A little bit of news round up is in order. Two major news items caught my attention during my perusal of the various news items. First up, Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference started this monday and featured CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote speech. As per usual with Apple conferences, the internet was abuz with rumors and hype surrounding the potential new porducts that might be unveiled. Despite my complete lack of a mac, and perhaps due to my current interest in a macbook pro, I sat in on the Gizmodo and Engadget live coverage of the keynote speech. What ensued can only be described as a string of completely uninteresting revelations. There’s going to be a new version of OS X eventually? Well duh… And it’s going to be called Snow Leoperd? Ok. Look! Iphone games, medical apps, et cetera. Perhaps the strangest app of all though was an ebay app(are you too impatient to just log in to the web based ebay?). The mobileme(.mac 2.0) seemed vaguely interesting, though it would seem to make more sense to see what free cloud based apps show up to compete with it. I’ve personally voiced my own apathy towards cloud based solutions, but I must admit I can see benefits to the use of some of the apps shown off in mobile me…though I can’t help but ask if Google couldn’t do the same thing minus the cost. Finally, there was the big announcement of the day, a 3G or HSDPA, based iphone. I’m sure this, along with the announced price cut for the iphone, excited quite a few. But I must ask…so what? The iphone is still locked to AT&T, which requires any non AT&T customer to pay several hundred to just get out of their old contract. Going along with that complaint, I wonder why would you buy an iphone if you could get, for example, a new Blackberry Bold, HTC Touch Pro, or any number of other smartphones without having to replace your current provider, especially if that provider offer you good reception? In the end, the keynote speech for WWDC fell flat. I think Paul Thurrot put it best when he described the speech as “Microsoftesque”.
Going from the boring to the inane, we have the “Green our Vaccine” rally. One of the organizers, the strangely labeled TACA or Talk About Curing Autism, (Haven’t we been doing that?) features a recap of the rally which took place June 4th in Washington D.C. The anti-vaccine, or anti-toxin, movement is certainly nothing new, but it has certainly been aided by the influx of celebrity support. The rally itself featured such notables as Jim Carey, Robert Kennedy Jr., and Jenny McCarthy. The movement has traditionally consisted of attacks against vaccines for ingredients, such as thiomersal which is a preservative which contained mercury, which they claimed to have caused autism in their child. All of this sounds very scary especially when you mention chemicals like mercury being in vaccines. The cold blast of reality is that there is no evidence that these chemicals cause autism.
In general, the movement tends to describe itself as being against any “toxins” being in vaccines. I would ask, facetiously, who is FOR placing toxins in vaccines? But that point being put aside, I imagine these people are well meaning but mistaken in their beliefs. What’s more troubling is how the movement seems to be more interested in eliminating vaccines in general, rather than concerned with certain non-essential ingredients.
David Gorski of the Science-based Medicine Blog has a great write up about the event, the “controversy” and the truth about vaccine safety. What’s interesting about this rally is how it shows the evolution away from the failing argument that mercury causes autism towards the more general anti-toxins argument. I don’t think this is all that surprising. The use of the anti-toxins argument is used throughout the pseudo-sciences. The argument often that we’re ingesting too many toxins and we need to get rid of them in order to allow our bodies to heal naturally. As if that wasn’t bad enough though, they’re combining the anti-toxin message with a “green” or all-natural message in some cases. Consider a quote from a mother of two autistic children featured in an article via the science-based medicine blog found here. “But Mason, who has two autistic children, warns that autism is on the rise, and that something has to change. ‘ideally the legislators would enact legislation that would force companies to use natural ingredients‘, she argues. ‘Not what they’re using now.'” What is this ideal world which she is positing? While I obviously feel for her and understand that she’s sincere in her beliefs and desires, I can’t help but point out that ingredients being natural doesn’t make them better. After all consider that mercury and lead are natural but are in fact toxic to humans.
In the end it’s hard to not feel for the troubles which a lot of these mothers have faced, including the heart rending feeling that they might have been directly responsible for their child’s autism. However we shouldn’t ignore that there are people trying to eliminate childhood vaccines, which are responsible for saving many lives from diseases, with a campaign which is thoroughly lacking in any real scientific evidence. The best scientific argument they had was that mercury caused autism and that has been investigated and shown to lack any evidence. After that, all that is left is faux green, faux consumer choice, and faux science.
Image borrowed from Science-based Medicine Blog
On a lighter note I’d like to submit Jim Carey’s analogy. When I read this, it simply floored me. I have a degree in literature and, really, this is probably one of the best analogies ever. “If on the way to a burning building a fire engine ran people over, we wouldn’t stop using fire engines. We would just ask them to slow down a bit. Well it’s time to tell the CDC and the AAP that it’s time to slow the fire engine down. People are getting hurt on the way to the fire.” Truer words have n’er been spoke. Oh. And I’m being sarcastic.