Ew – the dreaded first post! There’s something quite sad about it isn’t there, that very first entry on a blog, welcoming you to an empty site? But blogs don’t just spawn out of nothing you know, oh no I assure you that this blog has a creator – me! And since this blog is being created by a human hand and not divine intervention it has to have a first post, so here it is…
To be perfectly honest, there’s no specific reason why I chose that name. I’d like to be able to tell you it has some deep meaning, on many levels, and that I struggled for weeks deciding on the perfect wording but that’s simply not true. The fact is, I didn’t want to waste too much time coming up with a name, denialists.com was available (a rare thing for a single word .com domain these days) and so I snapped it up – I figured I’d rather spend my time writing than deliberating over a name.
I didn’t quite just pick the name out of a hat though, I had an idea of the sort of name I wanted based on the sort of topics I intend to blog about, and in fact denialists fits quite nicely with a lot of the subjects I intend to cover. So let me tell you why I’m starting this blog, and what you can expect to find here, and I’ll do that with an example:
This week I saw an article on BBC News with the following headline:
Homeopathic ‘vaccine pills’ should be withdrawn, says regulator
Wow there’s a sentence that could start a few arguments around the dinner table with the right/wrong people! If you’ve no idea why that headline might have caught my eye then I suggest you hit the back button, because this site is not going to interest you. I suspect you’ll be in the minority though, since these are 2 pretty “touchy” subjects.
First we have homeopathy. I’ll be kind and call it a “pseudoscience” rather than a “quackery scam” since this is my first blog post and I’m in a charitable mood! If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s a system of “alternative medicine” which dates back to Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century. Essentially it revolves around the idea of repeatedly diluting a substance over and over again in either distilled water or alcohol, until there is nothing left of the original substance, and then using that “dilution” which practitioners refer to as a “remedy” to be administered as a medicine. Note that the “remedy” at this stage has been diluted so much that it is just water or alcohol which homeopaths say has a “memory” of the original active ingredient! (If you’re interested, here’s an interesting blog post that does the maths to prove that a homeopathic remedy diluted 20 times at a 100:1 ratio has an active component of less than 1 in 217 billion billion!!!)
Trials have proven time and time again that, as any semi-intelligent person could work out via pure logic (otherwise known as common sense!), homeopathy is complete and total BS. No homeopathic “remedy” has ever performed better than a similarly administered placebo in any trial in over 200 years, and yet there are people out there not only gullible enough to believe it works, but willing to use it in an attempt to vaccinate their children against deadly diseases! More worryingly though, are the people and companies who are creating these dilutions, labelling them as vaccines and selling them to unsuspecting parents.
That brings me to the second part of that headline, the part about vaccines. Now I can certainly see why some people are wary of vaccines, since they involve putting a substance into your body which can have side effects, and that not all vaccines are equally effective (and yes, I realise there’s the whole issue of “Big Pharma” being involved and potential corruption etc. but that’s for a future post, for now I’m just concerned about vaccination itself) However, there’s a big difference between being healthily skeptical of something, and flat out denying it works… and yes, there are plenty of denialists out there who refuse to believe vaccination works, or who believe all forms of vaccination are some sort of government conspiracy!
Interestingly, vaccination has been around for about as long as homeopathy, both originating towards the end of the 18th century. Unlike homeopathy however, vaccination has a long and proven history of unparalleled success. The world is undoubtably a much better and less scary place than it would be if vaccination had never been developed. You only need a very minor understanding of the history of smallpox to realise just how important vaccination has been to humans, but it’s not only diseases which we’ve eradicated that vaccination has had a major impact on. Take measles for example – in 1958 there were 763,094 deaths due to measles in the US. Because of vaccination, there are now less than 100 per year. That’s a 99.98% decrease in deaths from that one disease! I think this quote best conveys the importance of vaccination:
The impact of vaccination on the health of the world’s peoples is hard to exaggerate. With the exception of safe water, no other modality, not even antibiotics, has had such a major effect on mortality reduction and population growth – Professor Stanley Plotkin
It’s a plain and simple fact that without vaccination, there would be MILLIONS more deaths every year, millions of children dying horribly from preventable childhood diseases such as measles, rubella, and mumps. And yet there are still people who deny that vaccination is a good thing, or even that it works! And worse, there are no doubt people out there who see a product labelled “Homeopathic Measles Vaccine” and don’t realise that homeopathy is quackery, then put their children at risk by buying and administering that “remedy” thinking they are doing a good thing. That’s why I’m starting this blog… to try and cut through some of the confusion, nonsense, and misinformation.
“One of these products is to protect or to treat meningitis. That is a condition that is potentially fatal. Ineffective treatment for fatal disease is life-threatening.” – Professor Edzard Earnst on homeopathic vaccines.
