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← An Open Letter to Bill Maher on Vaccinations

An Open Letter to Bill Maher on Vaccinations - Comments

Mango's Avatar Comment 1 by Mango

Nice to see a summation of some the various critiques about Bill Maher's views on medicine. Hopefully, someone who knows Bill personally will forward this to him.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 02:00:00 UTC | #406128

cjnkns's Avatar Comment 2 by cjnkns

Good letter! I need to send this to my father-in-law.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 02:16:00 UTC | #406129

mmurray's Avatar Comment 3 by mmurray

Excellent letter. It will be interesting to see what the response is.

Michael

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 02:18:00 UTC | #406130

Robert_S's Avatar Comment 4 by Robert_S

Oh, good grief. Not another Shermer "open letter". Good luck, Mike, after all your "Rational Atheism" open letter was a great success (they still debate about how much of an "accomodationist" you are - though you're business savvy enough to know when to play nice).

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 02:21:00 UTC | #406131

moniz's Avatar Comment 5 by moniz

Always loved Bill, and his views usually line up with mine...all except his big pharma anti-vaccination stance. Good letter and here's hoping Bill reads it and gives it serious thought.

Plus to paraphrase a quote I believe one of his recent guests made "There is no such thing as "medicine" and "alternative medicine". If it works, it's just medicine!"

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 02:23:00 UTC | #406132

Ohnhai's Avatar Comment 6 by Ohnhai

@moniz

The line I remember is from Tim Minchin's poem 'STORM' which goes...

“By definition”, I begin
“Alternative Medicine”, I continue
“Has either not been proved to work,
Or been proved not to work.
You know what they call “alternative medicine”
That’s been proved to work?
Medicine.”

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 02:52:00 UTC | #406139

Thadd's Avatar Comment 7 by Thadd

Good post. I love Maher's show, but cannot stand his crazy takes on medicine and meet. He needs to get him some science.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 03:10:00 UTC | #406141

Daisy Skipper's Avatar Comment 8 by Daisy Skipper

Nice letter. I hope it achieves its goal.

re: Comment #424383 by Thadd.

I don't think Maher even needs to resort to 'science' to change his views on medicine. At the risk of sounding condescending, I think it only takes a moment's worth of rational thought: How could dozens of pharma and other medical companies, along with hundreds of doctors and politicians, get together and conspire - over decades - effectively. It verges on impossible....

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 03:41:00 UTC | #406144

Andrew Brown's Avatar Comment 9 by Andrew Brown

At the risk of bringing the flaming hordes down upon me, I can kind of understand his "reasoning"

Don't misunderstand me, his anti-vax/Big pharma etc. etc. woo-woo is cuckoo as can be. He does however point out that people should take better care of themselves. I think he has simply extrapolated that idea until it snaps.

He has stated that the US doesn't have health care it has sick care, and that people abuse their bodies until they go wrong and then expect the doctor to fix them.

Now I can see how living in a country where medicine is governed by the profit motve could lead to that point of view, but I think he has conflated two ideas, namely the need for people to take responsibility for their own health, and the idea that the doctor is a repair shop.

I think he thinks keeping healthy is all you need to do to stay healthy. unfortunately that isn't the case, and that's why we need healthcare.

(PS. I'm not the whining guy from the Grauniad!!)

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 03:55:00 UTC | #406147

wkriski's Avatar Comment 10 by wkriski

Bill wants a debate - there are legitimate concerns with vaccines - such as the mercury, aluminum that Bill described tonight.

I also saw a news item that said if you had a flu shot last year you'd be twice as likely to catch the swine flu this year. Not exactly a positive aspect of vaccines.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 04:03:00 UTC | #406148

alaskansee's Avatar Comment 11 by alaskansee

WWWWhatski?

The evidence for vaccines is as substantial as the evidence for clean water.

It would be an excellent example of freethinking if Bill got this but only if it's funny.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 04:22:00 UTC | #406150

mmurray's Avatar Comment 12 by mmurray

I think he thinks keeping healthy is all you need to do to stay healthy. unfortunately that isn't the case, and that's why we need healthcare.


A pity he didn't take this to its other logical conclusion. Part of preventative health care is treating things early before they do damage. So take the blood pressure tablets now and avoid a stroke later. Treat the raised intra-ocular pressure now and avoid blindness later.

Michael

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 04:33:00 UTC | #406151

decius's Avatar Comment 13 by decius

Comment #424390 by wkriski



Bill wants a debate - there are legitimate concerns with vaccines - such as the mercury, aluminum that Bill described tonight.



