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Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 | ISSN 1556-5696

eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

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In this week’s eSkeptic, Dr Harriet Hall, MD, (aka the Skepdoc) explains why fearmongering about the swine flu vaccine is both wrong and dangerous.

Dr Harriet Hall, MD is a retired family physician and Air Force Colonel living in Puyallup, Washington. She writes about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, quackery, and critical thinking. She is a contributing editor to both Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, an advisor to the Quackwatch website, and an editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org, where she writes an article every Tuesday. She recently published Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon. Her website is www.skepdoc.info.


2009 H1N1 influenza

image of the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Virus taken in the CDC Influenza Laboratory

Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering

by Dr Harriet Hall, MD

Fear is a curious thing. It often bears no relation to the actual risk of what we fear. When swine flu first broke out in Mexico, people were understandably afraid. Travel was restricted, schools were closed, and so many people stayed home that the streets of Mexico City were empty. As the disease spread around the world, Egypt developed a paranoid fear of pigs and committed national pigicide. They ordered the slaughter of all 300,000 of their country’s innocent little porkers, ignoring the fact that the flu is spread person-to-person, not pig-to-person. Now that the disease has officially been labeled a pandemic, fears have switched from the real threat of the disease to an imagined danger from the vaccine.

Some people just plain hate the idea of vaccines — to the point that they are willing to spread old falsehoods, make up new lies, distort the results of studies, misrepresent statistics, and endanger our public health. There are websites like “Operation Fax to Stop the Vax” and even anti-swine-flu-vaccine rap videos. Press releases, e-mail campaigns, talk shows, and blogs are being used to stir up irrational fears. These people are irresponsible fearmongers. They are wrong, and they are dangerous.

Background

The 1918 flu. The flu epidemic of 1918 started as a mild disease in the spring, called the “3-day fever.” Most victims recovered in a few days; there were few deaths. Then in the fall, it turned into something far more severe. It was the same flu strain, but it had become more virulent. Some victims died within hours. Healthy young adults were as susceptible as children and the elderly. It affected remote villages as well as urban areas. It attacked 1/5 of the world’s population and killed 50 million people.

Wartime conditions may have favored the evolution of a more virulent strain. In peacetime, the sicker stay put and the mildly affected move around. In the trenches, the mildly affected stayed on duty and the sicker were sent on crowded trains to crowded field hospitals. Today, places with social upheaval might have similar effects favoring a virulent strain.

The 1976 swine flu. In February, 1976 a strain of H1N1 influenza similar to the 1918 strain killed a soldier at Fort Dix. Officials feared a pandemic and over-reacted. In actuality, the H1N1 strain was limited to the Fort Dix area and quickly died out, and another related strain only persisted until March. Nevertheless, a swine flu vaccine was developed and was given to 48,000,000 Americans, 22 percent of the population. The vaccination program was stopped in December after 532 cases of paralysis from Guillain-Barré syndrome were linked to the vaccine and 25 people died. It had been a false alarm, and more people died of the vaccine than of the disease. The risk of getting Guillain-Barré from the vaccine was approximately 1 in 100,000.

The 2009 swine flu. Between April 15 and July 24, 2009, there were 43,771 confirmed and probable cases of H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”) in the U.S. There were 5,011 hospitalizations and 302 deaths, 39 percent among those aged 25 to 49, in contrast to the usual flu where 90 percent of the deaths are in people over age 65. For comparison, the more common strains of flu have been killing around 36,000 people a year in the U.S. Swine flu has been declared a phase 6 pandemic by the World Health Organization: that is a measure of its spread, not of its severity.

What are the chances that the new swine flu will follow the course of the 1918 flu? We have no way of knowing. All we can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. In addition to the annual flu vaccine for the usual common strains, a specific vaccine for the H1N1 strain is being prepared and tested to see whether one or two shots will be needed to produce a satisfactory immune response. So we may be offered as many as three shots this year. Supplies will be limited, at least in the short run, so the CDC has announced these priorities:

  • Pregnant women
  • Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
  • All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
  • Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.

What if it fizzles out like the swine flu of 1976? That’s already ruled out: the 1976 flu had fizzled by March; the new swine flu hasn’t shown any signs of fizzling yet. We will be monitoring numbers of cases and vaccine complications very carefully, assessing the risk/benefit ratio, and we’re not likely to repeat the mistakes of 1976.

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I can’t hope to address all the misinformation that is circulating, and even if I could, more new lies would come out by the time I finished writing. Here are some of the ones I have heard. A correspondent in the Netherlands forwarded me an alarmist e-mail that is circulating in Europe.

Claim: It alleges that only one person has died of swine flu in the UK, and it questions whether he really had flu. It tells us “you are slated for vaccination against a disease which poses no credible threat whatsoever.”

Fact: As of August 27, the death toll in the UK was 66. As of Sept. 1, 2009, 2184 deaths had been reported worldwide. Most rational people would call that a credible threat.

Claim: Guillian-Barré Syndrome is a newly concocted name for a much more familiar condition: Polio.

Fact: Ridiculous! Polio is a distinct disease and its symptoms are very different from those of Guillain-Barré syndrome. A diagnosis of polio can be confirmed by finding the actual poliovirus particles in body secretions or cerebrospinal fluid. The last case of “wild polio” in the U.S. occurred in 1979. Polio has been eradicated in most countries; Guillain-Barré still occurs regularly in every country.

Claim: Guillain-Barré is still being caused by flu vaccines. A study based on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) found 54 cases of GBS reported after vaccination in the U.S. in 2004; 57 percent of these followed flu vaccines and the rest followed other vaccines.

Fact: The VAERS is a voluntary reporting system that accepts all reports of symptoms or illnesses that occurred after vaccination. It even accepted a fraudulent report claiming that a man had been turned into The Hulk by his influenza vaccine. To find out whether the VAERS reports mean anything, it is necessary to compare the incidence of the condition in those vaccinated to the incidence in the unvaccinated. Guillain-Barré syndrome affects 1 to 4 of every 100,000 people around the world every year, and the increased risk from vaccines is currently estimated at no more than one in a million.

Claim: It usually takes several years to test a drug and show that it is safe, but the swine flu vaccine is going to be fast-tracked for quick approval.

Fact: A new flu vaccine has to be developed every year to respond to the new strains that are constantly evolving. Time does not allow for the same kind of testing we require for approval of a new pharmaceutical. Time is even shorter for the swine flu this year. We have a lot of experience in producing new flu vaccines every year, and there is no reason to suspect that this year’s batches will be any more dangerous than usual. Because of fast-tracking, we will be monitoring very closely for side effects. We have a choice between fast-tracking and being prepared for a serious outbreak, or being slow and cautious and totally unprepared.

