When Education Is Not Enough

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An article was published recently in which a group of physicists declared that Cinderella’s lone glass slipper would have shattered under her weight when she ran away from the ball, destroying her chances of finding her handsome prince. They also dare to suggest that Superman’s attempt to turn back time would have just killed all life on Earth. 

I posted the article to Facebook saying “Physics does not give a shit about your beloved childhood stories.” And many comments back were “our beloved childhood stories do not care about your physics.”

*sigh*

Even rationally minded people do not like it when science stomps on their beliefs. But nothing’s sacred to scientists, is it? Cinderella and Superman? What next, telling people that their deeply held beliefs about things like food science and vaccines don’t supersede doctors?

Yeah. That. 

Two stories. 

First, I was on the Skeptically Yours podcast with Heather Henderson and Emery Emery (real names, we like alliteration here), and the two other guests were non-scientists. One of the guests, who we’ll call Michael because that’s his name, had been anti-GMO until I met him at a party pre-podcast and started chewing his ear off. He went all “GMOs are the devil” and I went all “no they’re not.” Because, this will come as no surprise to you… I’m that person at parties. 

There you are, just trying to enjoy the jar labeled GMO free guacamole and there’s this ridiculous blonde telling you why a label like GMO free guacamole is silly because there are currently no genetically modified avocados, limes, cilantro, salt, spices, or any of the other ingredients that should be in any decent guacamole on the market and your only thought is “you’re in between me and the guacamole, bitch I will cut you.”

But…

This goddamn works better than anything else. Being able to answer Michael’s questions in person- kindly, while not telling him that he was an idiot- he started to come around to the notion that GMOs are not a plot by Monsanto, the government, or even little old me to poison him. I was no longer a stream of caps lock and exclamation marks yelling via a computer screen, I was a charming girl in Ugg boots. And have you seen pictures of my dog? I would never feed that face anything dangerous.

By the end of the party we were friends. And his suspicions about GMOs were starting to fade.

We continued the talk about GMOs on Skeptically Yours and Michael came with a list of questions. He veered from questions about the science to conspiracy style questions because… he went to google to find information about GMOs and this was the information he found. The volley went something like:

“But Monsanto made this other bad chemical half a century ago, how can I trust them?” 

“Bayer made heroin a century ago, do you buy aspirin?” 

At some point in the podcast the realization struck the anti-GMO arguments were incredibly similar to anti-vax arguments. These are all fear and belief based arguments that come from people who have never gone hungry, just like anti-vax arguments come from people who haven’t seen polio. Slowly the fears of GMOs were abated again. He’s still skeptical, but he’s listening. Conversations with a human being who you can relate to helps infinitely more than just words on a screen. But as we can’t send a scientist to everyone’s living room, the question came up on the podcast; how do we stop people from buying into misconceptions about science in the first place?

Emery answered: education. Which is a perfectly fine answer if we lived in a perfect world. 

But…

I have a second story in which education was not enough. And I’m sure this story isn’t an isolated case.

I went to a private school for kindergarten through eighth grade. I had a classmate who we’ll call Elise because that’s her name. We were in the exact same home room together for kindergarten through eighth grade. The same information from a good school was being pumped into our brains through our formative years. Then for high school, she went to the local private high school that cost a minor fortune to attend. I went to public school, so she had (arguably) better education for high school. I believe she has a math degree.

On paper, there’s education trickling out of this woman’s nipples. 

You’re sitting down and waiting for the bait and switch, right? She runs a page called Research Mama. From the name what are you expecting? A scientific researcher, perhaps?

Nope. Part of going to school with Elise means that I also experienced her mother coming into the school and demanding pages be ripped out of our science text books because they didn’t accommodate her extremely Catholic world view. The apple, it seems, has rotted along with the vine.

