Scientific American Is Diametrically Opposed to Its Founder’s Vision

Rufus Porter, founder of Scientific American.
The man on the left is Rufus Porter. You’ve probably never heard of him, but during the middle of the 19th century, he was well known in certain circles. He was a professional painter, specializing in painting directly on the walls of homes to decorate them. Throughout his career, he painted murals in more than 160 homes. He was also a prolific inventor, designing things like passenger blimps, windmills, and rotary engines. He even designed a “revolving rifle,” which was purchased by Samuel Colt but never put into production. Finally, he was a promotor of science, which culminated in him founding Scientific American, the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States. It contains the works of many important scientists, including Albert Einstein.

While most people who are trying to keep up with the latest scientific advances probably know about Porter’s magazine, they probably don’t know about his vision for science. That’s because Scientific American has abandoned it, despite the fact that it is clearly stated in the very first issue. Here is how Porter put it:

First, then, let us, as rational creatures, be ever ready to acknowledge God as our Creator and daily Preserver; and that we are each of us individually dependant on his special care and good will towards us, in supporting the wonderful action of nature which constitutes our existence; and in preserving us from the casualties, to which our complicated and delicate structure is liable. Let us also, knowing our entire dependence on Divine Benevolence, as rational creatures, do ourselves the honor to express personally and frequently, our thanks to him for his goodness; and to present our petitions to Him for the favours which we constantly require. This course is rational, even without the aid of revelation: but being specially invited to this course, by the divine word, and assured of the readiness of our Creator to answer our prayers and recognize our thanks, it is truly surprising that any rational being, who has ever read the inspired writings should willingly forego this privilege, or should be ashamed to be seen engaged in this rational employment, or to have it known that he practices it. (R. Porter, “Rational Religion,” Scientific American 1: 1845)

Notice what the founder of Scientific American says at the end. He says it is “surprising” that any rational being who has read the Bible would avoid giving the Creator His due or be ashamed about doing so. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Scientific American is doing today. It gleefully promotes an atheistic worldview and even refuses to hire those who have the same vision as its founder.

While it’s sad to see what used to be an incredible magazine reject the vision of its founder, the fact is that science as a whole has been trying to do the same thing. The modern scientific method is a direct result of the Christian church, and most of the truly influential scientists of the past engaged in science because of their Christianity (see here, here, and here, for example). Nevertheless, the High Priests of the scientific community are diametrically opposed to the very faith that gave us modern science.

Thank God there are a few holdouts who honor the vision of those who founded modern science. I pray that they can do something to turn this truly unfortunate situation around.

Reflections on a Life That Didn’t Go According to Plan

Click for credit

Over the past two weekends, I attended two homeschooling conventions. They were both Great Homeschool Conventions, and after a year of doing no live conventions at all, I was overjoyed to be back in the saddle. I was also thrilled to see so many families refusing to live in fear and gathering together as a community. I had a lot of wonderful conversations with homeschooling veterans, new homeschooling parents, homeschool students, and homeschool graduates. While many people told me things that were deeply meaningful, there was one event that stands out in my mind, and I must share it.

A homeschooling mother stopped by my publisher’s booth and gave me a manila envelope. It contained a very nice card from her, and a report on some original research her high-school-age daughter had done under the supervision of a professor at a local college. It involved the interaction of bacteria and fungi with certain antibiotics and fungicides. The experiments produced some novel results, and it might end up being published in the scientific literature. The title page of the paper contained this handwritten note from the student:

Dr. Wile, I took what you taught me, and I ran with it. Thank you.

Apparently, she had used my book, Discovering Design with Chemistry, and was inspired to pursue a career in biochemistry, so she started taking college classes while still in high school. There, she met a professor who was happy to encourage her, and that’s how she ended up being able to do the experiments that are discussed in the report. She ended up coming by my publisher’s booth. We got to talk for a while, and I could see her eyes light up when she discussed what she had done. She clearly has a passion for scientific research, and it really made my day!

Since the time this enthusiastic young lady left my publisher’s booth, I have been waxing a bit nostalgic (being sappy is what my daughter would call it), thinking about all of the students who have told me about their scientific accomplishments. One student discovered a new virus. Another developed a new way of producing heavy elements. Another has published more than 40 articles in the scientific literature and is a leader in the field of prenatal imaging. I could go on and on.

