Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just one more, then I'll go cold turkey...

I lasted a fast five minute, didn't I? Its the amazing the length that medical students will go to to procrastinate during exams. Some people alphabetise their sock drawers or get a sudden urge to perm their eyelashes. Me, I find myself getting caught up in unskilled internet sleuthing.

Wattsupwiththat just posted a story that the Hadley Climate Research Unit has apparently been hacked, with the release of hundreds of files and emails. Keen for a bit of rubber-necking, I wandered on over to the CRU's website for a look-see. Thats when I noticed the interesting looking "Climate Change Myths" link:

Always keen for a bit of a laugh, I clicked away and got taken to a UK Met Office page that no longer existed:

"Thats wierd", said I. Maybe they moved it? Yet I couldnt seem to find anything about climate change myths on their site. So I put the URL into the wayback machine to see what could possibly be there that they would want to take down? (Heres the page if anyone is as desperate to waste time as I am.)

Could it be the bit Professor John Mitchell OBE, Chief Scientist at the met, says:
The bottom line is, even if cosmic rays have a detectable effect on climate (and this remains unproven), measured solar activity over the last few decades has not significantly changed and cannot explain the continued warming trend.

Or maybe its this bit:
The bottom line is that current models enable us to attribute the causes of past climate change and predict the main features of the future climate with a high degree of confidence.

This from the people who have difficulty predicting what the weather will be like tomorrow.
Or maybe its all the pretty pictures they used?

Oh dear. They certainly seem to like their bottom lines, don't they. I've got a bottom line of my own I'd like to show them:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This time I'm really going to study...

Almost unnoticed I snuck back here and started posting regularly, even though I said I Wasn't Going To Do That until my exams and ward-rounds are over for the year. Which is cool, 'cause I can stop anytime I's not like I've got a problem or anything.

Unfortunately, I don't have any super-post to tide you over for the duration, the only thing I've got is this cartoon I found accidentally while doing an image search for "priapism". (PS I have no 'freakin idea what the web site thats hosting it is, so naturally I do not endorse any of their content).

When I conduct internet searches of this nature, I can argue that its part of getting a medical education, when you do it, everyone thinks you've either overdosed on something you'd rather not admit to or you've found an inventive way to surf the porn web.

The other day I was charged with finding out the mandatory reporting responsibilities for NSW doctors in regards to patients engaging in underage intercourse. Try entering the relevant search terms for that into an institutional computer network. No matter what I tried, the internet nanny scolded me for attempting to access a "site blocked due to innappropriate content". Even the government ones. Somewhere, deep in the teaching hospital IT department a flashing light went off next to my name and a computer geek scuttled off to the Human Resources department and it's just snowballing from there, I can tell. My ID photo is probably plastered over a wall of shame next to the intern who took a metal trolley into the MRI suite, and the pharmacists are going to snicker into their lab coats when I walk past.

So anyhoo, unless something really exciting comes up that I just have to post about, I'll see you on the other side of exams. This time, I mean it.

My uterus is an anthropogenic global warming free zone

I still think our Aussie climate alarmist medico might be out front in the crazy-stakes, but I have discovered to my chagrin that we don't have a monopoly on nuts. At least one Canadian (?) has jumped on the population control bandwagon, and I don't know whether to be relieved that its not just Australian doctors that have lost the plot, or disturbed that this hysteria is going global.

Dr. Mehta published an essay in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association detailing how the real culprits of climate change have been overlooked. Who are these dastardly swine, you say? Physicians! Jerks the lot of them, apparently.

According to Dr. Mehta:
If we accept that the total number of humans living on this planet as an important contributor to climate change, then we must look to who is responsible for this exponential increase in population.

(Psst. In case you can't work it out, he reckons its physicians).

When I read this, I had this vision of physicians taking part in some global ius primae noctis, dropping in on couples on their wedding nights for a quick game of "doctors and nurses" and siring a league of doctor-spawn. Awesome, I said. How did I miss that memo?