Claim: 4,000 people were afflicted with Guillain-Barré Syndrome in 1976.

Fact: At least 1 in 100,000 people would have gotten Guillain-Barré syndrome anyway. The excess cases attributed to the vaccine were estimated at 532 (some sources say half of that number), and most of them recovered fully; 25 deaths were attributed to the vaccine.

There are several websites where writers with a bad track record for scientific credibility (like Joseph Mercola and Gary Null) advocate vaccine refusal. The Health Freedom movement wants the government to forget about trying to protect the public and give us the freedom to harm ourselves by using untested, disproven, useless, or even dangerous treatments.

Claim: Legislation allows for you to be isolated or quarantined or “incarcerated in relocation centers” if you refuse vaccination during a declared Pandemic Emergency. This is a violation of human rights and of the Constitution.

Fact: If you have active TB, the government has not only the power but the responsibility to require treatment or quarantine so you don’t sit next to me on the bus and cough in my face. If you contract Ebola virus, I sure hope you will be quarantined to reduce the death toll. Quarantine is legal, is mandated by legislation, and is accepted by international law. Sometimes the duty to protect most of the people in a society temporarily trumps a few individual human rights. The government is not going to require quarantine unless there is a serious threat that demands action.

Claim: People should be allowed to “self-shield.” For self-shielding you go home lock the doors and stay there. Then you can try to further protect yourself with nano-silver, homeopathic remedies, cold packs, vitamins, flavonoids, zinc, astaxanthin, magnesium, and other stuff.

Fact: A self-imposed quarantine is better than nothing, but I question whether it would be effective in practice. The suggested (untested) remedies might conceivably keep people entertained so they are more willing to stay home.

Claim: The CDC and the American Academy of Neurologists have asked neurologists to be vigilant in looking for cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in people who have been vaccinated. This is an admission that they know the vaccine will be dangerous.

Fact: They clearly said1 “they do not expect the 2009 H1N1 vaccine to increase the risk for the autoimmune disease” but since this is a concern with any pandemic vaccine, they will be on the alert. This is a good thing. If the incidence starts rising, they will know it earlier and be able to react more quickly than they did in 1976.

Claim: The threat of Guillain-Barré is a reason to reject vaccines.

Fact: No one understands what causes Guillain-Barré syndrome, but it can develop after an infection, surgery or vaccination. It is possible that people who develop GBS after vaccination might also have developed GBS after natural exposure to the disease. One expert said2,

From both the societal and individual perspectives, the risk of GBS after a flu shot pales in comparison to the risk of serious adverse events if infected with the influenza virus: 60 to 70 cases of GBS vs. 20,000 deaths from influenza. Keeping things on the same scale, people over 65 years of age can choose from a risk of one case of GBS per million people or 10,000 cases of hospitalization and 1500 deaths due to influenza.

Claim: Joseph Mercola writes about “Squalene: The Swine Flu Vaccine’s Dirty Little Secret.” He has claimed that the vaccine adjuvant squalene is dangerous, that the Gulf War Syndrome was caused by the squalene in anthrax vaccines, that squalene is “good” or “bad depending on how it gets into your body: “Injection is an abnormal route of entry which incites your immune system to attack all the squalene in your body, not just the vaccine adjuvant.” And the only reason they put adjuvants in vaccines is to save money.

Fact: Squalene is found naturally in the human body. It is a precursor of cholesterol and other compounds necessary to human health. Squalene antibodies were found in Gulf War veterans; but the rate turned out to be no higher in those who had Gulf War Syndrome than in those who didn’t. Squalene antibodies were found at similar rates in people who had never been exposed to squalene in vaccines. The anthrax vaccine has been ruled out as a possible cause of Gulf War Syndrome. Anyway, it turns out there was no squalene in the anthrax vaccine!

American flu vaccines do not contain adjuvants, but maybe they should. Adjuvants enhance the body’s innate immune response to the antigens in vaccines, making vaccines more effective. And they allow for broader cross-reactivity against viral strains not included in the vaccine3. Mercola says adjuvants are added just to increase profits, but the pharmaceutical and health industries could make far more money treating patients in an epidemic than they could ever make trying to prevent one.

There is a large body of data demonstrating the safety of squalene. Flu vaccines containing MF59, a squalene-based adjuvant, have been used in Europe for 10 years, with 22,000,000 doses given; and no serious adverse events have occurred, only mild local reactions. The vaccine does not raise the incidence or titers of anti-squalene antibodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it safe4.

items of interest…

For those of you who don’t live in California and can’t make it to the Skeptics Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech, you can watch these recent lectures on DVD.

Claim: Flu vaccines are not very effective and don’t protect everyone. The effectiveness is particularly low in the elderly.

Fact: This claim is true, but… In recent years, flu vaccines have been 75 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations for flu, and 75 percent is way better than nothing. No vaccine is 100 percent effective. Flu vaccine is particularly problematic because of the constantly mutating strains of the virus. Nevertheless, the benefits of vaccines are clear. It is true that the elderly are not as well protected by the vaccine (efficacy rates have been estimated at 50 percent or less): that’s why it’s so important for younger people to be vaccinated, reducing the prevalence of the disease in the population and thereby reducing the likelihood of the elderly being exposed. In other words, don’t just get the flu shot for yourself, get it for Grandma.

Claim: Mercola says “Injecting organisms into your body to provoke immunity is contrary to nature.”

Fact: Nature kills people. Doing something contrary to nature is what medicine is all about. It’s a good thing.

Claim: “The potential for a weaponized vaccine to be the vector for a weaponized flu cannot be discounted.”

Fact: Most far-fetched conspiracy theories are wrong. I have no trouble discounting this one. The potential may be there, but the likelihood is homeopathic.

Claim: People should make their own decisions about their health care.

Fact: One of the basic principles of medical ethics is autonomy: patients have the right to accept or reject any treatment. Modern doctors try to involve the patient in the decision-making process, but most people are ill-equipped to make health decisions on their own without getting information and guidance from a health care professional. In a recent survey5, 30 percent of Americans believed that there had been a case of smallpox in the United States in the past five years, and 63 percent thought there had been a case somewhere in the world in the past five years. They didn’t know that the last case in the U.S. occurred in 1949 and the last case in the world occurred in 1977 in Somalia; 25 percent thought it was likely that they would die if they got the smallpox vaccine (the actual risk of death from the vaccine is one per million). People who are uninformed and scientifically illiterate are not capable of making rational decisions about health matters.