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Oh ffs…

The Research Mama an extremist pro-lifer whose descent into blogging began when she read on the internet that there were dead baby parts in vaccines. From exploring anti-vax blogs with a determination to not follow mainstream medical advice, she discovered all the other bullshit that she now sells. Very safe, very well researched medical products to prevent things like polio, measles, and whooping cough shouldn’t be used because she’s a mom who’s done her research. She tells people that elderberry is better than tamiflu, forgetting that the flu kills approximately 31,000 people per year and her assertions are shaky, at best. Her children, despite knowing that vaccine preventable diseases are coming back, are not vaccinated. 

In addition to being anti-vax, she had eczema and ‘cured’ it by cutting out an evil chemical product from her life and voila, she’s a newly minted google expert. Many people try to boast about their academic accomplishments, whereas she says “Most people scoff at the term “Google University” as a joke, as if it has no merit. Me? I wear my GU Degree as a badge of freaking honor.” She works for a direct sales company selling a bunch of organic “non-toxic” nebulously unproven overpriced soaps and essential oils. Every buzz word that I’ve debunked? She’s all up in the bunk. And let’s mention once again that she’s anti-vax because religion and dead baby parts and oh fuck everything. 

We need to have a little talk about religion. 

There’s a lot of crossover in the skepticism community and atheism community, but debunking religion is not generally in my repertoire. Atheism is not my hobby. It’s my religion like not skateboarding on Tuesdays is my sport. I implore you to accept scientific evidence, whatever your beliefs may be. Most people I know working in science who have a belief system accept evidence as it presents itself, and that’s good enough for me as a science communicator.

But then religion steps in my sandbox with bullshit like this, and I get a little testy.

Because, especially in a case like this, Elise had everything going for her to make her able to accept science… except religious thinking. She had conditioning to accept things without sufficient proof. And whether it was religion that led her to essential oils or just needing a source of outside income in direct sales, it certainly didn’t help. She had all the educational advantages someone could have hoped for. She had monetary advantages, good teachers, a mathematics degree, probably took advanced classes in science… and proudly chooses to opt for Google University. Because religion. She thinks looking through “natural” blogs are a better resource than scientific papers because the evidence she’ll accept has been clouded so heavily by both religion and anecdotal evidence. She’s making medical decisions that may endanger her children and it’s because of religion. 

Let’s be clear, I’m aware that this is an anecdote. But my point is that both my new friend Michael and my former classmate Elise had all the education available to them. They are both smart people, educated people.

And then some shit went horribly awry.

There are definitely external factors that affects somebody’s perceptions of facts and ability to accept information harder. In both of these types of situations, the people may have had education, but education is not enough if they don’t know how to think when presented with new information. Education may not be enough to overcome a deeply ingrained belief. It is not enough unless it trains someone to be a critical thinker. And it’s especially not enough when someone’s belief has a religious level fervor and they’re only accepting evidence that fits their world view.

But what does that mean for you, the skeptic, who wants desperately to help these people? They’re the victims in this of extremely bad and dangerous information (in Elise’s case, she’s now started spreading it- which I think begs the question “who’s the victim?”). 

Be that person. You know, the person at parties who gets in the way of the guac? Yeah, that guy. And be that person kindly. Tell them the truth because they deserve to have their beliefs challenged from someone who they’re friends with and someone they trust. They do not deserve to continue languishing in the fear of a fairy tale reality where the appropriate course of action is to burn safe food and withhold life-saving treatments from children. They deserve the truth. Be the person who tells them, even if you know they’re not going to want to hear it. Because they deserve to hear it. 

If beliefs were sacred in science, we would still believe in the world on a turtle’s back. Doctors wouldn’t wash their hands before surgery. We would still perform lobotomies.

Nothing is sacred, especially in science. Especially not your beliefs. We’re better for it. 

Superman couldn’t turn back time, the glass slipper would shatter, and if you’re not vaccinating I do not give one iota of a shit what landed that belief in your head. We need to have a chat over (the obviously) non-GMO guacamole. 

