May 19 2008

Anti-Vaccinationists Bring a Knife to a Gun-fight

Anti-vaccinationists who claim, against the prevailing scientific evidence, that there is a link between autism and vaccines, have been busy recently spamming science bloggers (at least those who have posted on this issue before) with new evidence they believe supports a connection. The evidence is a small study involving giving vaccines to macaques and measuring various neurological outcomes. Here’s mine – Kim Spencer left this comment on my recent post about the chelation related death case:

when are you going to get down and dirty on the new monkey study? waiting on your opinion on how this could be wrong… http://www.ageofautism.com/2008/05/pediatric-vacci.html

can’t wait for your explanations!!!

Notice the implication that I have been somehow avoiding taking on this new study. I am sorry to keep you waiting so long, Kim, given that this study was presented as a series of three abstracts at the latest International Meeting for Autism Research. You will note that they are dated May 16th 2008 – this is my very next blog post.

This also bears directly on my first criticism of this evidence – abstracts presented at such meetings do not pass the same rigorous peer-review as full papers published in respected journals. Most abstracts never see the peer-reviewed light of day.But let’s take this study at face value. Unfortunately, abstracts such as this do not include much information. Absent is any detailed description of methodology – all we get is a rough sketch. Here is what we do get.

Methods: Macaques were administered the recommended infant vaccines, adjusted for age and thimerosal dose (exposed; N=13), or saline (unexposed; N=3). Primate development, cognition and social behavior were assessed for both vaccinated and unvaccinated infants using standardized tests developed at the Washington National Primate Research Center. Amygdala growth and binding were measured serially by MRI and by the binding of the non-selective opioid antagonist [11C]diprenorphine, measured by PET, respectively, before (T1) and after (T2) the administration of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR).

There are numerous shortcomings of this study, primarily the small N – 13 exposed and 3 controls. Why the disparity in numbers? Why the small numbers? Further, the outcomes that are being measured require careful methodology and some interpretation. They are not binary outcomes like survival vs death. These kinds of outcomes require greater subject numbers to have any statistical meaning. This alone – small numbers with “squishy” outcomes – means that this data is highly unreliable. At best this is a “pilot” study – meaning that it could be used to decide if it is worth doing a real study, but should NOT be used as the basis for any scientific conclusions.

There are also many pertinent questions not addressed in the abstracts: 1 – were the monkeys randomized to treatment vs control; 2 – were all of the outcome measures performed by a blinded examiner; 3 – how many different outcomes were measured? Just the ones listed, or were more looked at but not reported (this would provide the opportunity to cherry pick among many variables); 4 – what was the time frame for the series of vaccinations?

This last point is important because they say that the vaccines were “adjusted for age and thimerosal dose.” What does this mean, exactly? Was the injection schedule compressed to represent the shorter age to maturity and life expectancy of macaques? This would not necessarily make sense. Macaques probably do not clear ethylmercury (it is this mercury in thimerosal, which is a preservative that used to be in childhood vaccines, that some claim is the cause of autism) any quicker than human infants, despite the fact that they mature quicker. It is also difficult to extrapolate large differences in body weight. In other words – it is not a simple matter to give macaques equivalent exposure to vaccines and thimerosal to simulate the childhood vaccine schedule. We would need to know exactly what choices the researchers made and why.

Without all of this information these abstracts are impossible to evaluate. These findings would only be of interest if they ultimately are published in a peer-reviewed journal with a full methods section detailing how the studies were done. Even then, the small numbers render the results highly suspect -so the study would also need to be expanded to a more appropriate number of subjects.

There are other specific criticisms of these abstracts. Orac at Respectful Insolence has done his usual thorough job of picking it apart. Specifically he criticizes their methods of analyzing a genome microarray, which Orac does as part of his own research.

Orac also points out that perhaps the most suspect feature of this study (to clarify – this appears to be one study that was divided into three abstracts) is the people who carried it out. Listed as an author is Andrew Wakefield – he is the British researcher who started the vaccine-autism myth with his paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism. His research has been subsequently utterly rejected, and he even faces disciplinary actions for questionable ethical behavior. He did not disclose that he had a conflict of interest, for example, as he stood to gain financially as an expert consultant for lawyers who were suing for vaccine injury. Wakefield, therefore, would be highly motivated to produce new evidence to vindicate himself.

