Censoring Scientific Inquiry

I don’t believe in shutting down scientific inquiry, fact finding, evidence testing, hypothesis evaluation, and theory, just because it doesn’t fit my politics. I consider that unhealthy and reflects on poor mental health. I’m not a “my beliefs or the highway” person. If you show me the facts are contrary to what I believe, then I reevaluate my beliefs. Not offended. Not scared. I can be wrong. And that is what science is all about. It’s okay to be wrong in the inquiry of knowledge, verified by the pursuit of facts and evidence testing. Trying to shut down science is like trying to shut down knowledge. It’s not helpful to an informed citizenry. Ever.

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More Calif. Kindergarteners Under-Immunized

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The lack of vaccinations for children under five years of age is atrocious in California.  The article ”

More Calif. Kindergarteners Under-Immunized Than Unvaccinated” from CaliforniaHealthline.org has an excellent summary of vaccination rates statewide, and the appalling lack of vaccinations within Los Angeles County.

Quoting from the article:

While about 2.5% of California kindergarteners’ parents have opted out of vaccinations via personal belief exemptions, nearly 7% start school under-immunized.

According to Amy Pine, director of the Alameda County Public Health Department’s immunization program, under-immunized children still are “vulnerable” to contracting and transmitting diseases.

The rate of under-immunized kindergarteners who are admitted to school on a conditional status varies across the state. For example, the rate is:

  • 12.28% in Los Angeles County — nearly double the statewide average;
  • 11.62% in San Francisco; and
  • 9.68% in Alameda County.

Few counties have taken steps to stem the number of “conditional entrants,” but some stakeholders have made recommendations to the state to improve the tracking of such students (“State of Health,” CHCF Center for Health Reporting/KQED, 2/2).

 

This is really a setting for an epidemic of previously eliminated childhood diseases, such as mumps, measles, rubella, and perhaps even polio.  Only time will tell!

http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2015/2/3/more-calif-kindergarteners-underimmunized-than-unvaccinated

Since 1970 We’ve Wiped Out Half the Population of Animal Species :(

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This is so very sad.  A report by the World Wildlife Fund notes that we’ve lost 52% of the population from all species since 1970.  I feel like my children and their children will not know the kind of diversity of species that I had the privilege of encountering in nature as a child.  And the shows which brought us the wonderful expanse of nature, will have so much less to document and record.  It seems to me, as nature goes, so do we humans.  And right now that direction is not looking good.  Let’s change it.

From the report:

The conservation group’s Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind’s demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover.

“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.

For more about the report, go to this link:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/29/environment-wildlife-idUSL6N0RU48D20140929

HIV Infection Rates in U.S. Southern States is as bad as Sub-Saharan Africa

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Source: ThinkProgress.com

Yes, more bad news on the HIV front.  It appears that the rates of infection for both African-American and Latino women in U.S. southern states is as horrid as some places in sub-Saharan Africa.  I wish there were some sort of sick joke, but it’s not.

It appears that this growing issue has more to do with health policies of the states themselves, lack of adequate sex education, including prevention methods beyond abstinence, and certain possible cultural biases and mores within the affected populations themselves.

Either way, it is deplorable that something that can be prevented is NOT being prevented.

There is a very complete and comprehensive article in the Washington Post on this unfolding issue:

“But it’s not just money, or the lack of it, that accounts for the disproportionate number of people living with, and dying from, HIV/AIDS in the Deep South, experts say. The escalating HIV rates are the result of a perfect storm of social factors such as poverty, persistent anti-gay attitudesand a lack of transportation in rural areas. And in the South, AIDS often still has the taint of the plague. Fear of being judged and ostracized keeps some people away from clinics and the care they need.”

To read the complete article, go to this link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/southern-states-are-now-epicenter-of-hivaids-in-the-us/2014/09/22/9ac1525a-39e6-11e4-9c9f-ebb47272e40e_story.html?tid=pm_national_pop

Schizophrenia Is Actually Eight Distinct Genetic Disorders [io9.com]

by George Dvorsky / io9.com

New research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but rather a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each of them with its own set of symptoms. The finding could result in improved diagnosis and treatment, while also shedding light on how genes work together to cause complex disorders.

Schizophrenia is classified as a psychotic disorder, one characterized by an inability to discern what is real and not real, to think clearly, have normal emotional responses, and act normally in social situations. As Elyn Saks told us last year, “it’s a waking nightmare, where you have all the bizarre images, the terrible things happening, and the utter terror — only with a nightmare you open your eyes and it goes away. No such luck with a psychotic episode.”

Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes it, nor does it manifest identically in all people who have it (leading to the broader diagnosis of being on the ‘schizophrenia spectrum’). But links have been made to genetics, social factors (including early development), and neurobiology. The heritability link looks to be particularly promising, however; about 80% of the risk for schizophrenia is genetic. Yet scientists have struggled to identify which genes are responsible for the condition.

But a novel approach to analyzing genetic influences on more than 4,000 people with schizophrenia has finally allowed researchers to identify distinct gene clusters that contribute to eight different classes of schizophrenia.

“Genes don’t operate by themselves,” noted C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD, one of the study’s senior investigators in a statement. “They function in concert, much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.”