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51 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Fun story (although only somewhat related)…

    Cinderella is a French story, written in French (duh!) at a time where there was no official spelling for words. So people would write words kind of randomly.
    The original slippers were actually maid of “vair”, which is a small furry animal. At some point, “vair” was transformed into “verre” in the text, because the two words have exactly the same pronunciation. And “verre” translates into glass.
    So technically, Cinderella’s slippers wouldn’t have broken, no more than your Ugg boots do.
    (but still, f*** Disney for their bad physics)

  2. Magical thinking of all kinds has the potential to derail all of the progress humanity has painfully made. It is time for us to grow up and face reality without comforting delusions. It is hard to talk to people about giving up their faith in superstitions, cherished myths, and bad science without it turning into an unproductive argument. Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks for posting this! I recently watched the new Star Wars movie, and while I enjoyed it I did point out a few scientific inaccuracies to my boyfriend. He reacted like your readers saying, “It’s a scifi movie! What do you expect?” Well I expect scientifically accurate (or close to it) in my movies. I mean come on, when a star is getting sucked into the planet-weapon where does it go??? What about gravity? Why wasn’t the entire planet burned up? That’s just me though…

    • To be fair, the planet wasn’t burned up because of some kind of magnetic shield or something. In fact, the Rebels (sorry, the Resistance) won by destroying the shielding, which made the planet blow up.

      But yeah, there were several points of extremely bad physics in the movie which had me shaking my head. I still enjoyed it overall, but I wish I didn’t have to shake my head at it…

    • Star Waars is not, and never has been science fiction. In a world of magical laser swords, a mystical force, and FTL flight, science isn’t really driving the story. Star Wars is space opera, or space fantasy.

  4. I found your blog through a links trail from Wired mag and enjoy your straight talk. I’m not a scientist, just an experienced skeptic. I have a question. Where in the vast internet universe can one go to find non-commercial responses to general searches? Is there an alternative to Google available to the general public? All the other search engines I’ve tried still return big box stores, online retailers and anyone selling something, not always (usually even) related to the thing I searched. I’d appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

    • Create a Google account (if you use G-mail, you’ve already got one). Go into settings and tweak things so you’re allowing Google to learn / track your preferences. Over time, you’ll start getting better hits (and yes, Google is getting valuable data).

      To accelerate the training:
      — including “.edu” (no quotes) to search strings will drill to items from universities
      — including the words “bunk” or “quack” will help find skeptical sites / blogs
      — including “-price” or “-$” will help strip out commercial / sales hits (the “minus” trick works on any word)

      Then, be selective about what you click on — if the snippets on the first page of hits aren’t really on-target, _don’t_ click on any of ’em, go to the next page. If I’m working on a new / unfamiliar idea and haven’t got a good set of search words worked out, I may get well-down the 3rd page of hits before I find something that hones in on what I want. Google _notices_ that I’ve skipped the first 20+ hits and adjusts a bit. Meanwhile… as I read that hit and evaluate how close it came to what I wanted, I’m looking for words that will build a better search string.

      And it appears that more I use Google Scholar, the more robust general Google search hits become. Recently, general searches have started returning 3 – 5 Scholar hits at the top.

      Every once in a while, Google messes with the algorithms and for 12 – 48 hours, I get crap for hits, then things return to normal. Recently (3 times in 6 months??), I’ve been getting little pop-up queries asking me to rank the quality of the hits delivered. I like being asked… 😉

    • Dan,
      Please allow me to suggest Medline Plus (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/), which is serious and reliable unbiased medical information website from the National Library of Medicine (NIH). It provides explanation in lay terms about medical conditions, medicines and health in general based on scientific papers, solid evidence and reports from renowned medical institutions. It’s my number one source, I hope you’ll enjoy.

      And SciBabe, your post is terrific! I only wish everyone read it

  5. I disagree completely with the shattering glass slipper, the glass simply had too low a lead count to permit the glass to be malleable enough. 😉
    OK, not really.

