I Walk the Talk

July 22, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I went in for my annual medical appointment. We went through the whole routine, and I showed my family doctor my very scratched up arm from pruning the porch-eating rose. I asked if I could get the Tdap since I am a gardener. He looked at my chart, saw I got the vaccine in 2005 and said I was good for another four years.


Then I went on a little trip: Read the rest of this entry »

Please visit Elyse at Skepchick

November 21, 2010

Read what she wrote today. She is one of the contributors to the Parenting Within Reason podcast. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Crislip on Homeopathic Vaccines

November 5, 2010

Mark Crislip takes on Homeopathic Vaccines today on Science Based Medicine:

The first ‘law’ behind vaccines and homeopathy is the same: like cures like. Vaccines are the only medical validation of the first  ‘law’ of homeopathy of which I am aware.  It is the second ‘law’ of homeopathy where medicine, and reality, part company with homeopathy, the ‘law’ of dilutions.  Where vaccines are given with a well characterized concentration of antigen, homeopathic nostrums are often diluted long past the point where anything remains behind.  If a homeopathic nostrum is  20X, then there is no longer even a molecule of the original substance in the mixture.   Which can be a good thing, since homeopaths  use nosodes as their vehicle for imaginary vaccination.

A  nosode “is a homeopathic remedy prepared from a pathological specimen. The specimen is taken from a diseased animal or person and may consist of saliva, pus, urine, blood, or diseased tissue.”

And people complain about the alleged toxins in real vaccines.

If only I could post this for everyone’s information on my fun LA based online mom support group.  But I can’t,  because a thread regarding homeopathic vaccinations was shut down by the moderator after it became too heated.  So I am reluctant to post a link to Mark Crislip’s article and bring more angry emails upon myself.

Actually, there were more grateful emails than angry ones.  Several readers on that board wrote to me to say basically, “Thank you for speaking up.  I am afraid to say anything.”

A few months back, a homeopath posted on our board about the possibility of using homeopathic vaccinations, and she offered them as an alternative to parents frightened of vaccines.  I usually don’t say much on the board about alternative medicine.  I prefer to keep my posts limited to finding free baby stuff, getting rid of unwanted baby stuff, kvetching about lack of sleep, and offering support to new breastfeeding moms.  Why get into a tangle with people who are hawking acupuncture or amber teething necklaces?  I don’t see that it would change anyone’s mind, and I already had a forum (Rational Moms, which has now merged with this blog) where I could get on a soap box.

But I had to say something about homeopathic vaccinations.  What would be on my conscience if I didn’t?  A mom gets fooled into giving her kid one of those and then the kid gets measles encephalitis?  So I spoke up.  And there was a huge response, most people on my side, and some really, really not on my side.  I got a few angry emails, more supportive ones, and then finally, the moderator of the blog said enough already and asked us all not to post anymore.

I kept my tone neutral the whole time, but I think what got people’s nipples in a twist (sorry, but you can use that expression if you’re talking about a breast feeding support group) was that I called into question the entire practice of homeopathy.  I didn’t just say the vaccinations were a bad idea, I said look, homeopathy is nonsense, and here are some links for you to read.  And people didn’t like that at all.  I got one email from a woman who said, “Are you crazy?” And then she went on to use a bunch of logical fallacies, like telling me that a lot of people use homeopathy, so it must be valid, and there are even homeopathic hospitals, so who was I to say it didn’t work?

The moderator, when she shut this thread down, gave some general guidelines for discussing controversial topics, and actually I’ve found them quite useful.  As I’ve gotten a little better, over time, at speaking up about skeptical topics, I’ve tried to implement that moderator’s advice, and I’ve come up with a few rules of my own, which I elaborated upon here.  I’ve gone from unfriending people on Facebook to being able to speak civilly and then walk away from a discussion not angry.  Progress!

I guess for some people, questioning alternative medicine in general is just too much.  What I maybe should have stuck with were links to studies that show that these homeopathic vaccinations are inneffective.  And then maybe a little, watered down statement about how “to the best of my understanding” homeopathy in general is a total waste of time and money.  I don’t know.

Here are the studies Mark Crislip found:

Are there any studies or case reports  to support the use of nosodes? As best I can discover there are two clinical trials in animals of nosodes: one in calves that did not show benefit and one in mice that did, and both are in journals too obscure for my library to have subscriptions. There are two cases of fatal polio after receiving homeopathic vaccinations. That is it in Pubmed.  Not a convincing literature for effectiveness.

