Posts Tagged 'Vaccines'

Enlightning Bolts – 03.08.2010

There’s a new podcast and it’s for skeptical parents! I’m not a skeptical parent (yet) but it’s still an interesting podcast: The Podcast Beyond Belief.

One of many sad examples of where failure to immunize kills. On the positive side of things, 85 million African kids will be getting the polio vaccine.

Ouch! The psychic Oscar predictions I posted the other night only guessed 2 correct out of 10 picks. This non-psychic did much better.

This New York Times article highlights some of the abuses of the Church of Scientology, as described by people who escaped the cult.

One of my favourite shows, Community, and one of the few shows that I can think of featuring a positive atheist character (and a female one to boot!) has been picked up for a second season. Watch their reaction to the news here.

Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about how lame hollywood aliens are. Except for the Blob. That one is A-O-K.

Meryl Dorey is Resigning as President of the AVN!!!

Meryl Dorey is a horrible, horrible person. She is the president of the Australian Vaccination Network, which, despite how its name sounds, is anti-vaccine. Here’s a small sample of her heartlessness:

Meryl appeared on national television telling a reporter that “we didn’t die from (these diseases) thirty years ago and we’re not going to die from them now”, juxtaposted alongside footage of babies gasping for breath as the journalist detailed the story of the death of Dana McCaffery from the vaccine preventable disease, whooping cough.

But I just finished checking my email and guess what? She’s resigning!!! From their most recent newsletter:

After almost 17 years of running the AVN, it is my bittersweet duty to inform you that within the next 3-4 weeks I will tendering my resignation as President of this great organisation and moving on to the next stage of my own personal development as mother, wife, activist and researcher.

WOOOOOHOOO!!!

It would seem that the AVN is having some financial difficulties, so most of her resignation is a plea for money:

Alternatively, if a benefactor or series of benefactors come forward to establish a fund that would guarantee the AVN’s existence for at least the next 2-3 years, or if donations were to be come in during the next week that would give us the same financial sustainability, then I would be willing to continue in my role for the foreseeable future.

This morning, I received a call from one of our long-time members – a woman who has been a faithful member and supporter of the AVN for over 15 years. Her mother passed away last year and she was calling to tell me that when the sale of her mother’s house goes through, she has earmarked a donation to give to the AVN to allow me to go to Canberra. When I informed her of the current situation with our organisation, she suggested that I ask people to not only give generously now, but to earmark 1% of their income to support the AVN into the future. She said that 1% is something everyone should be able to afford and the subject is so important, so vital to our children’s future, that if people were to think about how little it cost them and how much they would be receiving in return, they would be glad to do it. So I am passing this suggestion on at her request.

Unfortunately Meryl is still planning on being active with the AVN, but hopefully their financial difficulties are an indication that they’re losing influence. I also hope that the recent decision with regards to Andrew Wakefield’s ethics would put doubts in the minds of anyone considering supporting anti-vaccination groups like the AVN.

Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of the vaccine fear-mongering, at least in Australia.

NOTE: The full letter is now posted on their blog, you can read it here.

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Enlightning Bolts – 01.28.2010

Dr. Rachael Dunlop of the Skeptic Zone podcast is up for a Shorty Award (a Twitter contest), in the category of health. She’s up against some alternative medicine pushers, so if you have a Twitter account vote!

If you’re in favour of English Libel Law reform (keeping libel laws out of science), check out this website and sign the petition if you agree:

Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.

Here‘s an account of PZ’s recent visit to Winnipeg by another local blogger who took notes. Smart!

Canada AM once again provides a platform to a kook: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spouts nonsense, including the ridiculous idea that “even a molecule of mercury could destroy brain cells and cause deformities in children.” What the what? Fail! It’s a morning show, so I don’t expect any hard-hitting journalism, but he was saying some horrible and blatantly wrong things, and there was almost no voice of skepticism. This piece even seemed to be propping him up as some kind of hero. Awful.

Steve over at Skeptic North has kindly responded to this, check it out here. Thanks Steve!

And last, but definitely not least, Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who started the whole vaccines cause autism myth, was investigated by the General Medical Council. They found that he “acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in his research and with ‘callous disregard’ for the children that were the subject of his research.”

