This is quite unlike the other posts on this blog but i've had it up to my bloody eyebrows with reading the insane idiocy that is flying rampantly around the internet. I am personally quite fond of biological sciences, particularly those dealing in human and animal physiology and health. For the past year or so i've started noticing that foolishness is taking over people's brains on a disturbingly high level. Misinformation and lies are being passed as scientific fact all over the internet and people are making stupid decisions based on the misinformation and lies. The most disturbing trends to emerge are from anti-vaccination nutters, "doctors" wishing to cash in on the fears of conspiracy theorists, and alternative medicine product pushers. At the end of this article i am going to post a list of sites and facebook pages to avoid because they delight in fear mongering, pseudoscience, product pushing, and presenting hoaxes as facts.
The first group of absolutely ape-shit crazy individuals or just sadly misled folks consists of the anti-vaccination supporters. Vaccine injuries are remarkably rare and usually result from allergic reactions to components in a vaccine (usually the animal products that are used). Other less dangerous but more common side effects are injection site pain (because you were poked by a needle) and fever (because your body is building antibodies after receiving a vaccine). Anti-vaxxers have been led to believe that vaccines cause autism which is a remarkably stupid lie but people nonetheless fall for it easily thanks to scientific illiteracy. Autism was recently discovered to start in the fetus before birth, the exact cause as to why is unknown but is most likely genetic, though it is possible it could be caused by bacterial or viral fetal encephalopathy or even an unknown parasite. Now a common argument from anti-vaxxers has to do with all those side effects listed in the package insert with the vaccines. Well, again they are misled due to general scientific and in this case, medical illiteracy. There is a raw data collection called VAERS which is what people report to when they think they're having a side effect due to a vaccine. The claims are largely unproven and anyone can fill out a VAERS report or call into a raw data collection. An example of this: Let's say Bob got a tetanus shot 2 days before working on his house. Well Bob is a clumsy oaf and smacked his hand real hard with the hammer. Bob goes to the ER and, because Bob is a bit mentally off, tells the ER doctor his hand swelling is from his tetanus vaccine booster he got 2 days before. The ER doctor, not knowing just how Bob's hand became inflamed because he didn't see what happened feels ethically obligated to send a report of "hand swelling" as a side effect of the vaccine into the raw data collection VAERS. So from there the possible side effects end up getting listed in the package insert because the company either wants to cover their bums should anything go strange or because they feel ethically obligated and want to give a doctor a heads up about possibilities. It is insanely easy to fudge a VAERS report and anyone can make one out and i am damn sure many anti-vaxxers have abused the system in just such a manner to push their agenda. (VAERS reporting page: https://vaers.hhs.gov/esub/step1 ).
The disturbing thing about the anti-vaxxers is that their fears are based on nothing scientific and everything make-believe from the internet and other nutters. Meanwhile, as they're freaking out about trivial matters regarding vaccines, their children are getting sick and some are dying from easily preventable diseases. Another common argument from the anti-vaxxers is that these diseases (measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, etc) aren't that dangerous. This is again how ignorant they are. They do not seem to know that measles and mumps easily lead to swelling of the brain and meningitis, that rubella can lead to viral cardiomyopathy (for which there is no cure other than a heart transplant), polio causes crippling and death, with diphtheria one can acquire peripheral neuropathy (a loss of feeling) and heart inflammation also known as myocarditis, tetanus is an excruciatingly painful way to go and if one survives it they are often left with extensive nerve damage. These diseases aren't harmless, hence the reason why there are vaccines to prevent them. But trying to send home facts to the brains of these easily led folks is like talking to a brick wall. Nothing gets through until their kids die or they themselves get rabies. Personally i think if an adult individual is anti-vaccination they should not be allowed to have rabies vaccinations if they get bit by rabid animals. They're all anti-vax until rabies shows up. Hypocrites and pretentious assholes the lot of 'em, think they're masters of biology because they read a few studies from pubmed and a few quack articles they found through google.
