Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

A Christian critique of Scientology

Posted in Edger by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

We’ve all heard about this strange new religion, this almost science fiction-like organization that worships its dead founder, blames all misfortune on some invading ‘force’ that came into our world millennia before any of us were born, demands money from all of its followers, has a long history of harassing and persecuting apostates, and has an obsessive fear of modern medical science, particularly where psychiatry is concerned. Today I sat down with one of these Christians and talked to him about Scientology.

“Scientology isn’t a religion, it’s a business,” he told me. “Look, it has a strictly-regulated hierarchical structure with a small leadership core- a secretive board of directors, an executive director, a bunch of subsidiaries and underlings that have to do everything that the layer of leadership above them tells them to do. I’m just glad that the College of Cardinals had the good sense to elect a Pope with the courage to stand up to all these New Agey, postmodern cults.”

“Off to a good start,” I muttered.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “EDGER”

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General Vaccine misconceptions

Posted in Medicine, Skepdude, Woo by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

MSNBC.com has a nice collection of parent’s quotes in regards to their decision to vaccinate or not their kids, titled “Parents sound off on childhood vaccine divide”

They did a pretty good job at representing both sides of the coin. I will concentrate on some flawed reasoning coming from the antivaccination crowd. Now let me make clear that I am not a doctor, and have no specialized knowledge about vaccines. These are my thoughts based on what I have been able to gather by reading various sources. If I say something which is not correct please do point it out in the comments section.

I chose not to vaccinate my children after one child developed a severe reaction to the vaccination. Also, I believe we are inviting a destruction to our immune system by disallowing it to fight the natural childhood diseases that come along.

It is a big mistake to say that vaccines “dont allow the immune system to fight the natural diseases”. The whole point of a vaccine is exactly the opposite, to get the immune system to fight off a weakened version of the germ causing the disease, so that it would know what to do when the living germ gets into the body. The parent also committs the natuaralistic fallacy, by somehow implying that “natural diseases” should be allowed to exist. I don’t understand that. HIV, Cancer, Heart Disease, Strokes all of these are natural diseases. In fact I am not even sure what an unnatural disease is..

My 3 year old has some of his shots but not all. As parents we decided to go slowly on vaccinating him as opposed to flooding his body full of unnatural agents. When we heard about the measles outbreak we did get him a measles shot. I don’t have any second thought to our process with vaccines.

There goes the natural fallacy again. Vaccines are referred to as “unnatural agents”. What the hell is that? A chemical that does not exist in nature? I find it really hard to believe that there is anything in vaccines that cannot be found in nature. Furthermore, vaccinating after there is an outbreak is not only inefficient, but irresponsible too. There does not need to be an outbreak in order for your kid to become sick.  This parent needs to have lots of second thoughts on the issue. Next time the kid may not be so lucky and get sick before there is a big outbreak. I mean how does this parent think an outbreak occurs anyway? It is an outbreak when large numbers of people get sick. And that large number of people could very well include her kid. Bad, bad reasoning.

Many of us who choose not to vaccinate are not totally opposed to vaccinations and the benefits they can provide, but rather we are just asking for a safer vaccination schedule and safer vaccines. I hope that one day it will be possible to protect our children from disease without the fear of a life long disability like Autism. I choose not to vaccinate my twins because if they got chicken pox, measles, or even pertussis it would not be nearly as devestating as Autism has been for our son or our family.

There is nothing, nothing, to relate vaccines with autism. Absolutely nothing. This person’s child was diagnozed with autism after receving his 15 month shots. Well, I have a 1 year old and I am personally aware of the amount of vaccines they get before 15 months. If vaccines do infact cause autism, why is it that it shows up so late? Why didn’t it show up earlier? Furthermore, in early stages vaccines are given at 3 or 6 month intervals. Regardless when a kid is diagnosed with autism, it is bound to be within a short period of time after getting some shot. What about the claim that it’s better if kids get other diseases rather than autism? Well given that vaccines have not been shown to cause autism, that is basically saying that in order to feel like we’re doing something to prevent a disease we don’t know how to prevent, we will forgo protection on the ones we do know how to prevent.  Weird reasoning no? I won’t even go into a whole what’s worse autism or the other ones. Another parent shows clearly how bad the other diseases can be.

