Reason Freely

Wakefield MMR Study is Fraud

Posted in news by reasonfreely on January 7, 2011

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) retracted the Wakefield study and called it a fraud.  Finally!

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study — and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.”


The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

Anderson Cooper 360


Wackjob Terry Jones

Posted in news by reasonfreely on September 13, 2010

Most of the United States, from rightys to leftys, believe that Pastor Terry Jones is a wackjob extremist moron.  He was planning to burn a stack of Korans at the end of Ramadan on 9/11 to tell the “Islamofascists” that we “aren’t going to take it anymore” (quoting Jones, not Rollins).

Jones is clearly outside the mainstream.  His views don’t represent basically anyone who lives in the USA, and I applaud mainstream Christianity for publicly and emphatically distancing themselves from this loon.  But…

…He kinda made a point.  Unintentionally.

Terrorists — and here I refer to Jones as a terrorist, so keep that in mind — do what they do to provoke overreactions from their enemies and to provoke violence on both sides.  Now, Terry Jones didn’t plan to do anything illegal in the US, but what he did is a very serious crime in some of the countries he was aiming at infuriating.  So when Jones plotted his burning, he was engaging in a form of terrorism.  It certainly horrified Muslims, and that’s the point he made.  And it provoked violence.  Specifically, it got the following reactions:

AfghanistanMass protests, blocked roads, clashes with security forces, deaths and injuries, attack on a NATO base, arson.

Pakistan: Pakistani Christians burned an effigy of Jones; as did Muslims; lawyers are burning Amrican flags in the streets.

IranThreat of “a crushing response by Muslims across the world.” And conspiracy theories by President Ahmadinejad: “[The proposed burning is a] Zionist plot that is against the teachings of all divine prophets. Zionists and their supporters are on their way to collapse and dissolution and such last-ditch actions will not save them, but multiply the pace of their fall and annihilation.” And the Ayatollahs put out a hit on anyone who burns a Koran.


Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

Posted in news by reasonfreely on July 6, 2010

If you’ve read a lot of freethinker or atheist blogs, you probably expect me to celebrate a victory over Christians or something in reviewing CLS v. Martinez.  But I’m not.  I’m going to celebrate a small detail in the ruling that moves the nation (via the court) toward more rational thinking on gay rights.

The Wikipedia link describes it without too much legalese.

Click to see the full court opinion on this case.

CLS argued that they can make rules about conduct (“engage in unrepentant homosexual behavior” in this case) even though Hastings University’s rules prohibit making rules biased against specific groups (e.g. homosexuals).  The cour “declined to distinguish between status and conduct” — meaning you’re gay if you’re gay.  For as long as I can remember, the religious right have been pushing this false idea that homosexuality is a choice, just like smoking or something.  But the supreme court wasn’t having any of that BS.  A court of educated justices rejected that faulty logic, rather resoundingly.

What impresses me the most is the idea that groups can spread lies (e.g. homosexuality is a lifestyle/behavioral choice) all they want; but the supreme court, reasoning freely, won’t give that kind of deception any credibility.

Follow-Up: 20-something “nones” getting married by friends

Posted in discussion seed, news by reasonfreely on June 29, 2010

Remember the article about college students being more nonreligious this year?  Well other 20-somethings are eschewing the clergy in their own way.  Just like the college kids are getting more secular, weddings are starting to eschew traditional authority:

Here at Reason Freely, we love breaking from tradition and traditional authority.  That’s what it’s all about here.  So I love hearing stories like this.  I’m not cheering the demise of the ministry’s role in marriages so much as cheering the increasing freedom within which people are choosing their officiants.

I think religious officiants and settings do a great job of adding a sense of ancient austerity to a ceremony, but I like the idea of choosing a personal friend or family member to officiate, as well.  Instead of choosing from a list of approved religious passages, the friend can personalize the ceremony a lot better, based on shared experiences and intimate knowledge of the couple.

Let’s discuss factors that contribute to these numbers.  Here are my first-blush thoughts:

– There are more nonbelievers.  Recall from a previous post, 21.9% of college freshmen are “nones.”  And ARIS says 16.1% of the US are nones.  1/7 is 14.3%, so some of the nones are still getting married with pastoral officiants:  In some cases, nones are marrying people of faith, and acquiescing to a religious marriage out of respect (myself, for instance).

– Probably more licensed officiants are “nones” now.  Thank you Universal Life Church.

– Keep in mind, just because a friend is officiating doesn’t mean the couple or the officiant aren’t deeply religious.  However, it means that the couple and the friend are willing to break from traditional religious authority and custom.  That, alone, demonstrates free thought.  As I’ve said over and over again, I’m not against religion; I’m for free thought.

