Bill Maher schooled by… Bill Frist??

By Phil Plait | October 13, 2009 11:00 am

[Note: After writing this up initially but before posting it, I saw that Steve Novella has also commented on this, and said much of the same thing I did, but in more detail and with more background. Since I spent the time writing this already, I’ll keep it as is, but you should go read what he wrote too!]

Bill Maher is hailed by many as a skeptic, but I disagree with that. He is an atheist, and he has some salient points to make about religion and beliefs. However, he is by no means a skeptic when it comes to matters medical. He rails against "western medicine" (what I prefer to call, simply, medicine), thinks vaccines are dangerous, and buys into a lot of nonsense about vaccinations that is known to be wrong. Note that a denier is not the same thing as a skeptic; go read what Orac has to say about Maher to see how the Real Time host misses the mark by miles in his medical beliefs.

You may also guess that I have little love for ex-Senate Majority Leader (and doctor) Bill Frist, who claimed he would never diagnose someone without seeing them first, but then proceeded to do just that on the Senate floor about Terry Schiavo (and get it completely wrong). In my opinion, he let politics trump medicine at that time.

But sometimes medicine wins out: Frist schools Maher on the swine flu on Real Time, with Frist telling Maher point blank that he’s wrong. This is worth watching.

Frist is correct, the things Maher says about vaccines are dead wrong. I wonder if Maher will now do the research instead of just continuing to buy into his flawed belief system?

Tip o’ the syringe to BABloggee Peter Beattie.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience

Comments (69)

  1. qwints

    Saw that and loved it. Mahr’s resorting to quote mining was so painfully unaware, especially when he then proceeded to contrast himself with evolution deniers. Frist calling him out on the Salk quote was the highlight of the interview.

  2. J

    And Frist is probably a creationist.

    All “skeptics” have their blind spots.

  3. Stadred

    Wonderful; “What year is that from?”

  4. I liked the bit at the start:

    Mahr: “You say that like I’m a crazy person.”
    Frist: “Well, here you are.”

    That summed up the whole discussion for me.

    Wow.

  5. Doc

    I was disturbed to find myself agreeing with Frist, and feeling total revulsion for Maher’s smug ignorance. Then towards the end they switched topics to health care and suddenly Frist is spouting evasive “blame the patient” talking points and Maher’s asking pointed questions (but in the end agreeing with Frist that “it’s the food”.

    My brain just asploded.

  6. Chip

    I like Maher on a lot of things but he’s wrong about vaccines. I hope he gets the facts. I dislike Frist on a whole lot of things but he’s correct here about getting vaccinated.

    One small point that the media seems to blur over in stating warnings about higher and lower H1N1 risk groups: If someone is in a low risk group, but they live in a household with high risk people such as children and pregnant women, they need to get vaccinated too.
    http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/recommendations.htm

  7. MH

    See now this is much more of a “strange bedfellows” moment than Rush and Beck: I am agreeing with Bill Frist. I cannot tell you how weird that is to say.

  8. Adrian Lopez

    Bill Maher’s arrogance coupled with how often he’s wrong is what led me to stop watching his show as far back as when he was on Comedy Central. Maher is a skilled debater, but here once more he shows himself to be as sure of himself as he is wrong about what he’s saying.

  9. Mena

    Adrian@8: You should still watch his show. I can’t stand the guy at all, but the guests that he has on (except for Amy Holmes who always says something ridiculously stupid and then starts to shout over anyone who tries to correct her, sometimes actual experts in the field) usually make up for that. You just need to use the fast forward button, pardon the pun, liberally when he is doing that first one-on-one interview because more often than not he’s trying to preach some woo and it’s always cringe worthy.

  10. tacitus

    And Frist is probably a creationist.

    Possibly, though I have a sneaking suspicion that many Republican politicians of the less Bachmann-like variety aren’t really creationists, they just play one on TV.

  11. mike burkhart

    Maher is just trying get biger rateings for his show just like everyone on tv dose as for religon in my oppion he has a ax to grind but even this may be for rateings after all the way to get your rateing up is to make people mad fox news knows this well (ps I want to say that I am a centerist not a conservative or a liberal In fact I vote for third party candates I left the democratic party years ago )

  12. John Powell

    Frist & Maher: Even broken clocks are right twice a day.

