Monday, October 31, 2011

Just Answer the Question

There are times that I am truly amazed at just how seemingly clueless a person can be. Often, in dealing with alternative medicine or other pseudoscientific belief systems, individuals go to great lengths to avoid answering questions that are asked. The honest believers give it a good go, doing their best to support their beliefs with what they think are legitimate sources. Sometimes, reason breaks through and plants a little seed of critical thinking, and the believer realizes that they've fallen for a lie. On the other hand, the dishonest (and by that I mean the ones who outright lie or misrepresent things) go to great lengths to dodge direct questions. They build straw men, answering questions that were never asked. They deny and obfuscate facts. They work so incredibly hard to convince everyone that the naked emperor over there is actually clothed. Generally, they have some financial stake in it, and when push comes to shove, they quietly slink away, only to trot out their erroneous claims another day.

And then you have those who appear to to be...well. There are those who seem to have a pathological avoidance of anything that would threaten their belief and who are also dishonest with both themselves and those whom they address.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quacktion Figure™ Friday: Anti-Vaccine Researcher

Ever wanted to enjoy the adoration of tens of others? Had an idea for a new product to patent, but had pesky competitors that needed discrediting? Have you ever dreamed of creating a controversy where there was none? Have you thought that violating research ethics would be a quick way to accomplish all this, but never had the narcissistic chutzpah to pull it off?

Well, now you can. Harpocrates Speaks brings you Anti-Vaccine Researcher!

Anti-Vaccine Researcher

Now you, too, can fake data for a paper and have it retracted. With Anti-Vaccine Researcher, you can pay children £5 each to bleed 'em dry! Cry, "Conspiracy!" to your adoring fans and hold your own medical practice board hearing where you can choose not to present any evidence in your own defense!

Anti-Vaccine Researcher stands 5¾" tall and comes with:
  • £5 Note
  • Vial of Blood
  • Retracted Paper
Self-aggrandizing book of fiction sold separately.

The Fine Print
Figure not actually for sale. Figure and text intended as a work of satire. Image copyright Todd W. and Lil Peck. Quacktion Figure™ is a trademark of Todd W. and Harpocrates Speaks.

Complete Quacktion Figure™ series

Monday, October 24, 2011

Announcing "Quacktion Figures™"!

If you read this blog, chances are, you're more of a reality-based individual. You prefer good, hard evidence over stories from your friend's brother's girlfriend's cousin's former roommate's grandfather's ex-military buddy. When it comes to medicine, you like the kind that actually works, that really improves your health rather than just making you think you're better while your liver is gasping for life. You probably look at scam artists and think, "If only I lacked ethics, I could rake it in just like that guy."

Well, fear no more. Announcing Quacktion Figures™! Now you can pretend with the best of them. Objective improvements, smobjective improvements. What matters is how the patient feels, not whether their cancer actually goes away!

Over the next several weeks, I will be putting up a new quacktion figure every Friday. Be forewarned; these are meant as satire. For the humor-impaired, please take a look at New Times v. Isaacks.

Also, I have to give a well-deserved shout-out to the artist who helped me give form to my idea. Lil Peck put in quite a bit of time to give form to each of the figures. Show her some love.

Finally, these only exist in digital form and are unavailable for actual sale, so, sorry, no stocking stuffers for you (though I think it would be amazing if someone actually built some of these).

Stay tuned!

Quacktion Figure™ is a trademark of Todd W. and Harpocrates Speaks.

Complete Quacktion Figure™ series

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Censored on Best of Age of Autism: Paul Offit and the Original Sin

A while back, JB Handley made a deal. He bet that if the author Sullivan over at Left Brain/Right Brain was not Bonnie Offit, wife of Dr. Paul Offit, he would never write about Dr. Offit again.

