Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Common Sense on Have Your Say?

After my recent rant about the anti-vaccination morons on the BBC News Have Your Say site, I thought I'd maintain balance by linking to a discussion that left me feeling quite optimistic.
It's about embryonic stem cell research and there's more common sense there than I woulod ordinarily expect to find on HYS. There are some loonies, but overall I think reason is winning the day.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

I still seem to be living in a stupid country

The latest BBC news Have Your Say is about a proposed scheme for mandatory vaccination of young children. Far too many of the most recommended comments demonstrate the complete ignorance that has been spread in this country by the tabloid media. Knowledge about vaccines, and even basic critical thinking, seems to be almost totally absent from this cross-section of the population. For example:
"...parents who refuse to have the MMR/AUTISM jab..."
Autism jab? So somebody else reads the daily Male, or whatever other filth tabloids were spreading these lies about the MMR vaccine and autism. Studies show that there is no link between the two. This doesn't stop the flourishing movement that aims to spread this misinformation. If, as a result, some of the weaker members of society (young children who may be allergic, for example) catch measles and die I know who I'd blame.
"Vaccines should never become compulsory. I almost died after a diptheria vaccine..."
This is, of course, why the plural of anecdote is not data. We seem to have managed to put vast portions of people through education without giving them any critical faculties whatsoever for examining evidence and thinking rationally. Just because one person might win the lottery every week doesn't mean I have good odds if I buy a ticket.
"No parent should be forced to jab a kiddie. With bad hygiene you could be infecting millions with HIV!"
Yes... Someone has clearly been smoking something a little stronger than their usual crack. Welcome to the land of straw men. Imagine! If all cars were designed to explode, loads of people would die. We should ban cars! Down with the witch-craft of car manufacturing! Off with it's head!
"In the past few decades, as the number of mandatory vaccines has skyrocketed, there has been a corresponding skyrocketing of childhood cancers, including leukemia and brain tumors. Various neurological diseases, autism and immunilogical illnesses have likewise skyrocketed since the proliferation of vaccines. Coincidence?"
Probably, yes.
This is prime vintage nonsense. I had a little look and I couldn't find any credible evidence for the cancer angle. As for the autism/neurological conditions slant, it is a known fact that reporting of such conditions has increased with improved screening and wider ranges of diagnosis. In fact, all of the vaccine/autism "evidence" disappears if you take proper account of increasing diagnoses. So, not only a coincidence, but really a lie as well.
"There is no absolutely proof that vaccinations work. Ever."
This one is a classic. If vaccines don't work, where the hell did smallpox go? Is it behind the fridge? Maybe it's on holiday in the Bahamas? Oh wait, I think I have it. It's living with Hitler in his secret 4th Reich Moonbase on the dark side of the moon isn't it? Makes about as much sense as this.

The suggestion being debated is the introduction of mandatory vaccination linked to child benefits. So the bulk of the objections take the form of "It's 1984 all over again!" The problem is, it's already illegal to kill someone either on purpose or by your own negligence. By not vaccinating your child you still get to rely on the herd immunity from all the other vaccinated children and your kid will probably not catch measles. However, if rates drop low enough (as they have done in some areas) it becomes possible for these diseases to take a hold in the population and spread through the unvaccinated. At this point, all unvaccinated children are at risk.
In addition, those weaker members of sicuety who do not have immunity for one reason or another are also put at increased risk. By not vaccinating, parents risk not only the health of their children but that of others as well. To me, this seems very selfish.
All treatments have side-effects, and in rare cases these will be seriously harmful. However, it seems ot me that this is the much lesser risk. Especially as the vast majority of the purported negative effects of vaccines are entirely fictional.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Pro-Lifers Show Their True Colours

You remember the pro-life crowd, right? The ones who claim that abortion is murder and should be banned at all costs (whilst also killing the occasional living doctor) and protest about it vociferously. Well, one of their groups in the USA has finally demonstrated that what they want is not in fact to do with killing babies, it is entirely to do with taking away women's reproductive choice. We always knew they didn't care about reality, but this?

Apparently using the pill is, in fact, as bad as abortion. Their claim that the contraceptive pill is the same as a chemically induced abortion is totally ridiculous. I always suspected (alright, I always downright assumed) that the main aim of the pro-life lobby was to take away the right for women to have autonomy over their own bodies. At least when i say it now, people won't think I'm a conspiracy theorist.

They also trot out all of the usual overly-emotive arguments, generally talking about "tiny babies" when what they mean is ova. These people even seem to equate unfertilised eggs directly with children, which is kind of scary. How slim is their grasp of reality that a single cell has the same rights as a human being?

Also, I know I haven't posted for ages. I've been busy banging my head against the brick wall of science. It is ever so rewarding sometimes...