Appeals to nature — anti-vax, natural childbirth, lactivism — are inherently conservative: why do liberals fall for them?

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Anyone whose read the Skeptical OB for any length of time knows that I am a proud liberal.

I strongly believe in equal rights for all, justice for the downtrodden and hold the conviction that the future is usually better than the past. Most liberals seem to share those views, with one important exception: many liberals imagine that nature is better than technology, hence they oppose vaccination, are terrified by “toxins,” and unthinkingly promote natural childbirth and lactivism.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]They’ve been manipulated by charlatans who play on their fears to convince them that the past was better than the present.[/pullquote]

What’s going on here?

Appeals to nature are inherently conservative. They look back to a glorious (often mythical) past, lament the technological present and fear the future. It’s not hard to understand why conservatives are backward looking. Religious conservatives in particular view nature as the product of the divine and loving wisdom of a God who created the world especially for human beings. It stands to reason that the state of nature (“Garden of Eden”) is the state that God intended for us. We screwed up and we were banished. It’s not surprising that conservatives want to go back to that perfect past (even if it never actually existed).

But why would liberals desire a conservative past? I suspect that in most cases they don’t. They’ve been manipulated by hucksters and charlatans who play on people’s fears to convince them that the past was better than the present.

Take anti-vaxxers. They are buffoons with a perfect record. In the entire 200 year history of anti-vaccination advocacy, they’ve never been right even once. They are the Donald Trumps of the scientific world: ignorant, pathological liars who perpetually rewrite the past — vaccine preventable diseases weren’t that bad; they were disappearing before the advent of vaccines; vaccines cause autism — in order to manipulate people’s behavior in the present. Anti-vax advocacy is the scientific equivalent of the Republican tax plan: it promises improvements and it brings only misery. And just like Republican donors are the only ones who benefit from Republican tax legislation, professional anti-vaxxers are the only ones who benefit from anti-vax; they get rich while the people they conned get sick.

The food phobes are no different. They, too, imagine a glorious past where Paleolithic peoples cavorted amid food pyramids — no famines, no vitamin deficiencies, no food borne illnesses — and lived forever. The truth is that Paleolithic peoples died young in droves; some of them, the Neanderthals, actually became extinct. A graphic of world population growth makes the argument in no uncertain terms. It demonstrates that those who promote back to nature conservatism because we were limited to nature for tens of thousands of years and “we are still here” are ignorant, illogical or both.


Who benefits from food phobia and toxin phobia? The only people who benefit are those who bleat about “toxins” so they can profit from quack “detoxes,” books and TV shows. There’s no evidence that even a single person’s health has been improved (let alone entire populations) by “detoxing.”

Natural childbirth advocacy and lactivism also hark back to a past that never existed. Advocates either don’t know or don’t care that childbirth in nature is deadly, a leading cause of death of young women and the leading cause of death of children. They either don’t know or don’t care that breastfeeding has a high failure rate leading to infant brain damage and death.

Indeed, natural childbirth and lactivism are even more conservative than anti-vax and toxicophobia. That’s because both recapitulate the sexism and misogyny which has been a feature of all human societies until relatively recently. Biological essentialism has always been the standard justification for misogyny: women are weaker and designed only for reproduction; therefore they can and should be excluded from everything else. Both natural childbirth advocacy and lactivism rest on the principle that women are designed for reproduction; they must be controlled by their bodies and should never be allowed to control those bodies.

It’s hardly surprising that many religious conservatives (e.g. Bill and Martha Sears of attachment parenting) teach that biology is destiny for women. What’s surprising is that many women who claim to be feminists are susceptible to that old canard. Paleolithic times were most certainly not a paradise for women; they were hell, with widespread death of women and their children, widespread sexual violation and widespread and profound oppression. What’s feminist about that?

Appeals to nature are inherently conservative. So explain it to me, liberals: why have so many of you fallen for the conservative nonsense of anti-vax, toxicophobia, natural childbirth and lactivism?

102 Responses to “Appeals to nature — anti-vax, natural childbirth, lactivism — are inherently conservative: why do liberals fall for them?”

  1. Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild
    December 16, 2017 at 10:50 am #

    Because those “liberals” aren’t really liberals. They’re what I call “tree hugging racists”. Cut down a red wood or shoot a deer and OMG they’ll do anything to save the pretty landscape or poor innocent bambi! A black toddler falls into a zoo exhibit and its “let the brat die” instead of shooting the gorilla mauling the child. Millions of children starving in Africa due to war or cholera, well that’s “over population” and “darwin” so don’t bother to intervene, let “nature” sort the problem of too many black children out. That’s why they’re anti-vax, they see their spawn as superior to the lower classes that use cheap preventative medicine. Their kids don’t need to boost their immune systems, they’r’e better than the poors!