(Kind of like the time I was told that a medical association ball was going to be held in a "Gentleman's club". My immediate reaction was "Cool! Strippers and beer. Great choice!", then I was told that the gentleman's club to which they were referring was one of those no-girls-allowed posh old men's clubs. Apparently they were willing to make an exception for the female med students on the grounds that doctors are toffy-nosed enough they wouldn't bring the tone of the establishment down. Clearly they had never met me, then.)

Anyway, back to the Canadian. After reading further I realised that what he was actually advocating for was for doctors to get busy with the population control measures. Really sell it to people, y'know. ("Hey you! You walk like man who want vasectomy! I do nice and cheap! No problem!")

Citizens and the scientists who would like to slash our carbon footprint also need to consider the unsustainable number of humans on this planet and acknowledge that this is a critical factor and that reducing our number is fundamental to efforts to curtail climate change, as well to improving the quality of life for all. Physicians have the glorious opportunity to rise above the boundaries of nations, race, and religion for this very worthwhile cause.

Does anyone else get a bit jumpy when people with wacky, slightly totalitarian ideas start using the words "glorious" and "for all"?
I'm not morally opposed to even the most contentious of contraceptive issues - abortions (because given my past it would be damned hypocritical if I was), but I am VERY wary of attaching ideology to a woman's reproductive rights. A woman deciding on whether or not to access a pregnancy termination already has enough on her mind without pinning the future of the planet on the contents of her uterus.
Men too. No man should have "the snip" because he's worried about his carbon footprint. Thats more retarded than commercial free-to-air TV programming.

Luckily, other Canadian doctors appear to agree with me. One of the responders felt:

...that he (Mehta) is part of a trend within the Green movement that goes to a misanthropic extreme. Within his argument, language and ideas are used that likens the human race to, for example, a rabbit population that needs to be culled.
Insidiously related to this is the notion that, like rabbits, humans are totally subject to instinctual drives. If we, as physicians, perpetuate this cynical view of humans as automatons, we will continue to hand over fertilityreducing technology exclusively and abandon the biopsychosocio-spiritual model that views human beings as more than matter.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tofurkey of the Week #1

This is the award for all those people who have been a prize turkey, but in an ecologically sensitive manner. Also considered as a title was "Turducken of the Week" for being a turkey AND completely over doing it, but Tofurkey works for me on so many different levels.

This weeks winner is 27 year old Tim DeChristopher, who the NY times describes as:

A college student who bid on and won more than $1.8 million in federal oil and gas leases last year without the intent or ability to pay will not be allowed to argue in court that he acted out of necessity to protect the environment, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
He has said he believed the looming dangers of climate change and environmental impact from drilling were so great and urgent that he had no choice but to take whatever action he could to stop the drilling program. His lawyer, Ronald J. Yengich, recently asked that the jury be allowed to consider a defense of necessity, or “choice of evils,” when the trial begins, perhaps early next year. But Judge Dee Benson said in his ruling that Mr. DeChristopher had not met the threshold requirements under federal law. First, the harm that Mr. DeChristopher perceived from the lease sale was not imminent, the judge wrote, in the sense of a crisis like a fire or unfolding crime scene.
Nor, the judge said, could Mr. DeChristopher have known with a reasonable certainty that a bad result for the climate or the environment would definitely occur if he did nothing.

I've never been much for the protest movement, it always seemed, so well....cringe worthy. I once lived at a logging protest camp when I was 15 (there were teepees and everything!), but that was because I had been kicked out of home. The hippies took me in and fed me and gave me a place (*cough* teepee) to stay. Well, when I say "fed", the food was yams fried in coconut oil and washed down with Chai tea, but it beat being on the streets hands down. Since then, however, protestors and I have agreed to go our seperate ways.

In the spirit of this, I would like to extend my congratulations to Mr. DeChristopher. For your inept climate activism and general "what could go wrong?" attitude, the Daily Suppository awards you the first ever "Tofurkey of the Week" prize.

