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Three surprising things that science may or may not know

September 29, 2012

Recently Tracy Cassels of Evolutionary Parenting wrote a blog post titled “Three surprising things that science doesn’t know”. The thing that I found surprising about this was the lack of rigorous research and critical thinking, considering she is a PhD candidate.  Let me review for you.  Two of them are pretty straightforward:

Number 1 is the long-term neurological effects of crying-it-out. Fair enough. There are responses to the studies that so many people cite against crying-it-out, like the skepticalmothering blog for example. But, I don’t see this as an issue.  Even if there’s not evidence that crying-it-out is harmful, why would you do it anyway when it’s so much easier and gentler and nicer not to?

Number 3 is the benefits of full-term breastfeeding. So, there’s no PROOF that kids who were breastfed until they self-weaned at 2 or 3 or 4 are healthier in later life than kids who were weaned at 6 months.  Again, I don’t see this as an issue.  Why would you pay three dollars a litre to give your kids the milk of another species when you have free human milk on tap?

It’s number 2 I have the issue with: The long-term effects of the current dose of aluminum adjuvants in vaccines.  The sources that she cites on this topic are dubious pseudoscience.  Tracy writes “there have actually been no studies comparing long-term outcomes of aluminum exposure in vaccinated and non-vaccinated children, despite knowledge that aluminum toxicity is a possibility (see [5] for a review).”  Aluminium toxicity is not an issue. The paper she’s referring to has already been torn to pieces by an actual scientist at ScienceBlogs.com who concludes “Notice the wording. “It would seem ill-advised to exclude vaccines” and “vaccine safety is not as firmly established as often believed.” It’s the old anti-vaccine tactic of sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines based on highly dubious science and then calling for more studies of a hypothesis that scientists, despite having looked extensively, have been unable to find any convincing evidence to support.”  He notes that chemistry journals (particularly journals devoted to inorganic chemistry) probably shouldn’t be publishing medical articles. Tracy also writes that there is “some research that suggests aluminum (even if the form of an adjuvant in vaccines) may induce immunoexcitotoxicity which can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders[6].”  Finding out that this source is Russell Blaylock should be refutation enough. He is a trained neurosurgeon who gave up medicine for a career as a snake-oil salesman, selling his Brain Repair Formula, claiming to have a cure for cancer, and generally promoting his pseudoscience to the gullible.

Tracy’s conclusions reveal her bias towards the anti-vaccination movement.  She’s looked into circumcision and feels “the evidence is pretty conclusive despite the AAP and others disagreeing.” She thinks people should use common sense when it comes to breastfeeding and crying-it-out.  Yet, although the evidence is pretty conclusive in favour of vaccines and it’s just common sense to prevent your child getting a serious illness if you can, Tracy thinks this is an avenue that needs exploring.  It is disappointing that a blogger I have such respect for is taking the lazy option of accepting the scientifically flawed and sometimes downright fraudulent claims of conspiracy theorists at face value.

You may also be interested in…

 The Respectful Insolence blog on ScienceBlogs.com

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