Tag: Orac

More truth-based weapons against the antivaxxers

By Phil Plait | March 31, 2010 12:10 pm

A few antivax links for your amusement:

1) When challenged about their bizarre and provably false beliefs, a lot of antivaxxers claim that they have personal experience with their kid. That’s anecdotal and uses a small sample size, and so is prone to all sorts of logical failings. But what if the sample size is much larger and uses scientific reasoning? Then you get something like this good spanking of antivax nonsense by an actual pediatrician.

Tip o’ the syringe to David Whalley.

2) The Australian Vaccination Network is one of the most pernicious and awful of the antivax groups, as regular readers know. They may be on their way out — science, apparently, can inoculate us against such infections — but it’s still worth keeping up with the sort of offal they spew, since other groups do it as well. This article by The Australian Skeptics is an excellent exposé of AVN mendacity.

3) Healthday has an alarming article about the San Diego 2008 measles outbreak which exposed over 800 people because one family decided not to vaccinate their kid. Yes, one family started an minor epidemic that cost over $170,000 to contain and nearly killed one infant. I hope antivaxxers are proud of that one.

4) Orac once again leaps into the fray with a magnificent exposure of some bold antivax lies. It’s amazing to me just how low some antivaxxers are wiling to go — cheating, twisting, distorting, and out-and-out lying — to promote their agenda of bringing back preventable diseases.

They say they care about kids. Maybe they do. But making sure children get measles, rubella, pertussis, and other life-and-limb-threatening diseases is sure a funny way of showing it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Debunking
MORE ABOUT: antivax, Orac


By Phil Plait | February 4, 2010 10:11 am

This has already made the rounds of the blogoverse, but it’s so cool: video of a leukocyte chasing down and eating a bacterium.

I know it’s just biochemicals in action, a billion years of evolution writ small. But it’s still creepy and amazing.

And I learned a new word: this type of white blood cell is called a polymorphonuclear leukocyte, or, for short… a neutrophil.

That is so cool! And it will be my new superhero name.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No bacterium shall escape my sight
Let those who worship microscopic evil,
Beware my power… NEUTROPHIL!

Hmm, that needs work. But not now, for there are microorganisms to ingest! Away!

Tip o’ the pseudopod to Orac.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, Science
MORE ABOUT: leukocyte, neutrophil, Orac

Alt Med guy whacked with Shorty end of the stick

By Phil Plait | January 23, 2010 10:46 am

shortyawardThis story is too funny, but it takes a little background.

Mike Adams is an alt-med pusher; he writes at Natural News, a website chock-full-o’ nonsense about vaccines, homeopathy, and so on. Regular readers may remember Mr. Adams from his particularly vile and horrific diatribe about real medicine after Patrick Swayze died. Adams claims to want to help people, but instead peddles all manners of treatments that are known not to work at all.

So that ought to give you a picture of how Adams operates.

The Shorty Awards are a popular new internet award for people who use Twitter. It allows tweeters to vote for someone in various categories like science, humor, celebrity, and, oh, say, health.

Adams, who tweets under the name HealthRanger, was doing well with votes in the Shorties last week, well ahead of everyone else. In second place was another alt-med antivax promoter named Joe Mercola. I’ve written about him before as well.

But then skeptic Tim Farley noticed something– a lot of votes going to Mercola and Adams were coming from brand new Twitter accounts with only one actual tweet: a vote for Mercola or Adams for the Shorties.


Now, someone who may be a bit conspiracy-minded might assume that either Mercola or Adams, or their followers, might be working a campaign to stuff the ballot box by setting up fake Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of making sure these alt-med public health threats would win the Shorty award in health.

So Tim tweeted about it, and a bunch of us started to promote our friend Australian Rachael Dunlop, who has been tirelessly fighting alternative medicine quackery for years. Within a few days Rachael had moved into first place. Yay!

But there’s more! Tim (as well as several others, including me) reported Mercola’s and Adams’ voter fraud to the people at the Shorty Awards. Today it was announced that Adams was being removed from the contest due to this fraudulent ballot stuffing.

Adams, of course, took this all in stride and has been gracious and self-deprecating about it all.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh my. Of course he hasn’t. Instead, he posted what can only be called a frothing rant about this, accusing the Shorty Awards and many of us reality-based people with all kinds of evil doing. You have to read his diatribe to believe anyone could post something so filled with rage, righteous indignation, logical fallacies, made-up transgressions, self-contradictions, and paranoid conspiracy mongering. It’s really a masterpiece of woo-based garment-rendering nonsense. He’s even threatened to sue!

Maybe he should win a Shorty Award for fiction.