This one goes out to you Tim, you'd better get a lawyer, Son, you'd better get a REAL good one:

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Daily Suppository salutes: Belle de Jour

In case anyone was worried about me after that last post, I thought I would reassure my reader(s) by extending a polite golf clap to Dr. Brooke Magnanti, respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology and former prostitute.

Dr. Magnanti has just revealed herself as the best selling author "Belle de Jour" who wrote about her secret life as a prostitute, and blogged about it, too. So big-ups from one politically incorrect anonymous medical blogger to another. Apparently there was even a TV show based on the books, starring Billie Piper (who before that was last seen snogging Dr. Who).

I have never personally worked in the sex industry (as I am too fundamentally lazy to be bothered getting naked for money), but grew up in a milieu where every other close, female friend of mine did. We were all raised by progressive, educated hippies who gave us a fairly liberal upbringing, the upshot being that when most of my peers then found themselves poor, uneducated and with a drug habit, there was no real moral barrier to taking up the world's oldest profession. For one memorable span of time I found myself living in a shared household comprising 3 strippers, a prostitute / porn actor, a drug dealer....and me.

I had always intended to write a book called "Manky Smoo: Thank God my sister is a stripper", but never got around to it. I haven't read Belle de Jour's work, but I somehow suspect that my stories might be a bit down-market compared to hers. Nevertheless, Belle de Jour, the Daily Suppository salutes you!

The secret love that has no name...

First it was Glenn Beck and PETA agreeing to stick it to Al Gore, now I'm agreeing with the Catholics. Well, some of them, anyway. It turns out that they have been having some problems with their own Catholic wanna-be Gores, it must be the whole "prophet" thing.

I'm not sure how I wound up reading this, as you could probably best describe me as third generation scientific-animist, but it was actually very interesting.

Turns out this guy called Fr Rue has been running around proselytising the-end-of-the-world-cometh and spruiking his book called "Let the Son Shine" (Oh! I get it...) as the Australian Catholic response to climate change.

This Gore-come-lately was quoted from a speech as saying:

...we must accept "the science" (computer models' predictions of man-made global warming) without question and let go of our "outdated economic systems". In fact, he said, "the science" is part of the "theology of Creation" and the (IPCC) scientists are "messengers of God".

Christians, he said, should pray and ask for forgiveness for their actions and show compassion for the earth, which is losing "millions of species" to "biocide", while increasingly acidic oceans are preventing fish from forming skeletons and shells.

His call was for "a faith response", as we need a "conversion", and for us to "recognise God's wisdom embedded in the earth". This was followed by a grim reference to the "prophetic" Hurricane Katrina as a response to human arrogance.

John Morrisey, the author of the article was rightfully pissed about this Fr Rue chap, and said so. The author even referred to a "lemming-like Western delusion based on the inconclusive and inadequate science of computer models." Ouch. I think I like this guy. Whats happening to me? All of a sudden I find myself nodding in agreement with people that would otherwise be fairly hateful to me, like Senator Steve Fielding. I even have a bit of a crush on Monckton, and hes probably the guy who came up with the whole Poll Tax thing back in Maggie Thatchers day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Health skeptic dismayed by climate skeptics (again)

At the moment I should be studying for exams, and yet I feel this compulsion to keep posting for my readers (who now number in the ones, and thats counting those who got here accidentally by googling "strippers" and "bend over". Suckers.)

The internal dialoguing between me and the medical part of my brain (which has taken to speaking in the voice of Keanu Reaves circa Bill and Ted) has been going something like this:

Me: Yo! Cardiovascular risk factors and the pathophysiology of proximal muscle myopathies. Get on it! An whats mianserin?

Brain: Dude. I don't know. I wanna drink beer and fantasize about that pathologist you think has been checking you out. He's, like, a total NILF.

(FYI: For those of you familiar with the concept of MILF, a NILF is a Nerd I'd Like to....oh, you get the picture.)