Another disturbing trend is labeling every plant a cure for cancer. "Cure" is not a word tossed around lightly in the medical and scientific communities because true cures are a rarity. The word "cure" implies to the layman that disease will be eliminated (this is why product pushers use it a lot to describe their homeopathic products or their herbal supplements). That is not the case with any substance though. Treatments only become cures in the individual when the treatment eradicates or sends a disease into remission in that individual. It should never be used as a broad term to mean that a disease will be eradicated in EVERYONE who eats it or takes it. Sour sop aka cherimoya fruits kill cancer cells IN VITRO but have quite a bit less of an effect in vivo. In vitro means "outside the body" (usually in a dish or test tube or on a slide), in vivo means "inside the body" (of human or animal test subjects). To put it bluntly, spaghetti sauce can kill cancer cells in vitro but it doesn't do a damn thing in vivo. That is how the product pushers will get those with cancer to buy their products, they push false hope onto the desperate and scared by citing in vitro studies and that is ethically appalling. Turmeric, cannabis, cinnamon, amygdalin (aka cyanide), etc will not cure your cancer. When things are ingested orally they often change chemical composition, like amygdalin turning to cyanide in the human digestive system. They also lose potency through the process of digestion. A fairly large percentage of what we eat does not get absorbed by our small intestine and is pushed through the large intestine to become poop. Keep these things in mind when reading about cannabis oil being a cure-all for upteen some odd diseases. I support cannabis therapies but i am not foolish enough to believe it to be a cure for cancer, at least not yet and not in the forms we are administering it in.
Seriously consider the wording of studies and articles when dealing with findings on cancer and other diseases. There are MANY, yes, MANY horribly terrible studies out there with bizarre, backward, or insufficient methods and sadly they are published and used to mislead. And while i cannot give an adequate crash course to you on wording to find fault with in studies (it would take many pages), just be aware that very few, if any, reputable, reviewed and well carried out studies will ever use the word "cure" to define what they discovered in the experiment or trial. Check the methods used in studies too, look for how many people were used in the study, what factors were looked at that could contribute to findings, and if a control group was used. There are deeper things in the methods that may appear confusing, such as the use of models and various procedures with strange names (look those up if you find it necessary). Certain mathematical equations also commonly are present in the methods. Do read the abstract, the methods and the conclusion, 2 or 3 times over if necessary to gain an understanding of the whole process. If anything sounds fishy, it probably is and beware of the papers in which many words are spelled or used incorrectly, such words are often attached to bad studies. This is where critical thinking skills are necessary, it is a matter of logic and common sense, but do not be deterred. And example of a really terrible study (bastards make you pay for the whole deal so i'll post the abstract and the article on the study): http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471015314000397 http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/OP/bite_vs_chew
The study i mention above came from Cornell university and is an outright insult to science in every aspect. They used a nominal number of children (12 kids) ages 6-10 at a 4H camp on just 2 days. They took absolutely no factors down such as kids that had may have ADHD, ADD, ODD, health conditions, behavioral problems, etc. They did NOT state what the weather was like (heat can make kids and adults rowdy), if the kids sat next to friends, enemies or neutral individuals, if kids had troubles at home, etc. It was really, really terribly carried out, but it managed to get published lol and even hit some news sites. That is what you need to look for, badly carried out studies. The more you read studies the more easily you will be able to point out BS :)
Back to our original ranting though...
I'm going to now list the websites one should avoid if one wishes to avoid blatant idiocy. I will also provide a list of websites and facebook pages that are great for those that enjoy real science and deep thinking.
