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Old 2009-02-09, 00:28   #1
cheesehead
 
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Default Pseudoscience leads to deaths of children

Rationalists need to get the word out that pseudoscience is not harmless.

Once again, the supposedly-scientific basis for a wave of pseudoscience (which in this case has caused children's deaths) has been revealed to be fraudulent.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/lif...cle5683671.ece

"MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Deer
THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

Despite involving just a dozen children, the 1998 paper’s impact was extraordinary. After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%. Populations acquire “herd immunity” from measles when more than 95% of people have been vaccinated.

Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.

...
This shows one of the dangers of promotion of pseudoscience such as creationism: by obscuring the general public's understanding of what true science is and is not, it leads to their uncritical acceptance of other pseudoscientific claims, and can have real, deadly consequences.

Several years ago, it was revealed that the leader of a (or even the most) prominent U.S. ESP research center had systematically altered data for decades to make it seem that ESP experiments had shown significant ESP effects. I don't know if deaths can be attributed to the fostering of ESP-belief in the general public, but I'm pretty sure that thousands of people have been swindled out of millions of dollars by ESP-claimants.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-02-09 at 00:32
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Old 2009-02-09, 01:59   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheesehead View Post
Rationalists need to get the word out that pseudoscience is not harmless.

Once again, the supposedly-scientific basis for a wave of pseudoscience (which in this case has caused children's deaths) has been revealed to be fraudulent.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/lif...cle5683671.ece

"MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism"

This shows one of the dangers of promotion of pseudoscience such as creationism: by obscuring the general public's understanding of what true science is and is not, it leads to their uncritical acceptance of other pseudoscientific claims, and can have real, deadly consequences.

Several years ago, it was revealed that the leader of a (or even the most) prominent U.S. ESP research center had systematically altered data for decades to make it seem that ESP experiments had shown significant ESP effects. I don't know if deaths can be attributed to the fostering of ESP-belief in the general public, but I'm pretty sure that thousands of people have been swindled out of millions of dollars by ESP-claimants.
Is there any significant difference between this and faith healers, especially televangelists?
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Old 2009-02-09, 06:31   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogue View Post
Is there any significant difference between this and faith healers, especially televangelists?
Well ... yes.

Faith healers usually don't claim a scientific basis, or publish in The Lancet. I don't know how much TV face time Dr. Wakefield has, or whether he has a PO box for mailed contributions.

http://csicop.org/ has more information, I'm sure. They once monitored the radio transmissions between a faith healer's "back room" and the tiny receiver in his ear during his healing performance. This arrangement allowed him to wow the audience by revealing information about audience members that they'd written on cards and passed-in to ushers earlier in the service, while all could plainly see that the faith healer had never been close enough to the cards to read them.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-02-09 at 06:55 Reason: Last time I checked, "science" wasn't spelled "ephedrine", but what do I know?
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Old 2009-02-23, 06:36   #4
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Moderators,

Please restore this thread's title to:

"Pseudoscience leads to deaths of children"

I can go along with a lot of jokes, but the joke title has been on this thread long enough now.

One of my primary interests is combating the threat that pseudoscience poses for misleading the public in many ways. As shown above, this threat is not trivial. Pseudoscience has killed people, including children. It's a deadly serious matter.

Although I have in the past complained about changes in title of one other thread I started (about Jimmy Carter), you've seen that such complaints are not my common practice.
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Old 2009-02-25, 16:58   #5
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I've started reading Ben Goldacre's book "Bad Science".
Some of the stuff he reveals is horrendous.

http://www.badscience.net/
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Old 2009-06-03, 23:06   #6
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Feature article in this week's eSkeptic from www.skeptic.com:

"Vaccines & Autism: A Deadly Manufactroversy"

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-06-03#feature

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harriet Hall, MD, “The SkepDoc”
In 2007 Skeptic magazine ran an article debunking the myth of the connection between vaccines and autism, and we were hoping that by now this sad tale of pseudoscience would have died a slow death as researchers continue to find no link whatsoever between the two. Sadly that is not the case. In fact, thanks to Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, mother of an autistic child, the myth has gained cultural traction as never before, as she and her partner, the comedian Jim Carrey, make the media rounds and appeal to the heart strings of the public, burying the science in a tsunami of emotion. So we return again to the topic with our SkepDoc, Harriet Hall, M.D., ...