    Still, why *can’t* I have a scientist in my living room? We could have fun discussing the Lord Bob, who came from a universe one metastability island above ours, who then lit up the great galactic tera-collider, which collided a planet with a naked singularity, with both traveling .999999999999999% of the velocity of light.
    Regrettably, this caused that universe to suffer a metastability catastrophe, tunneling down to our universe’s metastability island.
    He wisely, had a space ship that could retain the natural laws sufficient to maintain his life support within the ship and proceeded to travel at high relativistic velocities into this universe.
    Regrettably, after a mere week, the universe had congealed into the universe as we know it today and alas, his ship photodisintergrated, along with the Holy Lord Bob. The widely disperse remains of him and his ship are now known as the Great Attractor.

    Picture that with a physicist adding to it. It’d be side splitting enough that it’d probably be published – with all of the appropriate annotations, references and equations. 😉

    On a more somber noted, I have indeed witnessed a simultaneous polio and measles epidemic in remote villages. We desperately tried to “get in front of it” and eventually did. Along the way, we had quite a bit of mistrust, as the religious “authorities” proclaimed that the vaccines were poisons. So, I took the polio and measles vaccines myself, at each resisting village.
    Far too many tiny graves were filled in the villages early on.
    But, heaven help either of those viruses if they come near me!

    • I am the counterexample to this article. I majored in applied physics in college (didn’t graduate after dropping out from major depressive disorder) and currently work in robotics. My hobbies include debunking woo of all kinds and spreading truth. I am a practicing Christian (nondenominational).

      The problem isn’t religion but rather the philosophy of the excluded middle that we so fiercely cling to. You are either a Democrat or Republican, white or minority, scientific or religious. These are false dichotomies and oversimplifications.

      One solution is to use a different opening gambit that leads to the same endgame. Point out that our anti-vaxxer’s Protestant faith really doesn’t conflict with protecting everyone from getting polio. Talk to your Baptist neighbor about GMOs and their actual complete lack of relation to Satan.

      Be prepared for them to pull out some misinterpreted scriptures that conflict with poorly understood science. Protip: many Bibles passages are idiomatic and/or had special meaning within the cultural context of the original intended audience (spanning several centuries of Hebrew, Greek, and Roman culture). A modern American reading these passages in a vacuum will tell you all kinds of weird things they think their Bible says.

      • There’s a reason why Atheists, Jews, and Mormons tend to have the best religious knowledge. Knowing the context of ancient religion really changes its tone.

      • Hey Lou! I’m a practicing non-denom too. I dig GMOs and vaccines, and I believe in Jesus, climate change and reasonable discourse. Why are there not more of us?!? 😉

  6. Yvette, you’re my fucking hero. You and James Randy.
    Keep it up

    Kurt “Who works at an evil pharma company and evilly helps saving lives” Breakpoint

  7. Elise is nuts and her mom was nuts. But, please don’t blame the Catholic faith. That may be the excuse they use just as they use “research” as a term for what she does. The Catholic Church is pretty pro-science. They believe in evolution, modern medicine, etc. I can’t think of one instance when the Catholic Church would collide with the science of something. The morality of how that science is used, yes. The soundness of the science, no.
    Keep up the good work!

  8. “Still, why *can’t* I have a scientist in my living room?”

    It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I have a scientist in my living room. And my kitchen, or bedroom or bathroom, depending on the time of day. He’s currently at his desk next to me in the office. He’s kinda boring sometimes, but I love him anyway.

  9. IDK, did any of these “scientists” actually try to build a glass slipper and test it? What’s next, are they going to tell me time travel is impossible, or that flying through space at greater than the speed of light is impossible as well? “Scientists” who try to tell us fairy tales and movies are not true due to physics are not scientists, they are just assholes!