    • Claire Secrist
      December 16, 2017 at 11:35 am #

      This is a real phenomenon. Recently, I had it out with a woman about how atrocious it was for her to straight up tell black people, that dogs are just as important as they are. (The conversation was about how police shoot dogs when they shouldn’t, and a white woman told a blaxk woman that shooting a dog was as bad as shooting a person.) I am a lifelong treehugger, no apologies, but some people really do value a distorted view of natural selection over real people.

      Otoh, you are doing your argument a great disservice by portraying wildlife conservation like it’s a frivolous fixation on landscape beauty and Bambi.

  2. The Bofa on the Sofa
    December 9, 2017 at 9:26 am #

    Here’s an example of the conservative objection to vaccines

    If you can keep from laughing….

    (although it sounds like some bullshit that ChiaPet would pull out)

    • StephanieJR
      December 16, 2017 at 2:28 pm #

      I think my brain just imploded.

  3. shay simmons
    December 6, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    “Not natural, in my view, sah. Not in favor of unnatural things.’

    Vetinari looked perplexed. ‘You mean, you eat your meat raw and sleep in a tree?” ~ Terry Pratchett

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      December 6, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

      I miss Sir Terry so, so much.

    • The Vitaphone Queen
      December 31, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

      Sort of off topic: Anyone here use to read Nickelodeon Magazine? The REAL one (1993-2009), not that awful new one. Anyone remember those little prank flyers and stuff each issue had? Well, one issue (August 2005 to be exact) had a prank flyer for “Rebekkah’s Natural Restaurant”. “We do have a quantity of fresh rainwater, weather permitting.”

      I’ll have to see if I still have it.

  4. guest
    December 6, 2017 at 4:58 am #

    OK…this is a little off-topic, as it has nothing to do with partisan politics…but here goes.

    Today at work, I ran into a woman who proclaimed herself proudly “anti-vaxx” – and proceeded to tell us all about how she refused to have her dogs or cats vaccinated, because the rights of animals to refuse vaccines due to the threat of autism should be respected, too.

    While I stood around flabbergasted and temporarily unable to form words while I pondered this, she noticed that I am heavily pregnant, and immediately wrote me up a list of books she thought I needed to read immediately. What were these books about? Attachment Pregnancy.

    That’s right. Not Attachment Parenting, Attachment Pregnancy. Because if you don’t devote the entire ten months of gestation to developing the perfect psychic bond with your baby, through maintaining an uninterrupted zen-like state of placid contentment, the little cuddlebug will be emotionally scarred for life. Apparently anxiety and self-doubt cross the placental barrier. Who knew?

    I have no idea who anti-vaxx dog-owner lady voted for. I just needed to rant and OMGWTFBBQ! reaction over the whole encounter.

    • Allie
      December 6, 2017 at 5:13 am #

      Wow! But “cuddlebug”… that’s gold.

    • Who?
      December 6, 2017 at 5:14 am #

      I trust the list is safely filed in COFFS (cylindrical on-floor filing system).

      Good luck with the baby!

      • guest
        December 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

        Thank you!

        And yes, the COFFS has served me well. 😉

    • kilda
      December 6, 2017 at 8:06 am #

      aren’t cats basically autistic anyway?

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      December 6, 2017 at 8:07 am #

      Hey, you have a handy list of books to avoid like the plague. Or German measles infection.

    • Dr Kitty
      December 6, 2017 at 8:15 am #

      Oh Lordy!

      Mind you, my local NHS maternity service puts a really stupid leaflet in the big pile of crap they give pregnant people at booking.

      It’s called something like “the importance of bonding with your unborn baby” and says things like “remember your baby can hear your voice- why not sing to them or read them a story” and “ take some time every day to sit quietly and communicate with your baby”.

      Like… if they didn’t have this leaflet people wouldn’t spontaneously make an emotional connection with their baby?

      I honestly don’t know what problem this leaflet is designed to solve, but I suspect if you’re the kind of person who wasn’t planning to ever think about your baby while you’re pregnant, but now will because of a leaflet, the underlying issues aren’t really going to be resolved by this advice…

      • S
        December 6, 2017 at 10:42 pm #

        With my 3rd pregnancy, there were times I wouldn’t have remembered I was pregnant if I wasn’t 40lbs heavier and vomiting daily. I couldn’t remember my due date or how far along I was. Don’t worry, he heard my voice plenty while I was trying to chase down his older siblings.

        • guest
          December 7, 2017 at 1:35 am #

          Haha. Yeah, during this pregnancy I’ve had to sit through a lot of long, laborious meetings and training days led by my very talkative boss.
          I joke that the baby will be born preoccupied with spring quarter sales projections. and imprinted on upper management.

          When she hears my voice, she’ll be like “Who the heck is this person?”

    • StephanieJR
      December 6, 2017 at 10:11 am #

      What? I mean, what? That’s… a new level of crazy. What is wrong with people?