The Evil Doers:
collective-evolution.com (known to promote hoaxes as fact, delight in fear mongering, and continuously post debunked pseudoscience)
themindunleashed.com (sister site to collective evolution, same BS, different name)
truththeory.com (another sister site to the other two, same BS, different name)
naturalhealthwarriors.com (they post a ton of pseudoscientific food "cures" for every ailment, none of it proven to work)
mercola.com (a product pushing website from Dr. Mercola, don't be fooled, he's a quack but sells cures in his shop for everything, he even sells tanning beds to cure your vitamin D deficiency that you don't really have)
naturalnews.com (run by a total deranged nut--seriously he appears paranoid and delusional-- that sadly has a biology degree, posts pseudoscience food "cures", scare mongers about GMOs, vaccines, fluoride, and chemtrails--and probably aliens too--)
spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com (well, it's metaphysics so it's already not scientific but they post some really crazy pseudoscientific BS for the new agers to eat up)
alteringperspective.com (yet another sister site to CE and the others at the top of the list, again, same BS different name)
youtube.com (yes, youtube, they appear to be a victim in the matter but sadly that is the site the nutters post their conspiracy BS and health BS testimonials and "documentaries" to)
The Quacks (also evil doers and product pushers, psychopaths really):
Dr. Russell Blaylock (anti-vaccination and a product pusher, is only a neurosurgeon but apparently sucked at it because he prefers selling products now to the easily led)
Joseph Mercola, D.O. (anti-vax, anti-fluoride, anti-vitamin K injections for vitamin K deficient newborns--seedy bastard--, product pusher that has gotten in trouble for making illegal claims about his products and their abilities)
Sherri Tennpenny, D.O. (anti-vax, used to be board certified ER doctor but apparently sucked at it because now she product pushes her own BS treatments, books, DVDs and lectures, believes in the illuminati and a host of other conspiracy theories involving reptilian aliens taking over the planet and she's a general bitch in all honesty, i posted information to her FB page and was booted for using real science)
Bob Sears, M.D. FAAP (not quite as idiotic as the others, promotes a differing vaccine schedule than what is recommended by sane doctors and doesn't believe vaccine preventable illnesses are are a real issue)
Mark Geier, M.D. (geneticist, bought and paid for by the anti-vax movement, tried to treat autism with insane and dangerous "therapies")
Neil Z. Miller, psychologist (has written anti-vax books and gives lectures, but is a damn psychologist which means he knows little to NOTHING about vaccines)
Susanne Humphries, M.D. (writes anti-vax books and product pushes homeopathy BS)
Mayer Eisenstein, M.D. (anti-vax, pushed dangerous autism treatments, product pusher)
Mike Adams (runs naturalnews.com, holds a bachelors in biology, is paranoid and delusional, a conspiracy theorist, product pusher, and anti-vax, anti-gmo, believes in chemtrails)
The Crazy and Stupid but Still Famous:
Jenny McCarthy (anti-vax, yet smokes e-cigs, typical dim bleach blonde, believes vaccines cause autism)
The Refusers (a rather mediocre band that are anti-vax, anti-gmo, consists of conspiracy theorists)
---there are more but it's getting late and i'd be here a while listing all of them----
Sanity and Awesomeness (science sites, refutation sites and general science knowledge sites all used to combat conspiracy theorism, BS health claims and general dipshittery):
https://www.facebook.com/hatepseudoscience (they f---ing hate pseudoscience, great site for knowledge and refuting idiotic claims)
https://www.facebook.com/IFeakingLoveScience (they f---ing love science, posts on all things scientific with informative articles)
https://www.facebook.com/RtAVM (they refute anti-vaccination memes and are pro-vaccination and pro-health)
https://www.facebook.com/SARAH.Global (skeptics, atheists, realists, agnostics, humanists, they post information on science, religion, and politics from all over the world)
http://www.jennymccarthybodycount.com/Anti-Vaccine_Body_Count/Anti-Vaccine_History.html (a website describing how beneficial vaccines are for children and adults)
http://pediatrics.about.com/od/immunizations/tp/Anti-Vaccine-Myths-and-Misinformation.htm (extensive information on vaccines and the nutters in the anti-vaccine movement)
http://contrailscience.com/ (debunks chemtrail conspiracies, we all know anti-vax goes hand in hand with believing in other insane BS)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ (a fantastic database of biological studies and since i mentioned reading studies earlier this is the place to start, choose full journals when searching and apply critical thinking to what you find, this place posts varying qualities of studies so it's a good opportunity to use critical thinking)
http://www.plosone.org/ (another study database, again, use critical thinking when viewing, studies are of varying quality)
I will be writing further articles in the future on conspiracy theories and similar things to this because we're facing a dangerous epidemic of idiocy and willful ignorance. If things sound too good to be true, they usually are and if something sounds like fear mongering, it most definitely is. Don't be easily led, look for sources, for sound evidence and don't be pushed into the cult of conspiracy theorism. Belief is not evidence.