Why the Food Babe is wrong (it’s not just because she’s ignorant)

You knew I had to talk about Food Babe this week.

My not-so-secret goal with this blog is to improve public science literacy and to help people become more critical consumers of information. As a consumer activist and critic with enormous influence, one might hope that Food Babe’s goals are similar to mine.  But I’m afraid I have to give her methods a big red F, and for distressing reasons. Before I get into that, however, I want to give readers who aren’t familiar with Food Babe some background.

Like the decision to vaccinate, the choices we make about food have significant consequences to our health.  It’s easy to find advice on how to structure our diet–there is an overwhelming volume of admonitions to eat more protein!, only organic!, less fat!, more fat!, plant-based!, paleo!, non-GMO!, raw!, Mediterranean!, gluten-free! with dire warnings about what will happen if we fail to follow that plan exactly. (I feel particularly sympathetic to parents of young children, who are already stressed out about the incredible day-to-day challenges of raising them in a difficult economy. Shaming them if they’re buying most of their food in bulk once or twice a month at Costco instead of shopping exclusively for their children at Whole Foods is outrageous.  In fact, the very ability to make choices about what we eat is a privilege not shared by a huge proportion of the planet’s population…but that’s a subject for another post).

For the average person untrained in science, nutrition, or medicine, the challenge of wading through this mountain of advice on how one “should” eat, sorting out the good advice from the bad, can be daunting.  With so many options it’s easy to succumb to decision fatigue–or default to way too many meals at fast food joints.

Diet and health gurus are counting on this. They offer people a simple solution: follow my “movement”, follow my advice and you don’t have to think for yourself about this; follow my simple “tricks” and you’re guaranteed “health”, “thinness” and a sense of belonging to a righteous movement.

Enter “Food Babe” (whose real name is Vani Hari).

Actions undertaken without understanding  are always foolish, and often dangerous.
Acting without understanding is always foolish, and often dangerous.

On the face of it, a basic message to eat less processed food and improve the nutritional content of restaurants’ menus is something that I and many other scientists and health advocates could totally get behind. (I see from a quick visit to her facebook page that several of my very rational friends “like” her). But actually Ms. Hari’s mission and tactics aggressively promote pseudoscience. Besides being anti-vaccine, and even anti-microwave oven, she campaigns against all chemicals in food, famously saying “When you look at the ingredients [in food], if you can’t spell it or pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it,” and “There is just no acceptable level of chemical to ingest, ever.”*

I understand how this might sound like sensible advice to many people, but this advice betrays a complete lack of understanding of chemistry, biology, or nutrition. To put it into perspective, please read this list of things you probably can’t spell or pronounce, as well as these foods that you would probably consider essential–or at least reasonable–things to consume every day. Our bodies are made of chemicals and our bodies need chemicals, and issues of toxicity and health depend on which chemicals and in what dosage. To simplify this into ‘chemicals’= bad, ‘enzymes’= good is appallingly wrong, but it’s a punchy message that’s very effective at generating attention. As Kavin Senapathy writing for the Genetic Literacy Project put it: “She has made her mark in an all-too-easy exploitation of public fear of the “unnatural,” distrust of establishment and love for fads.”

Ms. Hari also liberally employs the “toxins gambit” to galvanize her followers into boycotting various foods and companies. Orac succinctly summarizes her approach:

“In any case, her strategy is very transparent, but unfortunately it’s also very effective: Name a bunch of chemicals and count on the chemical illiteracy of your audience to result in fear at hearing their very names. However, if you have any background in chemistry, much of what Hani is doing is almost painfully transparent, a veritable insult to one’s intelligence and training.

(He then goes on to give some good examples–it’s a post well worth reading.)

Criticisms of Food Babe aren’t confined to the science/skeptical blogging community. As her influence has grown (her Facebook page has over 938,000 “likes”), her posts have also begun receiving significant critical attention from the mainstream press.  This New York Times article by Courtney Ruben doesn’t pull any punches:

“Scientists splutter with frustration that to Ms. Hari, the word “chemical” is always a pejorative, and that she yells fire about toxins but ignores that fruits and vegetables are full of naturally occurring toxins and that the dose makes the poison.”

The article quotes several scientific and nutritional experts who take her flawed understanding to task , and also notes that “But mostly the biggest objection to Ms. Hari is the paranoia and fear she whips up.”  Another story by NPR “Is The Food Babe A Fearmonger? Scientists Are Speaking Out” recounts many scientific criticisms of her statements as well.

And now, just this week “Science Babe” (real name: Yvette d’Entremont) has called out “Food Babe” in a post on Gawker entitled “The ‘Food Babe Blogger’ is full of shit”, where she discusses a number of Ms. Hari’s more egregious errors, including several points made above, as well as the following:

“If you want proof that Hari doesn’t research anything before she puts it online, look no further than this article on airplanes, which she deleted from her site. She claimed that pilots control the air in an airplane, so you should sit near the front to breathe better air. She wrote that passengers are sometimes sprayed with pesticides before flights, and that airplane air is pumped full of nitrogen.

Please recall high school science, in which you hopefully learned that the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen. Also, if anyone has personally been sprayed with pesticides before a flight, please email me, I would love to talk to you about it (not really).

The other piece of writing that she unsuccessfully attempted to cleanse from the bowels of the internet claimed that microwaves are like small nuclear reactors, and they make water crystalize the same way it does when you say “Hitler” or “Satan” to it, because water has ears and a grasp of early twentieth-century European dictators.”

Ms. d’Entremont isn’t exaggerating for effect. Those are actual things Ms. Hari has written, betraying a lack of understanding of the most fundamental science.  The fact that she holds herself out as a brave truthteller with this level of understanding should make you very concerned.

But there is something tremendously important besides her scientific ignorance. Others (as illustrated above) have done a very thorough job of exposing her errors. Instead, I’m more concerned with her reaction to criticism. After all, everyone makes mistakes and writes stupid things (including me), but is in our response to our own mistakes and criticisms of ourselves that we reveal our true intentions. A graceful acknowledgment of error, prompt self-correction and public analysis of where one went wrong, a promise to do better…these are the hallmarks of an individual genuinely motivated by a desire to educate and improve. Ms. Hari does not meet these standards. Her response to the storm of criticisms over foolish articles was to “delete and deny”. According to the New York Times:

“In an interview, Ms. Hari said that she didn’t remember the [nitrogen on airplanes] post, which Mr. Cook brought up by name. She then said it would have disappeared from the blog because it was old. Weeks later, in an email, she admitted that it had been removed because of mistakes, and then said she planned to start noting when she clarified or corrected posts. Ms. Hari said that these particular posts (which she didn’t acknowledge as having been discredited) were a feeble exercise in nit-picking that detracted from her mission.

Despite this grudging admission to the NYT reporter,  mistakes in her posts have never since been clarified, corrected, or acknowledged by her. When people bring them up to discuss on her Facebook page, she promptly bans them. Ms. Hari has written responses to the New York Times, and to Gawker, but instead of demonstrating any remorse at her mistakes, or attempts to educate her followers as to how to avoid making similar mistakes, she attacks her critics as being “biased” (in the case of the NYT reporter), or a shill of the chemical or food industry (in the case of Orac, Steve Novella, Fergus Clydesdale, Joseph Schwarcz, and Yvette d’Entremont), and then utterly fails to actually address their criticisms in any substantive way. I can’t help but wonder if there’s any background sufficiently pure to satisfy her enough to take criticisms of her work seriously. (I’m sure she’d even find a way to tie an anthropological geneticist who’s spent her entire career in academia to the food industry somehow. Am I a shill if I eat their products?)

