazy!

  39. #39 augustine
    August 12, 2010

    Over half of the 2,480 awards for vaccine injury and death totaling $2 billion dollars made under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act involve pertussis vaccine.

    http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/statistics_report.htm

  40. #40 Robin
    August 12, 2010

    I liked the bit in Roger’s quote from the dog breeders. If you follow any of the controversies coming out about the registries (there was a BBC documentary a few years ago) it is particularly sad/amusing. The in-breeding is rampant and outrageous.

  41. #41 Mandrellian
    August 12, 2010

    @Roger (33):

    BAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    That’s the only possible response to … whatever the fuck that was.

  42. #42 Rogue Medic
    August 12, 2010

    @ 27 Sid Offit

    I’ll wait to hear what Teller has to say before I make up my mind

    @ 28 Rene Najera

    Sid, we all know where you stand. You’re not going to change your mind.

    That is what Sid Offit was stating. Teller does not speak during the show, so Sid Offit is stating that no amount of information will change Sid Offit’s mind.

    Since we have not seen the show, we do not know what information will be presented, but none of it will change the mind of Sid Offit. Not that we had any doubt about bias.
    .

  43. #43 Zaxter
    August 12, 2010

    Meh. I’m not going to allow myself to get too excited about this. P&T have been hit or miss, at best, these last 8 years. Many episodes have been full of Ann Rayndian dogma, fallacious arguments, and just plain poor taste. I like boobs as much as the next guy, but one thing Jenny McCarthy has proven is that boobs & science don’t mix (unless of course, you’re studying breast cancer or something like that.)

    augustine said: “Over half of the 2,480 awards for vaccine injury and death totaling $2 billion dollars made under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act involve pertussis vaccine.”

    Yes, because judges and juries are the best arbiters of medical science. And I’m still waiting on your commentary refuting the data I posted on the polio vaccine. That is, unless you’re (*note the proper use of “you’re”*)not actually interested in science.

    Roger said: “Regarding religious exemptions,I am no particular religion either.I am a Christian.”

    This struck me as funny, because I was instantly reminded of Rick James on “Chappelle’s Show” when he said, “What I’m gonna do just all of the sudden just jump up and grind my feet in somebody’s couch like it’s something to do? Come on, I got a little more sense than that. …Yeah, I remember grinding my feet into Eddie’s couch.”

    Seriously though, Roger, keep the crazy coming. That was some truly entertaining stuff.

  44. #44 Titmouse
    August 12, 2010

    Pens and notepads? That’s ridiculous. No reasonable person would ever think that a gift to a doctor of some pens and notepads would ever amount to any kind of undue influence or conflict of interest. I think they are refering more to this kind of thing:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2004-10-16-panel-conflict-of-interest_x.htm

  45. #45 augustine
    August 12, 2010

    [My name is Zax but they call me The Zaxter: Yes, because judges and juries are the best arbiters of medical science.]

    Just another vaccine injury denialist.

    Like I said please O please keep posting.

  46. #46 Sid Offit
    August 12, 2010

    Ann Raynd?????

  47. #47 Corina
    August 12, 2010

    Roger sounds like Roger Kulp, a wandering autistic who tends to change his own history every few months. In his question that seems to be to have it recognized that autistics can have genetic syndromes/other medical issues, that it doesn’t mean that those medical issues have anything to do with autism.

    As for quoting from the Bible, well, the Bible was written based on an oral tradition spanning several generations, in a time period where they did not have the best scientific knowledge, or tools to pursue scintific knowledge. Some good hygiene laws though. But you can see the problem, right?

    Also, as a Mennonite, I believe in two things: one, in a secular government. two: that God gave us the brains to keep religion out of science.

    Corina
    another autistic adult

  48. #48 Corina
    August 12, 2010

    oops, “question” should be “quest”.
    sorry.

  49. #49 LW
    August 12, 2010

    So, augustine, I assume you noted that 1265 of the pertussis claims (actually the usual combination vaccines) involved whole cell pertussis vaccine, which has not been available in the U.S. since 2002, and only 98 involved acellular pertussis vaccine, or possibly 100 if the two listed as just “pertussis” were acellular. In other words, whole cell pertussis vaccine did cause injury (nothing like the disease itself, but still …) so it was discontinued and the replacement causes far fewer injuries — and far, far fewer injuries than the disease itself.

  50. #50 augustine
    August 12, 2010

    [LW: So, augustine, I assume you noted that 1265 of the pertussis claims (actually the usual combination vaccines) involved whole cell pertussis vaccine,]

    Yes.

    [In other words, whole cell pertussis vaccine did cause injury]

    The Zaxter says you’re full of s%#. Never happened. He says it was just a capitalistic ploy to sale the new and “improved” vaccine. If we had a strong enough central government then this crap would never be posted. You’d just “take your damn vaccine” and shut up if you knew what was good for you.

  51. #51 BA
    August 12, 2010

    Not a bad episode. Clearly let the “other side” talk themselves to death. The crazy really shines through. I didn’t mind the other Playboy bunny bit either. Almost as informative as Arthur Allen’s comments. Dr. J looks like the fool he is.

  52. #52 DaveD
    August 12, 2010

    I thought it was pretty good also. They certainly let the anti-vaxers look like the loons that they are. The father of the autistic son was particularly good and level-headed. He was even willing to admit that he’d initially fallen for the anti-vax woo, but was now firmly pro-vax.

    Dr Jay was even more nauseating than I’d expected.

    But the real prize was that guy in the brown t-shirt who explained that until (whatever date it was, he wasn’t sure, 1940s maybe, whenever it was that vaccination started, which he also wasn’t sure about), there was no cancer, but now even dogs get it. Given that cancer has been documented for centuries, I loved that one especially. After his first few words, I thought he was going to say there had been no autism until vaccination started. That one is popular, too.

  53. #53 V. infernalis
    August 12, 2010

    As others have mentioned, I generally like (and agree with) Penn & Teller on just about everything (just take a look at the topics they’ve covered on their show), but their bizarre anti-environment/environmentalist fetish is off-putting. They’ve done shows on how recycling and organic foods are bad, why global warming is a hoax, attacked carbon credits, and criticized the Endangered Species Act and hybrid cars.

  54. #54 AutismNewsBeat
    August 13, 2010

    The father of the autistic son was particularly good and level-headed. He was even willing to admit that he’d initially fallen for the anti-vax woo, but was now firmly pro-vax.

    Thanks! The camera crew visited my home late last year. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

  55. #55 Sid Offit
    August 13, 2010

    Carbon credits? How could carbon credits be bad? Everyone loves carbon credits.

  56. #56 Pablo
    August 13, 2010

    But the real prize was that guy in the brown t-shirt who explained that until (whatever date it was, he wasn’t sure, 1940s maybe, whenever it was that vaccination started, which he also wasn’t sure about), there was no cancer, but now even dogs get it

    But, but, but…he learned it on the internet! It’s KNOWLEDGE!!!!!!!

  57. #57 MI Dawn
    August 13, 2010

    Glad to see the show was good; we don’t get Showtime either (at least, I don’t think so…). I’ll have to wait till it’s Bitstreamed or something.

    Wow! Roger’s story is different again. Color me NOT surprised. And what’s with the quotes from the bible?

    @TBnSuch #32: Pablo isn’t an anti-vaxxer. His sarcasm is well written, though, and if you aren’t a regular, you wouldn’t have recognized it as such, though. And Todd W. was teasing him at #31.

  58. #58 Stroh
    August 13, 2010

    Being viewlocked all the way back in continental Europe, with no way at all of seeing this legally for the foreseeable future, I took the liberty of investigating, lets call them alternative, ways of procurement. All for the cause, of course.

    And I liked it! The opening bit with the fibreglass screen was one of the most effective visual aids I’ve seen for illustrating just why, even if we assume the worst, vaccines will win out either way. Voltaires prayer really fits these loons.

    The rest of the show was hilarious. P&T may not have said anything we didn’t already know (how could they?) but their comedic way of illustrating the pure insanity that fuels the anti-vaccine crowd is nice. I loved how they let that loon in the brown shirt just rave his way through the credits.

    As for P&T’s less sceptical views on other topics, well… no-one’s perfect. After all, they’re comedians, anyone taking them too seriously should learn how to evaluate sources better.

  59. #59 Stroh
    August 13, 2010

    Proof-reading… why do I never remember to do it before posting? Strike Voltaire from the previous post completely – it’s a case of darling refusing to die. It’s not supposed to be there and only confounds the paragraph.

  60. #60 superdave
    August 13, 2010

    I like how that woman totally trusts the CDC information when she thinks it supports her side, but not when it doesn’t. How can that cognitive dissonance be possible? The CDC “knows” vaccines cause autism, and the information they put out claiming it doesn’t is a lie, but they don’t cover up the scary sounding ingredients list?

  61. #61 Zaxter
    August 13, 2010

    augustine said: “Just another vaccine injury denialist.”

    The point is that scientific questions are settled through the scientific method and peer review, not by politicians and average Joes. And this question has been settled for quite some time in the scientific community. This is a manufactroversy promoted by a couple of quacks and a gaggle of ignorant laypeople.

    augustine said: “The Zaxter says you’re full of s%#. Never happened. He says it was just a capitalistic ploy to sale (sic) the new and “improved” vaccine. If we had a strong enough central government then this crap would never be posted. You’d just “take your damn vaccine” and shut up if you knew what was good for you.”

    And the straw men just keep on coming. That’s a really nice quote from me. Too bad I never said any of it, and in fact I have said quite the opposite on numerous occasions. Your (*note the appropriate use of “your”*) dishonesty is truly astounding.

    Oh, and I’m still waiting with bated breath on your refutation of the polio vaccine data I gave you. Are you really that disinterested in science?

  62. #62 Pablo
    August 13, 2010

    @TBnSuch #32: Pablo isn’t an anti-vaxxer. His sarcasm is well written, though, and if you aren’t a regular, you wouldn’t have recognized it as such, though. And Todd W. was teasing him at #31.

