What does God know about vaccines?

I don’t like to discuss religion. I don’t like to discuss the existence of nature of a god or the God. Those are all philosophical things that have no place in scientific discourse and, in non-scientific discourse, usually end up getting us all up in arms about this or that. However, we need to acknowledge that an enormous proportion of us humans believe in God or gods, or, at the very least, believe that we are not in charge of our destinies, at least not 100% percent.

There are times when anti-vaccine and anti-science types try to use religion as a way to promote their ideas. Take for example this post by “Megan“. Megan’s about page reads like something out of a quack’s dream:

“I have a degree in Political Science, a law degree, and am a Naturopath, Certified Natural Health Educator, Registered Power Yoga Instructor, writer, and stay-at-home mama. My better-half holds a biology degree, chemistry minor, is a Family Practice Physician, and is a Captain in the United States Air Force. Together we have four kids under three; and yes, we plan to have more.”

Four kids under three?! I’m not a mathematician, but that’s more than one kid per year. Get a hobby, you two.

Oh, and get a clue. Her “better-half” has those degrees but is a “Family Practice Physician”? Either Megan forgot to mention the “doctor of medicine” or “doctor of osteopathic medicine” degree, or we have some shenanigans going on here. I’m inclined to call shenanigans because she goes on and write:

“We eat a gluten, dairy, meat, sugar, and genetically modified free diet; yet, our food still tastes good!”

Nothing genetically modified? I didn’t know people could live on sunshine alone. Apparently, people do. (Of course they don’t.)

Megan goes on:

“We do not vaccinate. We do not medicate… We advocate natural medicine in most situations.”

Which is it, Megan? Do you medicate or not? To me, Megan reads like a Poe. I ran her profile by several rational people, and we agree that it doesn’t make sense. Her husband is a physician but they don’t medicate? Does he medicate his patients? If so, he’s a hypocrite. He’s in the Air Force but they don’t vaccinate? I know first-hand that the military does not ask you if you want to be vaccinated. You kind of just get vaccinated, even against smallpox. So, yeah, hypocrisy again. Furthermore, Megan is a naturopath, and all those other things, but:

“I became interested in natural medicine six years ago when I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Determined to avoid drugs, surgeries, and horrible side-effects I sought alternative therapies and a major lifestyle change; and it worked. I no longer have Crohn’s disease and have been symptom and medication free since. I’ve also recovered from candida, hashimotos thyroiditis, liver disease, gastroparesis, kidney infections, adrenal insufficiency, pituitary hypo function, polycystic ovary syndrome, a horrible skin condition, weight problems, hypoglycemia, dysthymic and postpartum depression, infertility, and more…naturally.”

Holy shit. Pardon my French. People that list these many conditions are what we call “train wrecks” and there usually is a strong psychogenic component to being so sick.

Finally:

“[Her website] is meant to build-up, empower, and encourage you to channel your inner crunch.”

Your inner crunch? I can’t… I JUST CAN’T, OKAY?!

Anyway, I just took ten minutes to myself to relax and be able to write about Megan’s post on how God doesn’t like vaccines. She begins:

“Christians, we need to talk. If you are not a Christian, this post is not for you.”

Because, you know, Jesus only preached to Christians.

“No judgment here, but I need to speak to my Jesus peeps. You see, there’s this little thing called a religious exemption, and it’s being threatened.”

No judgment, then proceeds to judge. More hypocrisy. The whole post is full of it. She goes on to write about religious exemptions and how they’re being done away with a little at a time. Like all of that is a bad thing.

“Then there’s the propaganda by religious leaders geared towards people like us. If your pastor says it’s okay…then it must be okay right? No…because your pastor isn’t Jesus and probably hasn’t read the vaccine inserts or additives list.”

But guess who is about to pretend she’s Jesus (or knows as much as Jesus)? You got it…

“We actually think “we” hold the key to improving upon His design… as if He forgot something when He created the immune system.”

Well, it’s not so much that God forgot. It’s more like He dropped us into a world filled with pathogens, many of them deadly. The immune system can only take so much. If the immune system was perfect, then we wouldn’t get sick at all. Heck, if God really wanted to cover all the bases, he would have just done away with pathogens.

I know. I know. I can feel the atheists rolling their eyes. But that post is not for you, remember? So humor me.

“God is pro-life. This is an un-contested issue. There is zero scriptural support to the contrary.”

There is also zero scriptural support to rejecting vaccines.

