Posts Tagged ‘antivaccination’

No politics in this entry!

Hoo-frickin’-rah. I’ve been way too focused on stuff this blog’s not even really meant to be about lately. So, on today’s menu, we have pseudo-medicine, crappy science journalism, anti-humanistic pandering, and pissing off Muslims. Ah, that’s much better. (Even if my mum doesn’t like it so much and wishes I’d stick to politics instead of this Atheism business.)

– Mark Crislip, writing for Science-Based Medicine, has provided nine answers to nine questions which are supposed to “stump every pro-vaccine advocate”. It continues to hurt, quite how pitiful the arguments of the anti-vaccine movement are. They genuinely seem to think that asking for scientific trials demonstrating the safety of vaccines is really something no doctor could ever possibly respond to. And the only way I can imagine someone thinking that is if they are utterly incompetent at doing any kind of scientific research.

Although, I suppose one alternate explanation may be hinted at in the phrasing of the question, and would imply a different kind of idiocy altogether. In asking…

Could you please provide one double-blind, placebo-controlled study that can prove the safety and effectiveness of vaccines?

…it’s possible that whatever bozo wrote these questions expects one single study, taken in isolation, to utterly and irrefutably settle the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines, now and forever. Which is ridiculous. You also get creationists who seem to be demanding a single example of a fossil that proves the entire theory of evolution, not understanding that it’s a complex and multi-faceted model built up over time and supported by increasingly vast sums of individual data.

The first study that Crislip found (in just under a minute) specifically looks at the “23-valent pneumococcal vaccine”, and its effects in a particular demographic with regard to a specific disease. There are lots of others like it, but no single paper is going to prove “all vaccines are safe”. And fortunately, doctors and scientists don’t conclude that all vaccines are safe based on a single study, and have never claimed any such thing.

– In other news, fuck you, Daily Mail. This is one of those stories where it almost doesn’t matter if the guy’s technically correct about most things. If you’re going to claim that science proves “on average, men are more intelligent than women”, but that you’re not being sexist, you need to go out of your way to clarify the implications. You need to try extra specially hard to acknowledge that misogyny and prejudice do exist, and cause a real problem for many women, and that female oppression is not a myth that can be explained away by simple biological differences alone.

Otherwise you’re just perpetuating the idea that all gender difference is caused by men being innately superior to women, and then you’re as bad as any sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise prejudiced and patronising fuck you care to name.

– The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is okay with female genital mutilation, so long as it’s only a little bit, and so long as the parents really want their infant daughter’s clitoris sliced up.

Yeah. Everyone in that story can get fucked, pretty much.

– And finally, I’m still all for Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. Which is not something the skeptical movement is united on, but I’m yet to hear a good argument against it.

The only real reason offered that we shouldn’t provocatively draw stick figures and label them with the name Mohammed/Muhammad is that it offends many Western Muslims who haven’t done anything to merit their personal beliefs being disrespected. And this isn’t an utterly pointless argument to be carelessly brushed aside. It behooves secularist activists to provide some context to what they’re doing, and to let the majority of at least moderately reasonable Muslims know why we’re doing this, and that it’s not meant as a personal attack against them, but a defence of a free speech that’s under serious threat. Which is what the Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics at UW – Madison did recently.

But it still needs to be done. Because people don’t want us to even be able to draw stick figures labelled with Mohammed’s name. And fuck those people.

And it’s not just the ultra-radical extreme fringe where this oppression of free speech is going on. Comedy Central felt the need to censor episodes of South Park recently, because of fears for the safety of its employees, and Matt and Trey received death threats following their depiction of a bear suit that was said to have Mohammed inside. The Muslim Student Association claimed that the AHA’s planned action – which, remember, was to draw some stick figures and give them a name – was “illegal by the constitution of the University of Wisconsin (88-12 RACIST AND OTHER DISCRIMINATORY CONDUCT POLICY)”. And the drawings were defaced, presumably by someone not happy with their content.

Hemant quotes the part of a statement from the AHA president that nails it:

A common sentiment I’ve heard the past few days went a little something like this: “I’m totally in favor of free speech and all, but what you’re doing is needlessly offensive. Just because you can draw Muhammad doesn’t mean that you should.”

And my response was simple — we shall see if I can.

As it turns out, no, you cannot draw depictions of Muhammad in Madison. At least, not without having them immediately changed to pictures of Muhammad Ali, and not without having them censored the next day. Let’s imagine an alternate universe. Let’s say the drawings were never tampered with, but instead were met with nothing more than shrugged shoulders and public admonishment for our childish behavior. In this scenario the egg would be on our faces. Instead, suffice it to say that our point has been proven. The right to criticize religion and perform blasphemous acts needs to be defended more than ever.

You don’t get to take away my rights and then tell me it doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t or shouldn’t ever want to exercise them. There are people trying to do exactly that, and they need to be told where to shove it. To any more moderate Muslims, such as those who serve in the military and fight to defend the civilised world and its freedoms, and who feel worlds away from the extremist zealots who blow themselves up for the sake of some perverted interpretation of your religion, we’re sorry if we offend you as a byproduct of asserting our free expression. But, frankly, I kinda hoped more of you would be with us on this.

Here’s the Mohammed Image Archive. Go nuts.


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I’m a blogger. I write stuff, a few sentences to a few dozen paragraphs a day, and get a couple of hundred visits in a good week. I’m a less significant social force than the talentless idiots I’m currently watching being laughed off The X Factor.

But this whole internet thing has been taking off recently, and some bloggers have the knowledge, the dedication, the intellect, and the influence to make the kind of difference that really matters.

All the science says that vaccinations protect people from illness, and prevent countless thousands of deaths. None of the science says that vaccinations have anything to do with causing autism. Phil Plait recommends visiting here, here, or browsing Orac’s blog here if you want more information on this. All good resources, and I hope he’s planning to make this kind of education one of the JREF‘s priorities.

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