science


Farrah Fawcett died today following a relapse of the anal cancer that she battled for the past three years.   I’m wondering what effect the high profile death will have on cancer awareness and the use of “alternative” therapies, in particular.  I’m not optimistic.

From what I have been able to gather, she was first diagnosed in Sep 2006 and following regimen of standard therapies, was declared cancer-free in Feb 2007.  A few months later doctors discovered a small polyp during a routine exam, and apparently she sought “alternative” treatment in Germany this time around.  I have been unable to determine exactly what the treatment was, although it’s been reported that it consisted of a combination of chemotherapy and natural supplements.

We don’t know what the specific treatment was, but we do know that it was not effective.  We’ll never know whether the “alternative” approach would have saved her life if she tried it first.  (I suspect not since natural supplements have no clinical record of curing cancer.)  Also, we’ll never know if the relapse would have been successfully treated by physicians using the latest FDA-approved, science-based treatments.  We won’t ever know those answers, but I do know that there will be loads of people claiming to.

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If you’re concerned about the dwindling populations of animals such as bears, rhinos, tigers, turtles, and sharks, consider the effects of using ‘Natural’ and ‘Alternative’ Medicines before you go spend your money on them.  Hundreds of species of plants are on the verge of extinction as well due to pre-scientific ideas about physiology, disease, and healing.

In many cases, the purported uses of the herbs and animal components have not been clinically verified.  In most cases, they have been shown ineffective or there is no plausibility of effectiveness.  When there has been a clinical effect, the active ingredient is typically isolated and synthesized.  Despite these facts, the consumption of natural resources for no reason continues, and does so at an alarming rate.

Got a few minutes?  Listen to Dr. Mark Crislip’s scathing review of the effects of TCM and other (S)CAM modalities on the environment: http://www.quackcast.com/spodcasts/files/archive-12-april-2009.html

I just linked to something from PZ Myers’ Pharyngula blog that made me laugh almost as much as it made me nauseous.  Apparently creationist Eric Hovind (who I assume is related to “Dr Dino” Kent Hovind) has a website with one minute videos promoting creation science.  Of course, in this case ‘science’ really means ‘Christian fundamentalist dogma’.  But be that as it may, these videos are a flashy new approach to spouting the same old superstitious bible literalism nonsense that predates real science by thousands of years.  The production is smooth but the message is the same.

I don’t want to spoil the laughs (Hovind’s comedic timing could use a little work) but here are a few gems in case you don’t visit:

Creation Minute is an exciting series hosted by Eric Hovind that explores the creation worldview using cutting-edge visual effects and digital technology. Each episode challenges the evolution theory and gives evidence of the Bible’s historical and scientific accuracy.

OK.  First sentence makes sense.   He does use new technology to promote fundamentalist non-scientific nonsense.  (That’s what it says, right?)  The second sentence is a real laugher though.

..gives evidence of the Bible’s historical and scientific accuracy.

You can’t deny that that’s a frggin hoot!  “scientific accuracy”…

A prime example of his Bible-based science is this formula:

Evolution Formula

Evolutionists are forced to believe that nothing + time = everything.

Seriously if want to waste some time (and maybe lose your last meal) watch some of these videos which use “cutting-edge visual effects and digital technology” to promote the same lame arguments that fundamentalists have been using against evolutionary biology for 150 years.  A new shiny package but inside it’s the same old pile of stinking crap.

Seriously, why are these backward close-minded irrational beliefs held by more than just the tiniest fringe of society?

Today’s lifting of the embryonic stem cell ban by the Obama administration has the conservative politicians and media engaging in a flurry of political rhetoric.  Of course this is no surprise as it’s certainly a hot-button topic.  One comment that caught my eye was from Rep Eric Cantor, the No. Republican in the house.  on CNN, he apparently said that we should focus on the economy rather than stem cell research.

“Frankly, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research can bring on embryo harvesting, perhaps even human cloning that occurs,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We don’t want that. … And certainly that is something that we ought to be talking about, but let’s take care of business first. People are out of jobs.”

