- more about cheating at Caltech
- omega-3 supplementation reduces acne. Impressive results. Will dermatologists stop saying food doesn’t cause acne?
- Is it possible that vaccines are not perfect?. More about vaccines.
- Excerpt of The Question of Separatism by Jane Jacobs. Interesting critique.
- Why did non-polio paralysis increase from 2,000 cases to 60,000 cases? See Minute 6 of this video.
25 Replies to “Assorted Links”
I’m puzzled by the anti-vaccine links here. In the first, your link text is “Is it possible that vaccines are not perfect?” which is not the topic of the article. Rather, the article criticizes the press for being too hard on anti-vaccine views. This is itself a pretty laughable assertion, but there’s a more important deception embedded in both the link text and the article. No one actually claims that vaccines are perfect. Not immunologists, not doctors, not vaccine makers, not the CDC, not anyone.
The second article, blandly linked with the benign sounding “More about vaccines,” is deeply dishonest, engaging in a classic bit of misdirection by talking about death rates outside the context of the greater morbidity of vaccine-preventable diseases. It has lots of pretty graphs, but the argument doesn’t pass the smell test, particularly if you’re familiar with the authors and the axes they’re grinding.
I get the sense that you’re sympathetic to the anti-vaccination argument. A comment box isn’t an adequate forum to discuss the many problems with those arguments. But as a regular reader I ask this of you: Apply the same standard of skepticism to articles like these as you do to everything else. Learn something about the history of the argument before posting such obviously biased material.
Thanks for listening.
Seth: By and large anti-vaccine arguments are poor and I am unsympathetic. What is true, however, in spades, is that experts with power over our health — in charge of vaccination programs, for example — are much less competent than they say they are or we are told by journalists. If you’ve read much of this blog — and there is no reason you should have — you will know that I think the basic idea behind vaccines is correct. In practice, however, there are many difficulties that the public is never told. You may be unaware of them. For example, do you know why the Secretary of Health resigned in 1955?
nothing going on at caltech that oral exams couldn’t fix.
I am with Jason on this one. I was disappointed to see in this blog links that amount to nothing more than the usual dead horses getting another beating.
I assumed it was swine flu and GBS, but I was off by about 20 years. (Embarrassing for an MPH holder.)
Still, I’d offer two counterpoints. The first is that the Cutter Incident isn’t an example of the failure of vaccine theory or the safety and efficacy of vaccines categorically. It’s an example of industrial failure.
The second is that to say that “the public was never told” is a little silly. It was a major scandal that led to many law suits and contributed to the resignation of a cabinet secretary.
I think perhaps you paint “experts” with too broad a brush. In public health prevention at least, experts typically go to great lengths to clarify the limits of the evidence base and the climate of uncertainty under which many of their decisions have to be made. In many ways, this is exactly why anti-vaccine proponents have so little trouble getting coverage in the media and capturing the public’s attention. Unlike the cautious experts, they present their views with an almost fundamentalist zeal.
Seth: That an MPH holder didn’t know about this case illustrates my broad point that what we are told is biassed in a pro-vaccine direction. Surely you knew the pro-vaccine side of the history. Yes, “never” is a little too strong.
“I think perhaps you paint “experts” with too broad a brush. In public health prevention at least, experts typically go to great lengths to clarify the limits of the evidence base and the climate of uncertainty under which many of their decisions have to be made. In many ways, this is exactly why anti-vaccine proponents have so little trouble getting coverage in the media and capturing the public’s attention. Unlike the cautious experts, they present their views with an almost fundamentalist zeal.”
I’m not sure who these “cautious experts” are, could you give examples?
What you say does not describe the public health experts I hear. For example, I have never heard Robert Lustig “go to great lengths to clarify the limits of [his] evidence base.” Quite the opposite: He presents his views with “almost fundamentalist zeal”. Nor have I heard caution from the public health experts who claim that obesity is due to not enough exercise. If you mean epidemiologists like Walter Willett, I have never heard him point out how consistently wrong his predictions have been (eight out of eight?) when tested in clinical trials.
Until more scientists rediscover and start practicing the scientific method, and other time proven scientific techniques (e.g. Koch’s Postulates), and understand the difference between the presence of antibodies to a virus and the presence of the virus itself, new vaccines and vaccinations will remain suspect (as they should).