Another author is Laura Hewitson. It turns out she has a child with autism and is currently a litigant (#437) in the Autism Omnibus hearings – a special court established to determine the merit of thousands of claims for compensation by parents under the claim that their children’s autism was caused by vaccines. Hewitson did not disclose this obvious conflict of interest. Hewitson is also married to Dan Hollenbeck, who regularly contributes to the anti-vaccination website Age of Autism.

So what we have here is a small study presented in a loose format as a series of abstracts, without adequate documentation of methods, conducted largely by people who have an enormous motivation for a particular outcome.

In the battle of science, this is a butterknife.

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28 responses so far

28 Responses to “Anti-Vaccinationists Bring a Knife to a Gun-fight”

  1. Jim Shaveron 19 May 2008 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for the analysis and information, Dr. Novella. In your fourth-to-last paragraph, “Wakeful” should be “Wakefield”, probably a spell-checker-induced error.

  2. badrabbion 19 May 2008 at 11:31 am

    Dr. Novella;

    I never cease to be amazed by your enormous intellect, your fund of knowledge, and your ability to analyse data.

    I would hate to be on the other side of a given issue with you.

    Keep writing your excellent blogs.

  3. w_nightshadeon 19 May 2008 at 11:46 am

    I anticipate the next response by the anti-vacc crowd:

    “OH YEAH??”

  4. maliathon 19 May 2008 at 2:47 pm

    It also appears that C. Stott, who also is listed at the “Thoughtful House Center for Children” in Austin, TX was also payed by Richard Barr to provide consulting in the same case in the UK that Wakefield was payed:

    http://briandeer.com/wakefield/legal-aid.htm

    Granted this was in 1996 (papers released in 2006), but notice that the Fees + Expenses totaled over 100, 000 pounds for her services alone!

    But yeah, the sample size alone is enough to make this test virtually useless. Great blog Doctor …

    -Grant

  5. DevilsAdvocateon 19 May 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Reminds me of a study abstract I just released which appears to prove my kids are the smartest and best looking among the set tested.

    Is the smirking attitude evident in the Kim post typical for proponents?

  6. ccdaddy57on 19 May 2008 at 5:57 pm

    DR. Novella please explain this away if you can.
    How could he Russell had known what they did , today in 1953 ?

    This down below was written in 1953 and they followed it to the letter. Just like a recipe, only they did not anticipate
    the coal fired plant emissions or the pregnant mom’s body burdon of mercury.

    And they knew of the following warnings from Dr.Engley and others when allowing this to happen to our children and still proceeded.

    From 1948 research paid for by a grant from
    American Medical Association

    It is clear from this research supported by a grant from the American
    Medical Association that Thimerosal is neither efficacious nor safe, and should be removed as a preservative in prescription biologics and
    pharmaceutical products, as well as from topical over-the-counter products
    such as Butt-Balm that have Thimerosal present in their formulations as an active ingredient.

    Also there was an interim plan in the 80′s to get rid of thimerosal this came out at Congressman Burtons hearing on thimerosal. Dr. Engley was reported as saying on an KOMU article that “if they had followed through on our 82 report the vaccines would have been freed of thimerosal and all this autism they tell me would not have occurred”
    SO THEY DESTROYED OUR CHILDREN FOR NO BENEFIT NOT TO MENTION BEING WARNED BY
    Dr. Engley and other Scientist with integrity, this is their findings of toxicity
    “We found thimerosal is toxic down to a level that is almost unbelievable. Down to 1.10, maybe 100 nanograms…a millionth of a gram and that is about as toxic as you can get,” he said.” But the FDA, and the CDC did not listen 200 PPB is liquid toxic waste the chidren from the 90′s some received 32,500 Parts Per Billion at one setting on one day. And you wonder what happened to the kids. When you read all of this you will understand,and I will even give you a hint the word stepford comes to mind.

    this guy has more credentials and has accomplished more in his life time than all the hacks the FDA CDC and pharma
    has bought and paid for put togather, but best of all he unlike them he has integrity and apparently can’t be bought