Mercola’s advice for preventing flu: Eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet, take a high quality source of animal-based omega 3 fats like Krill Oil, exercise, optimize your vitamin D levels, get plenty of sleep, deal with stress, and wash your hands.

Fact: Washing your hands is a good idea.

Mercola claims: “Vitamin D deficiency is the likely cause of seasonal flu viruses.”

Fact: Now really! Vitamin D deficiency in a human body can no more “cause a virus” than it could “cause a cat.” Perhaps he meant vitamin D deficiency could predispose a body to infection, and there is some research to suggest that it might. Some have claimed that taking vitamin D supplements will prevent the flu, but there is no evidence to support that.

Mercola’s claims and arguments were decisively eviscerated on Science-Based Medicine by Dr. Joseph Albietz6. Not only are Mercola’s assertions demonstrably false, but they reveal a profound misunderstanding of immunology. Unfortunately, he reaches a large audience of scientifically naïve people who believe his every word.

In response to Dr. Albietz’s article, there were some interesting comments from readers that further demonstrate the anti-vaccine mindset and the ability to distort information to promote a cause.

Claim: The government is going to mandate that everyone get the swine flu vaccine.

Fact: No such proposal has been made. The government couldn’t do it even if it tried, because there won’t be enough doses to go around. That’s why they’ve issued recommendations prioritizing who should get the vaccine first.

Claim: George Bush signed an agreement that if a pandemic emergency arose and the President declared a national state of emergency, control of the government would be passed to the United Nations. Blue-helmeted UN soldiers would run our country and the Constitution would be suspended.

Fact: It was simply an agreement to facilitate international cooperation, to share information and enhance collaboration in the event of an emergency. It says nothing about the UN at all, much less about relinquishing sovereignty to the UN or any other organization. The actual agreement can be read online at www.spp.gov/pdf/nap_flu07.pdf

The same person pointed out that shots hurt and that alone should tell you something. “Yet you are willing to trust these people with your lives to make a vaccine that the Creator never intended the human body should need, and let them inject it into your body? You people are scary or insane!”

No, it is the anti-vaccine zealots who are scary. They are not insane, just self-deluded and misguided. I hope the swine flu won’t develop into a reprise of 1918; but if it does, the false information these people are spreading could be responsible for a great deal of death and suffering. Freedom of speech is a good thing, but this kind of fear-mongering is almost as bad as shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

References
  1. Press release from the American Academy of Neurology, August 31, 2009. Available online at: www.aan.com/press/?fuseaction=release.view&release=757
  2. Grabenstein, J.D. 2000. “Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Vaccination: Usually Unrelated.” Hospital Pharmacy 36:2, 199–207. Available online at: www.factsandcomparisons.com/assets/hospitalpharm/IMM1.pdf
  3. O’Hagan D.T. 2007. “MF59 is a Safe and Potent Vaccine Adjuvant that Enhances Protection Against Influenza Virus Infection.” Expert Rev Vaccines 6(5):699–710.
  4. Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety, World Health Organization. 2006. http://tinyurl.com/squalene-adjuvant
  5. Blendon, R.J., et al. “The Public and the Smallpox Threat,” NEJM 348(5):p. 426–432. 2003. http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/348/5/426
  6. Albietz, J. 2009. “A Defense of Childhood Influenza Vaccination and Squalene-Containing Adjuvants: Joseph Mercola’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’ Science-Based Medicine,” Aug 21. www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=851


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49 Comments »

49 Comments

  1. Etienne says:

    Wonderful review by Dr Harriet Hall. Unfortunately my attempts to read more on http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org have lead to an unpleasant “account suspended” message.
    too bad…

  2. Dimo says:

    You said, “Because of fast-tracking, we will be monitoring very closely for side effects”.

    That inspires zero confidence. Remaining unvaccinated is a better risk strategy IMO.

    You said, “Doing something contrary to nature is what medicine is all about. It’s a good thing.”

    I disagree. Doing something complementary to nature is a good thing. I had you down as clever once!

    • John Beck says:

      This is mere logomachy: ‘contrary to nature’ or ‘complementary to nature’

      Medicine tries to influence conditions so different processes come into play – or work differently. Injections, surgery, Chemotherapy, exposure to weakened pathogens, etc are all designed to work *with* the body to bring about a desired result.

      BTW: Doctors may have more high-tech tools but we ALL do this. For example wrapping a cold person in a blanket is also trying to control the conditions so the body can bring about a desired result … as is eating some fruit when feeling hypoglycemic … or exposing children to the chicken pox so they catch and develop an immunity to it. The list of effective ‘home remedies’ is very long.

  3. Bernardino Oliva says:

    I’m a Spanish family physician. I don’t want to defend Mr. Mercola’s position because mine is quite in the opposite site. I think that the real danger with this flu are the scary news coming from those who we have to rely: goverments (taking nonsense measurements like closing schools and recommending pregnant women not to go to work)and scientific authorities (like World Health Organisation).
    Claim: we have to be scared because of 3486 deaths (september 13th), counting that countries in the south hemisphere have passed the winter yet.
    Facts: the same WHO recognizes 250000-500000 deaths per year because of seasonal flu. Every year. And we are not scared by this.
    Claim: we have to use two flu vaccines this year; one for seasonal flu and teh one for pandemic flu.
    Facts: in Australia swine flu virus causes 87% of the flu cases. In Argentina 92.9%. Globally, the WHO recognizes that 72% of the cases are swine flu cases (http://www.who.int/wer/en/) Since the number of cases is declining, is it reasonable to go on with the seasonal flu vaccination or we have to stop and think? It has been useful, but we don´t know if it will be no longer. The swine flu vaccines are still under investigation. Let´s see the results and then we will talk about its use.
    This is only an example. In Spain, after the rise of apocalyptic voices, a group of family physicians, paediatricians and other people related with the health system (specially primary care), have joined their efforts to give a professional, scientific (non biased by politcs, media or big-pharma) point of view. Our web is http://gripeycalma.wordpress.com
    Anyway, thanks for your work. I’ve been reading Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things. I’ve liked it a lot at it inspires me a text talking about weird beliefs and swine flu.

  4. David Michael Myers says:

    I will not attend any Atheist Alliance Conference that gives an award to that snarling, condescending, collectivist/communist/socialist America-hating misanthrope Bill Maher.