Not that my standards are that high or anything, when normal females were extolling the virtues of, say, Johnny Depp, I was mentally drafting a mash note to the actor David Thewlis. And Mr. Paua has been such a bunghole for the past year that at the moment I would probably go home with a Young Liberal if they said I had nice hair.

David Thewlis: Phwoar...

Regardless of my personal desire to go rock in a corner until the exams go away, I must press on with the quasi medical themed posts. So here we are, for the readers!

Riffing on the topic of born-again medical skeptics who think that AGW skeptics are giving them a bad name, I discovered this opinion piece from the desk of the Melbourne Age health editor.

While on the one hand he was examining (at great length) his own biases and arrogance he had uncovered during an email exchange with a mother scared of the swine flu vax, he also mentions he has been pondering this:

About climate change, and the (to me) bewildering refusal of the sceptics to accept that there is a scientific consensus, and that dissent in and of itself does not make a genuine debate.
Cheers, mate. You call yourself a science or health journalist and yet don’t seem to recognise the essential oxymoron that is the term “scientific consensus”. You spend half the article pulling your own man bits over how:

It is up to me to decide who is a crank — otherwise I would be wasting my readers' time. My job as a journalist is not to deluge readers with unverified information. It is to report verifiable facts, and filter out the rest — this is the standard that our profession is held to, and I take it seriously.

If that’s the case, how on earth have you missed the many, many verifiable facts out there in regards to the skeptical view of Anthropogenic Global Warming?
Maybe it’s because:

I'm a reporter, my training replies. That's what I do. Work out what I think the truth is, and tell people.
Ohhh. I getcha. You’re just working with your beliefs, not a scientific methodology, and that’s what the other journos are doing, and so you live in this happy world where you don’t have to allow yourself to be exposed to another, challenging viewpoint. That’s not science, and it’s not balanced journalism either.

Brain: Journo, dude. You, like, suck.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Our medical nutters are scarier than your medical nutters...

I have a new contender for scariest, hysterical alarmist medical doctor ever:

Professor David Shearman, author ofThe climate change challenge and the failure of democracy. (He is touted as a professor, but the University of Adelaide website fails to have a bio or contact details for him that I can find. I'll keep trying.)

Just in case you thought you might have misconstrued where he was going with the title of this little piece of quality (that incidentally has a picture of....wait for iceberg on the front), he made it nice and clear in an opinion piece where he extolls the virtues of the Chinese government and makes it pretty clear he is no fan of "liberal democracy", as he puts it:

Cimate change, is democracy enough?

We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions. It is not that we do not tolerate such decisions in the very heart of our society, in wide range of enterprises from corporate empires to emergency and intensive care units. If we do not act urgently we may find we have chosen total liberty rather than life.

I told you this guy was scary. Way scarier than anything Al Gore was banging on about. I've actually lived in China, which is interesting for the fact that it manages to turn you off both unrestrained capitalism and communism, all at the same time. I also got used to the fact that you have to register your whereabouts with the local police, who can, and will visit you at odd hours to make sure you're not stealing state secrets or having sex with Chinese people.

The authoritarian nature of the Chinese government may seem attractive to environmentalists because they can choose to put a blanket ban on plastic bags virtually overnight, but they can also kick you out of your centuries old house to build a new highrise or MSG factory, flood your town, or accidentally give most of your village HIV.

Dr. Shearman also gets into bed with the wimmin (and not in a fun way) by suggesting that having children makes global warming worse, that we should cancel the baby-bonus (from my cold, dead hand David) and force people to pay a climate tax on their children.

Paying a fine when you have children, thats sounds familiar, where have I seen that before? Oh, thats right! China! The one child policy fines people (alot) for any subsequent children after baby number one. Interestingly, theres alot of multiple child Han families around in China these days. They're called rich people. How does breeding more snobs help the planet?

Not content with just advocating for a totalitarian state, he has also suggested that we should stop globing warming because we might get sued:

Professor David Shearman (and co.) reviewed the scientific evidence for the effects of global warming and analysed the legal basis of potential legal claims. They said the scientific evidence showing the "human signature" on global warming was as great as that linking cigarette smoking with cancer.