      (If anything, the last vaccine my rabbit got made her cuddlier on the day! Might have something to do with the fact that she is naturally a cuddlebug that goes through periods of sitting beside me rather than on me, or that the scary vet visit made her want some reassurance)

      • guest
        December 6, 2017 at 6:44 pm #


        The internet needs more cute bunny stories. Just MHO.

        • StephanieJR
          December 7, 2017 at 10:21 am #

          Well luckily for you, I have hundreds and don’t know when to stop! I kid, I kid, but I have thought about starting a ‘weirdest/cutest thing my child/pet/spouse did today’ thread sometimes, if only because toddlers are hilarious and my rabbit is odd.

          I’ll tell one little story, hopefully as a palate cleanser. Amy is a bunny with two big traits: she’s very affectionate, and an utter attention whore. She loves to sit and lick my hand, then shove her head under it to get petted.

          Lately, however, if I’ve got bare arms, she will start licking my elbow, take a step backwards, lick lower down, and keep licking and moving backwards until she reaches my hand. She knows where she gets pets from, and then shoves her head under my hand to get pets. And lord help you if you stop too soon! She has no sense of boundaries or personal space.

    • December 6, 2017 at 11:24 am #

      … the fuck?

    • Resident
      December 6, 2017 at 11:40 am #

      lol. I was accosted by an anti vaxxer while heavily pregnant after a yoga class who told me not to poison my offspring with vaccines. I obv took her advice over my OB and pediatrician. Who wouldn’t trust a random pushy stranger with no credentials over their physicians?

    • Roadstergal
      December 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

      Anti-vax pet owners make me as mad as anti-vax parents.

      Sure, we could have kept our dog from getting rabies, but we didn’t. Disgusting.

      • guest
        December 6, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

        Yeah, she also had a spiel about how rabies and smallpox might not even be real, because she had never met or heard of anybody who contracted them.

        There is a lot to unpack there.

      • Heidi
        December 9, 2017 at 10:58 am #

        I think in some ways it makes me even madder because rabies is a threat to most mammals, including humans. And there’s nearly a zero percent chance you’ll make it out alive, but of course not before suffering immensely. Sadly, I can kind of foresee a future where these antivax assholes bring rabies back and we experience a real zombie apocalypse.

    • namaste
      December 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

      Just when I thought I’d heard everything……..

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      December 6, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

      Well, anxiety/stress hormones DO cross the placental barrier and aren’t good for baby…
      …and that’s why my OB offered me Zoloft when anxiety and depression started rearing their heads while I was pregnant.
      What, she didn’t mean that?

    • Mike Stevens
      December 7, 2017 at 6:28 am #

      “I have no idea who anti-vaxx dog-owner lady voted for.”
      I do.

    • Claire Secrist
      December 16, 2017 at 11:36 am #

      If it’s illegal in your area to not do rabies shots, you need to report her.

  5. Sue
    December 6, 2017 at 2:46 am #

    I always find it highly ironic when appeals to nature are made on the internet.

  6. 3boyz
    December 5, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    I am neither liberal nor into any sort of woo, but as I understand it, these things have elements that appeal to both sides. For conservatives, you can put it in terms of “women’s roles”, “God’s design”, and “parents have the right to make any and all decisions, so authorities need to butt out”. But you can also put a liberal spin on it. “Women’s empowerment” in fighting back against patriarchal medicine (which WAS a problem for a long time- i.e. twilight birth, drying up breastmilk in favor of formula etc), and fighting against Big Pharma and Big Chem and The Food Industry and other such corporate bugaboos. Basically, you can spin the woo claims to appeal to either end of the political spectrum. I don’t see liberals as being less susceptible or conservatives as being more so.

    • Daleth
      December 5, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

      Did you know that back in the day, twilight birth was actually a feminist cause? As in, they WANTED it, they demanded that women should have the right to be free of pain and trauma in childbirth?

      • 3boyz
        December 5, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

        The problem was, it became standard protocol and a lot of women didn’t want it. They wanted to be awake and present while giving birth. There was eventually a feminist cause against twilight sleep. Not to mention, patient autonomy/informed consent was not much of a thing then either. Women demanded better options, and those thankfully happened (God bless the epidural!) Many natural birth people still relate to hospitals and medical professionals as representatives of a patriarchal system that you need to fight every step of the way. Not so true these days (although still plenty of problems, especially when it comes to believing women insisting something is physically wrong and not all in her head) but there was a time when medicine was pretty thoroughly patriarchal and it seems that some have yet to move on from that.

        • Lilly de Lure
          December 6, 2017 at 6:01 am #

          Agreed – it’s crazy that the idea that pregnant/new mothers should be given the facts and allowed to make their own decisions on the basis of those facts without every Tom, Dick or Harriet with an agenda/opinion sticking their oar in to tell her she is doing it wrong (which was the original motivation behind both the push for twilight and for natural birth) appears to be such a difficult one for people to grasp.

        • Daleth
          December 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

          Right. The point is that twilight sleep is not itself feminist or unfeminist. What is feminist is letting women decide, assuming informed consent, how they want to give birth–with or without the best available pain relief (twilight sleep no longer qualifies but initially it was all we had), vaginally or via c-section, etc.

