Antivaxxers on the rise in California

By Phil Plait | March 31, 2009 2:00 pm

I don’t think I need to go into details about how truly awful the antivaccination movement is, since I’ve hammered it so many times before. But just to let you know how pervasive and dangerous this borderline cult is, here’s an article in the LA Times about how more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids when they go to school, specifically because of the fear of autism. It’s a chilling article, because it means that the lies told by the pro-disease movement are taking hold.

I’m glad I don’t have a child in the school system there. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before there’s a measles outbreak. We’ve seen it happen many times before, and we’ve also seen children permanently hurt and even killed because of it.

The antivaccination movement is wrong, it’s dangerous, and it’s putting kids at risk of death. It’s that simple.

Comments (123)

  1. QUASAR

    You americans are heading for a dark age of science if this keeps going on like this!

  2. Todd W.

    @QUASAR

    It’s not just in the U.S. that anti-vax ideas are an issue. Europe has their fair share, too.

  3. Todd W.

    @Phil

    I wish you wouldn’t post so much about anti-vaccination stuff. Responding to the comments is really wearing me out, and I fear for my sanity. Can’t you wave your magic JREF wand and make all the ignorance go away? Please?

  4. My own brother-in-law has fallen prey to this tripe, and if I may offer an observation: the kindling element in his case is a *basic distrust of science*.

    I’m not sure what the best way to combat that is (at least, not in grown adults — for kids education is clearly the key!), but identifying the root cause is part of the solution. He, and many of those he speaks with, are stalwart in their belief that scientists are a corrupt breed who routinely falsify data in order to attain financial reward or renown and reputation. He has no concept of the scientific method, nor much interest in learning. His distrust is such that anyone who might serve to educate him is suspect simply because of their scientific literacy (or “brainwashing” as he would have it).

    This isn’t about health, or a specific strain of evidence — it’s about a fundamental fear (that’s the perfect word) of science and educated persons. The anxiety ignorance breeds channels directly into a paranoia about such people’s secret agendas.

    How do you fight that? Myself, I’m at a loss. His kid is going to school unvaccinated.

    Yours,
    Cheeseburger Brown

  5. QUASAR

    @ Todd W.

    Really? In which nations?

  6. QUASAR

    And, hey, the anti-vaccination ideas shouldn’t worry you so much considering that there are much bigger problems facing you at the moment!

  7. Todd W.

    @QUASAR

    Well, the UK is still trying to recover from Wakefield’s MMR scare. There was also a pretty big measles outbreak in Germany in 2006, which included two deaths, and where approx. 86% of the people involved were unvaccinated either because they didn’t keep up with the schedule or they refused outright.

  8. beagledad

    Interesting that the LA Times article notes that most of the antivax parents have children in schools in “affluent areas.” I suspect that the antivax movement feeds on a confluence of (1) affluent parents who have time to watch Jenny McCarthy, (2) a relatively high level of formal education combined with a low level of critical thinbking skills, (3) a glamour/celebrity culture that somehow makes Ms. McCarthy seem more credible than scientists who actually know something, and (4) an affluence-borne feeling of invulnerability to infectuous disease, which seems from the safety of gated communities to affect only poor people.

  9. QUASAR

    @ Todd W.

    The UK and Euroipe’s biggest problems now are with “grond lickers”. You know which ones!

  10. QUASAR

    This anti-vaccinatin thing has some benefits too, like population control!

    *laughing*

    Overpopulation is a huge problem!

  11. James

    Texas may be “doomed” in other ways, but I am pretty sure you have to show proof of vaccination before they will let you come to school. Seems to me we had to do that with our daughter, and I remember kids being called out and sent home because they didn’t have certain shots.

  12. Stark

    That’s just it QUASAR, for humanity as a whole, the anti-vaccination movement is a very big deal.

    We have forgotten what pandemics are like in this day and age. The closest we’ve come to pandemic in recent time is SARS and H5N1 – both of which turned out to be largely non-events and quickly forgotten. The last time we had anything truly awful happen was the Spanish Flu pandemic. Throughout history we can see evidence of pandemics wiping out entire civilizations – widespread vaccination vastly reduced this risk. Combine the speed at which humans (and therefore nasty diseases) travel the world now and declining vaccination rates and you get a recipe for disaster on a scale not seen since the great plagues of the middle ages. The Black Death is believed to have reduced to global population from ~450 million to ~350 million in 1400. That sort of thing could easily happen again, only this time the death toll could be over a billion. Vaccination greatly reduces the chance of this sort of pandemic occurring – but only if enough people are vaccinated to induce and maintain herd immunity. Herd immunity will not directly protect us from a pandemic but it reduces the possible mutations of some of the most virulent human diseases which in turn reduces the likelihood of a disease mutating into a pandemic capable strain.

    With the world population density getting ever higher, and the fact that people regularly cross the world in less time than it takes to become symptomatic from a great many virulent diseases, breakdown of vaccination levels is leading us towards a huge problem.

  13. Todd W.

    @QUASAR

    When people forego vaccinating their kids or themselves, they don’t just put their children or themselves at risk; they also put everyone with whom they come in contact at risk, including the elderly, those too young to receive or complete a vaccine series, and those with compromised immune systems.

  14. Oh… wow. *looks around slowly* They are here too? Shoot, I’d better get my booster shots in, and quick! There’s could be a LOT of disease-riddled kids in the future. This is a baaad development for LA, although I suspect it has been going on for a while. There is a TON of anti-science nonsense going on down here, plus one hell of a lot of “psychic therapists” (last time I checked, “being psychic” was a poor immune defence for measles).

    Cheers Phil,

    Ian

  15. DrFlimmer

    @ Stark:
    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    It remains me of the BBC Documentation “End:Day” which can still be found on YouTube. It also contains an episode about a pandemic.

  16. DrFlimmer

    Damn it. First think, then write…. remains=reminds

  17. Seriously, if my kid went to a school with unvaccinated child and then got sick because of it, I would sue the parents for reckless endangerment.

    I fear that the only way things will turn around is that will be a big outbreak and innocent children will die. When that happen one can only hope american will not choose to close their eyes as they did with their sons and daughters in Iraq/

  18. As if this news weren’t bad enough, Jenny McCarthy has released a new antivaccine pro-quackery book and will soon be all over the media promoting it:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/03/beware_a_wave_of_stupid_is_about_to_fall.php

  19. I’ve largely stayed out of the comment sections of Dr. BA’s antivax posts, but honestly, this one is cutting close to home.

    I just don’t understand this. I guess people think measles is “okay” to get, like chickenpox or something. I had measles when I was about 14. I ended up with chronic ear infections and lost about 15% of my hearing in one ear.

    All because some idiot celebrity needs someone/something to blame for her bad luck of the genetic draw?

    Stooopid.

  20. Todd

    Anyone who claims to be well educated but skeptical of “traditional” knowledge is a moron. Stupidity cannot be overcome with diplomas.