In her response to Yvette d’Entremont (Science Babe), Ms. Hari’s response was particularly ad hominem. Not content to simply accuse her of being beholden to the food industry, Ms. Hari went so far as to publish a defamatory letter from someone Ms. d’Entremont used to date. Ugly, ugly tactics.

Given her position of prominence and influence among many people seeking to improve their health through better eating, this refusal to acknowledge her own mistakes, or to engage seriously with criticisms of her message is very troubling. It is not consistent with a genuine attempt to educate her “Food Babe Army” to become independent, critical thinkers. Instead it is defensive, and smacks of spin…along with her heavy handed scrubbing of comments and banning of critics on her Facebook page.

Why does she take this approach, instead of owning up to her mistakes and trying to improve her understanding of nutrition and science? I fear that it is because she has a significant financial interest in continuing to pander to the pseudoscience community. She receives money from diverse sources, including book sales, speaking fees, and affiliate links and advertisements for supplements that she recommends.  Her “brand” is stunningly successful, and for her to admit that she was wrong about anything–or to accept any kind of criticism–would be to undermine that brand. Pseudoscience sells.

Viewed in that light, her tactics make rational (if ethically questionable) sense.

For the average person trying to make sense of the confusing landscape of health and nutritional advice, who might stumble upon Food Babe and want to make an evaluation as to her trustworthiness, the following should be red flags:

  • Her use of the “shill gambit” as a response to all critics.
  • Her scrubbing of past posts without a good reason (beyond “they were embarrassing to me”) and without explanation, and refusal to acknowledge they exist.
  • Her lack of any formal training in science. This should be applied judiciously, it’s not always true that lack of credentials = complete ignorance. But in this case, it is.
  • Her affiliation with other pseudoscience salespeople like Joe Mercola and Alex Jones.
  • Her attempts to shut down conversations about her credibility, rather than to engage substantively on the issues her critics raise.
  • Her constant use of the naturalistic fallacy.
  • Her classification of some substances, such as sugar, as “toxic”, unless they happen to be components of products advertised on her site.

And finally, the most telling red flag is that when it comes to assessing the validity of facts, Food Babe’s filter is not “Is this true?” but instead “Does this promote my brand?”

It’s a shame that someone with such an opportunity to empower people to make thoughtful, informed decisions about their health just sees it as a product to monetize.

 

Further reading:

Twitter followers might enjoy reading tweets under the hashtag #FoodBabeFacts

For interested readers, I highly recommend this open access paper in Nature Chemistry that is a good summary of all consumer products currently available on the market that are chemical free. (h/t Michael Blevins).

My Problem with Food Babe’s Message by Cheryl Wischhover

Are Corporations Putting Feathers in Your Food? by Michelle M Francl

—————————————————————————————————————–

* She has claimed that this quote was taken out of context, but that’s exactly what she said.

Note: Misogynistic criticisms of Ms. Hari or Ms. d’Entremont in the comments section of this post will not be tolerated. 

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77 thoughts on “Why the Food Babe is wrong (it’s not just because she’s ignorant)

  1. RichCoulter April 10, 2015 / 9:37 am

    Given that you unsurprisingly brought up vaccines in your second paragraph, let’s look at this statement:

    “A graceful acknowledgment of error, prompt self-correction and public analysis of where one went wrong, a promise to do better…these are the hallmarks of an individual genuinely motivated by a desire to educate and improve.”

    In his book Autism’s False Prophets, Dr. Paul Offit incorrectly asserts that Andrew Wakefield’s recommendation of the monovalent measles vaccine over MMR came AFTER the monovalent vaccine had been pulled from the schedule. In fact it was not pulled until several months AFTER the 1998 press conference in question. Dr. Offit has not once acknowledged he got his facts wrong. By your own standards he does not possess the hallmarks of an individual geniunely motivated by a desire to educate and improve.

    Oh the irony.

    • Colin April 10, 2015 / 10:29 am

      Not ironic, just a reflexive attempt by an anti-vaxer to find any grounds for criticizing doctors. Assuming Offit made a mistake, he made a mistake. If he was blogging regularly, it would be great if he corrected the timeline. But since he’s writing books, which don’t lend themselves to that kind of immediate updating, it’s rather a different standard.

      I’m not familiar with this particular issue. When are the dates in question?

      • David Lloyd-Jones February 27, 2016 / 2:30 am

        And what does this have to do with FoodBabe? You’re a troll, Coulter.
        -dlj.

    • Chris April 10, 2015 / 11:21 am

      “When are the dates in question?”

      And in which country?

      This is important. First the USA introduced an MMR vaccine in 1971, the rubella strain was changed in 1978. Then the UK introduced not one, but three MMR vaccines in 1988. In 1992 the UK removed two of those due to the Urabe mumps strain in them. The MMR vaccine has only ever used the Jeryl Lynn mumps strain, which was used in the third UK MMR vaccine and in the one it eventually settled on in 1998.

      So the questions to you, Mr. Coulter are:

      Which of up to four different MMR vaccines was Wakefield’s Lancet paper on? (remember one child was American, and would have had the MMR vaccine used in the USA since 1978)
      Where is the documentation dated before 1990 that autism rose during the 1970 and 1980s in the USA coincident to the use of the MMR vaccine, which was the preferred vaccine for the 1978 Measles Elimination Program.

      “Dr. Paul Offit incorrectly asserts that Andrew Wakefield’s recommendation of the monovalent measles vaccine over MMR came AFTER the monovalent vaccine had been pulled from the schedule.”

      On what page? I am going through the book, and I just see on page 22 that Wakefield said the vaccines should be separate at a press conference, but the UK did not offer them separately. In fact they had never had a vaccine for mumps until the three MMR vaccines were introduced in 1988.

      So, again, which country?

    • Juerg Bangerter June 4, 2015 / 3:50 am

      Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont has no peer reviewed scientific publications. 2) Her master’s thesis from Anglia Ruskin University was not deemed of sufficient quality for publication. 3) Her claim that she was a college professor is laughable, she was an assistant instructor (one level above a TA) at Emmanuel College in Boston for less than 1 year. 4) She is currently being terminated from her position at Amvac for her activities on Scibabe. A description from a senior colleague on seeing Scibabe.com perhaps sums her up best “she’s a not a scientist, she’s a professional button pressor for a scientific company. I could have a talented undergraduate doing her job in less than 2 days”.

      • Jennifer Raff June 4, 2015 / 6:39 am

        The question is not “has she achieved this specific set of benchmarks?” but rather “is what she’s saying true”? Her background isn’t unusual for someone with a master’s degree in science–that doesn’t mean she’s wrong.

        But okay: I have a doctorate, loads more teaching experience, quite a few peer reviewed publications, an appointment as a professor at an R1 university, and colleagues who think that I am a scientist. So, you agree with what I write about GMOs and vaccines?

