Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Legal Trouble Again: Spreading the News

Sending lawyers to do the work of science is never a good idea. This goes beyond or standard freedom of speech, it targets the most basic principles of science: freedom of discussion and freedom to criticize ideas.
As always, when people who peddle woo-woo don't have real arguments, they send lawyers to try to intimidate those who expose them.
Time to spread the news about a company called Doctor's Data, Inc (DDI), which is engaged in dubious practices and is suing Quakwatch maintainer Steve Barret for exposing them.

More info from Orac:
Unfortunately, it's happening again. The favored laboratory of anti-vaccine practitioners and the "autism biomed" movement, a commercial laboratory known as Doctor's Data is suing Steve Barrett, the man who maintains the excellent resource Quackwatch, for criticism Dr. Barrett leveled against it, criticism that Doctor's Data richly deserved (in my opinion, of course). Not just that, it's suing Dr. Barrett for the ridiculously overblown sum of $10 million.
More legal thuggery against a defender of science-based medicine

The article in the center of all this is here:
How the "Urine Toxic Metals" Test Is Used to Defraud Patients

Let's get this info out there to ensure that "legal intimidation" does not pay, and only makes the news travel far and wide...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Science and Pseudo-Science

This past weekend, I had a chance to have some really interesting discussions and debates about a number of scientific topics. As it happened in a social setting, I was not really able to make all my points very clear, due to "etiquette" restrictions, but despite this limitation, it was very interesting to see how others perceive science in general, and medical science in particular. It was also an amazing journey into the world of logical fallacies, with some of them piling up on top of the others.

It all started from an innocent mention of some "ghost stories", which led to a full discussion about ghost seances and communication with the world-out-there.

However, the really interesting part came from the discussion of frequency healing and thermography. Both modalities are in the realm of cams, and are firmly set in the pseudo-science: "Radionics" and "A Critical Look at Thermography". Both discussions led directly to a standard "FDA and all the doctors are paid by the big pharma" argument, which, of course, is not something you can debate or win, so I did not even try.

There were two very interesting points made during our debate that are worth mentioning.

First, it was said that the frequency therapy (along with the machine used in the practice) can be attributed with a success rate of around 50%, when treating stage one cancers. However, when I asked about real statistical data, it turned out there there is none, and it's all based on a "gut feeling" from the past years. In addition, it was very telling to find out that the diagnosis of the cancers in question (as I said, in phase one), is "better than the standard medical procedures", which means it must be taken on faith, since we have no independent way to verify that the cancer is really there. Oh, I failed to mention, that the diagnosis is made by "laying hands"!

What I found even more interesting is a general attitude towards science. When I asked for some proofs, or scientific studies done on any of the discussed topics, I got a standard runaround with a lot of  buzzwords (like a long explanation about how frequency therapy rebuilds little cell tails, so they can continue living - I assumed we were talking about telomeres) and some quantum physics, but nothing solid. When I kept pressing, I was told that modern physics, and science in general, is not ready for the new ideas. They can't be tested and reproduced because scientists execute their experiments in a constrained space-time and do not really understand what's outside of the modern science.

That's all I really needed. Pseudo-science, and alternative medicine is not something you can debate and discuss with true believers (especially, when they have they income invested in it, but that's no surprise). Their world view is constructed to ensure that real data has no place in it and can't enter it under no circumstances. And if you don't understand something, just place it outside of our current methods of gaining knowledge and you can be virtually sure that you can peddle any nonsense and be safe with it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Those Selfish Parents...

If you haven't noticed yet from my posts on this blog, I am a strong supporter of child vaccinations. Not only I think we should vaccinate our children, but I do think that we should get rid of most of the exemptions, especially religious, which are nothing but a lame attempt to go around the system and the sound science behind it. If there is a medical condition that makes vaccinations dangerous to someone, then be it, but using religion to skip them is just plain dumb. If you want to use your religion (or your "worldview") as an excuse, you should be required to stay away from the world that's trying to move forward. That's because people who skip shots for "unreal" reasons (and by "unreal", I mean anything but a real medical condition), endanger all of us, especially those who really can't get vaccinated, because they are too young, too sick, or for some other, valid reason. The herd immunity concept is very real, and the effects of diminishing vaccination rates can be very clearly seen all over the world.
The latest proof of this can be seen in the statement on the Whooping Cough Epidemic from the California Department of Public Health.
As the vaccination rates go down because of the unproven and discredited link between childhood immunizations and autism, some of the illnesses come back and hit the most vulnerable first. That's the legacy of all those, who keep claiming vaccines are not safe. Shame on them!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Time

My vacation time now over, I'll be coming back to blogging with full force. On my recent trip to California, I had a chance to do some reading and visit some interesting places, including a haunted hotel. Irrationality is used all over the place for marketing and fun, but some of it goes a bit too far and makes people believe the most unbelievable things. I plan to write about it in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vaccine refusal is putting everyone in danger

That's the title of an op-ed article from L.A. Times, which shows how dangerous skipping shots can be:
By choosing not to vaccinate, parents put not only their children but other peoples'' children in harm's way. Immuno-compromised children, infants and pregnant women cannot be vaccinated, so they are put at increased risk when those who can be vaccinated are not.
And the conclusion is:
It is selfish for parents who intentionally don't vaccinate to make other children vulnerable. We cannot afford to continue leaving the public's health in the hands of irresponsible parents.
I could not agree more!!!