    It was partially my mistake, Dawn. I did not sufficiently describe how I was twisting my mustache and cloaking my face, and you could not hear the tone of my voice when I wrote, “Bwahahahahaha!”

  63. #63 Todd W.
    August 13, 2010

    @MI Dawn and Pablo

    @TBnSuch #32: Pablo isn’t an anti-vaxxer. His sarcasm is well written, though, and if you aren’t a regular, you wouldn’t have recognized it as such, though. And Todd W. was teasing him at #31.

    Actually, I was only partially teasing. There are, indeed, hospitals that have banned all industry gifts to doctors. For at least one of these places, anything coming from industry for the hospital needs to go through a new office to review possible conflicts of interest or appearances of COIs before it can be accepted (e.g., money to support research). Dinners, free tickets, etc. for doctors are right out.

  64. #64 Duh!
    August 13, 2010

    Hey, weren’t Penn and Teller caught a few years ago taking money from corporate interests from Think-Tanks like the CATO institute for things like Global Warming denial? Also, I seem to recall them taking money for one of their episodes (the one about Organic Food, I believe) to say that Organic Food wasn’t any better than regular food. Yeah…they seem reliable and unbiased.

    It’s also pretty apparent that they will say whatever the highest bidder wants them to say. Again…they seem reliable…

  65. #65 MikeMa
    August 13, 2010

    @Pablo @62,
    I have an image of you impersonating Snidley Whiplash. Most excellent.

    @Todd,
    My sister-in-law repped for Merck for many years and her garage was full of literature, pens and pads. I wonder how many pens it would take to corrupt a doctor? While I appreciate the hospital you mentioned taking that COI stand, I have not yet been in a medical office without pens from some drug rep at the sign in desk.

  66. #66 Calli Arcale
    August 13, 2010

    Zaxter @ 43:

    Meh. I’m not going to allow myself to get too excited about this. P&T have been hit or miss, at best, these last 8 years. Many episodes have been full of Ann Rayndian dogma, fallacious arguments, and just plain poor taste. I like boobs as much as the next guy, but one thing Jenny McCarthy has proven is that boobs & science don’t mix (unless of course, you’re studying breast cancer or something like that.)

    Boobs and science most certainly do mix, in the sense that attractive females can (and should) do science. There is a perception that if an attractive lady, particularily a well-endowed one, is invovled, the science will be of inferior quality. This is a large part of why girls don’t go into science. They think they can’t get taken seriously there unless they’re ugly, and they definitely don’t want to be considered ugly or unattractive. Jenny McCarthy does not help this problem, of course, becuase she’s clearly representing anti-science; I haven’t seen enough of Penn & Teller’s show to judge their usage of attractive ladies with respect to science, but if they’re window-dressing, I doubt they’re much help. What we need is attractive, well-endowed ladies who aren’t window-dressing or too busy acting sexy but who are just plain enthusiastic about science. Folks like Kari Byron of “Mythbusters” fame. She’s not shy about her feminity, but she’s also not there just to flaunt. She’s there for SCIENCE, and you can see it in that wicked gleam in her eyes. ;-)

    So we need more of the big boobs on the science side, but not as window dressing, which I suspect is what you’re getting at anyway. We need the women attached to those big boobs to be doing serious science, and taken seriously for it, without having to somehow conceal the fact that they are attractive.

  67. #67 Pablo
    August 13, 2010

    Boobs and science most certainly do mix,

    What you describe is not “mixing,” it is orthogonality. The can both exist together, but there is nothing to combine. It’s kind of like complex mathematics. Real and imaginary numbers don’t mix, but they can exist together. They are just on separate, orthogonal coordinates.

  68. #68 clayton
    August 13, 2010

    More evidence that the Big Pharma is out to get you. Headline at CNBC states.

    US Probes Corruption in Big Pharmaceuticals

    See all the evidence paranoid anti-vaxxers need to prove that their is a conspiracy to get rich off making us sick… Hey what are you doing, don’t read the article…

    “There is perhaps no industry that is as vulnerable to violations of US anti-bribery laws as the pharmaceutical industry. In markets round the world, the companies deal, sometimes thousands of times in a single day, with doctors, clinicians, hospital operators and regulators who are considered under US law to be government officials, because they are employed by state-owned facilities.

    Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the US anti-bribery law, companies may not offer items of value to foreign government officials for profit.”

    oh…well , Keep your MBA out of our science. Why is it that the business side of medicine keeps shooting the science side in the foot? Is it like some siamese twin thing.

    Which leads me to another question. Has anybody else noticed that the anti-vax groups are both anti big business AND anti government run health care? They also hate the middle ground between the two. WTF?

  69. #69 MI Dawn
    August 13, 2010

    @Pablo…ah. The Snidely Whiplash view. I always felt sorry for Nell…(but I loved Horse).

    @Todd W: Sorry. I wasn’t clear. I realized you were being accurate about the hospital bans (several around here have instituted them) but was trying to point out that you and Pablo are (usually) good guys. (smirks and runs off).

  70. #70 Nico
    August 13, 2010

    I don’t always agree with P & T, but this one, they were spot on. That opening visual with the plexiglass was quite clever.

    I got sick as a kid, and my parents went through the same gamut of woo-cures, and spent a great sum to do so, for no avail, preyed on by people who saw desperate parents. I have no respect for that sort of shenanigan, and somehow, as the show points out, 2% of pharm profit is vaccines, but billions in untested, risky treatments by hucksters is A Ok with people? I don’t get it.

    My sister is one of those who believes Jenny with all her might,( she’ll believe Jenny over actual scientists/doctors, maybe it really is the boobs?) and forgets how sick her kid has been with every passing bug. I fear it’s only a matter of time, and she won’t notice because it’s always Grandma who takes time off to take kid to the hospital.

  71. #71 zoe
    August 13, 2010

    Penn and Teller are assholes, but they’re bound to be right occasionally. I like watching them too. They did a show on chiropractic care early in the show. I’ll have to wait for netflix for this one.

    I know it’s hard for some to believe, but there really is corruption in medicine and science. One has to look at each issue and evaluate consensus and evidence for themselves. Idealogy (either a knee jerk reaction for or against the establishment) helps no one.

  72. #72 augustine
    August 13, 2010

    [v infernalis: As others have mentioned, I generally like (and agree with) Penn & Teller on just about everything (just take a look at the topics they've covered on their show), but their bizarre anti-environment/environmentalist fetish is off-putting.]

    That’s because they are more congruent with social darwinism than you are. You’re an incongruent atheist. They are just incongruent libertarians.

  73. #73 augustine
    August 13, 2010

    [The Zaxter This is a manufactroversy promoted by a couple of quacks and a gaggle of ignorant laypeople.]

    Like I said vaccine injury denialist.

    I think their (notice the misuse) is an angry holocaust denial group also. You have expressed fascist views previously.

  74. #74 jaranath
    August 13, 2010

    Duh @64:  Citation Needed. 

    V. infernalis @53:  I agree, except that P&T are usually “right” even hen they’re wrong, in that they tend to find valid points of criticism that need attention.

    Warming…eh, maybe not so much. But knee-jerk, unseasoned, “Gaia” environmentalism as is often found in the mainstream public deserves criticism. Some recycling is not economically viable or self-sustaining (which is not the end of the question as to whether it should be done, despite P&T’s apparent assumption that it is), organic food is often of questionable benefit on many levels, the ESA is (in my opinion) a necessarily bizarre law that is a compromise effort at good conservation and often misapplied, carbon credits are vulnerable to fraud and misuse, and hybrid cars can be self-defeating.

    I think the above are all good things (maybe a bit iffy on organic food), but it’s not enough to just say “yay!  Hybrid cars!”  For these things to BE good, they take some conscious effort and attention on our part. If we aren’t paying attention as scientists, regulators and general public citizens, we’ll end up with hybrids that don’t save energy or carbon, carbon credits that don’t do what they should, etc. I don’t think that’s often what P&T are trying to point out, but sometimes it is, and regardless, the lesson can be taken from their show.

    That said:  While I think the show is valuable, especially for reaching the general public and introducing the non-skeptical to skeptical thought, the show is shallow.  Sometimes that lack of depth is very detrimental; I thought the Wal-Mart ep was a great example.

  75. #75 Zach Miller
    August 13, 2010

    I recorded it and can’t wait to watch. I should point out, though, that this must not be the season finale, as they haven’t covered cheerleading yet, which is one of the topics mentioned in their intro as “things we’ve covering this season.”

  76. #76 Calli Arcale
    August 13, 2010

    clayton:

    oh…well , Keep your MBA out of our science. Why is it that the business side of medicine keeps shooting the science side in the foot? Is it like some siamese twin thing.

    Sometimes I wonder if the job of business isn’t to shoot itself in the foot. After all, it does quite a good job of that, quite frequently, as the recent financial meltdown demonstrated brilliantly.

    In general, the point of business is to make money. The effectiveness of this is usually determined by looking at quarterly or sometimes biannual financial reports, and it is on those reports that the businesspeople’s jobs will depend. A busienessman with a six-figure salary plus bonuses knows that he will only continue to make that salary if he meets his quarterly figures. If he is not salaried and instead has his compensation tied directly to financial performance (as is increasingly common among executives), then he will be even more motivated to boost those quarterly figures.

    Upside: very motivated businesspeople. Downside: they’re focused entirely on the short term. It is very easy to end up sacrificing the long term for the sake of the short term. Say your company makes a big pharmaceutical that’s nearing approval, and which had generated a tremendous amount of pre-release excitement. But you have reports from some of the company scientists expressing concerns about serious side effects. You know that in the long run, quietly withdrawing the application will be better for the company than a massive, expensive, and embarrassing recall. But in the meantime, your division has just spent $5 billion on the drug, and if you withdraw your application, you are gonna be eating the loss of projected revenue in your next quarterly statement to the corporate exec, and that will not only reflect poorly on you but it will seriously crimp your income, which is tied to your quarterly financial reports (which, this quarter, will be in the red if you withdraw the application). If you have a $1 salary plus a percentage of profit, you’ll basically make no money at all this quarter. Yikes. But if you time it right, you can make sure that either some other division (the one responsible for production) takes the hit, or the hit doesn’t even come until after you’re safely off to your next job. And so you bury the reports of side effects.

