Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dean Esmay and Orac

A while ago I pointed out that Dean Esmay had not bothered responding to Oracs excellent debunking of the pathology report produced by Dr. Al-Bayati. As it turns out, he probably won't as he has stated over at another analysis of the report at Catallarchy.
I tried reading Orac’s response, by the way, but it was so full of false accusations that I couldn’t get through it.
Of course, noting that Dean doesn't bother trying to support this statement and instead just dodges any of the points that Orac raised. In fact, Dean by accusing Orac of being dishonest repeatedly, never engaging any of his points that he raised just puts on a big hat labelled 'hypocrite'. This from a man who asked his opponents,

I wonder if the Suicide Girls or Orac Knows will show any class, decency or honesty on the subject now that we know the truth?
Which of course invoked the original response by Orac to Deans claims. The only problem was the 'truth' happens to be a little different than what Dean would have others believe. Where did Dean go in terms of actually addressing the arguments put forth by Orac after this point?
The man argues first and foremost through attacks on others’ credibility. I do not, for example, “wave credentials” at anybody, not for my friends or detractors. I note only that credentials do matter, and that in any area of science, a qualified scientist should be respected as having the right to a dissent, even if it’s a minority position, AND, that one shouldn’t treat qualified scientists as kooks or people who can be dismissed with an airy wave of the hand.
But of course Dean does, because he attempts to use Dr. Al-Bayatis credentials instead of if the man is factually correct as the support for the argument. According to Dean, you can be completely wrong on something but because of your credentials it should still be considered as a possibility? This sounds amazingly similar to other kinds of nonsense that gets put out, such as those pushing alternative treatments like crystal healing, the psudoscience of ID/creationists and holocaust deniers. Just because someone has a degree Dean doesn't make them right and neither does it make them credible in any respect. Of course, Dean claims that Orac 'dismissed' the report with an airy wave of the hand. You can go and read what Orac wrote for yourself and make up your own mind. The only person here dismissing anything with an 'airy wave of the hand' is Dean. I'm sure the irony is lost on him however.
Orac’s dishonesty in this leads me to the (admittedly ad hominem) conclusion that he can’t be trusted to be honest on anything else.
More like this is a brilliant way of avoiding having to actually formulate any form of response to Orac. Instead, Dean can claim the high ground first by claiming Orac is being dishonest (without explanation) and then not respond to the substance of any of Oracs points whatsoever. Of course, he still claims that the cause of death was anaphylaxis, even if there wasn't any associated pathology that indicates such a hypothesis except for grasping at straws (see Oracs or Catallarchy for reasons why that is).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Iron Crotch

I think we can put this onto the 'incredibly strange' category, but it turns out that a man who practices a branch of Qigone called 'Iron Crotch' actually managed to pull a truck with his jolly rodger.
Grandmaster Tu Jin-Sheng, best known for his Iron Crotch, attached himself not once, but twice, to a rental moving truck and pulled it several yards across a parking lot in Fremont. In lace-up leather boots and a black tank top, the 50-year-old tied a strip of blue fabric around the base of his penis and testicles and tugged to make sure it was on tight. An assistant kicked him hard between the legs before he lashed himself to the vehicle.
Now that is an incredibly impressive feat though I have a feeling it's not something I should be doing any time soon.

New Kansas University course

I certainly would sign up for this new course at Kansas University:

Intelligent design — already the planned subject of a controversial Kansas University seminar this spring — will make its way into a second KU classroom in the fall, this time labeled as a “pseudoscience.”

In addition to intelligent design, the class Archaeological Myths and Realities will cover such topics as UFOs, crop circles, extrasensory perception and the ancient pyramids.

Sounds like a really good idea and I would certainly attend it! Thanks to Pandas Thumb for the heads up on the issue (Well, it's where I saw it first anyway).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Twenty Second Skeptics Circle

The twenty second skeptics circle has been posted at, so once again I suggest heading over there for a look at the best skeptical blogging around.