    I would be careful about religion and attacking it. It is not religion, it is extremism. I am well educated, with BS, MS and MD degrees, and yes am also a Christian. The best science can do to attack the Christian faith is to cast doubt on a literal interpretation of Genesis chapter 1. I never believed in a literal interpreatation of creation. Bible is full of metaphors so no reason to think that Genesis chapter 1 is not a metaphor as well. And there is nothing I was taught in Sunday school that was at all negative to science. And I know plenty of people of science who are also people of faith. Just as ISIS does not represent the mainstream Muslum faithful, neither do nutjobs like Westboro Baptist or your friend represent mainstream Christian thought on science. Extremists should be labeled as such. And you can’t change them in most cases. Best you can do is to contain them, limit the damage they do. A good example of that is your conversations with Michael. He was a reasonable person who was buying into some of the extremism, but was not a full convert. Such peopole are reachable, they can be convinced by good sound scientific arguements. These are the people we need to work on. By convincing these types of people we can limit the reach of the anti-science extremists.

      • I personally don’t have an issue with religion. It is possible to be religious and scientific – look at Lemaitre. But it is important to be able to separate belief from fact and that’s what some people seem unable to do. Also, religions come in many forms, some more open to science than others. And then again we need to separate “religion” which is a system of belief from “the Church” which overlays a whole load of it’s own gumpfh. It’s a complicated business. But religion is likely to be one factor in people accepting unsubstantiated pseudo-science.

        On a similar vein regarding Google: I am a gynaecological surgeon and if I get one more person telling me they know what they need done because “I’ve done my research” I am going to tell them to google how it’s done and get on with it!

        • Roy, you’d hate me. I’d pull from Google Scholar and ask what you thought of the paper I referenced. 😉
          That said, as a male, I rather doubt that I’d require your services, as I’m male. My wife might though, as her family has quite the history of fibroids. Still, we’d likely go to a local surgeon. 😉

          On a more serious note, when an ill informed person trumpets a disproved study and claim “they’re all in it together” when I point at a peer reviewed study, I advise them that peers love little more than to savage a poorly conducted study or paper.

  10. I’m an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… and I have no problems whatsoever with science. Nor does much of the membership, in fact; we’re quite well represented in the fields of science, medicine, and technology. This includes the late James Talmage, who was a geology professor before becoming a high-level church leader and whose theological magnum opus is still in print a century later.

    Given this, I see no reason why science and religion should fight. If anything, I feel that both could be made better through cooperation. For example, while science asks the question of “Can we?”, religion asks the question of “Should we?”, thereby helping to establish ethical guidelines.

    Sadly, I’ve seen people on both sides of the issue put their egos and misbegotten notions ahead of what they actually claim to represent. On one hand, we have people like your former friend Elise who use religion as an excuse to remain ignorant about all matters scientific. On the other hand, I was *literally* told by a social sciences type that as a “non-scientist” I had “no right” to question anything scientific.*

    Neither example does their side any favors.

    As far as the examples at the beginning of the article go, a big issue is that things like Superman and Cinderella fall under the blanket of “escapist fiction”. Even though there are legitimate scientific issues that could be examined (Lord knows I’ve proposed enough of them to various “Mythbusters” websites), at the same time most people who consume this material do so because they want to forget reality for a while. In that sense, I can understand why some people get upset over things: they just want to let their brain go idle for a little while and relax.

    *I studied marketing research while pursuing my MBA. So although I’m a “non-scientist” as she put it, I know my way around a research paper. She had been crowing about a study that had recently been published, one that backed up her rather biased POV about people who were religious.

    When I read the study, I noted several points of concern to me, such as what I felt to be a questionably small sample size for their experiment. Based on this, I informed her that I had questions about the integrity of the study and that I’d wait to see if any other researchers came to similar conclusions before commenting.

    She rather exploded over that, and went straight to obscenities when she discovered that I wasn’t alone in feeling that the study needed to be redone.

    • As a jack Mormon, I’ll tell you why science and religion don’t get along: Religion teaches the concept of Faith.