Well, it seems he is, at the very least, passively violating that agreement, as evidenced by a new post up at Age of Autism titled "Best of Age of Autism: Paul Offit and the Original Sin". If Handley has any integrity, as one of the editors/contributors at Age of Autism, he will take the post down. I've left a comment over there to that effect, which I copy here:

Click to enlarge.

Readers, head on over there and let yourselves be heard. Be sure to save a copy of any comments you leave, which you can post here. If you do comment there, however, be sure to follow their commenting policy, so that they have no real excuse to moderate your comment out of existence.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wanted: Virus and Bacteria Mug Shots

Just putting a brief call out to anyone that has the means of taking photos of viruses and bacteria. I would like some pics of the organisms that cause vaccine-preventable diseases. Namely, the following:
  • Bordetella pertussis
  • Clostridium tetani
  • Corynebacterium diphtheriae
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b
  • Hepatitis A Virus
  • Hepatitis B Virus
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Influenza Virus
  • Measles Virus
  • Mumps Virus
  • Neisseria meningitidis
  • Poliovirus
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Varicella (Herpes Zoster Virus)
The picture should show the individual virus or bacteria and must be your own; no third-party pics, please. Photos are preferred, though digital artwork depicting the particles/organisms works, too. The images should be something similar to what one can find on the Public Health Image Library (which I could use, but would prefer to get pictures over which I can have full use rights). If you have images for which you are willing to give me the rights to use for a project, please contact me at todd [at] harpocratesspeaks [dot] com. Deadline is October 31, 2011. Credit will be given, though no remuneration will be provided.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Who Stopped the Rain?

The other day, I was reminded of something that happened to me many years ago, when I was a little younger and much more naive. At the time, I was living in Japan and had to walk pretty much everywhere I wanted to go. That put me outside for rather extended periods of time pretty frequently, which also meant that I was in the rain for longer stretches than I otherwise would have been back in the United States, where I drove anywhere I needed to go. It also happened that I was, at the time, rather enamored of the New Age-y pseudo-Celtic mythology, which revered nature, espoused spirit guides and purported to teach the follower the means to manipulate energy to influence the world around us. I had come to these beliefs in part out of a sense of disenchantment with my Christian upbringing and organized religion in general, as well as a youthful conceit that I could somehow control the uncontrollable.

These things came together one spring day, as I was heading, if I recall correctly, to university.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Brave Maverick Day!

In the United States, today, the second Monday in October, is Columbus Day, a holiday recognizing the landing of Christopher Columbus on the shores of the New World. On October 12, 1492, Columbus arrived landed on the island now known as San Salvador, in the Bahamas. Many celebrate the day as the discovery of America. A popular, though erroneous, belief is that Columbus flaunted common thought that Earth was flat, venturing out across the western waves to prove that the planet was, in fact round, and he is often held up as a model of how one man with conviction can prove not just popular opinion, but science itself, wrong.

Portrait of a "brave maverick".

In fact, cranks of all stripes tend to bring up Columbus to support their fringe ideas, secure in the belief that they will be vindicated. Perhaps if they knew a little more about Columbus, they might not be quite so eager to compare themselves to him.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Disturbing Findings on Measles Immunization in India

Over the weekend, I saw a news story from India Express on the measles vaccine in that country. Titled "Measles vaccine protects only 1 out of 5 children in Delhi: Study," the article discusses a recent study that found poor efficacy for measles vaccine among Indian children after a single dose. Since the news article did not provide a link to the study, I had to poke around a bit to find it. Appearing in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, Immune response to second dose of MMR vaccine in Indian children (PDF), by Sunil Gomber, Shilpa Khanna Arora, Shukla Das and V.G. Ramachandran, examines the seroprotection of MMR against measles, mumps and rubella, as well as the immune response to a second dose of MMR. Unlike in the United States, the MMR is not part of the national recommended immunization schedule. The Indian state of Delhi, however, does include a single dose of MMR given at 15-18 months of age.

Before diving into the study, we need to get an idea of the state of things in India.