  21. Nice characterization of them: pro-disease movement. No truer words have been spoken that I can think of!

  22. TMB

    I think one of the issues is that there’s a mentality of “if I’m wrong, I’m not hurting anyone else, just let me make my choice” (and it gets fed by some of the more flippant “population control” or “evolution in action” jibes that we sometimes make).

    I think that it helps to get people realize that it affects other people (aside from their kids, who don’t get to choose for themselves I might add!). Things like “if your child isn’t vaccinated, they can’t come to my house to play with my child because my younger baby is too young for vaccines.”

    [TMB]

  23. I’m no expert about autism, but I’ve always thought it to be something you either are born with or aren’t. If the kid is autistic, it was born this way, and not caused by anything she took or didn’t take. Similarly, not even an evil drug designed for giving autism could work, unless it were given to the mother before the baby is born.

    Just like Down’s syndrome, it’s something genetic that cannot be cured or artificially caused after you are born.

    All this should make the anti-vaxxers stupid arguments even more stupid.

  24. Colby

    I’m reminded of a Family Guy episode (#121 if you want to look it up). Seems like it’s perfect for this blog: Star Trek: TNG cameos, persecution of atheists, book burning, and the gruesome consequences of the pro-disease movement.

  25. … and my son starts kindergarten next year. Yay!

    A concrete reason to choose public school (FTA):

    > Although fewer than 2% of kindergartners at traditional public schools
    > and Catholic schools in California had exemptions last fall, more than
    > 4% of kindergartners at other private schools and nearly 10% of those
    > enrolling in charter schools were exempted.

  26. Carlos

    @Cheeseburger has it right. The antivax movement is just a symptom of a higher distrust of science. We need to start finding ways of curing the disease and not just addressing the symptoms.

  27. has

    Nice characterization of them: pro-disease movement.

    I prefer “disease perverts” myself. Any chance we could arrange an exchange program; send them far away from me and mine? I reckon they’d be right at home here.

  28. Randy A.

    The good news is that the Times did state quite clearly that the “pro-disease” people were going against all scientific evidence.

  29. IVAN3MAN

    Todd W.:

    I wish [Dr. Phil Plait] wouldn’t post so much about anti-vaccination stuff. Responding to the comments is really wearing me out, and I fear for my sanity.

    Yes, I’ve noticed your exchanges with that crowd on the “Antivaxxers and their trouble with truth” thread. That’s why I stated, in bold letters, as the first commenter on that thread, that “Anti-science advocates are an unmitigated pain in the ass/arse!”

    Enough said, methinks! :-)

    However, if I ruled the World, I would have all those “antivaxxers” placed in internal exile, within quarantined enclaves, where they and their sprogs can live their lives’ as they see fit.

  30. @Carlos here’s the problem i see with that … I believe it is not a question of whether people have the information and knowledge to make an educated decision … the problem is that they choose not to make it, because the lies are more comfortable than crueal truth, and we, as human, are unfortunately wired to try to find patterns and reasons (why us) when there are none.

    For the same reason:

    a) religion cherishes as people prefer to be told to have a chance for an everlasting life rather than accepting the fact that the death is and end,
    b) along with all the superstitious non-sense such as astrology, forture-telling, palm-reading, psychics because false hope is more valuable than reality
    c) pyramid schemes and nigerian scammers because dispite our better judgement we will always wonder “what if”
    d) homeopathy, alternative medicine and mystic healers because on a death row regardless of the cause (cancer, ALS, AIDS or others), we rather abandon reason than hope

    but mostly because they will always be leeches trying to dig out every last penny out of the unfortunate among us.

  31. Charlie Young

    A really nasty epidemic now would be the most effective way to cure the stupid. Once kids in their neighborhoods start dying from what was once a preventable disease, that irrational fear of autism will be wiped out in a hurry.

  32. As I read this, I’m ROFLMAO as I’m watching a Seinfeld episode where George has tonsillitis and decides to go to a homeopathic doctor.

  33. Dom

    I’m not an ‘anti-vaxxer’ or anything but can someone explain how injecting mercury into someone is a good thing?

  34. PJE

    @ Michael

    I don’t recall ever seeing that episode…that sounds like it could be quite funny, ranking up there with

    “A one in a million shot, doc” and Elaine getting blackballed by doctors for being “fussy”

    Pete

  35. @PJE:
    It was hilarious! But nothing comes close to the episode where George’s mother catches his… umm, taking care of business….

  36. Robert

    @James

    First time post here, but I am so tired of these stupid anti-vaxxers. How are they allowed to do this? I know when I sent my kids to school, I had to get the immunized or they couldn’t go? How do these parents from my state get away with sending their kids to school like this?

  37. @Dom: They got rid of the mercury in vaccines several years ago. Please try to keep up here.

  38. Mark Hansen

    Dom, it’s been stated before on this blog that there is little to no mercury (aka thimerosal) in vaccines. Some of the vaccines that do contain thimerosal (eg. flu vaccines) do have thimerosal free versions so if you’re concerned, ask for that. The primary purpose of a vaccine isn’t to inject mercury into a person but to vaccinate (hence the name) against a disease. Check some reputable websites (i.e. not whale.to) such as the CDC and see what they say. Although, as they are part of the government, they’re probably in on the *hushed whisper* eeeevil big-pharma conspiracy…

  39. @Dom: “I’m not an ‘anti-vaxxer’ or anything but can someone explain how injecting mercury into someone is a good thing?”

    I am certainly no expert, but my understanding is that the mercury serves as a preservative. The idea is that ingesting a minute quantity of mercury that is quickly flushed from the system is preferable to ingesting an unknown quantity of mystery strains of thriving bacteria or fungi. (Someone please correct me if I’ve misunderstood or misremembered something here.)

    The body is naturally equipped to deal with small quantities of toxins, but while in a diseased state may be seriously compromised by an infection of foreign invaders. It seems a reasonable trade off of risk versus benefit to me.

    I mean, mercury isn’t the only destructive thing we introduce to the body when it can help — think of chemotherapy, for instance. Why would it ever be a good thing to inject someone with poison? Well, if it kills the cancer cells and lets the patient survive, it’s a win.

    Does that make sense to you?

    Yours,
    Cheeseburger Brown

  40. Blashy

    When science is not used for greed people will start to trust it. But since the days of “smoking is not harmful” spewed out by scientists (on the payroll of course) and more stuff like that (DDT, BPCs, some Monsanto crap, etc…) well science takes a hit.

    Too often science for profit is in a hurry to get stuff out without any idea about long term effect on the environment or people and when the sh*t hits the fan well who gets blamed? Science of course since they came up with it in the first place.

    Always comes back to ONE single element… GREED (it will kill us all).

    And of course big pharma has a bad rap… they profit on the SICK! What kind of crazy world is THAT!? The last thing big pharma wants are cures, the only time they want it is if it has a chance to wipe out their paying costumers, outside of that they love incurable diseases.

  41. Richard

    @Blashy:

    You know, I seem to recall that the cancer-causing potential of tobacco was found by a rat. He happened to get a tumor where tobacco was smeared.

    Oh, wait, my bad. That was a lab rat who was given that tobacco smear by a, what are they called? One of those rational people who have to use a rational method…, oh, right, scientist.