HIV spreading in New Zealand

It's always the same old story, a group of individuals becomes too complacent and start becoming more promiscuous, often with the mistaken belief HIV is 'cured' due to the available medication. Sure enough, the rates of HIV and associated cases of AIDS begin to rise dramatically and public awareness campaigns are run. Give it a few more years and people forget again, with the cycle repeating itself and so on. Really, just because there are effective medications available to treat HIV, doesn't mean that the virus itself just disappears all of a sudden and is no longer going to be a threat. The drugs themselves aren't even that pleasant to be on and have several particularly debilitating side effects (noting that they keep you alive, so it's not much of a choice sadly).

When will people learn :(

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

HIV denialism trounced

Although it may seem almost impossible to believe with the overwhelming evidence available that HIV causes AIDS, there is a small but incredibly vocal group that claim HIV is not the cause of AIDS. In fact, many HIV deniers claim that lifestyle choices, such as homosexuality, drug abuse (including using AZT, one of the drugs used to treat HIV) and other 'lifestyle choices' are what causes AIDS. If that sounds like the general load of codswollop that alties pull out with things like generic 'toxins' causing diseases then you'd be right.

Orac was recently prompted to write this incredible rebuttal to Dean Esmay who accused Orac (and others) of using the death of one HIV deniers child, Christine Maggiore as a 'political football' based on an extremely dodgy pathology report by one Dr. Mohammed Al-Bayati. Now backing up slightly for those not familiar with the story, Christine Maggiore is a well known HIV denier who is in fact infected with the disease. Unfortunately, she doesn't believe that AIDS can affect heterosexual normal people and only affects those with 'dirty' lifestyles like the poor and homosexuals. For her arrogance, she paid the ultimate price sadly and her second child, Eliza Jane died of what the L.A. county coroner described as 'AIDS related pneumonia'. Since then, Christine Maggiore and Dean Esmay have been trying to make any excuse to shift the blame from an AIDS related cause to that of an allergic reaction to amoxicillin the child was given or even other viruses entirely (see Oracs debunking above).

With the police and authorities breathing down Christine Maggiore for basically neglect and failure to provide proper care, she is desperately trying to pin down anything she can (except AIDS) for the death to stay out of prison. The only 'political grandstanding' occuring here is the rubbish coming out from the likes of Deam Esmay and the abysmally ridiculous report from Dr. Al-Bayati (who himself is a known HIV denier and has written books on the subject, surprised yet he used any tenuous evidence he could to link the girls death to anything other than AIDS?).

Now after the debunking of the so called 'expert' pathology report will Dean Esmay have the guts to actually address the arguments made from Orac? I'm going to bet that he probably won't, just like how the creationists seem to disappear when you provide them with solid scientific evidence for evolution.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Amazon Reviews of Jack Thomsons book

I've seen some hillarious explosions on Amazon before, namely that whole incident featuring Anne Rice from a while back but this new hoopla over Jack Thomsons new book Out of Harms way really takes the cake. Out of Harms way supposedly investigates the link to all of societies evils like murders, rapes and the like and promptly blames them on the entertainment industry. J. Thomson has been known for his incredibly overdone statements about the effects of video games, calling certain games 'murder simulators'. As a general rule, he's basically annoyed the entire gaming community with his various antics. Now review section for the book has turned into an utter firestorm with numerous users ripping Jack Thomson a new one. Reviews like this, awarding the book one out of five stars are pretty common:

Short on facts, long on hyperbole, should appeal to Kansas bible thumpers
who don't let facts mar their self-created belief system. I honestly
couldn't finish the book, wait for it to go on sale at the $1 table at your
local surplus book store if you just have to take a look at it.

Another example awards the book 5 out of 5 but not for any of its literary qualities:
I highly recommend you purchase and read this book. If not, I have it on good
authority that Jack Thompson will sue you. And your family. And your
Speaking of suing, it turns out that ole Jack is already threatening to sue Amazon for allowing people to express their general dislike. He basically wants all of the negative reviews removed or he's going to sue them (though some of them can definitely be removed, while hillarious they are somewhat pointless and make no good point). Where this story will lead? Who knows I guess but it will be interesting to see if he actually does try to take Amazon on over this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Good news about Tamiflu

Looks like giant corporations are prepared every so often to bow to common sense in the face of potential pandemics:
The main producer of Tamiflu, the drug thought to be the best defence against a flu pandemic caused by bird flu, has agreed a deal with the drug's inventor over worldwide production, the two companies said on Wednesday.
Basically this agreement will allow for greater supply of the drug, which will still probably be highly limited although it won't be quite so bad anymore. Additionally, they've made it easier for other 3rd party companies to manufacture the drug. While this isn't going to prevent a pandemic by itself it's a good decision and shows that companies can decide to disregard pure profits every so often.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Microbes and resistance