I predicted on Twitter that the anti-vax response to this would be something like: “Wakefield being found guilty will prove that the courts are IN TEH POCKET of Big Pharma!!!111″ It turns out I wasn’t even that far off.

Enlightning Bolts – January 17, 2010

Church sign logic fail.

NASA solves the mystery of the giant ribbon at the edge of the solar system: “We believe the ribbon is a reflection,” says Jacob Heerikhuisen, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. “It is where solar wind particles heading out into interstellar space are reflected back into the solar system by a galactic magnetic field.” Wicked!

College Humour is brilliant: The Tetris God (YouTube).

Meryl Dorey, Australian anti-vaxxer, doesn’t want any part of her donation going to immunizing Haitians, in spite of this:

Diarrhoeal diseases would flourish as survivors struggled to find clean water and safe food, Dr Kirsch said. Measles outbreaks, which sometimes follow natural disasters, may spread in neighbourhoods of tightly packed courtyards where thousands of homeless residents are gathering.

Half of the children in Haiti are unvaccinated and just 40 per cent of the population had access to basic health care before the crisis, according to the WHO.

They need vaccines.

I gave a list of options for your Haiti donation the other day, now here’s one more (set up by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science): Non-believers Giving Aid is an attempt to quell the myth that atheists aren’t charitable as believers, but it also makes sure that 100% of your donation is given to the secular charities they are supporting (Int’l Red Cross & Doctors Without Borders). Richard Dawkins will personally cover any fees associated with making a donation, so you know that your full contribution will go straight to the people who need it.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc – Why my iPod Didn’t Kill my Computer

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc is Latin for “after this, therefore because of this,” or in other words, associating correlation with causation.

People are notorious for making this error in logic, because when something significant happens we want to be able to know & explain why it happened.

I was guilty of this error the other day when my laptop broke (I lost all of my files, I cried and learned my lesson – back them up!!!). I was going about my computer business as usual, and remembered that my iPod battery was nearly drained, so decided to plug it in. As soon as the cord hit the USB port, the screen went black, it crashed, and I couldn’t turn it back on.

I blamed this crash on the iPod, I even yelled at it and threw the cord against the wall! But when my husband took it in to get fixed, they said it wasn’t possible that the iPod was what caused the problem. Sorry iPod, it was just a coincidence that my computer happened to die at the exact moment that I plugged it in. I think this is a great example that helps to understand why many people buy into the anti-vaccine movement in spite of the complete lack of evidence correlating vaccines with autism.

Just like a certain amount of peoples’ computers will crash shortly after they plug their iPods into their USB ports, a certain number of children will be diagnosed with autism shortly after they are immunized. Just because it happens before, doesn’t mean it was the cause.

There’s a story that Paul Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets, likes to tell that illustrates this beautifully:

My wife is a privately practicing pediatrician in the suburbs. And she was in the office one day and there was a four-month-old sitting on her mother’s lap. And my wife was drawing a vaccine into a syringe that she was about to give this child. Well, while she was drawing the vaccine into a syringe the child had a seizure, and actually went on to have a permanent seizure disorder—epilepsy. And there had been a family history of epilepsy, so she was certainly at risk for that. If my wife had given that vaccine five minutes earlier, I think there’s no amount of statistical data in the world that would have convinced that mother that anything other than the vaccine caused the seizure, because I think those sort of emotional events are very hard to argue against.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy “Your Shape” by Ubisoft

Ubisoft has a new game for the Wii, and it looks fun! I would actually probably have bought it (since I got a Wii for Christmas) if it weren’t for one very unfortunate detail…Jenny McCarthy is their spokesperson.

This should be a problem for anyone who cares about children, because Jenny McCarthy promotes dangerous anti-vaccine lunacy that kills children.

Among McCarthy’s many weird ideas about health, is her theory that her son’s autism was caused by vaccines. In spite of the fact that this idea has been repeatedly and very thoroughly proven wrong, McCarthy continues to spread her lies.