      Now, at its most harmless, Faith is belief in something when you have no logical reason to believe it. As an example, take Russell’s Teapot: there is a small pewter teapot orbiting our sun, somewhere beyond the orbit of Mars. There is no evidence that it exists, there is no way we could verify something that small, but if you want to believe it’s there that’s your prerogative.

      Unfortunately, Faith is taken further by some people, where it’s not just a belief held despite the lack of evidence; for some people, Faith means belief in spite of evidence to the contrary.

      Where you fall on the spectrum from belief in spite of a lack of evidence, to belief in spite of evidence to the contrary, I can’t say. Nor can I say that faith is the sole domain of the religious; I know many atheists who are fervently anti-GMO, because they just choose to believe.

      However, my problem with religion in general is that it teaches Faith as a virtue, whereas I see it as a vice.

      If I’m going to accept something as true, I need evidence to support it.

      • Ben, I’ll add a different context.
        I have faith in gravity. The mathematics works out, experimental evidence works out, however, things can go odd in nature.
        I still trust my foot to hit the ground when I release it from being raised to take a step. I’ve had personal experience where that goes a bit sideways, during the Virginia earthquake, but otherwise, faith of the evidence says, that without odd conditions, my foot shall fall where it should. 😉
        I also lack the capability to determine the existence of the Higgs Boson, I’ll have to have faith in the peer review process, as my property is too small to replicate the process and to be honest, I’d not have a clue how to interpret that evidence.
        I also have faith in the peer review of research on the medications that literally keep me alive. I can comprehend pharmacology, organic chemistry leaves me feeling like I’m looking at “modern art”. Yeah, I get uber basics, organic chemistry wasn’t taught well in 1979 in high school.
        Meanwhile, I’ve performed acts of surgery. What are “acts of surgery”, you ask? Where a sterile field or even a clean field is lacking. Surgery in a cave, surgery in a desert, surgery in a clearing.
        Honestly, I’d have preferred surgery on dessert, but that wasn’t a choice. That environment was an austere military environment.
        One that I am immensely thankful for being retired from.
        Usually, I’d remain silent, however, one nightmare experience month awakens me in the middle of the night.
        The villages simultaneously stricken by both polio and measles. Each child, I saw my youngest grandchild being laid in the ground, the men, their children.
        I’d never wish that experience on the worst human in human history!
        Our epidemiologists guided our paths, we eventually “got in front of the epidemic”, vaccinations had time to take effect.
        Even if I took the MMR and OPV vaccine a dozen times.
        After OPV, not washing my hands after taking a crap and touching every surface of the community that I could touch.
        To us, it was the world when Smallpox was still around, with far less deleterious results.

        • If you have faith in gravity, you either don’t understand the concept of faith as taught by religions, or you don’t understand the concept of evidence.

          Faith is explicitly belief in something without evidence (see the Pauline epistles; it’s one of his favorite subjects).

  11. LOVE your work! But I’m wondering how to counter a friend’s Facebook posts decrying that 60-something countries have now banned Monsanto products because of GMO? Will your sensible writings be considered as too ‘one person’ against so many ‘whole countries’? She embraces ‘natural’ foods and means well, but I wish I could better counter her ‘evidence’! Would so appreciate your advice 🙂

  12. hey, hi.

    i’m not afraid of GMOs because of the science. i’m afraid of them because of what i think is a damaging economic model.

    i’d like to see them labeled because i’d like the choice of whether to support companies that use the damaging economic model.

    does that make me a whackjob? i hope not.

  13. I had an experience a few days ago in which I provided new information to a person who was convinced that his position was the correct position. He got snippy and condescending with me but I maintained civility, and he eventually became uniformly civil in return. Lo and behold, yesterday he posted again on the original comment thread and told me that he had read some of the material I suggested, done some of his own research, and had CHANGED HIS MIND to my point of view. It CAN happen! Keep fighting the good fight!