    I’m not saying you, personally, would do that. But if you were one of these businessmen, you might. Money does that to people.

    There was an article a few years ago that really left an impression on me. It was about the defense industry, but it really applies to all big businesses. It was warning that the current tendency to think only six months ahead is going to kill industry by making it incapable of planning for the future. Since then, we’ve reaped a bit of that in the form of unsustainable lending as banks focus more on originating loans than on the fact that they’ll have to service them for the next thirty years. It’s all short term profit, at the inadvertent expense of long term survival. (A pharmaceutical company which doesn’t care about public health is not planning for the future, since a healthy public is necessary for any company’s survival.)

    zoe:

    I know it’s hard for some to believe, but there really is corruption in medicine and science.

    Oh, absolutely. Medicine and science are done by people, and people are corruptible. There’s no getting away from that. The answer is to always keep a critical mind, and whenever possible, to set them up at odds with one another so that even if neither is honest, they will be pointing out the dishonesty of their counterparts.

  77. #77 ANB
    August 13, 2010

    The first episode of Season Eight was about cheerleading. Penn talks about it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0teHPs0lMjM

  78. #78 Zaxter
    August 13, 2010

    @ Calli Arcale @ 66

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that women have no place in science. On the contrary, science is in desperate need of women, attractive or otherwise. My point was that a woman like Jenny McCarthy, who has absolutely no value beyond her boobs, should stick to what she knows best; namely posing naked for money.

    augustine said: “Like I said vaccine injury denialist.
    I think their (notice the misuse) is an angry holocaust denial group also. You have expressed fascist views previously.”

    You’re starting to become redundant and boring. Would you care to substantiate any of these ad hominems with actual quotes, rather than ones you made up? Or for that matter, could you even define what a “vaccine injury denialist” is before you sling the phrase around? All pharmacological substances have the potential for adverse events, and vaccines are no different. I have never said otherwise. But the reactions are exceedingly rare, and the benefits are astronomical. This is substantiated by the preponderance of the evidence. You’d know that if you ever bothered to look at the literature. Speaking of which, when are you going to refute the data I presented you with? I’m really looking forward to reading that.

    And yes, I did notice your abject failure to master even the most elementary communication skills. You didn’t have to point it out.

  79. #79 alistair
    August 13, 2010

    mmmh just read the comments.. Zaxter you OBVIOUSLY dont read the scientific Lit, what access do you use.. Elservier Science Direct, Athens…?
    The Science was settled on vaccines… are you kidding or just uninformed or do you want the papers on the epidemiological data that bring into doubt the claims of flu vaccines

    Show me the papers that claim vaccines have reduced the incidence of these diseases and I’ll ask for the start date of their measurements.

    as a couple examples that I WANT you to refute..
    1. The 1918 flu went extinct in the population in 1959 then suddenly reappeared in the 76-77 season How and Why?
    answer must contain information on Swine Flu as a triple re-assorted strain.. hint NEJM
    2. Baxter Labs in Illinois sent 77 kilos of the 2009 flu vaccine mix (WHO recommendations) to Europe contaminated with live avian flu. How and why? your answer needs to contain an understanding of Bio-Safety Levels(BSL) 2,3 & 4.

  80. #80 carykoh
    August 13, 2010

    Alistair

    When did influenza become extinct? I’m afraid I’ll have to see a citation on that. Also, I was not aware the 1918, 1959, and the 1976 viruses were in any way related, please provide more information. Yes, the influenza virus can undergo re-assortment, or antigenic shift, which can cause novel forms of the virus, not familiar to the human immune system to be formed. This can be particularly bad when re-assortment occurs between animals (swine for example) and humans, creating novel virus strains that can cause pandemics. No need to refute this, that is a fact, not sure what your point is, pretty basic knowledge really. I guess you win that point, yes, re-assortment does occur, you are correct.

    I’d need a citation on the live avian flu in the 2009 flu vaccine, and not from Mike Adams, a reputable source, please, as I cannot find anything to document this, and something like this would surely be first page news in most major papers and journals.

  81. #81 Chris
    August 13, 2010

    alistair,

    Answers to first question can be found here, and in the books Flu! by Gina Kolata and The Great Influenza by John Barry. You will learn that the influenza virus is always mutating, yet there are portions that do stay the same. Also, you may have an error in your pandemic years: 1918, 1957, 1968 and 1977, and not all of them were H1N1.

    For you second question, an error by one company does not translate to every vaccine company, and by comparison every vaccine is bad. If you want to prove that the DTaP or MMR are flawed, you give the data pertaining to those vaccines. Not to an influenza virus.

  82. #82 Chris
    August 13, 2010

    alistair, you should also find better sources of news. A quick look finds that the Baxter bit was a non-story blown out of proportion by conspiracy mongers. From Officials investigate how bird flu contaminated vaccines in Europe:

    Though it appears none of the 36 or 37 people who were exposed to the contaminated product became infected, the incident is being described as “a serious error” on the part of Baxter, which is on the brink of securing a European licence for an H5N1 vaccine. That vaccine is made at a different facility, in the Czech Republic.

    So instead of using the internet, perhaps you should get yourself to a public library and start checking out some books. You can start with basic biology, and then read the books suggested above on the 1918 pandemic.

  83. #83 wholly father
    August 13, 2010

    Regarding the P&T episode.

    Instead of devoting so much time to the T-shirt guy, I wish they would have given some attention to the resurgence of vaccine preventable illnesses. Its fine to make the argument that vaccines are safe, but unless you demonstrate the benefits of vaccination, and the risks of failure to vaccinate, the safety argument is moot.

  84. #84 AutismNewsBeat
    August 14, 2010

    You can watch the episode online here:

    http://autism-news-beat.com/archives/1225

  85. #85 Chance Gearheart
    August 14, 2010

    I think I need to go into firefox and do some scripting. Basically, I’ll write an add on that converts any posting by Augustine into either:

    A) A Combination of the words “Herp”, “Derp”, or “Whargarbl”

    or

    B) “Lah lah lah I cant hear you”

    I find those to be more asthetically pleasing than to read “Your just a denialist because you dont believe the same as me”, or “Your just an athiest!”. Much more expressive, too.

    (Helpful guides to trolls for new posters, Respectful Insolence Edition)
    Augustine – Poster who is suspected of using sock puppets and has admitted to doing so in past threads to “Only do what we do”, who generally likes to troll for responses to blatent appeals to religious beliefs, and misquotation of studies in an attempt to support his arguements against Vaccination as being some sort of nefarious, philisophical plot by the scientist-big pharma industrial complex that has no basis in science, and falls back on arguements of either the respondant being an Athiest, a Denialist, or a sheeple if said person presents a coherent and well rehearsed arguement which refutes their point, expecially if said point contains scientific data. Expect any attempt at scientific data presentation to be responded to by quote-mining, jumping to conclusions, and good, old-fashioned circular logic.

  86. #86 V. infernalis
    August 14, 2010

    @64: Penn and Teller don’t take money from the Cato Institute, they work for the Cato Institute as fellows. Whether this involves a paycheque, however, I don’t know.

  87. #87 MI Dawn
    August 14, 2010

    @Chance Gearheart: or, you could easily ignore little Augie completely by installing greasemonkey and killfiling him. That way you can simply choose (on days you feel strong) to read the blather, or simply keep the comment blocked (on days you don’t want to deal with him). The ability to choose to read or ignore Augie’s ramblings (along with STY, and a few others in the killfile) makes life much more fun.

  88. #88 augustine
    August 14, 2010

    [Dawn MI: That way you can simply choose (on days you feel strong) to read the blather, or simply keep the comment blocked (on days you don't want to deal with him)]

    Good then I can pick off your weaker posters one by one in an evolutionary process. You’ll be left with people like Zaxter and David Andrews MdPhd LMNOP representing SBM in front of a lurking audience with no help of herd immunity.

  89. #89 augustine
    August 14, 2010

    @Chance, another ambulance driver with an atheist agenda giving out health policy advice.

    Wow, that’s the longest poisoning the well logical fallacy sentence that I’ve ever seen. You beat ORAC. And he’s really good at poisoning the well.

  90. #90 Prometheus
    August 14, 2010

    Alistair (#79) is trying to be seen as a reputable source of information, but then he states:

    “1. The 1918 flu went extinct in the population in 1959 then suddenly reappeared in the 76-77 season How and Why?”

    The H1N1 subtype of influenza did, indeed, stop appearing in seasonal (human) influenza outbreaks in the late 1950′s, but it continued to circulate in swine. The exact cause of the 1976 re-appearance remains hotly debated (I’ve heard everything from Soviet germ warfare experiments to – surprise! – the influenza vaccine), but it is no mystery.

    Influenza virus is not “native” to humans – it is an avian virus (waterfowl, to be specific). Ducks, geese, swans, etc. are infected with every influenza A subtype from H1N1 to H16N3 [Note: there are 16 known hemagglutinin types and 9 neuraminidase types, but not all possible combinations have been found]. Humans can only be infected by eleven or so subtypes, swine by five and horses by two or three (the last time I looked).

    The reservoir of influenza A virus in waterfowl (most of which are migratory) ensures that no subtype will ever become “extinct”. As a bonus, if two different strains infect the same animal (duck, pig, horse, cat, dog or human), they can “swap” segments (the genome of influenza A has eight RNA segments that can “mix and match”) and create new strains or subtypes. Whee!

    If Alistair had actually been well-informed about influenza, he would have known this. He also would have known that the virus subtypes don’t become “extinct” – they mutate. When they mutate enough, we call them by a new strain name. When they have significant mutations in either the hemagglutinin (H) or neuraminidase (N) genes, they become new subtypes. At any rate, H1N1 was never extinct – it was alive (as much as viruses can be said to be alive) and well in swine and waterfowl.

    If Alistair is so wrong about the basic facts of influenza, how much credence should we give the rest of his information? Very little, I fear.

