Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Rhetoric of Science, or, the rejection of science

Earlier this morning,the family and I visited the "fish store," deciding whether or not Sweet Toddler J's fascination with fish is a lasting experience or a fad. If it were a lasting experience, we would purchase a small aquarium and possibly some clown fish; if it were a fad, we should make a few more trips to the aquariums or zoos in the area so she could persuade us that she would like fish, then a monkey, maybe a rhino, so forth and so on. We decided not to buy at this moment, though we are still undecided on the fish issue.

While we were looking at the "big fish"-- the typical assortment of Japanese Koi that you would find at the entrance of a restaurant-- in the pond at the front of the store, a women and her autistic daughter entered so her daughter could feed the "big fish." While Megs and Sweet Toddler J went to look at other fish, the women with the autistic daughter turned to me and said:

How cute your son, I mean daughter,-- I just saw the blue jacket-- is. I just wanted to let you know, watch the children when they receive their shots. Watch them after every shot and every booster. I worked full time and never could pay that close attention... Now I want to tell people.... My daughter, at age three, lost all language, the ability to point, to jump... It's the mercury. I just want to tell parents because no one told me. Do your research. But I just feel as if I need to tell people.

Now, certainly there is a lot to unpack in this scenario. First, if one were to "do your research," a person would find that, first, the scientist who claimed there was a connection with the MMR shots and autism would find out that the scientist manipulated the data to create the appearance of a link.

In addition, a recent court case that reviewed the evidence between the shots with mercury and autism and, consequently, ruled against families who brought forth a suit against drug companies, also found that no link existed between the shots and autism. According to CNN, in the trial, scientists have failed to establish a link between the shots and audience. Of course, even with the Court's ruling, people who believed in the link rejected the Court's decision, claiming a conflict of interest existed as the Court ruled in favor of the government (Health and Human Services), since a person must bring forth a claim against HHS rather than the drug manufacturer. This tends to lead to conspiracy rhetoric though, which usually brings forth a dangerous set of arguments.

Second, even though science has failed to establish a connection, some people with autistic children still advance the argument that the shots are the cause. In my encounter, rather than mention this, for what good would it have done to disagree with here, especially at a fish store, I listened to her story. What struck my while listening to her was her outpouring of guilt ("I worked full time" and "could not pay attention,") and the scapegoating of the vaccinations, even without a evidence of a connection between the MMr vaccines and autism.

I wonder if it would be appropriate to mention this in a public setting. It seems that because of not knowing the other person, there would be no credibility to engage in a debate about this topic with the mother. Further, with her child as an inartistic proof, the mother would just say here is my daughter who regressed, especially in her communicative abilities, after receiving vaccinations.

While I certainly was not in any condition to debate with the mother, it also seems I may have an ethical responsibility as a professor to try and correct what seems to be incorrect assumptions about the link between the vaccinations and autism. I would do this in a classroom and, hence, I should be willing to do it when speaking with others about a topic I could address with some credibility. Granted, I am not a physician, but because of professional and personal relationships, I have followed this debate.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The title alone . . .

necessitated that I post this article, which is linked on's homepage.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why Don't Conservatives Plan Revolutions When Republicans Are in Office

First, Chuck Norris announced that he may run for President of Texas because the Country was on the verge on losing its identity/ rights/ path/ deep discounts at Walmart/ ability to beat up bad guys in scripted confrontations.

Now, Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) invoked the right to revolution. According to Politico:
"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.”
Of course, Bachmann must not have actually read the Jefferson quote and does not know the irony of the quote. Here is what Jefferson wrote:
"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion... We have had thirteen States independent for eleven years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half, for each State. What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion?" --Thomas Jefferson to William S. Smith, 1787. ME 6:372

Ironically, when the revolution were to occur, Jefferson was president of the United States and I do not think he used the bully pulpit to argue for a revolution.

I would argue that Norris and Bachmann are just grandstanding, but what do I know...

Tee Shirt of the Week®: Both Wholly Offensive, and a Retrospective Honorariam to St. Patrick's Day

Harrogate, btw, though no hater of bad puns like Supadiscomama and M, is not a huge fan of them either. Still, he likes this bad pun because of its linguistic realism.

Fun With The Intersection Between Pop Art, Race, & Partisanship: Michael Steele Raps

The embarrassment to politics that is Michael Steele continues to render gold for the comedy sectors, at any rate.

Super-Action Happy Fun-time T-Shirtathon 2000 (goat-footed baloonMan edition)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Celebrating (Again) The Creativity of Britney Spears: The Question of the Day

Building upon the illustrious work of Harrogate.(I cannot believe I am writing about this).

With her song, "If you see Amy," Britney Spears*** is following in the footsteps of blues pianist Memphis Slim, the Canadian band April Wine, the pop-punk band Poster Children, James Joyce in Ulysses, and William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night. Here is Slate's take, with all of the references.

Oh well, it could be worse, as James Joyce notes:

If you see kay
Tell him he may
See you in tea
Tell him from me.

But, I ask you Situationers, what other examples of this type of brilliant wit do you admire?

*** Disclaimer: It is highly unlikely that Britney Spears wrote the lyrics to that song or the song itself, but, for a moment, we can live with the illusion.