Skepticism Makes The World Go Round

Debunking Pseudoscience and Reasserting Reality.

113,001 notes

themcscumblr:

mindblowingscience:

pickledpennies:

m00nchaser:

If bees become extinct we will have exactly 4 YEARS to live on this planet. I don’t understand how “not giving a fuck” is more important than your life…

okay, I have a thing to say about this. I’m no expert on bees, but I am a biologist (and entomologist) so I think there is something I can contribute that’ll be of worth.

I agree entirely with the sentiment that we must protect honeybees. Obviously they are massively important for biodiversity, as well as pollinating food crops for humans. There is no doubt that if all the honeybees in the world were to vanish in a day that the consequences would be dire.

However, I disagree that the main cause for concern regarding honeybee death is the use of Genetically Modified (GM) crops. I’d be very interested to read a research paper that says ‘GM crops have killed millions of honeybees’, if indeed such a paper exists because in all honesty I find it highly unlikely that this is a true statement.

Let’s start with some facts about GM crops:

1. The development of GM crops is a highly regulated process, bound by strict country-specific legislature. A great number of trials are carried out long before commercial planting of a GM crop is even considered. It is these trials, and accompanying laboratory studies, that ensure a GM crop is safe to non-target organisms (such as honeybees) by investigating direct and indirect effects (Nap et al. 2003).

2. Crops that are genetically modified to express insecticidal proteins (for crop pest control) have a high level of specificity. This means that the insecticidal proteins being produced by the GM plant will only affect a narrow range of insect groups because of the chemical properties of the protein. For example, GM crops expressing insecticidal proteins sourced from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) will only target some Lepidopteran pests (caterpillars; Romeis et al. 2006). Furthermore, a recent meta-analysis of the literature found that GM Bt crops do not negatively affect the survival of adult honeybees or their larvae (Duan et al. 2008).

3. GM crops can be tailored such that the novel gene is expressed only in particular parts of the plant. For example, GM Bt rice plants express the toxin in the stems but not the grains (Datta et al. 1998). This technique means that gene expression can be excluded from the flowers/pollen of the crop plant, so that bees and other pollinators would not be affected. Neat, huh?

So those are a token few reasons why GM crops are safer than perhaps many people believe (as the result of a lot of questionable, non-scientific articles). To come back to our main point about honeybee death, I would like to briefly mention a few alternative explanations for the recent decline in honeybee populations. These are as follows:

1. Many bees have died as the result of broad-spectrum insecticide use. These are pesticides that lack specificity, and can be harmful to non-target organisms. Neonicotinoids are a well-studied example of this (Decourtye & Devillers, 2010). Not to worry, though, because many broad-spectrum pesticides including neonics are well on their way out. Indeed, the EU recently banned a large cohort of neonic pesticides. This is still a topic of controversy, mind (Goulson, 2013).

2. Many bees have died as the result of Varroa mite infestation. Imagine you’ve been bitten by several ticks, except those ticks are the size of dinner plates. That gives you an idea of the severity of a Varroa mite infestation on a single developing bee. The parasitisation of bees by Varroa mites and other parasites is often accompanied by disease transmission. This can result in colonies dying within two years after infestation (Johnson, 2011).

3. Many bees have died as the result of ‘colony collapse disorder’.  This is a phrase that has popped up a lot recently, and is basically an umbrella term for the various causes of bee death including parasite infestation, disease transmission, environmental stresses, and management stresses such as poor nutrition (Johnson, 2011). Colony collapse has been attributed to broad-spectrum pesticide use in some instances. However, it is has still been observed in countries where broad-spectrum pesticides have been withdrawn (in the EU, like I mentioned earlier; Johnson, 2011).

So those are my main points. Please excuse the bullet-point nature of this; I was trying to keep it fairly short. Not sure I managed that haha. But anyway, my take-home message is that GM crops are not the enemy when it comes to honeybee decline. If anything, bees are at much greater danger from the use of broad-spectrum pesticides and from parasites and diseases. Using GM can even help to alleviate some of the problems associated with broad-spectrum pesticides, as they greatly reduce the need to apply such chemicals (Romeis et al. 2006).

A finishing note: Do your homework. Go on google scholar and read some of the literature, making sure it is recent (within the past 10-15 years). Literature reviews are a great way to find out what the consensus is on any given topic. Don’t use popular media as your main source of information where science is concerned; they tend to favour scandal and exaggeration. You want to know what’s really going on? Check out some research articles and see for yourself.

Thanks for sticking it through to the end of this impromptu mini-essay! —Alice

References:

Datta, K., Vasquez, A., Tu, J., Torrizo, L., Alam, M. F., Oliva, N., Abrigo, E., Khush, G. S., & Datta, S. K. (1998). Constitutive and tissue-specific differential expression of the cryIA (b) gene in transgenic rice plants conferring resistance to rice insect pest. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 97(1-2), 20-30.