The proof offered by this homeopath on my mom board was (get ready to be shocked) all self published by some dude, probably writing from his basement.  So all I really had to do was point out the questionable nature of that evidence, which of course, I did.  But changing people’s minds about homeopathy in general?  Maybe too much for the board. 

My point in posting an article like this here is never really to break news.  Homeopathic vaccinations don’t work?  Not really news.  It’s more to contemplate for myself about how to talk to other parents without provoking rage, if that is possible.  How do I live as a person who can’t keep her mouth shut but really hates conflict?  I’m just trying to get better at that, somehow.

My Pertussis Paranoia

November 4, 2010

Once upon a time I was a professional who went to work every day with a jacket and a little floppy tie. I did battle with second order differential equations, multiple computers with various quirks (like the VAX), varying data for parameter studies and working in a large bullpen room full of engineers like myself. That was back when I was intelligent, before I had kids. Little did I know what I was to expect. Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast TWIPS: Episode 4 (Amanda Metskas)

March 25, 2010

This Week in Parenting Science for Episode Four of Podcast Beyond Belief:

Amanda Metskas was our guest this week. She’s the co-author of Raising Free-thinkers and the director for Camp Quest, a summer camp focusing on freethought. You can read my original interview here.

This week, we talked about…

Baby With the Bathwater

August 29, 2009

I recently found out that a friend of mine is entangled in the vaccine-autism controversy. We discovered, after a long talk, that we approach the issue from opposite perspectives and different conclusions. While I don’t want to list the details of our conversation, or his circumstances, I do want to explore a dilemma that I encountered while we were debating at the bar.

We noticed that the bar we frequent is hosting a benefit for autism, which prompted our discussion on the topic. After we shared our interest in the benefit to our waitress, she called on the general manager to visit our table. He told us that the money is going to multiple charities representing all sides of the autism community, including Jenny McCarthy’s organization Generation Rescue. He also admitted that he is inviting Jenny to come speak at the rally. The man is very ambitious, going so far as to purchase a half million dollar custom motorcycle from Orange County Choppers to sell at the silent auction.

Here’s my dilemma: at what point does my opposition to the antivaccine tactics of Jenny McCarthy and Generation Rescue cloud my judgment on whether to participate in this charitable event? Should I ignore the fact that Generation Rescue will be one of many beneficiaries of the money, or should I be so bothered by their inclusion that I speak out against the entire event?

On the same note, but different topic. Have any of you considered putting your children in a private religious school, despite your lack of faith? What if your only other choice was a public school known for gang violence and poor grades? What if the private religious school was far better, but it was also extremely expensive? Would paying for religious education make the decision that much harder?

If you haven’t guessed. I may have to deal with the last question some day. The topic has been on my mind lately, as I’ve been deciding where to send Sasha to pre-school.


Vaccine Safety – Spread the Word!

April 24, 2009

Wow.  The last few days have been intense for my blog.  I’m amazed at the amount of traffic that Jim Carrey is generating for his misguided efforts at Huffington Post.  Thank you so much for coming here and offering your comments.  They’ve been very sincere and nice, for the most part, and I really appreciate that.

Now that I have everyone’s attention, I’d like to help spread the word about vaccine safety.

I’m just a blogging at-home dad and an enthusiastic advocate for science. If your friends and family are worried about vaccines, you will probably want to send them to an expert on the subject. It would be hypocritical of me to challenge Jim Carrey’s information without offering a science-based resource as an option for more reliable information.  Jim, if you’re listening, you and Jenny might try visiting this page too.

A few months ago, I was selected to take part in a teleconference interview with Dr. Ari Brown, author of the helpful parenting guide Baby 411.  Dr. Brown is a well-informed pediatrician from Texas, and she is a tireless advocate for vaccines.  I personally challenged her to step up and speak out against the antivaccine crusade, and she has since answered my call to arms with the best weapon of all – science-based information.

People don’t trust Dr. Paul Offit, even though you would be hard pressed to find someone more qualified on the subject of vaccines. We need another voice, someone who is not a celebrity (sorry Amanda Peet) and somebody who passes the “conflict of interest” test.  Dr. Ari Brown is it!

Click the pic for Dr. Brown's vaccine info!

Click the pic for Dr. Brown's vaccine info!

She’s tried to speak out against the antivaccine movement before, but she’s been shut down by Oprah and other media outlets.  They only seem to be interested in the controversy, not the facts.  I asked her point blank if she was paid, or was ever previously paid, by any pharmaceutical companies, and she assured me that she hadn’t and does not intend to be paid by “big pharma”. Conspiracy theorists be damned!