  14. Always a cool drink of welcome rationality and snarky amusing observations with one of your posts.

    In 1905, French mathematician and scientist Henri Poincaré said that the willingness to embrace pseudo-science flourished because people “know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether illusion is not more consoling.”

    And the Science Communicator PZ Myers at TAM 2011 said “So here we are, once again talking about how to communicate, and I fear that we’ll lose is the sense of what to communicate. Don’t forget: the truth is our pole star, science is the vessel we use to progress, and a passion to explore and learn is the engine of our purpose. If we lose sight of that in our concern to be gentle with those who impede us, we’ll lose our way”.

    but I still will think twice before getting in between someone and decent guacamole.

  15. Religion isn’t always the problem, though. One of my family members became an anti-vaxxer after she had kids, despite having a very good education and going to a private college. She was raised by one christian parent and one atheist parent, and doesn’t care at all about church or religion in general.

    No, her problem is that she’s been told her entire life how smart she is. She’s used to being smarter than most other people she talks to, she’s used to never being wrong. No matter what you say, no matter what citations you show her, you must be the one who is wrong, because anything else is unthinkable.

    • Agreed.

      From what I’ve seen, the anti-vaccine nonsense reaches across the spectrum.

      For example, Bill Maher is an avowed atheist, yet he likewise spouts anti-vaxxer nonsense. This led to an infamous showdown between him and Sen. Bill Frist, who is a medical doctor. Frist so completely schooled Maher over the matter – and on Maher’s own show, no less – that even the New York Times had to sit up and pay attention.

      The link is here if you wish to follow it, and it looks like it has a video of the incident.
      http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/bill-maher-vs-the-flu-vaccine/?_r=0

      • A better example of the Dunning-Kruger effect cannot be found. “I’m a conservative and…” suddenly makes the speaker more knowledgeable than every physician and epidemiologist on the planet.
        While our influenza vaccine isn’t exactly our best in efficacy vaccine by a long shot, where in some years, we’re looking at 40% efficacy, that’s a 40% chance vs 100% chance of contracting a virulent influenza strain.
        Having contracted one of the swine flu strains some years ago, I’ll take that 40% and hope for protection, as I wasn’t fully recovered for most of the year.

        Perhaps Bill, or any of the other “something else is wrong” crowd should be asked to explain what a cytokine storm is. For that matter, what cytokines are. Or how substance P and cytokines interact.
        Can’t answer? STFU and listen to your physician, who does know and can explain them to you.

        • Yeah.

          After this particular incident, even some politically-liberal Democrats I knew at the time had to admit that they had far more respect for Sen. Frist (a politically-conservative Republican) than they had for Maher (who is also politically liberal).

          As it is, LDS leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf reinforced the point of our needing to trust doctors during the lead-in to a major theological address back in October 2015:

          https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/11/saturday-morning-session/it-works-wonderfully?lang=eng

          By his own admission, he got impatient after his doctor told him he’d need to rest after a procedure, and so went online to see if there was a shortcut. After a while, he realized how stupid it was to presume that random voices on the internet knew more than a trained and certified physician.

          • Darren, people are not binary, the majority of the populace of this very planet are a plaid of beliefs and opinions on any topic.
            One, who is otherwise exclusively centrist in nature, can fall of of the right side or left side of the table holding the map.
            Here, in the real world, there is no left or right, but people who believe in a bit of each sides points.

            As for things LDS, I’ll stay out of that until I manage to get around to reading the book of that faith, as I’ve done for two other faiths. That said, it is indeed, in my short list. That’s especially true, as I’ve only had experience with that faith in the number of two people.
            I have a long habit of learning the faith of a people and their culture, which faith is variably mixed into. Then, I find common ground.
            That’s overall worked well in my life, much of which was occupied with things military. But, we’ve not had military interventions in Utah and rightfully so, Utah is a state.
            So, give me a bit of time to get my possessions shipped to me, as part of a major relocation.