    Prometheus

  91. #91 Pareidolius
    August 14, 2010

    GLad to see P&T letting the cranks speak for themselves. It’s really the best way to show how batshit crazy they are. I think the little infographic at the beginning was clear enough about vaccine’s contribution to eradicating many diseases.

    Oh, Dr. Jay, you seemed so sad and lost in your segments. Sitting there with your odd giraffe-on-elephant action mural and baby scale in the background, or standing nervously in the hallway, hands clasped like a penitent schoolboy going to see the principal. You looked like you knew that no matter what you said, you were going to look like a nutjob in the final cut of the show. You probably think you were edited to look that way. You probably think that you were a model of scientific rectitude in comparison to crazy giant chart lady and the conspiracy mongering Glenn Beck wannabe dad.

    The fact is, that in essence, you’re just like them. You’re using the same set of logical fallacies to reach the point you want to reach. Maybe you’ll be able to see that now. Maybe not.

  92. #92 Todd W.
    August 14, 2010

    Did anyone notice that Dr. Jay took a rather definitive position regarding vaccines? At about 11 minutes into the show, he says, “Children should not be vaccinated.” No talk of delays or alternate schedules. They should not be vaccinated. Period. Thank you, Dr. Jay, for finally giving us, on permanent record, a clear statement on your position.

    @Prometheus

    Nice post on the influenza virus and how it tends to stick around in non-human animals.

  93. #93 Chris
    August 14, 2010

    Did you notice that Dr. Jay claimed to see kids become autistic right after vaccines? I sincerely doubt he understand the whole concept, especially after he posted that he saw an eight month old baby become autistic.

    Truly classic.

  94. #94 Chance Gearheart
    August 14, 2010

    Augustine: “@Chance, another ambulance driver with an atheist agenda giving out health policy advice.

    Wow, that’s the longest poisoning the well logical fallacy sentence that I’ve ever seen. You beat ORAC. And he’s really good at poisoning the well.”

    Translated: Derp Whargabl.

    This is fun.

  95. #95 ANB
    August 15, 2010

    Does Dr. Gordon file VAERS reports after he makes kids autistic?

  96. #96 Ben811
    August 15, 2010

    Aluminum and mouse brains good for the immune system? Ha, that’s a good one. Fact is nowhere near the amount of mercury and heavy metals get into your system from EATING contaminated foods. When you inject these things right into your blood stream, that’s a different matter. The issue with animal proteins in the vaccines? Do a google search for the effects of foreign proteins in the blood. :)

  97. #97 Broken Link
    August 15, 2010

    Ben11 – vaccines are not injected directly into the blood stream – they are intramuscular injections. False premise.

  98. #98 Ambrose
    August 15, 2010

    Anti-vaxers often talk about eating healthily and getting exercise. That won’t help if you get tetanus cutting yourself while working in your garden.

    Franklin Roosevelt presumably had a healthy diet and was athletic, but that didn’t stop him from getting polio(though now some think he had another disease).

    Penn and Teller did a very one-sided program on the so-called “green revolution” and in favor of GMO’s. They obviously hadn’t studied any of the critics.

    As they are libertarians, I wonder how they can accept patents and copyrights, which one could argue are socialist, at least they wouldn’t exist without the government.

  99. #99 Todd W.
    August 15, 2010

    @Ben811

    Fact is nowhere near the amount of mercury and heavy metals get into your system from EATING contaminated foods.

    How much mercury enters your system when you eat it? What’s the percentage? Can you provide a citation so that other readers can evaluate your source?

  100. #100 Todd W.
    August 15, 2010

    @Ben811

    Nevermind. I found out how much methyl mercury (the kind found in tuna and other seafood) is absorbed through the intestinal tract in humans. It’s about 95%. From the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Department of Health and Human Services, I found this:

    Methylmercury is the form of mercury most easily absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract (about 95% absorbed). After you eat fish or other foods that are contaminated with methylmercury, the methylmercury enters your bloodstream easily and goes rapidly to other parts of your body. Only small amounts of methylmercury enter the bloodstream directly through the skin, but other forms of organic mercury (in particular dimethylmercury) can rapidly enter the body through the skin. Organic mercury compounds may evaporate slowly at room temperature and may enter your body easily if you breathe in the vapors. Once organic mercury is in the bloodstream, it moves easily to most tissues and readily enters the brain. Methylmercury that is in the blood of a pregnant woman will easily move into the blood of the developing child and then into the child’s brain and other tissues. Like metallic mercury, methylmercury can be changed by your body to inorganic mercury. When this happens in the brain, the mercury can remain there for a long time. When methylmercury does leave your body after you have been exposed, it leaves slowly over a period of several months, mostly as inorganic mercury in the feces. As with inorganic mercury, some of the methylmercury in a nursing woman’s body will pass into her breast milk.

    White albacore tuna generally contains around .31 ppm (mcg/g) mercury. So, a 6 oz. (170 g) serving contains about 52.7 mcg of mercury. (170g * .31 ppm = 52.7 mcg) If 95% of that is absorbed through the intestinal tract, that means you’re getting about 50.065 mcg of mercury in your system. The flu vaccines that contain mercury have, at most, 25 mcg per dose. So, in eating one 6 oz. serving of tuna, you’re getting twice the amount of mercury exposure. Oh, and it should be mentioned that the tuna has methyl mercury, while the vaccine has ethyl mercury. The former hangs around in the body for weeks to months, while the latter leaves the body after days to a week or so.

    That means that individuals are, indeed, exposed to vastly more mercury from eating a tuna fish sandwich than from any vaccine (especially considering that mercury has been removed from all childhood vaccines, with the exception of some optional flu vaccines, though thimerosal-free versions are available).

  101. #101 augustine
    August 15, 2010

    @Chance, another ambulance driver with an atheist agenda giving out health policy advice,

    [Translated: Derp Whargabl]

    Sounds German. Ever read Mein Kampf?

  102. #102 Chris
    August 15, 2010

    Dr. Jay is not happy. I wish he would just retire.

  103. #103 Easttezza
    August 15, 2010

    Has anyone else seen over at Autism News Beat, “Jay Gordon” (no idea if it’s actually him or not) showed up in the comments about the show saying that his most damning statement in the episode: “Children should not be vaccinated” (a stance Dr. Gordon has always tip-toed around, to my knowledge) was the result of some shifty editing on the part of the show? Apparently he had said “I’m not saying that children should not be vaccinated”. I have no idea if this is true or not, (or, as I said, if it’s even Dr. Gordon posting) but it’s a serious accusation. Also dangerous on the part of P&T to have a pediatrician on their show saying not to vaccinate you kids, even if they take the line that his position is BS. Does anyone know a way of contacting P&T or the show management (as opposed to the network, which is what I found on the site) to ask them to release the full interview?

  104. #104 Vicki
    August 15, 2010

    If you’re running Firefox, get Greasemonkey and the killfile script, and then you can block people. All that shows is “comment by augustine blocked.”

  105. #105 Joseph
    August 15, 2010

    Apparently he had said “I’m not saying that children should not be vaccinated”. I have no idea if this is true or not, (or, as I said, if it’s even Dr. Gordon posting) but it’s a serious accusation.

    I’m not usually one to take Dr. Jay at his word, but this sounds credible, and I wouldn’t put it past P&T.

    At best, they weren’t paying attention to what he was saying.

  106. #106 Chris
    August 15, 2010

    Esattezza:

    Has anyone else seen over at Autism News Beat,

    Yes, it is the link right above your comment. I agree that his quote looks like it was edited to make it look worse. But that does not excuse his other statements, especially about the one where he vaccinated children and then they became autistic. See the link I provided above where he claims an eight month old baby became autistic.

    Nor does it excuse his statement that his unvaccinated families do not cause harm to others (California pertussis epidemic anyone? … and the child in San Diego who was not his patient that infected several babies in a medical practice with measles!).

    And it especially does not excuse his statement about the costs to parents of autism if he does not distance himself very far away from any and all merchants of Jenny McCarthy’s “Let’s Go Shopping” page at Generation Rescue, the Geiers, Boyd Haley, Doctor’s Data and on and on.

  107. #107 Cassie
    August 15, 2010

    As a parent of an autistic child who believes in vaccinations, doesn’t believe in “recovery” and has worked with hundreds of parents, let me say that:
    1) Some of our kids improve dramatically and as of yet no one has been able to come up with good reasons why. Scientists and doctors can’t tell us any patterns determining who will improve dramatically. This fuels parents’ nonstop searchs for the answer to help their child.
    2) Parents of autistic kids are driven by fear not grief. I know fear is one of the “stops” on the grief map/cycle — but it’s the one we stay in and will stay in as long as there are no long-term provisions available for our children. Once our kids get out of high school, then what? Services are few and far between and information is scarce.
    3) I agree that parents should love and accept the child they have — but the symptoms of some of these children mean their families are exhausted and are in a living hell. My family is fortunate but I’ve met many families who are just struggling to keep their children alive and safe — kids with emotion control issues and impulsivity issues are cute when they’re 3 years old but can be hard to deal with when they grow up.
    4) There are so many people scamming them and making money off their fear and grief that parents don’t know what to believe.
    5) Almost all parents I’ve met don’t fall for all the crap and they are pretty reasonable in trying treatments for their kids — science still dominates with our families. But the folks who don’t believe in science are a whoooole lot more vocal.
    6) When science comes up with answers for parents on how to help their kids, more parents will follow them.
    7) When adults with mild autism step forward more and reassure parents that they lead a happy productive life, parents will calm down.
    8) Until parents have a clear path to follow they will clutch at anything that offers hope for their children.

  108. #108 Chris
    August 15, 2010

    Cassie:

    6) When science comes up with answers for parents on how to help their kids, more parents will follow them.

    Which is why no more money should be spent on chasing the fairy tale notion that vaccines are associated with autism.

  109. #109 esattezza
    August 16, 2010

    @Chris: For the record, I wasn’t suggesting that it excused Dr. Jay of any of that… I’m pretty much against everything the man said in that video. My point is, I would hate for people to point to that P&T episode to say: “See, they really ARE telling people not to vaccinate” just to have it be a case of terribly misleading editing.