    Wow. Science found out that tobacco can cause cancer. It was an industry that tried to denounce that finding. I see where your confusion lies, young grasshopper.

    However, some industries that become greedy are the problem. Much like greedy industries using “alt-medicine” become a problem when their anti-vaccination efforts result in epidemics/pandemics of diseases once thought eradicated.

    Worse, people dying of things that traditional medicine (i.e., stuff that actually works) has been able to deal with.

    If “big pharma” were as greedy as you described, then they themselves would be glad to hear of anti-vaccination propaganda, start producing “pseudo-pharma” products, and play both sides of the game to win all the marbles. You see, it’s easy to put together a conspiracy theory, and this version even has “Big Pharma” using you for their ends.

    Of course, that couldn’t be the case. Could it?

  42. Robert Mayer

    Three thoughts/questions about the anti-vaccination issue — strictly in regard to autism:
    1. Has the exact gene for autism been mapped yet? If so, of all the announcements regarding gene discovery, this one went under the radar. I mean, if there’s gene that suggests an increased likelihood of eating more chocolate than others, that’s likely to get news time. If the gene for autism hasn’t been found, then what’s hindering the discovery?

    2. It should be noted that in recent years, the spectrum of disorders that fall under the classification of Autism increased, as did the number of people with Autism. There is some suspicion that some sloppy and lazy science is not making distinctions. I remember my wife doing some research in grad school that suggested that some diagnoses of fetal alcohol syndrome were being misdiagnosed as autism. (Um, that has some ugly hidden social commentary behind it, but I’m not going to touch it.) This was a few years ago, so no one should quote me on that. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. Research is clear about how too quick “experts” are to diagnose ADHD. (It exists, but not in the numbers we thought.). Please understand that I’m not bashing science. The community is fully aware of those issues and is trying to find ways to solve these problems.

    3. The elephant in the room with regard to the autism/anti-vaxx connection is how we perceive disability — especially learning and mental. One of the main areas people struggle with science is when it collides with social attitudes (okay, that was obvious. sorry). Here, the one I’m referring to is how some people STILL perceive mental and learning disability. My middle son is a Special Olympian, so I get to see how many others treat people like him. Essentially, I can see it in three camps: Those who see working or meeting people like my son as a rewarding opportunity — even if it’s just an opportunity to get greater insight into the human mind; those who are uncomfortable with such a situation, and avoid it; and those who see it as a defect and a blemish and can’t stand the thought of it. Yes, there still are those out there — ironically, some of them are parents of children like my son, and they are angry and upset because they didn’t get that perfect child — you know, the one who will be the millionaire, the movie star, or the multi-talented athlete. They are looking for something to blame, something to yell at, and they’re sure can’t yell at their own genetics, so they look for an excuse and go after science, which does have its share of incompetents (we can only hope that they’re getting weeded out). Some people can’t handle the occasional dice rolls we get in life. Fortunately, not all parents are bitter like that.

    (Nuts. That sounded waayy too touchy-feely. I need to go lie down)

  43. Dom

    @Iason Ouabache : Try to keep up? This is not relevant to me in anyway (I’m 21 years old), the only reason I’ve come across it is because I’m on an astronomy blog. Cheers for the answer, even though you appear to be wrong.

    @Mark Hanson: This is where my confusion comes from; some vaccines still have mercury in them but some don’t? Btw I don’t think there is a conspiracy to inject everyone with mercury; it’s obviously a cost cutting measure (RE: “The primary purpose of a vaccine isn’t to inject mercury”)

    @Cheeseburger Brown: I have no idea how much mercury is in vaccines nor the half-life of it; although I would appreciate something more than just your word that the amount is minute and the mercury is quickly flushed from the body.

    I know that most of this controversy revolves around children, but rather selfishly as I have no children I’m more concerned about what will affect me as an adult; so mercury not being in children’s vaccines doesn’t protect me. You will all be happy to hear that as a child I had the MMR vaccine and, as far as I’m aware, suffered no damage from it. Still, I am loath just to take people’s word for it.

  44. beeblebrox

    I have a 3 year old about to start pre-school. Can someone tell me if a vaccinated child is protected from measles or other diseases that might be spread by an unvaccinated child? Isn’t protection the whole point of the vaccine? I’m definitely a pro-vaxxer and my child is vaccinated. But is that effort for naught in a population of anti-vax kids?

  45. Tony

    At least in my kids’ school district, you don’t have vaccines, you don’t go to school. Simple. All schools should be that way, and to be honest I am surprised they are not.

  46. Innovative1

    As far as Autism goes I am leaning towards chemicals in the water. BPA, Pthylates, chemicals in soaps and shampoos that cannot be filtered out, prescriptions, and I recently discovered that the water lines in my home also leech chemicals. Then back down the drain they go and again into our water systems. I have searched everywhere for an advanced water filtration system only to find that such a thing does not exist. The chemicals cannot be filtered. It is nearly impossible to study all combinations of every possible chemical and what affect the cocktail has on the human body. I saw a study on bottled water and how it has lower guidelines than tap water and how many of the bottled brands also had prescriptions, mercury, and a ton of other things in them.

    That is why I am switching to beer.

  47. @beeblebrox this is my understanding of the issue, i urge anyone who knows better to correct me …

    All that vaccination does is to help the body to develop the ability to quickly respond to a encountered antigens through immunological memory.

    B and T cells of a vaccinated person will start fighting pathogens right away (and you wouldn’t even get sick) whereas they might simply fail to “recognize” the threat completely in a unvaccinated body and the person will get sick (which is actually good in a way that his/her body will finally realized something is up and start to defends itself).

    While vaccination gives your body the “knowledge” to recognize threats and respond accordingly, it doesn’t (in any substantial way) help it to produce more antibodies. While the typical amount of white cells will be (in 99.9% cases) enough to fight off a sporadic exposure to malicious microorganisms even an immunized body has its limits when an epidemic starts.

    There is only so much your body can handle. That is my 2nd greatest issues with antivaxxers. Besides pointlessly exposing innocent kids to deadly diseases (without really given the kid any say in the matter) they also create a breeding ground for epidemics that would threaten everyone.

  48. Grizzly

    Dom, I’m not a chemist, and I don’t even play one on TV, but there’s mercury and there’s mercury. Ethyl Mercury (which I believe is the preservative agent) has been clinically proven to not persist or linger in the body. It passes through. All of it.

  49. Keith

    The parents in the LA Times article who didn’t vaccinate their kids are STUPID IDIOTS who are abusing them by not protecting them against very dangerous diseases!

  50. Ray Martin

    The Stupid -It Hurts!
    Jenny McCarthy is airing her stupidity again here…
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1166199/Botox-helps-happy-stopping-face-frowning.html

    According to this vacuous twit now, botox helps you to be happy because – get this – if you can’t frown, then you have no choice but to be happy.

  51. Cheeseburger Brown: How do you fight that? Myself, I’m at a loss. His kid is going to school unvaccinated.

    If I recall, Carl Sagan was at a dinner party, and asked anyone who would have died without the help of science to raise their hand.