    His actions and “funny” drivel tend to make me want to go to church.

  5. J. Gravelle says:

    “Sometimes the duty to protect most of the people in a society temporarily trumps a few individual human rights.”

    Make that the caption to this photo: http://tinyurl.com/mbaevl …and perhaps you can understand why many of us shudder to read that particular “fact” in your article.

    Respectfully,

    J. Gravelle

    • Lyle says:

      The photo you linked to does not go with the quote. What was going on in the photo was the government trying to keep a tight control over society, not trying to protect the members of society. (What’s the matter, couldn’t you find a photo of Nazis doing something evil?) A better photo would have been one of Charles Manson behind bars.

  6. Jake Shannon says:

    How about 225,000 deaths a year via iatrogenesis? That seems like more of a threat than h1n1…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iatrogenesis

    How about vaccines killing people? Yes, it happens
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wg-52mHIjhs

    “Guillain-Barré syndrome affects 1 to 4 of every 100,000 people around the world every year, and the increased risk from vaccines is currently estimated at no more than one in a million.”

    2184 deaths out of ~6,000,000,000 a threat? That’s 1 in 2.75 million. What would you risk would you rather take, 1 in a million or 1 in 2.75 million? lol

    “Fact: Nature kills people. Doing something contrary to nature is what medicine is all about. It’s a good thing.”
    What!? Um, no. This is such loose language. Nature doesn’t kill, but it can. It can heal, it can do all sorts of stuff really lol. Wow, sloppy!

    “Claim: The government is going to mandate that everyone get the swine flu vaccine.”

    Tell the governor of Massachusetts this, LOL!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXSB2oca7f8

    People trust vaccines, they’ve proven their ability to heal. People don’t trust doctors and corporate pharma, rightfully so. People are now beginning to distrust pseudo-skeptics too… It’s too bad. I remember when I like how skeptics were experts at challenging the status quo, not apologetics. I could go on but I won’t bother…

    • Joe Schmoe says:

      Thank Mr. Diety

    • David Lewis says:

      Quote: 2184 deaths out of ~6,000,000,000 a threat? That’s 1 in 2.75 million. What would you risk would you rather take, 1 in a million or 1 in 2.75 million? lol

      Interesting way to manipulate numbers. The 2184 deaths refers to the current situation of H1N1 contamination. And not 6,000,000,000 people have been exposed to the virus yet (contrary to what you suggest). The actual death rate is about 0.27% (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/), on par with traditional flue as Harriet pointed out. It means “if” you get the swine flue, you have about one chance in 364 to die. The next question of course is whether or not you are likely to get the swine flue at all. But even if you consider you have only one chance in 10 to get it (which is a very conservative estimate, looking at the current spreading speed of the disease) it still gives a probability of dying because of swine flue of 1 in 3600. For the risk of dying from swine flue to be on par with the risk of getting GBS (about 2.5/100000) it would require that there would be only 1% chance to get the swine flue at all. For this to be true, the swine flue would have to be way less contagious than the current spreading suggest (actually to only get 1% of the world wide population to be contaminated, the virus would have to be so little contagious that we would have hardly seen any case at all yet). Since we know the virus is spreading much faster than this, there is way less risk in getting a vaccine than in not doing anything. But after all, it’s your call if you prefer to follow your faulty logic and flawed mathematics.

      Quote: What!? Um, no. This is such loose language. Nature doesn’t kill, but it can. It can heal, it can do all sorts of stuff really lol. Wow, sloppy!

      Well, nature can kill, and it does. Harriet never implied that Nature could not do anything else than killing (you did imply it). What a weak rhetoric on your side to play on words like this. This doesn’t provide any valuable data to shift the argument one way or another… Just useless rhetoric.

      David.

    • Arthur Naiman says:

      I agree completely about pseudoskeptics becoming apologists for conventional–i.e. corporate–medical approaches. There was a study a while back that showed that doctors only claim to be “following the science,” what they actually follow is what the drug reps tell them.

  7. J Chalut says:

    While I agree on your basic premise that fear of vacination is overblown, I still do not agree with your obvious bias toward vacinating. Putting statements like this after the word FACT: is one example:

    “As of August 27, the death toll in the UK was 66. As of Sept. 1, 2009, 2184 deaths had been reported worldwide. Most rational people would call that a credible threat.”

    Writing that most rational people would feel that 2184 deaths worldwide is a credible threat really shows your bias. How can you write an obvious opinion after the word FACT? More people probably die from ant bites or wood chippers or plastic bags. You are trying to define what “rational” means. Not very scientific or un-biased. I may think that most rational people hated George Bush, but that doesn’t make it a fact. Just an opinion. Try toning down on your outrage next time if you want people to take you seriously.

  8. Tiago says:

    Well i take you seriously.
    I do believe you’ve done a good job exposing the facts and fiction of the whole flu vaccination ordeals.

    I’m Portuguese, living here, in Lisbon, and I tell you that we, as a people, are not prone to alarms like you are. It takes more than a few people crying “conspirowolf”. But a big part of it is taken by the Media, and if our news channels decided to take that route, we would tend to believe it. Nevertheless, I guess being a small country, with bigger problems than a flu shot, does not allow us to waste time with this things and focus more on getting our jobs and economy back on track.

    Thank you for your article.

    Oh, “Mr. Deity and the Skeptic” was funny. Perfect, people shouldn’t take themselves so seriously.

    T.

  9. Poulpeman says:

    “How about 225,000 deaths a year via iatrogenesis? That seems like more of a threat than h1n1…”
    You’re right. I suggest we stop giving medicine to ill people. LOL !

    “2184 deaths out of ~6,000,000,000 a threat? That’s 1 in 2.75 million. What would you risk would you rather take, 1 in a million or 1 in 2.75 million?”
    Did you read the article ? Did you understand what the benefit/risk ratio is about ?
    If 1/1.000.000 is too much risk for you, you should also stop driving and many other very risky activities.

    Stop looking at your own person and look at the big picture. The risk is not only about you, it’s about the world population and the way the virus spreads. I work in a hospital and I’ll be vaccinated in october. I’ve accepted because I accept to have a 1/1.000.000 risk to develop GBS if this can protect not only me but also my friends, my family and colleagues.
    That’s all vaccines are about !

    (sorry for my poor english)

    Poulpeman

  10. Morten says:

    There are still two things you don’t touch on:

    1. Over-use of the vacine has likely caused the first cases of a mutated strain resistent to the vaccine.

    2. The production method used for the vaccine is new and not very well-tested. So your argument that we have a lot of experience in creating vaccines does not necessarily hold true.