What’s my point? Well, when I went to university, my plan was to do exactly what these incredible individuals are doing. I was going to get my Ph.D. in chemistry and become a world-class scientist. While I accomplished the first goal, the second never materialized. I got my Ph.D., became a professor, got grants to do research, and did research that lead to many publications in the peer-reviewed literature of nuclear chemistry. Had I continued, I would have gotten my shot at becoming a world-class scientist. But then something happened. I met my first homeschool graduate.

He was a student in my general chemistry course, and he was head-and-shoulders above his classmates. When I learned that he was homeschooled, I was shocked. I had no idea how a mother without any training (his mother hadn’t even gone to college) could produce a superstar science student. As time went on, I met more outstanding students who were homeschool graduates, so I investigated this “odd phenomenon” on my own. I found that my experiences were indicative of the norm: homeschool graduates are (on average) the best university students. As a result, I started working with homeschooling parents, and eventually, I started writing homeschooling curriculum for them.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that I loved writing curriculum more than university teaching and scientific research, so I eventually left the university and did some consulting work in order to spend more time writing. After my curriculum became popular enough, I stopped consulting and became a full-time writer. I did that for several years, but now I have found a way to balance teaching and writing, so I now teach both high school and university students while still producing new homeschooling curriculum.

While I truly love what I am doing, I sometimes wonder about the choices I made. Once I went to university, I had a solid plan. What would have happened had I followed that plan? Would I have made some great scientific breakthrough? Probably not. While I have made some modest scientific discoveries with the help of others (such as radial energy scaling in heavy-ion collisions and an explanation for an odd chemical phenomenon), I don’t think I have the talent that is required to do great scientific research.

After this past weekend, I have come to realize that I have a tangible reason for being glad my life didn’t go according to plan. Had I followed my plan, I would have probably been a mediocre scientist. Because I followed the opportunities the Lord placed in front of me, however, I have helped inspire some truly incredible people to become scientists. I am certain that they will eventually produce more scientific advancements than I ever could have.

I guess what I am saying is that if the Lord puts opportunities in your path that require you to change or abandon the plans you have made, you should take those opportunities. His plans are better than yours!

Common Inhaled Medication Seems to Reduce Hospitalization in COVID-19 Patients

An inhaler similar to the ones used in the study (click for credit)
A new study was recently posted on Medrxiv, a preprint server that allows you to post research articles that are currently being reviewed for publication. This particular study focused on using a very common inhaled medication, budesonide, as a treatment for COVID-19. It was conducted in a single community in the UK and used 146 subjects, all of which were over the age of 18 and had experienced symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 for 7 days or less. All were given the standard treatments for COVID-19, but half were also given an inhaler that contained budesonide and were told to use it twice per day. The authors wanted to see if this medication, which is known to reduce exacerbations related to COPD and asthma, would be effective in reducing the severity of COVID-19.

The study indicates that it is very effective. The authors found that 10 people in the group getting the normal treatment had a COVID-19-related urgent care visit, emergency department assessment, or hospitalization. Only 1 person in the group that got the usual treatment plus budesonide had that kind of outcome. In addition, the group that got budesonide recovered, on average, a full day earlier than those who did not get it. Finally, fewer patients in the budesonide group had persistent symptoms after 14 and 28 days. Thus, it seems that budesonide does aid in the treatment of COVID-19.

What prompted the study? As the authors state:

In early reports describing COVID-19 infection from China, Italy and the United States, there was a significant under representation of patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in patients hospitalised with COVID-19. We hypothesized that this may be due to the widespread use of inhaled [chemicals like budesonide] in these patients. (reference marks removed by me)

It looks like their hunch turned out to be right. Now, of course, there are limitations to the study. The sample size is reasonable, but not as large as that of a full-scale clinical trial. Also, it was conducted in a single community, which would provide a more homogenized group of people than a study conducted over a large geographic range. Nevertheless, the results are so dramatic that it is hard to understand how these limitations could invalidate the results.

If you end up experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, ask your physician about this study and whether or not budesonide might be a viable treatment option for you. Please note that like all medications (and foods), this medication has potential side effects in some people, so you shouldn’t take it without consulting a physician who knows your medical history.

An Interesting Interview with One of the Sane Voices in Climate Research

Dr. Judith Curry, a climate scientist who is actually committed to the science. (click for credit)
Dr. Judith Curry holds an earned Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from The University of Chicago. For the last 14 years of her career, she was a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. For the majority of that time, she was the chairperson of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She has authored 196 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has two books to her credit. By any objective measure, she is a giant in the field of climate science. Because she is actually interested in understanding how climate works, she was officially branded a heretic by the High Priests of Science. Seven years later, she resigned her professorship at the Georgia Institute of Technology because she could no longer figure out, “…what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science.”