    All but one did.

    I would have raised my hand. A few years ago, one of my toes became badly infected. By the time I had a doctor examine it, the infection had begun crawling up my leg. Without anti-biotics, I’m certain I would have died.

    There are so many ways science can save your life, it’s impossible to enumerate them all. The germ theory of disease was developed by scientists, and has prompted important innovations like water filters, mass water sanitation and indoor plumbing. Does your brother-in-law wear glasses or contacts? They rely on the science of optics and, depending on how bad his sight is, without them he’d be handicapped or worse. Did he get an immune shot? It may have saved his life, or at least prevented permanent scarring due to a once-common disease. Has he taken any vitamin pills? Scientists were the first to discover how important vitamins are to the human body; without enough Vitamin C, for instance, he’d get scurvy and die. Has he cooked a chicken, turkey, or roast? That’s germ theory all over again.

    As a last resort, ask for the shirt on his back. Or the shoes off his feet. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester were invented by scientists, as was vulcanization, a process that turns rubber hard and durable. Has he touched anything plastic? Scientists!

  52. CraigM

    @beeblebrox:

    A vaccinated child is probably protected against measles. However, vaccinations don’t always work; like with any other medicine, there’s always a small chance of treatment failure.

    If sufficient numbers of people are vaccinated, this isn’t really a problem, because the occasional kids on whom the vaccine failed to work will probably never encounter a carrier (have a look at the Wiki entry for “herd immunity”). But when vaccination rates drop sufficiently, the chances of encountering a carrier rise, and therefore the kids on whom the vaccine didn’t work are more likely to get sick.

    So, no, your efforts aren’t “for naught”, but yes, the antivax folks are increasing the chance of your kids getting a potentially fatal disease.

    If you’re interested in this stuff, you might like to have a read through the Bad Science MMR archive: http://www.badscience.net/category/mmr/

  53. I think Phil finally banned Quasar. I was going to say something about him taking an anti-vaxx stance in the post a couple of days ago, yet he takes the stance in this post that anti-vaxxers are going to send us back to the stone age.

    He’s a troll, plain and simple. Phil, if you haven’t already banned him, might want to look into it.

  54. @Dom: The mercury used in the production of vaccines is Ethyl Mercury which is excreted quickly when ingested, as opposed to Methyl Mercury which builds up in tissue. The amount found in vaccines (if there is any) is on the order of a few micrograms. You ingest more mercury from eating a tuna sandwich.

    Go to Respectful Insolence, Orac’s blogs. There are a couple of very good articles within the last couple of days.

    BTW, just so you know. Just the fact that the first thing you say is “I’m not anti-vaccine” then parrot something you read about mercury in vaccines will make you very suspect here.

  55. Rats….screwed up the link to Respectful Insolence

  56. Beeblebrox asked whether a child who is immunized could be endangered by children who are not vaccinated. It’s a question a number of L.A. Times readers asked us after our report Sunday on the rising rate of belief exemptions to vaccines in California. The short answer is that vaccinated children are largely safe, although vaccines can fail in a small number of cases.

    Ron Lin, who reported and wrote the story, answered that question and others: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/03/rising-vaccine.html/

    Megan Garvey
    Los Angeles Times

  57. Big Al

    Innovative1 has a point, at least about the beer. When I worked in a tetra-ethyl lead production plant, the company encouraged the employees to drink beer on their days off. Idea was that beer helped flush the lead out of one’s system. Dunno if it worked, but I gave it every chance to work…

  58. Randy A.

    Blashy wrote: “When science is not used for greed people will start to trust it.”
    Scientists are people, with all the usual human failings. And scientific discoveries are generally available to everybody, including greedy people.
    The point of science is that you don’t have to trust anybody! Scientific theories are reproducible. So, for instance, if you were to wonder about the effectiveness of vaccines, you could run your own study (prior training in medicine and statistics would help).
    Go ahead and distrust greedy people (I generally do), but trust science.

  59. beeblebrox

    “When science is not used for greed people will start to trust it. But since the days of “smoking is not harmful” spewed out by scientists (on the payroll of course) and more stuff like that (DDT, BPCs, some Monsanto crap, etc…) well science takes a hit.”

    Scientists for Big Tobacco were called into question because their results that cigarettes were not harmful was contradicted by OVERWHELMING evidence linking cigarettes to cancer.

    This is not the case with vaccines causing autism, since no credible evidence exists linking the two. Therefore, questioning their motivation is simply an ad hominem. First, not every scientist discrediting this link works for Big Pharma. Second, it’s irrelevant in and of itself unless there is evidence that their results are invalid or tainted, which there isn’t.

  60. Charlie Young

    I was one of the lucky few where the R of the MMR didn’t confer immunity. I had German measles (rubella) during finals week my sophomore year in college. I had to take incompletes in all my courses that quarter. The student health doc sent me packing and I was quarantined by my home town health department for a week. What a way to spend spring break. I’m still a firm believer in getting fully vaccinated, however. My two girls have all their “shots” including the newer varicella vax. Even the Hep A. If they never have to endure the misery and complications of these diseases, my job as a parent is that much easier and they are much safer.

  61. beeblebrox

    Thanks for the info regarding my question, people. I really appreciate it.

  62. Charlie Young

    If you’re really worried about having immunity conferred by the vaccine, a blood draw and antibody titer can be performed for any one of the antigens administered. Chances are your child will have the proper antibody counts and the discomfort of the procedure usually isn’t warranted. But if you want to be 100% sure, a blood titer is the way to find out. I have had it done on myself for the Hep B vax I had in dental school. Probably time to update that again.

  63. MadScientist

    @Cheeseburger Brown:

    That’s very unfortunate. I think psychology may have a lot to do with the distrust of science. Everyone has their bad days and wishes things were much better; sometimes it feels like the universe is out to get you. I think because of that, many people have some sympathy for an underdog. The problem is that there are so many vices disguised as underdogs. “We’re being hushed by big bad evil Parma”, “Big Bad Oil is waging a propaganda war against us”. Most of the time it’s just whining and conspiracy theories – unfortunately people tend to believe the stories without looking into details. I always laugh when people rant about how the “big bad oil companies are sabotaging alternative energy” and similar claims because it’s just not true. (In this case many of the Big Bad Oil companies are very big contributors to the development of alternative energy sources.)

    So I think you can start by trying to find out what conspiracy theories sold your brother in law on the antivax scare and find out why he believed the stories. It could be something like office gossip; in another job I’d often yell at people because of the really stupid stories they were spreading about in the office gossip. I’m not known for being tactful; “that’s an OK thing to believe if you want to die quickly” is the sort of thing I’m known to say.

  64. MadScientist

    @Charlie Young:

    “A really nasty epidemic now would be the most effective way to cure the stupid. ”

    Not a good idea; the poor kids who did get shots but didn’t develop an immunity will also suffer – and why should the kids with morons for parents suffer? Aside from that, a generation of susceptible individuals are wiped out and no one will even hear of the disease for several decades and during that time the antivax nonsense will take hold again, so nothing is gained by killing off the kiddies.

