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Posts Tagged ‘pregnancy’

Score One For the Good Guys!

November 25, 2010 1 comment

Every so often, a victory comes along that reminds me why we do this.

Blogging about science and skepticism can be tough. You wonder “are we really making a difference?”

Yes, we are.

The anti-vax group SafeMinds.org tried to purchase ad time to show a “PSA” trying to convince people not to receive the flu shot containing any mercury-based preservatives.

Let’s not kid ourselves. This group is anti-vax, and trying to sneak their message in under the guise of being “pro-safe vaccines” as opposed to “anti-vaccines”.

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that vaccines containing mercury are associated with health problems. Further, there is no evidence that links any adverse health effects to the fetus by administering the flu vaccine to pregnant women, as the SafeMinds ad contends.

Yet the fear mongering continues. If this ad had run, vaccination rates would have dropped. This is a large health risk and puts young children and the elderly in particular danger.

However, a glimmer of hope. AMC refused to show the ad in their theatres, as was announced by SafeMinds.org

SafeMinds was notified late yesterday afternoon that AMC Theaters has decided to block the SafeMinds Public Service Announcement (PSA) on influenza vaccines with mercury. The PSA alerts parents and pregnant women of the presence of mercury in most influenza vaccines and the ample availability of mercury-free alternatives. The CDC has declined to give a preference for the mercury-free versions, so it is important that the public is aware of its options. AMC’s advertising representative had reviewed and approved the PSA to run in AMC cinemas over the Thanksgiving weekend. A small group of vocal vaccine proponents dismissive of mercury concerns learned of the PSA and bombarded the AMC website, leading to the company’s decision to prevent its release. SafeMinds thanks its supporters who viewed the PSA and contributed to its efforts to educate the public to avoid unnecessary mercury exposure. Mercury in all forms is dangerous, especially to the developing fetus and infants, as referenced on the PSA website www.safemindsflu.org. SafeMinds will continue its mission to educate the public on this important healthcare topic.

More info on the whole situation can be found on SkepChick and Science-Based Medicine.

This is a big win for the good guys. Fear of vaccinations is a major threat to public health, particularly children. So we will continue to fight, and hopefully we will see more wins like this one.

Pseudoscience On ‘How I Met Your Mother’? Noooo!

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Do you watch How I Met Your Mother? You should. Why? Just friggin’ do it.

It’s one of my favourite shows, and alas, it was invaded with pseudoscience in last week’s episode, ‘Baby Talk’. (Yes, I know I’m a week behind. Don’t worry, I have a DVR).

Anyway, Marshall (my favourite character) is trying to get his wife, Lily, pregnant. Not only that, but he feels the need to conceive a boy because he has no idea how to raise a girl.

Lily Aldrin and Marshall Eriksen (Played by Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel)

So, his helpful father gives him a few tricks of the trade. The conversation went like this:

Dad: Since the Viking age, the Eriksen men have passed down ancient secrets for conceiving boys. Number one, avoid lemons; they’re baby girl fertilizer.

Marshall: No offense dad, but I doubt there’s any scientific data to support…

Dad: (in mocking, nerdy voice) I doubt there’s any scientific data to support

I had all sons, your grandfather had all sons, your great-grandfather had ALL SONS! SCOREBOARD! So who are you going to listen to: me, or (*mocking tone*) scientific data?

We now know enough about reproduction to know thats its the male sperm that determines the sex of the baby. So Marshall’s family having all boys is not unheard of. King Henry VIII had a similar problem when he could only have girls, unable to sire a male heir. They didn’t know back then what we know now (unfortunately for King Henry’s wives).

Well poor Marshall, desperate to conceive a son, ignores common sense and nerdy scientific data and tries some of his Dad’s tips (with hilarious results).

They include eating pickled herring, pointing Lily north whilst making love, and yes he even dunked his junk in ice water prior to mating!

This is supposed to be funny (and it is), but in reality it has been shown that people are more likely to listen to a friend or family member than (nerdy voice) scientific data. Which is unfortunate, but there is a reason why.

We’ve all heard the old wives’ tales regarding pregnancy myths. They get passed down from generation to generation largely due to confirmation bias.

Example: I’ve heard people say that if you’re ‘carrying low’ it is indicative that the baby will be a boy. If you predict the baby will be a boy, and its a boy, your theory that she was ‘carrying low’ (I’m not even sure what that means) is confirmed in your mind. So you tell the next woman you see that she’s carrying low, so it will be a boy. In your mind, it’s a proven fact.

And people remember if you are right, and forget if you are wrong. It’s the same principle that so many psychics rely on to make themselves seem credible.

So sorry Marshall, it really is just luck of the draw. All the pickled herring in the world won’t guarantee which of your swimmers makes it to the finish line.