Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Huffpo strikes again

Well Huffpo has done it again. Dissecting beauty products sounds like it could be good, in fact they make a few good lines which are washed out in the usual rubbish, like this decent one:

"For example, most anti-aging skincare average only about 3% active ingredients - just enough for marketing purposes, but not enough to make a real difference in the appearance of your skin."

Isn’t this wonderful, has the world come to an end? Nope. Apparently Huffpo forgot that the usual shtick is nonsense and frankly 3% active ingredient is more than homeopathy has, not that that is hard since homeopathy has no active ingredients. Despite the advertising nature in that bit it actually says that 3% isn't enough! Amazing but lo and behold the next click into the beauty section yields a return to the usual:

"Before talking about antioxidants, we have to look at free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with an odd number of electrons that damage skin cells by stealing their electrons...

Now, for the really scary part: Our bodies don't have a natural defense against free radicals. That's why it's so important to eat a diet rich in antioxidants, nutrients that are proven to "neutralize" free radicals and stop their damaging effects..."

Cleverly for this boost they didn’t know that free radicals are also beneficial; there appear to be metabolic benefits to free radicals... well. I don't think I want my body to have a defense against free radicals personally.

Ah well enough of a bash on Huffpo. This was just nonsense anyway.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homeopathy nonsense again

Lacking much time to really rant about this right now I will just share the disgusting story I got with my google alert on Homeopathy. Lacking time to go into the article its self I just wanted to comment on the last of the comments left by one Sonya McLeod the article's author:
Here's a novel idea......why don't you actually try homeopathy to see if it works. If it's just placebo, like all the doubters say, then there's no harm in trying it. Experience is the best teacher. After getting a bruise, try taking some homeopathic Arnica pills in a high potency like a 1M potency, a few times in 24 hours. I guarantee you that the bruise will be gone in 24 hours. If you are all so fanatical about science and think it has all the answers then you will be more than happy to conduct this little science experiment.
This pains me in so many ways. First off, I have tried homeopathy, just to see if it works. In fact I have tried the very pills she recommends with no success what so ever. My bruises stayed around just as long as normal. I also tried the pain relief and the sleep aids also with no effect what so ever. Seriously Sonya, no harm at all? I beg to differ. People dying because of the quackery you are spouting off is hardly no harm done. While no, my bruises and back pain is hardly life threatening people have forgone medicine to the point of death. Which in my opinion is quite a lot of harm. That doesn't even bring up the parents who have used homeopathy to 'treat' their children with the result that the child dies. All with no harm done to the homeopath that 'prescribed' the so called medicine. Death's are harm done in my book, perhaps not in a homeopaths.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ID Proponets attacking Evolution again

Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute has attacked Evolution once more in his article "Deepening Darwin's Dilemma." This pile of nonsense brings up the ID believers same old arguments against Evolution and once more, get it all wrong.

To start off with is the mistake that finding more transition fossils instead of adding to our picture of the 'tree of life' actually make the problem worse. Seriously Wells? How many fossils do we need to add to convince you that new ones don't raise more questions? Examples like the transition from Dinosaur to bird question, despite Archeopteryx, is a fallacious argument. The evidence is there and ID proponents can't just claim that the transition fossils don't fill in the gaps especially when you have prime examples like Archeopteryx. Moving on Wells continues the ID argument about the Precambrian fossils and how the fossils are soft bodied. Well, many fossils were soft bodied before and after the Cambrian Explosion and beyond that many of the Cambrian fossils had hard parts. I think this is a good time to point out that the "explosion" in the Cambrian period happened over five to ten (ish) million years. That my friends is far from an explosion on anything but, well, an evolutionary time scale.

Last but not least is my personal favorite nonsense of the whole article. Wells claims that the lack of Precambrian fossils makes the "Darwin's dilemma" more confusing. While yes there are few Precambrian fossils the extreme age coupled with a lack of hard bodies (as Wells had mentioned himself earlier in the article) leads naturally to few fossils. Hard bits fossilize easier than soft parts. Evidence thus far shows that there was not a predilection for hard parts prior to the Cambrian period.

All in all Well's closing statement regarding lack of evidence that the Cambrian phyla are from a common ancestor is simply refuted. There are many more branching points before the Cambrian period to consider before you can dismiss the range of life found in the Cambrian period of having not evolved to get there. This time period was not the origin of complex life which Scientists have evidence for 5 million years before the Cambrian period. Also there are trace-like fossils from more than 1200 million years ago (as opposed to the Cambrian period's 540 million years) and evidence of microbial life over 3000 million years ago. Obviously from that there was a lot of evolution going on prior to the Cambrian period and any attempt to directly link the Cambrian phyla to a common ancestor is ludicrous.