  65. bananabender

    Looking at the U.S. from a distance – Australia – the antivax thing seems to be part of a whole spectrum of retreat from reality. First look at the TV/Film industry, constant indoctrination with endless varieties of the supernatural, vampires, ghosts and their friends and whisperers, assorted superbeings,even in childrens’ programs. Top up with all the evil/wicked scientists bringing the world to the brink of destruction,then add the evil government paranoia movies and it’s obvious that the scientists and government can’t be trusted, much safer to consult a nice caring iridoligist or reflexologist. Definitely safer to stick with people who KNOW they have the answers, after all it’s all right there in God’s Holy Word so what more do you need? Add in the drift away from science-based teaching and learning and where are you guys heading… the Middle Ages? Scarey stuff – and as always we catch our share of it from your entertainment exports. But relax, the future is safe – China is graduating 350,000 engineers a year. Bet they’re vaccinated too! Remember, Darwin may be dead but natural selection lives on.

  66. Na

    I don’t see why people can’t see vaccines as ‘insurance’. I think so many people out there think, “ah, it’ll be ok. My kid’s healthy, and we’ll keep him/her/them healthy”, forgetting that the actual world doesn’t work like that. Vaccines are like an insurance policy; even if your kid doesn’t get sick, at least this gives your kid a ‘buffer zone’ of health. Why are we so busy worrying about fire/earthquake/flood/etc insurance, but don’t bother to cover our own kids? (And yes, I get the concept of disease/vaccines/herd immunity doesn’t quite work like insurance, but it’s a good way of putting it to those fearmongerers out there. Just scare them in the other direction by pointing out that you get insurance *in case* something goes wrong – with the addition of explaining the real facts of the matter – and if you have health insurance, why not a vaccine?)

  67. Lawrence

    Ironically, drawing to draw a parallel between “Big Tobacco” & “Big Pharma” by the antivaxxers is pretty stupid.

    Over the years, it was “Big Tobacco” that ignored or criticized the overwhelming scientific evidence that smoking caused cancer. They hired celebrities to endorse their product (well, back in the old days – remember the Reagan commericials?), and brought in a bunch of pseudo-experts or junk scientists to support their claims.

    Sound similiar to what the antivaxxers are doing right now? They are the ones that are trying to ignore or shoutdown the actual evidence.

    A real shame – and you’re right that it is mostly the “educated” parents that are taking a stand against vaccines – because they have access to the overload of “junk” information that leads them to irrational fear of something “autism” that isn’t even fatal, and create a situation where their children or others’ children can contract fatal or crippling childhood diseases.

    Of course, some will say that this is strictly alarmist – that is wouldn’t be that bad. But we’ve never seen the kinds of epidemics & killer diseases that still existed during the life of our grandparents and great-grandparents. Modern medical science really didn’t even take off in this country until the late 1800′s, early 1900s – we were well behind what was going on in Europe at the time.

    I hate the fact that we have forgotten, that just over 100 years ago, people still died by the tens of thousands in this country from diseases that are now easily preventable & treatable. Spend some time in Africa, where close to 1/2 of all children die before they turn 10 (in some countries, you’re lucky if they live past 5) & any kind of disease can turn into a full-fledged epidemic.

    We’re coddled by the years of advancement in medical science – and in rejected those advances, we are opening the door to a much bigger problem down the road.

  68. Nigel Depledge

    Dom said:

    I’m not an ‘anti-vaxxer’ or anything but can someone explain how injecting mercury into someone is a good thing?

    Well, this question either betrays a fairly large measure of naivety, or your are a pro-disease person being disingenuous.

    Nevertheless, your question has an answer: dose.

    Pretty much any substance you care to name is toxic in a high enough dose. Common table salt, for instance, can kill you if you eat enough of it (and I’m not talking about increased risk of heart disease, I’m talking about acute effects).

    Conversely, even the most toxic substances can be tolerated at sufficiently low doses. Motor vehicle exhaust (particularly diesel exhaust), for example, contains many substances that, if they were concentrated and purified, I would not be permitted to use at work because they are too toxic. But the dose received on a daily basis is very very low. In a similar way, the preservatives used in vaccines (and I am sure that not all vaccines contain mercury, BTW, and I would be interested in reading your source that suggests that they do if you would care to cite it) are present at a high enough dose to prevent microbial growth, but at a low enough dose that they are tolerated by the human body.

    Be that as it may, even if the preservatives in the vaccines presented an actual hazard to us, this would need to be balanced against the hazards posed by the diseases that the vaccines prevent.

  69. Nigel Depledge

    Blashy said:

    When science is not used for greed people will start to trust it.

    Believe me, there is no university in the world where science is “used” for greed.

    However, perhaps you refer to the fact that most members of the public have no engagement with science except in terms of the chemical industry, which is constantly trying to sell stuff that gets you cleaner, or makes you smell nicer, or holds your hair just so, or kills the bugs on your roses, or kills the weeds on your patio, or whatever.

    But that industry can only eists because people buy the stuff.

    But since the days of “smoking is not harmful” spewed out by scientists (on the payroll of course)

    Yeah. Apart, of course, from those other scientists that actually found that smoking was harmful.

    and more stuff like that (DDT, BPCs, some Monsanto crap, etc…) well science takes a hit.

    I have no idea what you are saying here.

    As soon as scientists discovered that DDT was concentrated in the food chain, most nations banned its use.

    And how are scientists responsible for the policies of a major corporation like Monsanto? Do you blame the guys on the factory floor for the decisions made by the top execs at GMC?

    Too often science for profit is in a hurry to get stuff out without any idea about long term effect on the environment or people and when the sh*t hits the fan well who gets blamed? Science of course since they came up with it in the first place.

    Now, then, get some perspective here. You can point at various products that have been released into the marketplace and then withdrawn because of some adverse effects: Thalidomide for morning sickness; CFCs as aerosol propellants, refrigerants and fire suippressants; DDT to prevent the spreading of malaria; fossil fuels that emit only “harmless” CO2 and water (oh, wait, those are still allowed!). In each and every case, it has been science that has detected and demonstrated the undesirable effects.

    This is one of many reasons why public funding for science should increase.

    Of course, also in every case, there was a market for the product that the company was selling. I.e., people were buying and using the stuff. Now, whose responsibility is it to check a new product for long-term adverse effects? The manufaturer? The user? The government? Or the scientist whose discovery made the product possible in the first place? But how is a small team of scientists to prevent a company from launching a product based on their discovery? And to what products should this apply?

    There is a whole “big brother” style regulatory nightmare lurking in that can of worms. Do you really want to open it?

    Always comes back to ONE single element… GREED (it will kill us all).

    You have failed to show this. In every case, you have the greed of the corporation being combatted by publicly-funded scientists. According to your reasoning, people don’t trust scientists because companies are allowed to sell stuff that has been made using a scientific discovery, but it is science that is raising the issues and showing the links that allow us to determine whether or not a specific thing is harmful.

  70. Nigel Depledge

    Heh. Need to proof-read before submitting.

