Fundamentalism is bad for your health: Muslim edition

By Phil Plait | January 30, 2007 4:52 pm

From the Times Online UK:

Dr Abdul Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association, is telling Muslims that almost all vaccines contain products derived from animal and human tissue, which make them "haram", or unlawful for Muslims to take.Islam permits only the consumption of halal products, where the animal has had its throat cut and bled to death while God’s name is invoked.

Will they invoke God’s name when their child is suffering from measles? How about mumps? In Islam, the men are regarded more highly than women; how would they feel if their borderline-adult son had these symptoms:

Mumps in adolescent and adult males may also result in the development of orchitis, an inflammation of the testicles. Usually one testicle becomes swollen and painful about 7 to 10 days after the parotids swell. This is accompanied by a high fever, shaking chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain that can sometimes be mistaken for appendicitis if the right testicle is affected.

I can imagine yelling lots of blasphemous statements under those conditions.

The Times Online article goes on to say:

His warning has been criticised by the Department of Health and the British Medical Association, who said Katme risked increasing infections ranging from flu and measles to polio and diphtheria in Muslim communities.

I sometimes joke that if creationists don’t want to believe in evolution, then they shouldn’t benefit from it, including vaccinations. However, the ramifications would spread to the larger population which understands just what medical science has done for humanity (as someone who is older than 30 and wears glasses, I am grateful to be alive because of medical science).

There are so many reasons to fight fundamentalist religion. Your very life — and the lives of your kids — should be at the top of that list.

Tip o’ the surgeon’s mask to Respectful Insolence.

Comments (66)

  1. I predict that the usual slew of people who claim that the BA has a grudge against religion will not complain about this blog entry. (People can see how ridiculous religion is- as long as it’s not their religion.)

    Let’s not forget that there are several groups of Christians who also oppose vaccinations and surgery using equally weird reasoning.

  2. Is there any indication at all that anyone has followed the advice of this one doctor?

  3. Damon

    ALALALALALALALALA

  4. OtherRob

    >>Let’s not forget that there are several groups of Christians who also oppose vaccinations and surgery using equally weird reasoning.

  5. And those groups add up to a negligible percentage of the population.

  6. OtherRob

    Okay, something went wrong there. Let’s try it again….

    >>Let’s not forget that there are several groups of Christians who also oppose vaccinations and surgery using equally weird reasoning.

  7. OtherRob

    You know, I’ve only recently discovered the BA blog and this is the first post I’ve tried replying to. One more attempt before I slink off in embarassment…

    Okay, something went wrong there. Let’s try it again….

    Christian Burnham said “Let’s not forget that there are several groups of Christians who also oppose vaccinations and surgery using equally weird reasoning.”

    I have never under that “reasoning”, that medicine is somehow bad. Setting aside the sickness of people who let their own children suffer, if you believe in God, I would think your thought processes would go something like this:

    “These doctors said, ‘Let’s take this still heart out of a dead man and put it into a dying man and save that dying man’s life.’ And it works. Those doctors must have been inspired by God.”

  8. So why isn’t this moron proposing to make “halal” vaccines instead of instigating a potential pandemic? I’m glad it’s not just me who thinks that a sacred recipe book is a rather silly reason to refuse to protect yourself from life-threatening but easily preventable diseases.

  9. Also-

    Many Christians (including the POTUS) in this country do not support funding of stem-cell research for theological reasons.

    I don’t see that they are any better than this Muslim doctor.

  10. Just to play devil’s advocate: didn’t Jenner develop vaccination before the theory of evolution was published? How is vaccination a benefit of evolution?

  11. Also: it’s ironic to play devil’s advocate by supporting the creationists :P

  12. Steve: Evolution and vaccines:

    0.13 sec. Google search shows that the theories of vaccination is informed and extended by the theory of evolution.

    Here was the first Google result- a paper on PubMed.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=8587880&dopt=Abstract

    The evolution of vaccine-resistant strains of infectious agents is potentially a huge problem for their control by immunization. Yet, for many infectious diseases, it has been possible to drive them to the verge of extinction without vaccine escape mutants arising. This paper establishes a theoretical framework within which to ask why this should be so, what properties of vaccines allow this situation and what might happen in situations where vaccine escape mutants do arise.

  13. It was elements in the Roman Catholic church ands some RC schools that called for the MMR jab to be banned because during the research, use was made of feotal tissue from an aborted featus.

    The ruling was that good Catholics should not benefit from what is seen as murder.

    I hope that clears that one up.

    Any hue, nice to see BA reading a quality newspaper from the UK instead of the gutter press.

  14. This does bring up an interesting point. As a physician, I can at least report that in my experience (limited to one community), people are usually pretty flexible about animal products and such (the only real religious objection we run into are Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood products). Many products used in the hospital are derived from animals or were so until recently. Heparin, given to many patients to prevent blood clots while hospitalized (and often in small amounts in IV lines and such), comes from animals, often pigs. Absorbable sutures used in surgery, until recently, came from sheep intestines. Many medications derive from animal products as well. Premarin (used in menopause) comes from the urine of pregnant mares (hence the name). The list goes on. Those who truly wish to avoid all animal products would find it quite difficult to do so if hospitalized.