  13. Zucchi

    I can’t watch Maher’s show anymore. Every week lately, he brings out his crackpot nonsense about medicine. This isn’t the first time he’s had an actual medical expert on his show who couldn’t get Maher to accept some basic facts about how diseases and vaccines work.

  14. alfaniner

    I liked the fact that Frist didn’t let Maher sidestep his comments with questions about other things. “That’s another question. We’re still talking about vaccinations.”

  15. FLAnatic

    I am usually entertained by Bill Maher, except when it comes to medicine, he’s not rational on this subject. I don’t understand how he can complain about people who ignore science on the subject of global warming, when he obviously ignores science when it comes to medicine.

  16. Yojimbo

    “I wonder if Maher will now do the research instead of just continuing to buy into his flawed belief system?”

    I assume that was a rhetorical question? You know he won’t change his beliefs :)

  17. And Frist is probably a creationist.

    All “skeptics” have their blind spots.

    Frist is a well educated and by all accounts good doctor. He’s not a skeptic, he’s just correct on medicine.

  18. Autumn

    Rev., wasn’t Frist the one who claimed that tears and sweat could spread HIV? And who made a complex medical diagnosis based on a couple of minutes of badly shot video?

  19. Erwin Blonk

    Being an enthousiast online poker player, it nothing less then amazes me to see Frist siding with facts.
    He has wiped out a few thumbs-down he scored with me a few years ago.

  20. I use to watch Politically Incorrect for a couple years until he started with milk bad and smoking not as bad crud. Maher is almost as much a crckpot as the creationists in a lot of ways. As someone already stated a broken clock is right at least twice a day.

  21. Sili

    Beautiful.

    But I honestly don’t get why someone who can sound so reasonable can be against extending healthcare to cover everybody?

    I’m glad I’m spoilt so rotten by rampant socialism.

  22. Brian Wood

    Way to go Phil! I was hoping you would catch this. Bill needs to be seriously called out on this!

  23. Deepsix

    Phil, Maher actually denies that he is an atheist. On Larry King (gag), he agreed with King that atheism is a religion. I think it was then that I stopped watching.

  24. MeReal

    How is a broken clock right twice a day?
    I think a clock that runs backwards would be but broken?

  25. Quick nitpik. Maher is not an atheist. He believes in a higher power, but he is anti-religion.

    As to vaccines, he’s against all vaccines except for Gardasil, since that pisses off the right. He’s big into alt-med quackery and thinks that cancer treatments have not gotten any better in the last 50 years. Orac has a bunch on him, so I recommend just heading over there.

    I was hoping that Frist would mention, regarding health care costs, that part of the reason costs are so high is that we spend so much on palliative care (pain-relievers, tricked out beds with all kinds of electronics/adjustments/monitoring equipment, etc.). And I’d disagree with him that access to health care does not play a role. I think it does. If someone doesn’t have insurance, they can’t afford to get treatments that could prevent or cure a disease that normally is not particularly serious if caught in time.

    I’m glad Frist called Maher out, though, and told him straight up that he’s wrong about the vaccines.

  26. tacitus

    But I honestly don’t get why someone who can sound so reasonable can be against extending healthcare to cover everybody?

    Because they know that once it’s done (and America begins to join with the rest of the civilized world), there’s no going back. They would rather cut out their own tongues that admit that universal health care has been a wildly popular success (in spite of its flaws) in every single country where it’s been introduced.

    Government run health care runs counter to their political philosophy of small government (in theory anyway, if not in practice). They believe it makes individuals too dependent on the state. Of course, it often has the exact opposite effect — freeing people to pursue their careers and dreams without having to worry about how they’re going to pay for their family’s health coverage.

    I’ve lost count of the number of American friends whose first priority when looking for a job is to check on how good the health coverage is instead of how good the job itself it. I have friends who have even had to leave jobs they loved and go elsewhere because the health coverage was so poor. And risking it all to start up your own business in America is to risk your family’s health and lives along with it.

    Contrast in the UK. My British sister-in-law has successfully built up a business from scratch to one with 24 employees without having to worry a single moment about paying medical bills for her family or about providing cover for her employees. Her husband quit his job to become a contractor without having the hassle I had of trying to find affordable personal health insurance (which is much more expensive for less coverage than group insurance in the US).

    Imagine not having to worry another moment in your lives about where you’re going to find the money to pay for medical treatment. That’s what Republicans like Frist want to deny you.