        • erictroy December 22, 2015 / 7:17 pm

          Jenifer, I have to say that I am completely behind you, and I personally, would never say that she is wrong. That is, I would not discount her facts, nor her explanations. However, her approach does not, to me, promote science, as your approach does. That is, she relies greatly on external cues and emotional tactics to achieve her readership, something that is simply unscientific in its approach. Don’t get me wrong, I support anybody who tries to promote science literacy and who counters the assertions of such people as Food Babe. I just don’t agree with Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont’s way of gong about things and I do not think that it really teaches critical thinking. That said, I love your blog and I support this post, so with all respect!

          • Chris December 26, 2015 / 12:35 pm

            “That is, I would not discount her facts, nor her explanations.”

            Of the criticisms of Ms. Vani’s contentions, which ones were wrong as to her “facts”? Do you think you should only have a vocabulary of a third grader to evaluate food safety, that a fish bladder is not for buoyancy (using air) or should aircraft remove all the nitrogen from the air?

            I suspect you will not like this satire site:
            http://thespudd.com/food-babe-quickly-deletes-post-after-accidentally-promoting-something-she-wont-get-commission-from

            • erictroy December 29, 2015 / 6:25 pm

              Hi, sorry. You misunderstood me. I was not speaking of Vani Hari, but of Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont aka “SciBabe” and responding to the criticisms/support of her approach and credentials. I abhor “food babe” to be blunt. We are on the same page, Chris.

              • Chris December 30, 2015 / 7:31 pm

                My apologies. Sometimes we do not scroll up, and on some threads it is a very long scroll to find out the subject a comment.

                • erictroy January 2, 2016 / 12:23 pm

                  I understand completely Chris I even had to back check to make sure I had not commented our of order or in the wrong mini-conversation.

      • jgc56 June 4, 2015 / 5:00 pm

        Citations needed, Jureg, especially with regard to your claim that she is currently being terminated due to her activities on SciBabe.

        We’ll also need you to identify the senior colleague you’ve quoted in your post b name.

      • erictroy December 22, 2015 / 7:11 pm

        I never was a fan. Just as Food Babe use the Goliath effect to garner her fame, attacking large companies with huge profiles, “Sci Babe” simply used the same tactic, focusing on Food Babe. This is not how science is done, I don’t think. There is nothing she wrote that dozens of other fine science bloggers hadn’t already treated in a much more thorough way, accept that they didn’t turn themselves into a character and try to start a personal feud in order to position themselves, rather than their work.

  2. Sally Ember, Ed.D. April 10, 2015 / 11:11 am

    Thanks for researching, writing and posting. Good info.

    Disturbing me is the increasingly blurry line between someone who claims to be an online or public “expert” and who is actually more of a “paid shill,” with often undisclosed or denied pay-offs (being an “affiliate” or running ads from “sponsors”). Fore example, how is a consumer to know that “Dr. Oz” is paid to promote certain items and behaviors? Isn’t he a doctor (and therefore, supposedly unbiased and reliable)?

    I appreciate your comments, here.

    I must admit I subscribe to some of the same beliefs the “Food Babe” does, but i KNOW they’re not completely science-based and more my own long-time (over 35 years’ worth of) preferences: I PREFER to have fewer “chemicals” in my food, I don’t stand near the microwave when it’s turned on, for our child, we kept most of the vaccines separated and gave them to him when he was older and not all at once, as an infant.

    I would never claim these are “facts” (yet) or promote them as something everyone should prefer/do.

    Best to you,

    Sally

    • jgc56 April 10, 2015 / 2:13 pm

      Sally, I’m curious why you would choose to vaccinate your child when he was older rather than according to the recommended vaccination schedule, given that there’s no evidence which indicates doing so accomplishes anything other than leaving the child vulnerable to infection for an extended period of time.

      • Sally Ember, Ed.D. April 10, 2015 / 4:39 pm

        We were of the opinion (and so are a lot of homeopathic, naturopathic, Eastern medical practitioners, such as acupuncturists, and others) that giving so many vaccines all at once, bundled in groups of two or three, at such young ages compromises a developing immune system (and does cause deaths and illnesses, profound disabilities and other horrible side affects, autism aside). We knew he might be explosed to Tetanus on our friends’ farms, so as soon as as he could walk (15 months old), we gave him the “DT,” for Tetanus and Diptheria (which we had to take as a package but did not like having to do so). A year later, we gave him the polio vaccine, but we researched carefully and decided to give him the “live” injectable kind rather than the “dead” liquid oral kind.
        Since mumps, chicken pox and “German” measles are not fatal and we knew that actually having the illness provides stronger and life-long immunity, which the vaccines do not, we tried to expose him to these as a toddler. No luck.
        Then, there was a Whooping Cough (Pertussis) epidemic in our community when he was 5 (nationwide, actually; 1985) and EVERY ONE of the vaccinated teens and adults we knew got sick, including me. Aged 5, our son had a mild case. so became actually immune.
        Then, at age 6, over several months, he received one vaccine at a time (except the earlier ones). Results?
        He got extremely ill from the Measles vaccine (rash all over, high fever for days; actually HAD measles, according to the doctor). Our doctor later told us that, if we had given him as an infant this vaccine as an “MMR,” which includes Mumps and Rubella, he most likely would have died. Another statistic in the “few cases of death” attributed to vaccinations, but OUR SON is not a statistic, is he?

        Call it parental instinct. Call it whatever you want. We knew we were correct in what we decided to do for our child.

        By the way: we are not evangelical Christians. I have a doctorate and my partner (his father) is a college graduate as well. We lived among many other highly educated, thoughtful people making these same choices. If I had it to do all over again, I’d probably do it the same way (our son is now 35), but that might not now be possible.

        Best to you,

        Sally

        • Chris April 10, 2015 / 5:03 pm

          “(and so are a lot of homeopathic, naturopathic, Eastern medical practitioners, such as acupuncturists, ”

          Unless the “Eastern medical practitioners” include those with actual medical degrees who just happen to live east of you, none of those have any real medical qualifications. So their opinion does not hold much weight with many of us.

          “He got extremely ill from the Measles vaccine (rash all over, high fever for days; actually HAD measles, according to the doctor). Our doctor later told us that, if we had given him as an infant this vaccine as an “MMR,” which includes Mumps and Rubella, he most likely would have died.”

          When was that measles vaccine given, what year? Because the measles vaccines between 1963 and 1968 were sometimes not effective. Also, you really need to provide some solid documentation (PubMed case reports) that the American MMR vaccine that has been use since 1978 caused death. Especially in an infant, because technically it is not given until after age one when a child kind of transitions from an infant to a toddler.

          “I have a doctorate and my partner (his father) is a college graduate as well.”

          That really doesn’t mean much.