The HPV “vaccine” is but one example. First, HPV doesn’t cause cervical cancer, so there is no possible way a “vaccination” (Gardasil) against cervical cancer can work. Having HPV antibodies is not the same thing as having an active HPV infection. (They tried to pin this on herpes simplex virus first!)
Cervical cancer occurs in older women, and is rarely fatal. HPV warts (papillomas = warts) usually clear within days of infection, thanks to our immune systems. ~ 50% of the American adult population has been infected with HPV. Yet less than 1% ever develop cancer in their lifetime. Over 1/3 of women with cervical cancer have never been infected with HPV. Plus, the cancer is never subject to antiviral immunity, because no viral proteins are ever expressed in cervical cancer.
Vaccinations can save lives. They can also take them, along with causing unbelievable suffering and harm. In my opinion, letting your teenaged daughter, for example, be “vaccinated” for a virus that doesn’t cause anything but genital warts, and certainly not cervical cancer, is borderline criminal.
Yep, that’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.
Seth: This reminds me of a UC Berkeley faculty member, in the biology department, who was one of the founders of molecular biology. He knew more about viruses than almost anyone. He did not allow his children to be vaccinated.
“This reminds me of a UC Berkeley faculty member”
That would probably be Peter Duesberg, and I agree with you, he knows more about viruses (and probably cancer, too) than almost anyone. Unfortunately, he’s in the minority. The establishment has been successful in shutting his ideas down, to the detriment of millions of lives. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win the Nobel Prize one day, but it’ll probably have to be posthumously.
Seth: No, it wasn’t Duesberg. The person I’m thinking of is a little older than Duesberg. I forget his name.
Seth: yeah, probably.
Seth, I completely agree regarding “public health experts” (as someone with a PhD in a public health field, myself). In particular, Walter Willett is a complete hack, his nutritional epi group at Harvard spews out bs result after bs result, each of which manages to garner huge media attention. Utter garbage.
Sorry, I can’t let Joe’s comment go unaddressed. The evidence is extremely strong: virtually all cervical cancer (90% +) results from certain strains of HPV. HPV is also linked to several oral, anal, and penile cancers.
Again, this kind of propaganda relies on misdirection. Case in point: Joe’s note that cervical cancer occurs mainly in older women, and that this is a reason not to vaccinate young women against high-risk strains of HPV. The progression from HPV to cervical cancer is a long one, typically occurring over 10-20 years, and sometimes longer. Of all HPV infections, only a tiny number can result in cancer. Of the women infected with those strains, only a tiny number will develop pre-cancerous cells. Of those women, only a tiny number will go on to develop cervical cancer.
The older women who have cervical cancer today overwhelmingly have it because they were infected with certain strains of HPV when they were young women.
Joe’s free to believe what he wants. But it doesn’t make it true.
“The evidence is extremely strong: virtually all cervical cancer (90% +) results from certain strains of HPV.”
I’d say the association is extremely strong. Evidence of causation: not so strong. Until this particular theory (“virtually all cervical cancer (90% +) results from certain strains of HPV”) is used to reduce cervical cancer — and such evidence is a long way off — I would not say the evidence is strong.
To get to your broader point, it seems like a stretch to suggest that the lack of broad public awareness of a vaccine-related industrial failure from nearly 60 years ago is strong evidence of pro-vaccine bias.
But you’re right that the information most people receive is pro-vaccination. But isn’t it possible that this is because from a scientific and medical perspective, the anti-vaccine perspective is inherently weak? How else to explain that most anti-vaccine arguments rely on a combination of misdirection and outright falsehoods?
Anti-vaccination views are as old as vaccination, and the political and economic arguments are very big. The scientific arguments are very small, because in most instances, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.
Seth: I didn’t say it was “strong evidence”. Just evidence.
What I am doing, in a broad way, is saying:
“Here is information that opened my mind. I didn’t know about it. Maybe you would like to know about it also.”
In other words, I like to learn about complexities, facts that show things are not so simple. I assume readers of this blog are the same as me. You are simply saying, without any new facts, that things are so simple (“in most cases, the benefits [of vaccines] greatly outweigh the risks”). I fail to see the contribution.
What about my question: Who are some of these “cautious experts” you seem to believe are common? Here I am asking for new facts — facts that might show my simple view of public health experts (they usually overstate their case) is wrong.