    This is from his interveiw with KOMU who apparently also
    cannot be bought

    It was mentioned earlier that Dr. Frank Engley studied thimerosal as far back as 1942. Dr. Engley is responsible for the 4 year School of Medicine at the University of Missouri. He has consulted for the CDC, IOM, NASA, FDA, EPA, CIA, AAMI, USP, Armed Forces Epidemiological boards, Army, Navy, Air Force as well as Director of research grants and training grants for NIH. Engley Served on the Council of the NIH Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a consultant on many Epidemiological Boards too many to list.
    Dr. Engley has been a visiting Professor in over 40 foreign countries medical schools. He has produced films, written text books, Laboratory Manuals, over 100 publications, served on editorial boards for numerous scientific journals and periodicals, including four American, two British and one German. Engley is certified by the American Board of Micro Biology and served as the Chair of the Laboratory of American Public Health Association. He has been listed in American Men and Women of Science, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who among Consultants and Who’s Who in the World.
    His toxicity studies of mercurials in human tissue culture revealed the mercurials were extremely toxic for human cells and the Thimerosal — the most active, toxic down to the nanogram. The amounts of mercury have gone down but vaccines still have 100 times that amount when they are in preservative free and reduced thimerosal vaccines.

    You can argue all
    you want, I will just point to the book and the plan they seem to have followed verbatim you cannot rewrite history,
    and that is the route they chose.

    I am not saying this was a plan by most DR.’s or scientist I am saying that certain
    very powerful people Duped the whole main stream medical
    community by using the shinning greatest achievement of the
    US. Which history will show if anything it turned out to be the worse disaster in history. And there will be trials, such as the German Holocaust. And murder of the Jews but it will be for the ones who justified their high crimes with protecting the vaccine program

    ** It should be noted that this article was published in the January
    1948 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association
    ## It should be noted that this article was published in 1950 in the
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

    Five years after the warnings they devised this plan
    ” 1953 ”
    Russell being quoted as saying we would put mercury in vaccines, and other compounds to produce a partial lobotomized state this was done to controll the masses. my thought is they did not anticipate the mercury from other sources AKA as cole fired plants and mothers body burdon

    Russell
    who advocated the use of vaccines to induce partial chemical lobotomies and create a servile zombie population,
    “Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible.” – Bertrand Russell, “The Impact of Science on Society”, 1953, pg 49-50

    1953. Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society: “…the subject which will be of most importance politically is Mass Psychology…. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen. As yet there is only one country which has succeeded in creating this politician’s paradise.

  7. Roy Nileson 19 May 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Some of the literarily deficient in the Anti-Vaccinationist crowd seem unaware that Bertrand Russell was also a satirist somewhat in the tradition of Jonathan Swift, and his “The Impact of Science on Society” was written with a similar tone as was Swift’s essay, “A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public” (1729).

  8. ccdaddy57on 19 May 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Roy explain how they did exactly what he said in 1953 they would do

    just this week ABC said they were going to run a series on what has happened to our children’s brains.

    Answer

    Russell
    who advocated the use of vaccines to induce partial chemical lobotomies and create a servile zombie population

    “Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible.” – Bertrand Russell

    often wondered why every child by two now I guess I know

    “from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable,”

    PRETTY DAMING STUFF

    Remember Rockafeller believed this way and he and others
    like him funded the sabine foundation which brought us
    the modern day vaccine program or maybe a Trojan horse

    Roy surley you don’t condone this, 200 PPB is liquid toxic waste the chidren from the 90’s some received 32,500 Parts Per Billion at one setting on one day. And that is just one toxin, research this week just brought us this. Injected aluminum increases blood-brain barrier permeability, we already knew that it causes
    apoptosis AKA neuron cell death hey maybe the aluminum
    clears the way for the worse toxin that depletes the glutathion
    you know that friendler gentler kinder mercury thimerosal
    that turns into ethylmercury and then when, not if it enters the brain it turns into inorganic mercury the most damaging to the mito. Not bad for a parent that doe’s not even have a PHD but even I know you don’t put tons of toxins in children and then wonder what happened to an intire generation of children
    that seems to have brain damage and bowel disorders. Shame on every one of you that defends putting poison in childrens vaccines.