  27. Wasn ‘t Dr. Frist also pro stem cell research?

    KP

  28. That was incredibly frustrating. Bill Maher clearly has a bit of a problem with evidence based logic.

  29. Adam_Y

    @Todd
    Maher called himself an atheist two weeks ago.

  30. jonathan

    I like Bill Maher over all. I think he’s a good host who has interesting people on and is good at getting them talking about things. He’s very biased and is often wrong about things though.

    Anyway, I found myself rooting for Bill Frist! In a way, I felt proud of myself.

  31. The CDC, and Bill Frist are saying that H1N1 monovalent vaccines are safe in pregnant women and small children. But the vaccine manufacturers definitely not making this claim themselves. In fact manufacturers are saying quite the opposite in their own product literature. See below.

    Directly from product literature via CDC (link below): “Safety and effectiveness of Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccine have not been established in pregnant women or nursing mothers or children <6 months of age".

    The details are in the fine print. http://wp.me/pC1DX-34

    I know that there will be a lot of nasty comments made about this post, but can somebody please explain why the manufacturers statements are not in accordance with current public health policy?

  32. BJN

    Maher is the kind of shallow thinker who makes me wince because he’s guilty of the same misinformed, faith-based, myopic mindset that he disparages for a living. His anti vaccination, anti medical science comments during the Frist interview had me shouting at the TV. It is indeed sad when Bill Frist exits looking thoughtful and rational.

  33. Like C. Sagan said, it is good to be open minded, but not so open minded that your brain (or B. Maher’s in this case) falls out.

  34. Having gone back through the links that BA provided, since I never followed the story when it was current, I have to disagree with those that claim Frist diagnosed Schiavo in his Senate address (which is not to say he didn’t do this elsewhere). Frist specifically did not diagnose – he called for a better exam, based on the reports that Schiavo was responsive, and therefore not in the definition of persistent vegetative state. And mind you, these reports were not from doctors, but from family.

    He made claims that the medical exams were inadequate, which is debatable. I find it hard to believe that in all that time no one performed tests sufficient to determine her condition beyond a reasonable doubt. So by that argument, he was quite possibly speaking out of line. But that was no diagnosis, and he specifically called for more information.

    Regardless of how we feel about the outcome, especially in hindsight, I think it’s important to call it accurately. Otherwise we are no better than the people we try to argue.

    Maher has fallen into the typical talkshow-host mold, of trying to say more than his guests, and derailing the interview when it doesn’t go the way he likes. There’s a reason I never watch any of them anymore. He also doesn’t do a very good job of being a skeptic – he simply agrees with a few skeptical standpoints, and by that token, tries to identify as one. But he utterly fails at the prime motivator, which is examining all claims judiciously. He fits the “find things to justify my pre-existing viewpoint” model much closer.

  35. Helioprogenus

    Sorry too tell you this BA, but your hopes on Maher doing research are misplaced. He will never look at his rhetoric skeptically because he’s making too much money off the fears of libertarians and conservatives. He’s claiming Big Government is terrible in everything it does, and won’t back off because it’s a message that clearly brings him ratings. Further, he’s not scientifically minded at all, much like many of his viewers. When it comes to religion, perhaps he falls in the agnostic school, but it’s not because he’s thought critically of the science, but probably because he feels that religion has too much power of influence and he would rather have it stop. His message is detrimental to the population, and any time one of these clowns comes out attaching a “big” label to something, like pharmaceuticals, government, business, etc, it’s as though there’s a conspiracy. The only conspiracy is that misinformed idealogues will keep ranting and raving about their irrational beliefs, and that will influence a significant proportion of reactionary ignorant masses.

  36. Scott Smith

    Oh god..someone hose me off. I’m actually rooting for Bill Frist? I feel self-violated.

  37. LukeL

    Both England and Canada have huge problems with rationing health care, instead of forcing the 260 million who have coverage to change why not get the 40 million who don’t have coverage on something. Virtually everyone could afford a PPO is they wanted to, it is just they would rather have their cell phone, ipod, internet, and cable tv.

    Of those 40 million who don’t have coverage about half could be on medicaid or medicare if they filled out the paper work, the other half may choose not to get coverage. For a person 20-40 who is otherwise healthy, they may choose to spen $300 a year on appointments then $1500.00 per year on premiums.