  15. skeptigirl

    This site
    http://www.cdc.gov/nip/recs/contraindications.htm
    lists ingredients in vaccines by allergic reaction potential

    There is gelatin in MMR and Varicella vaccine which might be what the dumb doctor is referring to. Can’t believe this guy is the head of their medical association. One quick web search and I found they make gelatin free vaccines at least in Japan so it’s possible to work around this religious restriction. There is no gelatin in the other vaccines and no vaccines I’m aware of are made involving human products since the Hep B vaccine changed in the early 80s.

    And I don’t know the specific vaccine gelatin used but there are gelatin free capsules so perhaps there are non-animal sources of gelatin substitutes used.

    Hopefully health care providers can list the possible animal products in the vaccines to overcome the ignorance of this Islamic Medical Association doctor.

  16. bestonnet

    A good argument in favour of removing all this religious objection nonsense from vaccination laws.

    If a person doesn’t have a good medical reason why their child shouldn’t be given a vaccine then the child should get the vaccine regardless of what the parent wants.

  17. Ruth

    Here in the UK they don’t yet do the chickenpox vaccine and it’s going around our nursery school right now, but since my daughter was vaccinated in the US she has a 90% chance of never getting it and if she’s in the 10% the infection will be a milder form. So, my message is, make sure YOUR children are fully vaccinated. I feel sorry for the kids of regilious nut jobs of course, but the poor little tikes are already doomed to being brought up delusional so what are you going to do? Mumps is probably the least of their worries.

  18. Rockingham

    Ruth said “Here in the UK they don’t yet do the chickenpox vaccine”

    For some reason the UK government believes it is better for kids to get chicken pox as young as possible (usually under the age of 10) rather than artificially vaccinate against it. This leads to ‘chicken pox’ parties where parents of young kids who have not yet had it take their kids to the home of a child currently undergoing the infection so that the itchy joy can be shared all round. Presumably this relieves the NHS of a financial burden, and gets the kids a few days of scratchy fun off school.

  19. Jan Exner

    Hi all,

    I am absolutely amazed by the witch hunt this post has spawned. I was under the impression that this blog was mostly read by people who actually think first…

    I fully agree that belief in higher beings is a really poor substitute for thinking and that being a fanatic is dumb. But I was slightly shocked by some of the answers so far (especially the “regardless of what the parent wants” bit).

    Vaccines are a highly controversial subject that can not be treated in one single blog entry. They are not all good, shiny and necessary (or how did we ever evolve before they existed?).

    I have a daughter and I have read lots of books and sites about the whole thing, and I’m still not sure whether I want to vaccine or not. It is complicated.

    But fortunately legislation in the UK gives me the choice, and I absolutely believe that this is a personal decision! So go out there, read, think, then decide. Witch hunts do not help anybody.

    Slightly put off,
    Jan

  20. Sue Mitchell

    The mind boggles!

    I think said medic should be prosecuted for attempting to endanger life, or at least he should be struck off the medical register.

  21. Jan:

    I don’t see a ‘witch hunt’ by the posters on this blog page. Since when is having an opinion a witch hunt?

    Not really a great idea to tell all the other posters that they don’t ‘think’ before writing.

    You didn’t provide a single piece of information as to why a parent might not want to vaccinate their child. You’re going to have to do better than that before you start berating others.

    Stating that a subject is ‘complicated’ is almost always true- but it doesn’t get you very far by itself. (Actually, I think this particular subject is pretty easy.)

    Finally- Yes- it is you have the right to endanger your own and other children’s lives by making poor parenting decisions. I just ask that you inform other parents if you personally choose not to have your daughter vaccinated. They can then decide whether they want to run the risk of having their child play with yours.

  22. Darth Robo

    skeptigirl said:

    “Hopefully health care providers can list the possible animal products in the vaccines to overcome the ignorance of this Islamic Medical Association doctor.”

    Sure, that would be a good start. But we’re already concious of labelling ingredients in food so we can make informed decisions on what to eat because of allergies, so now we have to do the same thing on medicines etc just to make sure particular treatments don’t clash with anyone’s religion? It all seems to be taking it too far in my opinion. But if the fundies don’t want treatment, we can’t force them.

    Jan Exner said:

    “But fortunately legislation in the UK gives me the choice, and I absolutely believe that this is a personal decision! So go out there, read, think, then decide. Witch hunts do not help anybody.”

    The problem there though is misinformation. The controversy around the MMR vaccine for example with the claim that it had links to autism in children. There turned out to be no correlation between the two, but it did cause a decline in people going for the vaccine. This Muslim guy is basing his medical opinion on his INTERPRETATION of the instructions left by the invisible sky daddy and in doing so, is endangering people’s lives. Religion is one thing, but fundamentalism is another. I’d hardly call this a witch-hunt just for pointing out this guy’s stupidity.