    Hey they say the poison is in the dose wasn’t it Dr. Hillaman from Merks vaccine program said that when veiwed
    in this manner it is rather a large dose. He was talking about not a daily dose but bolus doses all at once, as most of the kids got in one day 32,500 PPB quite a difference in 200 PPB being
    liquid hazardious waste which one would you choose if you
    had the well being of the child at heart the CDC, FDA, AAP, IOM chose 32,500 PPB while making statements like this

    “We’ve got a dragon by the tail here,” states a committee member in the
    transcript. “At the end of the line, what we know is – and I agree –
    that
    the more negative that presentation [the report] is, the less likely
    people
    are to use vaccination, immunization, and we know what the results of
    that
    will be. We are kind of caught in a trap. How we work our way out of
    the
    trap, I think, is the charge.”

    The IOM report , said we found no link and don’t look at vaccines again put your money where you can get more for your money

    Excuse me, but that is the same thing as knowing you lost your wallet in the bed room and saying I will search the kitchen

    not to mention the wasted research dollars looking for autism
    causes but knowing the real cause how dare they waste our precious children’s time

    So they chose to poison children rather than tell the truth about the mass poisoning of the children

    The CDC started the meeting with this request

    Dr. McCormick, for example, in speaking of the CDC, noted that the
    agency
    “wants us to declare, well, these things are pretty safe on a
    population
    basis.” (See Exhibit 1 at page 33). where is the science ???

    later she said what walt wants walt generally gets she was speaking of Walter A. Orenstein, M.D., Director of the National Immunization Program

    folks this is the way they conduct science these days . And they say we do, junk science !!!

    And you wonder what happened to the kids. Roy do you defend this, defending this is sort of like defending Hitler except he was more humane, he did not let mercury poisoned children suffer for years, and and lie to save the vaccine program from
    the fate it deserves. Our children are sicker now than ever before and thier the most vaccinated in history and in the world

    Again, so you don’t forget what you are defending

    200 PPB is liquid toxic waste the chidren from the 90’s some received 32,500 Parts Per Billion at one setting on one day. And you wonder what happened to the kids

    Dr. Engley
    We found thimerosal is toxic down to a level that is almost unbelievable. Down to 1.10, maybe 100 nanograms…a millionth of a gram and that is about as toxic as you can get,” he said.”

    I know this is not written very good, but I don’t have a PHD
    but I do know what poison is and it ‘s THIMEROSAL
    Poison down to one one millionth of a gram

    Gee I wonder how many one one millionth of a grams is in a
    dose like 32,500 PPB I bet I would know if I had PHD

  9. weingon 20 May 2008 at 12:02 am

    Sounds like you must have got very large doses as a child.

  10. ccdaddy57on 20 May 2008 at 12:13 am

    Weing if you cannot see the damage done it must have worked on you

    Russell being quoted as saying we would put mercury in vaccines, and other compounds to produce a partial lobotomized state

    Russell
    who advocated the use of vaccines to induce partial chemical lobotomies and create a servile zombie population

    according to ABC you might have it already

    and with the attack on me after reading what you read
    It really is working on you.

  11. mat alfordon 20 May 2008 at 12:13 am

    ccdaddy57 –

    please refer to

    http://www.theness.com/articles.asp?id=38

    for Dr Novella’s article “how to argue”

    Also be advised that including one’s IQ score in a username is useful but not obligatory…

  12. weingon 20 May 2008 at 12:14 am

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but I never received any vaccines.
    My mom didn’t believe in them.

  13. ccdaddy57on 20 May 2008 at 12:26 am

    you cannot answer something simple like this, Again so you don’t forget what you are defending

    200 PPB is liquid toxic waste the chidren from the 90’s some received 32,500 Parts Per Billion at one setting on one day

    Dr. Engley
    We found thimerosal is toxic down to a level that is almost unbelievable. Down to 1.10, maybe 100 nanograms…a millionth of a gram and that is about as toxic as you can get,” he said.”

    Gee I wonder how many one one millionth of a grams is in a
    dose like 32,500 PPB I bet I would know if I had a PHD

    any of you PHD’s care to answer how many

  14. ccdaddy57on 20 May 2008 at 12:34 am

    We are worried where our non verbal children will spend the rest of thier life. and trying to help them

    And your worried about teaching me how to argue WOW

  15. weingon 20 May 2008 at 1:06 am

    ccdaddy57,

    Because of your mercury damaged brain you are having a hard time making an argument. How can you help your children? Learning how to argue will help you make your case.