I’m old enough to remember life without vaccines for measles and chicken pox and I suffered the consequences of the diseases. Measles, both kinds, Red and German, ruined my eyesight. Chicken pox left me with permanent scars on my face and body. I was so sick with the Red Measles that I also came down with pneumonia and almost died at the age of seven.

Let’s move on to the next comment.

I have chosen not to vaccinate my daughter. My stepson has autism which could put my daughter at a greater risk for contracting it. Currently she has come down with Rubella (german measles) she had a high fever for 5 days, following a rash from head to toe. Was she sick? Yes, and miserable. However, would I choose two weeks of that over a lifetime of Autism. YES!!!! With the rate of Autism on the rise 1 in 150. And no known cause of it, why wouldn’t a parent whose child is at a greater risk decide to not put those poison’s into their child’s body?

Ok so what this person is saying is that “there is no known cause of autism” and at the same time saying tht if she vaccinated her daughter, she would have gotten autism, thus vaccines are a cause of autism. A bit contradictory, wouldn’t you say?

My children did have some vaccines BUT after my soon to be 3yr old regressed after a series of vaccines last yr I have stopped vaccinating them as I truly believe that all the poison in those shots caused his autism. I also wonder why unvaccinated children can be blamed for vaccinated people being at risk! IF the vaccines are supposed to be safe and protet them then those who are vaccinated should have NO reason to fear the unvaccinated children!!!

See, it is exactly the lack of basic understanding that makes people affraid. They are litterally scared because they lack knowledge. Vaccines are not 100% effective, in fact some wear out and you need booster shots. Because they are not 100% effective, there is a small chance that you could get sick, even if you get the shot. However, if everyone got shot, there would be much less of a chance for the germ to survive in the “herd” and thus risk infecting that small portion of unlucky vaccinated people. Long answer short, herd immunity is affected as more and more people don’t get vaccinated. To illustrate that point:

While I vaccinated my child with everything the government advises, my child still got whooping cough because so many parents don’t (or won’t) vaccinate their children. The diseases mutate and become stronger and healthy children who’s parents have taken every precaution get extremely sick. My child was horribly sick for an entire summer and no matter how many times we went to the doctor they couldn’t figure out what was causing her cough because doctor’s don’t think to look for illnesses that children have been vaccinated against. Only after my child had become better did we learn that there had been an outbreak of whooping cough in our area. Shame on the parents that think they are doing their children a favor by not immunizing them. Not only are you endangering your childs life you are endangering every person that your child comes in contact with!

Let’s keep going:

Vaccinating children is stupid and reprehensible. We have absolutely no way of knowing what goes into vaccines. As recently as ten years ago they contained mercury derivatives which could cause ppermanent harm to anyone taking them. I inquired upon a visit to the county health department and was shocked and horrified upon ten minutes of searching to see it openly admitted (albeit in the smallest fine print) that these rumors were correct. If the government doesn’t mind putting mercury in your children who knows what else the CDC may consider an ‘acceptable risk.’

Ok, there goes the unavoidable conspiracy idiot. He’s not even a parent apparently, so I don’t know what his comment is doing in an article about “parents”. Too juicy to be passed over by the journalist I guess.

We choose not to vaccinate our children. Childhood diseases are not getting better, they are just changing. Vaccinations may happen to lower the original diseases, but they have opened up a whole new world of childhood diseases. We choose to keep our children safe and clean. If they happen to get sick then we know the Doctors are very capable of helping them through their sickness. We are certain there are risks with vaccinations and we are not willing to put our children through that. It is wrong for a government or any other group of people to tell us what is best for our children. This is not neglect or abuse. We are sincerely interested in the health and well being of our children. We are not ignorant or illiterate.

No, not ignorant or illetarate, but misguided and scared probably. Childhood diseases are not getting any better? Really? Where are their statistics coming from? Whose research about childhood diseases before and after vaccines are they relying on? Very weird statement indeed. Sounds like a sentence that had been copied and pasted from so woo master’s website without a second thought to it. They choose to keep their children  “safe” by denying them the protection of vaccines? Something is not quite right there. So the doctors are very capable of helping the kids when they do get sick, but apparently they ar not capable enough to prevent the diseases thay can treat. Dubious reasoning no? And how does it make sense to say that it is wrong for any group of people to tell parent’s what’s best for their children. By any group do they mean experts such as the able doctors they refer to? How is it wrong for a group of experts in a field to advise a group of non-experts about the right choice?