      • FallsAngel
        December 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

        Yes, and Queen Victoria was the among the first to use chloroform to relieve childbirth pain in 1853. Some people thought that violated a Bible passage about “in pain shalt thou bear children” that was Eve’s punishment for eating that apple.
        ” In 1956, Pope Pius XII approved pain relief during childbirth. US and British movements advanced obstetric anesthesia from the early 1900s to the present. Women lobbied to assure pain relief during labor and sought greater control over delivery. The medical establishment haltingly increased anesthetic availability. In 1914, some US women organized the National Twilight Sleep Association, bringing this popular European technique to the US. But when one of its prominent advocates died during childbirth in 1915 while using twilight sleep, the Association came to an end. Some use of twilight sleep persisted in the US until the 1960s. In the 1920s, one in two hundred British women died during childbirth. In 1928, British women formed the National Birthday Trust Fund to decrease mortality, and make modern pain relief during childbirth available.”
        (Emphasis mine)

    • FallsAngel
      December 8, 2017 at 1:09 am #

      LOL, the Food Industry. I used to live in “Big Ag” country, and I’ve seen it all. Waste, fraud, and abuse. However, I didn’t give up eating. (Agreeing)

  7. Lifetime Original Movie
    December 5, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    Hi Dr Amy, I have a question because I’m absolutely flummoxed right now and I’m hoping you can clarify. There is a homebirth midwife (fake CPM “credential”) who is advocating that HIV positive mothers breastfeed their babies here in the US, even though such a recommendation runs contrary to both the AAP & CDC guidelines. She states that she is advising patients to do so because “formula is riskier than the small possibility of HIV infection”.

    Help me here, because I’m positive that this is insane, dangerous, advice that she shouldn’t be giving in the first place as it’s illegal for a CPM to see an HIV positive mother in our state to begin with. She’s citing the WHO recommendations which support breastfeeding in developing nations that lack access to clean water, formula and sanitation. Am I correct in believing that the CDC and AAP recommendations trump the WHO guideline in the US?

    Is there ANY actual science to support the assertion that formula feeding is at all risk laden in the US? I cannot find anything that isn’t from flake websites to support that stance, am I missing something?

    Isn’t the safest course of action for baby to forgo breastfeeding altogether? And isn’t there always a chance that prophylactic medications will fail? I’m not a healthcare provider and I attempted to explain why I believed that telling HIV positive mothers to breastfeed was irresponsible and dangerous and hit a brick wall.


    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      December 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

      She’s not the only one. Many lactivists have been doing the same thing; it’s a total violation of medical ethics.

    • Daleth
      December 5, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

      Is there a state licensing board you can report her to?

    • Roadstergal
      December 5, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

      Well, of course formula feeding is dangerous; just look at the US cohort of children born in the ’70s, which were almost exclusively formula fed, and note how riddled with chronic disease, allergy, obesity, and autoimmunity they are compared to the far more heavily breast-fed generations since…

      I wish I were a theist so I could believe in a special place in hell for women who demonize formula to the point of telling HIV+ women to breastfeed. I would say to ask Eliza Jane Scovill how well that worked out, but she can’t answer.

      • Mike Stevens
        December 7, 2017 at 6:24 am #

        And you can’t ask Eliza-Jane’s mother, either…

    • Mike Stevens
      December 7, 2017 at 6:22 am #

      May I help?
      All current national and specialty guidelines for HIV positive mothers state that they should not breastfeed. They should formula feed, exclusively.
      Please try and report this “homebirth midwife” who is advising breast feeding to the relevant authorities if you can.

      [This advice is under regular review, since some of the latest data on mothers who take long term antiretroviral therapy and who have had undetectable viral loads indicates transmission to the breast fed baby is not a risk.

      The greatest risk of transmission is in mothers who mix feeding (both bottle feed and breast feed). The least risky is exclusive bottle feeding.
      In countries where it is difficult to obtain clean water to mix feeds, there is a higher mortality from bottle feeding because the children get more gastrointestinal infections. Some authorities suggest exclusive breastfeeding if the mother is on ART drugs is the safest option for the child in these circumstances. This is where the WHO guidance comes into play.

      In the first world, where formula feeding is quite safe, it is the recommended method, although it may come to pass that breast feeding becomes an option if the data concerning the lack of transmission from mothers on ART who have undetectable viral loads is confirmed.

  8. RudyTooty
    December 5, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    “So explain it to me, liberals: why have so many of you fallen for the conservative nonsense of anti-vax, toxicophobia, natural childbirth and lactivism?”

    I want to answer this question honestly, because I dwelled in this nonsense for quite some time.

