Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Huge study boosts disappointment on multivitamins

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 9, 2009

CHICAGO – The largest study ever of multivitamin use in older women found the pills did nothing to prevent common cancers or heart disease. The eight-year study in 161,808 postmenopausal women echoes recent disappointing vitamin studies in men.

Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamins to boost their health. Research has focused on cancer and heart disease in particular because of evidence that diets full of vitamin-rich foods may protect against those illnesses. But that evidence doesn’t necessarily mean pills are a good substitute.

The study’s lead author, researcher Marian Neuhouser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, offered this advice: “Get nutrients from food. Whole foods are better than dietary supplements,” Neuhouser said.

The study appears in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

Co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson said despite the disappointing results, the research doesn’t mean multivitamins are useless.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “YAHOO NEWS”

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Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on February 9, 2009

Darwin knew a lot of biology: more than any of his contemporaries, more than a surprising number of his successors. From prolonged thought and study, he was able to intuit how evolution worked without having access to all the subsequent scientific knowledge that others required to be convinced of natural selection. He had the objectivity to put aside criteria with powerful emotional resonance, like the conviction that evolution should be purposeful. As a result, he saw deep into the strange workings of the evolutionary mechanism, an insight not really exceeded until a century after his great work of synthesis.

NYTimes

Brian Deer Finds Andrew Wakefield Faked Data

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on February 9, 2009

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield and others published a small study of only 12 subjects in the Lancet. This small study sparked a huge controversy – Wakefield used it to claim that the MMR (mumps measles and rubella) vaccine caused autism. As a result compliance with the MMR dropped from 92% in the UK down to 85%, and measles cases soared from only 58 cases in 1998 to 1,348 cases in 2008.

Despite the fact that Wakefields paper has been thoroughly discredited, and subsequent studies showed convincingly that there is a lack of association between MMR or vaccines in general and autism, the controversy sparked by Wakefield continues. It has spread to the US as well, where measles cases are also starting to jump. The existing anti-vaccine movement latched onto Wakefield’s study and have been running with the vaccines-cause-autism fear-mongering ever since. While not letting go of MMR, they did shift over to thimerosal (which was never in the MMR vaccine), which has also been cleared from any association with autism (but was removed from vaccines in the US and most countries anyway).

The real story of MMR, thimerosal, vaccines, and autism is a scientific one, and the science has spoken. While further research is always welcome (as long as it is ethical) the question is essentially settled – vaccines do not cause autism. The scientific evidence does not care for the personal saga of Andrew Wakefield, but he has never-the-less become a central figure in this story. He has now been elevated to the status of folk-hero by the antivaccinationists. So while I consider Wakefield a footnote, his story is interesting and instructive.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “NEUROLOGICA”

All of science owes debt to Darwin

Posted in News by Rodibidably on February 9, 2009

[Originally posted at: The San Francisco Chronicle]

The shy young naturalist Charles Darwin, who voyaged around the world aboard HMS Beagle and became the bearded sage of rational scientific thought, is having a birthday this week – his 200th – and celebrations have already begun throughout the Bay Area, and indeed on every continent.

“No one,” says Kevin Padian, a Berkeley biologist and tracker of dinosaur evolution, “has influenced modern thought, modern science, and indeed our modern culture more than Darwin.

“His influence is everywhere, and science would be impossible without him.”

Every true scientist at work today is in fact a Darwinian.

They are decoders of the human genome, immunologists battling AIDS, stem cell researchers seeking tomorrow’s cures, anthropologists unearthing fossil hominids to define our human ancestry – even the “astrobiologists” seeking life on other planets while they study organisms living in extreme conditions on Earth.

[Read the rest of this post at: The San Francisco Chronicle]

Billboard Honoring Darwin, Urging “Evolve Beyond Belief” Posted in Grand Junction, Colo.

Posted in FFRF by Skepdude on February 9, 2009

Feb. 9, 2009

The bicentennial of the birthdate of science great Charles Darwin this Thursday is being honored in Grand Junction, Colo., with a billboard placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, with help from its local members and Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers. The billboard just went up at 1713 U.S. Hwy 50 (facing south) early this week.

The year 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the release of Origin of Species, Darwin’s seminal work on evolution.

The pleasing image reads: “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief,” and employs a stained-glass window motif and features the iconic image of Charles Darwin, as well as the Foundation’s name and website, ffrf.org.

The Foundation, a national watchdog and the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) has 13,600 members nationwide, and 400 members in Colorado.

The Foundation has also placed billboards “praising Darwin” this month in Dayton, Tenn., and Dover, Penn., homes of the most notorious classroom battles over the teaching of evolution.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT FFRF.

Darwin’s 200th anniversary: Lessons still to be learned

Posted in News by Rodibidably on February 9, 2009

[Originally posted at: The Guardian]

The Daily Telegraph called him “the greatest naturalist of our time, perhaps all time”. For the Morning Post he was “the first biologist of his day”. The Times saluted the rapid victory of Charles Darwin‘s great idea and said that “the astonishing revelations of recent research in palaeontology have done still more to turn what 20 years ago was a brilliant speculation into an established and unquestionable truth”. The Manchester Guardian said that “few original thinkers have lived to see more completely the triumph of what is essential in their doctrine”. The St James’s Gazette predicted that England’s children would one day be taught to honour Darwin “as the greatest Englishman since Newton”.

These responses appeared in print on 21 April 1882, after the news of Darwin’s death at his home in Down, Kent. The writers were people who knew the Bible, and they addressed readers who had grown up in an overtly devout society. Many remembered the religious and scientific uproar following publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. It argued, with detailed evidence, that life’s extraordinary variety had stemmed, over an enormous period of time, from a common ancestry, and that the mechanism was the operation of natural selection upon tiny variations in heredity.

But Darwin’s audience heard only part of the story. The clinching discovery of the biochemistry of genetic inheritance and therefore of random genetic mutation – the famous double helix of DNA – was not made until 1953. The mostly anonymous contributors who rushed to judgment that morning had before them only a fraction of the findings that now support the theory of evolution: a theory as confident as the predictions of Newtonian physics at speeds significantly lower than the velocity of light, as sure as the thesis that matter is composed of atoms. They could have been forgiven for their sometimes equivocal salutes.

[Read the rest of this post at: The Guardian]