Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Science Debate Still Snubbed by All 3...

So far three invitations have gone out to Clinton, Obama, and McCain. So far all three have been ignored. 

To solve any of the problems that we face, we need individuals in power who are capable of at least understanding the importance of science. 

My question is: why they aren't on top of this? Again it seems like it's playing the political game of walking that middle line to be as accepting as you can of everyone, no matter how ridiculous, while not really taking any stand. 

Instead we get the "Compassion Forum."

Now I understand that politics is ultimately a value position; it answers questions about what we should do. But there is always implied by statements of what we should do that we are actually able to do them. "Ought implies can." And the best measure we have for figuring out if we actually can do something is using science. 

The Rational Moderate

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Obama Joins McCain

"We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it." --Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Rally, April 21, 2008. 

Way to go Obama. Way to join McCain in dumb-ass-I-don't-bother-with-science-let-alone-logic-land. While it may be true that he was not referring to himself with the line "This person included," the rest of it still reads as if there is some scientific debate left open on this issue. There isn't. If vaccines caused autism then there would have been a drop in autism rates since 2002 when thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines. But there hasn't been. It's that simple. And when a candidate can't get the simple things right, I start to really, really worry about the complex issues.

And of course, Hillary isn't left out of this three stogies issue. 

“I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines…. We don’t know what, if any, kind of link there is between vaccines and autism — but we should find out.”

How hard is it to actually figure this out? Are they really unaware? Are they really that irrational? Do they think it's better to lean this way to not alienate the few voters who actually cling to this non-existent issue by finding a wishy-washy middle ground that let's them save face while paying lip service to science? I guess I am most disappointed in Obama if this latter question is the case, since his message is supposed to be about changing the way we do politics. He just forgot to add "But not really."

The Rational Moderate

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hillarites and Strategy Voting.

I witnessed a very interesting thing last week during a long walk with my dog. A few doors down from my local cigar shop (where they let me bring my dog inside because - "can't make it smell any worse") is an Obama shop. In front of Obama's were about 10 people protesting and picketing against Obama in favor of Hillary. They had signs made up with things like "Hillary is better" or "Obama rejects PA", "Obama is unqualified" or something to those effects. How interesting, I thought. My second thought was: What are these people going to do if Obama gets the nomination? Vote for McCain? Abstain? Whig party candidate? 

I believe it's more likely that they'll end up voting for Obama, but I want to argue that this type of thinking is one of the main problems with party politics. It starts the cycle of strategy voting. The most common form of strategy voting is voting for someone to ensure that the person from the other party does not win. The last presidential election was a fine example of this. It seemed that the majority of both Democrats and Republicans didn't really like their candidates, but they hated the other candidate more. So instead of voting for Kerry, they were actually voting against Bush, and by default voting for Kerry. And the same the other way round. 

There are two problems I see with this. The first is that the politician who gets elected actually believes that every vote for them was a vote of love. Hence Bush believing he finally had the backing of the country by actually winning an election. This leads the politician to do things that would probably not happen if they realized that most of those who voted for you don't actually like you, but just like you more than the other. The second problem is that the voter ends up not voting for who they actually want and so we end up with politicians we don't really want. 

The solution, and the one that I hope the Hillarites as well as the Huckababies and Paulians adopt, is to vote for the person you actually want regardless of who is nominated. If you honestly think Hillary would be a better president, and you are not convinced by positive arguments for the other side, then you should vote for Hillary. If the politicians think we vote out of love for them - perhaps we should. 

The Rational Moderate

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I always assumed they were full of...

I'm just not surprised by this account of military analysts who were informed by the white house on what to say while smiling pretty for the camera. The whole point behind this administrations use of the media is to get people on camera repeating the same thing over and over until it seeps into the general public's consciousness. There was a study last year that showed that even when trying to correct false information, we often remember that information as fact. The study went something like this: when the center for disease control would try to correct a myth about flu vaccines by presenting a myth and then showing how that myth is incorrect, 28 percent of those surveyed remembered the myth as true 30 minutes later. Three days later, 40 percent remembered the myth as true. Couple that with myths being repeatedly told as truth by these analysts and you've got one hell of an obstacle to overcome to get the public to recognize truth as such.

The Rational Moderate

Lincoln And Douglas on ABC

This is hilarious. 

The Rational Moderate

Saturday, April 19, 2008

John McCain and the Missing Mercury

Last Month John McCain sealed his position as my Candidate with the Least Amount of Rational Thought. It wasn't easy and the competition was tough but he managed to pull it off with this remark:

“It’s indisputable that autism is on the rise among children. The question is, What’s causing it? And we go back and forth, and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

The preservative that he is referring to is thimerosal which is, for the purposes of this article, a type of mercury (hey, you want real chemistry go watch Bill Nye). I won't go into details about the myriad of studies that concluded that there was no correlation between vaccinations and autism. (If there is no correlation there is certainly no causation.) Nevertheless, the proponents of the connection between the two have not been swayed in their beliefs. As a response, the FDA removed all thimerosal from childhood vaccines in 2002 despite there not really being a need. If thimerosal was causing autism, then a simple thing would happen - autism rates would go down. But they didn't, they went up. 

So looking at McCain's comments we can draw two conclusions:

1) He doesn't have enough critical thinking skills to recognize that if the substance that is supposed to be causing the harm is removed and yet the harm is still increasing or even remaining stable, the substance is not causing the harm! If we think that x causes y, and we remove x and y still occurs, what would a rational thinking person conclude? And what does McCain conclude?

2) He doesn't remember how important the government vaccination program is. For God's sake, he grew up at a time when polio and an iron lung was a looming threat. Doesn't he remember how terrifying that disease was? Yet, thanks to the vaccination programs, I don't have to remember how terrifying it was because it was all but eradicated for my generation. By scaring parents into not vaccinating their children for fear that the children will end up autistic is beyond ridiculous, or even typical political pandering. It's a step backwards and a sign of things to come with him in charge.

The Rational Moderate