          • Sally Ember, Ed.D. April 10, 2015 / 6:47 pm

            Hi, Chris,

            You are misinformed:

            “A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician also studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician. Please see the AANMC’s Professional Competency Profile for more information.” http://www.naturopathic.org/education
            The NCCAOM is committed to assisting its Diplomates and candidates by providing them with the latest information on state licensure requirement for the practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM). Currently, 43 states plus the District of Columbia require the passage of the NCCAOM examinations or NCCAOM certification as a prerequisite for licensure. This means that 98% percent of states that regulate acupuncture require NCCAOM examinations for licensure (please see state maps below). All of these states recognize the psychometrically sound system of examinations that NCCAOM has developed. These states have elected to use NCCAOM’s testing instrument while continuing to regulate and license practitioners in their state according to their own eligibility requirements and procedures. http://www.nccaom.org/
            Measles vaccine administered 1986 “there were also significant issues with the live vaccines, which were not highly attenuated and produced a “modified measles” rash in about half of those injected—essentially equivalent to a case of measles. Forty-eight percent of people had rash, and 83 percent had fevers up to 106°F post-injection.” http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/the-truth-about-measles-the-mainstream-media-is-suppressing/
            Pertussis: ” In 1979 Sweden withdrew use of the DTP vaccine on the basis that it was not effective and possibly unsafe. The fear, of course, would be that with lower vaccination rates, the death rate would increase. So what happened in this case?
            “A 1995 letter from Victoria Romanus at the Swedish Institute of Infectious Disease Control indicated that deaths from whooping cough remained near zero. Sweden’s population was 8,294,000 in 1979 and 8,831,000 by 1995. From 1981 to 1993, eight children were recorded as dying, with the cause of death listed as pertussis. This averaged to be about 0.6 children per year possibly dying from whooping cough. These numbers show that the odds of dying from pertussis in Sweden were about 1 in 13,000,000 even when there was no national vaccination program….Because of waning immunity, adult and adolescent pertussis can occur even when there is a history of full immunization or natural disease . . . “Studies from Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, and the United States indicate that between 12 and 32% of adults and adolescents with a coughing illness for at least 1 week are infected with Bordetella pertussis.”
            http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/the-truth-about-measles-the-mainstream-media-is-suppressing/

            Shall I go on?

            Your comments show your ignorance and insulting. Go away.

            Sally

            • Dunning Kruger April 10, 2015 / 6:57 pm

              Highly intelligent people are able to construct elaborate defenses for their erroneous views. Please consider trusting the American Academy of Pediatrics instead of your own amateur analysis.

              • ghall3 April 14, 2015 / 8:21 pm

                @Dunning Kruger —

                Nice name. I bet you think you are pretty skilled compared to others, don’t you?

                Are you an excellent driver?

                Just kidding. One of the more interesting cognitive biases and one that gets all too little attention. Absolutely everyone can benefit by considering which cognitive biases are influencing their thoughts, attitude, and degree of conviction. Anyone who concludes that they are not biased should just plain be quiet.

            • Chris April 10, 2015 / 7:11 pm

              Naturopaths are not qualified medical providers. Here is a bit of reading for you:
              https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/naturopathic-diaries-confessions-of-a-former-naturopath/

              Again, education does not make you aware of everything in the world. Many people think homeopathy is a form of herbal medicine, but it is not. It is literally nothing. A 30C “remedy” starts out by diluting a one part of a substance in a hundred parts of a solvent (water, alcohol, milk sugar), then repeating that for a total of thirty times. That means that Nat Mur 30C is sea salt diluted to a ratio of one part to 10^60, a one with sixty zeroes behind it (more molecules than make up this planet):
              https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/fda-and-homeopathy-part-two/

              And as far as “Eastern” medicine, the varicella vaccine was developed in Japan. So technically that is “Eastern” medicine.

              • nerdlypainter April 14, 2015 / 4:46 pm

                A number of years ago there was a “study” that was widely reported in the popular press where someone claimed to have shown chemical activity from an “Active molecule” could still be measured after a large number of serial dilutions – enough to ensure that the molecule was not present in solution.

                Do you remember how this was debunked?

                A research group tried to reproduce the results, but they were careful to avoid contaminating the dilute solutions with concentrated solution (for example droplets on the outside of a pipette). The debunkers went to great lengths to make sure that the concentration they achieved in their dilutions matched the calculated serial diltuion.

                When the correct concentrations were used, no activity could be measured from the serial dilution containing no active molecules.

                This tells us TWO things:

                The magical dilutions in homeopathy, produce water or pure solvent when performed correctly (to produce a known concentration matching the calculated dilution
                The homeopath who created the solution in the original report (showing activity), almost certainly had poor lab technique

                We can infer a third supposition:

                Homeopathic remedies contain an UNKNOWN concentration of whatever ingredient is being diluted. Some of these ingredients are toxic at moderate doses. The dose makes the poison. Who knows what dose is actually in that supposedly 30C diluted jar of water?

                • Chris April 14, 2015 / 5:06 pm

                  “Do you remember how this was debunked?”

                  I don’t know that one. I do know the one where James Randi worked with BBC Horizon show to recreate Jacques Benveniste’s claims of homeopath working. With proper blinding the results were negative for the effectiveness of homeopathy:
                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2002/homeopathy.shtml

                  It can be assumed anyone who claims to be a homeopath is employing bad lab techniques. There was an FDA warning about “homeopathic” teething tablets where careless manufacturing techniques actually had active amount of a poisonous substance:
                  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM231230.pdf

                  It goes to show that many people have no clue about the lack of science behind homeopathy. It is, after all, just fashionable nonsense. There is a risk of harm from either not getting proper treatment, or from ingesting botched up formulations. The fact that naturopaths are required to study this nonsense is just more evidence that “ND” stands for “Not a Doctor.”

                • ghall3 April 14, 2015 / 9:43 pm

                  With good intentions my wife bought my daughter a “natural” cough suppressant. I’m glad I happened to be the one putting her to bed that night: I read the ingredients, didn’t know two of them, and researched them. I about had a fit I was so angry.

                  Similarly, my wife bought an organic pesticide, apparently in the hopes that would placate me. Then she decided to spray it despite my instructions not to. The vast majority of pesticides target highly conserved metabolic mechanisms, e.g., voltage-gated sodium channels, acetylcholine, etc.

                  (I have followed pesticides and pesticide regulations for thirty years. It is simple: Congress will bend whichever way big agriculture wants them to bend. The regulatory oversight of pesticides is rigged to be empty starting with the underlying law; it goes downhill from there.)

                  I don’t know enough to opine concerning the education, qualifications, or licensing of neuropathic practitioners, but I have little patience for a lot of purportedly “natural” medicines, pesticides, etc. Makes me think of an advertisement I saw for a pizza once. “Made with real ingredients.”

                  I am fairly certain that there are some huge health problems out there that are caused by exposure to ubiquitous compounds. Alzheimers, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, obesity/metabolic syndrome, ADHD, etc. Who knows for sure: A recent article in Nature pointed to artificial sweeteners affecting gut biota populations as a potential cause of obesity. I have long avoided artificial sweeteners, but that was a potential effect I hadn’t really contemplated.

                  I expect that pesticides and endocrine disrupting chemicals are at the root of a lot of it: You wouldn’t believe what a sham regulation of those compounds are (that I can talk about with some knowledge having practiced environmental law for 25 years).

                  One thing we don’t need is people who don’t know what they are talking about vociferously spouting out dire warnings with inadequate evidence. Some of the best scientists in the world jumped the gun in making dire predictions regarding the likely effect of certain concentrations of greenhouse gases. Now every drooling cretin in the world thinks they are being shrewd by utterly discounting every word scientists say.

                  I’ve never even heard of the Food Babe before. It sounds like she might not be the right kind of spokesperson for this issues she apparently chooses. That is unfortunate: An informed, well-considered spokesperson is certainly needed to address the ridiculous and unnecessary exposures that are currently happening.