Please click on and read the links in this post, and decide for yourself whether you want to purchase a product that supports someone who has taken what is probably the single greatest medical advance in history, and turned it into something that scares parents into not immunizing their children.

Here is a post about why you shouldn’t buy any Ubisoft products, and here is one about Jenny McCarthy’s involvement with the game, and who you can contact to complain about this poor choice of spokesperson.

Help spread the word on your blog, or on Twitter (follow me while you’re there @EnlightningLinZ) and send an email to Ubisoft.

As of January 3, 2010

I Wish I Didn’t Know About Celebrities’ Personal Beliefs

I’m always disappointed to find out that one of my favourite celebrities is promoting wacky ideas.

I love Bill Maher’s harsh criticisms of religion, but then I find out that he’s into astrology and has some paranoid conspiracy theories.

Yesterday I was watching Ellen, one of my favourite shows, and unfortunately had to witness her fawning over Deepak Chopra.

And now today I find out via Twitter that Brent Spiner is anti-vaccine.

*sigh*

5 Bits of Woo I Wish Were True and 5 I’m Glad Aren’t True

The Top 5 Bits of Woo I Wish Were True:

5. Santa Claus – When I was a kid my parents told me that on Christmas Eve a jolly old man in a red suit would come down our chimney and leave me toys that his magical elves made me at the North Pole. How cool would that be?! And now as an adult, I’m thinking that Christmas could be a whole lot more fun if Santa did my shopping for me.

4. Free Energy – There’s always somebody pimping their perpetual motion machine, telling you they’ve got the solution to the energy crisis, but unfortunately they’re either con artists, deluded, or breaking the laws of thermodynamics. Alas! I guess I’ll just have to keep paying the heating bill and filling up that pesky gas tank.

3. The Afterlife – It would be so comforting to know that my loved ones are living on after they’ve passed away, and to know that I would be meeting them again soon. Also, since I became an atheist, I’ve started getting really bad anxiety every time I get in a car. I desperately don’t want to die, because I know this is the only life I get. If I knew that there was an afterlife I would be a lot more relaxed about taking risks, and I certainly wouldn’t be such an annoying back seat driver!

2. UFOs – Imagine if aliens actually visited Earth? Hopefully they wouldn’t be of the anal-probing variety…but it would surely be the highlight of my life to encounter a being from another solar system. I highly doubt the possibility of humans achieving inter-stellar travel in my lifetime, so to have a creature that’s seen the universe from a completely different perspective come to us would be…just…wow.

1. The Power of Prayer – If I thought I could relieve someone’s pain or bring world peace or solve complicated problems by appealing to a higher power, you’d better believe I would be down on my knees every second of every day.

The Top 5 Bits of Woo I’m Glad Aren’t True:

5. Psychic Powers - It creeps me out to imagine a world where certain people could read your thoughts and see your future. My thoughts are private, and I choose what I share with people. To not have the ability to own my most personal feelings would suck. And I have no desire to see my future. That would take the adventure out of life! Althought I wouldn’t mind winning the occasional lottery…

4. 9/11 and Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories - These ideas sicken me because they assume that the government is able to dupe people on a massive scale, and that they are in no way accountable to the people they represent. Politicians have their problems and often do crooked things, but they don’t have nearly the amount of control over the population as these two theories would require if they were true. Plus, humans have been on another freaking world! How jaded do you have to be to deny that???

3. Ghosts – I like the idea of an afterlife, but if I had to spend it walking up and down stairs, making howling noises, and causing loopy psychics to feel cold, I’d rather just be dead.

2. The Dangers of Vaccines - Vaccines save lives, and have helped nearly eliminate certain painful childhood illnesses. Yet there are certain people who, for whatever reason, have decided to ignore the evidence and blame vaccines for everything that’s wrong in the world. I think they should take a stroll through an old graveyard and count the number of babies burried there.

1. Hell – Eternal torment…what a brilliant idea thought up by authority figures to keep their people in line. Nobody should be punished eternally for any mistake they made on Earth. It’s a horrible thing to threaten someone with. Thankfully it doesn’t exist…unfortunately some people genuinely live in fear of fire and brimstone. Sad.


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