Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

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”

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Creating a Television Series is Hard.

Posted in SkepticBlog by Skepdude on October 28, 2008

All the elements of TV production are difficult and require much attention, time and money.

Landing a network TV production deal to have the opportunity to show all that hard work to a nation, and even the world, is much like hitting the lottery.

Too bad I don’t play the lottery.

Convincing entrenched, and complacent programming TV executives that you have a program that will change the way people consider their TV entertainment seems to be next to impossible.

I set out on a journey to do just that, and with the help of an amazing production team and an all-star skeptical cast, we’re going to make it a reality!

In my last blog, I shared some of the process to get this idea off the ground.  In this second installment, I want to give you an idea about how we came to decide who should be on our esteemed panel of brilliant minds for the show.

As you no-doubt have gleaned by the official contributors of SkepticBlog, the Skeptologists are: Brian Dunning, Steven Novella, Phil Plait, Yau-Man Chan, Kirsten Sanford, Michael Shermer and Mark Edward.  One doesn’t just open a book and check the boxes next to: Awesome Skeptical Soon-to-be-TV-Celebrities.  Much thought went into who should be a cast member and the type of background each individual should have.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SKEPTICBLOG”

Acupuncture for Hot Flashes – Or, Why So Many Worthless Acupuncture Studies?

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on September 24, 2008

In yet another round of science by press release, a particularly unimpressive acupuncture study is making the rounds of the major news outlets proclaiming that acupuncture works. I guess that is a sort-of answer to my title question – why are so many scientifically worthless acupuncture studies being done?

Let’s take a look at this particular study to see why it is so weak. All I have to go on is the press release, since the study is not published. It was presented at a scientific meeting – which is legitimate, I just don’t have access to it. (The bar for publication in a peer-reviewed journal is much higher than presentation at a meeting, and there may, in fact, be changes to the text prior to publication.) But we can still say a great deal about this study from the information provided.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE”