Category Archives: Vaccinations

The Unfortunate Implications of the Anti-Vaccine Claim of “Vaccines Cause Autism!!!”

Today I was walking home from class and mulling over various issues when my mind happened to think about the anti-vaccine “VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM!1!!” gambit.

You know this one: the so called “link” between vaccines and autism, and how you’re better off not vaccinating your kids because ZOMG AUTISM IS SO HORRIBLE.

And you know what? Pondering over the subject, I realized that the claim that vaccines cause autism and that you’re better off not vaccinating your kids is actually full of very unfortunate implications.

(This might have been partially inspired by the TVTropes page on unfortunate implications. I can verify that TVTropes WILL ruin your life.)

What happened the night before. Credit to xkcd.

What happened to me the night before, when I was supposed to do Latin homework (damn you TVTropes). Credit to xkcd, used under a CC BY-NC license.

Unfortunate implication: autism is DA WORST THING EVER and it’s better for a kid to be dead than to be autistic because disabilities are SO TERRIBLE, especially for the parents, because their “real child” has been “lost” and that no “real child” has disabilities.

Disclosure: I have a mild form of autism (formerly Asperger’s before the DSM got rid of that category and put it in the autism spectrum on the high functioning end).

So to me, this is actually pretty personal. And offensive.

I can totally sympathize with parents whose kids were recently diagnosed with autism. Seriously, finding out that your child will be facing some difficulties that isn’t their fault (to put it lightly) sucks. Feeling helpless sucks. You want to help your child, and that’s totally normal.

But the “disabilities are inherently bad and we need to make sure that no one else ends up disabled, even if it means that the kid might die” just smacks of WARNING, HIGHLY OFFENSIVE.

What it does is to enforce the paradigm that people with disabilities are “lesser” and not as human as the neurotypical people. It enforces the idea that if you’re disabled, you’re better off dead because how the hell can you stand to live knowing that you have a disability?

And it leads to the idea that risking preventable diseases (that can totally kill your kid!), autism biomed, chelation therapy, Lupron therapy, and even outright murder is totally justifiable, because hey, your kid wasn’t “normal” (whatever that means), and you just wanted to make them better, even if it means causing them further suffering in the process.

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s some pretty serious unfortunate implication stuff right there.

And that stuff’s offensive.

Anti-vaxxors: no, you do not speak for me or for people like me when you claim that autism is caused by vaccines (which is totally not true by the way, this being one of the many studies on the topic). Nor do you speak for me when you then start saying that it’s better to risk death than to get your kid vaccinated because autism is so terrible.

That stuff is ableist as hell. And I want no part of it.

People: please, please get your vaccines. The world will be better off with it.

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My One Trip to the Cesspool of Pesudoscience: whale.to

Today, I went off the deep end in search of new blog material, I opened an incognito window on my browser, and typed in whale.to in the address bar.

Oh gods. Oh, oh gods.

I knew that whale.to was not a reliable source and that if you quote it seriously, you’re going to get laughed out of the room. I knew that that site was going to be chock full of misinformation and that you need to watch out before you get sucked in. Everything pesudoscientific ever to come into existence can and will end up here, plus some additional things such as conspiracy theories.

So I thought I knew what to expect.

It’s even worse than that.

The following is a sample page on what you might find on whale.to. This is a screenshot, and not a link to the actual page itself. Hence, none of the links are clickable. You have been forewarned.

It’s so wrong that it’s not even wrong anymore.

I don’t even think this is worth debunking or mocking. It’s so ridiculous, mocking it won’t even do it justice. That’s how bad it is.

I’m going to go find brain bleach.

Happy Friday!

The Consumer’s Bill of Rights, Part 1

[I’m thinking of making this a multi-part series, mainly because I realized that this is going to be a pretty long blog post if I went through all of the points at once. I realized this while I was in the middle of writing this, so yeah… um, so it’s going to be a bit out of order. Sorry about that.

This post will go over point two of the Consumer’s Bill of Rights.]

So today, I had to go on campus to attend an orientation that’s part of the hiring process for a job (I’m crossing my fingers for that one!). While I was there, I picked up a book that I had on reserve — Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

The copy that I checked out is the 4th Edition, so some of the information in there is outdated. For one thing, the copyright is from 1989, well before the widespread use of the Internet and the blogosphere. For another thing, some of the data in here is a bit old.

Nevertheless, quackery NEVER gets old, and I was curious to see what were the big snake oils at the time.

Old, outdated 4th edition copy of this text. You can get an updated version on Amazon (just search it, it'll show up).

Old, outdated 4th edition copy of this text. You can get an updated version on Amazon (just search it, it’ll show up). It’s by the leading skeptics of the modern day too, and it should be an interesting read if you’re curious.