So far I'm hoping that the only people actually listening to this guy are our old buddies over at Doctors for the Environment, where he maintains a sporadic blog and, I suspect, had something to do with their Population Policy. (If you have a few minutes its quite a read, it manages to tie in everything from the war on terror to impending innundation of Pacific islands without really coming up with any clear goals. I came out of it with the general impression that they want current Australian citizens to stop having babies so we can bring in more unskilled refugee migrants, move to the bush, join hands and sing Kumbaya.)

If you feel like catching up with David, you can find him at the next DEA student meeting in Melbourne, where he will be a guest speaker.

"Well, of course we're going to throw poo at him!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Driving the pink 'n' purple pajero family wagon 'round the vulvic cul-de-sac

Given all the femininity that has been going on over here at the daily suppository lately, I felt it only fair to explore the issue further. After all, women wimmin are human humen people, too, and they're pissed about climate change.

So pissed that some of them have decided that the only right thing to do is to not have children to reduce their carbon footprint. One young woman reported that she was sterilised to "protect the planet" and felt a sense of relief after the irreversible procedure. (As long as she doesn't regret it later, then we're relieved too.)

A social demographer has outlined how climate change and family planning are linked, the Lancet has concurred and the London School of Economics has costed it for them as the cheapest way to combat climate change. (Sorry, I can't link to the original paper at the moment as it's mysteriously disappeared).

Meanwhile, Asian women are getting so irate over climate change that they're gonna....they're a quilt...dammit!

I'm all for contraception, and in some ways I can understand the temptation to hook-up an under-represented issue you care about, like access to family planning, to the latest funding-cash-cow-de-jour: Climate change. What concerns me is that given the level of hysteria and general holier-than-thou attitude of many of our climate true believers (and it has legal precedent as a religion, remember) that this could start getting out of hand.

On the other hand, if alarmists stop having children to save the planet, then eventually the whole issue is bound to right itself in about, oh, one generation or so.

Darwin would be proud.

Me: An endangered species

The other day I took part in the first annual survey of global warming, and the results are in.

Of the many skeptics who took part in the survey (who mostly came from Wattsupwiththat readers):

92% of skeptics in the survey were male.
50% are aged 55 or older

Oh, dear. Looks like hot, young (ish) female skeptics who like a bit o' science are few and far between. (Since I can't post a photo due to enforced anonymity, you will just have to take my word for it that I'm hot (ish). At least, if you like girls with glasses, and seriously, who doesn't secretly dig the whole "naughty librarian" look.)

So I'm not sure if I'm going to alienate or titilate (har har) my potential readership with what I'm going to say next.

I've been thinking about bras lately. Mostly because I'm on the small side up top these days and can't find anything that fits. When I found myself in the tween section of a department store looking at day-glo pink Hannah Montana training bras, I thought "Oh, sod it" and decided to go commando, much to the delight of dirty old men everywhere. (And FYI: leering at me and saying "You left your head-lights on, love" as an oh-so-subtle way of telling me you're looking at my nipples is not as droll as you might think.)

Thats when I discovered this fabulous number from the Japanese division of underwear giant Triumph, and started re-thinking my decision. Behold! The solar powered bra:

If peak oil isn't enough of a reason, thats enough to make me hurdle the fence into the alarmist camp! I particuarly like the fact that the photovoltaic cells are embedded in what appears to be fake-lawn, because I don't know about you, but I regularly aspire to making my scantily clad body look like a golf course.

If you look closely (and if you aren't I'd like to know whats wrong with you), you may notice the gel cups hanging from the, er, lady bits. Apparently they're for storing water and have a drinking straw attachment, although I hope I'm not the only one who wonders about the practicality of keeping liquids suspended above a photovoltaic cell.

If all this doesn't float your boat, then rest assurred that you can get your nerd on by using this to charge your ipod or mobile 'phone.

