As we discussed in the Anti-Anti-Vax Panel at TAM7, scientifically illiterate activists are endangering our public health. Now they have a new target: the fast-track program to develop a swine flu vaccine in time to prevent a possible pandemic.
A correspondent in the Netherlands wrote me, forwarding this article a friend in the UK had sent him: http://www.globalhealthfreedom.org/?p=3081 Briefly, it says we are going to be offered a dangerous, inadequately tested swine flu vaccine for a nonexistent threat.
This last Sunday I posted "We Should be Insulted," a commentary on the seeming endorsement of acupuncture by US agencies. Following that, I sent an inquiry to Ms. Cynthia Bass at the National Cancer Institute [NCI] - a division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH] - with this direct comment and question:
I have seen references in NCI literature to the use of acupuncture in cancer treatment, to relieve certain side-effects of chemotherapy. My question: Is there any scientific, double-blind research that shows acupuncture is effective?
Please note: I specified "double-blind" because many non-blinded tests of acupuncture have been done, with mixed results, but no such tests can be considered as evidential unless done that way, and I've never found any records of double-blinded tests of this claim. Ms. Bass did not answer the question. She referred me to a list of frequently-asked questions - and the official answers - on the NCI site; this is not unexpected, considering the volume of inquiries that the agency must receive. I have selected here those that almost respond to my inquiry.
The "complimentary and alternative medicine" business brings in some $34 billion a year in direct out-of-pocket spending from American consumers. The budget of the US National Institutes of Health - a major Federal agency - is not available to the average person, it seems. Looking in on the Internet for a simple dollar figure produces no results that I can find. A direct search for a "$" sign reports no hits...
My attention has been brought to this strange situation since I recently came into possession of a 62-page full-color booklet produced and distributed by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. This comprehensive publication - in its "Words To Know" glossary, begins with a definition of what is possibly the only form of quackery that outranks homeopathy for idiocy: acupuncture. It reads:
Acupuncture (AK-yoo-PUNK-cher): The technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.
Other literature issued by the NCI runs on and on about how ancient this idea is, that it is used in China, and how it's administered. Does it work?
Recently I read here that a study  had been conducted which looks at the trends between the study of certain subjects in college and religious observance. The study concluded that very religious high school students are more likely than less religious high school students to attend college.
This may surprise the skeptical world. I've heard many times that people with high levels of religiosity tend to be less educated and less intelligent whereas people with low religiosity tend to be more educated and more intelligent. Typically people cite an article published in nature as evidence for this phenomenon , if they cite an article at all. So why is this study saying that people who are more religious are more likely to attend college?
We can post article after article, lecture, jump up an down and point to all the evidence in the world. But sometimes... all that's needed is a pithy comedian to set the record straight.
Dara O'Briain is such a man, and these six minutes encompass the mission of the JREF and other skeptical organizations succinctly and with hillarity.
The language is a bit rougher than you'd find on American broadcast television, so if you're offended by that type of thing, you might not enjoy this. For the rest of us, it's a treat. Direct link is found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIaV8swc-fo