  23. Will

    Jan Exner for the “Wet Blanket of the Thread” award!

  24. Vaccinations are very important.
    Most often the minority that is not vaccinated will not get the diseases that is most commonly vaccinated against, because everyone around them have been vaccinated. In a way they are freeloaders that leave doors open for diseases to thrive when they could have been killed off.

    I recommend reading Bad Medicine, anyone just slightly familiar with BA will recognise the format.

  25. Carey

    It’s already been pointed out, but I just wanted to emphasize this point again:

    One’s decision not to vaccinate for whatever reason not only endangers themselves, it also endangers me. At that point, any claims of “religious freedom” or “personal choice” get thrown out the window.

  26. Phil

    Isn’t the whole point of being vaccinated against some disease is to never get that particular disease?

    If so, then why being in contact with someone not vaccinated would endanger you? Shouldn’t you be protected? Or maybe it is that you are just hoping the vaccine is effective, and you don’t really believe it will protect you….

    Did you know that some vaccines contain heavy metals? One of the main ingredients is Thimerosal, which is composed of about 50% mercury. Would you really inject your child mercury?

    Have a look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_controversy
    and: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiomersal_controversy

  27. Kid Cool

    This foolishness with the vaccines from “halal” makes me glad I’m Jewish. We’re not only allowed but commanded to use medicines derived from non-Kosher sources if it will save a life.

  28. JustAl

    Will says: Jan Exner for the “Wet Blanket of the Thread” award!

    Nah, let’s not go there. Part of the effectiveness of good skepticism is open and rational debate, regardless of the viewpoint. We won’t accomplish much if we resort to labels, however mild they might be.

    For Jan Exner: I’m in agreement with Darth Robo – be sure your sources of information are reputable. One of the worst media tactics, especially regarding medical and biological fields, is misinterpreting things like “correlations.” For instance, lab tests may indicate that patients/subjects suffering from “A” tend to show a lower level of “B” (fill in “stress” and “B vitamins” for my favorite example). This is often taken to mean that “A” is caused by “B,” even though the labs make no such claim and there’s no logical support for this.

    It’s a bit like observing that expensive car stereos are frequently the target of theft; therefore, expensive car stereos cause criminal behavior.

    And by the way, having suffered through shingles as an adult, I have to remind people that there may be no such thing as “get it over with when they’re young” regarding chicken pox. I was one of the ones in the risk group for cornea lesions – which thankfully did not come to pass (undoubtedly due to my frequent spaghetti consumption).

  29. Dunc

    As someone who suffered a very serious case of chickenpox at the age of 26 (and one of my friends nearly died from it), and as a man who has never (yet) had mumps, anti-vaxers really piss me off…

  30. Bwian

    “This foolishness with the vaccines from “halal” makes me glad I’m Jewish. We’re not only allowed but commanded to use medicines derived from non-Kosher sources if it will save a life.”

    I have been told the same is true in Islam, by a Muslim who is not permited to fast during Ramadan. He’s on medication that must be taken at regular intervals, with food. I don’t know if he’s right or not; I suspect, as with many revealed arguments, it involves assigning priority to one koranic passage over another.

  31. Irishman

    bestonnet said:
    > A good argument in favour of removing all this religious objection nonsense from vaccination laws.

    > If a person doesn’t have a good medical reason why their child shouldn’t be given a vaccine then the child should get the vaccine regardless of what the parent wants.

    This runs into other ethical issues. Current medical ethics centers on the notion of “informed consent”. That means the right to reject treatments. Legally parents are the deciding consenters for minors, based on the understanding that children do not have the depth of reasoning to fully grasp the consequences of action vs inaction. Thus they can’t truly be informed. Of course, that doesn’t stop adults from being poorly informed, misinformed, informed by other agendas, etc. Still, the “consent” is required.

    Yes, the vaccination issue is a community health concern, because of the “herd immunity” factor. Thus the ethics of individual choice affecting the others in the group brings informed consent up against community health. That’s why it’s complicated.

    Jan Exner said:
    > [Vaccines] are not all good, shiny and necessary (or how did we ever evolve before they existed?).

    Mostly we died. No really. Get informed on infant moratality and childhood death rates. The reason the human life expectancy was 40 years had nothing to do with longevity (i.e. life span, i.e. how long the human body can live before ceasing to repair itself), but rather it was mostly death by disease, followed by injury.

    Vaccines aren’t necessary for the survival of the human race, but they sure do help individuals survive.

    Christian Burnham said:
    > You didn’t provide a single piece of information as to why a parent might not want to vaccinate their child.

    True, Jan Exner didn’t. But here is one – there is a non-zero chance of getting the disease from the vaccine. This can cause a full-blown case of the disease, which can be crippling or deadly. Thus the trade off is a small but not negligible chance of the full blown disease vs. living off the “herd immunity” and hoping that is a smaller risk. The only problem with that philosophy is that it relies on everyone else assuming the risk of the vaccine. If everyone relies on the herd immunity and skips the vaccine, there’s no herd immunity, and the risks of contracting the disease then go up dramatically for everyone. Much more substantial risk than the risk from taking the vaccine. So in the end, it’s a numbers game.