Because I respect her knowledge, intellect, and commitment to science, I read her blog. On Saturday, she posted the transcript from an interview she did for a podcast. I am not familiar with the podcast, and I prefer to read rather than listen. In reading the transcript, I found nothing new related to her views on climate change, but I was fascinated by her historical analysis of the field of climate science. While I encourage you to read the entire transcript, I will highlight what really struck me.

When asked about how climate scientists viewed climate change when she was getting her degrees (the 1970s and 1980s), she said that aside from a few “very rambunctious people,” climate change was not a big issue with scientists. When the IPCC formed in the late 1980s, she said that most climate scientists didn’t want to get involved with it:

They said, this is just a whole political thing. This is not what we do. We seek to understand all the processes and climate dynamics, we don’t want to go there. And that was really a pretty strong attitude, through, I would say the mid nineties, say 1995. We had the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at that point, they’re trying to get a big treaty going. And so defenders of the IPCC started pushing the idea that anybody who doubts us or challenges us, they are in the pay of big oil. After that, it became much more difficult to really challenge all that. And certainly by the turn of the century, anybody who was questioning the hockey stick or any of these other things were slammed as deniers and ostracized. And then after Climategate in 2010, the consensus enforcers became very militant. So it’s a combination of politics, and some mediocre scientists trying to protect their careers. And, they saw this whole thing as a way for career advancement, and it gives them a seat at the big table and political power. All this reinforces pretty shoddy science and overconfidence in their expert judgment, which comprises the IPCC assessment reports.

I found this interesting because as an outsider looking in, I have to agree with her assessment that the IPCC has reinforced “shoddy science.” I don’t know even 5% of what Dr. Curry knows about climate, and I know precisely 0% of what she knows about the internal dynamics of her field. However, after reading each IPCC report (from the 2001 synthesis report on), I was amazed at the shoddiness of the science and the overconfidence they had in their conclusions.

Consider, for example, their view of how humans have impacted the earth’s climate. In 2001, they said that human-emitted greenhouse gases are “likely” responsible for more than half of the earth’s temperature increase since 1951. By 2007, climate scientists had shown that the models used in 2001 were wrong, and they also found new variables related to climate which were poorly understood. Nevertheless, in their 2007 report, the IPCC said that human-emitted greenhouse gases are “very likely” responsible. Over the next six years, climate scientists continued to show that the models used by the IPCC were wrong and continued to find more uncertainties in our understanding of climate. But over that same period, the IPCC decided that that human-emitted greenhouse gases are “extremely likely” responsible.

In real science, when uncertainties grow, the conclusions become more and more tentative. In climate science, the reverse seems to be the case. More uncertainties seem to lead to more confidence in the conclusions. That’s pretty much the definition of shoddy science.

Despite What You May Have Heard, 2020 was the Deadliest Year On Record

This is an example of one of the many false things you will read on social media.
As I have said countless times before, social media is a horrible source for information. Someone can post a lie, and people who are too lazy to investigate issues for themselves will simply share that lie. Pretty soon, lots of people have been fooled. This is especially true when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider, for example, the image on the left. It claims that with just two weeks left in 2020, the total number of deaths in the United States was lower than the total number of deaths in 2019. This, of course, is meant to support the conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t real. The problem, of course, is that the post is simply false, and anyone who spends even a short amount of time investigating it will see that.

Back in September, I posted a graph that was widely available on the internet. I checked it with the data that were known at the time and found it to be accurate. Even back then, we knew that 2020 was lining up to be the deadliest year in history. In July, several news outlets (like this one) ran a story on a medical study that showed deaths in the U.S. had spiked by 18%. In October, more stories (like this one) reported that there were 300,000 excess deaths in 2020 compared to the same time frame in 2019. In late December, several stories (like this one) reported that 2020 was on track to be the deadliest year in U.S. history.

If you don’t believe these reports, you can check the data for yourself. I downloaded the file yesterday, and it indicated that there were 3,128,646 deaths in the U.S. from 1/1/2020 to the week ending 12/19/2020 (the last week available at that time). In 2019, the total death count was 2,852,610. Now please note that these numbers are still not final; they will both increase. The 2020 numbers will increase more with the final weeks being included and with new information coming in from very rural areas. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that 2020 was significantly more deadly than 2019. In fact, in terms of total numbers, it is the deadliest year on record. Even when you look at the increase in deaths between 2019 and 2020 as a percentage of the population, you find that it is second only to what happened between 1917 and 1918, when deaths as a percentage of the population rose by 46% because of World War I and the Spanish influenza pandemic.