    • Lyle says:

      Perhaps she never addressed your first concern because she realizes the difference between a vaccine and antibiotics.

      “Overuse” of vaccines will not cause mutations in the virus. Vaccines are not the same as antibiotics. A vaccine causes ones body to develop a reaction to the virus, so that when/if the actual virus gets in, one’s body can more effectively fight the virus. Giving a vaccine after infection by the virus would be of no value. Antibiotics are used when one already has a bacterial infection and the antibiotic itself kills the bacteria. If the antibiotic is over prescribed or misused (e.g., not taking the full course of antibiotics) the bacteria which are not killed are the ones with the greatest resistance to the antibiotic, ones that might have been killed if the full course had been taken. Those bacteria go on to reproduce and make more antibiotic resistant bacteria. By misusing and over prescribing antibiotics, we are forcing the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

  11. Poulpeman says:

    1. I think it happened for a H5N1 strain. But is that enough to rethink all the vaccination strategy ? Anyway, influenza viruses do not need vaccines to mutate and evolve. The problem is encoutered every year with the seasonal flu.

    2. The production of the pandemic vaccine is not different from common vaccines : common excipients, common adjuvant (no adjuvant for some of them). Only the antigen used is different (of course). So we do have a lot of experience in viral vaccine manufacturing.

  12. Angelica says:

    What about the mercury that is going to be in the vaccine? Mercury is a known toxin and can cause very bad problems and especially shouldn’t be given to pregnant women and young children.

  13. Poulpeman says:

    Yes, mercury can be harmful, just as any chemical can be harmful at a certain dose. The doses used in vaccines are very low and not sufficient to induce damages. Moreover, it is an ehtylated form (ethyl-mercury) that is used in vaccine, and this ehyl-mercury is eliminated in a few days by the body.

    The argument of the mercury is and argument very often used by anti-vaccines, but, hopefully, never a study shown any adverse effect provoked by the mercury present in vaccines. If it was the case, it would be immediately removed.

    Same thing for aluminium, squalene and other compounds present in vaccines.

  14. Tom says:

    Flu vacines don’t work for many of the reasons stated in the article. It’s bad science. Every year, every one of us gets exposed to the flu on a daily basis. Think about how many door knobs you use every day, hand rails, money, etc. All of those things, and countless other objects you touch are loaded with germs, feces, stuff you don’t even want to know about. You never get the same flu twice, once you’ve had a strain and overcome it, you have the antibodies necessary, you’re immune. So…you either had the flu last year and can’t get that strain again, or you were already exposed to it and your immune system beat it, and you didn’t get sick. Either way, your naturally immune from getting it again. This year’s flu shot is made from the flu that was around the year before. That’s right, the one you are already immune from. There is no flu shot that will work on the current flu, because it has either mutated, or is a different strain. The same thing will happen again this year, as stated above. By the way, getting younger people flu shots doesn’t protect grandma. She has probably been to the doctor or hospital this year, a perfect place to get exposed to just about anything. If you’re around grandma, she’s probably more likely exposing you to these viruses than you are to her. Read Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s article, Deadly Immunity and watch his interview on youtube on Scarborough Country. That’s about the link to Autism and vacines.

    • Poulpeman says:

      A Youtube video ? What a strong scientific proof !

      You’re just repeating the same bullshit as every anti-vaccine. Try something else, like thinking by yourself.

  15. Luis E. Laó says:

    I usually have a difference of criteria with Dr. Hall. However, in this article she just nailed it! Excellent and concise writing!

    Anyway by the year 2021 the World will be out of resources, therefore, we need to get rid off at least 3 billion people if we as a specie are going to survive. A couple of millions here and there can make the difference. Let the ignorant avoid the vaccine and take their chances. Maybe they are making a huge contribution toward mankind. Just been sinical!

    • Lyle says:

      The problem is that the anti-vaccine crowd endangers others. As Dr. Hall stated, no vaccine is 100% effective. The benefit comes from reducing your chance of getting sick if exposed to the virus AND reducing your chance of being exposed to the virus. Also, some people can’t get vaccinated because of some medical conditions.

  16. Finn S says:

    to find out if a person or organisation is truthworthy i have to read its history of claims. i will point out that a “skeptics” work is not to reveal the truth neither tell the truth. In fact truth is not important to a skeptic. A skeptical persons duty is to be skeptic, nothing more. so i went back, reading your stuff and find that you are deep into corruption, fraud, in fact you disgrace the word and meaning of beeing a skeptic, or being skeptical. sorry to say. shame on you, if u represent atheism, atheism is straight out bullshit. im sorry to say “you shall not lie” means absolute nothing to you, and thats why Shermer left christianity. now you can lie without breaking any rules or laws. religion of science. shermer, science meansnothing to you when it comes to politics and money.
    unrespectfully..
    finn

  17. Finn S says:

    Hi there!

    Seems like i stopped the discussion here, that wasnt my intentions. But i get a little pissed to this concept: skeptic. Should be: skeptic to the skeptic. see?
    I withdraw what i said earlier. I dont wanna be tracked down by men in black (or white). I know you are too big for me to handle and i dont want to piss you off. So i please ask u to delete my last reply and this one in instead.
    and of course i dont know if this organisazion is corrupt but it is so easy to believe it is. my fault, sorry!

    respectfully

    finn

  18. Cynthia says:

    I believe Dr. Hall makes her points very well. But there are certainly some nutty posts in reply! Do all the anti-vaccination folks just lurk around waiting for a newsletter so they can spew nonsense? Paranoia seems rather rampant in this group (“tracked down by men in black”?). And if people are going to write about the flu, they should at least know how to spell it. I plan to get every vaccination available to me, but I’m 60 and in good health, so probably am not eligible to get an H1N1 vaccination very soon. My brother-in-law had Guillian-Barre Syndrome and if we used the logic stated in these postss, I guess we would have concluded he got it because he was a jackass.

