Sunday, March 06, 2005

Is Bill Maher really that ignorant?

Via Skeptico.

I missed Bill Maher's HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher because I was away at my meeting. However, I have heard that he said that vaccines don't prevent disease and that Pasteur recanted on his deathbed. I'd like to see what he actually said before going off on him too much, but unfortunately the transcript for the show doesn't appear to be up yet, assuming it was the March 4 show. Did anyone else see the show? Did he say this? Was he being ironic or serious? Is there any way Skeptico could have misinterpreted what he said? Inquiring minds (like mine) want to know!

In any case, I've always found Bill Maher to be a bit too smug a bastard for my tastes, even back when he did his Politically Incorrect show, although he is at times quite entertaining. However, if he did actually say that vaccines don't prevent disease, I will have to move him from the category of "smug but entertaining curmudgeon that I usually disagree with but sometimes find entertaining anyway" to just plain "crank." Anyone who can seriously believe that vaccines don't prevent disease and actually say so to a national audience has moved from the realm of curmudgeonly skeptic into the realm of the fruitloop, as far as I'm concerned. If, further, Maher truly believes the myth that Pasteur recanted on his deathbead (a common myth promulgated by credulous alties to make it seem as though the father of germ theory decided before he died that he had been incorrect), I don't think I can watch his show any more. (Peter Bowditch did a fine job of debunking this particular myth about Pasteur last year.)

For someone who bills himself as being so rational and skeptical, proudly trumpeting his atheism and claiming that religious people have a "neurologic disorder" because of their belief in things that can't be proven, Maher certainly seems to be rather credulous about other things that fit into his own world-view. Certainly, his close affiliation with PETA and his rather uncritical acceptance of its claims argues for this. Money quote from an interview from a few years ago:
To those people who say, "My father is alive because of animal experimentation," I say "Yeah, well, good for you. This dog died so your father could live." Sorry, but I am just not behind that kind of trade off.
I will wait until the full transcript is out to see if Bill Maher really is that credulous about the lies of the anti-vaccination movement, but it's disappointing to see a self-proclaimed rationalist and "politically incorrect" skeptic spew such nonsense, if spew it he did.

11 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 3/06/2005 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny, I'm actually watching it right now. Your description "smug but entertaining curmudgeon that I usually disagree with but sometimes find entertaining anyway" used to be true for me, but now after watching this show, I've got to go with "crank."



At 3/06/2005 1:05 PM, Blogger Orac said...

So did he say what Skeptico says he said?


At 3/06/2005 2:58 PM, Blogger Dreaming again said...

As you know from my previous rant on the subject. I cannot believe it when people say this stuff. The crux of the problem is that our generation of people do not understand that we have been given a real gift in not having to suffer the consequences of these awful 'childhood' diseases.

Because they were labeled such, in our minds, how bad can they be. I've heard people compare polio to chicken pox & measles to strep throat. Those who lived through these epidemics know better. They know the fear, and the devastation, in a way that unless you really see or talk to someone who's survived ...or studied it from a scientific standpoint ... you cannot possibly comprehend the good the vaccine is doing!!!!

I've emailed you pictures of my husband & the severity of the damage from the polio, it only shows a portion of the problem, his clothes mask a lot. You my permission to use those pictures on your blog to show just how devastating the 'childhood' diseases that we are protecting ourselves from can be!


At 3/06/2005 2:59 PM, Blogger Dreaming again said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


At 3/06/2005 4:01 PM, Anonymous Skeptico said...

The show was Friday March 4. It’s on again tonight (9.40pm) – I’ll tape it and write out the exact transcript by tomorrow. It was on near the end, just before the “New Rules” segment, if anyone wants to watch it.

Thanks for your comments on the blog, btw. It’s a new project for me, as you can see.


At 3/06/2005 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, he basically comes out against the entire "medical establishment" - although I think all of the pot smoking has caused some long-term paranoia. I'm emailing you the clip.



At 3/07/2005 2:12 AM, Anonymous Skeptico said...

From watching the show again, Maher said:

I don't believe in vaccination either. That's a... well, that's a... what? That's another theory that I think is flawed, and that we go by the Louis Pasteur theory, even though Louis Pasteur renounced it on his own deathbed and said that Beauchamp(s) was right: it's not the invading germs, it's the terrain. It's not the mosquitoes, it's the swamp that they are breeding in.

I've posted more back here


At 3/07/2005 5:14 AM, Anonymous outeast said...

"it's not the invading germs, it's the terrain. It's not the mosquitoes, it's the swamp that they are breeding in."

What an odd metaphor. I can see combatting malaria by draining swamps, I guess, but I'm not sure about getting rid of germ-cause diseases by wiping out people...


At 3/17/2005 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Preferring my dog to your father is perfectly rational--and almost universally true. This may be tragic, but it's reality: I prefer my job to your life, I prefer my father to your child, I prefer my child to your town. The only people who disagree are lofty-minded idealists with defunct imaginations. A tragedy is a death in my family; a media event is a massacre in some distant land.


At 3/17/2005 6:59 PM, Blogger Orac said...

Bill Maher said nothing about preferring his dog. He said this dog died so your father could live. His statement has nothing to do with his preferring his dog to your father; it's about his equating the life of a dog with that of a human.


At 3/22/2005 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand Maher saying this dog shouldn't die so your father can live; that's just a matter of opinion; some folks do believe that no good can come of a bad act, etc. etc.
I can't agree with 'vaccination doesn't work', though. That's just a denial of fact. Particularly because there's nothing particularly hightech or conceptual about vaccination, it's just preparing the body's own natural immune system by giving it an advance glimpse of a disease it might see later.


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