                  If you are not concerned about your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and pesticides, you should be. Those are serious issues with the weight of the agricultural industry, chemical industry, and short-sighted harlot politicians creating a huge amount of inertia preventing anything remotely resembling appropriate research and regulation.

                  I don’t normally use Colgate toothpaste. For some reason I wound up with a few tubes of it, so I was using it. One assumes that a certain amount of care would be taken regarding what ingredients are used in toothpaste, any toothpaste.

                  For some reason I happened to glance at the ingredients in the Colgate toothpaste I was using. Two things caught my eye. The first was titanium dioxide. I’ll just assume that was merely a totally superfluous adulterant that was added because Colgate Palmolive thinks that the American public is so stupid they are more likely to buy a nice white toothpaste with an unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredient than a dimmer colored toothpaste without the potentially harmful ingredient. That kind of thing gets me a little torqued.

                  The second ingredient, however, was triclosan. Now, as far as pesticides go, triclosan (5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol) isn’t high on my concern list, although I tend to doubt the wisdom of its ubiquitous use.

                  To find it listed in the ingredients of the toothpaste I was brushing my teeth with, however, promptly increased my concern a couple of orders of magnitude. I’m still not all that worried about that exposure: I do not, however, understand how anyone could consciously decide to put that compound in toothpaste. What people will do for money never ceases to amaze me. My family will never, never, never purchase another Colgate Palmolive product again.

                  There is a profound need for someone to question a lot of the chemicals that people are being needlessly and idiotically exposed to. If you are not worried about the polycarbonate linings in food cans and the ubiquitous use of other endocrine disrupting chemicals, I almost don’t know what to tell you.

                  These issues are not simple: They are, however, hugely important in terms of human health, happiness, and the efficiency and financial solvency of our society. They deserve a spokesperson who is both vehement and informed.

                  A resource I highly recommend on issues such as chemical exposures, vaccines, etc. is Dr. Peter Sandman. Dr. Sandman has almost single-handedly developed the field of risk communication.

                  Dr. Sandman is also incredibly generous with this knowledge and materials on his website, which is just an extraordinary source of knowledge about how and why people respond so vociferously to some risks that aren’t particularly “serious,” yet fail to respond at all to other much more serious risks. For example, you can download his book for free. You can watch videotapes of his lectures. You can read for hours — his articles, thoughts, and answers to questions.

                  He is brilliant and an extraordinary gentleman too.

                  http://www.psandman.com/

                  Now, have I told you what I think about liver and onions?

                  • Chris April 15, 2015 / 12:47 am

                    I am not even touching liver and onions!

                    Now how do you feel about pear rust? I have been known to spray with lime sulfur, and spend the summer pulling off leaves with any hint of yellow.

                    By the way fungal control with lime sulfur is considered “organic.”

                    • ghall3 April 15, 2015 / 10:45 am

                      I’m not really familiar with pear rust, but in terms of using anything it would seem to me that lime sulfur would be about as good as you could possibly do. Fungal diseases can be a total nightmare. I have used elemental compounds to treat fungal diseases before. Although I am not familiar with pear rust, I researched the fungi I was concerned with and decided that copper compounds were the safest from both an environmental and human health perspective.

                      Although this is guesswork on my part, I wouldn’t expect your pear trees to systemically absorb much sulfur. I personally wouldn’t be worried about that. Sounds to me like you have made the best choice possible.

                      One thing I would look at is moisture: Excess moisture frequently will allow or exacerbate fungal diseases. You might check whether the drainage around your tree or trees could be improved. I’d also make sure that I didn’t overwater.

                      I don’t know about pear tree root structure in particular, but generally tree roots are both shallower and extend far beyond where most people would think. Even for huge oak trees most of the root structure is within a foot of the ground surface. That is why construction equipment frequently injures or kills trees.

                      Generally most water and nutrients are absorbed by the roots further away from the trunk of the tree. Consider watering with drip hoses starting about 2/3 of the way out toward the drip line and watering out to about 20 feet beyond that (you may want to research pear tree root structure to make sure that it holds for my general advice). Don’t over water, but water thoroughly and less frequently.

                      Hope that helps some–wish I knew more specifics about pear trees.

            • Chris April 10, 2015 / 7:22 pm

              By the way, when I ask for citations I usually mean PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers. Not an article that says “Was the Introduction of the Measles Vaccine Responsible for Wiping Out Measles?”, but instead of showing incidence of measles they show mortality. They obviously do not know the difference between the words “morbidity” (incidence rates) and “mortality” (deaths, which are reduced when medical care improves).

              As far as Sweden goes, this is a better article: Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story. You will notice they did a side by side comparison graph of pertussis rates of Sweden and Norway. Guess which line for pertussis morbidity goes up.

            • jgc56 April 14, 2015 / 9:00 am

              ““A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness.”

              and

              “A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.”

              Sally, at such time as the standard ND education does not include training in and the licensing exam does not test the applicant’s mastery of. “holistic and non-toxic approaches’ which are demonstrably of no value whatsoever (such .as homeopathy) you may have the beginning of an argument here. Until then, however…

              • Chris April 14, 2015 / 10:03 am

                JGC, I doubt Sally will return. It seems that an educator who responds to questions and information with “Your comments show your ignorance and insulting. Go away.” is not amenable to a discussion.

                I am not sure I would want any educator who responded to students like that in my kids’ schools.

            • shay April 15, 2015 / 9:49 pm

              Naturopaths are not MDs. If they were, they could put “MD after their names, and they would be licensed as MDs by state regulatory bodies.

            • WL April 18, 2015 / 2:42 pm

              Sally, last year I got curious about naturopaths. So, I did two things: first, I looked at the curricula at two ND schools. While not exactly impressive (and not even close to med school curricula) they seemed at first glance to be more or less legitimate.

              So, I then managed to find some of the textbooks (that wasn’t easy). They were essentially a joke. Anyone who thinks that ND school is even remotely comparable to med school or a science PhD should repeat this experiment.

              Second, I phoned the two schools (I’m deliberately not naming them here because getting either me or this website sued isn’t on my to-do list today) and expressed an interest in applying. Being a horrible person, I lied and told them that I was a college senior majoring in philosophy (I’m actually an ancient semi-retired biologist.)

              The phone responses were similar from both schools and interesting. Both fairly quickly shifted the conversation to find out if I had some money or credit (I told them I had inherited some money, at which point I was transferred to a sort of program counselor–this occurred in both cases). The next thing was a fairly intense questioning as to whether I was a “True Believer” in “holistic” medicine, “natural” remedies, “Eastern” medicine, and the like. I prevaricated some more and went along with the program (yeah, I know, but I already told you I’m horrible). At that point, they seemed pretty much ready to admit me on the spot (pending transcripts, etc.).

              Obviously, none of this is sufficient scientifically or ethically to justify any serious theory, but maybe as a background for a set of hypotheses?

            • limxinf May 28, 2015 / 12:09 am

              Sally,

              You are conflating specific licensure with scope of practice. A licensed naturopath is not the same thing as an allopathically trained MD/DO, and cannot take on the same roles as an MD/DO. They cannot work in hospitals, unless said institution chooses to integrate naturopathy into their treatment programs. An acupuncturist is also not a doctor. The knowledge and scope of practice is limited, and according to the most recent science, only provides, at best, symptomatic relief of some pains. It is not a diagnostic tool. As more open access journals become have available, it would be in your favor to become scientifically literate. This is coming from an individual who considered studying to be an ND but turning away after realizing it’s not rigorous enough.

