Archive for the ‘Medicine’ Category
Best line: “You can’t be a rational person six days a week…and on one day of the week, go to a building, and think you’re drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god.”
Maher: You know, I do love health as an issue. This is what I read about when I have time off.
Letterman: Are you interested in medical journals and that sort of thing?
Maher: Not western medicine, I think we’re being poisoned…I would love for you to investigate the possibility that your health issues might have arisen from the fact that you’re being poisoned by America.
Just to be clear here, Maher’s not talking about pollution here, he’s talking about pharmaceutical drugs. He’s a well known proponent of alternative medicine, and as Skeptico and Orac point out in the comments to PZ’s post, he denies the germ theory of disease, thinks vaccinations are poison and ineffectual, and is a proud supporter of PETA. That’s not exactly the resume one would expect from a rational, pro-science person.
It’s infuriating when a prominent rationalist like PZ approvingly cites Maher’s atheism or his takedown of the Troofers as a gain for rational thought in this country, because it’s abundantly clear that Maher himself isn’t a critical thinker. Sure some of the ends of his thought process align with the reality-based community, but the process itself is still tainted by magical thinking and outright lunacy.
Maher rightly views the evidence-free assertions of Christian supernaturalism as bullshit, yet amazingly can’t bring this skepticism to bear on non-Christian supernaturalism. This is because his views arise from mindless contrarianism, not critical examination of the evidence. He’s an atheist because everyone else is Christian, not because the evidence of a deity is lacking. Similarly, he’s an altie because most people use scientific medicine, not because he’s actually looked into the scientific validity of what he’s saying.
Since the “skeptic as mere contrarian” is a stereotype rationalists have been fighting for a while, it’s a shame that leading freethinkers continue to promulgate it by praising Bill Maher.
Watching HBO the other day I saw a promo for an upcoming documentary on PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk. The HBO website has little right now on the film, titled I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA, but the tenor of the trailer seemed to imply that the piece might be quite unflattering to Newkirk, or at least not completely sympathetic. As you can imagine, I find this quite agreeable, and am eagerly awaiting its broadcast.
The timing of this documentary couldn’t be better, as only a few weeks ago the home of a UCLA scientist was flooded by animal rights extremists (the scientist in question, Edythe London, defends her animal research here). Apparently the extremists of the Animal Liberation Front (the IRA to PETA’s Sinn Fein) planned on burning her house down but demurred in the face of the Southern California wildfires. How sweet.
Mark Hoofnagle at Denialism blog does a thorough review of the situation, noting again how PETA and its ilk continue to lie about the utility of animals in medical research. I’d like to take a quick look at a favorite accusation of the animal rights crew, namely that scientists like Dr. London and those that support them are speciesist. To which I say: but of course.
Speciesism is not like racism and sexism, no matter what Pamela Anderson tells you. The latter two prejudices are without any empirical basis, in fact such beliefs fly in the face of all we know about differences in skin color and gender. Additionally, racism and sexism claim differences where there are none, relying on only bias to posit disparities in intelligence, demeanor, and ability that science doesn’t confirm (Andrew Sullivan’s defense of bad science notwithstanding).
Conversely, speciesism is based off an undisputed biological fact: humans and animals are of a different class of organisms. I don’t need to hearken to Genesis to know that our species is set apart from all others on this planet. We’re the only ones who could even possibly debate this question, for fuck’s sake. Pure and simple, to advocate species equality is to devalue human life to a point where the life of a puppy is of equal value to that of an infant. Call me speciesist or what have you, but such a stance is morally abhorrent.
Sciencebloggers Orac and Marc Chu-Carroll tag team to produce the most authoritative takedown of the “abortion causes breast cancer” canard that I’ve yet seen. Short story: the study’s author simply dropped data that didn’t fit with his desired outcome, and he apparently can’t standard deviate his way out of a paper bag.
Also interesting is that this research comes from the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, whose work I’ve seen cited by anti-vaccinationists of both the conservative and liberal variety. I bet this guy gets published there all the time.