    I said:

    But that industry can only eists because people buy the stuff.

    Of course, I meant “exist”.

  71. Nigel Depledge

    Robert Mayer said:

    1. Has the exact gene for autism been mapped yet? If so, of all the announcements regarding gene discovery, this one went under the radar. I mean, if there’s gene that suggests an increased likelihood of eating more chocolate than others, that’s likely to get news time. If the gene for autism hasn’t been found, then what’s hindering the discovery?

    Alas, it is more complicated than that.

    Apparently, several genes are linked with autism, but not every person with the “bad” alleles is autistic. There are other factors involved. At best, we can say that a person’s genetics can predispose that person to be autistic, but it is not a straightforward “inherit allele X and be autistic” distinction.

    Unfortunately, I can’t recall where I read this.

  72. Nigel Depledge

    Dom said:

    You will all be happy to hear that as a child I had the MMR vaccine and, as far as I’m aware, suffered no damage from it. Still, I am loath just to take people’s word for it.

    This is the whole point of science. With science, you don’t have to take anybody’s word for anything. Provided you are prepared to become conversant with the relevant literature, which is typically a full-time occupation. When I was working at a university, I used to spend about 5 – 10 hours per week looking through the literature for relevant papers, and this was not always enough to keep up.

    In science, the evidence is what matters. The only people who ask you to take their word for anything are the pro-disease crowd. They will not accept that other causes are possible. Their “evidence” is at best very weak and at worst non-existent (in science, anecdotes do not count as data because there is no control for alternative influences).

    When a scientist tells you, for instance, that a study was performed on 500,000 Danish schoolchildren and no link was found between MMR and autism, (s)he does not expect you to take his/her word for it, necessarily. However, what a scientist does expect is that if you doubt what you are told, you go and look it up for yourself.

  73. RN

    Swedish research suggests that there is a link between plastic softeners (phthalates) and autism:

    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/03/31/2127203
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=link-between-autism-and-vinyl

    This underlines nicely the trouble with the modern life. Science news, especially medical ones, are so difficult to put in context with your everyday life that you do not know what to believe and what to not. Everything causes cancer, everything increases your carbon footprint, everything causes autism. Plastic bags are better than paper ones, rinse your hair with cold water, so many random instructions without any clear context.

    Science is not about believing, but some days that is the only thing people can do. Science education gives you some edge, but with science news we are all in the same big boat of belief.

  74. T_U_T

    When science is not used for greed people will start to trust it. But since the days of “smoking is not harmful” spewed out by scientists (on the payroll of course) and more stuff like that (DDT, BPCs, some Monsanto crap, etc…) well science takes a hit.

    I think Blashy might be onto something. I saw it several times. The ‘privatize the profit, socialize the losses’ ploy turned against science. Someone uses science to his advantage yet science gains no credit for it, but every blame for abuse of science, or of results of science, either by commission or by omission, either real or imagined, goes to science in general.
    Science gets no praise nor profits for inventing nuclear power, but is blamed by lot of the people for Hiroshima an Chernobyl.
    No credit for darwin’s evolution, but full blame for pseudoscience of social dawrinism.
    No credit for eradicating polio, but full blame for talidomide.
    Etc.

  75. Because math has, at various points in history, been used to deceive people, I am going to suspend my belief in math until the mathematicians clean up their act.

    That’ll learn ‘em, you betcha.

  76. Zclone

    Looks like Jenny McCarthy can start to turn her attention to something she’s experienced at; buffing floors…

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=link-between-autism-and-vinyl

  77. I think psychology may have a lot to do with the distrust of science.

    I think functional illiteracy plays a much greater role.

    To someone who does not know their times tables, 9 x 9 = 81 looks like “magic.”

  78. @Dom

    Regarding mercury (thimerosal) in vaccines:

    The following link from the FDA has information about thimerosal, its current and past use, and has a lovely table showing the thimerosal content of routinely recommended vaccines: fda.gov/cber/vaccine/thimerosal.htm#t1 (add www to the beginning, or just click my name).

    To summarize, though, thimerosal is metabolized down into, among other things, ethyl mercury. This mercury compound is different from what is found in the environment, such as in fish, which is methyl mercury. The two are often mistaken for one another by the pro-disease types. Now, methyl mercury, the kind found in fish, has a half life of several weeks, meaning that it can build up very quickly, depending on how much contaminated stuff a person ingests/breathes in/absorbs. Ethyl mercury (the kind in thimerosal) on the other hand has a half-life of a few days to roughly a week, meaning that whatever is received from vaccinations is flushed from the system pretty quickly and doesn’t have a chance to build up.

    Thimerosal, like some other substances, is used as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria or fungi in medicines (not just vaccines). This means that the medicine can be kept longer. For vaccines, it is primarily used in multi-dose vials, as well as in the manufacturing process to ensure that contaminants don’t grow in any of the components that make up the vaccine. This is especially important for areas where medicine storage and supply distribution can be an issue (e.g., third world countries, rural areas). It also means that physician offices can save money by buying bulk lots, instead of a whole bunch of individual vials. Removal of the preservatives actually means that the manufacturers can make more money, since they are producing more single-use vials.

    At any rate, I hope that answers some of your questions about thimerosal in vaccines. The link I provided has plenty more info on it, too.

  79. T_U_T

    Because math has, at various points in history, been used to deceive people, I am going to suspend my belief in math until the mathematicians clean up their act.

    If you really had no clue about math and all you knew about it was a long list of its evils, then the I am going to suspend my belief in math until the mathematicians clean up their act.
    would look a lot less silly.

  80. Science gets no praise nor profits for inventing nuclear power, but is blamed by lot of the people for Hiroshima an Chernobyl.

    Ummm …. science did not “invent” nuclear power. Nuclear power is natural. It is the spontaneous fission of uranium, thorium, etc. It is what keeps the mantle liquid and makes the tectonic plates move.

    And there is no such thing as “science” in the way you phrase it. Science did not invent nuclear power any more than meteorology invented rain.

    Science does not invent. Science explores, questions, and hopefully … explains.

    Science is humble.

    Just ask Phil.

  81. dumb guy

    Honestly..??…. This is natural selection at its finest.

  82. “If you really had no clue about math and all you knew about it was a long list of its evils, then the ‘I am going to suspend my belief in math until the mathematicians clean up their act.’
    would look a lot less silly.”

    Emphasis on “no clue.”

    If you start any sentence with “If you really had no clue about …” you can finish the sentence any way you want and it will still be true.

  83. Bill

    Did you see Jenny McCarthy on the Today show this morning? I about spit my breakfast out.

  84. T_U_T

    Ummm …. science did not “invent” nuclear power.

    pure semantic quibbling. Science gave us understanding of it and the capability to use it.
    And now, who got the profit for use of nuclear power ? Some enterpreteurs got rich, some politicians more powerful,
    Who got the blame for for abuse of nuclear power ? Science.
    This is, how science is treated in our society. I understand that science does not deserve such treatment. But it happens. And we’d rather find out how to stop it than closing our eyes and pretending it does not.