    Why? First thing for me to remember is that all these ideas and concepts came to me through a long process, a social slow drip, from multiple sources. I found my way into the world and gravitated toward people with similar interests, music tastes, recreational hobbies – I love the out-of-doors, I love nature, I am not a mainstream consumer of fashion and trinkets. I’m still not. So there I am in the world, in my 20s hanging with the young and old hippies. I love some of these people – THEY’RE CHARACTERS. Don’t you love characters? People who don’t conform, who are quirky and funny, who entertain with their eccentricity. This was so different from my suburban keep-up-with-the-Jones upbringing. And so much of consumerism is just BS. It is. I loved this alternative to being attentive to the latest pop song, latest fashion trend, whatever.

    I wasn’t seeking out lunacy, though. But it came. The slow drip, the hippies and the alternative folks have their ideas – and they share them – and they endorse them. And it didn’t just come from one person, one geographic area, one ideology – it percolated into my consciousness through many interactions with many people (this was before the internet, too). Many of these people were my friends. Testimonials are poweful – they are not always correct, but they are powerful influencers.

    So I can trace back and see all the ways I was influenced toward natural healing, home birth, back-to-the-land hippy-ism. (I still love gardening. I love hiking in the woods. I love vast expanses of nature. I love eccentric people.)

    At some point it becomes your social network, a religion of sorts – and I could see that these beliefs were so strongly held that I would be rejected by my community if I might be excommunicated from my friend-network if I confessed to not holding these beliefs. It’s in-group dynamics. It’s peer pressure (which is rarely, maybe never, adequately described).

    I’m describing it because I had to undo it to extract myself from it – then I had to turn around and ask myself: “How did I get here?”

    There was no one thing. I was not looking for it. But it came and grabbed me. I always had a smidgen of doubt, of questioning, and I was comparing that questioning with the reality of what I was observing (that’s still empirical knowledge, and quite fallable). Scientific evidence provided further proof of my unreliable belief systems – & the garbage that MANA et al published – despite their spin – was evidence enough for me to walk away. But it was confusing how few friends I had who were also willing to walk away with me.

    I still have CPM friends – and they are still invested in their faulty beliefs. Some CNM friends are still invested in the same midwifery mythology. Despite the scientific evidence otherwise.

    It’s emotional. That’s the only explanation I have for it. We want to feel good more than we want to be correct.

  9. RudyTooty
    December 5, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    The folks on the left like to think of themselves as the objectively correct folks: educated, worldy, knowledgable, open-minded. Yet they, too, cling to their emotionally-held, in-group, unscientific beliefs with fervor.

    I like to say “The right does not have the corner market on delusion.” And that pisses off quite a few of my friends. But it’s true.

    Why do liberals hold non-scientific beliefs such as anti-vaxxing, & espousement of ineffective natural remedies? It makes them *feel* smarter. It makes them *feel* righteous. It makes them *feel* superior.

    We like our feelings.

  10. Steph858
    December 5, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    “There’s no evidence that even a single person’s health has been improved (let alone entire populations) by “detoxing.”” Erm, I can think of LOTS of people whose lives have been improved by detoxing.

    There is only one legitimate use of the word ‘detox’, and it’s not the definition Dr. Amy used. Frankly, I don’t know how any product which doesn’t contain Buprenorphine, or at the very least Loperamide, can call itself a ‘Detox Aid’ (or variation thereof) without falling afoul of the Trades Description Act. I’m also surprised that the marketers of these products have yet to be sued by a customer or their family who used only their product to go cold turkey from alcohol or benzos.

  11. Anna
    December 5, 2017 at 12:05 am #

    Melissa Cheyney in the new Birth Time documentary from Australia which credits her as a birth anthropologist makes the claim that if 33% of women needed c-sections we woudnt be here. We would be here! Just be a lot less of us and baby funerals would be far more common. So sick of hearing this argument from people who should know better.

    • LaMont
      December 5, 2017 at 12:34 am #

      Not to Godwin this whole thing, but as a Jewish person, I feel like the whole “a super deadly thing happening to a population necessarily ends it” thing is… demonstrably wrong.

      • Sarah
        December 5, 2017 at 5:10 am #

        No, I think this is one of the situations in which a Nazi analogy is appropriate!

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        December 5, 2017 at 9:24 am #

        We can also use the example of Native Americans. Some groups disappeared but a lot of them are still about

    • Sue
      December 6, 2017 at 2:51 am #

      They say the same about vaccination. Fact is, you don;t need to have many children when they don’t die early. In the rest of the “natural” world, large litters and repeated pregnancies are “natural”, as are frequent deaths in childbirth or infancy.

      • guest
        December 8, 2017 at 4:58 am #

        My great-grandmother had 15 children, all born at home, who miraculously survived infancy.

        Of course, only five of them survived to adulthood. The rest succumbed to those pesky childhood diseases that the anti-vax crowd in my district are always saying aren’t that big of a deal.

