Vaccine denial is one of the most dangerous pseudo-sciences out there. It endangers the lives of not just its practicioners, but also the rest of us who are responsible. Many times, parents will cite "religious reasons" for not getting their kids vaccinated (even though, as far as I know, it's only Jehovah's Witnesses are doctrinally opposed to vaccinations, which leads me to suspect that the religious rationalle is merely a smokescreen to cover up a much more childish and selfish reason), other times, parents and even school officials will cite the 'potential risks' of vaccines (they hardly every say what those risks are) as their rationalle.

In any case, not getting your kids vaccinated puts me and mine at risk. Although I firmly believe that anyone has the right to excercise whatever silly, tribal, superstitious nonsense on themselves, that belief does not extend when said beliefs puts the health of others in danger, and vaccine denial is one of the worst.

Oftentimes, I'll hear the rationalle that "even if I don't get my kid vaccinated, everyone else has, so my kid can depend (leech off, in my opinion) on the immunity of the rest of the group. Not so. You see, insanely selfish reasoning aside, even if 95% of a given population gets properly vaccinated, that remaining 5% causes herd-immunity to break down, strengthening the virus/bacteria, and an outbreak occurs.

And wouldntyaknowit, herd immunity has broken down in the Chiliwack region of British Columbia, and mumps has spread to nearly 200 people. Mumps is bad. Mumps can cause deafness, meningitis, and sterililty. The potential risk factors of the MMR (Mumps-Measels-Rubella) vaccine are VASTLY outweighed by the benefit of nearly everyone not getting those three terrible diseases.

Congratulations, selfish, scared, stupid parents in BC: Your ideological opposition to a proven medical procedure has made not ony your kid terribly sick, but also those who were smarter than you and got their vaccines. I truly wish that you could be accountable to the rest of the BC people who now have children with this incredibly rare, terribly dangerous and easily preventable disease....They were smart, you were stupid, and they're paying the price of your stupidity.

Lost in Translation...

I realize I haven't been posting all that much lately. I've been...occupied.

I may have the opportunity of a life time to teach English overseas. I've been in contact with three companies, one in Ecuador and two in Japan, to explore the possibility of putting my oodles o'education to good use and teach some people eager to learn our extremely convoluted, exception-laden language.

It might turn out to be nothing, of course, but one company looks particularly promising, and it may very well be that by October, I'll be on another continent, skeptic-ing as best I can as an outsider.

That is all. Carry on.

Simon Singh, author of the only math book to catch my attention, Fermat's Enigma, is in a bit of trouble. He recently wrote an article in the Guardian about the dangers of chiropractic, and surprise! He's being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for libel. A truly tough case to defend because unlike here in Canada (or in the US), libel/slander laws in the UK places the burden of proof on the defendant, not the plaintiff....meaning that just about anyone can be sued for being offended, and the person being sued must prove what they said is not only true, but not offensive. I thank the founding fathers of Canada that that's one aspect of british commonlaw that we did not inherit.

Well, since the lawsuit was launched, The Guardian pulled the original article from their site. In case the link above also gets pulled, below is a copy-paste replica.

Good luck Simon, free speech and rationality stands with you!

Beware the spinal trap
Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all but research suggests chiropractic therapy can be lethal
All comments ()
Simon Singh
The Guardian,
Saturday April 19 2008
Article history
This is Chiropractic Awareness Week. So let's be aware. How about some awareness that may prevent harm and help you make truly informed choices? First, you might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that, "99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae". In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.
In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.
You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.
I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.
But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.
In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.
More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.
Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.
Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: "Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck."
This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Professor Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.
Bearing all of this in mind, I will leave you with one message for Chiropractic Awareness Week - if spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.
· Simon Singh is the co-author of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial www.simonsingh.net
About this articleClose
This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday April 19 2008 on p26 of the Comment & debate section. It was last updated at 00:06 on April 19 2008.

Well, Canadians are finally starting to get the message about evolution. A recent Angus Reid poll suggests that the majority of Canadians believe that humans evolved from some "lower" form of life over millions of years.

From the article, "About two-thirds of res pondents aged 15-34 believe in evolution, but only 51% of those over 55 accept it. Men (69%) and those with at least one university degree (71%) were more inclined to buy into evolution, while people from Alberta (40%) and members of the Conservative Party (29%) back creationism the most."

So, at least according to this poll, Albertans (Alberta, also known as "Canada's Texas") and Conservatives are sadly dragging us down, at least when it comes to basic science. I'm not as worried about the Albertan part (though that will be a bigger issue down the road if their province-wide massive-increase in population increases unabated, allowing Alberta more seats in the House of Commons) of the equation, but it's the Conservative Party allegiance to anti-science thinking that really bothers me. Stephen Harper and his Conservative ilk have already been instrumental in undermining/ruining Canada's reputation for scienctific research and education, and this poll is particularly telling.

I honestly don't care about the religious affiliation of anyone. However, if that person is in a position of political power, and also uses their religion to inform their science-policy, then we're in trouble.

At the end of the day, I take heart that MOST of the country still accepts evolution (it's not a matter of believing in evolution, it's accepting it), and the high number of people with a university degree accepting evolution is just another joyous feather in my cap (to all those new-agers and evangelists who complain that university education cripples the mind).

I can haz lolcat?

omg! I haz a lolcat nao. U can klik teh lynk heer if yoos like, but heers teh pikture.


I made dis.

In start contrast of the good news of this morning, the skeptical community lost a great one. Jeff Medkeff, a.k.a. the Blue Collar Scientist lost is battle with liver cancer last night. You might remember Jeff making headlines back in March '08 as naming astroids after PZ Myers, Phil Plait and Rebecca Watson.

Thanks Jeff, you were a great skeptic and your absence will be felt.

Jeff Medkeff, 1968-2008

This week's Picture of the week is astronomical only in a peripheral sense, as it represents some FANTASTIC news in the skeptical community: Phil Plait (a.k.a. The Bad Astronomer) has been named the new president of the James Randi Educational Foundation!


Phil, you've got some huge shoes to fill, but the JREF really, REALLY made the right choice!

Congratulations!

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