Decourtye, A., & Devillers, J. (2010). Ecotoxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to bees. In Insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (pp. 85-95). Springer New York.

Duan, J. J., Marvier, M., Huesing, J., Dively, G., & Huang, Z. Y. (2008). A meta-analysis of effects of Bt crops on honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). PLoS One, 3(1), e1415.

Goulson, D. (2013). Neonicotinoids and bees: What’s all the buzz?. Significance, 10(3), 6-11.

Johnson, R. (2011). Honey bee colony collapse disorder. DIANE Publishing.

Nap, J. P., Metz, P. L., Escaler, M., & Conner, A. J. (2003). The release of genetically modified crops into the environment. The Plant Journal, 33(1), 1-18.

Romeis, J., Meissle, M., & Bigler, F. (2006). Transgenic crops expressing Bacillus thuringiensis toxins and biological control. Nature biotechnology, 24(1), 63-71.

This commentary is SO important. Succinct and with proper sourcing; beautiful.

It infuriates me when people blame GMO for everything without actually examining the evidence.

The way scientific replies on tumblr should be handled: Sourced and informed.

(Source: antinwo, via starthekidd)

24 notes

bojhook asked: Born Christian. Now a skeptic. Near death experiences blow me away and seem to show life after death.. Thoughts?

atheismfuckyeah:

Well, firstly, and to just get it out of the way, I don’t believe in life after death at all. I also think that NDEs are the brains panicking and that people’s interpretations of their experiences depend on their preexisting beliefs. But you don’t have to believe me! 

Secondly, basically? All of the reliable and verifiable data on this subject points to NDEs (Near Death Experiences) literally being the brain having a bit of a panic attack, because oh shit it’s being starved on such important things as oxygen. You can actually induce NDEs in people, simply by depriving their brains briefly of the oxygen that it needs.

But, you shouldn’t take my word for it - you should read up on the subject yourself. Here’s some links for you to get started on that all important research binge: 

Near Death Experiences at Skepdic.com

Near Death Experiences at Skeptoid.com 

The P&T Bullshit! Episode on NDEs (also covers ouija boards)

A National Geographic article about some medical research

A discussion of NDEs and medical literature at eSkeptic

The James Randi forum thread where people discuss the above medical literature

This is literally just a snapshot of stuff to start you off. Like i said, I personally don’t believe in life after death, and I think NDEs are a natural function of the body that people interpret how they like.

But again, like I said, don’t take my word for it. Research. Read up on everything you can, inform yourself, and see what you believe when you know more. 

Good luck on your skeptic journey :)

~M

Filed under casually reblogs self

16,127 notes

Anonymous asked: Shut the fuck up about vaccinations. Not everyone has to have them, not everyone believes in them. Uneducated fuck.

cognitivedissonance:

fiercecircus:

cognitivedissonance:

of-shoes-of-ships-of-sealing-wax:

aspiringdoctors:

restless-wafarer:

aspiringdoctors:

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You know, my homie and secret best friend Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best….

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This isn’t an issue of belief or should even be up for discussion. It’s not a debate- like gravity or that the Earth revolves around the Sun isn’t up for debate. It’s a fact, whether or not you like it. Sorry bro.

And any ‘educated fuck’ knows that vaccines are necessary and everyone who can have them should have them.

Have a lovely day, sugar. 

Actually there’s a lot of research and knowledge supporting the fact that vaccines are NOT necessary. It is simply another thing that today’s health system is super big on, just like hospital births and c-sections. And a lot of people actually have long term and short term complications from getting vaccines. Ahem.

Dang guys, you thought I didn’t check my activity log every now and then? Because I knew shit like this would pop up. And, I just finished my block exam and am feeling fiesty.

Actually you’re wrong. That ‘research’ is either completely fabricated OR grossly misinterprets the data OR uses shitty research techniques to get the data they want- all which are grossly unethical, in case you’re curious. I’ve got slides from a recent lecture on vaccines (aka why I am so fired up about this nonsense). You can check out the citations on each slide if you don’t believe me… something unsurprisingly missing from literally every anti-vaccine comment I’ve gotten and website that I have visited. Show me your sources, honey, and if you do, I will blow them out of the water because not a single one stands up to current scientific research standards.

There are however tomes and tomes of research for the safety end efficacy of vaccines. Don’t believe me? Look at a simple google scholar search.

So! Here we go! 

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Holy shit, it’s almost like vaccines SAVE SOCIETY MONEY. In fact, they give money back to society, along with the other programs indicated by red arrows. Which would be really weird for something that is just a healthcare fad like c-sections and hospital births.