  85. Jonboy

    OT but did you see the post on Florida Citizens for Science blog regarding a academic freedom bill that hits on Astronomy?

  86. T_U_T

    If you start any sentence with “If you really had no clue about …” you can finish the sentence any way you want and it will still be true.

    Yet that is how we all start learning. Naive and clueless. And if the first information about math you found would be a kind of list of grievances you would make up your mind long before you really had a chance to find about what math really is.

  87. “And if the first information about math you found would be a kind of list of grievances you would make up your mind long before you really had a chance to find about what math really is.”

    I aggressively encourage people to doubt math. And gravity. And c.

    Challenge the paradigm !!!

    Abandon the creeping meatball !!!

  88. Todd W.

    @Doug Watts

    Well…could I start by not believing in i?

  89. Who got the blame for abuse of nuclear power ? Science.

    You need to stop using the word “Science” as if it is a monolith. It is not. There is no such thing as “Science” anymore than there is a thing called “Red.”

    Remember, in the 1960s there was the “Science” that said we lived in a steady state universe and the “Science” that said we lived in a universe that began 13GY as a big bang. Both theories were developed by the most thoughtful astrophysicists of the 20th century. But both could not be right.

    There is no dogmatic monolith called “Science.” This is a common fallacy.

    Science is nothing more than the act of honestly questioning and testing and questioning and using rigorous tools and rules to keep the scientist from deceiving him or herself during the process. Or as Richard Feynmann said, the goal of a scientist should be to try to prove himself wrong as quickly as possible.

  90. T_U_T

    There is no dogmatic monolith called “Science.” This is a common fallacy.

    duuuuuh ! Yes, I know, and I also happen to understand that science can not be blamed for abuses of scientific knowledge. Now, what about all the other folks who do it anyway ?

  91. T_U_T

    you misunderstand me. I am not defending the ‘science is to be blamed’ position. I merely point out that it is widespread and dangerous. and I try find out how to stop it from spreading.

  92. Caleb

    As long as we keep rolling out more and more HS/college graduates who never learned how and why to think critically, these kinds of problems are going to continue (or get worse). When people learn how to think critically and for themselves, they aren’t as easily swayed merely by pathos (which is the primary tool used by groups such as the anti-vaccination crowd).

    One problem is that too many Christians are using the wrong Bible that left out the 11th commandment–Thou shalt use thine head. ;-)

  93. Julian

    “This is, how science is treated in our society. I understand that science does not deserve such treatment. But it happens. And we’d rather find out how to stop it than closing our eyes and pretending it does not.”

    The disdain isn’t just American or limited to scientific illiterates. The other day when I was watching HardTALK on BBC WORLD, the host referred to CERN as a frivolous project. He was talking to an epidemiologist (I think. He was some kind of medical doctor dealing with illnesses in Africa) and asked him why the scientific community had time and money to spend (waste was the word I think he used) on the LHC but not for his projects. He kept referring to the doctor as a practical scientists and what he did as practical science. The Doctor (not wanting to offend his host) politely replied you can’t ask a particle physicist to study germ theory.

  94. Dave C

    Just to pile on here and maybe add a take on something else largely considered “harmless”… My ex-brother-in-law is a *gulp* chiropractor who practiced in England for a few years some time ago. He refused – on chiro-quackery grounds, not because of this new “pro-disease” (love that , BTW) thinking – to vaccinate his first daughter with the MMR vaccine. Guess what she contracted at age 2? Rubella. He even refused – until grandma started making death threats – to give any medications to reduce her fever, even when it hit 107 F.

    There are way too many Champions of Ignorance to go around.

    I also would like to echo the sentiment that if my daughter contracts an otherwise preventable disease due to someone else’s neglect, a lawsuit will be filed.

  95. Gary Ansorge

    There is some recent epidemiological research purporting to show a rise in autism rates in step with declining(blood) vitamin D levels.
    See:
    Johnson, S. Micro-nutrient accumulation and depletion in schizophrenia, epilepsy, autism and Parkinson’s disease.

    From the initial work up, it appears to show a correlation(over the last 20 years) between our aversion to sun exposure, reduced Vitamin D levels and rising autism rates. Wouldn’t it be ironic if, in our desire to protect our children from skin cancer, we were inadvertently precipitating a rise in neuro developmental disorders?

    I’ve spent my life (65 years) being exposed to sunlight, w/o heavy sunscreens (other than regular clothing) and the only skin abnormality I had was a recent(this year) growth that was readily removed in the Drs. office. I believe people have really gone overboard in their solar phobia.

    This might also explain why autism rates appear higher in darker skinned people(independently of economic hardship) living in higher latitudes.

    Something to look into, I think,,,

    GAry 7

  96. Nigel Depledge

    Innovative1 said:

    As far as Autism goes I am leaning towards chemicals in the water. BPA, Pthylates, chemicals in soaps and shampoos that cannot be filtered out, prescriptions, and I recently discovered that the water lines in my home also leech chemicals. Then back down the drain they go and again into our water systems. I have searched everywhere for an advanced water filtration system only to find that such a thing does not exist. The chemicals cannot be filtered. It is nearly impossible to study all combinations of every possible chemical and what affect the cocktail has on the human body. I saw a study on bottled water and how it has lower guidelines than tap water and how many of the bottled brands also had prescriptions, mercury, and a ton of other things in them.

    That is why I am switching to beer.

    Yikes! Have you seen what goes into beer?

    You’re much safer drinking whisky, the stronger the better.

  97. Todd W.

    @Nigel Depledge

    You’re much safer drinking whisky, the stronger the better.

    I’d say rum, of the 151 variety, is the safest, in terms of contagions. Granted, you wouldn’t get very hydrated from it, though.

  98. Gary Ansorge

    Todd:
    Actually, even 151 rum has too many aldehydes ,acetyldehydes and congeners. I much prefer pure grain alcohol at 190 proof, aka, white lightening or, in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Sid( I made plenty of that while working in Arabia). I used to tell my friends who drank my product that there was not one hang over in a gallon,,,or, for that matter, any live micro organisms,,,

    GAry 7

  99. Nigel Depledge:

    You’re much safer drinking whisky, the stronger the better.

    Todd W.:

    I’d say rum, of the 151 variety, is the safest, in terms of contagions.

    Meh! You guys should try Slivovitz (click on my name); in its raw undiluted form, you can use it as rocket fuel!

  100. Charles Boyer

    Me, I prefer beer made with RO water.

    As for live micro-organisms, there are probably billions of them in your body…right now. No sense getting all Howard Hughes or Michael Jackson about it, it is a fact of life.

  101. Gary Ansorge

    Charles, you’re no fun at all,,,

    GAry 7

  102. Luanne O'Neill

    Three things:

    1) We have too many cases of whooping cough for comfort…adults (who need boosters) and children (not vaccinated or too young for public school).

    2) At least it’s NC state law that you can’t attend public school without a current vaccination record. That’s been law here for years and it extends all the way through the University of North Carolina system (16 universities and the NC High School of Math and Science)

    3) People against vaccinations should talk to polio survivors who have spent 90% of their lives in iron lungs…all of them implore parents to get their children vaccinated.