OK.  Pretty strong rhetoric from a high ranking member of the Rep party.  Obviously this guy is either drinking the coolaid or being completely disingenuous.  How can anyone with any knowledge of the issue make those statements?

First of all, claiming that the Obama administration shouldn’t do anything except focus on the economy is ridiculous.  That is a False Dichotomy – claiming that the president can only do one thing or the other.  Of course the administration has a large number of issues to deal with.  The science, medicine research, and health advisers should focus on their responsibilities, not the economy.  If the administration was only dealing with the economic issues, it would negligence of historic proportions.

Secondly, the embryo harvesting and human cloning claim is fear mongering in the form of a Straw Man Argument.  How does Human Cloning have ANYTHING to do with stem cell research? Embryonic harvesting?  Are you fucking kidding?  Representative Cantor is either a moron or a liar.  (Which fallacy is that?)  Actually, since he is a politician, I suspect that he is both.

source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29586269/

Saw this and wanted to pass it along to readers of my last post about Autism and Vaccines.  Turns out that the doctor (Andrew Wakefield) who first proposed the link between autism and vaccines may have faked the data.  If true, that man should be shot (after a long torture session with Jack Bauer.)

http://www.parentdish.com/2009/02/11/doctor-who-linked-autism-and-vaccines-faked-data

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article5683643.ece

Of course, many people will ignore this and still not get their children vaccinated putting their children as well as others at risk.  When Jack is done with Dr. Wakefield, maybe he can visit Jenny McCarthy, Oprah, and the other anti-vaccination terrorists.  Yes I said terrorists.  The anti-science, anti-medicine, anti-reason people who promote not vaccinating children put far more people in danger than Al Qaeda and should be held accountable when helpless children die.

A federal court ruled today in a case involving parents of autistic children who are seeking compensation through the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  These parents believe that their childrens’ autism was caused by vaccinations.  Health agencies as well as all but a few fringe scientists and doctors have maintained that there is no causal relationship between autism and vaccines.  The court stated that the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the parents claim.

This case has been watched by many in the scientific and health care communities as well as many others.  More than 5500 claims have been filed by parents seeking compensation.  Additionally, there has been an increase in parents all over the country declining vaccines for their children because of autism fears.

Of course, this decision will not persuade most of the parents that their children’s autism was not caused by vaccines.  Several years of research from around the world hasn’t been able to do that so this certainly won’t.  In fact, the head of Vaccine Information Center (which promotes the idea) said “I think it is a mistake to conclude that, because these few test cases were denied compensation, it’s been decided vaccines don’t play any role in regressive autism.”  She went on to say that more studdies are needed.

Just like any fringe or psuedoscientific belief, evidence is ignored unless it supports the belief, and believers claim that more research needs to be done.  In the case of autism and vaccines, more than enough research has been done.  The proverbial dead horse has been beaten to the point of turning to dust and yet it’s not enough.  The tragedy here is that so much money has been spent researching this link over and over, that it has reduced efforts that could actually determine causes, treatments, and a cure.  Think about that.  Obviously some people are not.

Of course, you have to feel for parents of autistic children.  It’s extremely difficult to deal with something like that and of course they want to know why it happened and what can be done to fix it.  It’s understandable that the answer they get from their doctor is not acceptable.  But the fact is that science has not got to the bottom of this tragic condition.  Genetic and environmental causes are being investigated but there is no answer yet.  Previous hypotheses, including those involving vaccines, mercury, and thimerosal, have been investigated and ruled out.  It’s time to devote more money and resources to research which may actually bear fruit.

source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29160138/

For more information, please visit the Science Based Medicine Blog

It’s a full moon today and I saw an article that I wanted to pass along.  I’ve blogged about moon phases before, but I fear that this story will never go away as long as there are people on the earth and a moon in the sky above.

SciAm.com today posted a short article discussing the “Lunar Effect” and asks “Does a full moon really trigger strange behavior?”  Too lazy to go read it?  I’ll cut to the chase for you: ABSOLUTELY NOT.

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