My son has not been vaccinated for several years. He had convulsions and quit breathing after every vaccination and now suffers minor learning diabilities. It scares me, because I certainly dont want to lose him to measles, or hepatitus… or the vaccine.

I feel for this parent. It is obvious that her son has some sort of allergic reaction to the vaccines, and the parent is rightly worried about the missed protection these vaccines could offer her son. I hope this never becomes an issue for their family.

To close it off there’s nothing I could say that would sum it up better than what another parent had to say:

Parents of kindergarteners today never had to deal with childhood disease as a certainty. In the ’50’s & ’60’s, it was so certain kids would get measles, mumps and chicken pox, that parents would make all their kids sleep with the first one who contracted a disease, so to “get it over with”. Young parents weren’t around to see children in iron lungs, and leg braces, wobbling on crutches regularly. They have never had to almost lose their hearing or suffer such after-effect from mumps or measles. They have never had to worry that they might contract measles while pregnant (because they most likely have been vaccinated for measles). They have no idea of what can be the new reality if fewer and fewer children are vaccinated. Young parents of today have benefited from the availability of vaccines and the requirements that school districts and state health boards had previously made. I shudder to think that our society cannot seem to learn from history, and since every generation seems to know it all better than any previous, we are doomed to repeat our history as well.

Let’s hope she’s not right about the repeating history part. Let’s really hope.

Desecration of the Eucharist, Conscience, and P.Z. Myers’ Hypocrisy-A reply

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

When I started Skepfeeds I had made a conscious decision to limit my entries and to concentrate mostly on gathering the best skeptical blogs of the day under one roof. However, I have reserved the right to post an entry in regards to certain things that really itch. One such thing presented itself in (not surprisingly) the IDiotic website of the (Un)Discovery Institute, an entry by Michael Egnor titled “Desecration of the Eucharist, Conscience, and P.Z. Myers’ Hypocrisy”. You may know Mr. Egnor from his never ending fight with Dr. Steven Novella over the dualism/materialism brain issue. For more on this head over to Dr. Novella’s blog, Neurologica.

Mr. Egnor starts his entry with such:

Danio, guest blogger at Pharyngula, has a post advocating the denial of legal protection for health care workers who, because of religious beliefs or other moral objections, refuse to provide services such as abortions or contraception. It’s hard to believe that any person with even a modicum of respect for individual rights would support taking legal sanction against physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who, because of genuine deeply held religious belief or other moral principles, believe that such acts as abortion or contraception are immoral. From the standpoint of traditional medical ethics, healthcare professionals are only under legal compulsion to provide care in a life-saving emergency. The controversial “treatments” in dispute are not emergencies, and are certainly not life-saving. That abortion and contraception aren’t life-saving is actually the point of the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who are acting on conscience.

Where do I start with this one? First, if you go and read the post that Egnor is referring to you will not find not one statement supporting “taking legal sanction against physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who, because of genuine deeply held religious belief or other moral principles”. In fact, most people involved in this debate do not advocate that a doctor should be held legally liable for refusing to perform an abortion. What we are saying is that a doctor, whose job description involves performing abortions, should not be allowed to be such a doctor if he refuses to perform said duties. Claiming, like Egnor erroneously does, that we are seeking to hold these people accountable legally is simply a lie or a complete misunderstanding of the argument being put forward.

If someone is in fact making that argument, that we should jail doctors that refuse to perform abortions or pharmacists that refuse to sell contraceptive pills, then that person too is an idiot. The argument is simple. If a doctor is expected to perform abortions, as part of the duties of the profession he freely choose, then he should not be allowed to pull out the religious/moral card to refuse to perform such duties, not if he wishes to remain employed in said profession. It is a simple choice really, either you perform all your duties or don’t become that kind of doctor. Be a dentist or podiatrist or neurosurgeon for god’s sake, and keep your religious “conscience” intact.