  103. @Cheeseburger Brown,

    I read this part of your post:

    I mean, mercury isn’t the only destructive thing we introduce to the body when it can help — think of chemotherapy, for instance. Why would it ever be a good thing to inject someone with poison? Well, if it kills the cancer cells and lets the patient survive, it’s a win.

    And I immediately wondered… How many of the anti-vaccine crowd has had Botox? They’re getting Bubonic Plague injected directly into them! Surely, that will cause them a horrible death, right?

    *GASP!* A quick Google search shows that Jenny McCarthy loves Botox! ( http://www.popcrunch.com/jenny-mccarthy-botox-obsession/ ) So Mrs. Getting Injected With Vaccines Is Evil is more than willing to have the Bubonic Plague injected directly into her face? Has anyone ever explored this angle?

  104. T_U_T

    Meh! You guys should try Slivovitz (click on my name); in its raw undiluted form, you can use it as rocket fuel!

    Actually, It tastes much better than it burns. I’ve tried both, you can trust me :-)

  105. Charlie Young

    @TechyDad

    Botox is derived from the toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. So even though she is getting injected with a powerful paralytic neurotoxin, it is not the plague.

  106. Gary Ansorge

    Charlie:
    even though she is getting injected with a powerful paralytic neurotoxin,

    it is not the plague.

    How unfortunate,,,

    GAry 7

  107. Randy A.

    Doug Watts stated: “Nuclear power is natural. It is the spontaneous fission of uranium, thorium, etc. It is what keeps the mantle liquid and makes the tectonic plates move.”
    Well, sorry, but the mantle isn’t liquid. It’s the outer core that’s liquid. However, heat from the core IS the ultimate energy source that drives plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.
    Natural decay (not fission) of radioactive isotopes within the earth does heat the earth. Geologists are still debating how much heat comes from radioactive decay, and how much is heat left over from the formation of the earth.

    On a completely different topic, Nigel Depledge asked “Have you seen what goes into beer?” Clarification is needed — are you asking about the pisswater that the big mass market American breweries call beer, or are you asking about the real thing, made from malted barley, hops, yeast and water?
    I’ll take real beer any day! Cheers!

  108. @Charlie Young,

    Shh… Don’t tell her that. Maybe she’ll start a movement to attack Botox clinics and the like and will let her attention sway from vaccines. The “dangle something shiny in front of them” attack on the anti-vaccine movement. ;-)

  109. Japhy

    Slate.com published two excellent anti-anti-vaxxers articles today. More specifically why vaccines are not to blame for autism and why parents believe all sorts of non science related methods for helping their autistic children.

  110. Mark

    I was just reading one of those articles. This one is a pretty damning discussion of the non-scientific (and downright harmful) “treatment” that these quacks are giving to children with autism, based on the notion that the autism was caused by vaccinations.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2215128/
    “They test the children for viruses, bacteria, yeast, immune system elements, and brain antibodies, drawing copious amounts of blood, as well as spinal fluids and biopsy material, before prescribing immune globulins, vitamins, enzymes, and other pills and infusions.”
    Not surprisingly, “The tests and therapies run into the tens of thousands of dollars per child.”

  111. Natural decay (not fission) of radioactive isotopes within the earth does heat the earth. Geologists are still debating how much heat comes from radioactive decay, and how much is heat left over from the formation of the earth. — Randy A.

    Randy: “Natural decay” is fission. There is no other type of “natural decay” other than fission.

    And while the Earth’s mantle is not a liquid, it flows, just as the solid ice in a glacier flows. The movement of tectonic plates is believed to be driven by convection cells in the mantle. Part of the mantle is liquid. Magma is a liquid. And magma comes from the mantle. It appears on the Earth’s surface as lava. And lava is a liquid.

    You might want to consult some basic geology and physics texts.

  112. T_U_T

    “Natural decay” is fission. There is no other type of “natural decay” other than fission.

    facepalm

  113. Nigel Depledge

    Charles Boyer said:

    Me, I prefer beer made with RO water.

    Does it taste better that way?

    As for live micro-organisms, there are probably billions of them in your body…right now. No sense getting all Howard Hughes or Michael Jackson about it, it is a fact of life.

    It depends what you mean by “inside” the body. If you mean in the gastro-intestinal tract, then you’re about 3 orders of magnitude low. There are trillions of bacteria in the typical adult human’s gut. In fact, the bacteria in your gut outnumber the cells in your body by roughly 10:1 (bacterial cells are much smaller than mammalian cells) unless you are taking antibiotics at the moment.

  114. Nigel Depledge

    Techy dad said:

    And I immediately wondered… How many of the anti-vaccine crowd has had Botox? They’re getting Bubonic Plague injected directly into them! Surely, that will cause them a horrible death, right?

    *GASP!* A quick Google search shows that Jenny McCarthy loves Botox! ( http://www.popcrunch.com/jenny-mccarthy-botox-obsession/ ) So Mrs. Getting Injected With Vaccines Is Evil is more than willing to have the Bubonic Plague injected directly into her face? Has anyone ever explored this angle?

    Not quite. Botulism is the outcome of the botulin toxin (i.e. botox) secreted by Clostridium botulinum. Bubonic plague is an infection of Yersinia pestis.

  115. Nigel Depledge

    D’oh! Charlie Young beat me to it.

  116. Nigel Depledge

    Randy A said:

    On a completely different topic, Nigel Depledge asked “Have you seen what goes into beer?” Clarification is needed — are you asking about the pisswater that the big mass market American breweries call beer, or are you asking about the real thing, made from malted barley, hops, yeast and water?
    I’ll take real beer any day! Cheers!

    Yes, you see! Yeast! That’s live microbes, that is! That must be dangerous!!!!!!!!111!!!11!1!1!!!!!!1111!!!! ;-)

  117. Nigel Depledge

    Doug Watts said:

    Randy: “Natural decay” is fission. There is no other type of “natural decay” other than fission.

    Doug, I think Randy was referring to alpha, beta and gamma decay, none of which involve nuclear fission as such. Fission does occur naturally (look up “Oklo” on wikipedia), but is unusual. The majority of the Earth’s internal heat seems to come from the same process as is used in a radioisotoppe thermal generator, i.e. decay by alpha, beta or gamma emission.

  118. Charlie Young

    I always thought radioactive decay was the spontaneous degradation of one element into another, in the process an alpha, beta, gamma or a combination of particles is released. I thought fission was the absorption by a nucleus of a neutron which subsequently causes the nucleus to break apart into new atoms. There is also a release of alpha, beta and/or gamma particles. This is a subtle but significant difference on the atomic level. Mind you, I only got through basic college physics, so don’t rip too deep.

  119. Nigel Depledge

    @ Charlie Young – I think you are right. In normal radioactive decay, an element can only change by one or two places on the periodic table (e.g. Uranium -> Thorium by alpha emission, or 32-Phosphorus -> Sulphur by beta emission), whereas in fission the nucleus splits into two much smaller nuclei.

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