    I have a 3 yr old nephew who has major allergy problems. He has 4 or 5 major food allergies (dairy, wheat, etc). I don’t think he’s been vaccinated, but there are medical concerns beyond the illness trade-off rates.

  32. The barber of civility

    Jan Exner – God gave us the Internet so that we could research information on any topic we wish and be skeptically informed. (Also so we can download lots of music and catch the latest episode of Desparate Housewives, but that’s beside the point.)

    I don’t know where and how you get the information that keeps you from deciding that your child(ren) need to be vaccinated, but there is plenty of excellent reason to do so, and the research is out there from highly qualified doctors and scientists and is easy to find. Granted, there is plenty published on the web arguing the opposite side, but do your research. You will find that most of the folks opposing vaccination have suspect bonfides.

    The guy Phil is talking about has a religious background and quotes religious “evidence” (if you will.) In my mind, and those of many of the posters here, that automatically disqualifies him from being credible. He is not using science; he is stating an opinion. No one’s opinion should have impact on someone else’s decisions when there is solid scientific evidence to the contrary.

    Jeremy – that “negligible percentage of the population” you mention can easily be responsible for spreading a plague. Never minimize a group of people just because they are small.

    Steve – even if it is true (and I’m not saying it is, ’cause I haven’t looked it up, and it’s beside my point here) that the theory of evolution came after the development of vaccination, that doesn’t preclude vaccination being a product of evolution. After all, humans came along long before the theory of evolution, and we benefit from evolution ourselves. (Well, MOST of us, anyway)

    And Phil – I’m not letting you get away with you oblique attempt to have people think you are in your thirties. While it IS true that you are older than thirty, you are also older than forty! (Oh, no! I hope I didn’t blow your credibility index!)

  33. Carey

    Good post Irishman. It looks like we need some Gaming Theorists to look at the benefits of herd immunity vs. individual risk avoidance. Paging Dr. Wiseman! He can make it interesting.

  34. Gary Ansorge

    So soon they forget,,,

    Smallpox,,,lethal
    Polio,,,lethal and cripling
    Diptheria,,,lethal
    Tetanus,,virtually 100% lethal
    Typhoid,,,lethal

    Measels, mumps, etc have other side effects, though they’re seldom fatal themselves. especial German measels, which ARE potentialy lethal to an unborn fetus, something which should mean SOMETHING to the fundies.

    Yes, there are a very few children who experience toxic side effects to the vacines, but the diseases themselves are so bad, it’s a fair trade.

    My great grandmother was inured to the idea she would lose HALF her children before they reached puberty. THAT was a normal expectation only 100 years ago. Does anyone want to return to that??? Then claim it’s”Gods will,,,”

    What an incredibly stupid idea!

    Gods will is that we learn to use our brains for something other than a means of keeping our heads from imploding.

    Sheesh!!!

    GAry 7

  35. This is a paper doll you’ve soaked in kerosene and set on fire.

    Second, immunization coverage is not only over 90% for most vaccines in the U.S. and U.K., but remarkably high in most countries.
    http://www.who.int/immunization_monitoring/en/globalsummary/timeseries/tswucoveragebcg.htm

    Further, immunization in the U.S. exceeds coverage goals and is growing.
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-07-26-baby-immunization_x.htm

    After a dip from the autism scare, MMR coverage in the U.K. is quickly getting back to normal, and coverage for other childhood diseases is growing.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6276139.stm

    Finally, no one has presented a shred of proof that in the U.S. or the U.K., religious fundamentalists are the largest group represented in those who are not immunized. Of course people who reject vaccination on religious grounds are in there, but so are people who reject them out of laziness, other poor parenting, or ignorance. The idea that there is some danger to the rest of the population from “the fundies” has next to no support.

    As far as herd immunity for MMR goes, the WHO tables I linked to show that in the U.K. and the U.S. we are above the 90% range generally required for herd immunity to work with that vaccination.

    What’s everyone scared about?

  36. Phil,

    If so, then why being in contact with someone not vaccinated would endanger you? Shouldn’t you be protected?

    No vaccine is 100% effective. In some small percentage of those vaccinated, the vaccine “doesn’t take” — immunity is not conferred, or is only conferred temporarily. However, this is not an issue if the majority of people are vaccinated. Once a large enough percentage of the population *is* immune, it’s highly unlikely an outbreak can get started.

    Did you know that some vaccines contain heavy metals? One of the main ingredients is Thimerosal, which is composed of about 50% mercury.

    To my knowledge, the only vaccine that still contains thimerosal is the flu vaccine. The rest have been free of it for years. So even if you accept the claim that thimerosal is harmful in the doses experienced in vaccination (a claim which goes against a growing body of scientific research), that should no longer be a reason to avoid vaccination.