This article is just another example of the ridiculous claims that the Discovery Institute is spewing out and it is a horrible effort to get Intelligent Design (eg creationism) inserted into peoples minds.

**Most of the information on the fossil record was found here**

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vaccine questions still? Seriously people why?

In a recent story on LA Times website Melissa Healy offers a two page commentary about vaccines which frankly makes me shake my head. The article starts off with a commentary from a mother who is choosing to not vaccinate her child. Claiming that
"the tests on the vaccine in development against H1N1 aren't even completed yet, and that, to Reed [the mother], sounds like a formula for unforeseen problems down the road."
To start off with, just like most flu virus's the only difference in the vaccine formula is that it targets whatever three flu's are going around that season. The H1N1 vaccine is merely a supplement to the regular seasonal flu virus according to the CDC's main vaccine info page. This anecdotal story simply attempts to lend credence to the anti-vac claims by giving it a context the mind is more apt to remember. To make matters worse the mother in the story says that she is not likely to change her mind even if her physician reccomends otherwise. Why on earth would you go to a Doctor for medical advise is you already know you won't listen? All those years of medical school and all the real life experience of the pediatrician is nothing compared to what the anti-vac groups are saying of course. Never mind the fact that the anti-vac claims are nonsense.

To make matters worse for Healy's report is bringing up, you guessed it, the supposed link between Autism and vaccines. Really people, has all the research and all the evidence the scientific community is offering taught you nothing? Apparently because Healy states
"This new generation of vaccine skeptics has been forged by the stubbornly persistent belief -- discredited by a welter of studies -- in a link between vaccines and autism. And it is further fueled by a combustible mix of distrust of drug manufacturers, media outlets and the federal government."
At least she recognizes that the 'link' has been discredited. Seriously people though, why even bring it up again? People aren't going to remember the caveat in a two page article, they are just going to remember 'oh yeah something about autism and vaccines right?' One good thing to say for Healy is that she does try to address the growing number of adults ages 18-49 that aren't current on their vaccines. Healy states that only 37% of these adults got their vaccines last year, where she got that number I don't know but it is certainly plausible.

Oh the next anecdote is the usual; big pharma don't have our best interests at heart which is why this parent isn't getting her child vaccinated. Seriously people yes the pharmaceuticals want to make money, they are a business, but what reason do you have to believe they would deliberately try to harm you? They seriously have done great and wonderful things for our health and our world. The CDC is the one who decides what vaccines are needed each flu season and given our 'best interests' is their job it wouldn't be wise for them to undermine that.

The best part of Healy's article unfortunately comes near the end of the second page. Healy again mentions Autism but spends a decent amount of time refuting the Anti-vac claims regarding the MMR. She cites the AAP's report regarding the studies regarding the MMR, Thimerosol and Autism which rather conclusively shows the lack of any connection between these agents.

Then Healy mentions the supposed hassle of getting both the H1N1 and the regular flu vaccine. Here is the deal people, taking the extra hour to go back to the doctor when the H1N1 vaccine comes out is a heck of a lot easier to work into a schedule than having you or your child sick with influenza for a while. Take the two trips, schedule them so that everyone in the family can get vaccinated at once and enjoy the benefits of having a significantly less likelihood of getting the flu this season and knowing that you are helping protect others who have medical reasons why they can't be vaccinated stay healthy. This nonsense about not getting vaccinated is having a serious impact on our herd immunity and causing people to get sick. Really, it is time to stop and face reality for all the anti-vac people out there. Your 'choice' isn't just effecting you. It is effecting all of us.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What happened to science in the papers?

On a recent scan of my local paper, the Oregonian, I attempted in vain to find the "science" section of the paper. I found to my chagrin that while Business, Education, the environment, politics and weather were well represented I was hard pressed to find a science heading. Where to go from here? I looked under 'more news' figuring that was perhaps where I might find the science section I remember from childhood. No luck there either. It comes close however, represented in this section is the associated press technology section as well as the associated press health section and even a heading for the obituaries. Nothing however to lead a reader to the general science area. How is a science minded person like myself to come across what I thought would be a common area of interest? No hints from the Oregonian website that is certain. I did a search for 'science news' figuring that would bring up something. I didn't get a single hit. Curious now I went to USA Today's website figuring perhaps the Oregonian was too small. After all it is only a statewide paper while the USA Today is a national broadsheet.

Finally, after digging in the site map I find the Science and Space news section. As grateful as I am for this I wonder about the Oregonian. Is my local newspaper doing so poorly that the only science based news they can provide is a reader forum? Even the news on health is done by the associated press, not my local paper. Where are all of the Oregonian science writers? I find myself curious. Surely all of Oregon's science news can't be found under the headings of Technology or Health. What about the news of the NASA Shuttle landing? Or the rocket tests in Utah? Unless you already knew about these news items you have little chance of finding these on the Oregonian website.