There are many reasons to distrust the government. Indeed, there are many things that I think the government is lying about. In each case, however, I have come to that conclusion because I think the data demonstrate that the government is promoting falsehoods. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the data are clear and easily found by anyone willing to invest even a modicum of effort investigating the issue. It is real, and it turned 2020 into the deadliest year in U.S. history.

“Climate Change” Is Not Killing Pacific Northwest Coho Salmon

It has become so fashionable to blame every calamity on “climate change” that scientists are overlooking REAL environmental issues, like tire waste. (click for credit)

Nowadays, if you want to get funding and become popular in the scientific community, you need to blame any natural calamity you are studying on climate change (aka global warming). For example, salmon populations in the west have been on the decline, and predictably, global warming has been trumpeted as the cause. As one source suggests:

Pacific salmon that spawn in Western streams and rivers have been struggling for decades to survive water diversions, dams and logging. Now, global warming is pushing four important populations in California, Oregon and Idaho toward extinction, federal scientists warn in a new study.

Of course, when serious scientists actually looked at the situation, they found that temperature is not responsible at all, at least not specifically for coho salmon. The scientists investigated multiple possibilities, and they ruled out rising temperatures. As one of the authors stated:

We had determined it couldn’t be explained by high temperatures, low dissolved oxygen or any known contaminant, such as high zinc levels…

Like good scientists, then, they ruled out the “fashionable” explanation and decided to find the real cause. Not surprisingly, they did. They found that urban stormwater runoff could cause the same symptoms that were known to be killing the coho salmon, so the authors painstakingly analyzed the runoff and ran multiple tests.

They identified the chemical that was killing the coho salmon but could not figure out where it came from. Eventually, the researchers found that this chemical was similar to a preservative used in tires, which is charmingly known as “6PPD.” After several experiments, they found that when 6PPD is exposed to ozone and sunlight, it can be broken down into the killer chemical. Thus, the coho salmon are not being killed by today’s favorite boogeyman. Instead, they are being killed by a chemical produced as a result of tire waste.

Now, of course, since the authors of this study seem to be careful scientists (unlike so many that exist today), they are unwilling to generalize their results. Thus, this conclusion applies only to what is killing the coho salmon in the Pacific Northwest. There might be other causes for what is killing the other species, but I hope this motivates scientists to question the “fashionable” explanation of “global warming” and actually do some serious scientific investigation, like this team did. If so, real science might still be able to help us understand (and the hopefully fix) the problem.

I Will Be Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine as Soon as I Can

Creative Commons License, click for source

Not long ago, I wrote a post about the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer. At that time, I only had access to the results of the small clinical trial, but those results were very encouraging. Now, the initial results of the large clinical trial are available, and they are even more encouraging. In short, the vaccine is 95% effective at preventing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the group that was being tested. While there were side effects, they were generally mild. Of course, not all kinds of people were tested. People under 16 years of age were not included in the clinical trial. Neither were pregnant women nor those who are immunocompromised. Thus, the results don’t apply to people in those groups.

Like most clinical trials used for licensure of a medication, this was a large-scale, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. That means a large number of people (43,538) were randomly assigned to receive either two doses of a placebo (an injection of saltwater) or two doses of the vaccine. The doses were separated by 21 days. Neither the people getting the injections nor the researchers directly involved in the study were aware of which injection each person got (that’s what “double blind” means). Once there were enough COVID-19 cases among all the participants to make a reasonable conclusion about the results, the researchers learned which injection each participant got. At that point, they could compare the two groups.

When they made the comparison, they found that starting seven days after the second dose, there were only 8 cases of COVID-19 in the group that got the vaccine doses, while there were 162 among those who got the saltwater injections. Thus, the vaccine clearly provides strong protection against COVID-19, at least among people like those who were in the study. Now please understand that people in the study were only tested for COVID-19 if they exhibited symptoms, so this says nothing about whether or not the vaccine protects against asymptomatic COVID-19 infections.