. . .

Scientists had been urged to “listen to the parents.” They did listen to the parents and then conducted research to test the parents’ hypotheses. There were various kinds of studies in different countries by different research groups. The results were consistent:

  • 10 studies showed MMR doesn’t cause autism
  • 6 studies showed thimerosal doesn’t cause autism
  • 3 studies showed thimerosal doesn’t cause subtle neurological problems
Now it’s the parents who won’t listen to the scientists.

Autistic children and their parents are being misled and victimized with useless, untested, disproven, expensive, time-consuming, and even dangerous treatments. Despite the evidence that mercury doesn’t cause autism, children are still being treated with IV chelation to remove mercury — at least one child has died as a result. Along with Lupron injections for chemical castration, children are being treated with secretin, restricted diets, supplements of all kinds, intravenous hydrogen peroxide, DAN (Defeat Autism Now) protocols, cranial manipulation, facilitated communication, and other nonsense. One family was strongly urged to take out a second mortgage on their home so they could buy a home hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

The real tragedy is that all this hoopla is diverting attention from research into effective treatments (usually behavioral) and into the real causes of autism (almost certainly genetic, with environmental triggers not ruled out).

An anti-anti-vaccine backlash is now afoot. Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are being reported. Scientists are speaking out. Blogs like Respectful Insolence and Science-Based Medicine have covered the subject in depth. The Chicago Tribune published an exposé of the Geiers.9 Even Reader’s Digest has contradicted Jenny. They said that vaccines save lives and do not cause autism and they stressed that the science is not on Jenny’s side. Let us hope that sanity will prevail before too many more children die from vaccine-preventable diseases. They are dying now. The Jenny McCarthy Body Count webpage is keeping track of the numbers.
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Old 2009-06-03, 23:41   #7
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cheesehead,

While I imagine there is pseudoscience associated with this topic, it seems to me that the portion you quoted from the original article isn't about pseudo-science per se. Rather, it is about a scientist falsifying information, which later science discovered (but not in time to save lives and/or reverse public opinion). Am I way off base here?
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Old 2009-06-04, 00:15   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeta-Flux View Post
While I imagine there is pseudoscience associated with this topic, it seems to me that the portion you quoted from the original article
(By "original article", I presume you mean the one I referenced in the first post of this thread.)
Quote:
isn't about pseudo-science per se. Rather, it is about a scientist falsifying information, which later science discovered (but not in time to save lives and/or reverse public opinion).
Correct, except that I'd quibble that what the Sunday Times did to discover the falsification was an investigation of evidence rather than another instance of scientific practice ("later science") -- e.g., there was no repeated experiment or independent study of other patients involved.

I didn't mean to present that first article as a summary or history of the entire autism/vaccine mess; I intended to present it as simply one recent (at the time I posted it) development (the Sunday Times investigation) in the case. I could have explained that better.

- - -

As to the distinction between pseudoscience and science: that's something I need to write quite a few paragraphs about when my non-GIMPS life calms down. In this case, one of the pseudoscientific aspects of the antivaccine movement was its concentration on only the few cases that seemed to support its thesis (that something about the vaccines was causing autism), while ignoring, or at least giving no weight to, the multiple cases of careful studies contradicting that.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-06-04 at 00:38
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Old 2009-06-23, 07:25   #9
cheesehead
 
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Default Sometimes it just causes loss of sense of smell

"Homeopathic drugs may harm"

http://www.newsobserver.com/nation_w...y/1573596.html

(My emphasis by underlining - cheesehead)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Donn - The Associated Press
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The unsettling little secret of Zicam Cold Remedy finally spilled out this week. Though widely sold for years as a drug for colds, it was never tested by federal regulators for safety like other drugs. And that was perfectly legal -- until scores of consumers lost their sense of smell.