  37. The idea that there is some danger to the rest of the population from “the fundies” has next to no support.

    So we should just ignore people who publicly call for significant portions of the population to refuse vaccination? That seems irresponsible.

    The issue here is that we need to head off this nonsense before people start listening, not after. In the 90’s, when Andrew Wakefield published his now-discredited paper claiming a link between MMR and autism, vaccination rates in the UK fell to below 80%. Measles cases rose in the midst of this scare, most likely due to reduced vaccination rates.

  38. I submitted my previous comment too soon. One more sentence:

    By responding now, and pointing out the potential dangers of refusing vaccination, we can potentially prevent another Wakefield-style debacle.

  39. No we should not ignore them. My comments were applied to the extrapolation of this one doctor’s comments to a much larger group of people, then making assumptions about the threat posed by those communities.

    So we should just ignore people who publicly call for significant portions of the population to refuse vaccination? That seems irresponsible.

    Yep, I’m aware that coverage decreased. I even addressed it and pointed out that rates are back up and growing. Though the effect of this one man on the entire population of Muslims, let alone the U.K., is probably not that great, I’m fully in support of coming down on him for what he did. I am not in support of blowing it out of proportion as a “grave threat.”

    Especially when you consider that the upswing in cases of measles, according to this BBC article below, happened mostly in the communities of travelers in the U.K., who are not vaccinated due to little direct interaction with the health service in general.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/4871728.stm

    In the 90’s, when Andrew Wakefield published his now-discredited paper claiming a link between MMR and autism, vaccination rates in the UK fell to below 80%. Measles cases rose in the midst of this scare, most likely due to reduced vaccination rates.

  40. Astrogirl

    I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. Fundamentalists in any religion (including my own) are dangerous and should not be ignored. I will not ignore them, and I incourage anyone who dislikes diseases and outbreaks for themselves and their children to not ignore these wackos either. To ignore such disturbing trends in our society with Christians, or in another such as the Muslims is irresponsible and always will be.

    I am glad my parents vaccinated me against all kinds of deadly diseases when I was a child. I have medical science to thank for my health. And yes, I believe in God and am tired of the Fundies making the rest of us who are religious and/or spiritual look bad.

  41. Cindy

    It’s unfortunate that polio is having a resurgance because of a misguided inman in Nigeria (I think) who said that the polio vaccine would cause infertility. Then at the next hajj, polio spread to other spots around the world.

    So while not in the UK, but elsewhere there has been real harm in the anti-vaccine.

  42. skeptigirl

    Phil Says:
    …why being in contact with someone not vaccinated would endanger you?

    Correctly answered by Davis. Vaccine effectiveness varies. And sometimes those with the weakest immune systems get the poorest vaccine responses. Without high levels of immunity in the population, outbreaks recur and recur.

    Were the anti-vaxers beliefs based on sound evidence, they might have a point. But the fears of vaccines come from false information and lack of awareness of the risk infectious diseases carry. We need to do a better job getting through to these people that scientists and health care providers are not in on the conspiracy nor being duped by the government and drug company research. There are many sources of independent research and I assure you we know how to read and evaluate research.

    Phil Says:
    Did you know that some vaccines contain heavy metals? One of the main ingredients is Thimerosal, which is composed of about 50% mercury. Would you really inject your child mercury?

    Davis Says:
    Phil, To my knowledge, the only vaccine that still contains thimerosal is the flu vaccine. The rest have been free of it for years. So even if you accept the claim that thimerosal is harmful in the doses experienced in vaccination (a claim which goes against a growing body of scientific research), that should no longer be a reason to avoid vaccination.

    First, Thimerisol is hardly a “main ingredient”. The amount in multi-dose vaccine vials is minuscule. It is used to prevent bacterial growth in multi-dose vials. It has been used for ~30 years with no known bad effects. You get way more mercury eating a tuna sandwich, and the mercury in tuna is of a more harmful form.

    But Davis is wrong, Thimerisol has been removed from all childhood vaccines but not all adult vaccines. Flu vaccine comes with and without. If it is a single dose vial, there is no Thimerisol. If it is a multidose vial there is.

    Re autism, Thimerisol was NEVER in MMR vaccines, MMR is a live vaccine and Thimerisol would kill it. Autism was first suspected to be related to MMR vaccination because the vaccine is given at 15 months, the age autism was being diagnosed. Next, the DPT given at 18 months was suspected and that is where the Thimerisol crusade began.

    HOWEVER, WE NOW KNOW autism was only being diagnosed at that age because that was the age toddlers begin more social interactions. One can observe autistic behavior which is abnormal in social interactions. Today, autism can be diagnosed much earlier thanks to some clever research observing 1 yr old birthday party videos many parents had. Autism is now diagnosed before children are one year old. Thimerisol free childhood vaccines have been in use now over 5 years and the rate of autism has not changed, essentially eliminating Thimerisol as a cause.

