Every time we have an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness, medical journals, the skeptical blogosphere, and even one oddball astronomy site seize the opportunity to re-iterate two related points: 1) Vaccines are safe, and they are unrelated to autism. 2) When rates of vaccinations drop, diseases return. These incidents are exceedingly salient to the current public debate surrounding vaccination and more than worthy of the attention they receive.
And yet, in spite of the evidence, in spite of our vigilance, people still fear vaccines and outbreaks continue. Faced with a frustrating and seemingly perpetual battle, it is easy for skeptics to become jaded and cynical, feeling as though we are either preaching to a silent choir or an unfortunately vocal brick wall. That’s why I think it is worth taking another look at the most recent measles outbreak to have gained skeptical attention because the situation may not be as bleak as it sometimes appears.1
Hooray! Newsweek reports that Alison Singer, executive vice president of communications and awareness at Autism Speaks, has determined that the question of whether or not there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism has been answered. And that answer is no. Faced with disagreement from others in the organization, Ms. Singer chose to step down from her post. There are a few things to discuss here.
James Randi is back with the second entry in his YouTube vlog. This week's entry, "It's Not In the Name" deals with the specialized wording used by different groups who may or may not be reality-based. And don't miss a minor miracle performed by Randi himself.
This, and all of the JREF's videos are available at our YouTube account. To see it larger or leave comments, click here.
Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward is a comedic play about a man who goes to a seance and is visited by his dead wife... who then refuses to leave. She causes trouble and tries to get him to leave his second wife. In the real world, the only people that refuse to leave are the so-called psychics themselves, who continue to bilk the public and mislead the curious.
There is a new production of Blithe Spirit, one with a bit of a twist: they're holding auditions for actual psychic to join the cast.
The United States is a funny place, full of self-contradictions. We know that science education is getting slammed, and has been for years. Yet in surveys (admittedly from a few years back) we also know that people love science news, and want to hear more about it. Many people understand that science has a big impact on their lives, but have a limited understanding of how science works, or even what it is.
And, of course, the past few years we've seen an unprecedented attack on it, both from government and from self-styled "think tanks" where thinking appears to be the last thing on their minds.