Reason Freely

If she weighs the same as a duck, she’s made of wood?

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 18, 2010

And therefore…



News: Secular Coalition of America meets Obama Staff

Posted in news by reasonfreely on March 1, 2010

Quick news notes on Freethinkers in the White House last week:

The Secular Coalition of America — a mix of humanists (including a secular Jewish organization) and atheists (including the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) — met with senior White House staff to discuss three topics:  Child medical neglect, military proselytizing, and faith-based initiatives.

Story at USA Today


MMR Conspiracy Theorists: The Power of Fear

Posted in news by reasonfreely on February 4, 2010

Yesterday, The Lancet posted the following retraction of the MMR vaccine/autism article that started the whole vaccine/autism kerfluffle.

Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al. are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were “consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record. [click for original source]

I don’t want to go into the history of the “controversy” (see wikipedia for that) but I’ll summarize it in brief:  Dr. Andrew Wakefield (et al.), in 1998, wrote a paper in The Lancet whereby he claimed (and showed evidence supporting this claim, mind you) that the mercury-based preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine caused a bowel problem he called “autistic enterocolitis” which then quickly led to autism in these twelve children.  Panic ensued.

In 2004, ten of the paper’s co-authors retracted their support for Wakefield’s conclusions, and between 1998 and 2004, researchers spent millions on epidemiological studies of the vaccine and autism finding no evidence, but the damage was done.  The two things I will discuss here are 1) speculation on why this misinformed theory was so appealing to young mothers, and 2) why people still believe it despite a staggering amount of evidence to the contrary, including a full retraction.


UK Homeopathy Protest

Posted in news by reasonfreely on February 2, 2010

A while ago, I wrote a rambling post on my private livejournal (before I started this blog) about natural medicines and how they are handled poorly and need more regulation.  Ephedra (“Mormon Tea”) was my main gripe:  Look at this, a natural medicine that really works, and because it wasn’t regulated, it got out of control and people died.  So now it’s banned. It serves as evidence that the natural medicine industry is a disorganized, unscientific pile of scam artists and loonies.

Over the weekend, we had some hilarious news from those plucky skeptics in the UK, a country that on dit seems to be having a resurgence of free thought.  The topic?  Homeopathic medicine.  Now this is different from “natural medicine” in that homeopathic medicine is, mgs per ml, a whole lot crazier.  But easy targets make good television (and blogging!).

Story at The Daily MailStory on SalonDawkins