    • Roadstergal
      December 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

      Women used to have 10+ babies to pick up the slack. With modern medicine, you can have exactly as many babies as the adult children you want to have, and the birth rate has slowed dramatically in the developed world. You have to be massively wedded to an ideology to ignore this very well-known fact.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        December 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

        Let’s be fair. They didn’t have 10+ babies. They had only 8.

        And 5 made it to adulthood.

        • December 6, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

          Yeap. My great-grandmother had 5 children, 3 of whom lived to adulthood.

        • Roadstergal
          December 6, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

          I remember reading that Anne Hutchinson had 14, and it wasn’t unusual for the colony. 😮

          • shay simmons
            December 6, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

            I have mentioned before that my maternal great-grandmother was considered to be very blessed, as thirteen of her sixteen children survived to adulthood.

          • FallsAngel
            December 6, 2017 at 10:38 pm #

            I think 10 of my MGGM’s 13 lived to adulthood. Three died in a diphtheria epidemic and MGGM had a still born at that time.

            Edited to add “13”.

        • Mike Stevens
          December 7, 2017 at 6:11 am #

          Here is a chart of child survival from 1800 to the present day.

  12. Namaste
    December 4, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

    Dr. Amy, will you share your opinion with me on antibiotic use in the livestock industry? Please don’t misunderstand me, I love antibiotics. I have spent the past 5 years battling recurring streptococcus infections in one form or another, and antibiotics are the only thing that kicks them and gets me healthy. I have heard that overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry is leading to an explosion of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Is this true? As I have said, I am rabidly pro-vaccine, anti-homebirth, and pro modern medicine. That is why I love antibiotics and would prefer they keep working as well as they do.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      December 4, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

      PBS’s Frontline did a story on this a while back. IMO, they’re fairly reasonable journalists. The feeling I got was that the widespread use without any animal actively needing it was a problem.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      December 5, 2017 at 12:23 am #

      Yes, indiscriminate use of antibiotics in livestock is a major if not the major cause of antibiotic resistance. Interestingly, for reasons no one appears to understand, giving animals antibiotics appears to make them grow heavier leading to greater profits. That’s why it’s done. Regardless of why people thought it was a good idea, it’s clear now that it is a very, very bad idea.

    • Christy
      December 5, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

      The FDA is working on it.

  13. Empress of the Iguana People
    December 4, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    Some think pagan is the opposite of fundamentalist, but really, it isn’t. Nature worship is just another religion, no better or worse. Like an axe or a hammer, its how you use it.

    • Daleth
      December 5, 2017 at 9:40 am #

      Some of my Pagan friends voted for Jill Stein despite living in swing states. One of them bashed Hillary repeatedly on Facebook but then claimed–the day AFTER the election–that she’d voted for her. I suspect she didn’t, but said she did once the Trump disaster happened, in order to avoid people HATING her.

      Then several of them posted righteously outraged posts about Trump letting the DAPL pipeline go forward. I was like, you do realize Hillary was against that, right? This wouldn’t be happening if enough of you had taken your vote seriously, right? But instead of using your brains, you guys spent the months before the election bashing Hillary for not being sufficiently passionate about her opposition to the DAPL pipeline and not coming out against it as early as you would’ve liked!

      Then I saw a few of them posting deep thoughts (I’m being sarcastic) about how the election of Trump shows that Kali is doing healing work on our country and our world. Their attitude was like, “Oh, it’s just Kali, so that means deep down it’s actually a good thing.” To which the proper responses are (1) you do realize Kali rules death, plagues and absolute destruction, right? Are you really okay with that being the outcome of our election? And (2) a nice nourishing goddess like Lakshmi or Diana of Ephesus would also be a good thing, not just “deep down” but all the way up to the surface too, and we could’ve had that if you morons hadn’t voted third party in swing states.

      I speak as a Pagan who normally just hits “D” to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

      • Steph858
        December 5, 2017 at 10:16 am #

        To be fair to your friends, they are perfect illustrations of the problem with the current system used to elect the President, which is essentially ‘First Past the Post’, but with the peculiarities of the Electoral College meaning that the candidate with the greatest number of votes won’t necessarily be the winner.

        It’s the classic conundrum: you like Candidate A, are ambivalent about Candidate B and despise Candidate C. However, it looks like it will be a 2-horse race between B and C. Do you actually vote according to your real policies/preferences and vote for A, or do you vote tactically for B? Everyone deciding to do the latter is what prevents third parties from ever gaining a foothold, since they’re stuck in a catch-22; nobody will vote for them because no-one thinks they can win; they can’t win because no-one will vote for them.

        • Daleth
          December 5, 2017 at 10:41 am #

          Do you actually vote according to your real policies/preferences and
          vote for A, or do you vote tactically for B? Everyone deciding to do the
          latter is what prevents third parties from ever gaining a foothold

          Honestly, the thing preventing third parties from gaining a foothold is the fact that all third parties seem to want to do is run symbolic presidential campaigns every four years, instead of doing the hard, years-long, day in-day out legwork of building a real political party. Why did Ralph Nader run for president in 2000, a race everyone knew he could never win, instead of moving to some liberal state and running for governor or for the Senate?