To be fair, I actually don’t think Adams should have been disqualified; we don’t know who set up the fake votes for him. It might have been just one overzealous altmed fan. What should have happened was all the fake votes should have been struck from the count — a large fraction — and then let the most popular person win. It hardly matters anyway, since Rachael is so far out front that she’ll win anyway. But it would be the fair thing to do.

Not that this would assuage Adams anyway. Since he doesn’t deal with anything using facts and logic in the first place, he’ll just continue to post his nonsense as he pleases.

Orac posted a lovely satirical takedown of all this, which is worth reading. It’s always a good idea to keep yourself abreast of what these people are like. The alt-med movement talks a good game about the evil of Big Pharma and Western Medicine, and also claim they want to help people out of the goodness of their hearts… but when you actually get a glimpse of what’s in their hearts, well, it’s not exactly rainbows and unicorns.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Skepticism

Antivaxxers are *all about* the open dialogue

By Phil Plait | January 13, 2010 11:00 am

This seems to be the decade of "I don’t like what you say, so instead of refuting it with evidence I’ll sue you to shut you up!" for the alt-medders.

First, it was Simon Singh being sued by the British Chiropractic Association, and now it’s Barbara Loe Fischer from the ironically named National Vaccine Information Center, who is suing writer Amy Wallace and vaccine researcher Paul Offit about an article Wallace wrote in Wired magazine. The article is one of those rare ones that actually uses facts and evidence rather than anecdotes and hearsay, so of course shines a very ill-received spotlight on the antivaxxers, showing them for what they are: a public health menace.

As usual, Orac has the details. One thing that Orac notes is that Fischer chose to file her suit in Virginia which does not have SLAPP laws, designed to prevent lawsuits intended to silence critics. So it really really looks like she is suing simply to silence critics. Others think so too.

That is enough for an interesting story all by itself, of course. But the thing about people who deny reality, though, is that eventually they find themselves having to believe seven different things before breakfast, and at some point the irony meter can get pegged as they twist and spin. In this case, Ms. Fischer blows the gauge because she is asking for a "fearless" discussion about vaccines in 2010.

Yes, you read that correctly. She wants this because open and fearless conversation is so well-supported by libel lawsuits tossed around specifically to silence your opponents.

And people wonder why I think the mouthpieces for the antivax movement are so awful.

Skeptic Rebecca Watson agrees. Here’s what she has to say about this:

You can read Ms. Fischer’s complete statements on the NVIC website, but I’d make sure you clean your computer with bleach afterwards; who knows what you might catch from going there. You might want to protect your brain, too, since she somehow manages to link vaccines with terrorism and 9/11. When it comes to terrorism, I think the antivax movement fits better than vaccines, since fear is something they use all-too-well to scare parents into not vaccinating their kids.

Of course, if they used such things as evidence and scientific research, they’d have no movement at all.

The best thing we can do is keep shining this light on the hypocrisy and distortions of the antivax movement. They will continue to push garbage like this, and we have to make sure that the public sees it. The only alternative is to wait for kids to start dying from measles, pertussis, HiB, and other preventable illnesses in greater numbers than they already are… an event which, tragically, is already underway due in part to the antivaxxers.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Skepticism

With a rebel yell, they cried Maher, Maher, Maher

By Phil Plait | November 17, 2009 4:00 pm

Oh, that Bill Maher. It’s time to change his show’s name to "Antireality Time". Because when he talks vaccines, he wanders into major woowoo territory.

I don’t need to debunk his antivax nonsense, since actual doctors who have facts at their fingertips do it so well, like in this tirade from Orac and in Steve Novella’s more measured (but just as devastating) response.

But there is one thing I want to mention. My favorite part is when Maher says:

I agree with my critics who say there are far more qualified people than me — its [sic] just that mainstream media rarely interviews doctors and scientists who present an alternative point of view.

First off, that’s total baloney. Go watch the news and other talking head shows; they often have people talking up the "alternative" (that is to say, wrong) point of view when it comes to vaccines. And if these people aren’t certified physicians, what does that tell you? Maybe you’ll come to the correct conclusion that the overwhelming majority of physicians think antivaxxers are full of it.

And second, about talk shows not having "alternative" viewpoints — and this is critical — why should they? When the weatherman talks about lightning in your area, should he give equal time to the Zeus theory?

Feh. Maher digs himself deeper every time he talks about this. Some people hold him up as an icon of skepticism, but it’s simply not true. A lot of non-believers love his ideas and attitude when it comes to religion, which is fine, but it doesn’t translate to his other beliefs, especially when it comes to real medicine. What he does isn’t skepticism, it’s dogma, and just as dogmatic as the religions he mocks.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Skepticism

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