So, if you want a trustworthy resource to pass along to your friends and relatives who are paranoid about vaccines, you should send them to Dr. Ari Brown’s vaccine page.  She addresses every single antivaccine canard, and she does so with professionalism and knowledge.

Somebody in the comments asked me to point people in the direction of pro-vaccine facts.  I hope I have done this request justice.

Is there a resource that you recommend?  One post or one web page with all the answers?  Please help spread the word and let us know in the comments.  And forward Dr. Ari Brown’s vaccine page to new parents.  Get the word out!  Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy may be celebrities, but their fame will never suppress the truth!

*UPDATE* Are your friends and family brainwashed with antivaccine nonsense?  Send them to AntiAntivax for some reprogramming.

Jim Carrey Goes Solo Against Vaccines

April 22, 2009


Jim Carrey wrote an article for the Huffington Post about vaccines.  He’s an actor known for his parts in Dumb and Dumber and Cable Guy. I’m sure he’s also a really nice guy.  Here are my answers to some of his comments.  Feel free to add more in my own comments section.

a ruling against causation in three cases out of more than 5000 hardly proves that other children won’t be adversely affected by the MMR, let alone that all vaccines are safe.

The special masters in the vaccine court went over a lot of evidence from both sides of the argument and decided that there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism.  The families who signed up to be a part of the omnibus knew that the three test cases represented everybody.  Jim Carrey seems to suggest that this isn’t fair, but how would he suggest the courts fairly judge thousands of cases with an untrue major premise (vaccines cause autism). Carrey is really careful about his wording, but his argument dances around having to admit that the special court executed his sacred cow.  He struggles with grasping at a new goal post to widen – completely safe vaccines and less of them.

If we are to believe that the ruling of the ‘vaccine court’ in these cases mean that all vaccines are safe, then we must also consider the rulings of that same court in the Hannah Polling and Bailey Banks cases, which ruled vaccines were the cause of autism and therefore assume that all vaccines are unsafe.

The ruling of the vaccine court was not that “all vaccines are safe” nor was it meant to be.  It was that they don’t cause autism.  Hannah Poling and Bailey Banks had other conditions that manifested some features of autism.  These are children with unique, rare conditions who shouldn’t be used as ‘hasty generalizations’ to prop up Jim Carrey’s crusade against vaccines.

cannot be dissuaded by a show of sympathy and a friendly invitation to look for the ‘real’ cause of autism anywhere but within the lucrative vaccine program.

Carrey suggests that there have not been official investigations into the hypothesis that vaccines cause autism.  He is wrong.  The issue has been studied and found to be untrue.  If Carrey would like to continue studying the issue on his own dime because of his distrust of pharmaceutical companies, he is welcome to fund those studies.  As it stands now, he won’t trust anyone but himself and those who believe in his pet sacred cow.

With vaccines being the fastest growing division of the pharmaceutical industry, isn’t it possible that profits may play a part in the decision-making?

This is coming from a man who makes millions of dollars per movie.  It’s been suggested that TV and film causes autism too.  Should we not question his motives for continuing to make movies when there is speculation that they cause autism?

Paul Offit, the vaccine advocate and profiteer, who helped invent a Rotavirus vaccine is said to have paved the way for his own multi-million dollar windfall while serving on the very council that eventually voted his Rotavirus vaccine onto our children’s schedule.

He wrote a book called ‘Autism’s False Prophets’, and all the profits went to autism research.  Some “profiteer” he is!  I wonder whether Jim Carrey has donated all his profits from a movie to autism research.

I’ve also heard it said that no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism has ever been found.

He makes a good point here. No credible evidence of a link between vaccines and autism has ever been found.

These forward thinking vets also decided to remove thimerosal from animal vaccines in 1992, and yet this substance, which is 49% mercury, is still in human vaccines.

He fails to mention that this substance is no longer in mandatory child vaccines because it was removed seven years ago with no reduction in autism.

While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may help preserve and enhance vaccines, they can be toxic as well.

Jim Carrey is not a chemist. Maybe he doesn’t know that anti-freeze is not a vaccine ingredient. He probably doesn’t understand that ethylmercury is not the same as methylmercury. He doesn’t mention that aluminum is found in far higher quantities in breast milk and formula.

We don’t know enough to announce that all vaccines are safe!