    The problem for health care providers is to educate parents about the real hazards of the diseases we vaccinate against. Today’s parents haven’t experienced losing children to infectious diseases. We practically eliminated H-flu which was the leading cause of fatal meningitis in kids and parents weren’t even aware of the hazard before it was eliminated. Yet cases of the less common meningococcal meningitis make the news and frighten everyone, sometimes needlessly.

    The issue today is requiring the vaccine against cervical cancer. This will be the latest controversy regarding the free choice issues parents have. You have religious fundamentalists who are arguing the vaccine shouldn’t be given to their children because the parents believe (contrary to the evidence) abstinence only campaigns are just as effective.

    The ethical dilemma for health care providers is where does a person’s right to believe false information end? When it puts their children at risk.

    I have no ethical problem requiring childhood vaccines. The person believing the false information tries to argue belief is a choice as if no reality can be determined. The scientific process however, does trump false beliefs whether people like it or not.

  43. skeptigirl

    errata:
    This quote should have been italicized in the above post.

    Davis Says:
    Phil, To my knowledge, the only vaccine that still contains thimerosal is the flu vaccine. The rest have been free of it for years. So even if you accept the claim that thimerosal is harmful in the doses experienced in vaccination (a claim which goes against a growing body of scientific research), that should no longer be a reason to avoid vaccination.

  44. StevoR

    BLACK HUMOUR WARNING.

    If easily (some would say eagerly) offended by dark & perhaps questionable humour please skip this post! ;-)
    ————————————
    Jehovah’s Wit-lesses.
    Some sects of Christianity.
    Some sects of Islam.
    Some of sects of Judiasm.
    Some other assorted sects of the {insert diety name} God delusion.
    Neo-con bible-bashing hypocrites of Amercia.
    Zionist worshipping, talmud-thumping hypocrites of Israel &
    Bin Laden-cheering, Koran-kissing hypocrites of the Muslim world.

    I suggests we put all the above on one small, rat-infested island and leave ‘em awhile. if they don’t kill themselves off by physical violence then mother nature can weed out the stupid * and kill off the wilfully ignorant and unvaccinated with disease! ;-)

    * Or perhaps those with an excessive of the gene(s) causing the mental illness known as religious fanaticism?
    ——————————————————
    (Oh yes, ‘case you’re wondering,this is NOT an entirely serious suggestion. Just tempting for those of wicked humour .. ;-) … )

  45. Travis

    The doctor is acting on his religious convictions, which in and of itself is a noble thing. We can call him stupid and illogical all we want, but it means nothing because our argument assumes a superior perspective. To the Islamic fundamentalist, however, all things are below Islamic teaching… even science is flawed and errant. The truth is we cannot counter a religious conviction with a philosophical argument. It’s pointless.

    I disagree with this doctor, but I do not share his faith. I can identify with him, though, because I am a fundamentalist of the evangelical Christian variety. I upset me though that radical fundamentalists of various faiths, including some radical Christians, have given fundamentalists such a bad name.

    People forget that sometimes Fundamentalism yields good for mankind. It should and often does lead to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, not just terrorism or abortion clinic protests.

  46. underbeliever

    >Vaccines are a highly controversial subject that can not be treated in one single blog entry. They are not all good, shiny and necessary (or how did we ever evolve before they existed?).

    Ditto for all of medicine. For that matter, ditto for government, clothing, technology, toilets, and fingernail clippers. I nominate this as the #1 idiotic argument of the thread.

    I’m a former Jehovah’s Witness. They refuse blood transfusions to this day, for almost exactly the same reasons that idiot Muslim is crusading against vaccines. In fact, Witnesses used to reject vaccines under the same reasoning until they got one of their infamous “new lights” (new understandings of scripture from God.)

    Fundamentalism kills. I know of a couple Witnesses who didn’t get the polio vaccine and are all twisted and gimpy to this day.

  47. But Davis is wrong, Thimerisol has been removed from all childhood vaccines but not all adult vaccines. Flu vaccine comes with and without. If it is a single dose vial, there is no Thimerisol. If it is a multidose vial there is.

    Ahh, had I not been so lazy, I could have easily found a few more adult vaccines with thimerosal, as well as some flu vaccines without.

  48. Darth Robo

    Travis

    “The doctor is acting on his religious convictions, which in and of itself is a noble thing. We can call him stupid and illogical all we want, but it means nothing because our argument assumes a superior perspective.”

    Yes! Remember, people – ignorance. Noble and superior.

    “Fundamentalism yields good for mankind. It should and often does lead to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless”

    That’s right, only fundies do this.

  49. Darth Robo

    “The doctor is acting on his religious convictions, which in and of itself is a noble thing. We can call him stupid and illogical all we want, but it means nothing because our argument assumes a superior perspective.”

    Right. Ignorance – noble & superior

    “Fundamentalism yields good for mankind. It should and often does lead to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless”

    ‘cos only fundies do that.

  50. Darth Robo

    Oops! Sorry for double, that really wasn’t there a minute ago!