Secondly, no one is making any statements with regards to the doctor’s personal beliefs and moral stance. Every person has the right to abide by any moral or religious philosophy they choose to, so long as that does not interfere with other people’s rights. And this is not that case. These doctors want to basically impose their personal beliefs to their patients, by refusing to follow their patient’s wishes. How would Mr. Egnor feel if a doctors found it morally objectionable to treat black women and refused to perform “non life-threatening” services for them? Would he find the use of the morality card acceptable then? What if an atheistic doctor refused to perform his duties if the patient  was a Christian? Would Mr. Egnor find that acceptable? Something tells me he would be the first one to cry foul. Clearly the doctor’s moral beliefs should have no say in their performance of their professional duties. No law should allow doctors to discriminate and that is the point of the entry that Egnor is attacking. Such law is wrong and should not be allowed to pass. So how can Egnor take that and twist into a request to legally prosecute these doctors? Makes no sense to me!

Danio misses the irony. Pharyngula’s own P.Z. Myers has been the beneficiary of lavish free-speech protection, in which his own peculiar “pious” opinion trumps secular law.

I failed to notice that PZ’s opinions were being formulated into a bill to be passed by Congress. Maybe Egnor knows something we don’t!

Myers, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, has been publishing atheist ideology and anti-Christian hatred on Pharyngula for several years while on the Minnesota public payroll. In all likelihood, he’s used some public property or publicly financed time to disseminate his spew. Recently, he desecrated the Eucharist by obtaining a consecrated Host, nailing it, throwing it in the garbage, and posting a photograph of it on Pharyngula. One doubts that his prolific bigotry is produced entirely on his own time and resources; the good taxpayers of Minnesota, including devout Catholic taxpayers, likely subsidize this bigot’s performance art.

Ok, now he’s really showing the limits of his own stupidity. Pharyngula, is a personal blog, not in any way associated with the University of Minessota, which is where PZ teaches. The rules of the University of Minessota, which Egnor also quotes, do not extend to every minute of PZ’s life. He is a private citizen, and as long as he’s expressing his personal opinion, on his own time, in his own private blog, and all this activity is not constured to represent the opinions of the university, how the hell can such a stupid argument be made? Likewise, any of the good christian doctors Egnor is fighting so hard to protect, can share his religious and moral thoughts with the world in a personal blog, just liek PZs and no one would lift a finger to censor that.

Futhermore, being a regular reader of Pharyngula, I am aware that PZ owns a laptop so that does away with the “resources” claim. Also, as far as I know, tenured university professors are not paid by the hour, so the “time” argument does not make much sense either. This is such a lame attempt that it really makes me wonder how the hell did this guy ever earn a real doctor’s degree with such low reasoning skills? Because if you didn’t know, Egnor is in fact a neuro-something something.

Myers has been protected from the legal consequences of his malicious desecration of the Eucharist.

Is there really a law in the books that protects the rights of a piece of flat bread? Now that would be bigotry, and as far as I know, there are no legal consequences to desecrating a piece of bread, otherwise you could rest assured that PZ would be in jail by now. But, I could be wrong, I am not a lawyer.

Freedom of expression, whether it is expression of anti-Christian bigotry or a belief in the sanctity of human life or a disagreement with Darwinian orthodoxy in a classroom, is our most important freedom, and I will defend it even for those with whom I most strongly disagree. In fact, I defend it particularly for those with whom I disagree. Yet Myers and his minions, who are obvious beneficiaries of the right of freedom of expression, demand the firing or silencing of scientists and teachers who question Darwinian orthodoxy, and now they have the audacity to demand that the law impose legal and professional sanctions on Christian doctors who in good conscience would not abort a baby.

This is really becoming idiotic. There goes the “freedome of expression” argument regarding the teaching of ID in the classrooms. How many times will these people use the same stupid argument? No matter how many times you show the fallacy, they just don’t care and it seems that they think that by repeating it a lot, it will become valid. News flash, it wont! And why is he singling out Christian doctors only? I am sure there are some Mulsim, Jewish, and atheist doctors too who feel uneasy about performing an abortion. A bit hypocritical don’t you think?

In closing, the good Christian has this to say:

Myers and his minions are bigots. And censors. And hypocrites.

Now you’ve hurt our feelings. Bad, bad Egnor!

Submit your favorite blog to Skepfeeds

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

Are you an avid reader of a good skeptical blog that you think would make a good addition to the blogs already featured in Skepfeeds? If so please submit the blog in the comments section and I will keep an eye on these new blogs.

Please help make Skepfeeds a true repository of all skeptical blogs.