    As for Bill Maher he uses very weak arguments like we don’t know what causes cancer (it is because there are probably 1,000s of factors in causing a cell mutation) and injecting disease to cure a disease (which is flat out wrong)

    Bill Frist is a cardiologist so him saying food is an issue is true to a point, however genetics are a much bigger role. No one in my family has ever had a heart attack (going back two generations on both sides) despite not leading perfect lifestyles. Yet some people get heart disease who are world class atheltes and 100% vegans.

  38. mariana

    LukeL…where do you get your information that Canada (and England) have huge problems with rationing health care?

    What exactly does “rationing health care” mean anyway? Please don’t post any links that refer back to Limbaugh, Beck or other political ideologists. They’re not credible sources.

  39. Lurker with a Preexisting Condition

    @LukeL

    You seem to have mixed up HR676 with HR3200.

    HR676 proposes a single-payer system for all Americans. There is no chance in hell of HR676 passing the House. You will never get single-payer health care here in the States until you turn 65 and qualify for our single-payer Medicare system.

    The House bill that *may* become law is HR3200. It will not change your existing health insurance beyond extra consumer protections. HR3200 just makes it easier for the rest of us to buy our own health insurance. In short, it does exactly what you want — it leaves 260 million insured alone, and gets “the remaining 40 million who don’t have coverage on something.”

    -+-

    I’d also like to say a few words about your naive suggestion that the uninsured are choosing luxuries over health insurance.

    It is not easy in the United States for individuals to purchase health insurance if they have a preexisting condition. My applications have been rejected by two major insurers to date.

    I don’t “choose” to not get coverage. American health insurance companies made that choice for me.

  40. I’ve never been a huge fan of Maher. I realize he’s a comedian, but still…

  41. amphiox

    LukeL, countries like England and Canada choose to ration on the principles of fairness. (It is not a “huge” problem. In the case of Canada with which I am familiar, it is a moral choice the Canadian people made after an intense and polarizing national debate in the 1960s, with which we are on the whole happy with and proud of. It’s not perfect, of which we are fully aware – if we had more resources and/or more foresight in allocating them, we can makes things better. But it isn’t a “huge” problem. It is a reality of an imperfect world that we have chosen to deal with in a particular manner.)

    Resources will always be limited, and need is essentially infinite – that is the nature of health care. You can choose to cover everyone, and accept that you cannot cover everything, or you can choose to cover everything and accept that you won’t be covering everyone. Or you can refuse to make any choice, which is what the U.S. has done to date, and you end up with what the U.S. has: something that doesn’t cover everyone and cannot cover everything, and costs twice as much per capita but is only a bit better than half as effective for pretty much any public health measure you can think of.

    And you still have a rationing problem, which is solved, by default (since no one has been able to make any decision of priorities and establish any coherent policy), by the uninsured.

  42. Steve Huntwork

    Frist joined the lab of W. John Powell Jr., M.D. at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1977, where he continued his training in cardiovascular physiology. He left the lab in 1978 to become a resident in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1983, he spent time at Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, England as senior registrar in cardiothoracic surgery. He returned to Massachusetts General in 1984 as chief resident and fellow in cardiothoracic surgery. From 1985 until 1986, Frist was senior fellow and chief resident in cardiac transplant service and cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. After completing his fellowship, he became a faculty member at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he began a heart and lung transplantation program. He also became staff surgeon at the Nashville Veterans Administration Hospital. In 1989, he founded the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. In 1991, Dr. Frist operated on then-Lieutenant Colonel David Petraeus after he’d been shot in a training accident at Fort Campbell.

    He is currently licensed as a physician, and is board certified in both general surgery and thoracic surgery. He has performed over 150 heart transplants and lung transplants, including pediatric heart transplants and combined heart and lung transplants.

  43. Changing gears slightly, I want to point out that a few years ago I commented on one of Phil’s blogs that it was way too early to conclude that there was no possibility of a potential trigger effect from vaccines that might provoke autism in a significant number of cases. (Please notice that I did not say “cause” and neither did I suggest that this possibility extended to a large fraction of autism cases.) My argument was based on the fact that substantial aspects of the immune system are not yet well understood and that many other puzzling immune system problems seem to be brought on by specific encounters with flus, viruses or other stressors.

    Well now there is brand new research that suggests a possible link between vaccines and autism in the form of the newly discovered XMRV retrovirus. Google XMRV, autism and retrovirus and you will see that some of the same scientists behind the recent blockbuster paper posted by Science Magazine about XMRV and CFS are the ones suggesting this possibility (and yes they have preliminary data that strongly suggests that additional study into this possible link is in order.)