(I hope the library won’t get mad at me for accidentally dropping some food on its pages. It fell on the margins and not on the text, and I wiped it off, and there’s barely any marks, but if any librarian knew that I did that, they would totally freak.)

Anyways, the text went over the Consumer Bill of Rights. If you didn’t know, the Consumer Bill of Rights was coined by John F. Kennedy sometime in the 1960s, and it was meant to help consumers make smart decisions and to keep sellers from scamming them. You might have come across them in an economics textbook somewhere.

The Consumer Bill of Rights are as follows:

  1. The Right to Safety: to be protected against the marketing of goods that are hazardous to health or to life.
  2. The Right to be Informed: to be protected against fraudulent, deceitful, or grossly misleading information, advertising, labeling, or other practices, and to be given the facts needed to make informed choices.
  3. The Right to Choose: to be assured, when ever possible, access to a variety of produces and services at competitive prices, and in those industries in which competition is not workable and government regulation is substituted, an assurance of safety quality and service at fair prices.
  4. The Right to be Heard: to be assured that consumer interests will receive full and sympathetic consideration in the formulation of government policy, and fair and expeditious treatment in its administrative tribunal.

Safety, freedom of information, choice, and to be listened to. Now doesn’t that sound awesome? As a consumer, you want to have choices. You want whatever it is you’re purchasing to be safe (although there’s nothing there about them being effective, sadly enough). You want to know exactly what you’re getting. And you want to be able to have your concerns redressed and listened to by the government.

Now how does this relate to medicine?

The Internet is a wonderful and a terrible thing. It’s awesome, because if you want to check to see if a treatment (or whatever) is safe (or whatever), you can just Google it and there is a large database of information just waiting for you. It’s terrible, because if you want to check to see if a treatment (or whatever) is safe (or whatever), you can just Google it and there is a large database of misinformation just waiting for you.

Freedom of speech unfortunately allows people to spread misinformation on the Internet. That’s why if you, let’s say, decide to vaccine safety, you’re going to get a large amount of misinformation as well as the good stuff.

Can you tell which one is the anti-vac site? Google results accurate as of 23 September 2013, 5:28 AM UST.

Can you tell which one is the anti-vac site? Google results accurate as of 23 September 2013, 5:28 AM UST.

And of course, if you Google something like vaccine side effects

Can you find the anti-vac site? Google results current as of 23 September 2013, 5:32 AM UST.

Can you find the anti-vac site? Google results current as of 23 September 2013, 5:32 AM UST.

And this is just for vaccines.

Now, you really do want to be informed about safety, especially in medicine. Obviously, if you take something that has a pretty good risk of killing you (antineoplastons or Vitamin B17 in lieu of conventional treatment for cancer anyone?), well, you’re screwed. You really want to know that it’s going to kill you, before you take it. Your freaking LIFE is on the line people, duh.

But of course the quacks of the world think that BIG PHARMA is going to kill you on purpose and that the science community is hiding important information. It’s a huge conspiracy theory, how the ESTABLISHMENT is conspiring against you, the lowly consumer, and that only those who have taken the RED PILL (or who have a clinic in Mexico or some stupid thing like that) know the truth!

So kind of like the MRAs in a way. Hah.

Anyways, because there are a large amount of people who are willing to lie or mislead people into not vaccinating their children because VACCINES have TOXINS and we need to GREEN OUR VACCINES and whatever, these people have been successful in misleading millions of parents to not vaccinate. This leads to the loss of herd immunity, more epidemics of preventable diseases, and a higher difficulty in eradicating many of these diseases from the wild (e.g. polio).

How can you root out the misinformation from the legit information? As a layperson, your eyes are likely to glaze over when you see a study with lots of scary statistics and data. You don’t have the training needed to evaluate the information, make sense of the data, or judge whether the study is flawed or not.

And even the government sometimes eats up bullshit. See: NCCAM and anything related to conventional and alternative medicine.

So what can you do?

Well, there are a few things you can do. For starters, you can see whether something is too good to be true. If there’s a medicine out there that claims to be a cure-all, it’s most likely bullshit. If any medicinal remedy has the word “quantum” in it, you can discard that, that’s bull. Anything related to Jenny McCarthy or Andrew Wakefield, bull. “Scientific establishment is suppressing this information from the public!” Bull. Testimonials instead of hard data? Bull. Studies with a small sample size (like maybe 12 participants?), terrible controls, terrible placebo, terrible blinding procedure? Most likely bull; it’s at the very least a very shitty study. Too many words that don’t really make any sense? Bull. Lots of scare quotes and ALL CAPS and whatnot? Probably bull, but you might want to check. Something from NaturalNews, InfoWars, Free Republic? Bull, and often times extremely, extremely stupid. And/or funny, if you think about it.

I think you get the idea.

Look for facts, Google whatever you need to know, but beware of misinformation.

And that’s it for part 1! Stay tuned for part 2 (which I’ll post when I have the time).