  16. Roy Nileson 20 May 2008 at 1:10 am

    ccdaddy57, look up the meaning of satire. It’s about as far from the meaning of advocacy as you can get.

  17. HCNon 20 May 2008 at 1:28 am

    Oh, my word… it is Joe and his Russell Ramblings again. Though this time he used a handle he has used before:
    http://oracknows.blogspot.com/2005/08/kirby-tries-to-cover-his-posterior.html#c112537394580883123

    Joe, be a good boy and take some classes in basic grammar and English. All I can figure out is that English is a second language for you.

    Plus, next time: come armed with some real evidence.

    Also, his more recent incoherence may be seen here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/05/some_monkey_business_in_autism_research.php#comment-892700 (right now he is specializing in misrepresenting the writers of mathematician/philosopher Bertrand Russell)

  18. mat alfordon 20 May 2008 at 4:18 am

    ccdaddy57

    Maybe you’ve got some good points in there somewhere – I doubt it – but I just can’t tell. Learning how to argue (or at least get your point over in a clear, concise manner) would really help.

    At the moment you are ranting and rambling and, trust me, it’s very hard to follow. As far as I can understand you are (mostly) upset over the mercury based preservative Thimerosal, which is no longer being used in these vaccines anyway.

    If you’ve a child with autism you have my sympathy – it must be tough. But it is science that will deliver the real breakthroughs in managing this condition.

  19. thegrumpyskepticon 20 May 2008 at 7:16 am

    wait let me get this straight, this person ccdaddy57 is extrapolating a conspiracy theory, like this dude had been planning this all alone? WHAT? but why? I think the answer lies with some quotes from some great scholars of our time Matt Stone and Trey Parker “Beautiful Money!!” According to this doctor who wrote that article, autistic kids are the best way to have a society of “sheeple”!?? come on man. Ccdaddy57 must be delusional, he also goes on how he’s trying to save the children and bashing people for trying to teach him a thing or two about coherent thought, oh well. Keep on saving the world superman, it’s 4:08 and this grumpy skeptic is tired, im out.

  20. Steven Novellaon 20 May 2008 at 10:00 am

    If I can pull the semblance of a claim out of ccdaddy57′s comments (which appear to have been copy and pasted, at least in parts), is that very low levels of mercury are toxic.

    The problem with this evidence is that it is in vitro – if you put a toxin directly onto neurons in a petri dish the toxicity is much greater than if that toxin in consumed by a living organism. You cannot compare toxic doses in vitro with in vivo. This data is useless for the purposes that ccdaddy57 is putting it.

  21. ccdaddy57on 20 May 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Dr. Novella please answer this

    how many one one millionth of a grams is in a
    dose like 32,500 PPB

    also how do you fight to keep an antimicrobal in flu vaccines
    for what reason?

    If they were correct and it is useless then why keep it in flu
    vacc. remember the flu vacc’s that had to be destroyed, half
    were contaminated by what should have been the easiest bacterial contaminant to kill by thimerosal

    not safe in children’s vacc. may cause neurl disorders
    solution
    remove from children’s vacc’s

    Put back in through preg women in flu shots. only one problem MSDS sheet states preg women should never be exposed to the product thimerosal for it can cross the placenta and cause
    mild to severe mental retardation

    children 6 – 2 yr’s were at risk for complacations of the flu
    needed flu vacc’s problem children 6 – 2yr’s get absolutly
    no bennifit from the inactavated flu vaccine except that of
    a placebo effect. That’s what the research showed at that
    time not to mention the IOM ruled it was biological plausible
    next step causation except for starting the commete meeting
    out like this

    Dr. McCormick, for example, in speaking of the CDC, noted that the
    agency
    “wants us to declare, well, these things are pretty safe on a
    population
    basis.” (See Exhibit 1 at page 33). where is the science ???

    later she said what walt wants walt generally gets she was speaking of Walter A. Orenstein, M.D., Director of the National Immunization Program

    Dr. Novella is this the way they conduct science these days ?? And they say we do, junk science !!!

    they were desperate to get mercury back in before the numbers started falling

  22. Roy Nileson 20 May 2008 at 4:48 pm

    ccdaddy57,
    Correct me if I’m wrong in my attempts to understand your contention in terms of the historical basis for stating, “they were desperate to get mercury back in before the numbers started falling.”