  110. #110 Pablo
    August 16, 2010

    6) When science comes up with answers for parents on how to help their kids, more parents will follow them.

    Unfortunately, doctors who rely on science have a fatal flaw in that they won’t lie about it. The difference between them and the scam artists is that the scammers have no qualms lying straight out. The problem with this point here is that since parents are not in a position to distinguish lies from truth, they will willingly follow the liers.

    So when science comes up with answers, parents will follow. But in the meantime, they’ll follow and enable those who make up stuff and pretend they are answers.

  111. #111 angela
    August 17, 2010

    Vaccine manufacturers have paid out nearly $2B in damages to parents in America whose children were harmed by one of the childhood jabs such as the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) or DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus). In all, around 2,000 families have received compensation payments that have averaged $850,000 each. There are a further 700 claims that are going through the pipeline. None of the claims is for autism as medical researchers say they have failed to find a link between the disease and the MMR vaccine, despite the initial findings made by Dr Andrew Wakefield. Instead they are for a wide spectrum of physical and mental conditions that are likely to have been caused by one of the vaccinations. Around 7,000 parents have filed a claim of an adverse reaction with America’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). To win an award, the claimant must prove a causal link to a vaccine. As the medical establishment has refused to recognise any link to autism, the VICP has so far rejected 300 claims for this outright. (Source: New England Journal of Medicine)Medicine, 2007; 357: 1275-9

  112. #112 Orange Lantern
    August 17, 2010

    Angela, must you cut and paste that everywhere? Everyone has been perfectly happy to deconstruct your strawman here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/08/penn_teller_deconstruct_the_anti-vaccine.php#comment-2732618

  113. #113 jon w
    August 18, 2010

    a bit of an epistemological question here. how do you know when the government really IS wrong, and the big companies really ARE trying to get rich by killing people? I think it’s more reasonable to be a skeptic than not. do you people really think that August 2010 scientists are the exception to history and magically have come into possession of the Truth, and are coincidentally, uncorrupted by money, prestige, herd instinct, and all the other foibles of human psychology that make us irrationally confident in our rightness? that’s the real woo that scares me. engineering “know how” can make airplanes fly, cell phone signals work, and tall buildings survive earthquakes. but it takes real gullibility to think that “know what” knowledge is worth risking your life for. history tells us that a large fraction of it is wrong. want to stick something in your body for herd immunity, go ahead. I’ll keep my immune system intact and take my chances.

  114. #114 Chris
    August 18, 2010

    jon w:

    a bit of an epistemological question here. how do you know when the government really IS wrong, and the big companies really ARE trying to get rich by killing people?

    How do we know that Dr. Jay wants under vaccinated patients so he can spend more time in the hospital when they get sick?

    August 2010 scientists are the exception to history and magically have come into possession of the Truth,

    You’ve never spent much time in a class room have you? Taking science and math in high school and college takes work, lots of work. Learning this stuff is not done by magic, but actual effort.

    And looking at your basic lack of grammar and punctuation, we can safely assume you have no idea what it takes to learn the basics. Much less what it takes to become a licensed professional engineer (especially a structural engineer specializing in earthquakes design).

  115. #115 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 18, 2010

    a bit of an epistemological question here. how do you know when the government really IS wrong, and the big companies really ARE trying to get rich by killing people?

    How do you know when the government really HAS been infiltrated by reptilian humanoids from a secret planet who keep the populace brainwashed via chemtrails?

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. “Big companies are trying to get rich by killing people” is certainly an extraordinary claim but no one is providing the extraordinary proof.

  116. #116 Rogue Medic
    August 19, 2010

    @ 113 jon w,

    A black helicopter is being sent to your not as secret as you thought location. Inside will be some nice men, tastefully attired in black, who will provide the answers you desire.

    They will identify themselves by saying the secret password, We’re from the government and we’re here to help. Their speech will be perfectly synchronized. In spite of the rotor draft, there will not be any movement of their hair or clothing.

    Your secret response is to be, I knew it all along.

    If you respond with, Honey, get the gun, then you will be entered into our ovarian cancer study – once the sex change operation and the introduction of ovarian cancer. I strongly encourage you to avoid that response.

    However, we are recruiting for the position of MIB Trainee II, so now you can be one of the oppressors, rather than one of the oppressed. You will be offered the standard PharmaShill pay package, paid in PharmaShill Dollars, redeemable at secret PharmaShill Pharmacies. You will be taught the secret handshake, even if you choose not to accept this employment offer.

    Sincerely,

    Commander X

    Local Reptilian Overlord Recruitment Station – Atlantis
    .

  117. #117 Rogue Medic
    August 19, 2010

    once the sex change operation and the introduction of ovarian cancer are complete.

    Darn that PharmaShill Grammar Checker!
    .

  118. #118 jon w
    August 19, 2010

    alright, great discussion you guys are running here. your clever ability to imagine ridiculous scenarios has convinced me that conspiracies can not exist and probably never have. we had some things wrong in the past, but thank goodness we have fixed it and now we have settled how things work, while not coincidentally establishing a system of benevolent capitalist purity. I hope the refund checks to the libelled tobacco companies are in the mail. there is no scheme to “Americanize” millions of elementary school kids by having them swear allegiance to the government and god every day. and since there is no conspiracy to convince people that anthropogenic climate change is hogwash, then that must mean it really is hogwash… wait a second, that would mean scientists are conspiring with the electric car folks to put detroit out of business… wait a minute, that would be a conspiracy too. dammit!

    @chris, congratulations on arriving at the real important issue here. although my capitalisation scheme may seem arbitrary to you, it serves a purpose beyond the comprehension of you and your marxist-fascist lapdogs. however, my punctuation was perfect. your insightful detection of a grammatical error was spot on, as my penultimate sentence took on a more colloquial conversational style than the rules of this comment forum permit. I apologise. indeed you have illustrated the folly of reading books and independently thinking, and I shall henceforth endeavour to spend more time “in a classroom” (yes, that’s a single compound word, not two as you seem to believe) that I may truly become wise.

    @feldspar, I think the definition of “extraordinary claims” is the issue here. for example: in the context of human history, the “claim” that trans fat would be a harmless or beneficial addition to the diet was not “ordinary” but rather “extraordinary.” in the context of any meat-eating animal eating its natural diet, saturated fat is “ordinary.” yet, the government spent several decades advising Americans to replace saturated fat with trans fat. the companies who used to throw away extracted seed oils as a waste byproduct suddenly found a market, which they aggressively exploited by advertising and lobbying, to the point of having a “center for science in the public interest” sue restaurants to replace saturated fats with trans fats. I think we know how that turned out. yes, you can call this the galileo gambit. and yes, the scientific method prevailed and we got trans fats out of the deep fryers. but meanwhile, people certainly were harmed, and other people certainly made money.

    my question wasn’t whether science makes mistakes (it does) or whether the government, under influence of lobbying and corruption, is likely to make bad policies (it is). I am interested in how I as an individual, expert in one field of science but of course not in all, might use analysis and critical thinking, paired with a strong sense of skepticism, to minimize the risk of being suckered. do I, as a healthy 35-year old male, need a flu shot (or two)? peer-reviewed research indicates I am not likely to benefit from it, but that old people and babies I have never met might have less risk of dying if I get the shots. so is it worth my time, money and the infinitesimal risk of getting stuck with a sharp needle and foreign substance? do I need an anthrax vaccine? Japanese encephalitis? Yellow fever? should I take antimalarial pills? statins? hormone replacement therapy? back surgery? get treated by a chiropractor (since my federal government insurance plan pays for it)? my point is that the path from pure empirical science to government recommendation (via the CDC, FDA, USDA, etc) is not a short or straight one, and that it is obviously prone to error. so why so much resentment at a little respectful insolence being shined on it?

    @medic, I don’t know what to say except this: I once ran a WW2 veteran’s military funeral ceremony in rural Missouri that was disrupted by an increasingly loud altercation between the deceased’s loved ones. after folding and handing over the the flag, while I quickly headed to the car hoping to return safely to civilization, someone distinctly shouted, “honey, get my gun.” was that you?

  119. #119 Chris
    August 19, 2010

    jon w:

    do I, as a healthy 35-year old male, need a flu shot (or two)?

    Easy. Get an appointment with your primary medical care provider (like a family doctor, or internist) and ask him or her.

    Do not ever go online and ask strangers on the internet about what kind of medical care you should receive.

    As for general science questions, you should go and visit your local library. You should find plenty of resources there.

  120. #120 dedicated lurker
    August 19, 2010

    Truthfully, anyone who says something like “Marxist-facist” I tune out because anyone who cannot understand they are diametrically opposed philosophies is probably not capable of understanding much else.

  121. #121 Chris
    August 19, 2010

    Especially when used in reference to basic grammar.

  122. #122 augustine
    August 19, 2010

    [DL: "anyone who says something like "Marxist-facist" I tune out.. ]

    They may be on opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum on how to govern people but they are both totalitarian political regimes.

    That is what they have in common. You should know that. I’m sure that was the commenter’s point.

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

  123. #123 jon w
    August 19, 2010

    chris, congratulations again on your insight. the point of my post was to trick someone into giving me medical advice over the internet, but you caught on. just kidding. it was a rhetorical question. that means I posed it not in search for the answer but to illustrate a point. but, since your advice is, on the face of it, earnest and well intentioned, I’ll tell you why it’s bad. a primary medical care provider is a great resource to fill out a school physical form, prescribe blood tests, or give me referrals, but that’s about all they’re good for, and I’ve yet to find one that has enough free time to keep up with research (the kind that comes in thick journals once a month or so, not the kind that comes from a drug rep with high heels and cleavage delivering hot lunch and free samples).
    lurker, I thought the rich dose of sarcasm in the responses to my original post was a sign it would be appropriate in my response, but maybe some explanation is required. I used the term “marxist-fascist” as part of a clearly ironic sentence intended to belittle one poster’s concerns about the importance of capitalization and grammar. (it’s ironic because marxist and fascist ideologies were completely opposed, being from the extreme left and right ends of the political spectrum).
    now I’ll try one more time to engage and present my legitimate question: public health policy is largely social science and politics. if a family doctor bases vaccination decisions on CDC advice and what the drug rep told him, and the patient assumes that the government’s advice as interpreted by the family doctor represents that individual patient’s best interest, he puts himself at risk. mostly it is small risk to be sure, but to deny that skepticism is appropriate here is “woo.” can you tell me why is it not?