Of course, the small clinical trials had already shown that the vaccine would be effective at preventing symptomatic cases of COVID-19. This large-scale trial was done to confirm that result and, more importantly, to determine whether or not the vaccine is safe for the majority of people. While it is impossible to know for sure, all indications are that for people over 16 who are not pregnant and not immunocompromised, the vaccine is safe. The vast majority of vaccine recipients reported pain at the injection site, compared to only a small percentage of those who got the placebo. Small percentages of those who got the vaccine also reported redness and swelling at the injection site.

The most commonly-reported side effect after pain at the injection site was fatigue. In people aged 16-55, for example, 59% of those receiving the vaccine reported fatigue after the second dose, compared with 23% of those who got the placebo. The percentages were slightly lower for those over 55. Headache was the next most common side effect, followed by muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. Figure 2 from the study gives a good summary. There were a total of four people who had severe reactions to the vaccine. Those reactions were a shoulder injury related to administration of the vaccine, severely swollen lymph nodes, an abnormal heart rhythm, and unexplained severe sensations in the leg. There were two vaccine recipients who died, but there were four placebo recipients who died. None of the deaths were judged to be related to the clinical trial.

Based on these results, I plan to get the vaccine as soon as I am allowed to. My wife is in a high-risk group, and she will as well. My adult daughter and her husband have a business that requires extensive travel throughout the U.S. They will also be getting it. Whether or not you or your family get this vaccine (or one of the others that will no doubt become available over time) is up to you. Medical decisions are deeply personal and should be made in consultation with a physician who knows your medical history. I would never presume to tell anyone how to make such decisions. I simply wanted to communicate to my readers what I think the data say about this vaccine.

I will add one more thing. One of my readers said that she heard the COVID-19 vaccine can make women unable to have babies, because the vaccine is training the body’s immune system to fight a protein that is similar to syncytin-1, a protein important to the formation of a placenta. Thus, it is possible that a woman who gets pregnant after getting the vaccine will be unable to form a placenta. While it is true that the proteins are similar, their similarity is in their function, not their actual structure. Both proteins facilitate connection to a membrane, but they do so in very different ways. As a result, their structures are quite different, and a protein’s structure is what the immune system attacks. Thus, there is no reason to expect that the vaccine will cause the immune system to attack syncytin-1.

In addition, women who contract the actual disease would have the same problem, since the immune system attacks the same protein whether it comes from the instructions given by the vaccine or the virus itself. I don’t know of any reports indicating that women who contracted COVID-19 are unable to form a placenta. Finally, while pregnant women were excluded from the trial, 23 got pregnant during the trial. Twelve of them were in the group that got the vaccine. They are being followed, and as of the December 4th National Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting, no adverse effects have been found.

Kansas Confirms Mask Mandates Don’t Do Much To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Comparison of COVID-19 cases in Kansas Counties that adopted a mask mandate on July 3 and those that did not. (click for higher resolution)

My previous post discussed two studies that seem to indicate masks have little effect when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19. I had several Facebook commenters who disagreed with my interpretation of the studies, which is not surprising. One commenter linked a recent study promoted by the CDC, which makes the remarkable conclusion that in Kansas, counties that adopted a mask mandate saw a 6% decrease in new cases, while those that did not adopt the mandate saw a 100% increase. If true, that indicates masks have a strong effect when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19. After reading the study and doing my own analysis of the numbers, I have to say that unfortunately, it is not true.

Once again, let me preface this by saying that I am not anti-mask. I wear a mask whenever I am in public, and I did so even before my state made it mandatory. In addition, I am not telling people to stop wearing masks. As I said in my first post, any mask not made specifically for viruses will be pretty much worthless in protecting the wearer. However, a mask does reduce the number of water droplets that the wearer spews into the air, and since those droplets can contain viruses, it probably does protect the people around the wearer, albeit to a small extent. Thus, you should wear a mask. At the same time, however, you need to have a realistic idea of what kind of protection it provides. So far, the data say it offers only a little protection.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the study. It examined various counties in Kansas that adopted a mask mandate on July 3, 2020 and compared them to the other counties that did not adopt a mask mandate. It developed a seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases for both sets of counties and compared the numbers before July 3 and After July 3. The graph (shown near the bottom of the study) shows that while the 7-day rolling average continued to climb for those counties that did not adopt a mask mandate, it fell a bit for those counties that did. Thus, the mask mandate actually reduced COVID-19 cases, while lack of a mandate resulted in a steady increase in cases.