The only thing that concerns me here (apart from, well...EVERYTHING) is that you can't wear anything over the top of it. I'm not much of a fashionista, but I thought the whole "underwear as outerwear" thing was so, like 1995.

Et tu, CDC?

The US Centre for Disease Control seem to be busily breeding the next generation of climate alarmists to suckle off the teat of public funding.
Research Funding

There is widespread scientific consensus that the world’s climate is changing and that there will be a broad range of impacts on health through a variety of factors, including greater heat stress, air pollution, respiratory disease exacerbation, and changes in the geographic distribution of vector-, food- and water-borne disease. The complexity of such influences requires that the next generation of climate and health scientists undergo training in a multi-disciplinary setting to ensure that they can address climate-related public health challenges...

...Strong preference will be given to candidates who propose work on one of the priority research areas outlined below...Specific interest areas include precipitation and flooding, drought, hurricanes, soil moisture, land surface modeling, land use/land cover changes, regional climate modeling, and future climate modeling at global and regional scales, assessment of the societal impacts of climatological events, and public policy/economics as related to climate.

Gee, directive, much.

I have some questions:

  • How do you propose to turn people from un-related scientific, medical and sociological fields into climate scientists in two short years AND churn out a research project at the same time? Thats way cool.
  • What do you think happens when you churn out a bunch of researchers whose entire career revolves around finding health problems related to global warming? Its like when you put more cops on the beat and discover that arrest rates went up accordingly. Well, duh. They have to justify their existence somehow.
  • How do I sign up to this gravy train? When I came came out as a skeptic I thought some dude from Exxon would land a helicopter next to me and hand me a bag of cash, but so far I've got zip. Mamma has some bills to pay. Admittedly, the stipend of around $50K a year for two years isn't astronomical. Like hookers everywhere, the cheap ones just seem make it harder for everyone else on the game.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why cutting carbon won't stop malaria

Climate Change and Malaria in Africa
Why limiting carbon emissions won't do much to stop disease

What I find most satisfying about the AGW debate is when you don't even have to debate the climate science because the conclusions drawn are faulty even if the world does get warmer. It makes the job much easier for those of us in the skeptic-but-not-a-climatologist crowd.

If you've been following this blog you will have realised by now that misrepresentations of mosquito born disease and AGW is my own personal bugbear. Bjorn Lomberg just said something eminently reasonable in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece:

Malaria is only weakly related to temperature; it is strongly related to poverty. It has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years not because of global warming, but because of failing medical response. The mainstay
treatment, chloroquine, is becoming less and less effective. The malaria parasite is becoming resistant, and there is a need for new, effective combination treatments based on artemisinin, which is unfortunately about 10 times more expensive.

Yeh. What he said.

I can also add a bit more about artemisinin, or qinghaosu if you speak Mandarin. Artemisinin was isolated from Artemisia annua, or Qing Hao as it's known in much of China. It wasn't just randomnly discovered by a big pharma lab, Chinese researchers went combing through traditional materia medicae for herbs that were indicated in what was probably malarial disease.
They managed to isolate qinghaosu (artemisinin) fairly easily, worked out it was an effective antimalarial, and then spent the next 10 or so years trying to convince the academic snobs of the developed world that they weren't making it up. Conveniently for everyone involved, Artemisia annua is a weed. In the US its common name is Sweet Annie and it grows everywhere. This is important because the "herb" that is commonly prescribed along with Qing Hao in traditional Chinese Medicine for tertiary fevers is soft-shelled turtle shell. If research had gone the other way, we might really have a problem of supply.

I don't think supply of artemisin is the real issue. Apart from the issue of why pharmaceutical companies can't be arsed making it and are charging too much for what they do, the real issue is that we are going to screw up with prescribing it just the same way we have done with the other antimalarials, and it won't be effective anymore. When artemisin was first coming onto the market, everyone solemnly swore that they were going to prescribe it in combination and use it wisely to prevent malarial resistance deveoping. Then it started being sold over the counter in Thailand and Papua New Guinea, among other places, and now its already too late. The big, bad malaria, P. falciparum, is already developing resistance.