          If Nader had moved to San Francisco or Portland, Oregon and become a senator or governor, or if Jill Stein had run for Congress in Massachusetts, or [insert third-party candidate and statewide race here…], and then served in that role for several years, they would then have been potentially viable presidential candidates. We elect governors and senators president. We don’t elect town criers or whatever bullshit ultra-local position Jill Stein previously held.

          Now, admittedly, because the third parties largely seem totally unwilling to build a track record by running for winnable local and state-level races (Michigan House of Representatives, Mayor of Portland, etc.), if Nader or Stein had done what I suggested above, they would’ve been viable presidential candidates as democrats–in other words they could’ve done what Bernie did and join the Dems to run.

          But if the Greens, Libertarians, etc. would actually do the work of building a track record as a real, functioning party, at least in the states where they have a chance of being elected, eventually they would be real parties that could field viable presidential candidates on their own. And yeah, that’s going to take a good 20 years, but if they’d done that in 2000–which was nearly 20 years ago–instead of f*cking up the entire country by running Nader and making Gore just barely lose, they’d almost be there by now!

          • Steph858
            December 5, 2017 at 11:04 am #

            All fair points. I’m not that familiar with US politics, so I actually learnt a lot from your post. I’d assumed that, although I only heard about the Steins and Naders on the news, there must be Green/Libertarian party members running for local positions too. That’s what happens in the UK; our third parties (Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP, Greens … ) don’t just run for MP/Prime Minister once every 5 years and leave it at that; they do also fight for seats on County/City Councils, even Parish Councils.

          • Daleth
            December 5, 2017 at 11:59 am #

            That’s what happens in the UK; our third parties (Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP, Greens … ) don’t just run for MP/Prime Minister

            Exactly. You’ve got real, functioning third parties in the UK and in the EU countries I’m aware of (France, Germany etc.). We don’t. Frankly here it seems to be just a bunch of prima donnas who want to see themselves on television and all over the internet. That’s why they run for president instead of for something they could win that would require actual work on their part.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks
            December 6, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

            I suspect that you and I disagree on a fair number of matters political, but we agree 110% on this. Sigh.

          • December 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

            I have seen Greens run for local office in my area, but they do so in areas where Democrats don’t bother to run candidates because it’s so Republican-leaning. Now, I don’t agree with that, and the local party is waking up and running a lot more peoples in those previously uncontested races, but a Green party candidate isn’t going to win a bright red district (I mean one where the vote comes in 70% or more for Republicans).

          • Roadstergal
            December 5, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

            Exactly this!

            You don’t do a single campaign once every four years and complain about ‘politics as usual’ from the people doing the donkey work all the time.

            You don’t vote once every four years and complain that the candidates aren’t ‘representing your views.’

          • FallsAngel
            December 8, 2017 at 1:21 am #

            Ah, Libertarians run here in Colorado:
            Our municipal elections (mayor, council, school board) are non-partisan.

            Gary Johnson was governor of New Mexico, but he was a Republican then.

      • RudyTooty
        December 5, 2017 at 10:21 am #

        Ah, the Stein voters.
        They were voting their ‘consciences’ right?

        More evidence that humans prioritize their feelings over reality.

        The Stein voters in my life are liberal, white, affluent, vegetarian, gluten free, and pretty much immediately immune from the horrid policies of this administration. So, it was a self-invested vote, that allows them to feel good about themselves for having a ‘conscience.’

        The left can be anti-fact and reason as much as the right can.

        • Daleth
          December 5, 2017 at 10:48 am #

          More evidence that humans prioritize their feelings over reality.

          Some of us, yes. And those folks also prioritize their feelings over other people’s feelings and other people’s lives. I don’t get the idea that it is the Democratic party’s job to court and woo ultra-liberal voters by fielding nothing but policies that make those voters feel good. Voting is not a lifestyle accessory. It’s not about you! We vote, or at least as liberals we should vote, to help other people.

          In other words we should pick the candidate who is going to reduce, or at least not increase, human suffering. Or bare minimum, if there are only two candidates with a chance of winning, we vote for the one who will cause the least amount of suffering. Right? Right?? Or am I crazy here?

          • Empress of the Iguana People
            December 5, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

            In insane times, sane people are crazy. Granted, I’m in therapy, so my sanity is a bit questionable 😉

          • December 5, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

            Ah, but there’s a difference between being insane and being crazy! You are a very uncrazy insane? Or maybe crazy sane person?

          • RudyTooty
            December 5, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

            “…if there are only two candidates with a chance of winning, we vote for the one who will cause the least amount of suffering. Right?”