Jason, thanks for your reply, but I don’t appreciate the “propaganda” nor the “misdirection” comments. Your “facts” are wrong. Viruses don’t cause cancer. Period. And there’s ZERO scientific evidence that they do.
Now, if you still think that you’re preventing your teenaged daughter from getting cervical cancer, by “vaccinating” her against a virus that couldn’t possibly cause any kind of cancer, go right ahead. But no teenager of mine will ever be sacrificed on the altar of pseudoscience.
Seth: “Viruses don’t cause cancer”? Check out Peyton Rous.
Sorry, Seth, for not being more precise. Rous is a retrovirus (RNA), and a freak laboratory mutation.
And speaking of Duesberg, Rubin, and Temin…here’s what they have to say about Rous:
For anyone who wishes to know more about viruses, retroviruses, cancer, and especially all the politics in science, I couldn’t recommend this book more highly.
Seth: I think you’re too sure that viruses don’t cause cancer. There is a very strong association between HPV and cervical cancer. The conventional explanation (it reflects causality) might be right. I don’t think anyone has proven it is wrong.
There was a lot of press recently about the HPV vaccine guarding against cancer.
For example: http://www.webmd.com/cancer/cervical-cancer/news/20140304/study-adds-to-evidence-that-hpv-vaccine-helps-guard-against-cervical-cancer
Except they did not show less cancer in women, they showed a reduction in “abnormalities”. They then go on to say “the vaccine has a significant impact on the health of women”, but has it? Depending on the abnormalities prevented, there might have been no symptoms, no negative impact to health, and no treatment needed. I’m also curious if anyone knows if these abnormalities sometimes spontaneously resolve. What percentage of them will progress to cervical cancer? These are important things to know in order to judge the real impact on the health of women.
Seth: I agree. There is a big difference between what is claimed (less cancer) and what was measured (less abnormalities).
“I’d say the association is extremely strong. Evidence of causation: not so strong. Until this particular theory (“virtually all cervical cancer (90% +) results from certain strains of HPV”) is used to reduce cervical cancer — and such evidence is a long way off — I would not say the evidence is strong.”
The reason the association is so strong is because of the now explosion in testing for ANTIBODIES to HPV. HPV is essentially a ubiquitous virus, i.e., most of us have antibodies to it. Just like EBV, HSV, etc. So the “association” is going to be strong.
But as we should all know, antibodies don’t cause diseases. They are merely a sign that our immune system is doing, or has done, it’s job.
Koch’s Postulates were designed to test for causality, not association. Which is why the “virus hunters” (by ignoring Koch’s Postulates) get away today with blaming so many diseases on relatively harmless viruses. All the better to sell more vaccines and drugs!
“I think you’re too sure that viruses don’t cause cancer.”
I try never to be too sure of anything, Seth. I try my best to go where the facts, the science, and common sense, take me. And that’s where it’s taken me.
“Until this particular theory (“virtually all cervical cancer (90% +) results from certain strains of HPV”) is used to reduce cervical cancer — and such evidence is a long way off — I would not say the evidence is strong.”
That’s precisely my point. I would never endanger the health of a teenager (all vaccinations have consequences), for example, until it’s proven that there is a reduction of cervical cancer in those who are “vaccinated” for HPV. (And even then, I’d want to know by how much). Of course, that’s why the “virus hunters” love “slow” viruses so much (tip:there are no slow viruses).
They’ll probably be long gone by the time the evidence is in. How convenient.
Note: Statin drugs, for example, reduce cholesterol. But do they actually prolong life? Most studies say no. Statins come with serious, even fatal, side effects.
Whatever happened to: “First, do no harm”?
Seth: You seem to misunderstand what an association is. It is a correlation. Start with two groups of women: one has cervical cancer, the other doesn’t. HPV 70 times more common in the first group than the second. Curiously Peter Duesberg had difficulty understanding this, too.
Could you please point out the precise comment I made that caused you to believe that I don’t understand that association means correlation?
And also, please, point out what Duesberg has ever said that caused you to believe that he doesn’t understand it either.
And in what group is HPV 70 times more common than in another group? What are you trying to say here?
Note: Firemen are almost 100% correlated/associated with building fires. Did the firemen cause the fires? Of course not. Which is why correlation alone doesn’t PROVE anything. In fact, it can be downright misleading. And why Koch’s Postulates is the gold standard for causation.