So, to my mind, what we really need to prescribe it in combination with is something like DDT. Yes, I know, I know. DDT is evil, but so was Rachael Carson, if you ask me. Personally, I would have liked to see her writing "Silent Spring" on the Thai-Cambodia border and see how she felt about DDT by the end of it. I have heard its difficult to type when you're shaking with fever and your spleen is the size of an inflatable beach ball.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm a hippy and I vaccinate

There are alot of diseases out there that are distinctly un-freakin'-funny. One that is particularly not-cute is whooping cough. Australia has been weathering one of the worst whooping cough epidemics on record. Theres something like 24,000 cases now and counting.

Whooping cough epidemic reignites immunisation debate

It is the feeling amongst the profession (but you'll have to wait on the epidemiologists to back me up in a few months time when they inevitably publish on this) that the massive number of cases has been due to less than optimal vaccination of children.

Of the kids born in 2003, around 80% were fully immunised by the age of 5. Thats pretty crap.

Some of the hardest hit areas such as far north Queensland and northern New South Wales have some of the lowest immunisation rates in the country. There goes herd immunity out the window. (Whereby, if most people are immunised, you don't have a reservoir of disease in the community and so those who aren't or can't be immunised aren't exposed.)

Not every kid should be immunised, there are medically relevant reasons for this, thats why we depend on herd immunity to keep them safe.

I have many friends who didn't immunise their kids, and sorry to say this, but I wouldn't call many of them true conscientious objectors. If challenged they couldn't really give you a good reason why they chose not to vaccinate, beyond the fact that everyone's not vaccinating and it seemed like a good idea at the time. (I have two friends who have good reasons - one has a child who is anaphylactically allergic to everything and the paediatrician scared her by saying if they vaccinated they would have to a have a resusc team on standby, and the other had a son who went into convulsions after having the old (OLD!) whooping cough vaccine. This last friend had two subsequent babies and was too scared to have them vaccinated after the first bad experience. This is a real shame, because the old pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine was a live-attenuated vaccine and adverse reaction were more common with that (but still statistically low), and the vaccine used now has an exceedingly low rate of adverse reactions because its acellular. However, the other 20-odd un-vaccinated kids running around in my kids peer groups do not have such a good excuse. And, yes. They all got whooping cough.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who will tell you how terrible immunisation is, how dangerous. Trust me, there are much worse things that can happen than your kid crying for 5 minutes.

When I had my first child, a family friend helpfully dropped off a bunch of information on why I shouldn't vaccinate. It was kind of akin to the misinformation being spouted by the Australian Vaccination Network, who should be tied up and beaten with a rubber hose just for co-opting that official sounding name, amongst other things. They are also freaking people out that not only will vaccinations do insidiously evil things to their children, but that the government is going to force compulsory vaccinations on them. Oh, puh-lease. If compulsory vaccinations were a viable option we wouldn't have the whooping cough epidemic, now would we?

(If only they knew that the government-medical complex is going to enforce compulsory vaccinations on them so they can secretly microchip them in the process, mwah ha ha ha - Ed.)

Anyway, all kidding aside. I just had a look at their no-vaccination blog, and they are also telling everyone that H1N1 was fine and dandy and a storm in a teacup. As someone who was completely floored with pig-pox, I'm choosing to take this entirely personally (it really was swine flu, too. I got swabbed and everything and now the infectious diseases lab keeps stalking me to take part in some study). I swear to freakin' god that if we had had the H1N1 outbreak in an era before modern pharmaceuticals and medical interventions, it might have been getting towards Spanish Flu badness. We put pregnant women on bypass in induced comas because they were so sick with it. BYPASS! Thats an order of sickness way above and beyond "go home and take two paracetamols".

Note to self - people to hate:

- Doctors for the environment.
- Matt Damon.

And now:

- The Australian Vaccination Network.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I know you are, but what am I?