    I am a huge BA fan and I hated to have to call him out on this subtle point that flies against his pro-vaccination stance (which in the large is extremely important work), but the science is what the science is. Having said that, it is very early days for all of this XMRV retrovirus stuff and not at all time to back away from existing vaccination programs. Still in all, XMRV tests should be available in less than a year FWIIW.

    My long term guess is that we will eventually have tests for immune system deficiencies and various types of “pre-vaccinations” for children needing specific bolstering of their immune systems before standard vaccinations are employed.

  44. LukeL

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1219853/My-husband-beaten-cancer-doctors-wrongly-told-returned-let-die.html

    Example in which a detailed physical exam and chest film and cultures would have diagnosed pneumonia. Denying food and water to anyone is inhumane

    http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/types/prostate/survival/

    look at the chart, USA almost has a 100% 5 year survival

    http://washingtontimes.com/news/2006/sep/04/20060904-102551-8847r/

    The problem is in America we are very very agressive with treatment regardless of age, while in socialized countries they ration based on age.

    For me the edlerly and handicapped (like my self) would be hurt from socialized medicine. I have neurofibromatosis, cherubism, and fibrous dysplasia. I need to see top doctors and often need 60-90 minute appointments which would be difficult in any other country.

  45. Mena

    Luke@35: Actually most Canadians that I know are bewildered about how anyone wouldn’t want to know that they won’t lose their house and/or will be able to afford to pay for treatment in the case of catastrophic illness or losing their jobs. It’s really How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB” all over again. I just figure that it goes along with the mentality that makes people refuse to learn how to use a base-10 system of measurement, which would be easier for everyone in the long run. We have to feel special because we “won” WWII and the Cold War. Sigh.

  46. Viewer 3

    Maher is not an atheist.

    Yes, I’m aware of those saying that he has labeled himself as such in the past. However, being completely unfamiliar with the context of such conversations, I can only assume that he was being lazy in his categorization (since many who are religious group “atheists” and “agnostics” into the same evil category). So I can see where he would just sort of say that he’s an atheist and call it a day.

    There are many Youtube clips where he discusses this, and I think one of his more well-known quotes is something along the lines of “calling yourself an atheist mirrors the same sort of certitude that flaws religion” (more or less). So while I believe people here when they say that he’s openly called himself an atheist, simply judging on his previous (probably more in-depth) discussions on the matter, I can safely say that he has always considered himself to be agnostic.

    I agree with Maher on a lot of things; of course he’s smug on many things, MANY people have that sort of attitude when they think they’re on the right side of things (such as talking down to and completely dismissing people who don’t believe in evolution… which I completely agree with, I’m just using it as an example to show that confidence in one’s argument can lead to the perception of arrogance from the other side). I’ve seen him change his view many a time on-the-spot based upon something that someone brings to his attention that he was previously unaware of. So while I do think that he’s completely off his rocker for buying into the whole vaccination thing, and while it’s obviously unforgivably stupid to pretend to be so in-command when you don’t have your facts straight, I also think this is definitely one of his less-flattering moments of ignorance. Not that I’m sticking up for the guy or anything…

  47. Viewer 3

    Re: Helioprogenus

    I agree that his overgeneralization of any sort of large entity as an “evil greedy empire” and his pandering to the super-libertarian audience isn’t the greatest thing in in the world. Although as much as I agree with SOME of what Helioprogenus says, I’m afraid that you’re way off on the religion thing. He isn’t anti-religion because he believes religion has “too much power or influence”; that’s utterly ridiculous. If you’ve actually seen enough of his ramblings to know what his actual views are, you’d know how completely backwards your assumption is. His primary defense against religion is ALWAYS science-based. He constantly reminds people that the people who wrote the bible were the same people who didn’t know what an atom was, or thought that the sun rising was an act of magic. His only argument against the “influence” of religion comes when he talks about the ways that it blinds people to logic and reason. He is constantly using science and logic as a weapon against religion, so although the “science and logic” part of his brain clearly wasn’t functioning when it comes to the whole vaccination thing, your claims of his views on religion are extremely off.

  48. @Viewer 3:

    I think you may be giving Maher too much credit for science-based reasoning against religion. He appears to be anit-vax except for one: the HPV vax. He does support that. Why? Most likely, because many conservative fundamentalists oppose it on the grounds it will lead to rampant promiscuity.