  124. #124 Rogue Medic
    August 19, 2010

    @ 122 jon w,

    now I’ll try one more time to engage and present my legitimate question: public health policy is largely social science and politics.

    That is not true.

    Perhaps you will have more luck on a political blog.
    .

  125. #125 Chance Gearheart, NREMT-P/EMD
    August 19, 2010

    @Augustine, lolcow.

    Really? Godwinning me is the best you can do? No “your mother” jokes in there?

    It’s funny to see your composure break down when being mocked for the exact tactics you use on other people.

  126. #126 augustine
    August 19, 2010

    R. Medic: “That is not true.”

    Sorry, but it’s exactly true. Wishing it were not won’t help.

  127. #127 Chris
    August 19, 2010

    jon w, learning some basic grammar and rhetoric would make your point more clear. Of course, it would help if you actually had a point, but that also seems lacking.

  128. #128 Chris
    August 19, 2010

    I’ve yet to find one that has enough free time to keep up with research (the kind that comes in thick journals once a month

    Then you must meet Dr. Mark Crislip. He does read the medical literature, and writes about them on two blogs. He also comments about them on three separate podcasts, which considering your inability to write clearly should help your comprehension of the subject.

  129. #129 Chris
    August 19, 2010

    Oops I forgot something very important:

    Because the world needs more Mark Crislip!

  130. #130 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 19, 2010

    Jon, my first advice to you: Learn how to use capitals, and learn how to organize your thoughts in paragraphs. Seriously. People will respond more positively to your writing when it causes less strain to read.

    My second advice: Spending some time learning about logical fallacies, so that you can stop peppering your writing with them.

    You started immediately with the straw man fallacy, asking “do you people really think that August 2010 scientists … magically have come into possession of the Truth” — we don’t believe that magic has anything to do with it, so right away, your argument loses relevance. Should I criticize your belief that you don’t need vaccines because Santa Claus keeps you safe from disease? That would be as honest as your suggestion that we believe that the scientific consensus on vaccines is based on “magic” rather than on decades of scientific evidence.

    Your second fallacy is called argument from ignorance. The argument you put forth could be re-stated as the following syllogism:

    1) The scientific consensus is that in exchange for a very small risk, vaccination produces a very large protective health benefit, both for the individual vaccinated and for those around him/her.
    2) However, it’s possible that some unknown factor (either unknown to scientists, or known to scientists and suppressed by them) makes the scientific consensus wrong.
    3) Therefore we should “skeptically” act on the assumption that the scientific consensus is wrong.

    The problem with your syllogism is that 1) and 2), even if true, do not lead logically to 3). That is where the argument from ignorance comes in; you are acting as if any unknown factors can be treated as known factors supporting your view.

    Someone else might decide that it’s possible that some unknown data out there shows that vaccines are even safer and provide more protective benefit than the scientific consensus currently supports. By reasoning exactly in the same way you do he would reach the conclusion that the correct way to go is “Vaccines, full speed ahead!” — and because his syllogism is in the exact same form as yours, his conclusion must be just as correct as yours.

    The third flaw I will point out in your logic — it’s tempting to call it the fallacy of false dilemma, but that’s not quite accurate; the fallacy of false dilemma comes from describing two possible options as if they were the only two possible options. Your fallacy comes from describing an option as being in your power to guarantee just by trying, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    “I’ll keep my immune system intact and take my chances.” If you define vaccination as violation of the “intact” nature of your immune system, then you have absolutely no power to follow through on your claim that you’ll “keep [your] immune system intact.” You will be encountering, in the wild and at full strength, exactly the same microorganisms whose killed/attenuated forms were enough to “violate” your immune system.

    Declaring that your “choice” is to forgo vaccination and “keep your immune system intact” makes about as much sense as a driver blithely telling people “I won’t use seatbelts or airbags because they’re too dangerous. Instead, I simply won’t get into accidents.” Doesn’t it occur to him that most people who get into accidents never intended an accident?

  131. #131 Pablo
    August 20, 2010

    Jon, my first advice to you: Learn how to use capitals, and learn how to organize your thoughts in paragraphs. Seriously. People will respond more positively to your writing when it causes less strain to read.

    As a derail, I spend a lot of time in new parent forums, which involves a lot of pregnant women. There, in addition to not having capitals or organized thoughts in paragraphs, you also have it written in text message speak (things like ur for your or you’re).

    Every once in a while, I get fed up and recommend (sweet as you please, of course :-)) that communication is easier when using full words and punctuation. Whenever I do, though, there is a shit storm of whining. “I’m using my iPhone!!!” So? Last I knew, the iPhone had all the letters on it, and upper case options.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who stops reading that crap. As you note, people are more likely to respond positively (or at all) when it is less strain to read.

  132. #132 jon w
    August 20, 2010

    Hmm. Tthe more you harp on grammar, the more I suspect you have nothing substantive to say. mistakes like the use of “lacking” as if it were an intransitive verb, “capitals” as if capital were a noun and not an adjective, or “facist” (someone who believe in faces?) undermines the point here. Are there Latin terms for “argumento from good grammar” and “reductio to bad style?” Folks below a certain age tend to use a pretty casual style on the internet. I’ve never found mostly-lowercase a strain to read, but point taken and I’ll type in MS Word from now on if it helps.

    Feldspar, thanks for your response. I wrote poorly. I dashed off a quick rant and it did sound a little ignorant. I visited this board for the first time expecting a hearty disrespect for experts, a la Feynman, and instead found the apparent party line here is “you’re a whacko if you don’t do what you’re told”. I am aware of the vaccine deniers and the battle with celebrity fools. I get it that immunization saves lives. I’ve offloaded coolers full of them to clinics in Africa.

    I guess I’ll try to lay it out my perspective in a more strict logical form:
    I have the right to live my life free of coercion to put substances into my body.
    I have the right to choose what medical treatments, if any, I will undertake.
    These first two absolute rights would apply even if the family care doc and nurse were perfectly executing the latest and best research consensus. But these rights become even more important when we acknowledge that there is a gap when we go from epidemiological models to government recommendation, and from government recommendation to what a doc and nurse actually understand and practice.

    Now my faith comes into the picture, albeit informed by common sense, personal experience, and years of studying evolution and natural history: I believe that a healthy lifestyle keeps my immune system near its full potential, and assault from unadulterated wild pathogens is a risk I’m willing to take. I have faith that evolution designed us to eat something dirty or get cut once in awhile without falling to pieces. But evolution also designed us for life in small groups, not a city with 1000’s of strangers in daily contact. And primarily, evolution designed us to get our offspring to childbearing age, and is not concerned with a maximal lifespan. I keep my tetanus up to date; I got YF and JENV vax when I went to places where it made sense. My kids got MMR. But I didn’t get anthrax even when my employer said I had to. Why? Because even though the risk/benefit made sense to my employer, it didn’t to me as an individual. When we enroll in school, we falsely claim a religious exemption for vaccinations, because the government has no business telling me what treatment to take, and I don’t tolerate it.

    By “keep my immune system intact” I mean I’ll decide what needles go into my skin, and you will not decide what is best for me. Even if it makes you feel safer. Even if it makes you actually safer. Like rogue medic said, maybe this is a subject for a political blog.

    Cheers

  133. #133 jon w
    August 20, 2010

    Feldspar,

    First portion: I absolutely started with a straw man. Withdrawn.

    Second portion: Premise (1) is close to the truth, although there is obviously variability in the efficacy and danger posed by various vaccines and in the danger of the disease they are supposed to prevent. Premise (2): The scientific consensus is probably mostly right, and probably wrong in some small portion. Obviously we don’t know where the wrongness is. I think being aware of this is the basis of being a good scientist.

    But here’s the most important part: I am a libertarian and believe in the sovereignty of the individual as the highest good. I also believe I should act skeptically in the face of advice from a government or corporation since they are interested in something other than individual good. Call me crazy if you like, but we can mention a few examples of bad corporate or government behavior. This belief of mine does not follow from (1) or (2), but I brought up those first two ideas to illustrate why some folks find skepticism to be a rational way to approach life. Again, science falls apart when nobody is skeptical.

  134. #134 dedicated lurker
    August 20, 2010

    jon, I was not aware you were employing irony, and far too many people will say something like “Marxist-fascist” with a straight face.

    Being a skeptic also means accepting a truth when the evidence overwhelmingly supports it. What would make you feel vaccination reached that point?

  135. #135 jon w
    August 20, 2010

    Lurker,

    Having read through a few more topics on the blog here, I can see why folks have the whacko filter set a little high.

    To answer your question, I’d say it’s established fact that vaccination can reduce infection rates in a population. But you (plural) go further without delineating where overwhelming evidence ends and the guesswork starts. We can only guess, for example, whether the H1N1 vaccine prevented a pandemic. Being prepared and preventing epidemics is the job of some well intentioned and smart folks at the CDC and WHO and so on, but my right to say no thanks supersedes society’s right to feel safe. That’s why I speak up against forced or coerced medication. It should be an individual choice. I’m not concerned about the risk of catching autism, but rather about the risk of allowing government intrusion into my private business.

  136. #136 Chris
    August 20, 2010

    Where are vaccines “forced or coerced”? I remember that happening in Panama, where you had to show proof of yellow fever vaccine or you would get one whether you wanted it or not. And in the book Inside the Outbreaks they did track down and force vaccines on populations in places where they were trying to quell an outbreak of smallpox or polio.

    Do you actually live where this happens?

    Also when does you saying “no thanks” go from a basic right, to being immoral.