  51. Irishman

    StevoR, that kind of post isn’t helpful. All it does is anger religious people. It feeds stereotypes (both the stereotypes displayed, and the stereotype of the evil atheist).

  52. StevoR — I don’t think that’s even remotely funny.

    The doctor is acting on his religious convictions, which in and of itself is a noble thing.

    Why is is that “acting on… religious convictions” always seems to be considered a praiseworthy thing? I don’t think it’s the least bit noble. For some people, acting on religious convictions means killing a doctor who performs abortions — that’s not the least bit noble. For some people, acting on their religious convictions means blowing up the infidels (and perhaps themselves along with them) — that’s not the least bit noble. If this doctor managed to convince large numbers of muslims to avoid vaccination, and a large outbreak resulted, it would not be the least bit noble. The act itself should be most important in judging a person noble or ignoble, not the motivation.

  53. skeptigirl

    People have beaten their children to death as well claiming religious conviction. If you believe your child is possessed by the Devil is that a religious conviction?

    In this country we have, I believe, chosen to prosecute parents who injure children or neglect to give their children life-saving medical care. Religion is not an excuse to endanger your children.

    Vaccines can be seen as the life saving medical care that it is, or, one can wait and only prosecute when the child dies from the infection the parent refused to provide the vaccine for. And to add to the ethical discussion, what if the child dies 30 years later from cervical cancer?

    I would have no problem searching out vaccines that didn’t conflict with a parent’s religious convictions. I think there may be a number of innovative ways to deal with the papilloma virus vaccine such as making certain 17 year olds got counseling recommending the vaccine when the girl reaches 18, and making it available free of charge to them. We need to chose which battles are worth fighting.

    But when it comes to vaccines for diseases that kill millions, neglecting them is not a lot different from withholding other life saving medical care. In this country children have some rights that parents don’t have the right to deny.

  54. bestonnet

    While there is the issue with consent with vaccines there is also the fact that in many places physicians don’t need parental consent to perform lifesaving surgery on a child (and in fact can often perform the surgery against the parents wishes). It is also possible that parents can be charged if they don’t seek medical attention for their children and their children then die and it is in fact done. There is also a court ruling from the UK that sets a precedent forcing vaccination in case of a parental dispute about it.

    From that I can conclude that any arguments over parental rights have already been dealt with and since the risks of a vaccine are very small (so small as to be essentially indistinguishable from noise) and the risks of not being vaccinated very great, both for an individual child and for the rest of the population it follows that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with removing the right of parents to harm their children and others children in that manner.

    Only if there is good reason to suspect that a vaccine may be risky for a child should we exempt the child from the jab and let herd immunity do the job (which we can afford to do for small numbers of people).

    Also because no one seems to have bought it up I’m going to bring up http://www.quackwatch.org/03HealthPromotion/immu/immu00.html for those who think vaccines are a bad idea to read over.

  55. “Gods will is that we learn to use our brains for something other than a means of keeping our heads from imploding.”

    GAry 7

    Good soundbite. Mind if I quote you?

  56. Some Guy

    I am not very familiar with any religious fundamentalists. If I do know any, the topic has never come up. However, I think it would be a long and interesting conversation if/when I do meet one. Statements like this really confuse me:

    “The truth is we cannot counter a religious conviction with a philosophical argument. It’s pointless.”

    Ah, but in this forum, we are not arguing with a philosophical idea, we are arguing with FACT. The facts are that fewer people die from infectious diseases because of vaccinations. If and when a vaccine for AIDS is created, it will certainly be used to stop the plague of the 20th century.

    “People forget that sometimes Fundamentalism yields good for mankind. It should and often does lead to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, not just terrorism or abortion clinic protests.”

    NOT JUST?!? So, am I to understand that Fundamentalists think killing doctors, nurses, and receptionists at a clinic is not only OK, but ranks up there as a good deed like providing food to underdeveloped countries? Religious convictions or not, that is messed up.

    Didn’t I read somewhere the words “Thou shalt not kill.” I’m pretty sure that it didn’t say, “Thou shalt not kill, except for Religious Convictions.”

  57. bestonnet

    In many cases it is a philosophical argument about what a fact is. Those of us who realise that science is the most effective method of finding the truth (or at least a good approximation to it) will have a different idea of what a fact is to those who think a fact is what their god says. Their definition of a fact may be wrong but that’s not going to stop them using it.

    Also I think the actual statement is actually translated more accurately as “Thou Shalt Not Murder” and not “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. How good the Jews and Christians it applied to were at following it is another matter.

  58. skeptigirl

    bestonnet Says:
    In many cases it is a philosophical argument about what a fact is. Those of us who realise that science is the most effective method of finding the truth (or at least a good approximation to it) will have a different idea of what a fact is to those who think a fact is what their god says.

    This is a critical question for skeptics to deal with. I’m not suggesting science is a religion, even within this philosophical argument. But it’s hard for me to ignore the fact I don’t want religious proselytizing, and I would promote educating everyone, especially the young, how to recognize the persuasion techniques used by proselytizers as a way of immunizing against it. Yet I want to spread the scientific process to the masses.