    • Finn S says:

      so, if english is not your first language then you have nothing to say? same way as Dr HH arguing. Like we dont understand what she is saying, huh? Btw, go vaccinate yourself, but there are issues we have to think about when it comes to small kids and “tons” of vaccination. Im from Europe and we dont normally use as many vaccinations like US. I want to know if Dr. H Hall, has taken all the vaccinations and her kids and grandkids, and if she can prove it.
      She talking about “Hulk” and make a laugh at the real skeptics. she is a moron. it is so low, its Psychology, not science. Its in fact a normal and accepted way to discuss among those people and Cynthia (“at least know how to spell it”). Its like saying,- taking vaccines will make you live forever,- everybody know thats not true. And then we can laugh at evrybody claiming vaccines is a good thing, right? This is why such articles and these Atheistic psychologist pisses me off. you pollute the air we think in and should be strongly regulated.
      sorry, peace and love

  19. Wayward son says:

    Great article Dr. Hall – I wish more people would read it. On the other hand, it is becoming worisome that even here at skeptic.com – one of the places where I go to get rational and evidence based thinking and stay away from conspiracy nonsense and people spreading anti-vax nonsense without bothering to learn anything (real) about vaccines and the immune system – we get this number of paranoid conspiracy theorists.

    “People trust vaccines, they’ve proven their ability to heal.”

    Vaccines don’t heal – they prevent.

    “1. Over-use of the vacine has likely caused the first cases of a mutated strain resistent to the vaccine.”

    Overuse of vaccine has not likely caused the first cases of mutated strain resistent to the vaccine. Viruses and bacteria are not the same thing. Antibiotics and vaccines are not the same thing.

    In the case of bacteria it gets into your body, multiplies like crazy – some mutations occur. You then take antibiotics which kill the bacteria and it is possible that some may survive due to having a beneficial mutation and then head out into the world with an advantage that may become dominant.

    In the case of vaccines they prevent the virus from getting into the body and multiplying in the first place – no multiplying – no mutated offspring. Virus’ need a host cell to replicate – vaccines take away potential host cells. Bacterias require no such hosts to replicate.

    Instead the viruses mutate in non-vaccinated delusional conspiracy theorists (and potentially a vaccine resistant mutation will occur, but that is of no advantage in the host as the host is not vaccinated – but can be an advantage when that mutated virus spreads to others) who have mickey mouse fantasy beliefs about how the immune system works. Smallpox didn’t mutate to a vaccine resistant strain because of a worldwide effort to reduce its chances of doing so. We vaccinated and dramatically cut down on its potential hosts – and thereby reproduction opportunities – and thereby likelyhood of mutating.

    If only the internet was around decades ago for conspiracy theorists to have spread their lies, ignorance and delusional fantasies more widely then maybe 2 million people could still be dying each year of smallpox. But at least that would stick it big pharma…..

    • Finn S says:

      just waited for that one, wayward son said: “On the other hand, it is becoming worisome that even here at skeptic.com – one of the places where I go to get rational and evidence based thinking and stay away from conspiracy nonsense”,-
      yeah,you dont watch the news, dont listen to medical experts, dont listen to nurses, but come here to get rational and evidence based thinking. sure, do that! get the shot!
      take care, im out!

      • Wayward son says:

        “yeah,you dont watch the news,”

        I don’t. I do, however, read newspapers and I read everything from a skeptical point of view. I also read medical and science journals.

        “dont listen to medical experts,”

        Which ones? Mercola? Jenny McCarthy? David Icke? Oprah? Chopra? The Secret?

        Sorry, I actually care about what relevant experts like virologists, immunologists and public health experts have to say. There is a big difference.

        [QUOTE]dont listen to nurses,[/QUOTE]

        Nurses are great. However they are not experts in immunology and virology (nor are they trained in critical thinking about medical issues, which sadly is a hole in medical training across the spectrum, and that is why there were – and still are – a lot of nurses who push complete nonsense healing touch, energy healing, homeopathy and so on. Not a speck of evidence for any of that crap). I have talked to several nurses who actually have no idea how vaccines work and there is nothing wrong with that – it is not their job to know that. Jenny McCarthy was trained as a nurse and there is probably no person on the planet more ignorant about vaccinations. Most people have no knowledge about how vaccines work – she, like most anti-vaxers, has negative knowledge.

        [QUOTE]but come here to get rational and evidence based thinking. sure, do that! get the shot![/QUOTE]

        I will be getting the shot. It is not like we haven’t heard all this crap many times before. We were bombarded by the same lies and hysteria from you people not long ago about Gardasil. People who listened to the news, some “experts,” some nurses, and any of the zillion conspiracy sites, were fed a huge pile of steaming nonsense. Instead, they could have visited some sites which practive skepticism where science, evidence and rationalism is important and read what was actually known (with, of course a bunch of comments from the band of conspiracy loons at the bottom of every piece) and they could have listened to relevant experts. The CTers were 100% completely wrong about Gardasil. You would think that would make them reassess their views this time, actually check the evidence, learn some science, recognize that they were “being lied to” but that those who were doing the lying were their conspiracy friends. But nope, no time to assess their last group of “were all going to die” “nwo” conspiracy theories, as their is something new to become hysterical about. History repeats itself over and over again.

  20. Arthur Naiman says:

    Like most pseudorationalists, Dr. Hall tends to present her prejudices as if they were facts. For example, here’s Mercola’s advice for preventing flu: “Eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet, take a high quality source of animal-based omega 3 fats like Krill Oil, exercise, optimize your vitamin D levels, get plenty of sleep, deal with stress, and wash your hands.” And Dr. Hall’s response? “Fact: Washing your hands is a good idea.”

    Let’s leave aside the obvious point that what is or isn’t a good idea can only be an opinion, not a fact. Does she really think that getting enough sleep is useless for building and maintaining immune competence? Or reducing stress, or exercising, or getting enough omega-3 oils, or optimizing vitamin D levels? (How could “optimizing” anything not be a good idea?) If she does, she’s flying in the face of science, not defending it.

    She goes on to say that “some have claimed that taking vitamin D supplements will prevent the flu, but there is no evidence to support that.” And yet there’s tons of evidence that most Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and no disagreement whatever that low levels of vitamin D compromise immune health. For example, see the New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 357:266-281, July 19, 2007, Number 3), or Arch. Intern. Med. 168 (15): 1629–37, which concludes that low levels of vitamin D are independently associated with an increase in all-cause mortality. (These are just two examples among zillions.) If Dr. Hall wants to present herself as science-based, she should pay a bit more attention to the science.

    • Lyle says:

      “These are just two examples among zillions.”

      “Zillion” is not a number. I know that may seem like a petty complaint, but no more petty that your complaint that Dr. Hall said washing your hands is a good idea, and called it a fact. Maybe she should have said that hand washing has been shown to reduce the spread of pathogens. I think her point was that his advice, while fine for general health, is not nearly as effective against influenza as vaccination.

      But you anti-vaccine people will find anything to catch someone on, even if it is pointless. That and your conspiracy theories and a pact of shared lies is all you have.