One little word on Zicam's label explains all this: "homeopathic."

Zicam and hundreds of other homeopathic remedies -- highly diluted drugs made from natural ingredients -- are legally sold as treatments with explicit claims of medical benefit. Yet they don't require federal checks for safety, effectiveness or even the right ingredients.
Why not? Because the health-food/natural-remedies/homeopathic lobby spent big bucks late last century to get Congresscritters to pass a law preventing the FDA from regulating "natural" and "homeopathic" remedies (and wishy-washy Clinton signed it).

Result: every health-food/natural-remedy store I've ever entered in the past decade has on its shelves a "natural" remedy for depression that could cause me to have seizures if I took it -- without any warning about this on its label !!! My own mother repeatedly tried to persuade me to take this "natural" remedy, despite my every-time protests that it was potentially harmful to me.

I will grant Mom that, finally, after I sent her a note from my doctor stating the same thing I'd been telling her for years, she stopped trying to persuade me to take the herb.

Recently I filed a written complaint with a newly-opened natural-foods-and-remedies store about the presence on its shelves of this herbal remedy without any warning on its label. The clerk to whom I spoke actually took the (single) bottle off the shelf and placed it with my note in the office for his manager's later attention. Next week, it was back on the shelf -- three bottles of it.

- - -

The same store sent me a newsletter claiming that wheatgrass contained 99 different elements, explaining that this was a Good Thing. (Yes, they meant the chemical elements, like carbon, oxygen, ... and 97 others.)

I wrote back, explaining that only 60 or so (I counted then, but don't recall the exact count now) 80 natural elements had any nonradioactive isotopes, then asking which 30 at-least-19 of the must-be-radioactive elements were contained in wheatgrass. (I don't think I even mentioned that there are only 91 elements found in nature -- so wheatgrass would've had to incorporate at least 8 entirely-manmade elements, from Lawrence Livermore or some place like that.)

The manager replied by passing off responsibility (for the 99 elements claim, that is) to text he copied from some website (it's on the web, so must be true -- right??), which had copied it from another website ...

I repeated my question about which 30 at-least-19 radioactive elements were in wheatgrass. He has not yet responded.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-06-23 at 08:14 Reason: corrected figures, as CRGreathouse pointed out
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Old 2009-06-23, 07:39   #10
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The text about the 99 elements is probably true. Nothing in this world is ever pure. I expect that everything I eat (or drink) has at least some uranium, plutonium, lead etc. It is only the relative amounts that will change depending upon what I am actually eating at the time.
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Old 2009-06-23, 07:53   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheesehead View Post
The same store sent me a newsletter claiming that wheatgrass contained 99 different elements, explaining that this was a Good Thing. (Yes, they meant the chemical elements, like carbon, oxygen, ... and 97 others.)

I wrote back, explaining that only 60 or so (I counted then, but don't recall the exact count now) natural elements had any nonradioactive isotopes, then asking which 30 of the must-be-radioactive elements were contained in wheatgrass. (I don't think I even mentioned that there are only 91 elements found in nature -- so wheatgrass would've had to incorporate at least 8 entirely-manmade elements, from Lawrence Livermore or some place like that.)

The manager replied by passing off responsibility (for the 99 elements claim, that is) to text he copied from some website (it's on the web, so must be true -- right??), which had copied it from another website ...

I repeated my question about which 30 radioactive elements were in wheatgrass. He has not yet responded.
Hydrogen through lead, minus technetium and promethium = 80 stable elements. Bismuth and thorium are unstable with a half-life longer than the age of the universe; uranium and plutonium aren't far behind. That leaves wheatgrass with at least 19 radioactive elements, of which at least 15 are less stable than plutonium.
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