Here is the comment that suggested you don’t understand what association means:
I forget Duesberg’s exact comment. It was something like “Everyone who eats tomato soup is going to die. Does that mean eating tomato soup causes death?” He seemed to think that “everyone who eats tomato soup is going to die” = association between tomato soup and death. There is no association between eating tomato soup and death. People who eat tomato soup are no more or less likely to die than people who don’t eat tomato soup.
HPV infection was 70 times more common in the cervical cancer group than in the other group. I’m illustrating what an association is.
Seth, HOW does that graf suggest that I don’t get it?
And if Duesberg ever said that, I’m sure he intended it to be an illustration that associations/correlations mean very little when it comes to PROVING the CAUSE of any disease, just as my firemen/fires example was trying to do. At best, a strong association/correlation is an invitation to perform more experiments, research, testing, etc.
By the age of 50, ~80% of women have been infected with HPV. So who comprised the “other group”?
Moreover, for the sake of discussion, let’s say that HPV infection was 70 times more common in the cervical cancer group than in “the other” group. What were all the other things in common (association/correlation) that the first group shared, compared to the second group? Things such as recreational drug use, promiscuity, alcoholism, smoking, impaired immune systems, obesity, family history, diet, other prescription drugs, age, etc.
Why jump to the conclusion that it must be the HPV?
Seth: You seem to believe that more sensitive testing for HPV — revealing that HPV is more common than previous tests showed — will increase the association between HPV and other things, such as cervical cancer. It won’t.
1. HPV (an STD) infection rates have probably always remained pretty steady, even when we weren’t routinely testing for it.
2. There was no HPV association with cervical cancer, because we weren’t then looking for one.
3. Now we know that by the age of 50, ~80%(!) of women will have been infected with HPV, and that all but a very tiny fraction of them will ever get cervical cancer, ~ the SAME tiny fraction of women who have historically gotten cervical cancer (older women).
4. To then jump to the conclusion that it must be those all-powerful HPV antibodies that are causing a tiny fraction of those women to get cervical cancer, and to begin “vaccinating” everything that moves, is the very definition of ANTI-science.
5. Your belief in the mythical powers of viruses borders on the religious.
Seth: Where do you get 80%? The studies I’ve seen say 20%-50%. For example, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18809145.
…and that BUT a very tiny fraction of them will ever get cervical cancer
Seth, the CDC, WebMD, etc.
“The Centers for Disease Control has postulated that at least 80% of sexually active women will have evidence of an HPV infection by age 50 (CDC, 2004).”
And YOUR argument would be stronger if the vast majority of women (~80%) were NOT infected by HPV by the age of 50.
And I would bet that the number is even higher. Maybe as high as 95%. So think about that. Only 5% (or 20%, pick your poison) of women with HPV infection ever get cervical cancer, and only a tiny fraction of them die from it. And we want to “vaccinate” everything that walks? Please.
Actually, the extremely high rate of HPV infection (almost universal), along with the tiny fraction of women ever getting cervical cancer, should tell you that HPV couldn’t possibly be the cause of cervical cancer.
And why it doesn’t is a mystery to me.
Seth: Thanks. I think I see the reason for the discrepancy. You have confused sexually active women with all women.
Seth, what percentage of women (say, over the age of 14) do you think have never been sexually active?
Seth: You should ask those who used the term “sexually active” that question. I don’t know what they meant by it. And you might want to read the links you cite in support of your claim of 80% HPV infection rate. This link — which you sent me — shows a HPV infection rate of about 25%.
Seth, what part of ‘The Centers for Disease Control has postulated that at least 80% of sexually active women will have evidence of an HPV infection by age 50 (CDC, 2004).” are you failing to understand?
It’s right after “How many of us have HPV?”
You can also google it yourself.
Also, I don’t need to ask anyone about “sexually active.” Common sense and seven decades of actual experience with women leads me to believe that they’re essentially all sexually active at some point, if not their entire lives. I’ve yet to meet one who wasn’t.
Note: I think you’re just trying to pull my chain again, so absent a sensible comment on your part, I’m done with this topic.
Seth: I fail to understand what they mean by “sexually active”. You equate “sexually active women” with all women. I don’t. I’m sure if they meant all women, they wouldn’t have qualified the word “women”.
Presumably, it’s because HPV is sexually transmitted.
“HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI)… HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.”
PS: We must know different women. 🙂
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