There are no legitimate concerns of that sort. They have been thoroughly debunked and exposed for their vacuity.

I strongly recommend that you follow Shermer's suggestion to Maher, and check out the link to the science-based medicine blog, rather than make a fool of yourself on these boards.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 04:34:00 UTC | #406152

Koreman's Avatar Comment 14 by Koreman

Antivaxx debunked by physician Joseph Albietz and more about H1N1.
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2116

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 04:39:00 UTC | #406153

mmurray's Avatar Comment 15 by mmurray

@wkriski

Try here

http://sciencebasedmedicine.org/reference/vaccines-and-autism/

for thimeserol (the mercury based preservative) and search around that whole site for the rest of your concerns.

I also saw a news item that said if you had a flu shot last year you'd be twice as likely to catch the swine flu this year. Not exactly a positive aspect of vaccines.


If true but it is probably false. You should treat health reports in the media with great scepticism. The media love creating scares about your health. Taking these kinds of media reports seriously is like believing there are alien bodies stored in Area 51 because you saw pictures of them in a magazine in the supermarket.

Michael

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 04:49:00 UTC | #406155

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 16 by bendigeidfran

Fantastic letter. Biology is Chemistry is Physics. It takes a lot of conspiring to alter the laws of Physics.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 05:11:00 UTC | #406157

justaperson's Avatar Comment 17 by justaperson

Thank you Michael! Bill, we love you, but. . . .

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 05:12:00 UTC | #406158

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 18 by Dr Benway

He has stated that the US doesn't have health care it has sick care.
Meh. The naturopaths have been using that line for a hundred years. Sounds good, means nothing.

Science-based prevention includes:
-balanced, weight-neutral diet
-physical activity each day
-a little sunshine each day
-regular sleep habits
-don't overdo the booze
-don't smoke
-stress management
-build lasting bonds; loneliness is bad for you
-vaccination
-seatbelts, helmets
-don't speed on the highway
-screening tests like Pap smears
-dental cleaning
-hand washing

Naturopathic prevention:
-avoid ill-defined toxins
-avoid vaccines; germs are natural and won't hurt you if you take care of yourself
-eat only "natural" foods
-no meat, dairy, alcohol
-enemas and other purgatives to flush out toxins
-regular chiropractic adjustments
-meditation, prayer
-manipulation of energy fields with Reiki, accupuncture, reflexology
-tweak subjective feeling of "wellness" using vitamins, herbs, supplements.

Naturopaths believe that by maintaining "wellness" one prevents illness. "Wellness" is defined as a physical, emotional, and spiritual harmony with the vis medicatrix naturae, or healing force of nature.

When we are told that we need a "wellness" model not a "sickness" model, we are being sold an anti-science bill of goods.

Look at this excerpt from HR 3200, "The America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009":
Section 125. PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE SERVICES BASED ON RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL CONTENT.

Neither the Commissioner nor any health insurance issuer offering health insurance coverage through the Exchange shall discriminate in approving or covering a health care service on the basis of its religious or spiritual content if expenditures for such a health care service are allowable as a deduction under 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as in effect on January 1, 2009.


There you have it: vitalism written into healthcare law.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 05:25:00 UTC | #406159

Bueller_007's Avatar Comment 19 by Bueller_007

In fact, the very principle of how vaccinations work is additional proof (as if we needed more) against the creationists that evolution happened and that natural selection is real: vaccinations work by tricking the body’s immune system into thinking that it has already had the disease for which the vaccination was given. Our immune system “adapts” to the invading pathogens and “evolves” to fight them, such that when it encounters a biologically similar pathogen (which itself may have evolved) it has in its armory the weapons needed to fight it... It is with considerable irony, then, that as a full-throated opponent of the nonsense that calls itself Intelligent Design, your anti-vaccination stance makes you something of an anti-evolutionist.... Evolution explains why vaccinations work. Please stop denying evolution in this special case.


Great equivocation, Shermer.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 05:44:00 UTC | #406161

benbird's Avatar Comment 20 by benbird

Our immune system making antibodies in response to a pathogen is not an example of evolution. But the general sentiment of the letter is noble. Maher would be a better sceptic and friend of science if he dropped this silly conspiracy rubbish about vaccinations.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 06:06:00 UTC | #406163

bad_andy's Avatar Comment 21 by bad_andy

Good summary of why you can't accept science only when it suits you. Peer review is the great equalizer that keeps the conclusions of biology honest. If vaccines were weaponized for business interests rather than optimized for medicine, the international hue and cry from people in the know would be deafening. Come home Bill, we miss you.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 06:11:00 UTC | #406164

willdabeast's Avatar Comment 22 by willdabeast

Why is everyone so extreme. At one of the spectrum you have people like Bill Maher and at the other end of the spectrum are people like on this site.