Indeed, complex diseases like schizophrenia may be influenced by hundreds or thousands of genetic variants that interact with one another in complicated and dynamic ways, leading to what scientists call “multifaceted genetic architectures.” Now, thanks to the work of investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the genetic architecture for schizophrenia is starting to take shape.

That’s a Match

For the study, Cloninger and his colleagues matched precise DNA variations in people with and without schizophrenia to symptoms in individual patients. In total, they looked at nearly 700,000 sites within the genome where a single unit of DNA is altered (i.e. a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP). Specifically, they analyzed the SNPs of 4,200 people with schizophrenia and 3,800 people without it. This allowed them to learn how individual genetic variations interact with each other to produce the illness.

So, for example, hallucinations and delusions were associated with one set of DNA variations, that carried a 95% risk of schizophrenia. Another symptom, disorganized speech and behavior, was found to carry a 100% risk with another set of DNA.

“What we’ve done here, after a decade of frustration in the field of psychiatric genetics, is identify the way genes interact with each other, how the ‘orchestra’ is either harmonious and leads to health, or disorganized in ways that lead to distinct classes of schizophrenia,” Cloninger said.

Click to continue reading the article on io9.com:

http://io9.com/schizophrenia-is-actually-eight-distinct-genetic-disord-1634838735

The Strange Case of An 18th-Century Sex Change Surgery [newrepublic.com]

by Alice Robb / newrepublic.com

One day in 1779, a London couple, seeking treatment for their seven-year-old daughter, showed up at the Soho Square Dispensary for the Relief of the Infant Poor. The first doctor thought she might have a hernia. The second had a different idea.

“I shall not trouble the reader with the surprise into which the parents were thrown when I first told them their child was not a girl, as they had supposed, but a boy,” wrote the second doctor. The case was recently discovered in the archives of the University of Kansas and written up in the latest issue of the journal Sexualities.

mistakenIn the early 2000s, Carol Warrenthen a professor of sociology at the University of Kansaswas researching the history of electricity in the college’s rare books library when she noticed an old pamphlet with an eye-catching title: “The case of a boy who had been mistaken for a girl; with three anatomical views of the parts, before and after the operation and cure,” by a surgeon called Thomas Brand. “I was looking through a bunch of materials that had been shoved together, and this one appeared,” recalls Warren.

According to Brand’s report, published in 1787, he noticed an “irregularity” in the patient’s “external parts.” After further examination, he concluded that the child’s “part, which had the appearance of the labia pudenda, was in fact the scrotum,” and suggested an “operation to free the penis from its confinement.” He went ahead and made some alterations, enabling the childwhose name is unknown“to urinate standing up, wear trousers, and enjoy the privileges of being a male.” Brand, who practiced at the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, was “not a quack,” according to Mary Fissell, a professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins who I spoke to on the phone.

Eight pages long, with three illustrations of the child’s anatomy, the pamphlet may describe one of the earliest instances of sex-change surgery. “The first case that I found (in America) was in the 1840s, and it was received quite critically by fellow physicians,” writes Elizabeth Reis, author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex and professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon, in an email.

Brand saw the operation not as sex change, but as a means of returning the child to his “proper” gender; Brand seemed to believe that only two distinct sexes were possible. He denied the existence of hermaphrodites, although he was familiar with the concept: “The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is properly understood as an animal that has both the male and female organs equally and perfectly formed,” he wrote. “But,” he goes on, “There is no reason to believe that such a case ever had existence in the human subject.”

Brand’s attitude toward sex and gender was consistent with the predominant view of his time; according to eighteenth-century norms, sex was a medical fact that had nothing to do with choice or personal expression. In fact, neither the patient nor his parents seem to have even been consulted. “Gender wasn’t conceived of as a form of identity,” says Warren. “It was conceived of as a form of body.” The idea of a person being “transgender,” of course, is not something that would enter common conception until about two centuries later.

Click on the link continue reading the article…

Study: Science and Religion Really Are Enemies After All [motherjones.com]

Are science and religion doomed to eternal “warfare,” or can they just get along? Philosophers, theologians, scientists, and atheists debate this subject endlessly (and often, angrily). We hear a lot less from economists on the matter, however. But in arecent paper, Princeton economist Roland Bénabou and two colleagues unveiled a surprising finding that would at least appear to bolster the “conflict” camp: Both across countries and also across US states, higher levels of religiosity are related to lower levels of scientific innovation.

“Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita,” comments Bénabou. He adds that the pattern persists “when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education.”

That’s the most salient finding from the paper by Bénabou and his colleagues, which uses an economic model to explore how scientific innovation, religiosity, and the power of the state interact to form different “regimes.” The three kinds of regimes that they identify: a secular, European-style regime in which religion has very little policy influence and science garners great support; a repressive, theocratic regime in which the state and religion merge to suppress science; and a more intermediate, American-style regime in which religion and science both thrive, with the state supporting science and religions (mostly) trying to accommodate themselves to its findings.

It is in the process of this inquiry on the relationship between science, religion, and the state that the researchers dive into an analysis of patents, both in the United States and across the globe. And the results are pretty striking.

Click on this link to read the rest of the article:
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/religion-quashes-innovation-patents