“If you’re a Christian, you might be surprised to know that more than 23 vaccines contain cells, cellular debris, protein, and DNA from aborted babies, including: Adenovirus, Polio, Dtap/Polio/HiB Combo, Hep A, Hep A/Hep B Combo, MMR, MMRV Pro Quad, Rabies, Varicella, and the Shingles vaccines.”

I know for a fact that scripture warns against lying, Megan. There are no fetal cells from “aborted babies” in vaccines. The viruses that are used to create the vaccines are grown in cell cultures. Those cell cultures are derived from other cells. Those other cells are derived from even other cells, and so on all the way back to, like, the 1960s. As someone with so much education, Megan, you and your husband should realize the amount of bullshit you’re spreading. As a Christian, you should be pretty much afraid of eternal damnation right now.

“First of all, sacrificing the few for the many is biblically unjustifiable.”

Like Jesus’ sacrifice for the world? Like the flood, in which the world was sacrificed for Noah et al to repopulate the Earth? Like Samson sacrificed himself by taking down the pillars? No, nothing in the Bible about sacrifice.

“In fact, aborted babies are being used everyday to create new cell lines for more vaccines.”

Lies.

“It’s true… most Christians don’t question vaccinations and haven’t thought about God’s take on the issue. I used to be one of them. Regardless of your denomination, we all serve the same God, and God does not support vaccines.”

Well, all we have to do is ask God to get rid of vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases. After all, it states in the Bible that He will answer our prayers, right, Megan?

Perusing through the rest of Megan’s blog, I came to the conclusion that she is, indeed, a big hypocrite. She used a verse from the Bible about how blood is supposed to remain pure and not contaminated, not even with other human blood, but then she writes this on a post appropriately titled “Everyone Needs a Good Quack Doctor“:

“I’m not anti-modern medicine. I think prosthetics and organ transplants and the doctors who help us pick up the pieces from our poor lifestyle choices and sew our legs back on after car accidents are great.”

Ah, so Megan hypocritically tells us that “contaminating” our bodies with organs from another human is okay, but God forbid we get cells into us through vaccines.

Finally, Megan concludes with this enormous lie:

“Modern medicine is an epic fail; and to be honest, the medical community that claims to be ahead of the game is so far behind the curve it’s not even funny. Consider this, we haven’t a single cure for any chronic disease, nor do we know (or acknowledge) the causes either.”

So there’s no cure for diabetes? We don’t know that diabetes is caused by overweight and obesity or pancreatic failure? We don’t know that losing weight or going on a diet cures it? We have ignored that insulin and other drugs control blood glucose to the point that diabetes can be cured?

Nah, we don’t know nothing about none of that.

So I’m calling shenanigans. In my opinion, based on her screeds, Megan is not any of the things she claims to be, not even a Christian. A true Christian, as devout as she claims to be, would be afraid of lying so much. I think she’s a plant to try and bring out the crazy in her readers.

I think she’s a troll. I think she’s Craig Egan.

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Just watch them eat each other alive (UPDATED)

It will be kind of difficult for me to write this post without naming names, but I’ll give it a shot. I told you a few weeks back about how “the kid” was taking on his online alma mater. He claimed that several people he used to be allied with hijacked a sham Congressional hearing on autism. The kid claims that some guy with a PhD in biochemistry has solved the mystery of the non-existent autism-vaccine link, but that the PhD was not allowed to present his case to the Congressional Committee because, again, an organization called “SafeMinds” hijacked it. “SafeMinds” is all about a link between thimerosal and autism, and for anyone to say otherwise is high treason… Unless you’re Andrew Wakefield and his fraudulent study since the MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal.

So the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) had a meeting on April 9. On that meeting was a founding member of “SafeMinds,” among others. Remember, according to the kid, it was “SafeMinds” that hijacked The Truth® from coming out at the committee hearings in DC. The IACC meeting opened for comments, and guess who showed up? The kid showed up, and he was on fire. The video from the meeting is not up yet, but I’ll update this post when it is. I watched it live as they streamed it to the web, and let me tell you… He’s got issues. Continue reading

For it is written so

I thought I’d take the opportunity that it is Sunday (I wrote this on a Sunday) to write something a little bit related to religion, namely Christianity. I know, I know! This blog is all about science, and it will always be. I’m not going to try to convert you to anything. Relax.

I’d like to write today about the conspiracy theory (Snopes.com artilcle) that RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chips will be implanted in humans as part of “Obamacare” starting sometime soon. Of course, it’s all bunk. The Snopes article does a really good job of explaining why this rumor is false.

But why do people believe that rumor?