    Forget the lives it’ll save; if the fundies are a-ghin it, he’s all for it.

    That, more than anything else, is Maher’s “science-based” reasoning: if Group A hates Item B, then I’m all for Item B. I’d bet my drawing hand that if fundies were against the H1N1 vax, Maher would do a 180 and support it (he Twittered recently that those who get that vax are “idiots”.)

    Orac at Respectful Insolence posted a decent laundry list of Maher’s “science-based” reasoning during the recent AAI kerfluffle. That can be viewed here: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/09/ask_bill_maher_and_richard_dawkins_some.php

    I’ve stopped listening to the podcasts of his HBO show “Real Time” primarily due to his dangerous promotion of alt med. While I enjoy the political aspects of the show, Maher’s medical lunacy is as frightening as it is dangerous.

    It’s not a case of skeptics agreeing to disagree. This stuff is as bad as the 9/11 truthers.

  49. Mark H.

    Most of you seem to have no real information on the effectiveness of this flu vaccine or of flu vaccines in general.
    ****************

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/10/13/Dr-Oz-Helps-Shill-the-Flu-Vaccine.aspx

    “It really amazes me how effective the drug companies have been at manipulating the culture so that we now allow them to sell these toxic, ineffective and expensive options in pharmacies, airports, college campuses, grocery stores and countless other outlets, without taking into account your medical history or doing any follow-up.

    Study after study (that was not unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry) has reached the same conclusion—that flu shots simply do not work as advertised. For example:

    *

    Giving young children flu shots appeared to have no impact on flu-related doctor visits or hospitalizations during two recent flu seasons, according to a study published in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.
    *

    The flu vaccine is no more effective for children than a placebo, according to a large-scale, systematic review of 51 studies, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
    *

    NO studies have conclusively proven that flu shots prevent flu-related deaths among the elderly.
    *

    A study published in the Lancet just found that influenza vaccination was NOT associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in older people. Why is this important? Because 35,000 of the 36,000 “flu” deaths the government claims happen each year are actually caused by diseases like pneumonia, and NOT the flu.
    *

    Research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine also confirms that there has been no decrease in deaths from influenza and pneumonia, despite the fact that vaccination coverage among the elderly has increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent now.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16437500
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?orig_db=PubMed&db=pubmed&cmd=Search&term=%22Lancet%22Jour%20AND%20398page%20AND%202008pdat
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?orig_db=PubMed&db=pubmed&cmd=Search&term=American%20journal%20of%20respiratory%20and%20critical%20care%20medicineJour%20AND%20527page%20AND%202008pdat

  50. Gary Ansorge

    I used to watch Maher until I realized he was as prone to woo as any other non-science trained person. Is he intelligent? Yes. He does have some understanding of evidence based methodology but,,,he also has his anti-govenrment bias. The one thing both the hard core right and left have in common is a lack of understanding of “balance of power”. Government has its good points and bad. As David Brin pointed out in his book “The Transparent Society”, Government needs to know what the populace is up to in order to prevent egregious criminal activity. Society needs to know what the people running government are up to in order to prevent their abuse of their position. Shining a light into dark recesses is how we avoid stepping in smelly poo. Transparency is the only way we, as a species, have developed to keep track of abuse of power. It is also a basic part of our biology in which we track who’s doing what, with which and to whom.

    W/O government we would not have sanitation, interstate highways, vaccination(all were paid for by the public purse)and of course, Social Security. W/O public insight into government, we’d still have the McCarthy era, with its totalitarian injustice.

    GAry 7

  51. kingnor

    geh, so smarmy, yuck

  52. This kind of interview is one reason I gave up TV. I find it so irritating that there is this demand for sound bites which stamps all over the possibility of a reasoned and considered answer. Some topics are complex, and require complex answers, which generally take longer than ten seconds – and those topics are ill-suited to this frenetic, interruption-plagued style of TV. I find it as hard to watch as a raucous kids’ Saturday TV show.

  53. ScottW

    I met Frist back in 1996, during the Republican convention in San Diego. I used to work at CNN Interactive, and I was running moderated IRC chats with various people – Frist being one of those folks. Seemed like a nice enough guy at the time. This was before his rise to prominence in the GOP and in the Senate.

    I can’t say I’m his biggest fan, politically – but in this case, yeah, he’s spot on. But it’s not his political views – it’s his scientific/medical views I’m in agreement with him on.