Canada thanks antivaccinationists for the mumps

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

I’ve been sarcastically “thanking” Jenny McCarthy for bringing the U.S. the gift of measles through her tireless efforts on behalf of Generation Rescue and other antivaccine groups and will continue to do so whenever I deem it appropriate. But Jenny isn’t the only one who deserves our “thanks” (no, I’m not going to thank Andrew Wakefield again). Let’s not forget all those religions who, either because they think vaccines are messing with God’s will or because of some interpretation of a holy book written in prescientific times, religions like this one in Canada:

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE”

If You Don’t Like Gay Marriage, Don’t Have One

Posted in The Atheist Blogger by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

A simple philosophy that is so mindbogglingly easy to follow, yet the religious seem to be up in arms about gay marriage, and they get worse every year. Somehow the religious seem to think that they came up with this great idea called “marriage” and that is has been violated by homosexuals. The truth, as it so often is in these cases, is completely the opposite.

Marriage predates verifiable recorded history, essentially a social extension of the mating procedure for reproduction. The Greeks and Romans had marriages, both opposite sex and same sex. There were no civil ceremonies, only an “agreement” for husband and wife, or husband and husband, wife and wife accordingly.

So what violated this traditional standard of marriage? Oh that’s right…it was the Christians.[1] In 342, the Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans banned same-sex marriage. In 390, three other Christian emperors, Valentinian II, Theodoisus, and Arcadius, made homosexual sex a crime punishable by death (burned alive because Christians are so merciful).

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE ATHEIST BLOGGER”

Kids in Quebec to be “confused” by religious choices

Posted in Edger by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

The province of Quebec (in Canada) has begun requiring all grade 1 through 11 students to take classes that teach various ethical and religious systems.

Some traditional Catholic parents have tried to keep their kids out but the school boards have turned down their requests.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “EDGER”

University abandons homeopathy “degree”

Posted in improbable science by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

The first major victory in the battle for the integrity of universities seems to have been won. This email was sent by Kate Chatfield who is module leader for the “BSc” in homeopathic medicine at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).

from Kate Chatfield…

Dear All,

It’s a sad day for us here at UCLan because we have taken the decision not to run a first year this year due to low recruitment. The course will be put ‘on hold’ for this year and next until we see what happens with the general climate. Fortunately our masters course is thriving and we have been asked to focus upon this
area and homeopathy research for the time being.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “DC’S IMPROBABLE SCIENCE”

First Measles Now Mumps

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

Here is another report of an outbreak of a preventable infectious disease in a population with low vaccination rates. This time it’s mumps in Canada in a religious community that believes getting vaccinated shows a lack of faith in the protection of God. I wonder if they feel it is blasphemy to wear a seatbelt, or use sunscreen, wash their hands, cook their food thoroughly, or do any of the common-sense things people should do to reduce their risk of infection or disease.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “NEUROLOGICA”

To kill and cure cancer, you must first understand it

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

Yesterday, I was annoyed by a particularly vile article by quackery promoter supreme Mike Adams claiming that Christina Applegate didn’t need a bilateral mastectomy and could have “cured” herself of cancer with “natural” methods. Indeed, my contempt for Mike Adams knows no bounds, given that he is the purveyor of a seemingly never-ending stream of antiscience and quackery, much of it directed at cancer patients, who if they follow Adams’ “advice” could very well miss their best chance at treating their cancer and thereby wind up dead. Indeed, so great is the amount of quackery emanating from that website that I could easily devote this blog to nothing other than refuting it all and I’d still never be able to counter it. On the other hand, when Adams gets to a certain point and I get into a certain mood, I feel that it’s my duty to do what I can for a while and then move on, lest the concentrated stupidity of that site drive me to drink.

Oddly enough, this time around, I found an article with a title that I actually agree with, that title being To Kill and Cure Cancer, You Must First Understand It, although I’m sure that neither Adams nor the writer of this piece has any idea just how ironic the title is. This being NaturalNews.com, of course, the author Kal Sellers, a man who describes himself as a “Master Herbalist, a Massage Therapist, Technician of the Rolf Method of Structural Integration, Iridologist, Mind-Body Medicine Practitioner, Mental Re-programmer, Life Coach, Natural Nutritionist, Reflexologist” who is preparing to enter chiropractic school and runs a website called Kal’s School of Vitalistic Botanical and Holistic Medicine, demonstrates unequivocally that he does not have even a clue about cancer. Given the sheer concentration of woo Sellers is into, I was not in the least bit surprised.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RESPECTFUL INSOLENCE”