So what’s it all about?
OK so by now you might be wondering what exactly this blog is about. Is it about medicine, or vaccination, or homeopathy, or denialism? Well yes and no on all counts. This blog is about truth, understanding, rationalism and finding a way past all the fluff and nonsense.
There is SO MUCH complete and utter (sorry but there really is no better word for it) bullshit online about so many topics, that I feel compelled to start this blog as a way of trying, in my own small way, to help combat it. So in future posts you can expect me to be writing about homeopathy again, and religion, and creationism, and astrology, and all forms of dodgy pseudoscience, superstition, quackery and other nonsense.
I’m not going to be so bold as to say my view is always the correct one about all these topics, in fact that’s the beauty of science; that opinions change as new evidence is brought to light. And I realise that some of what I’ll be writing about is likely to inflame people and illicit condemnation, but I’m going to leave the comments on anyway so feel free to have your say. I invite anyone reading this blog to comment, and to challenge anything I write, just please try to keep the language clean(ish) and the direct insults to a minimum or else I’ll summon the flying spaghetti monster to drop a homeopathic meatball on your head!
(Whew – first post done. Over, and out!)Billy
Good stuff Billy,
You keep selling me the truth an I’ll keep buying your prescription!!!
I watched the tv programme about the vaccinations and I had to turn it off because the debate makes me mad. Vaccinations have been developed over years to stamp out diseases that used to take the lives of children. I know everyone has the right to decide whether to vaccinate their own children, but what many people don’t think about is that by not vaccinating they’re putting other children – including mine – at risk.
I was pregnant during the recent whooping cough break out and I jumped at the chance to be vaccinated, to try and give my twins a bit of immunity before they are old enough for their own jabs. I was hospitalised as a kid with WC and I don’t want that to happen to my kids!
Man, I couldn’t agree less! I think that there are tons of homeopathic remedies out there that have proven effective.
Not sure about homeopathic vaccines, but I regularly use Echinacea to increase my defenses and I’m sure that it has helped me survive last winter without one single cold!
With regards to these ‘trials’, they are obviously perfermormed and financed by the pharma industry, so it’s pretty obvious that they wouldn’t be interested that any natural remedy proves effective, would they?
@Fred – you are confusing Homeopathy with Naturopathy or herbal remedies. Unless the Echinacea was serially diluted to non-existence, what you took was not homeopathic.
And, for the record, not a single solitary homeopathic remedy has been shown to be any more effective than a placebo.
@Clare – exactly. I don’t think some people do understand that refusing to vaccinate puts others in danger, or that a “homeopathic vaccine” is not a vaccine!
@Fred – but that’s just the point, a homeopathic echinacea “remedy” doesn’t contain any ecinacea (or any other “active ingredient”) Ecinacea may well have a beneficial effect on the immune system, but a homeopathic echinacea preparation is just a sugar pill (and if you don’t believe that, click the link in my post above which goes over the maths of succession – the repeated dilution process.
And while I have to agree with your skepticism of big pharma (they are certainly not above bending or even breaking the truth to suit their needs) the evidence against homeopathy is much wider reaching. Try Googling James Randi’s experiments (couldn’t get much further away from big pharma than someone like him!) or the trials last year at the Berkeley SkeptiCal conference where over 100 people participated in a “mass overdose” of a homeopathic sleeplessness preparation with zero effect! IMO the evidence against homeopathy is undeniable.
Excellent! I shall be following this thread & look forward to your future posts. I ordered a copy Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, after watching a TED talk by him a couple of days ago. I am imagining that it will be a bit like Not on the label, by Felicity Laurence ( About food production, supermarket conduct, slave labour & much worse information, some that we do not want to know, but need to know about the food industry). Bed Goldacre’s TED talk made it clear how drug trials can not only be, not accurate, but sleekit, grossly unfair, misleading & give Doctors no where near the information they need to make an informed choice on what is the best medicine to give a patient. When talking about the placebo effect, he said how a sugar pill was not as effective as a saline injection, not that either worked, but an injection was more invasive so felt more beneficial to the recipient. I am not a mother, so as such I have never made the choice of getting a child immunised with the standard, recommended child vaccines, and MMR info being vague on it’s links to Autism, but is that still not unproven? I think so?
I know that if I go abroad I make sure I receive necessary vaccines for planned travel, and yes, I think it is irresponsible not too. I think if I was a parent, I would go ahead with protecting my child this way. A homeopathic “remedy” should no way be labelled as a vaccine & as I thought, (until a couple of days ago), that a dilution for such a “remedy” was 1:10 I guess there is much more on this subject I have yet to learn.