There are quite a number of Christians who take what is written in the Bible literally. To them, the Earth is a few thousand years old, all of humanity descends from the survivors of the Great Flood, and there will be an “End Times” where a totalitarian government will rise to rule over the earth. My hope in Christians is that there is a good number of them that understand that the Bible was written in times when detailed explanations were not possible, so the book of Revelation was written in code and for the people living under control of the Romans. For all intents and purposes back in that time, Rome was the “One World Government” that everyone feared. Nero (or one of his contemporaries) was the “Antichrist” because the Roman emperors of that time were all about persecuting and killing Christians.

The Christians who believe in a literal meaning of the books of the Bible do something interesting when they want to spread their conspiracies. They take a literal approach to the Bible and then add a non-literal element to it. In the case of the RFID chip conspiracy, they take the literal meaning of “Mark of the Beast” in the Bible and then say, “Well, it’s not quite a mark but an RFID chip.” Anything to sell the idea, I guess.

But this idea of the RFID chip is not exclusive to the Obama era. They’re rehashing an old conspiracy and adapting it to the here and now. The “Bible Answer Man”, Hank Hanegraaff, answered a question about RFID and mentioned how the conspiracy, at least with RFID chips approved by the FDA, go back to 2004, when that approval took place. He wrote:

“In October 2004 the Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing of a microchip implantable under the skin of humans for medical identification. Paranoid prophecy pundits immediately began touting Verichip technology as the mark of the Beast spoken of in Revelation 13. Contrary to such newspaper eschatology, there is no biblical basis for believing that the mark of the Beast is a silicon microchip.”

Why is this conspiracy theory wrong from a theological point of view, let alone a scientific one? Because:

“Furthermore, the forehead and the hands are Old Testament symbols of a person’s beliefs and behavior (cf. Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18; Ezekiel 9). In other words, what you believe and how you behave mark you as either belonging to God or belonging to Satan. As such, John’s reference to the mark of the Beast in Revelation is securely tethered to Scripture. Conversely, the notion that the mark of the Beast is Sunday worship, a social security card number, or a silicon microchip has no biblical basis whatsoever.”

See, the person who wrote the book of Revelation, which is really a letter to the early Christians who were being persecuted by the Romans, wrote it in code so that the readers could carry it around and the message within could not be easily read by others. He used symbols to describe people and places. In short, the letter was written to them and then compiled in the Bible for us.

Now, I know a lot of atheistically-inclined folks will read that some conspiracy is based on the Bible and discredit it on that alone. And that’s fine if that’s what works for you. But what if you’re trying to explain to a “believer” that their belief is unfounded? Do you just just try to convert them away from their belief? Or do you go to a source — like I did with the Bible Answer Man — in order to explain to them that the conspiracy doesn’t even stand up to their own belief system?

There’s no good answer because it will depend on how comfortable you are discussing these things with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs. If you’re an anti-theist, you might be encouraged to tell people that they’re crazy for believing and continue the debate from that angle. (It puts people off, by the way. They pretty much stop listening once you tell them they’re crazy.) If you’re more moderate in your views, you might want to find evidence with the history and study of the Bible — or some other holy book — in order to explain things away. It’s up to you.

I recommend a balance.

Does the moon also fall?

It took 98 posts on this blog before I decided to address the issue of “science vs. religion”. I put it in quotes because there are some people who don’t believe there is an issue between science and religion. There are others who do. I’m kind of in the middle. On the one hand, I have no problem with people believing that the universe was created by an all-knowing, everlasting entity. If that’s what gets you up in the morning and helps things make sense and have meaning to you, then who is anyone to say that this is wrong?

On the other hand, we know a lot of things to be true through the scientific process. No matter how much one church or another says that the planet is the center of the solar system, we know that this is not the case. So I do have a problem when people have such a deep-seeded belief in religion’s teachings that they deny that the world around them is the way it has been shown to be. Anyone today can go and buy a telescope from a department store and look into the sky to see that we are, in fact, not the center of the universe and most definitely not the center of the solar system.

You can believe whatever you want to believe, but don’t deny the truth.

Bill Nye recently got in trouble with some people for this video:

You see, we know through science that the universe has been around for billions of years (about 15 billion, or so). We also know that the Earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years. Even with all this evidence, there are people who believe that this planet is only a few thousand years old and that it was literally created in 6 days. What is their evidence? Texts written thousands of years ago. Texts written when there were no telescopes or radiologic dating of rocks. Text written by someone who was not a scientist but was inspired to try to explain to his people where we come from.