  54. BargeArse

    Maher is allowed on television saying that crap?

  55. Purple

    Some folks need to get over their political identities. “Oh noes! I must bathe in unicorn tears after agreeing with teh evul Republican!” I mean, seriously, listen to yourselves some day. Yeah, the world, and most people, are bit more complex than Us & Them. Life is not a Spy Versus Spy comic.

  56. Caleb Turberville

    I get the feeling that Bill Maher introduced the evolution debate into this interview to get the audience back on his side. Perhaps a strict Presbyterian background prevented Frist from accepting evolution and led him to be a conservative, but he is well educated and I applaud him for standing up for the truth.

  57. Phil,

    To say Frist schooled Bill is a fairly considerable exaggeration. Whilst he may have put forth his opinion/the truth, he certainly failed to convince Maher of anything (though I wouldn’t disagree that Maher seems particularly unscientific in his beliefs on this subject).

    Whilst I agree that he may have set minds thinking, I would venture to say that when you’re essentially trying to convince Bill Maher’s fans that Bill Maher is wrong, you must put Bill Maher on the back foot and unfortunately, I didn’t see this happen.

    To me, this type of interview does more damage than it is worth. It is exactly the type of reinforcement (irrespective of what is right or wrong) that O’Reilly tends to infect his audience with.

  58. fred edison

    It was someone in the comments section of NYT online health section, who pointed out the laughable irony of Maher’s anti-religion crusade based on the lack of evidence and reason for such a belief. And here Maher is displaying a complete lack of reason and offers no reputable evidence to support his own beliefs about vaccines. Doh!

    A big -1 for Bill.

  59. Thimerosal in Swine Flu Vaccines is Safe? Who are we kidding?? http://wp.me/pC1DX-4j

    There will be MOST DEFINITELY be thimerosal in many if not most H1N1 vaccines. Directly from the CDC: “The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines that FDA is licensing (approving) will be manufactured in several formulations. Some will come in multi-dose vials and will contain thimerosal as a preservative. Multi-dose vials of seasonal influenza vaccine also contain thimerosal to prevent potential contamination after the vial is opened. Some 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines will be available in single-dose units, which will not require the use of thimerosal as a preservative. In addition, the live-attenuated version of the vaccine, which is administered intranasally (through the nose), is produced in single-units and will not contain thimerosal.” http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm

  60. Jake (#60): So what? The mercury in a vaccine is less than 1/3 of the amount you get eating a can of tuna. And the mercury in a vaccine is ethylmercury, which the body gets rid of faster than methylmercury, the kind in the tuna. So you FAIL twice.

    If you’re going to quote the CDC, why not quote the actual numbers? So you FAIL three times.

    Wanna try for four?

  61. Lurker with a Preexisting Condition

    @LukeL “For me the edlerly and handicapped (like my self) would be hurt from socialized medicine.”

    If you are 65 or older, you already benefit from a Canadian-style single-payer system called “Medicare” here in the United States. If you are handicapped, you may also benefit from a government program called “Medicaid.” If so, my tax dollars pay for your health care.

    I do not mind paying for your health care. However, I want to buy my own health insurance. As I mentioned above, American health insurers rejected my applications for health insurance.

    Please, give me a chance to buy my own health insurance. Support health-care reform.

  62. It is important to look at the money in this debate as the finance piece directly affects scientific objectivity. And the general public is losing trust in many of our institutions and waking up to the inherent conflict of interest that they fear works against them most of the time.

    Flu vaccines and BigPharma are VERY BIG business. Money has become a problem for academic science too, not just in the private research sector such as pharmaceuticals. The problem is systemic. Publish or perish! The constant quest for research dollars in almost all types of academic research science means that researchers must guard their “scientific-turf” lest the funding budget be cut. This destroys true objectivity in a very big way.

    Many arguments against vaccination are reasonable and cogent. However, clear expert and non-expert voices opposing vaccination are sorely missing in our media discussion. It’s not because they’re not out there. It’s because major news outlets won’t risk losing advertising dollars from BigPharma. Thimerosal, contaminant viruses and other toxic components of flu vaccines are safe? Who are we kidding? http://wp.me/pC1DX-4j

  63. All types of mercury without exception are toxic (Link to source is listed below). The ethyl-mercury in thimerosal found in H1N1 vaccines does induce levels of cellular toxicity, and that this has been documented in peer reviewed literature. (Link to source also below). Cellular damage from thimerosal is consistent with those found in studies of patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and is much more toxic than other metal compounds included in the study and also commonly found in vaccines. Issues of mitochondrial dysfunction, neural tubule defects and mercury are precisely the issues which need to be studied further and are sorely lacking in the autism/vaccine safety debate.