      • Arthur Naiman says:

        “Zillion” is not a number! Really? I didn’t know that.

        Given the dazzling depth and insight of Lyle’s critique, I guess I need to make things painfully clear. The point is that there’s MUCH MORE evidence for the role of vitamin D in preventing flu than there is for vaccination. There’s just less money to be made on it.

  21. BeSkepticToSkeptic says:

    I am a SKEPTIC to this article. But let me explain why. It isnt that I dont trust that what is being said here dont have some backing from socalled “important” people and scientists etc. but I dont trust governments anymore and mainstreamedia corporations agendas and governments hired science advisors etc. I see a possibility of a conspiracy and that this whole swineflu hyping can be a smart trick to introduce a NWO and a World Government so the bankers that run our earth can get more control over earth and the economy and its people as our elites have wished for.
    Its a smart conspiracy and I cannot prove it yet totally but go to INFOWARSdotCOM and do swineflu research in their search archive to get medical docs and various scientists with other scary views with truth to them about swineflu as a possible GENOCIDE and BIOWEAPON. To see that this whole mass vaccination plan sounds more like a mass vaccination GENOCIDE.

    SO

    go to INFOWARSdotCOM and do swineflu research in their search archive to get medical docs and various scientists with other scary views with truth to them about swineflu as a possible GENOCIDE and BIOWEAPON

    and if you laugh now let me wake you up with a
    quote from our all beloved Albert Einsten:

    Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance.
    ‘Albert Einstein’

    SO DO NOT VIPE OUT THE SWINE FLU AS A POSSIBLE GENOCIDE DEPOPULATION PROGRAM CONSPIRACY AS A POSSIBILITY BEFORE.

    check out infowarsDOTcom for more information and weight your options to who you wanna believe….honestly I dont believe skeptics nor infowars. I am open to see what will turn out of this swine flu propaganda mess, it can be GENOCIDE conspiracy, it can be just governments actually care for us and make vaccines to help us out? The truth will be figured out in time, THAT IS ALL I KNOW, even as a scientist.

    • Wayward son says:

      “but I dont trust governments anymore and mainstreamedia corporations agendas and governments hired science advisors etc.”

      Why would you when there are people like Alex Jones and David Icke to follow?

      “I see a possibility of a conspiracy and that this whole swineflu hyping can be a smart trick to introduce a NWO and a World Government so the bankers that run our earth can get more control over earth and the economy and its people as our elites have wished for.”

      Good thing have figured it out. Now you can save the world be the hero. Sure the previous couple thousand claims Alex Jones has made have been complete nonsense, but that just means he is due to be right.

      “Its a smart conspiracy and I cannot prove it yet totally”

      Really? Damn.

      “but go to INFOWARSdotCOM and do swineflu research in their search archive to get medical docs and various scientists with other scary views with truth to them about swineflu as a possible GENOCIDE and BIOWEAPON.”

      Thanks for the advice. I have a friend, who is a bit of nutcase, and each day sends me a bunch of crap from infowars and prisonplanet which I enjoy reading for a good laugh before bed. I can’t prove that every single they say is baloney, but anything they have talked about in which I have any knowledge is beyond comical.

      [QUOTE]To see that this whole mass vaccination plan sounds more like a mass vaccination GENOCIDE.[/QUOTE]

      I agree. And every other end of world senario that has daily come out of Alex Jones’ mouth has come true….no wait, they have all been 100% wrong.

      What is the difference between a Alex Jones and broken clock? At least a broken clock is right twice a day.

      What is the differnce between an Alex Jones follower and someone looking at a broken clock? The person looking at the broken clock will eventually realize that the clock is not accurate.

      “SO

      go to INFOWARSdotCOM and do swineflu research in their search archive to get medical docs and various scientists with other scary views with truth to them about swineflu as a possible GENOCIDE and BIOWEAPON”

      Yawn. We look forward to your next set of conspiracy theories when this one, like the previous ones, doesn’t come true.

      “and if you laugh now let me wake you up”

      Thanks. OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! IT’S THE END OF WORLD!!!

      “with a
      quote from our all beloved Albert Einsten:

      Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance.
      ‘Albert Einstein’”

      Nice quote. It, and variations of it, has been attributed to more famous people than you can shake a stick at. I have found no actual evidence that Einstein ever said it or any variation of it. Maybe you should have investigated.

      “SO DO NOT VIPE OUT THE SWINE FLU AS A POSSIBLE GENOCIDE DEPOPULATION PROGRAM CONSPIRACY AS A POSSIBILITY BEFORE.

      check out infowarsDOTcom for more information and weight your options to who you wanna believe….”

      So on the one hand I could follow the evidence and get the vaccination. On the other there is a chance in 10^100000000000000 that this is genecide program because some nuts who have a history of saying completely nutty things have made up a new fantasy. Better weigh my options.

      “honestly I dont believe skeptics nor infowars.”

      Sure you don’t believe inforwars. Go to infowars, go to infowars, go to infowars, go to infowars, go to infowars.

      How about this – go read Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things” or Tavris’s “Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me” or Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World.” You are in desperate need of a baloney detection kit.

      “I am open to see what will turn out of this swine flu propaganda mess, it can be GENOCIDE conspiracy, it can be just governments actually care for us and make vaccines to help us out? The truth will be figured out in time, THAT IS ALL I KNOW, even as a scientist.”

      Here is what I suspect. When the completely fabricated, fantasy, delusional claims that you are promoting have been shown to be completely fabricated, fantasy, delusional claims (which is already obvious) you will be promoting the next Jones/Icke crackpot fantasy without acknowledging that this one was. See you then.

    • Lyle says:

      If the swine flu is a government plan to depopulate, the bast way for them to go about it would be to keep people from getting the vaccine. So if there is a government plan to use swine flu to depopulate, perhaps INFOWARSdotCOM is part of it! The swine flu is much more likely to kill than is the vaccine against swine flu. If the vaccine increases a person’s chances of getting GBS by 1 in 1,000,000, and the GBS rate without the swine flu vaccine is 1-4 in 100,000, then the total risk for someone getting the swine flu vaccine becomes 1.1-4.1 per 100,000 people.

  22. paul says:

    Do we need a population cul….without a doubt.look at the M25 at 6.30 am
    Do i want to be part of it? not really;

  23. Gan Drak says:

    Meticulous debunking of rampant myths.
    Kudos!

  24. Linda says:

    Pseudoskepticism reigns supreme!!