              • Sally Ember, Ed.D. May 28, 2015 / 5:51 am

                You are incorrect about so many of the above that I surrender. Go in peace.

                • meifuoni@gmail.com May 28, 2015 / 8:51 am

                  What statements in his response are incorrect, Sally? Be specific.

                  • Sally Ember, Ed.D. May 28, 2015 / 2:58 pm

                    Let’s start with acupuncturists’ not being medical doctors. Many are. Those from other countries (like China) almost always are.

                    • Colin May 28, 2015 / 3:06 pm

                      To say that some acupuncturists get dual-qualified is not to say that acupuncturists are medical doctors. Their training and education falls far below that of medical doctors; if they get dual-qualified, it only means that they have sought that better training through an actual medical education. LIMXINF was correct, as should be apparent from your failure to actually refute anything he/she had to say.

                    • jgc56 May 29, 2015 / 3:00 pm

                      I’m pretty sure you understand there’s a difference between “acupuncturists are not MD’s” and “some acupuncturists may also be MD’s”, sally

                • Chris May 28, 2015 / 11:29 am

                  So, Sally, is the teaching style you worked on while getting your doctorate in education? It must be a tribute to the 1960s where kids with ADD had a sign taped on to their back declaring them a “wiggleworm”, where another who has temporary hearing loss due to an ear infection is sent to the corner for “not listening”, and one teacher refused to deviate from the book that said the USA had forty eight states even though the flag out front had fifty stars and she was told by many that Alaska and Hawaii had been states for at least two years.

                  Ah, yes… back in the days when the teacher was always right and no evidence would open her welded shut mind.

                  If you choose to actually crack open your welded shut mind try reading this blog:
                  http://www.naturopathicdiaries.com/

                    • Chris May 28, 2015 / 3:05 pm

                      And what gives you that authority? Are you used to your students doing exactly what you tell them?

                    • Jennifer Raff May 28, 2015 / 3:26 pm

                      Sally, you don’t get to say that. This is my blog. You–and every other commenter here–are a guest here.

                    • Sally Ember, Ed.D. May 28, 2015 / 3:54 pm

                      Sorry, Jennifer. WordPress made it appear that these comments were on my site. I apologize. i’m not responding any longer, though, since they clearly aren’t interested in dialog but are more interested in bashing and complaining.

                      Best to you,

                      Sally

                    • Chris May 28, 2015 / 4:15 pm

                      By the way, Ms. Ember, I would be more courteous if you had not told me: “Your comments show your ignorance and insulting. Go away.” Which had followed links to credulous biased websites that contained a great deal of misinformation.

                      I have tried to give you actual information, and asked you to provide real citations. If you wish to be taken seriously you should answer the questions with actual scientific citations, as I requested when I said: “By the way, when I ask for citations I usually mean PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers.”

                      What you should have given LIMXINF were some PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that show acupuncture works all the time better than placebo for some non-self-limiting condition. If you actually read the SBM article I linked to, you would realize those are very hard to come by. There is a reason for that: it does not work, and papers that claim it works involve lots of hand waving by those with a definite bias.

                      What I have noticed is that you came here with a set of notions/beliefs and you are not used to having your opinions questioned. Anyone who does anything related to science, including engineering (like me), needs to be able to defend their statements with actual verifiable documented evidence. Argument by blatant assertion does not work. I would have been fired if I had walked into the meeting with the customer and just told them that the part we were building will work just fine. I had to include my data, how I did the analyses and my results, which was then checked out by their own engineer.

                      If you are willing to open your mind I have a couple of book suggestions. They are both short and easy to read, and should help you decipher the science behind many of the issues addressed on this blog and elsewhere:

                      Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

                      Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies

                • Chris May 28, 2015 / 11:30 am

                  I hate it when I drop whole words: “So, Sally, is this the teaching style you worked on while getting your doctorate in education?”

                • limxinf May 28, 2015 / 4:56 pm

                  I wish prace for your and your clearly turbulent grasp on reality.

                  • Chris May 28, 2015 / 10:33 pm

                    🙂

                    I checked your newborn website, and I wish you the best in your future endeavors. To use a term that an elderly relative used when I was young: “You are a good egg.”

                    I know a young man who has been documenting his journey starting before and while he works for a PhD in epidemiology:
                    http://epidemiological.net/category/blog/

                    I used to blog on a group blog, mostly because life threw me a curve ball, but it had a benefit. But things got in the way like more medical issues, plus recently the young man who was the metaphorical curve ball has been finally diagnosed with autism. This is after years I was told that he was okay, and this included a pediatric neurologist. Apparently not only have the diagnostic tools changed in just the last ten years, but so has the understanding of what it all encompasses. Presently my job is to work with social services to find him a routine (translation: job) and a place to be safe after we are gone (translation: supported housing).

        • Dunning Kruger April 10, 2015 / 6:15 pm

          “Call it whatever you want.” I want to call it rank, arrogant ignorance. Leaving aside the rest of the nonsense you offer, please explain the “research” you did on polio vaccines. Apparently you invented new vaccines. How did you get the live injectable vaccine to work, when the point of the live ORAL polio vaccine was to introduce the virus to the GI tract, where the immune system usually confronts natural polio infection. I guess citing homeopaths as supporters of your pathetic misinterpretations of medicine says it all. Science is laughing at you, and at those “highly educated, thoughtful people” who think that mastering a field of study makes one an expert on everything else.

        • jgc56 April 14, 2015 / 8:52 am

          “We were of the opinion (and so are a lot of homeopathic, naturopathic, Eastern medical practitioners, such as acupuncturists, and others) that giving so many vaccines all at once, bundled in groups of two or three, at such young ages compromises a developing immune system (and does cause deaths and illnesses, profound disabilities and other horrible side affects, autism aside).”

          My question is why you were of this opinion, in the absence of any evidence supporting risk associated with receiving vaccines according to the recommeneded schedule? I’m also curious if you are still of this opinion, despite studies such as Destano et al (PMID:23545349) demostrating there’s no risk associated with “too many too soon” vaccination.

        • Anonymous September 23, 2015 / 11:52 pm

          I’m concerned with the use of the word “opinion” when deciding how and when to vaccinate your child. Medical decisions should be what is considered to be a medical fact shown to be a repeatable outcome in medical trials and studies. You can have an opinion of what colour your child’s room is but really unless you are a doctor who specialising immunology your not entitled to have an “opinion” on how vaccinations work. Just like I have no opinion about how to treat rabies because I have no experience or minimal understanding about rabies…

          • Sally Ember, Ed.D. September 24, 2015 / 12:32 pm

            When “medical experts” disagree, up to and including valid research reports; when Big Pharma have every reason to lie and have been shown to have been doing so, repeatedly; when long-term studies on many of these vaccines remain to be accomplished; when many health care decisions are forced on unsuspecting public citizens to line the pockets of Big Pharma rather than actually to protect our health; when many children DIE and are DISABLED every year from vaccines (proven; researched; legally recorded), THEN parents MUST form opinions as to what to do and utilize whatever information they can find to form those opinions. Your response is ignorant.