I do realize that there are vaccines that are critical for us to take and it would be ridiculous, even immoral, to not take them as well as having your kids not get them.

On the other hand I see robust healthy people getting yearly flu shots which probably makes them feel sick more often than if they actually came down with something.

The pharm industry is a mess. You have companies that do genuine research with real concern for people, and then you have companies that fit Bill's conspiracy theory perfectly. Tack on the sewer sludge that is the medical insurance industry and it becomes difficult to believe that the medical industry is looking out for your best interest. And I don't see how vaccines are immune from whatever corruption goes on.

Maybe Bill's stance is a bit too much, but it certainly does keep us on our toes. I think Shermer would have a better case to win Bill over if he at concedes that not all vaccines have benefits that outweigh the risks. I don't think there is a "grand conspiracy theory" going on but I do think companies are greedy enough that it'd be silly to think they aren't going to abuse the "miracle pill" mentality that the lazy unhealthy burger-quaffing masses are clamoring for which the free market will provide.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 06:11:00 UTC | #406165

mmurray's Avatar Comment 23 by mmurray

Why is everyone so extreme. At one of the spectrum you have people like Bill Maher and at the other end of the spectrum are people like on this site.


Because people like Maher mean less people in the community vaccinate. Less people vaccinating means more people dying. Look up whooping cough epidemic for example.

On the other hand I see robust healthy people getting yearly flu shots which probably makes them feel sick more often than if they actually came down with something.


Do you have any data to back up that `probably' ? In my own experience when I get flu I feel really sick for 2-3 weeks when I have the shot I get a sore arm and sometimes a bit of a headache and I don't get the flu.


You have companies that do genuine research with real concern for people, and then you have companies that fit Bill's conspiracy theory perfectly.


Sure there are genuine problems having this kind of research driven by the profit motive and, as you point out later, the pharmaceutical industry would be really happy to find a `miracle pill' we all need to take twice a day. These are good reasons to treat the industry with robust government regulation and a degree of personal scepticism but not good reason to retreat to the dark ages. I don't think it follows that there is a problem with vaccines.

I think Shermer would have a better case to win Bill over if he at concedes that not all vaccines have benefits that outweigh the risks.


Which vaccines would they be ?

Michael

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 06:31:00 UTC | #406166

Shifty Gray's Avatar Comment 24 by Shifty Gray

I think it is a bit ridiculous to call Bill Mayer an anti-evolutionist just because he doesn't believe in vaccinations. It's not like we have reproducing anti-pathogen cells that mutate and the bacteria or virus we get acts as natural selection and determines which ones live or die. Yes there is adaptation and evolution in the sense that our immune system can become better and succeed, but there are many other things that do that as well. I adapt and evolve to some situational stressors so I can perform better or simply deal with the stressor, does that make me an example of the validity of the theory of evolution?

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 06:37:00 UTC | #406167

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 25 by Dr Benway

Yeah Bueller, that equivocation over "evolution" kinda undermined the whole thing for me, though I appreciate Shermer's effort.

I equivocate, deflect, and distract all the time in my personal interactions when I don't want an open conflict. 100 percent honesty take time, more time than I usually have. So I settle for "pretty good honesty," for the sake of other's feelings.

But I don't see how Shermer's little white lie is helpful or even necessary in this context. It tarnishes the better parts of the letter with the stink of a sales pitch.

Maher may not fully grok evolution --he clearly doesn't grock the antigen-antibody response. So no biggie, I guess.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 06:50:00 UTC | #406168

PERSON's Avatar Comment 26 by PERSON

4. Comment #424373 by Robert_S on October 17, 2009 at 3:21 am
"they still debate about how much of an "accomodationist" you are"
Who is "they"?

18. Comment #424401 by Dr Benway on October 17, 2009 at 6:25 am
Here's the link
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c111:2:./temp/~c1119uFTBu:e2578428:

However, the bill can yet change significantly as it goes through the legislative procedure. Call your congressman and representative-- I think it's still possible for the house to modify the bill, and even if it's not, the congress can.

You might also find this article useful

http://factcheck.org/2009/08/twenty-six-lies-about-hr-3200/

The public option is the most important part of the bill to support IMO, but stuff like section 125 should be protested too. I don't know if it will be politically important in terms of what the bill achieves, that is the effect it has on the way the country functions, but I'd suggest that rationalists should make their voices heard just like any other interest group. They will find that they have influence outside their own group if they do.