  16. Strong Catholic here (and attorney and wife of a chemist, end credentials) and unabashed believer in science and that faith and reason can go hand in hand. Just wanted you to know we’re out here. 🙂

  17. I have the unpleasant task of translating science into Baptist flavored pap my aging mother will accept.

    EX:
    God said, “Let there be light,” and suddenly hydrogen fused into helium and there was light and god saw that it was good and blah blah blah.

    Sigh.

  18. Since you brought it up, exactly how have GMO’s helped to “feed the world”? Their focus is predominately efforts to sell more of their chemicals via the genetic manipulation of crops they also conveniently patent. Confounding myths and science aside, you make them sound like a poster child for humanitarianism! They ARE a chemical company after all…have you never considered why all the investment in genetic manipulation, buying up seed companies, patenting seeds, rigid usage policies, intimidation, suing organic farmers polluted by their crap, etc? They’ve created an explosion of pesticide resistant weeds, added to, instead of spared us from, the proliferation of pesticide usage and its less than innocuous effect on us and the environment, encourage the use of widespread mono cropping, contributed nothing substantial to actually IMPROVING the food supply, the list just goes on and on, and I’m a realist, not a theorist. I also think it is incredibly arrogant and fallacious to assume than ANY human can predict what is or isn’t “safe” when you are introducing an artificially modified organism into an environment that has no precedent. Look at our world and what man has wrought up until now, all your precious education and rationalization aside. Common sense and simple reason seems to have gone by the wayside.

    • Please get your terms right, otherwise you sound highly ignorant about what you’re talking about.
      A prime example is “pesticide resistant weeds”, all weeds are resistant to pesticide, as they’re either organophosphate or organochloride pesticides that target acetycholinesterase in insects. They’re quite literally a mild nerve gas.
      Glyphosphate herbicides are popular and weeds are indeed becoming resistant, GMO crops or no GMO crops. Some GMO crops are also designed for higher yield, disease resistance and there are some that have added nutrients that the natural cultivar never possessed, some are drought resistant as well.
      Is superior nutrition in areas where proper nutrition is problematic bad? Is superior yields of cash crops a bad thing? Disease resistance is bad?
      Should we also ban all antibiotics because of antibiotic resistance?

      Now, I do have concerns, but those concerns are about contaminating wild and heritage crops. That can be mitigated against by proper crop separation, just as heritage crops are currently protected from more common cultivars.
      Mitigation is *not* throwing the baby out with the bath water!

  19. Here’s the thing your “friend” needs to know. The church says that you should vaccinate for the common good and your child’s well being. End of story.
    http://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1284
    I’m a Catholic, as well as an IT person who started out as a chemist. And I think, therefore I vaccinate.
    There’s a strong group of anti-vax, anti-med establishment, anti-science Catholics who I think like to use their religion as grounds for their continued ignorance. Unfortunately for them, the Pope doesn’t seem to interpret our religion the same way.

  20. Look at me commenting months after this was posted (only because I just found out about this site).

    Anyway, it should be noted that in the Superman movie with Christopher Reeve, there is a big misunderstanding that I only learned about maybe 2 years ago.

    When Superman flew rapidly around the Earth, appearing to slow, stop, and then reverse its spin, thereby reversing time and making things “undo”; that’s not what he was doing. The Earth, and everyone and everything on it, continued as normal. However….

    What Superman was doing was flying so fast that he exceeded the speed of light and travelled backwards through time to a point when he could save Lois Lane. The “reversing spin” of the Earth was from his perception (i.e. going back through time) and then he turned around and “caught up” with the flow of time.

    This is obviously an equally absurd thing from a physics point of view. But, it does make the “wrong physics” only about Supes, not about the entire planet…

  21. “The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.”
    [Robert A. Heinlein, from “Friday”.]

    It occurs to me that dumb people who don’t have their children vaccinated are simply evolution in action. Evolution, selecting for smarter genes and against dumb genes.

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