Sunday, July 6, 2014

An Important Talk About Vaccination, Scientific Principles And Mass Hysteria

Science hasn't told us what causes autism.  However, it told us without question that the vaccine myth wasn't real.  Secondary research brought up many questions.  This is peer review at its finest, serving its role in filtering out questionable results.  Other researchers were unable to reproduce his results, because they were not scientifically sound. Because one team published false results, there is a threat out there that we must examine with fresh eyes.  It is better to hold out for the right answer than to accept the wrong one out of fear or impatience.  By working together and circulating peer-reviewed knowledge instead of conspiracy theories that don't hold up to scrutiny, we can play our part in helping.  The scientific community can then battle the disease and stop taking time out to break it down for people who are unable or unwilling to do their own research.  Their job is to save the world, not boil it into a user-friendly diagram for public consumption.  We have an obligation to be savvy enough to interpret their findings and analyze them on our own.  That's why they taught you all that sciencey gobbledygook in school.

The media and people seeking fame have pandered to those who wanted to hear "you were right all along" and "here is secret knowledge that others don't have" because it gives people false empowerment when worried.  It tempts them to take the answer that's in front of them instead of risking it all to get the answer that holds up to testing and review by the world's most brilliant minds.  It is a seductive lie that promises everything and delivers nothing, because until a solution passes the scientific community's standards it cannot be implemented in medicine and used to improve lives.  The anti-vaccine movement  has misled millions.  There's nothing we can do about that except renew efforts to discover truth and facts that move us in the right direction.  Scientifically.  Not through John's Conspiracy Blog or Martha's Underground Information Center.  I've seen those emails.  They make me shudder.

"Science once told us the earth was flat," some people inevitably say as ass-backwards  justification for ignoring science (while telling you about how they are scientifically correct).  Not so.  People once told us the earth was flat because they wouldn't listen to scientific observation.  People once told us that sneezes were demons and that our planet was the center of the universe.  Science told us about why we sneeze, shown us the depth and measurable dimensions of our planet and its relation to the universe, and has explained the rules that govern how planets orbit their stars.  Science triumphs over man's false assumptions because one is law and the other is rumor.  It hurts our pride occasionally, but in the end we come out knowing the truth of how something works, and mankind benefits from that knowledge.  Galileo had an epic neener-neener moment that surely felt great, but don't underestimate the benefit to the generations who were able to take that knowledge and run with it, and not have to recreate the wheel every few decades.  That is the power of science and knowledge.

People test scientific principles in classes and labs every day.  That's how it should be.  That's the point, and when it weeds out a conclusion and the author admits he is a liar, that's a sure sign that we need to continue looking and not be hasty in declaring something as fact. This debacle is a cautionary tale that will haunt science for centuries.

Someday, if we get out of its way and listen to what it is trying to tell us, science will tell us the truth about how we can really lower the risk of autism and better treat the people who suffer from it.  The truth won't do us any good if it's lost in a hysterical babble of urban legends and invalid theories.

To believe an admitted liar over thousands of professionals whose livelihoods depend on their accuracy is insane.  Right now the denial and ignorance of some are hindering the scientific community's ability to confront and eventually diagnose the problem.  It's not like scientists won't continue to explore the possible links between autism and vaccinations, but since there are huge flaws in the theory let's not jump to conclusions and tell people the world is flat, thereby hindering the very people who are working to save us.

With billions of lives at stake, we can't afford to let ego and fear outweigh reasoning and knowledge.  If a person can't understand that the world is at risk from outbreaks and mutations of diseases we once all but eradicated, they are an enemy of the issue.  As we overcrowd and travel we have created the perfect storm for a global infection.  That should keep us awake at night, not fears based on a lie that fell apart upon examination.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why We Should Care About What Happens To The Homeless When They Die

I posted this to my Facebook in response to a recent story "What Happens To The Homeless When They Die?"  I had several people contact me privately and tell me they too knew what it was like, and ask that I share this as much as possible.  My blog seems like a great place to start.

This article upset me because it reminds me how fast we forget those left behind.  We have homeless people in every city of modest size.  People judge them, spit on them, beat them, rob them, or never see them at all.  The fact that people don't know what happens to the homeless when they die shows how removed we are from their circumstances.

Without further ado, here is my Facebook post.  To read the original article that set me off, you can find it here.

When I was 18, I lived in my car for a good while because I had nowhere to go. It was cold and it was awful. Nights last forever when you aren't warm enough, and days are endless when your belly is empty. This experience forever changed my view of the world and the people in it. It's also why I take this story and others like it so seriously. Compared to some, I was still living a life of luxury because I had a car for shelter. But oh, what I would have given for some warm, dry socks.

I am sad beyond words that these people are being thrown away simply because they have nothing. Literally, without any caring or consideration, they are bagged up and disposed of with the same measures used for roadkill. Tell me this is a nation founded on Christian principles, and I'll tell you that you're full of shit. Otherwise, we wouldn't have megachurches with shopping mall lobbies and top notch recording equipment while people freeze to death or suffer from chronic malnutrition.

But the homeless were discarded long before they died. And that's the real problem, isn't it?

We see the homeless as they are right now, dirty, desperate, bitter or lost. We do them the injustice of not knowing or forgetting that they are spelling bee champions, math whizzes, artists, dancers, friends, musicians. They could be mentally ill, they may have suffered a tragedy, they might just not know how to function in this world or some (like I was at the time) could be one break away from making it. They may have kids, they most certainly had parents. Someone might be praying for them right now, hoping that the world is being kind to them. Their relatives may never know that their loved one was found, scraped up, cremated, dumped, perhaps logged into a registry IF anyone ever knew their name. Or they find out that's exactly what happened, and are left to mourn in a field without markers.

So yeah, let's do something about that. Support a shelter, just remind yourselves that there but for the grace of God go we all, give however you see fit or are able. But do something, goddammit. There's a million ways to make a difference in a person's world, and only a few of them require money. A cup of coffee, an understanding ear, or just not being condescending to the less fortunate is a great place to start.

I know what it's like to have life hit you so hard you can't get up right away. I also know the power of a single act of kindness, especially when it comes at just the right moment. I have witnessed how much a good deed is amplified when done in the spirit of goodness. I have spent years hoping that if I ever get a chance, I can be that person for someone else. Twenty years ago, I was one good deed and a stroke of luck from disappearing off the face of the world forever. May I never be too proud or too spoiled to forget what that was like.

So, my beloved friends and readers: if you ever wondered why I delight in showering my friends and family with food just because I can, why I cringe when the wrong person touches me, why I fear being stranded in the cold more than just about anything, why I worry about the animals in the winter, or why I hoard socks like the world is going to run out of them... well, now you know.