Think about it, if you didn’t know science and a whole bunch of miracles happened around you, how would you explain the world to your people? Be honest. You wouldn’t use science, because you couldn’t. But you can now!

There is a sect that believes that going to the doctor for an ailment shows that you don’t believe in God. I can’t help but to shake my head when I read about that this child or that child (and many more) got hurt because their parents didn’t want to be spiritually weak and take the children to the doctor. It makes no sense. We know from several centuries of medicine that there are antibiotics for bacterial infections, that pathogens and not spirits cause physiological disease, and that physicians and other licensed healthcare providers have been trained on how to deal with these ailments and administer medicine. What is spiritually weak about using the truth to heal yourself? (I’m willing to bet that God also shakes His [probably] enormous head.)

But now we know better about how things work. And we need to tell our children that there is this discipline called science that will give us many, if not all, the answers of why the world is the way it is, and how the universe came to be. Science can tell them if the moon also falls, or if it’s just up there, suspended in space. (It’s constantly falling, by the way.)

If you want to teach your children that there is a creator, don’t lie to them and tell them that the world was created in six days. It wasn’t. (Would you be lying if you told them there was or there wasn’t a creator?) Things that religion teaches but have been shown to be wrong by science were always wrong. They weren’t right up until the moment that we discovered the truth. Why would you want to do that to your children?

Like Mr. Nye said, we’re going to need children who learn and apply science to the problems of the world, not children who think the world operates the way people thousands of years ago thought the world operated. That’s not a way to live. And any theologian worth their weight in salt would agree with me.

Faith in what hasn’t been shown to work

Most religions, and certainly the major ones (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) require that you take certain things on faith. Many of them offer no hard evidence of their tennets. Yes, there is plenty of historical evidence for many of the events that happened in the narratives of these religions, but there is no hard evidence of the existence of a God beyond what is taken by faith alone.

But this blog is not about religion. It’s about science. In the world of science, we scientists require that claims be backed up by evidence. If someone comes to me and says that they can cure cancer, then I require certain proofs. I require that the treatment be shown to be biologically plausible. That is, I require that what the treatment claims to do is something that can happen in the real world, not the back of a napkin or a drawing on a blackboard. I also require the results of a well-conducted clinical trial where people with cancer are healed or live longer than people who do not receive the treatment. Finally, I require that the study that shows the treatment as effective be replicated by other studies by investigators who have no stake in the success of the treatment. That’s all I ask. It’s not a lot to ask for is it?

Apparently, it is a lot to ask for a clinic in Texas that claims to be able to cure cancer by using what it calls “antineoplastons”, a treatment of their own making. That treatment has not been shown to work. There have been no randomized, controlled clinical studies. There have been no follow-up randomized, controlled clinical studies. And even the biological mechanism by which the antineoplastons are supposed to work is, well, questionable. In short, there is no credible evidence that the treatment works.

That is unless you believe the testimonials. There are plenty of people who give testimonies about the treatment. Unfortunately, many of these testimonies are from the friends or relatives of the people who tried the antineoplastons as a last resort, albeit with a promise of a cure and at a great expense. I mean, it’s expensive:

“Antineoplastons are given orally or by injection into a vein. The duration of treatment usually ranges from eight to twelve months. A year of treatment can cost from $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the type of treatment, number of consultations, and the need for surgery to implant a catheter for drug delivery.”

But you wouldn’t know that this whole thing was expensive, unproven, and that the Food and Drug Administration is keeping an eye on it all from what you read in the testimonials. In those testimonials you have people who believe in the therapy with what can only be described as a religious devotion. One after another, the patients describe miraculous recovery from cancer. Others have family members describing an extra amount of time bought by the antineoplaston treatment. But, again, there are no studies published. There is no extraordinary evidence.

In fact, something that is missing from the testimonials website is the story of this young lady. She died. Also missing is this story. That little girl died, but not before her parents and friends had to raise a lot of money to try and get her to the clinic and into the clinical trials. They also don’t mention these stories. Or these.

The list goes on, and there will probably be names added to it because the clinic is still open, still charging patients thousands of dollars for unproven treatments that insurance won’t pay, and still being warned by the FDA for its activities.

A lot of people I know keep harking on the dangers of religion and how religion drives us to do some things that are insane. I tend to agree. However, part of me believes that it’s the human being inside of us that is to blame. We are the ones that forgo true, proven medicine for something that hasn’t been shown to work. For what? Hope that we may live a little longer? Hope that this maverick clinic in Texas has figured out the cure to the plague of the twentieth century?