    BTW, in terms of clearance, sure our bodies eliminates ethyl-mercury, faster than methyl-mercury, BOTH of which are toxic. That doesn’t mean I want to inject ethyl-mercury into my bloodstream! Remember, people with impaired mitochondrial function, low redox capacity, or poor detoxification enzyme systems are at an even much greater risk of any type of exposure due to slower clearance of mercury. There is no way to know if you have any one of these redox/detoxification issues unless tested for them beforehand. Additionally, the very presence of mercury, including ethyl-mercury in thimerosal creates a vicious cycle which gums-up and slows down the very same detoxification pathways that the body needs to eliminate toxins and heal itself.

    All types of mercury are toxic including ethyl-mercury in thimerosol: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/updates/thimerosal_faqs_mercury.htm#2

    Thimerosol Toxicity:
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a910652305

    and another very intersting study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19800915?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    It doesn’t take an advanced degree to recognize foolishness. Science, like politics has become corrupt from its incessant focus and competition for funding dollars. In our institutes of higher learning, the halls of medicine are incestuous and remain frozen in old paradigms. If you doubt this even slightly, follow the money trail to the source of funding and see for yourself with your own eyes.

  64. Tom

    According to two latest polls The British Medical Journal and the Nursing Times 50% of all medical doctors and health care professionals refuse the H1N1 vaccine and growing. Bill Frist is not a current medical practitioner.

    As per your CDC link “All types of mercury are toxic including ethyl-mercury in thimerosol” above:

    “Who is most vulnerable to mercury?
    Unborn babies (developing fetus) are more sensitive to the effects of many chemicals”
    -See Bill Frist insisting that pregnant women get the swine jab in video above.

    The current Novaritis H1N1 Vaccine contains Thermisal… Just because it’s Bill Maher people dose not make him wrong.

  65. Robert Carnegie

    Re mercury, you probably breathe in a little of it every day. As well as much other junk that probably won’t kill ya. Get over it. Also QUIT INVENTING NEW REASONS WHY VACCINES ARE LINKED WITH AUTISM. THEY AIN’T. THEREFORE THERE IS NO REASON WHY THEY IS.

    I should not shout, I guess but WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS! PEOPLE DIE OF THAT CRAP!

  66. I'mWithJake

    Here’s the deal on the heavy metals: yes, we all encounter heavy metals every day of our lives. The body is able to excrete heavy metals on its own. What if there’s a problem with a person’s ability to excrete heavy metals? Why is it so unbelievable that a toxic load may become problematic for the body systems? Here’s another ‘no brainer.’ EATING tuna is not the same thing as MAINLINING IT into your body.

    Here’s another piece of information that you all should know about the ‘good doctor,’ since he seems to be the hot topic, here.

    “…Senator Bill Frist has just filled the seat of Senate majority leader on December 23, 2002. Frist authored a bill intended to protect vaccine makers, such as Eli Lilly & Co, from lawsuits regarding thimerosal found in vaccines and argued is linked to autism in children. While Frist denies having any role in the provision that was slipped into the homeland security bill passed in November 2002 protecting Eli Lilly from legal matters for their thimerosal containing vaccines, Frist is hoping to pass his original bill, which will have liability protection regarding vaccines.”

    So for all those who believe vaccines are 100% guaranteed safe and effective, I say, by all means, get them! Get them all – and make sure to get your boosters in adulthood. But know that your policymakers are working hard to make sure that *IF* you have a nasty reaction, no one will be held accountable. Except, of course, the person who agreed to get the shot – or the 1-in-100 kids parents. That’s some guilt to live with, huh?

    My kids have MEDICALLY DOCUMENTED vaccine injuries and there’s nothing that the government is going to do to help them out. Except for saying that they should never get another vaccine. Those of you (Robert Carnegie) screaming about “no link to autism,” your comments sure are filled with lots of “probably.” From someone who went with “probably” before, to spending the last two years trying to get my kids back to healthy from their injuries, it’s a pretty big risk to take with a child, wouldn’t you say? Probably…

  67. Bill is the king of comedy. No one like him and he is pure honesty. No censorship.

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