            • Jennifer Raff September 24, 2015 / 1:27 pm

              Why do you use quotes around the phrase medical experts? Do you not think that attending medical or graduate school and having clinical training and experience practicing medicine (or doing medical research) makes one an expert? If not, what constitutes expertise in this field?

              Also, you make a lot of claims, particularly “proven; researched; legally recorded” that are not backed by any citation. Would you please share with us what information you are using to draw these conclusions?

            • Chris September 24, 2015 / 1:30 pm

              “When “medical experts” disagree, up to and including valid research reports”

              Who are those “medical experts”?

              “when many children DIE and are DISABLED every year from vaccines (proven; researched; legally recorded)”

              Please post the PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers that any vaccine on the present American pediatric schedule causes more harm than the disease.

              “legally recorded”

              Where? Please do not include Italy. If it is the American NVICP awards, then please td a simple math problem. Look at the first table here. Go to the last line. Take the total number of vaccines given during the time period covered in that table (2,532,428,541), and then divide it by the total number of compensated claims (1903). Tell us the result and what it means. Compare the results to the effects of diseases like measles, pertussis, diphtheria, etc.

              “Your response is ignorant.”

              Is that how you were taught to speak to students when you were getting your education degree?

            • jgc56 September 24, 2015 / 2:06 pm

              Sally, I’m unaware that Big Pharma (whoever you’re using this term to refer to) has been shown to have lied regarding the safety and efficacy of the vacines on the CDC’s recommended routine childhood vaccination schedule. Your evidence that they have done so would be what, exactly?

              Or are you offering no argument here other than “Big Pharma–we all KNOW what they’re like!”?

              As for long term studies, let’s consider recent additions to the vaccines the CDC recommends, the HPV vaccines Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix. Prior to approval Gardisil was tested in 29,000 males and females, Gardasil 9 in 15,00 males and females and Cervarix in 30,000 males and females. Postmarketing surveillance has continued since their approval via, VAERS, VSD and the CISA network. We’re now talking more than a decade or safety assessment, with over 67 million doses of Gardasil alone delivered in the United States. A total of 29,684 adverse events following receipt of Gardasil have been reported to VAERS–even if every ne was found to be due to the vaccine (and I’ll remind you that cannot be assumed for any report in VAERS) we’d be talking about adverse events occurring in 4 individuals out of every 10,000 who receive the vaccine.

              How much more ‘long term’, and how much lower incidence of adverse events, do you believe would be necessary to demonstrate safety?

              “when many children DIE and are DISABLED every year from vaccines (proven; researched; legally recorded)”

              What value does ‘many’ correspond to here? How does that value compare to the number of children who die and are disabled as a consequence of contracting a vaccine preventable infectious disease? Consider chicken pox: before vaccination it caused on average four million infections, mostly in children, requiring 10 to 13 thousand hospitalizations and resulting it 100 to 150 deaths annually.

              What vaccine on the currently recommended schedule causes adverse events in 4 million recipients each year, requiring 10K plus hopsitalizations and resultin in 100 to 150 deaths?

              • Sally Ember, Ed.D. September 24, 2015 / 4:08 pm

                I guess if you want to play a statistics game and claim that “low numbers” or “small numbers” somehow erases the pain, suffering and loss those families feel, you are entitled to do that. However, since some of the vaccination schedules and combinations are what have not been long-term and thoroughly tested (meaning, there are not “control” groups in which different schedules/ages are tried, different combinations or single vaccines are tried, etc.) before putting them into the general population as “requirements,” sometimes keeping people’s kids out of school or jobs if they don’t comply, I personally (and many others) object to that lack of scientific, rigorous procedure.

                Particularly with the Gardasil vaccine, whose ineffectiveness, unnecessariness and/or documented adverse health effects on the those vaccinated are the topics of complaints from some of the original researchers/developers of that very vaccine (some have published detracting papers in the last several years), there are many questions unanswered.

                Maybe you’re a lot younger than I am. Maybe you don’t know about the “experiments” on Native Americans, African-Americans, women of low-income, incarcerated individuals and the mentally ill or handicapped that “medical experts” have been and still are conducting in the USA, but I put quotes around that group and any group of “Scientists” with medical licenses because they are not maintaining their Hippocrates Oath above all else, which is NOT TO HARM.

                I don’t claim vaccines are ineffective and should be eliminated. That would be ill-advised and idiotic. I am asking for better schedules, not combining them, giving them to older babies or children, not infants (unless those infants are actually already in exposure areas), and doing more and better/more thorough testing not paid for or overseen by the agencies or companies that benefit by pushing these vaccination formulas through the FDA as quickly as possible for their own profits or reputations.

                My definition of “acceptable risk” and yours are obviously different as well. So it goes.

                Best to you,

                Sally

                • wl September 24, 2015 / 5:19 pm

                  Well, Sally, I’m one who is likely not younger than you. I’m old enough to remember having had measles, rubella, mumps, and chicken pox. I was lucky–I came through it without any serious damage, but I also remember a number of kids who weren’t so lucky (blindness, deafness, cardiac issues from complications, serious scarring, and so forth). I also remember being terrified of getting polio, and knew several kids who did get it and were permanently crippled. And, trust me here, measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox were extremely unpleasant of their own accord, even without complications.

                  The point isn’t “acceptable risk,” which is a vague and subjective notion, but rather “relative risk,” which is quite quantifiable. Regarding “if you want to play a statistics game”: that is exactly what you are doing (“ineffectiveness, unnecessariness, and/or documented adverse health effects” for example) but you are doing it very poorly. The mathematics are powerful but not especially simple, and if you wish to express disdain for “medical experts,” thereby tacitly claiming that you know more than they do, it is necessary to back up that claim with citations and reasoned, specific, and competent mathematical arguments.

                  Regarding “when ‘medical experts’ disagree,” with regard to vaccinations (1) I haven’t found much disagreement, (2) the little I have seen was related to details of, for example, some of the biochemical pathways of immune response, and (3) there is a huge difference between minor disagreements regarding details and disagreement with a major and well-accepted idea. (For example, in evolutionary biology there is a fair bit of squabbling over the relative contributions of sympatric speciation vs. allopatric speciation–don’t ask, it isn’t interesting unless you are an evolutionary biologist–but there is virtually no argument among actual biologists regarding the validity of the broad theory of evolution by natural selection.)

                • Chris September 25, 2015 / 1:12 am

                  “Maybe you’re a lot younger than I am. Maybe you don’t know about the “experiments” on Native Americans…”

                  Like the fact that about 90% were wiped out due to the introduction of European diseases like smallpox and measles? See Plagues and People (there are apparently free downloadable versions)

                  Why do you bother to post comments here with your fact free brain droppings? Don’t you even understand that you opinion is worth nothing unless you provide the verifiable scientific evidence to support your claims?

                  You cannot continue to get away with calling those who ask for your evidence as “ignorant.” You need to step up as an “educator” and provide those who question you some actual evidence. No not depend on the “argument from blatant assertion”, provide the evidence. Otherwise you proved your “ED. D.” that you post after your name is completely worthless.

                • jgc56 September 25, 2015 / 10:14 am

                  Sally, I’m unaware that any of the developers of the Gardasil vaccine have published articles questioning the safety and efficacy of the vaccine: who are you thinking of? I.e., citations needed.

