Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I Do Not Watch Dr. Oz

Why? Reason #1: It's on when I'm still at work. However, I would not watch this quack even if his show were in prime time. That leads to...
Reason #2: He's a quack, promotes nonsense, unrelated (or even worse, contradictory) to the current medical knowledge, and in my opinion is a disgrace to the medical profession. If you ask me, he should be stripped of the M.D. title. At least he would not be going around, pretending to be a doctor and disposing dubious advice (faith healing/reiki, anyone?).
I'm no medical expert, but I want to be able to trust one. That's why I expect those titles to mean something. When I need to see a doctor and get his or her advice, I do not have time to do extensive research on their medical opinions. I have to trust that they follow established facts and current research, not some out-of-this-world fad that just happens to sell well at the moment.
Dr. Oz is the negation of science and reason. He promotes what sells and makes his TV show look good. He can do it as much as he wants, but should not be allowed to do it as a doctor.
Interestingly enough, I might make an exception and DVR his show on Tuesday, April 26. Why? Because he will have Steven Novella (from The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast). As Orac suggests, the editing might change the actual message, but it's good to know that a hard-core skeptic is invited into the "devil's lair".
It should be interesting to watch.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day to all... enjoy it while it's still here:

Connerton Preserve - Florida

See my Gallery for more...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Andrew Wakefield: A Hero?

New York Times has a good article about Andrew Wakefiled, the man behind the MMR vaccine scare 13 years ago, and the main cause of the current anti-vaxx movement, failing vaccine rates and returning preventable diseases.

The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru

Most of the details are fairly well known, but what strikes me the most in the article is the real face of the anti-vaxxers. From my own experience, I saw people almost religiously following convictions that had no base in reality, but who refused to change their minds no matter what arguments were presented to them. If your arguments were too logical and irrefutable, they would turn to ad hominem attacks (either on myself, doctors, "big pharma", the government, take your pick).
Now, check the article:
She narrowed her eyes when she learned that a writer from The New York Times was there to write about Wakefield.

“Be nice to him,” she said, “or we will hurt you.”
or this:
“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” says J. B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue, a group that disputes vaccine safety. “He’s a symbol of how all of us feel.”
Such is the anti-vax movement: irrational, "religious", and unconvinced despite mountains of evidence.

Friday, April 8, 2011

More On Anti-Vaccine Outcomes

Following my recent post about Seth Mnookin's excellent book "The Panic Virus", and the news about pertussis outbreak in Virginia, here is Mnookin's comment about the outbreak:

Today’s lesson: “Alternative” Virginia school closes after half of its students infected with pertussis. All of them were unvaccinated.

The school's administrator said:
“Many of the families and staff at our school understand that some people choose not to vaccinate their children. We’re not requiring that they do.”

What a way to "protect" your students!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pasco Schools: More Money Wasted

Why do those religious organizations insist on wasting those precious dollars that our local schools so lack?
A Christian group wants to attract more kids to the after-school Bible study programs it runs at several Pasco elementary schools.

But when the Child Evangelism Fellowship Suncoast Chapter asked to send fliers home with every student, school officials balked.
So the fellowship group has called in the Liberty Counsel, a nationally recognized legal organization specializing in religious rights, to push for access.
Story: Liberty Counsel demands Pasco schools distribute fliers for religious clubs

It is so simple: public schools should not be involved with ANY religion. Pick just one, start promoting it, and you are asking for trouble. It all looks rosy when your own religion being promoted, but what if we pick the wrong one: not yours? Isn't it better to just stay away from it all?
It seems like over and over, the religious ones push their agenda and then complain we all don't want to follow them, threatening our schools with lawsuits. Terrible!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Vaccinate - Make Your Children Suffer

Interesting piece of news on what can happen when you don't vaccinate your children:
A whooping cough outbreak hitting more than half (23 of 45) their pupils has led to the closure of that small private school for a week. The local Health Care Director unambiguously stated that lack of vaccinations caused this outbreak and that the children who were affected were unvaccinated (7 adult contacts also got the disease).
Read more: Pertussis closes Waldorf-based private school in VA

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reading List

It's been a while since my last book related post, but that does not mean I haven't done my regular share of reading. Therefore, it is high time to present some of my 2011, 1st quarter recommendations.
Since we are just getting into April, and April is Autism Awareness Month, the first set of books is related to that topic. Unfortunately, for little more than a decade, autism goes hand in hand with vaccines, especially in the eye of the public. After much good news from the rational side of the "debate" last year, we saw more of the same at the beginning of this year, with the series of articles by Brian Deer in the British Medical Journal.
I mentioned those two books earlier, but now after actually reading both of them, I can safely recommend them.
The first one is Paul Offit's "Deadly Choices":

This is like getting your info from the very best source. Dr Offit's earlier books on the topic were as informative as this one is, and now we have the latest info included. He traces the history of the anti-vax movement in this and other countries, from its beginnings in the mid 19th Century to the latest Wakefield scam-induced craze. He also presents all the scientific, research-based facts about all the possible problems our society (and especially our children) would face, if we failed to contain the unreasonable and plain crazy arguments for the anti-vax side.
A logical follow-up to Offit's book is another one that came out almost at the same time: Seth Mnookin's "The Panic Virus".

While, some of the information in this book is similar to what's covered in the previous one, Mnookin, in addition to showing the history of the anti-vax movement, goes with much more details into specifics of the current autism/vaccine connection controversy and the associated social movements in the USA. It is very informative to see how various "parent" organizations that start off as grassroots movements, end up being a part of much greater industry, industry that makes millions every year selling unproven, costly, and sometimes deadly "medical" interventions. Another part is the "litigation" industry: law firms, lawyers, corrupt scientists, witnesses-for-hire and parents (some of them with good intentions), who are willing to make up facts and research in order to make money trying to prove the links that never existed. It is also heartbreaking to see how parents of autistic children are manipulated and given false hopes, just to drive this multi-million scam.

There is another angle to Mnookin's book that I find fascinating. Ever time I speak with someone about the alternative medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc, one of the main arguments in their arsenal is the "big pharma" making all the cash from us, pushing the traditional medical treatments, vs. good, alternative modalities and practitioners just caring about our well being. It takes some skillful research, like Mnookin's, to untangle the web of connections in the world of "alternative" autism research and treatments. The parallels are obvious and difficult to miss. The alt-med world is in it for profit as much as the big pharma is, the difference is they do not have to worry about anyone controlling them and they don't have to prove that any of their claims actually work.