    Because it would seem that Bertrand Russell, as part of a long standing conspiratorial inner circle of scientists, nevertheless published the details of their conspiracy in a book for all to see, and perhaps to warn any humanitarians (which he also professed to be in his disarmingly satirical fashion) that resistance is futile.
    And that borg-like group has found it beneficial to weed out certain types of children according to their ability or inability to resist the minimum level of mercury needed for development of optimal specimens of the future master race that this cabal of scientists envisions will master the universe.

    I’m sure you will agree I have that wrong somewhere as something must be missing from this otherwise phantasmagorical scenario.

  23. daedalus2uon 20 May 2008 at 6:23 pm

    The reason that most in vitro tests are useless for understanding mercury toxicity is due to simple chemistry. Mercury compounds have significant lipid solubility, so they are soluble in lipid membranes. In tissue culture, methyl mercury and ethyl mercury dissolve in cell membranes and so have access to the cytoplasm of cells. In the cytoplasm there is abundant glutathione, about 5-10 mM/L. Glutathione has a high affinity for mercury compounds. Mercury in the nutrient fluid dissolves in the cell membrane and is trapped in the cytoplasm. Mercury exhibits what is called a “partition factor”, where the mercury partitions into the cell.

    Usually a cell culture has a few cells and a lot of growth media. A cell with a diameter of 3 microns has a volume of about 10^-14 microliters. If you have 10,000 cells and 10 mL of fluid, you have 1 microliter per cell, or 10^14 times larger volume of growth media than cell volume.

    What happens is that the mercury in the 10^14 times more fluid that the cell is bathed in partitions into the cell, is trapped by glutathione and other thiols and then more mercury diffuses in, and more, and more, and more. When does it stop? When the binding of mercury by the thiols in the cell cytoplasm is satisfied or when the bath fluid runs out of mercury. A common protein with a high mercury binding constant is metallothionein. It is normally a storage protein for copper and zinc. It has a binding constant for Cu in the range of 10^17 to 10^18 and the binding for mercury is higher.

    In the environment, mercury is well known to partition into living algae from the ambient aqueous water. The partitioning factor for methyl mercury is about 10^6. 100 ppt mercury in the bath media could then concentrate a factor of 10^6 to 100 ppm in living cells. What levels of mercury have been looked at in vitro? In our example, how much depletion of the bath fluid would there be from a 100 ppt by there being 100 ppm in the cells? 100 ppm times 10^-14 microliter = 1 microliter times 10^-12 ppm or 1 microliter time 10^-6 ppt. The concentration in the bath fluid would change from 100 ppt to 99.999999 ppt by the take-up of 100 ppm mercury by the cells. A difference that is not measurable. But the cells now have 100 ppm mercury.

    In vivo, the situation is reversed. Instead of having a few cells and lots of liquid now there is lots of cells and very little liquid. We know that children have never had 100 ppm mercury in them because for a 20 kg child that would take 2 grams of mercury. 15 micrograms would produce a whole-body increase of 0.0075 ppm, a whole brain (assuming 300 grams) of 0.05 ppm. Levels that are known to be harmless because virtually everyone in the world has those levels, and has had those levels because exposures that produce those levels are common in the environment. A single serving of tuna fish has more mercury than a vaccine ever did, and methyl mercury is absorbed better from the gut than ethyl mercury is by injection.

    If people doing in vitro tests were honest about what they were doing, they would assay the cells for mercury or otherwise take into account of the well known partitioning of mercury from an aqueous phase into living organisms. They don’t do that. Why? The only reason is to be deceptive about what their tests actually mean.

  24. BAon 20 May 2008 at 6:40 pm

    cc, substitute anti-vaccinationist for christian
    Why I Am Not A Christian
    Bertrand Russell

    Russell delivered this lecture on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall.

    ——————————————————————————–

    As your Chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word Christian. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians — all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on — are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.

    What Is a Christian?
    Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature — namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense, which you find in Whitaker’s Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore.Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.

    But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included he belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.

