Thought of the day

There exists this popular argument about morality that I just detest. It goes like this: If morality is to exist at all, it must be objective. The reason this is complete junk is that it assumes morality is objective in the first place. In fact, just add “objective” in front of “morality” and absolutely nothing changes about the point – the tautological flaw just becomes more obvious.

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An elaborate fraud

Andrew Wakefield is the disgraced research who claimed to have found a link between vaccines and autism in a 1998 study. This resulted in many deaths, increased illness, and his removal from the medical register in the U.K. Now a little investigative journalism has found that Wakefield outright made up a lot of his data.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.

And then children died because of Andrew Wakefield. I wonder when the public will get an apology from the media for promoting this pure horseshit? I’m not holding my breath.

In an accompanying editorial, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee and colleagues called Wakefield’s study “an elaborate fraud.” They said Wakefield’s work in other journals should be examined to see if it should be retracted.

I only include this because I had a different original source, so I hadn’t read this part of the article when I made the title to this post. I guess it’s just the most accurate way of describing the work of Andrew Wakefield.

Update: via PZ, watch Anderson Cooper engage in some responsible journalism by not letting Wakefield off the hook.

One of Baldacci’s last acts: Morally outstanding

One of now former Maine Governor John Baldacci’s final acts was one I cannot help but admire so much.

In one of his final acts as governor, John Baldacci signed an order Wednesday pardoning a Portland man [Touch Rin Svay] who faced deportation to Cambodia because of a drunken-driving crash that killed his sister [Sary Svay] 10 years ago.

Although he had lived in the United States since he was 4, he faced likely deportation because he was born to Cambodian parents in a refugee camp on the Thai border. He does not speak Cambodian and has no ties to that country.

The sentencing judge said deporting Svay would be “a horrible and unjust resolution.” Svay’s immigration attorney, Beth Stickney, said Svay’s only way to stay in the country was a pardon, a rarely used power the governor has to forgive crimes.

Baldacci said in a prepared statement that he issued the pardon largely because of Sary Svay’s two children and Touch Rin Svay’s role in supporting them.

“He has complied with the terms of his sentence, and has turned his life around,” Baldacci said. “But, in my mind, he continues to have an obligation to his sister’s two children — his niece and nephew — to be involved in their lives and to explain to them his actions. He is actively involved in their lives, and his debt cannot be fully repaid unless he maintains that supporting role.”

The article continues that Svay was due a pardon in 2004, but he admitted to minor transgressions of his parole and that caused a delay (as well as another 5 months in prison). Other than that, however, Svay has been a model citizen since completing his original sentence and subsequent probation violation, holding a steady job and helping to care for his niece and nephew. I greatly admire Gov. Baldacci for his decision. Svay has no connection to Cambodia; deporting him would be nothing short of inhumane. The right call was made today.

(Gov. Baldacci also pardoned a second man who had served a morally trivial but legally significant conviction from 18 years ago. That man, who was not named in the article, faced a similar situation, with all his family ties existing in Maine.)