    The answer to the philosophical question and to my dilemma is simple. You don’t teach and argue “facts”. You teach critical thinking and lets the ‘facts’ fall where they may.

  59. Irishman

    Some Guy said:
    > “People forget that sometimes Fundamentalism yields good for mankind. It should and often does lead to feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, not just terrorism or abortion clinic protests.”

    > NOT JUST?!? So, am I to understand that Fundamentalists think killing doctors, nurses, and receptionists at a clinic is not only OK, but ranks up there as a good deed like providing food to underdeveloped countries? Religious convictions or not, that is messed up.

    I think you misunderstood. Travis was not trying to justify or validate terrorism and abortion clinic bombings. Rather, he was juxtaposting the supposed benefits of Fundamentalism with the detriments that were being listed.

    That’s not to say that some Fundamentalists don’t share the view you list, just that it wasn’t what Travis was saying.

    > I’m pretty sure that it didn’t say, “Thou shalt not kill, except for Religious Convictions.”

    bestonnet said:
    > Also I think the actual statement is actually translated more accurately as “Thou Shalt Not Murder” and not “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. How good the Jews and Christians it applied to were at following it is another matter.

    Yes, the Bible follows with plenty of other instructions on when to kill. “Do no suffer a witch* to live.” “If a man rapes a women in town, both should be stoned to death.” Etc. So “Religious Convictions” is actually the one sanctioned justification for killing.

    *Some say this is supposed to be translated as “poisoner”.

  60. skeptigirl

    Just as I get annoyed when atheism is claimed to be an amoral position (absurd baseless claim I remind everyone), we may be wrong to be blaming religious beliefs as the root cause of all those bad things.

    Religious beliefs are a tool used by bad people to manipulate others.

    Religious beliefs allow people to define themselves as ‘us’ thereby making it easier to blame and attack ‘them’.

    Superstitious and religious beliefs allow individuals and groups of individuals to attack another individual or small group of individuals when a false accusation is made blaming the attacked victim(s).

    It seems to me the first two are likely to occur regardless of religion. Religion facilitates the evil but I wonder if without theism humans might not have just evolved different facilitators for the same actions.

    The third description might be one of the belief being at fault or of manipulation of the belief by another being the root cause. The individual who was indoctrinated by the church and then strikes out on his/her own would also fit this category.

    My point is we should be careful assigning causation when association might be the actual relationship.

    And on that same note, maybe those people who do good in the name of their theism would be doing just as much for others without the church as a motivator. We are social animals you know. The evidence indicates behaviors evolved. We have no evidence our behaviors were instilled by gods.

  61. bestonnet

    skeptigirl:
    Religious beliefs are a tool used by bad people to manipulate others.
    It may be that religion is used in that manner but given that different religions seem prone to different levels of abuse I think that can only be half the story.

    But even if it were the whole story, it would still be enough to condemn religion outright.

    skeptigirl:
    …
    It seems to me the first two are likely to occur regardless of religion. Religion facilitates the evil but I wonder if without theism humans might not have just evolved different facilitators for the same actions.

    They probably would but I doubt they’d occur to the same degree.

    There are also other negative aspects of religion that would simply not happen without religion and religion is also a strong conservative force in society which has throughout history tended to oppose almost every moral advance we have made (end of slavery, democracy, woman’s right, racial equality, gay rights, patients rights, clone’s rights (ongoing), etc) and which would probably oppose giving equal rights to other sentient species (whether they be aliens, uplifted animals or smart computers).

  62. skeptigirl

    Well on second thought, there is that viral aspect of religion where the beliefs themselves can have very negative consequences and be self perpetuating and self preserving (the belief one must convert people and the belief doubt is a “test of faith”, respectively).

  63. Irishman

    > skeptigirl: Religious beliefs are a tool used by bad people to manipulate others.
    > bestonnet: It may be that religion is used in that manner but given that different religions seem prone to different levels of abuse I think that can only be half the story.

    >But even if it were the whole story, it would still be enough to condemn religion outright.

    Any tool can be victim of misuse. Isn’t that the argument about science and nuclear weapons? Blaming Religion because it is misused by bad people is a bit hypocritical if that’s the only reason to criticize it.

    The “us vs them” is a factor, but also must be included the surety factor, the “I’m right and I’m going to make you right, too.”

    Seems to me the religious mindset fosters both of those situations. I don’t think it is the sole cause of either, but I do think it encourages those positions.

  64. bestonnet

    Irishman:
    Any tool can be victim of misuse.
    That’s true, the question is whether religion is a tool that is being misused or whether religion is misusing the tools that are called followers, I suspect the later.

    Irishman:
    Blaming Religion because it is misused by bad people is a bit hypocritical if that’s the only reason to criticize it.
    Well the fact that religion makes it so easy to do is certainly reason to criticise it.

    The biggie is the viral aspect skeptigirl mentions. It’s amazing how much easier religion becomes to understand when you look at it as a meme complex.

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