And most people have no complications for getting vaccines, and if they do, most of them are short term. In fact, it is devilishly hard to prove an adverse effect was because of a vaccine. Why? Because it’s how we’re wired. We falsely see connections and causes where there are none (called a type 1 error; you are rejecting a true null hypothesis). People are more likely to attribute an adverse health event to a shot- even if that shot is the placebo and the numbers are just the background rate for whatever health event in the population.

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And here is a graph showing the sample sizes necessary to prove that an adverse event is caused or related to a vaccine.

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You know what, it was a really good lecture and I’m going to share more more relevant slides in case any one else feels like contradicting me.

These slides show the public health impact of vaccines. Note the differences between the historical peak and post-vaccine era deaths columns. Because saving literally thousands of lives is totally a conspiracy you should beware of.

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And this is why herd immunity is so important! See how high it has to be for measles? Guess what we’re seeing outbreaks of thanks to anti-vaxxers? Don’t forget that one of the deadly complications of measles is SSPE.

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Look how Hepatitis A infections in older adults when down after kids started getting immunized. Shocking! Could vaccines be… good for …. everyone????

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Ahem.

Anti-vaxxers are a danger to the world and we need to stop them tbh

GODDAMMIT. I AM SICK OF THESE ANTI-VAXXER SHIT GOBLINS.

VACCINATE THOSE WHO CAN BE VACCINATED TO PROTECT THOSE WHO LEGITIMATELY CANNOT.

I DON’T GIVE A FUCK IF YOU THINK YOU’RE A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE FLOATING AROUND IN YOUR SPARKLY CLOUD OF YOUR OWN SELF RIGHTEOUS FARTS THAT WILL PROTECT YOU FROM DISEASES LIKE POLIO.

GET. A. GODDAMN. CLUE. THEN GET VACCINATED. VACCINATE YOUR SPAWN.

YOUR BATSHIT BELIEFS ARE KILLING PEOPLE.

In my opinion, refusing to vaccinate a child who can be vaccinated is tantamount to medical neglect. I am 100% done with being nice to anti-vaxxers. We need to bring back exiling people. Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy are the first to go.

Retweet because AGREED.

IT’S BACK

42,928 notes

fluffmugger:

ryttu3k:

shirilee:

keeperofthehens:

love-lust-rockyhorror:

listoflifehacks:


If you like this list of life hacks, follow ListOfLifeHacks for more like it!

I love how this post is like “Oh, clean up some of the nastiest, hard to clean shit with coke!” but doesn’t mention “Hey, you actually ingest this stuff that can clean CORRODED CAR BATTERIES.”

Uhg.

Heyyy this is because when you put carbon dioxide to make the carbonated water, you get carbonic acid. Carbonic acid varies in how much the pH is, especially in the different coke products. Strong enough to dissolve rust but not steel or any of the metals mentioned here.

But here’s the thing, carbonic acid is not one of the 6 strong acids. You know what is one of those? Hydrocholric acid. You know where you naturally secrete hydrocholric acid? Your stomach. Hydrochloric acid is some nasty stuff and WILL eat away at a screw if allowed to soak long enough. If you ever got just drop of a diluted solution on your skin in chem lab, then you can see where that would happen very easily.

The stronger acid wins. Your tummy is fine when you drink coke. Your tummy makes acid strong enough to fuck that corroded battery up. It can handle a can of coke. Please don’t swallow a screw or something to test this tho, please.

thank you science side of tumblr <3

Seriously. You could probably do all of these with lemon juice (citric acid) or vinegar (ethanoic, or acetic, acid) just because acids work in pretty similar ways. Actually, when you see people recommending vinegar as a household cleaner? This is what it’s doing!

Also, as someone who has accidentally inhaled hydrochloric acid fumes, TRUST ME, THE CARBONIC ACID IS MUCH BETTER.

Every time I see a hysterical post on modern food I just kinda point and laugh

Because dude. Dude.  You know what you breathe in and out every fucking second to survive? Oxygen. An incredibly corrosive gas that is probably responsible for more deaths across the history of the planet than anything else. Not only that, it’s a biproduct of photosynthesis. You literally rely on plant excretions to survive

Do you know what most of your body is made up of? Water. Which, given enough time, will destroy anything.

That morning coffee you like? Well shit, caffeine - lifeblood to many - is actually an incredibly potent nerve toxin (If you’re an insect). Plants actually produce that shit as an insecticide.

That refreshing zing from citrus?  Acid.  That juicy smack of a tomato? Acid and cadmium.  That tart in an apple? Arsenic.  That seasoning you put all over your fish and chips? Acid strong enough to destroy seashells - life that has evolved to survive living in a salt-drenched sea.

Stop being a tit and drink your damned coke.

(via sophiaphilemon)