"24. Comment #424409 by Shifty Gray on October 17, 2009 at 7:37 am
I think it is a bit ridiculous to call Bill Mayer an anti-evolutionist just because he doesn't believe in vaccinations. It's not like we have reproducing anti-pathogen cells that mutate and the bacteria or virus we get acts as natural selection and determines which ones live or die. Yes there is adaptation and evolution in the sense that our immune system can become better and succeed, but there are many other things that do that as well."
Schermer may be a little confused himself. The human body could not function if it did not have defences to remove other organisms, and these defences have adapted over evolutionary time. That's not in contention here, but isn't directly relevant to vaccines working or not that I can see.

However, they have also adapted to adapt. There is a kind of natural selection of antigens. And I think that is what Schermer is talking about.

I don't know exactly how this selection process works, but if this did not occur, every new mutation of pathogens that hosts had not adapted to by genetic natural selection would (by definition) be able to overwhelm the host.

Unless you think that new variations of pathogens cannot occur, this would happen. Would anyone like to make that case? I'm not being rhetorical here.

That perfectly healthy hosts are on occasion overwhelmed strongly suggests to me that an organism against which there is no defence and which has not been selected to constrain itself will reproduce without limit, e.g. anthrax or necrotising fasciitis.

"I adapt and evolve to some situational stressors so I can perform better or simply deal with the stressor, does that make me an example of the validity of the theory of evolution?"
That depends on what you mean by "I". Natural selection is not constrained to DNA and its phenotypes.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 06:51:00 UTC | #406169

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 27 by Reckless Monkey

It's just more proof that people who are otherwise rational can section off a part of their brains.

Bill, like many others thinks all you need is healthy eating and exercise. This is only true for him because almost everyone else is getting vaccinated thus giving him the protection that helps foster this delusion.

My father talks about coming back from school holidays as a child to find 3 kids in his class missing either dead or on Iron lungs each year due to polio. His brother got it but recovered although the damage is effecting him now in his old age. He happily consumed the live virus vaccine made, at the time in blended rats brains (I believe).

Otherwise, love Bill's show.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 07:08:00 UTC | #406170

Thor25's Avatar Comment 28 by Thor25

Tonights Real Time with Bill Maher his panel was utterly silent at some of his irrational statements about medicine, about his mistrust of doctors and his irrational beliefs on vaccinations.

He's obviously aware of the backlash since his last show with Frist making him look stupid (how crazy is that) and now after this show I suspect the pressure an noise will only grow 100 fold after his antics tonight.

Its too bad, like Mr. Shermer said he's so skeptical of all these other things while in this respect he treats all of this much like the people he routinely mocks in creationists, truthers, etc..

I don't know if Bill will back off or even admit that he was mistaken, there is so many people part of this anti vaccination movement that he probably feels comfort in that.

Very sad, Richard Dawkins award winner, even though I don't really feel that upset about it, this last 2 weeks shows by Bill makes me wish I just hadn't heard the things he's saying.

I definitely like for people to keep the pressure up and not let Bill get away with these comments, just like Jenny Mccarthy he's helping to spread fear and mistrust based on no real science and this no only hurts heard immunity but is needlessly killing people and sending many people (very costly Bill to our healthcare) to hospitals.

He talks about preventative care, how about one of our most effective tools to avoid people dying or getting sick?

Wake up Bill.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 07:21:00 UTC | #406172

Baron Scarpia's Avatar Comment 29 by Baron Scarpia

Well done Dr Shermer, who is considerably less vitriolic than I would be.

('Dear Bill, your stance on vaccinations could easily cause fatalities, kindly STFU.')

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 07:23:00 UTC | #406173

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 30 by Dr Benway

I think Shermer would have a better case to win Bill over if he at least concedes that not all vaccines have benefits that outweigh the risks.
My, there's a fair amount of toopid at the clear thinking oasis today.

The speaker above is obviously ignorant of vaccine science. No shame in that. I'm ignorant of most things. However, advocacy from ignorance is shameful, particularly when lives are at stake.

This commenter apparently feels that Maher might be too hurt if bluntly told that vaccines are a good thing. So we ought to cajole Maher with something like, "Most vaccines is gud. But I admit you do got a point regarding a coupla dem that ain't so gud an iz just der to make profits for de fat cats."

I wonder, which vaccines should we throw under the bus for the sake of our good buddy Maher's precious ego? Hib? Hepatitis B? Polio? Measles? Swine flu?

Here's a plan: we write the names of each vaccine on little slips of paper that we dump into a hat. Then we call "fair game" on the first two we remove.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 07:27:00 UTC | #406174