    Also which is a more heinous breech of your rights: being quarantined due to possible exposure to measles (which San Diego County did to several possibly exposed persons), or asking parents to either vaccinate or fill out an exemption form? And then, horrors upon horrors… when there is evidence of a disease in the area the vaccine exempted children are asked to not go to school:

    Unvaccinated students are being sent home from school because of the growing measles outbreak in Vancouver, and that has at least one parent concerned that the policy is unfair.

    Actually, it is not really a political debate. It is a debate about science and public health. If you are going moan and groan about your “rights”, then you are going to have to tell us very carefully how your “rights” are more important than the right of young children too young to be vaccinated, immunocompromised persons and others to be free from infections that could kill or disable.

  137. #137 Chris
    August 20, 2010

    Do you think you have the right to force a child to endure this:

    “We spent three days in the hospital fearing we might lose our baby boy. He couldn’t drink or eat, so he was on an IV, but for a while he seemed to be wasting away. When he began to be able to drink again we got to take him home. But the doctors told us to expect the disease to continue to run its course, including high fever—which did spike as high as 106. We spent a week waking at all hours to stay on schedule with fever reducing medications and soothing him with damp wash cloths. Also, as instructed, we watched closely for signs of lethargy or non-responsiveness. If we’d seen that, we’d have gone back to the hospital immediately.”


    Megan now knows that her son was exposed to measles during his 10-month check-up, when another mother brought her ill son into the pediatrician’s waiting room. An investigation found that the boy and his siblings had gotten measles overseas and brought it back to the U.S. They had not been vaccinated.

    Tell us why the rights of family who did not vaccinate their children should supersede those of the children they infected in the waiting room. How do your rights to not get the Tdap match the rights of an infant to not get pertussis?

    Little Augie keeps asking if this is an atheist blog. He seems to think that if anyone is an atheist then they are not quite moral or something. But I personally think it is immoral to expect to live in a society and try to be exempt from societal rules to not harm other persons. That includes obeying traffic rules, not dumping my garbage into the neighborhood park, hooking into the municipal sewer system and not digging my own cesspool, not setting random fires, not shooting a pellet gun at houses (which happened to us, our cat ended up with one lodged in his leg), and making sure my children and I are fully vaccinated.

  138. #138 jon w
    August 21, 2010

    Since schooling is compelled by law, vaccination is coerced, at least in my state. I can evade it by lying on a form and pretending to be infected with religion, but presumably that perjury is a crime of some sort. The ironic thing is that these laws make me less likely to choose vaccination, since I naturally resist being told to submit to authority. I don’t claim any right to be free from disease, nor do I recognize any such right for other people, of any age. Would you like to take your newly invented “right to freedom from pertussis” to a court of law? Where would that lead us? I don’t recognize the authority of government or you or any “consensus” to tell me what is moral behavior. Did the consumption of alcohol become immoral at midnight the day Prohibition was passed into law, then become moral again when Prohibition was repealed? Ridiculous.

    Several years ago, my premature son was infected with RSV and almost died. There’s a pretty good chance that repeated RSV vaccinations saved his life, but I’m not out in the streets badmouthing people with RSV. Bad things happen. Danger is part of life. My right to be left alone ALWAYS supersedes your right to tell me what to do. I want to puke when I hear you say that I need to explain my rights very carefully.

    Since you bring up Panama, 50 years ago the government there (under PAHO’s Aedes aegypti eradication campaign) sprayed DDT in people’s houses to eradicate the yellow fever mosquito. Seemed like a good idea at that time and place. Wanna guess how “DDT deniers” would have gone over? Today DDT is banned, but it’s pretty clear that properly applied it would save millions of lives from malaria. Should we break into people’s houses to spray poison (actually posing only an infinitesimal risk to any non-arthropod occupants), since allowing mosquitoes to live is immoral?

    Policy (including public health policy) is necessarily arbitrary and changing, depending not only on scientific consensus but on culture, social mores, and the interests of whomever happens to be in power. The best defense against arbitrary and capricious exercise of government power is the strong recognition of individual rights which is a founding principle of American democracy. This is absolutely about individual freedom, and about politics. The fact that applied science is involved somewhere in the background doesnt change that fact.

    Chris, I’m not sure what to make of your list of societal infractions at the end, but I promise not to shoot your cat unless it attacks me. Most folks use common sense in traffic and only obey the law when it suits them. Generally I find that when people respect each other things work out. Maybe someday the superflu will sweep through and end a bunch of lives a few decades earlier than they would have ended otherwise. Maybe this great society will all its rules will provoke a terrorist into blowing up the planet. I just don’t care that much. I’d rather live in freedom and take my chances.

    As a side note, it’s interesting that you mention “children too young to be vaccinated.” Is there such a thing?

  139. #139 The Bug Guy
    August 21, 2010

    jon w:

    DDT use is a complex subject. It is not banned worldwide and is still recommended by the WHO as an interior repellent spray for vector control in situations where there are no economical alternatives and there is no pre-existing resistance to DDT. Because of environmental persistance, it is being phased out under the Stockholm Convention, but that is still going to take a few more years to accomplish.

  140. #140 Chris
    August 21, 2010

    jon w, even Mississippi and West Virginia have private schools, they even allow homeschooling. You only need to provide your child an education, you don’t need to send them to public school.

    I was born in Panama a bit over fifty years ago. I know about the sprayings. There were trucks pumping out DDT fog in Ft. Jackson, SC when I was in kindergarten. Unfortunately mosquitoes evolved to be resistant to DDT. Occasionally the city I lives in will spray Bacillus thuringiensis to control gypsy moths. Your point?

    I also lived in Panama again in high school, during the time Omar Torrijos would confiscate the copies of the Miami Herald when they wrote something he didn’t like. Boys going to Balboa High School stayed in the Canal Zone because the Guardia Nacional guys liked to grab them and give them haircuts. I find your talk about “rights” highly amusing.

    Were you the guy who hit my car while I was stopped at red light because you were yacking on your cell phone?

    As a side note, it’s interesting that you mention “children too young to be vaccinated.” Is there such a thing?

    The babies who died of pertussis in California were under two months old, which is too young to get the DTaP. The child in the news articles I posted (the blue letters indicate a link to another webpage, when you hover your mouse over them it goes from a little arrow to a hand, click the mouse button) were infected by measles before they were old enough to get the MMR vaccine, which is first given between twelve and eighteen months.

  141. #141 Rogue Medic
    August 21, 2010

    @ 132 jon w,

    I believe that a healthy lifestyle keeps my immune system near its full potential,

    Vaccination improves the ability of the immune system to do its job.

    A healthy lifestyle, including vaccination, keeps the immune system near its full potential.

    Vaccination has a direct effect on the immune system, while a healthy lifestyle has much less of an effect on the immune system.

    I have faith that evolution designed us to eat something dirty or get cut once in awhile without falling to pieces.

    Evolution is not a design or a designer.

    Evolution describes how different species are adapted to the environment. Some will mutate enough to produce a different species that will be differently adapted to the changing environment.

    When the environment changes, different species will be better adapted to the current environment.

    Many people have died from simple cuts. The simple splinter could be lethal without antibiotics to treat the infections – infections that can be stronger than the immune system of even someone with healthy a lifestyle.

    But evolution also designed us for life in small groups, not a city with 1000’s of strangers in daily contact.

    Again, evolution is not a design or a designer.

    As the environment changes, the species which are best adapted to the environment will change.

    Part of the environment is what we normally consider the environment, but for evolution, the environment includes everything that affects our survival to pass on our genes.

    Technology and information are important parts of that environment.

    From primitive writing to the various modern communications systems, we have been able to use information to affect our survival.

    I don’t remember where I read it (maybe The Ghost Map), but I believe that I read somewhere that life expectancy is currently greater in cities, than in the country. If that is the case, then aren’t we currently best adapted for city life?

    And primarily, evolution designed us to get our offspring to childbearing age, and is not concerned with a maximal lifespan.

    Evolution is still not a design or a designer, even though you wrote it three times. ;-)

    Childbearing age vs. maximum life span?

    This is a false distinction. Most of the improvement in life expectancy comes from preventing the death of children. An example is a child who does not die, but lives to a normal lifespan. That child’s survival will have much more of an influence on life expectancy than adding years to the life of an adult (especially a very old adult).

    A child not killed, or disabled, is much more likely to grow up and pass on his genes. We use our minds, information, and technology to increase the number of people surviving to pass on these genes. We also use our minds, information, and technology to decrease the number of people surviving in groups that we dislike. However, unintended consequences can alter that outcome dramatically.

    When we use our minds, information, and technology to improve the survival of people, who otherwise would not be well adapted for the current environment without that crutch, we are changing the outcome of evolution. If we feel that some technology is leading to a weakening of the human species, do we ban that technology?

    Where do we draw the line?

    Why?
    .

  142. #142 LW
    August 21, 2010

    “But evolution also designed us for life in small groups, not in a city with 1000′s of strangers in daily contact.”

    Unfortunately for us, evolution works faster on bacteria and viruses than on us, so they *are* adapted to those conditions, which is why city-dwellers tend to get a lot of diseases spread by coughing and sneezing. Unless they’re vaccinated, of course.

    I don’t exactly understand the point of bringing up evolution anyway. 

    Is it that we did not evolve to live in cities, therefore we shouldn’t do it, therefore city-dwellers deserve their fate and we shouldn’t protect them from it via vaccination?

    Is it that city-dwelling is unnatural, therefore we should allow epidemics to rage freely until the city-dwellers are wiped out and the survivors live in the small groups for which they were designed?  

    Is it that our vaccines are preventing evolution from properly adapting us to live in cities, therefore we should allow epidemics to rage freely, in the expectation that the offspring of the survivors will be more naturally resistant to these diseases with each passing generation? 

    Or what?   

  143. #143 Pablo
    August 21, 2010

    Evolution never developed us to ward off disease. What it did was developed us with the capacity to overcome those problems.

    I have a saying, “Mother Nature is a cruel bitch.” It’s true.