    The Existence of God
    To come to this question of the existence of God: it is a large and serious question, and if I were to attempt to deal with it in any adequate manner I should have to keep you here until Kingdom Come, so that you will have to excuse me if I deal with it in a somewhat summary fashion. You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. That is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas. They had to introduce it because at one time the freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist. The arguments and the reasons were set out at great length, and the Catholic Church felt that they must stop it. Therefore they laid it down that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason and they had to set up what they considered were arguments to prove it. There are, of course, a number of them, but I shall take only a few.

    The First-cause Argument
    Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.) That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: “My father taught me that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?’” That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.” The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.

    The Natural-law Argument
    Then there is a very common argument from natural law. That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for explanations of the law of gravitation. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein, because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have the sort of natural law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion. We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were, you are then faced with the question “Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?” If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others — the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it — if there were a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate lawgiver. In short, this whole argument about natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have. I am traveling on in time in my review of the arguments. The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness.

    The Argument from Design
    The next step in the process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument to parody. You all know Voltaire’s remark, that obviously the nose was designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.

    When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending — something dead, cold, and lifeless.

    I am told that that sort of view is depressing, and people will sometimes tell you that if they believed that, they would not be able to go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries about much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out — at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation — it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things.

    The Moral Arguments for Deity
    Now we reach one stage further in what I shall call the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations, and we come to what are called the moral arguments for the existence of God. You all know, of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother’s knee. That illustrates what the psychoanalysts so much emphasize — the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.

    Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say there would be no right or wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was a superior deity who gave orders to the God that made this world, or could take up the line that some of the gnostics took up — a line which I often thought was a very plausible one — that as a matter of fact this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.

    The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice
    Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth. So they say that there must be a God, and there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, “After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.” Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue, “The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.” You would say, “Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment”; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say, “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one.” Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about are not what really moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.

    Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.

    The Character of Christ
    I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present prime minister [Stanley Baldwin], for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.

    Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, “Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” That is a very good principle. Your Chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the Liberals and Conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.

    Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practised. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

    Defects in Christ’s Teaching
    Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.” Then he says, “There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom”; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, “Take no thought for the morrow,” and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.

    The Moral Problem
    Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching — an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.

    You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell.” That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come.” That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.

    Then Christ says, “The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” He continues, “And these shall go away into everlasting fire.” Then He says again, “If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him asHis chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.

    There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree. “He was hungry; and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: ‘No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever’ . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: ‘Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.’” This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.

    The Emotional Factor
    As I said before, I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel Butler’s book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he is worshiped under the name of the “Sun Child,” and it is said that he ascended into heaven. He finds that the Feast of the Ascension is about to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will; but they are the high priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says, “I am going to expose all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon.” He was told, “You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into Heaven they will all become wicked”; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.

    That is the idea — that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.

    You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

    How the Churches Have Retarded Progress
    You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, “This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children.” Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.

    That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. “What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.”

    Fear, the Foundation of Religion
    Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.

    What We Must Do
    We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world — its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.

  25. HugeRobotson 20 May 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Dear deadalus2u,

    Although I’m not a scientist at all, it’s my hobby to understand everything I can get my hands on. Thank you so much for that explanation. I’ll no doubt be hard-pressed to use it in a verbal situation, but it will surely be a lot of fun after a few beers while in the company of mechanically gigantic robots.

    Dear Dr. Novella,

    I may be wrong, but poor grammar and such from ‘cc…’ might qualify as spam. I’m sure someone out there can find a spam filter for WordPress. There are a lot of burly robots out there ready to help out.

    Your pal,

    HugeRobots.

  26. Roy Nileson 20 May 2008 at 7:32 pm

    BA, are you not supporting cc’s position that Russell, the godless scientist, followed this early apostasy by advocating building a future devoid of children born with a God gene – especially if they were irish – because it was discovered early on in secret experiments by Dr. Mengele that children who survived mercury injections renounced their faiths spontaneously?

  27. Dirty Harryon 20 May 2008 at 7:38 pm

    ccdaddy57,

    Is punctuation an alien concept to you? It’s very difficult to take you seriously when you can’t even construct sentances. That extra thirty seconds neccesary to properly present your bullshit would at least make you seem intelligent, at a casual glance.

    Also, quantity is not a substitute for quality. Please present a concise, legible argument. Three thousand words of repetitive logical fallacies is not an argument.

    (That was an Ad Homenin, in case you were wondering.)

  28. [...] Anti-Vaccinationists Bring a Knife to a Gun-fight [...]

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