Questionable Motives

October 18, 2009

Bill Maher Slap Down

Filed under: Biology,CAM,Education,Evolution,Medicine,vaccination — tildeb @ 1:47 pm

medical questionBill Maher, described here as a  pseudoscientific whackaloon, takes an intellectual beating from science blogger Orac.

If anyone still doubts that the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award (Bill Maher) is anti-vaccine, pure and simple, to his very core the above statement should lay to rest any doubts. Vaccination is not a “risky medical procedure.” It is among the safest medical procedures there is. Depending on the disease, it is also among the most effective. Arguably, no medical intervention ever envisioned by human beings has saved more lives at so low a cost and so low a risk as vaccination. His ignorance is just as toxic as any of those “toxins” he fears, particularly his ignorance that vaccination has undergone and continues to undergo long term cost-benefit analyses, safety monitoring, and study.

Maher says he just wants immunization open to ‘debate’ and that Western medicine (meaning science-based) likes to close off the ‘debate’.

That’s a lie, plain and simple.

It’s scientific medicine where the debate occurs. There’s been endless debate over who should be vaccinated, how effective the vaccine is, how bad the pandemic is going to be, who’s at most risk for the swine flu. That’s exactly what scientific medicine (referred to disparagingly by the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award as “Western medicine”) excels at. The problem is that the debate over whether vaccination works and is effective has already occured and didn’t go the way Bill Maher believes. He doesn’t like that. Maher even spews the easily refuted claim that it wasn’t the polio vaccine that eliminated polio.

As harmful as anti-evolution or AGW (global warming) denialism can be, the consequences are far off in the future, particularly for AGW denialism, where it’ll be decades at least. That makes it hard for many people to understand the harm, and perhaps somewhat understandably so. For anti-vaccine pseudoscience like what Bill Maher spews, the public health consequences are immediate and severe. People will die now, possibly lots of people, particularly children. Chris Matthews nailed it perfectly, too, when he compared Bill Maher to Tom Cruise denouncing psychology and therapy. The horrified look on Bill Maher’s face after that accusation was priceless. I suspect that Maher had never had his medical ignorance so pitch perfectly called out before.

I wanted Maher to show enough intellectual integrity to revisit his opinions about science based medicine in general and vaccines in particular after yesterday’s open letter by Shermer. I am sorely disappointed that it seems he doesn’t.



  1. Dear ~b:

    I agree with your post — I am myself collecting evidence of his bizarre conspiracy theory starting with a rant on Larry King in 2005.

    That said, his last name is spelled “Maher” which an “H”


    Comment by Richard Walker — October 19, 2009 @ 1:38 am | Reply

  2. Sincere apologies to all. Thanks for catching my mistake, RW. I have edited.

    Comment by tildeb — October 19, 2009 @ 10:22 pm | Reply

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