    Before humans statted meddling in it, the “natural” human female would produce an average of 8 offspring, with 5 of them reaching sexual maturity. That’s a 37.5% failure rate. That’s how well evoluation protects us.

    Fortunately, we weren’t satisfied playing by that bitch’s game, and told Mother Nature to shove it up her ass. We aren’t willing to accept her outcome.

    So jon, don’t pretend that somehow you are relying on evolution to make you what you are today. Left to that, there is a darn good chance you wouldn’t have seen your 10th birthday. A large number of people are alive today because we DON’T leave it up to evolution. No, we do things to protect the weak and vulnerable, and that includes the young. Mother Nature is a cruel bitch – she can’t be trusted.

  144. #144 augustine
    August 21, 2010

    Pablo your #143 pretty much sums up your not scientific, but metaphysical view of the universe. Not one single bit of science in there. Just opinions. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t confuse it with truth. Opinion. Nothing more.

  145. #145 augustine
    August 21, 2010

    Roger Medic: [Vaccination has a direct effect on the immune system,]

    So does cyclosporin. So does autoimmune disease cause. The problem, Roger, is you (or any of your ambulance driving friends) don’t completely understand all of the effects that vaccines may have. So you don’t know how far reaching that “direct effect” goes in the long term or the short term for that matter. And please don’t defer authority and say “somebody knows” because they DON’T.

    … while a healthy lifestyle has much less of an effect on the immune system.

    Yes the propaganda lives on with “science” blogs.

    Maybe you should define health to make that clear. Maybe you’ve never thought of what life is or the purpose of life. That would surely determine your view on the nature of health and disease.

    It would explain your controlling and manipulating outlook on life.

  146. #146 Rogue Medic
    August 21, 2010

    @ 143 Pablo,

    If you look at it from that perspective, but look instead at the survival rate of species, there is a much higher failure rate.

    Extinction is very successful. ;-)
    .

  147. #147 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 22, 2010

    But here’s the most important part: I am a libertarian and believe in the sovereignty of the individual as the highest good. I also believe I should act skeptically in the face of advice from a government or corporation since they are interested in something other than individual good.

    Well, we do disagree on the moral question of what responsibility the individual has to do their part to secure the general welfare, but as noted, it’s a question of morality and ethics and not of science, so I’ll leave that one.

    The point where I think you’re still getting your logic wrong is where you’re saying “I think we should be skeptical” and then you’re doing something else which isn’t really skepticism at all. True skepticism would be applying critical judgment to everything that people are telling you on a subject, not just those things that are being told by a government or corporation. Look at the whole mess with Andrew Wakefield! He claimed that he was exposing the hidden agendas of the corporations that manufactured MMR and the governments that mandated its usage, but it turned out that he was really just a paid shill for lawyers and trying to create a market for his own competing vaccine!

    “Applying critical judgment” isn’t just a synonym for “disbelieving”, either. True skepticism is not just about refusing to accept ideas when the evidence for them isn’t good enough… it’s about accepting them when the evidence is there. What evidence would convince you that vaccines give protective benefits that far outweighs their small risks? Because if your answer is “none”, that isn’t skepticism.

  148. #148 Prometheus
    August 23, 2010

    Jon W has some curious ideas about evolution:

    “I believe that a healthy lifestyle keeps my immune system near its full potential, and assault from unadulterated wild pathogens is a risk I’m willing to take.”

    In some diseases, it is the immune system that does the killing, saving the “wild pathogen” the effort. That seems to be the case in a lot of the newer zoonotic diseases, like H5N1 influenza and Ebola. Regardless, the point of vaccines is not to protect you from all “wild pathogens” but only an extremely small percentage that are felt to constitute an exceptional risk of death and that are amenable to prevention by vaccination.

    “I have faith that evolution designed us to eat something dirty or get cut once in awhile without falling to pieces.”

    Seeing the words “faith”, “evolution” and “designed” in the same sentence makes me smile. Funny how evolution hasn’t given us the ability to resist (or even become immune to) tetanus. Clostridium tetani has been around as long as humans, yet we haven’t evolved resistance to it. Strange.

    Equally strange that we haven’t evolved the ability to resist cholera, Salmonella typhi, hepatitis A….need I go on?

    Evolution doesn’t follow a “design” – it is the result of random mutation and non-random selection (advantageous mutations persist more than neutral or deleterious mutations). If you want to have “faith” in evolution, I’d suggest putting your faith in the ability of parasites, bacteria and viruses to mutate and evolve much faster than we can.

    “But evolution also designed us for life in small groups, not a city with 1000’s of strangers in daily contact.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Many other animals cannot tolerate living at the density that humans can (think Manhattan). We certainly evolved the ability to live in larger social groups or we would have never built cities. Don’t forget – our brain is an evolutionary development.

    Like other adaptations, it has its drawbacks, but our brains allow us to use language and develop social rules, laws, government, etc., all of which were necessary to create cities. Our immune system seems to have done pretty well evolving to tolerate living in large social groups, as well, since there were cities of over 250,000 long before vaccination.

    In that sense, vaccinations are the result of human evolution, since they were an indirect result of our brain evolution. If it weren’t for our larger brains, we’d be just another type of chimpanzee.

    It is a common misconception that humans stopped evolving once we built towns and cities, but that simply isn’t true. We’ve stopped evolving ways of avoiding predators, perhaps, but we’re still evolving in response to stressors in our environment, just as we did 100,000 years ago.

    Prometheus

  149. #149 Chris
    August 25, 2010

    Let’s face it, anyone who speaks about evolution and yet has a premie child saved through real medicine is a hypocrite, and is talking through the wrong end of his torso.

  150. #150 jon w
    August 26, 2010

    Chris, I thought I was done with this but you got me. There’s an old saying that I like: “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” Is real medicine still part of biology? Gosh, I sure hope so. Your all-too-typical bewilderment that evolution and medicine might have anything to do with each other is why I don’t trust most medical professionals outside their narrow fields of technical expertise. There are many exceptions, but too often they fail as scientists. I do hope you’re not out there inflicting care on people.

    Feldspar, is it impossible to hide the ineffectiveness of a new or hastily developed medication? Is it impossible to misjudge the risk of a pandemic? Of course not. I’m simply arguing that when so much money is to be made by selling millions of doses of a product, skepticism is appropriate. You write as if I denied that some vaccines give great benefit with no detectable risk. Of course I don’t deny that.

    In the sense that “design” implies “intent,” of course evolution is not conscious and we are not designed. Nonetheless, many folks find it a useful shortcut to say, for example, that a panda’s thumb is designed by evolution to help it eat bamboo, or that a male sex organ is designed to fit into the female of the same species. If that troubles you, please remove the phrase “evolution designed us to” and replace it with “evolution happened, and now our genetic codes assemble us so that we are able to…” Yes, I have faith that even the parts of our biology we don’t understand probably make sense in some evolutionary way. It makes me smile, too.

    Prometheus, we still haven’t evolved to live in cities; they were population sinks until just over a century ago when we learned how to make them cleaner and heal sick people. You’re confusing cultural evolution with genetic evolution. Although genetic evolution hasn’t stopped, its influence is far outpaced by cultural evolution. But the fact that humans can invent something has nothing to do with whether it enhances survival, and certainly not whether it’s ethical or even good public health policy to force people to use it. Regardless, I’m concerned with something besides optimizing the survival rate of the human population in an arbitrary geopolitical boundary.

    Vaccines are a tool that can save lives. I will use them when there is a clear benefit to me or people whom I care about. Otherwise I will not use them. Coerce me and I will resist. Argue (e.g., as Crislip does) that coercion should be increased, and I will tell you it’s wrong and argue the opposite. Since blood donations save lives, should the blood drive SWAT team visit the homes of rare blood type holders? What if the medical consensus said it was the moral thing to do? Yeah I know it’s a slippery slope. My point is that a free society has no place near that slope. I don’t believe we are in a free society, but some of us still aspire to be that way, and I’ll still resist the trend to increase restrictions on freedom.

  151. #151 Antaeus Feldspar
    August 26, 2010

    You write as if I denied that some vaccines give great benefit with no detectable risk. Of course I don’t deny that.

    Well, that’s good to hear, but I’m afraid there’s no “of course” about it; we regularly get comments from people who would agree, without hesitation or qualification, that there are no such vaccines which give great benefit with minimal risk. It’s not even unknown for us to get comments claiming things like “millions have already been killed by the H1N1 vaccine down in Third World Country X!!” and the like. Sorry if we sometimes guess wrongly about aspects of your opinion that you haven’t spelled out, but considering the past it’s not guessing unreasonably.

  152. #152 Chris
    August 31, 2010

    Your all-too-typical bewilderment that evolution and medicine might have anything to do with each other is why I don’t trust most medical professionals outside their narrow fields of technical expertise

    ROFL!

    You really don’t have a clue, do you? Or you are obviously accepting that antibiotics don’t effect bacterial infections at all!

    I may only be a lowly engineer, but I know my limitations. I also am more familiar with the basics more than you can ever imagine. The book I am reading at the present is Mountains Beyond Mountains, which makes your lamentations even more pathetic and ludicrous.

  153. #153 adelady
    August 31, 2010

    jon w You’ve talked about your views on freedom and that you’d make your own judgment on vaccinations for yourself and your family. I’m interested on your feelings about someone who feels the same way you do about freedom, but makes different choices about vaccination.

    If your child is in hospital after an accident, how do you feel about that other family visiting someone nearby if they’ve not had pertussis or rubella or some other vaccination that you think is important and they don’t?

    I have strong views on personal freedom, but I’m happy to curtail the freedom *of movement* of people who wish to enter a childrens’ or maternity hospital without suitable protection, eg pertussis and rubella vaccinations, for the vulnerable people inside.

  154. #154 Chris
    August 31, 2010

    Evolution and medicine: multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

    Now if I mis-understood your meaning, jon w, it would be nice if you could actually write more clearly. As far as personal freedoms go, do not ever leave the USA. You may find yourself in a world of hurt (for your information there is no first amendment north of here, and the RCMP can bug your phone).