The Appeal of Vaccine Rejectionism: It Flatters the Ignorant

10 Feb

Famous faces and matching T-shirts do not experts make.

One of the most attractive aspects of vaccine rejectionism, indeed of all “alternative” health, is that no particular knowledge is necessary to declare yourself an expert. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have even the most basic knowledge of science and statistics. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have any understanding at all of the complex fields of immunology or virology. Your personal experience qualifies you as an expert. Hence Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, two actors with no training of any kind in science, are touted by themselves and others as “experts” on vaccination.

As the paper The Persuasive Appeal of Alternative Medicine explains:

The person-centered experience is the ultimate verification and reigns supreme in alternative science… Alternative medicine makes no rigid separation between objective phenomena and subjective experience. Truth is experiential and is ultimately accessible to human perceptions… [O]bjective diagnostic or laboratory tests that discern what cannot be felt never replace human awareness… [A]lternative medicine, unlike the science component of biomedicine, does not marginalize or deny human experience; rather, it affirms patients’ real-life worlds. When illness (and, sometimes, biomedicine) threatens a patient’s capacity for self-knowledge and interpretation, alternative medicine reaffirms the reliability of his or her experience.

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Pseudofeminism, Gender Pay, and Skepticism

10 Feb

As a skeptic I’m used to asking for evidence behind claims, though sometimes—especially in areas surrounding social issues—criticizing arguments can raise thorny issues for skeptics.

I was recently reminded of this when I came across an interesting article by Jaymie Strecker on a Web site called The Floating Point Divide. It’s about the issue of the gender gap in pay and a book titled Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, published in 2003. The premise is that women don’t make as much as men because they don’t negotiate their salaries.

Strecker writes that “Reviewers drooled over the book’s potential to help women. The Ms. blog included it in their top 100 feminist nonfiction. In my field, computer science, Women Don’t Ask is recommended left and right — Geek Feminism, Grace Hopper Celebration, Anita Borg Institute. Valerie Aurora of LinuxChix even became so enraptured by the book that she ran a scholarship to help women buy it…. Parts of Women Don’t Ask wax very feminist. The authors genuinely want to help women get the money and power they deserve. They want women to be free.”

So what’s the problem?

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This Week’s Good News

8 Feb

I don’t know if anyone else is celebrating, but the last week or so has culminated into some pretty good news for the socially progressive crowd. In case you missed it, here is my account of the news.

On January 31, Planned Parenthood’s President, Cecile Richards, sent an email with the news that Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation had “announced that it will stop supporting lifesaving breast cancer screening for low-income and underserved women at Planned Parenthood health centers.” They cited “politically motivated groups and individuals” as the sources that had “undermine[d] women’s access to care.” It was profoundly disappointing and disturbing news. I wondered, as many people did, why a group whose mission is to “save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures” would want to cut off funding that went toward providing preventative care for low-income and underserved women.

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Game on

6 Feb

This is how the timeline went at our house: Atari, Commodore 64, Nintendo, Nintendo Gameboy, Sega Genesis, Windows-based games, gap due to college/us kids moving out, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Gameboy Color, xBox 360, Nintendo DS. Everything from Nintendo GameCube on is still in good working order at my mother’s house, and she also has an original xBox.

When she was 5, my sister had calluses on her hand because she played so much Donkey Kong (I preferred Mountain King). As we got older, she sort of fell out of gaming, while I can easily get addicted. I can’t have a gaming system in my house, because I would seriously do nothing else, but I do visit my mom and family quite often. And oh, do we game.

I bring up this personal background because I know I’m not the only woman who games. Women game. The number of women who game keeps on growing. Also, it follows that since women game, perhaps some women might like to play female characters – I know that I am more apt to pick a female if I have a choice. I didn’t think that these things were still debated in 2012. But lately I’ve seen some distressing things.

Like this thread, which, granted, IS on a Men’s Rights board. The poster and subsequent comments go into great detail about how strong female characters are “subliminal brainwashing,” and that obviously women would not be able to keep up with men physically or mentally, in just about any type of situation. I especially chuckled at the reasoning that Samus from “Metroid” is OK, because she has armor that makes her strong, and she is “quasi-human.” Oh, and “non-feminist,” just trying to avenge her family.

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Homebirth Advocate Dies at Homebirth

2 Feb

Re: Inquiry into Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009 and two related Bills

I write to express my concern about the above bills. I understand that these bills will enable Medicare funding, access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and professional indemnity premium support for midwives providing care for women to give birth in hospital. Medicare funding for midwifery care is long overdue. It is not acceptable, however, to exclude homebirth from this funding and indemnity arrangement…

On a personal note, I am quite shocked and ashamed that homebirth will no longer be a woman’s free choice in low-risk pregnancies… I feel the decision to outlaw homebirth’s is contrary to women’s rights … Please find a solution for women and babies who homebirth after this date as their lives will be in threat without proper midwifery assisstance. And as a homebirthing mother I will have no choice but to have an unassisted birth at home as this is the place I want to birth my children.

Yours sincerely,
Caroline Flammea, Nick Lovell and daughter Lulu Lovell.

*****
Caroline Emily (Flammea) Lovell

LOVELL (nee Flammea). – Caroline Emily 15.07.1975 – 24.01.2012 Passed away suddenly after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Beloved daughter of Jadzia (Jade), loving wife of Nick and exceptional mother of Lulu and Zahra. You taught us how to love Always in our hearts

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Black Nonbelievers Speak Out

2 Feb

African Americans for Humanism (AAH) has launched an ad campaign, highlighting the rise in religious skepticism among African Americans. Coinciding with Black History Month, the campaign features prominent African American humanists from history along with contemporary activists and organizers.

AAH is a program of the Council for Secular Humanism that supports nonreligious African Americans.

Ads began appearing January 30 and January 31 in New York City; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; and Durham, North Carolina. On February 6, the campaign will be launched in Dallas. Advertisements will be placed on roadside billboards and in public transit sites. The Stiefel Freethought Foundation provided substantial creative and financial support for the campaign.

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I Stand with Planned Parenthood

1 Feb

Pink ribbon

News broke yesterday that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a well-known breast cancer charity, is no longer going to give grants to its Planned Parenthood affiliates because of “pressure from anti-abortion activists” and because “Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress,” according to this NPR article.

This is disappointing news. Planned Parenthood does a lot of good for women, especially in lower-income areas where they may not have access to a family physician. I thought that helping women was part of Komen’s mission. So why would Komen stop funding an organization that offered “more than 4 million breast exams over the past five years, including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants?”

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