– There are more mixed marriages, with denomination meaning less and less and tolerant denominations (methodism, unitarianisn) growing in popularity (no source right now, sorry).  If you’re going to argue whether his or her pastor should officiate, and if you’re already marrying a heathen anyway (depending on the tolerance level of your denomination); why not do away with argument and let your best friend officiate?

– Community no longer means the people you go to church with.  Modern technology keeps you in touch with friends in ways you couldn’t before.  Now your friends are your community, even if they’re spread over a 500-mile+ diaspora.

– Weddings are getting expensive and heinously over-planned as expressions of self-identity and personal/family pecuniary might.  If your wedding becomes more of a personal expression than a religious sacrament, it makes sense to personalize the officiant, too.  Especially if you’re not as socially bound to your preacher.

Did anyone out there consider a friend for an officiant?  Anyone have a friend officiate?  If so, please comment with your reasons and thoughts.  I’d love to hear them!

Where’s the Love?

Posted in news by reasonfreely on June 2, 2010

A Catholic school fired an 8th grade math teacher for being an atheist on Facebook.  For the record, she says she’s not an atheist in reality — but she’s not sure about organized religion.  She’s a classic Doubting Thomas, and somehow I doubt this is going to inure her to faith.  Once again, the Apostolic Church proves its inflexibility, hypocrisy and lack of forgiveness.

(Plus, it shows how harmful the new Facebook privacy setting changes are.)

On one hand, it’s the school’s right to fire anyone they want especially because she signed a contract saying she had to “uphold the faith” while being a teacher.  Pre-algebra has as much to do with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as it does with George, Paul, Ringo and John, but they have the right to think God is in the quadratic formula if they want.  As a religious institution that’s funded by tuition and church tithes rather than tax money, they can freely fire atheists without breaking any discrimination laws — in fact, they could even argue first amendment protection here.   Legally and contractually, I believe the school is entitled to fire her.

But legal right isn’t the same as ethically right.


Health News Reviews

Posted in review by reasonfreely on May 27, 2010

GOOD:  Paid for by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, this site uses a standardized set of ten criteria to review medical news articles, judging them by how completely and accurately they inform the consumer.  The site is run by doctors, and the reviewers are doctors and public health professionals mixed with journalism professionals.

BAD:  To date the site has reviewed just 1,062 articles in 4 years.  That’s not even one per day.  Your chances of finding a review of a specific article on a given day are slim, especially if it’s a specialized topic or a secondary news source (e.g. blog, website, TV).

Overall, this site is great and I intend to follow it as time permits.  I’ll probably use it for future health posts.

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MMR-Autism Researcher Loses Medical License in UK

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 25, 2010

Dr. Andrew Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in Britain yesterday.  Unfortunately, in addition to martyring him to his supporters, this decision has no impact on him.  He stopped practicing medicine in 2004, and has been running an autism recovery clinic since.

Some of the crap this guy pulled is just offensive.  To quote NYT:  “taking blood samples for his study from children at his son’s birthday party” and “the costs of Dr. Wakefield’s research was paid by lawyers for parents seeking to sue vaccine makers” and “he had shown “a callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research…”  Ultimately they slapped him with 30 charges of professional misconduct.

The ban does not prevent him from continuing to do research and publish it, though at this point no professional medical journal will print his work.  Wakefield became  an alternative medicine practitioner since 2004, working in both the US and UK.  This goes to show you what value alternative medicine has — it’s the last refuge for quacks, hacks, greedy liars and cheats.

(I was recently alerted to this comic strip on the subject: )

Texas Freedom Network Liveblogging

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 21, 2010

Follow the Texas Board of Education debate and votes as they happen on TFN Insider

So far they’ve taken a preliminary vote to approve the K-8 standards.  I hope they all get voted out of office.

Just watched a video they had posted where an amendment is proposed to basically paint the UN as an attempt to undermine American sovereignty…and it passes, with only slight objection, on a large majority…

4:00pm Update:  TFN posted this video which you should all watch.  Keep tally of right wing code words and pure historical rewrites (e.g. claiming that the First Charter of Virginia is evidence that the US was founded to be a Christian Nation.  Well of course it mentions God!  The Charter was a royal decree from a monarch who claimed his authority by divine right!)

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

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 18, 2010

Climate Change Skeptics

Posted in essay, news by reasonfreely on March 9, 2010

Let me start off by saying that it is our ethical duty to question authority and, generally, I like skepticism.  I’m a skepticism pusher.  But I don’t like it when people use the label of skepticism (or science!) to promote their agenda.

Climatologists are not always going to get everything right, and both carbon activists and energy companies want us to make policy decisions based on their predictions.  This is what happens when you combine the three main ingredients of ideology and praxis in the 21st century:

Complex reality

Media sensationalism

High stakes