    As long as somebody puts whatever they say after the word ‘Fact’ then we should believe it. Everybody get in line for your shots. Trust Merck. Trust Baxter. Trust what Ms. Skeptic says. Nevermind that vaccines issued for the 1976 swine flu killed more people than the actual virus. Let’s not talk about that. Let Skeptic do all your thinking for you. Be skeptical: believe!

  25. Texan Mama says:

    Hi! I’m a pregnant woman (33 weeks) and very skeptical about getting the vaccine. By the time the injection vaccine is available, I might be close to delivery anyway. But I just am too nervous about the possible side effects on my unborn child. Have there been any studies on this?

    Also, I am typically an EXTREMELY healthy person. I have never contracted mono, bronchitis, strep throat, or pneumonia. I’ve never been hospitalized (except for previous labor/delivery). Heck, I don’t even have a single allergy! Isn’t a person’s natural health status more important to factor in, when considering whether or not to get the swine flu vaccine? I never get a seasonal flu shot either and I’ve only gotten the flu once in the past 10 years.

    • Harriet Hall says:

      Your health is not a reason to decline the vaccine: the swine flu attacks healthy young adults. Most pregnant women who have died of swine flu were in good health. Pregnant women are at higher risk and will be given high priority for the limited supplies of vaccines. We have decades of experience with flu vaccines, and there is no evidence that they cause any side effects for unborn children. There is, however, good evidence that catching the flu can cause serious illness and death. There’s also a risk to the fetus. “In past pandemics, there were high rates of stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, and premature delivery among pregnant women who had the flu. Flu comes with fever, which can result in brain damage to the fetus.” See http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20090729/pregnancy-ups-swine-flu-death-risk If I were pregnant, I would run, not walk, to get the vaccine as soon as it was available. Flu is a known risk; it doesn’t make sense to expose yourself to a known risk because of nervousness about possible hypothetical side effects that most experts agree are highly unlikely.

  26. Zemel says:

    It’s pretty evident to me where most of this anti-vaccination fear comes from. The ’60′s were a great time in history that I can still wax pretty nostalgic over–the music, the expressions of solidarity, the palpable feeling of “change” in the air–all that groovy stuff. But one of the problems with the ’60′s, which I recognized even when I was partying during that time like most other college students of the era, was its anti-intellectualism, anti-Enlightenmentism (even though much of what inspired that period sprang from the Enlghtenment) and anti-science. Instead, astrology, Eastern religion, and other so-called “spiritual” beliefs were embraced in the Age of Aquarius. Somehow in the minds of much of the counterculture, rationality got mixed up with “the ruling paradigm” and became suspect, as a tool of repression, which was a pretty dopey (no pun intended) thing to beleive; plenty of fascist regimes have been anti-intellectual as well. So in addition to a lot of positive social progress that the ’60′s brought about, it also resulted in much of the New Age drivel we’re now exposed to every day–suspicion of something being “against nature”, belief in homeopathy (despite the fact that there’s no valid studies corroborating hoeopathy), Wikkens–all that flapdoodle. Not that there isn’t precedent for this type of belief structure on the Right—some of the people involved in the Waldorff schools were Nazi sympathizers–actually, a lot of the Nazis themselves were “green,” but that does NOT make being ecology minded a bad thing. It’s just that the Nazis were intoxicated with blood and soil. Those who are on a “spiritual quest” often speak reverently about mysticism, but there was a big mystical strain running through National Socialism. I believe a lot of this anti-vaccine hysteria comes from a distrust of science that still prevails—even respected periodicals have an astrology page. While the Far Right currently pushes Creationism because they see it as Biblical Truth, a lot of so-called progressives push this “organic” agenda. Somehow it’s become mainsteam, as we Boomers approach decreptitude, to mistrust “Western medicine” as a tool of Big Pharm, in favor of herbs, etc. Also, our old time healthy mistrust of government has now engendered much of these conspiracy theories, which is nothing but junk politics. It’s “feel good” belief–it actually makes you feel good to believe you’re one of the good guys who knows that a cabal of bad guys out there are running some shadow government behind everyone’s back–you’re fighting the good fight. But, if you tell soemone who believes in conspiracy theories and who happens to be on the Left that you don’t buy them, they often ask you when you stopped being a progressive. They forget that there have always been plenty of wacky conspiracy theories on the Right. Remember flouridation being a Communist plot? So let’s all try to exercise a little critical thinking, regardless where we fall on the political spectrum.

  27. OneSmallWord says:

    In Zemel’s list of beliefs embraced by the Age of Aquarius, he includes “Eastern religions.” Is this implying that non-Western religions are suspect but Western religions are not. Why not simplify it to dismiss all religions?

    (And just to cut off a rejoinder at the pass, historically, it is not accurate to counter that he means that only in the 1960s did these so-called Eastern religions emerge.)

  28. Shoethrower says:

    re: “…Claim: ‘The potential for a weaponized vaccine to be the vector for a weaponized flu cannot be discounted.’

    Fact: Most far-fetched conspiracy theories are wrong. I have no trouble discounting this one. The potential may be there, but the likelihood is homeopathic.”

    I love that weasel word “most”. The fact is, from what I’ve read on this site and from other so-called skeptics, you are emotionally disposed to discount ANY conspiracy theory WHATSOEVER, regardless of ANY evidence, pro or con.

    Here’s a newsflash: Being agressively uninformed is not “scientific”. It’s pathetic, and surprisingly and sadly common in the skeptic community. Man, I wish our intelligencia were smarter.

  29. Craven says:

    H1N1 BULLETIN!

    Mother said “Wash your hands!”
    And wash them continuously! Can’t do this?
    Well. Read on:
    And warn EVERYONE!

    Our small company is now developing a convenient portable pouch for Canadians and Americans, that will fit in the front of the trousers (or skirt) and will allow folks to keep their hands in there, instead of in their dirty germ-infested pockets, or worse, caressing some filthy germ-infested doorknob!
    Much like a Scot’s Sporrin.

    Our water-tight polycarbonate/polyethylene “sporrin” will be filled with a strong anti-bacterial detergent solution.
    Attached to it will be a small disposable roll of towels, as well as an optional hi-intensity ultraviolet light, which will be attached to the belt-buckle.
    Rechargeable batteries will fit in the user’s pocket or purse.

    The dream of continuous handwashing has been finally realized!
    NO MORE GERMS!

    We hope to bundle a copy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with the first 1000 orders.

    Dealer inquiries are welcome!
    Please write to me!

    Patent-pending.
    IPO to be issued next month.

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