WikiLeaks: Free Speech and Private Speech

I have a problem with nearly anything being connected to skepticism.  I admit readily that it’s kind of a knee-jerk thing, but from values to beliefs, I don’t want to be told that really anything is required to be a part of skepticism.  That said, I do feel that the one value skeptics do need to defend is the right to free speech.  When we are saying “no” to the status quo, we need to be able to do that without being imprisoned or sued by the nation.  All that said, I’ve been having some issues with the recent WikiLeaks exposure of hundreds (so far) of private documents written by diplomats and government officials within the US. … continue reading this entry.

A Skeptic Examines the Death Penalty – Happy Independence Day!

These Americans were all wrongly convicted to die.

These Americans were all wrongly convicted to die.

The day you’re reading this is the fifth of July, and our great country is doing one of the things it does best, celebrating a holiday after the holiday’s happened because we want a day off.  So I figured I’d do my best to write about another quintessentially American pastime, the death penalty.

Your initial thought may be that when it comes to something like the death penalty, we’re talking about a political issue, and therefore something that this blog shouldn’t be touching.  I would disagree whole-heartedly. The death penalty may be an issue which is political but that doesn’t mean that skepticism can’t inform us on the subject. … continue reading this entry.

Why Health Freedom and Anti-Vaccine don’t mix

Can your kid get measles so I can pretend I didn't give mine autism?

"Can your kid get measles so I can feel like I'm fighting the phantom I'm blaming for my child's autism?"

The recent AutismOne conference in Chicago is something I’d like to consider a new low in the American health system.  I’d like to consider it a new low because it would mean that this autism/vaccine nonsense hadn’t been going on now for over a decade.  Unfortunately, it has, and why AutismOne hasn’t faded against the blaring horn of stupidity constantly playing at us from sources like Generation Rescue, Autism Speaks, and the omni-dreadful Age of Autism is inconceivable.  It would have missed my radar completely – I tend to avoid the autism people thanks to a family history of high blood pressure – had the most recent AutismOne conference not attracted the attention of a completely separate group of health ingrates, the “Health Freedom” movement. … continue reading this entry.

Antivaccine movement’s bad PR hits critical mass

Six months ago we were looking at a serious flu pandemic, a very strong  and vocal campaign demonizing vaccines, as well as a growing public distrust of vaccines and the entire medical industry. But then a funny thing happened. Despite all their bark, the antivaccine movement proved to lack sufficient bite, as enough Americans still seem to have gotten vaccinated against one or both prominent strains of flu, leading to a dramatically reduced number of flu cases and flu-related deaths this season.

It also goes without saying that none of the doom-saying predictions made by the antivaccine crowd panned out either. There was no dramatic increase in autism, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, or dystonia. Nor were there many deaths or serious injuries directly linked to the vaccines. And many of the “alternative” “medicines” the antivaccine crowd flock to like homeopathy and chiropractic  also got hammered with terrible press. But that’s not all that went wrong for the antivaccine movement over the last few months. There are numerous other reasons why 2010 is already proving devastating to their entire movement. … continue reading this entry.

Dangerous Legal Games

Shackling Reason

(Image Pelham Library)

The anti-vaccine community is at it again, launching inane legal assaults in an attempt to gain a foothold in their war against science and reason. This time, Barbara Loe Fisher, infamous founder of the ironically-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), has launched a libel suit against Paul Offit, renowned vaccine expert and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I can only hope some good will come of this idiocy. First, some background. … continue reading this entry.

Science + Courtrooms = Bad Science

There’s an article in the LA Times from last week all about how the US Chamber of Commerce wants a trial about Global Warming. What’s really weird about it is that they’re calling it “The Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century,” and the thing about that is… the Scopes monkey trial is the perfect example for why this shouldn’t be in a courtroom.

John T. Scopes, circa 1925, unpublished photograph donated to the Smithsonian Institute

John T. Scopes, circa 1925, unpublished photograph donated to the Smithsonian Institute

The first weird thing about the Scopes references is that they’re being made by the members of the Chamber of Commerce. They’re trying to imply that they are the Scopes of this trial, and that the EPA is in the role of William Jennings Bryan. Well… no. To begin with, Scopes was the defendant, and not the prosecution. By going after the EPA, the Chamber of Commerce has clearly placed itself in the role of aggressor. Secondly, and more importantly, like Bryan, it is the Chamber of Commerce who are going against established science. In fact, the metaphor sort of makes perfect sense when you realize that it’s the US Chamber of Commerce that’s playing Bryan in this third adaptation of “Inherit the Wind”. … continue reading this entry.

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