Vaccination suddenly becomes a major political issue

The recent outbreak in measles cases has become a politically hot topic and brought to the forefront the problematic issue of balancing various rights. Politicians, especially in the Republican party, are having to dance around the issue to avoid stepping on the toes of their various bases of support and in the process have sometimes fallen flat on their faces. So as usual, they are trying to muddy the issue by blurring the lines between some fairly clear positions.
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Why do zebras have stripes?

The zebra, which is believed to have evolved from horses more than 2 million years ago, has such an unusual look that it just cries out for explanations and there have been no shortage of attempts to supply them. The one that has stuck in my mind is that the stripes provide camouflage in the long grass. Now another team of researchers have taken a shot at coming up with a different explanation.
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Global warming or climate change?

When I saw the cartoon below, I recalled that there have been times when I too was gently chastised for using the phrase ‘global warming’ and told that it was outdated and that the correct term was ‘climate change’. I was a little puzzled by this for two reasons. One is that I was unaware that there was some kind of shifting standard to be followed regarding usage. The other is that I felt that they referred to two different things so one could not replace the other.
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Silly weather reporting

The massive storm predicted earlier this week for the northeast corridor of the US and caused New York City to pretty much shut down, resulted in a mixed outcome. The storm did hit hard many regions of Massachusetts and the upper regions of New England, though friends of mine who live in Maine said that it was pretty much the kind of bad storm that hits them every winter and not an unprecedented one.
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What happened to Rapa Nui?

The story of Rapa Nui (better known as Easter Island), consisting of 63 square miles located 2,300 miles west of Chile, is one of enduring interest. How a lush island became a wasteland denuded of its trees, bereft of most of its population, and finally ended up primarily as a home for gigantic stone statues, is a mystery that has intrigued scientists for years.
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Who is not vaccinating, why, and who is suffering because of it

At the risk of sounding like broken record, I want to return to a topic that I feel very strongly about, and that is this issue of people not vaccinating their children. In the US at least, the opposition to vaccinations of children seems to be something affecting the affluent. These are the people who seem to have latched onto scary tales on the internet and the media that are warning about the dangers of the vaccines, though those claims have been thoroughly debunked.
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The many ways in which we can all die

There seems to be a subset of the population that easily succumbs to the idea that some major disaster is going to befall us at any time. The fear of an apocalyptic event that wipes out large chunks of humanity seems to act like oxygen for such people, and as a result we are regaled with the possibility of one imminent catastrophe after another, with diseases (Ebola, swine flu, bird flu), meteors or asteroids hitting the Earth, weather (a big snowfall in winter), and so on.
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Revisiting the topic of science and proof on the tenth anniversary of blogging

Yesterday marked the ten-year anniversary of my beginning blogging. For the first seven years I wrote on my university’s blogging platform and then three years ago I was invited to join the FreethoughtBlog network. Initially I just felt the need to try blogging but was not at all sure what form the blog would take and what I would write about. But I settled fairly quickly into a rhythm and though there have been some minor changes over time, basically it has ended up as me writing about whatever I felt worth writing about at the moment, mainly to clarify my own ideas about those issues with the help of the commenters. I have been impressed with the knowledge and insights that many readers have provided.
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The anti-vaxxers finally face a serious backlash

Those who have refused to vaccinate their children because of fears generated by a thoroughly debunked idea of a link between vaccines and autism have not really suffered much negative consequences for putting others, especially infants and elderly people, at risk. The anti-vaxxers are threatening the health of all of us while at the same time benefiting from the fact that the rest of us got vaccinated and thus will not pass it on to them. They are the real moochers. While scientists and the medical profession have expressed strong condemnation of the practice of not vaccinating, the public and the media have not been so outraged and celebrity spokespersons for the anti-vax movement still make the rounds of media.
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