Before the term "skeptic" was co-opted by the climate crowd it was much beloved of the medical sect. Being a medical skeptic was generally a byword for putting the boot into homeopaths and was considered to be a fairly acceptable medical pastime, along with getting frisky with the polo ponies and driving a BMW. (I kid, I kid). Lately, however, I have noticed that there is a logical chasm occurring in the medical skeptic crowd that you could drive a naturopathic formulary through.

On the one hand they are still busily congratulating themselves on their medical skepticism, whilst on the other hand loudly proclaiming that "..thanks to climate change sceptics, the word is being associated with people who disagree with accepted scientific evidence - not exactly the look skeptics are going for" whilst sticking it to alternative medicine virtually in the same breath.

It would appear that medicine, like many scientific disciplines, has lost sight of the fact that science is a methodology, not a belief system. Self identifying as a "scientist" is not a protective charm against scientific evidence or hypotheses that you don't like.

Additionally, lack of evidence is not lack of efficacy. Sure, I agree that Vega test machines seem like a load of merde, and don't even get me started on Chiropractic, but I am enough of a scientist to recognise a phenomenom (even if I can't spell it) first and suspend my disbelief long enough to go looking for the evidence later. Not only is this upholding science as a discipline, its kind of a useful attitude to have if you want to further your knowledge. In the example of "alternative medicine", if people are reporting effects, investigate it rather than dismissing it out of hand as a "placebo". Thats how we got artemisin, bromhexine and salbutamol, among other things. In the case of "climate science", if history dictates that malarial outbreaks have occurred in the arctic circle, think twice before you start yodelling about a supposedly climate-related increase in vector borne disease.

So don't be so quick to label every unexplained outcome as a "placebo effect", as that implies that you have an exhaustive body of evidence to draw on to exclude the other possibilities. If you don't have any evidence either way, then you can't call it a placebo until you do.

Similarly, don't proudly proclaim yourself a bigger-better-faster-skeptic than everyone else, if you are elevating AGW alarmism to the level of a belief system. Skeptical science means suspending your disbelief long enough to have a dispassionate and rational look at the the available evidence, not a born-again mandate to stick it to the unbeliever.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

If you thought Buffalo Springfield were bad...

Im still technically on hiatus until after exams, but this was just too good to pass up:

Academic says cull water buffalo to curb emissions

Ha! And you thought it was fat people who were really at fault.

So there you have it people, all we need to do is round up our feral water buffalo, shoot them in the head (preferably, given the alternatives) and oila! Global warming solved!

Unfortunately, the big hole in this logic would appear to be that the biggest methane "polluters" on the planet are termites, which share the same terrain as the water buffalo. Could it actually be that the water buffalo are the unsung heroes of the outback? All this time they have been reducing our emissions by competing with the termites for plant material, and what do they get in thanks?

Now, somebody go and tell the sustainable vegetarians. I expect they'll be the first to line up for buffalo steak BBQ on Australia Day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

This'll keep ya outta trouble...

Some things to do until I get back:

"Climate of fear"
An excellent article by an Australian medico Dr. Wes Allen on how global warming alarmism is bad for our children's health.

Clive James doing what he does best: Golf ball crisps and why skepticism is a good thing

and if that's not enough, heres the 5 Royales singing "Laundromat Blues":

See you on the other side of exams!

Hiatus (or sketchy posting, at least)...

I know I just started this blog, but I have discovered its, like, really addictive and stuff. Instead of doing important medical school related work, I have sat at my 'puter posting (you shoud see the drafts I've got in the pipeline) on the basis that it's way more fun than pathology.
Unfortunately though, I'm at the business end of the academic year here in Oz, and if I don't spend the next few weeks getting intimately acquainted with my stethoscope and Harrison's Internal Medicine, then Bad Things are going to happen.
I will be back with regular posts in a few weeks, although there may be the occasional post if I can't help myself. If you see me posting regularly before the end of November, tell me I'm a very naughty girl and punish me accordingly.