Tara C. Smith over from Aetiology discusses another example of bacteria developing resistance to new forms of antibiotics. In this case, researchers planned to use small peptides that are found in the immune systems of many organisms (including us) as novel antibiotics. Unfortunately, one of the researchers had a somewhat overconfident idea that bacteria would not be able to develop resistance against these peptides. Thankfully he was challenged on it and found that indeed, resistance would develop in these bacteria if they were exposed.
This was the question asked in a new study by Dr. Zasloff along with colleagues Gabriel Perron and Graham Bell. Following publication of his 2002 paper where he called evolution of resistance to these peptides “improbable,” Bell challenged Zasloff to test this theory. Zasloff took him up on the offer, and they’ve published their results in Proceedings of the Royal Society.
As I alluded to above, the result was the clear development of resistance to the peptides. So much for improbable I guess. What intrigues me is that it was already understood that resistance had already emerged in several bacterial pathogens previously. As T. Smith notes;
For example, resistance to antimicrobial peptides has been shown to be essential for virulence in Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella species, but we didn't *witness* that resistance develop--therefore, it might simply be that those species have physiological properties that render them naturally resistant to many of these peptides, and were never susceptible in the first place.
I think one of the first examples of resistance was Salmonella enterica serovar typhimurium which is resistant to several antimicrobial peptides. I'm not sure why anyone would have been so confident to think that bacteria wouldn't develop resistance. If some organism had done it in the past (like Salmonella spp) you can almost be certain of them doing it agian. In fact, that would be one of the sorts of tests you could use in the whole ID vs. evolution 'controversy'. If bacteria could not develop some form of resistance again against a new antibiotic, when other species had in the past it would indicate there was something incredibly special or unusual about the previous resistance development. Evolutionary theory would very much predict the redevelopment of resistance even in a completely new species. This development doesn't have to be the same kind of resistance determinant of course, much like if you replayed evolution again flight might evolve in an entirely different way the second time.

Additionally, I think a lot of medical bacteriologists could use some of E. O. Wilsons thinking and fast. It's becoming very clear that individual bacterial species are irrelevant in the big game of evolution. The whole entire 'genome' of the population of bacteria in an area are more critical. If one organism has a mechanism for resistance against an antibiotic, it puts massive selection pressures on plasmids, bacteriophages and other roving DNA elements to aquire it. Quite frankly, I wonder how easily the existing resistance genes could start spreading under selection. It's too dangerous to consider bacteria just having to develop resistance because many of them probably won't. The simple reason is they won't have to, they can grab it from a friend instead.

That is scarier to me. Not the concept of one organism developing resistance, but one organism either having it to begin with or producing a new mechanism and then spreading it around to all of its friends.

Blogwars and comments

Having read that Orac was clarifying his blog comment process, I decided to follow the comment trails to what prompted him to do it in the first place. It turns out that after a rather heated disagreement on two blogs (story here and here) led to eventually legal action being taken and people getting generally upset. I suppose seeing this I'll clarify my general comment posting policy as well. Generally I will only delete a comment if someone is being an asshat or going utterly off the topic. I reserve the right however to delete whatever I feel like if I feel like it, however this is not a collection point for sycophants or an echo chamber so I will do my best not to remove comments. If it comes down to deleting peoples posts I will do so however and I will not always provide an explanation either.

Then again, as I said this is not a dictatorship or anything else like that. I welcome discussion (especially from those who disagree with me) and so long as you're courteous and don't insult myself (and especially other users) you're unlikely to get posts deleted.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Allan (Winace) has died.

One of the common posters in the creation/evolution debate arena was a fellow called winace. He ran several well known pages such as Fundies Say the Darndest things. Sadly, he has died recently of cystic fibrosis at the mere age of 20 years. This is a real shame and a big loss to the communities he was a part of (such as IIDB).

My condolences go to his family.

Friday, November 04, 2005

What is science?

Weebl appears to have the answer and in flash form as well! I could use a few boxes now that I think of it.