Continue reading “Kansas Confirms Mask Mandates Don’t Do Much To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19”

Mask Recommendations Make Little to No Difference

A surgical mask like the ones used in the study being discussed (click for credit)

In the midst of this pandemic, most governments are requiring people to wear mask in public. I will start this by saying that I began wearing a mask early on in the pandemic, long before any mandates were made. I didn’t wear one because I thought it would be effective. Even a basic understanding of science tells us that standard masks provide little protection against the spread of a virus. Protecting yourself against a virus using a mask that is not made specifically for viruses is roughly equivalent to protecting your yard against mosquitoes by installing a chain-link fence.

However, a mask does reduce how many water droplets you spew into the air, and since those droplets can carry viruses, there is probably some small protective effect for those with whom you come into contact. I wore a mask early on simply to put others at ease. Now I wear one because I think people must follow a society’s rules (unless they are immoral) in order to be a functional member of that society. If the mandates were lifted, however, I would still wear a mask in public until the pandemic dies out, simply because some people think it protects them, and I want to put such people at ease.

Having said that, there has been one study that concluded mask mandates reduced the rise of COVID-19 infections by a tiny amount. However, the study couldn’t conclude that the masks were the cause of the tiny decline. Most likely, when a mask mandate is instituted, people become naturally more cautious, limiting their social interactions, being more aware of social distancing, etc. Thus, it’s possible that the masks had nothing to do with the small reduction in COVID-19 cases.

My publisher sent me a recent study that tries to address the question a bit more effectively than the study linked above. It didn’t test masks directly, because it would be impractical to follow people around making sure they were wearing their masks. However, the study gave 3,030 people a set of recommendations for protecting themselves against COVID-19. They included things like social distancing, etc., as well as the recommendation to wear a mask, 50 surgical masks, and instructions on how to use them. The study also gave 2,994 people the same set of recommenstions, minus the mask recommendation, the masks, and their instructions. After 1 month, they tested people for COVID-19 antiboides. This was all during a time when their communites did not issue any mask recommendations or mandates.

The results showed that slighly fewer people in the mask group contracted COVID-19 than those in the no-mask group. However, because the number of people who contracted COVID-19 during the study was small, the difference between the groups could have been the result of random chance. In the end, the authors use basic statistics to conclude that the mask group was somewhere between 46% less likely to get the disease and 23% more likely to get the disease. As they say:

The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use. The data were compatible with lesser degrees of self-protection.

Now, of course, we have no idea what percentage of the people in the mask group actually followed the recommendation, but the study made it pretty easy to do so. Combined with the study I linked at the beginning of the post, I think we can conclusively say that if the typically-used masks provide protection against COVID-19, it is small. Thus, when “experts” say nonsense like this:

If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really think in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control.

We know they are not using science to inform their opinion.

A New Kind of Vaccine for COVID-19

Pfizer’s description of how an mRNA vaccine works (click for larger version)
There has been a lot of talk about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, and a reader asked me to comment on it. The company claims it is more than 90% effective at preventing the disease, which is better than what most health-care experts were expecting. If true, that news is exciting enough. To add to the excitement, it is a new kind of vaccine that has great potential, if it works the way it is supposed to. There is another company trying to produce a similar vaccine, but it looks like Pfizer is in the lead, so for the purpose of this article, I will focus on its version.

Let me start by saying that I have no connection to Pfizer or any other pharmaceutical company. I am a science educator who writes about science issues like this one. I am also not a medical doctor or medical researcher. I am simply a nuclear chemist who has broadened my knowledge base by writing (or co-writing) a series of textbooks used by home educators and teachers in Christian schools. Thus, I am no expert on these matters. However, I get most of my information by reading the scientific literature, which allows me to avoid a lot of the misinformation found in the standard media outlets and (even worse) social media.

Before I talk about Pfizer’s vaccine in particular, I want to explain how this kind of vaccine works. To understand that, remember that a traditional vaccine uses a weakened/inactivated form of the pathogen whose infection it wants to prevent (or a chemical mimic of that pathogen). This causes your body to react as if it is being infected by the real thing. As a result, it mounts a defense that is specific to that pathogen and remembers how to fight it. That way, if you get infected by the real thing, it can mount a swift immune response. This process takes advantage of your acquired immune system. However, you also have an innate immune system, and the active ingredient of the vaccine does not stimulate it. As a result, traditional vaccines have additives, called adjuvants, which are designed to stimulate your innate immune system. That way, everything in your immune system works the way it is designed to work.

Continue reading “A New Kind of Vaccine for COVID-19”