                  As for being a lot younger than you, that would be true only if you’re in your late 70’s. I do know about past abuses regarding the populsations you identify, but I question your statement that such abuse is going on now in the Untied States. Once cagain, citatios needed.

                  re: I asking for better schedules, not combining vaccines, giving them to older babies or children, not infants etc., what evidence indicates that the risks associated with the current recommended schedule exceed the risks associated with remaining vulnerable to infection? What evidence indicates that the risks associated with combined vaccines exceeds the risks associated with multiple sinlge vaccine innoculations? What evidence indicates that giving the vacines to older children would do anything other than leave those children vulnerable to infectious diseases for an extended period of time?

                  As for “more and better/more thorough testing”, what changes to the current clinical trials requirements do you propose–how would you improve the current testing protocols, and what additional tests would you require? Be specific.

                  As for “not paid for or overseen by the agencies or companies that benefit by pushing these vaccination formulas through the FDA as quickly as possible for their own profits or reputations”< who do you propose should underwrite the costs of developing and testing vaccines instead of the developers/manufacturers? Who do you propose oversee the pre=approval clinical testing other than the FDA?

                  By what rational argument are the risks associated with the routine scheduled childrens vaccines unacceptable,when evaluated against the risks associated with remaining vulnerable to the infectious diseases they protect against?

  3. laurabedlam April 10, 2015 / 12:07 pm

    As my high school Chemistry teacher used to say: If you wanna get technical about it, water is a chemical. (Reductive, I know, but these issues always remind me of that.)

    • Randy Wright April 14, 2015 / 8:32 pm

      Yes, and if you really want to indulge in some scare mongering and hyperbole, you can point out that di-hydrogen oxide is toxic in large quantities and has killed millions since time immemorial.

      Unfortunately, sarcasm is often an ineffective weapon and frequently wasted on those who need its lessons the most.

    • limxinf May 28, 2015 / 12:11 am

      This is my favorite reductive statement.

  4. Midnight Knitter April 10, 2015 / 12:59 pm

    I’ve been increasingly concerned by the rampant anti-science trends in personal health and food choices. Thanks for some insight in where this is coming from. Great post.

  5. Paul K. Strode April 10, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    What a great and important piece of writing, Jennifer! Thank you!

  6. Randy Wright April 10, 2015 / 3:01 pm

    Blog articles like this one are why I stop in at this site regularly and try to contribute to the illumination Jennifer provides. I’m not a scientist, just someone who took refuge in the humanities–while reading every bit of science I could that I found interesting–as a survival tactic to preserve my sanity while growing up in the intellectually choked-off theocracy of Utah. There were too many of the “evolution is just a theory” sorts in the science classes (Google up Glenn Beck’s hero, W. C. Skousen. as a particularly onerous example of this pedagogical voodoo), but by learning the tools of language and rhetoric, I learned to distinguish the authentic folks from the wannabes and snake oil peddlers. The authentic sorts are always willing to re-examine their parameters if the questions are reasonable.

    Of course it really provokes the histrionics when I use their own tactics on them, and worse, have the facts to back them up because I can and do read what the scientists are saying. Speaking of provocations, I see Colin is already in a bit of a rumble, and I’ll just watch from the sidelines on that one. On the food science front, though, what we are being subjected to are repeated dog-and-pony acts by the “Nutritional McCarthyites” (That’s Joe McCarthy, not Jenny). These folks enjoy a ready audience, unfortunately, and they always have enough drama to draw their followers in, even if they have to fabricate it. That “naturalistic fallacy” is one their favorite ploys as well. Reminds me of an auto mechanic I knew who defended dumping old oil illegally because, hey, it was a “natural” product that came from the earth in the first place.

    One I’ve watched for thirty years that has drawn food manufacturing operations into the fray has been the “war on MSG.” Right now, there’s only one popular brand of seasoning salt that still has it, but it definitely makes those carcinogenic steaks I enjoy occasionally much more flavorful. Ditto for lamb chops. They even drew my octogenarian mother into their clutches, and she still claims it does give her “Chinese Food Syndrome.” Of course there’s no way she could pass a double blind test on that one, and despite wholesale evidence that MSG isn’t toxic or harmful, it continues to be vilified.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001126.htm

  7. davehpt April 10, 2015 / 8:22 pm

    Reblogged this on Lose Weight, No Bullshit and commented:

    And finally, the most telling red flag is that when it comes to assessing the validity of facts, Food Babe’s filter is not “Is this true?” but instead “Does this promote my brand?”

  8. colintell April 11, 2015 / 10:01 am

    Hari seems to have been unsuccessful at scrubbing this appalling 2011 tweet. It’s dated one day after her blog entry entitled “Should I Get The Flu Shot?”.

    https://twitter.com/thefoodbabe/status/121679383328075777?hc_location=ufi

    If you prefer not to click on the Twitter link, this is the content: “Did you know the #flushot has been used as a genocide tool in the past. Think twice – more info at [her blog url]”

  9. Cyril Pavillard April 12, 2015 / 9:43 am

    Hello, thank you for the excellent article. I just wanted to point out (since you asked 😉 that airplane companies do actually spray us with insecticides. This is part of a aircraft disinsection which is a standard procedure for planes coming from certain region of the world (Africa, Asia) where diseases that are spread by insects, such as malaria and yellow fever, occur.

    It is a really important procedure to control the spread of those diseases and is of vital necessity. Note that this is clearly regulated and you can find more informations about the subject here : http://www.who.int/ith/mode_of_travel/aircraft_disinsection/en/

    • Jennifer Raff April 12, 2015 / 7:46 pm

      Thanks, I’ve had a few people let me know about that. I actually had a hunch that part was true, but I didn’t want to selectively edit Science Babe’s quote to take her question out. I appreciate you writing in and explaining!!

  10. smithaw50 April 17, 2015 / 6:00 pm

    Don’t understand the need to insult Christians, as if no college graduates, teachers, or scientists practice faith. While I know it isn’t encouraged in academia (to put it mildly), not every Christian is disconnected from the real world. We do have minds, as opposed to just brains, and our faith doesn’t erase our intellect, though there are those who’d like to ‘believe’ otherwise.

    • Chris April 17, 2015 / 8:38 pm

      Can you please quote the part where Dr. Raff discusses Ms. Hari’s religion?

  11. smithaw50 April 17, 2015 / 8:58 pm

    This is the quote by Mrs. Ember: “By the way: we are not evangelical Christians. I have a doctorate and my partner (his father) is a college graduate as well. We lived among many other highly educated, thoughtful people making these same choices.” The sequencing seems to imply that because she is not a Christian, and highly educated, her choice of method in vaccination is somehow more valid. Perhaps she didn’t mean it that way, but it seems that whenever the sciences are introduced, somehow it’s the Christian faith that’s always insulted afterward regarding matters of intellect; while I’m willing to admit the church has sometimes made a royal hash of the Gospel in a lot of areas historically as well as presently, there are also faithful people who are doing good things and making contributions. And no, I’m not saying you HAVE to be religious to do those things (there are people entering and leaving the faith everyday), but since no one else mentioned anything about it, the remark seemed out of place and unnecessary to me.

  12. smithaw50 April 17, 2015 / 9:03 pm

    I should have referenced Mrs. Ember initially.

    • Chris April 17, 2015 / 9:14 pm

      Thank you, I was confused.

      Ms. Ember’s error was thinking her education was adequate to evaluate evidence outside her area of study.

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