Well, nearly our entire population is vaccinated. People die from accidents even when wearing seat belts. Should we say they are unsafe too?

we need more independent vaccine research not done by the drug companies selling the vaccines or by organizations under their influence. Studies that cannot be internally suppressed.

Perhaps we should, but then again, independent studies have not been the best example of untainted perfection (Geier & Geier, Wakefield), so perhaps we should be skeptical of making sweeping claims of conspiracy when responding to evidence that doesn’t fit your unwavering belief in a vaccine-autism connection.

*UPDATE* – Go to LBRB autism blog for more great arguments against Jim Carrey.

**UPDATE** – Go HERE for accurate vaccine information!

Jenny McCarthy vs. Time Magazine

April 1, 2009

Jenny has a new book out about autism, and she is blitzing the media with her typical antivaccine propaganda. She was on Good Morning America this morning and Diane Sawyer just gave her a pass on the vaccine stuff and skipped to the “curing autism” stuff. It’s unbelievable what pussies the mainstream media is when it comes to calling Jenny McCarthy out on her shit.

Time Magazine’s science editor took Jenny McCarthy to task for her assertions about vaccines and autism. Of course, if you read the entire interview, you can see that he practically gives her a Free Pass on the extraordinary claim that she can “cure” autism. Whatever. Check out his hard hitting questions below, and my analysis of her answers…

Your book points out that autism rates between 1983 and 2008 have climbed in lockstep with vaccination rates, yet childhood obesity, diabetes and even cell-phone use have soared since then, too. Why do you find causation in one and not the others? I’m not saying it’s only the vaccines. But children are given so many shots from the moment they’re born. They get multiple injections all at once, and if they fall behind, doctors put them on a catch-up schedule. Babies get the hepatitis B vaccine immediately after they’re born and the only way for a newborn to contract that disease is if the mother is a carrier. Why not just screen the mother? Evan was handed to me pre-vaccinated with a Band-Aid on his foot.

She is totally dodging the question by claiming that it’s a straw man, but then following it up with an argument from incredulity and an appeal to emotion.  Jenny is moving the goalposts to avoid admitting the truth: her hypothesis that vaccines cause autism is wrong (or, at least, an assumption based on a hunch).

Most people who blame autism on vaccines point to the mercury in the shots, yet mercury has been removed from most vaccines and autism rates continue to climb. We don’t believe it’s only the mercury. Aluminum and other toxins also play a role. The viruses in the vaccines themselves can be causing it, too.

Yet, Jenny chooses to go after vaccines instead of breast milk and formula, which also contain aluminum in much higher quantities.  She is admitting that she has no clue.  Maybe it’s the non-existent mercury. Maybe it’s aluminum.  Maybe it’s the viruses.  And how can we have vaccines without the viruses?  She’s asking for scientists to clear an impossible hurdle.

Your collaborator recommends that parents accept only the haemophilus influenzae type B (HIB) and tetanus vaccine for newborns and then think about the rest. Not polio? What about the polio clusters in unvaccinated communities like the Amish in the U.S.? What about the 2004 outbreak that swept across Africa and Southeast Asia after a single province in northern Nigeria banned vaccines? I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.

Whoah. Somebody just got on the crazy train. She would gladly bring back deadly diseases if it furthered her cause of “greening” vaccines even though she has yet to actually point to one legitimate scientific study that would prove her point, or legitimize her claim.

And yet in many cases, vaccines have effectively eliminated diseases. Measles is among the top five killers in the world of children under 5 years old, yet it kills virtually no one in the U.S. thanks to vaccines. People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines. Please understand that we are not an antivaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f___ing measles.

She offers a false dilemma fallacy here. Vaccines don’t cause autism, but she insists that choosing to vaccinate is equivalent to deciding to put your children at risk of autism. To her, “vaccines cause autism” is a fact when really it’s a false premise with evidence weighing heavily against it.

Many scientists believe we’re simply diagnosing autism differently now – both overdiagnosing it in kids who don’t have it and spotting it better in kids who do. That makes it look like the condition is on the rise when it’s not. All you have to do is find a schoolteacher or principal and ask them that question. They would say they’ve never seen so much ADHD, autism, OCD as in the past. I think we’re overdiagnosing it by maybe 1%. Now you look around and there are five shadows – kids with disabilities – in every class.

And we end with a hasty generalization. She is just positive that if you took a random school teacher or principal that they would agree with her, and yet this is not a fact, but a quickly composed conclusion based on an assumption. She thinks that overdiagnosing is maybe 1%, but she is an actress with no authority on that subject. Who is she trying to convince?