            Some of us, yes. 😉

    • Lilly de Lure
      December 6, 2017 at 6:13 am #

      I know what you mean – in the UK fundamentalist Pagans have caused huge problems for archaeologists because they protest/block a lot of excavations of neolithic and other pre-roman sites (Seahenge being a primary example of this kind of nonsense). The problem is that they are convinced they already know the truth of what our ancestors did so archaeologists should just ask them rather than investigate the actual sites, also that as the true inheritors of neolithic and celtic belief systems (leaving aside the fact that the two are not the same and that from what little we know about the Celtic religion in Britain anyone who did practice it in a historically authentic manner would find themselves in jail for murder) they have exclusive rights over any and all ancient sites (they even have the gall to quote Native American struggles to protect their burial grounds as precedents). They do this even in the face of clear archaeological evidence that their ceremonies do NOT reflect anything that was done in neolithic times (the “go to Stonehenge and worship the midsummer sunrise” thing for example is not only wrong but precisely backwards – neolithic people actually congregated at Stonehenge for the midwinter sunset to judge by the pig bones left behind by their feasting at such times).

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        December 6, 2017 at 8:20 am #

        That is some serious gall. They do not get exclusive rights to our mutual ancestors. I’m not convinced there’s any part of Britain where an unbroken chain of celtic faith remains, either.

        • Lilly de Lure
          December 6, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

          I’m pretty sure it doesn’t – there may be folk beliefs/practices that are garbled half-rememberances of pre-Christian practices but they’ve been so heavily christianised/generally changed along the way that any original meaning they may have had has been pretty much fubared at this point. Even the old irish annals like the Ulster Cycle may reference pagan times but they were written down centuries later by Christians and reflect a fundamentally christian worldview, not a pagan one.

          • Dr Kitty
            December 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

            Oisin and St Patrick or the Children of Lir and St Patrick- although Oisin doesn’t exactly give Christianity an easy go of it (Christianity is criticised for meanness, repeatedly).

      • StephanieJR
        December 6, 2017 at 10:16 am #

        Well, I never thought I’d hear the phrase ‘fundamentalist Pagan’, but I suppose you can’t get much more fundamental. And just plain mental.

        • Roadstergal
          December 6, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

          “She puts the ‘mental’ in ‘fundamental.'”

  14. December 4, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

    I think the main overlap occurs when personal preferences are confused with best practices for living.

    I enjoy nature and prefer to exercise through outdoor walks or skiing. I like growing my own food and raising chickens for eggs. I’d like my son to avoid complete plant blindness if possible.

    I don’t pretend these things are anything other than a personal preference, though.

    Growing food is good for me because gardening is a form of exercise that forces me to stretch my legs (literally) and keeps me on the move while giving me produce that I feel obligated to eat.

    It’s not more healthy than ordering a salad from a restaurant and doing Zumba or eating canned veggies while training for a marathon.

  15. Ex-hippie
    December 4, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    I’ve too noticed a weird venn overlap between super conservatives and super liberals.

    One of my family members is extremely republican conservative, very anti-psych-medication eats paleo all organic, vaccines=autism etc.

    My inlaws- bleeding heart liberals- and convinced that organic is “better for you”, anti-psych med…. I was told my kids NEEDED to catch chicken pox because that was better than the vaccine (they’re fortunately more rational about the other vaccines). I literally got into an argument w/ one of them when I pointed out that organic produce still has pesticides sprayed on it, just ones that were sourced from ingredients that occur in nature instead of in a lab, and that organic produce when tested for those pesticides had MORE pesticides on it than conventional produce.

    They didn’t like that very much.

    I’m glad i’m not the only one who has noticed this bizzare phenomenon.

    • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya
      December 4, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

      Hmmm, I wonder if it’s to do with being on the extreme end of either? I’m sure it’s something to do with Horseshoe Theory…

      • Casual Verbosity
        December 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

        I’ve never heard of Horseshoe Theory, but I’ve always thought that for at least some issues, the political spectrum isn’t so much a line as an oval. When you get all the way to the left, you end up on the right.

        • LaMont
          December 4, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

          I’ve always more subscribed to a multi-dimensional framework than a “bent one-dimensional” framework – there is right and left (and those are different) but there’s also an axis for reflexive anti-authority behaviors, which occurs among both lefties and righties. And anti-science stuff fits squarely, regardless.

        • FallsAngel
          December 6, 2017 at 10:42 pm #

          I like to say the far left and the far right meet together at the back of the circle.

    • December 4, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

      The only point I disagree on – a lot of organic pesticides are better described as “old” rather than sourced from nature. Another term could be “known to be harmful to farm workers”.

      I have no issues what so ever with people who want produce to be grown without pesticides – but the organic label doesn’t do that.

      • Who?
        December 4, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

        I have made an organic food nut cry with that exact point. Not to mention that those fertilisers tend to need to be used a lot more often than more modern ones, so the fossil fuel cost of all those tractors is eyewatering. But ‘better’, right?

      • Ex-hippie
        December 4, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

        I didn’t know that. Thank you for that information Mel. I had just assumed that the lab created stuff “non organic” was formulated to be as least damaging as possible overall and that the “organic” stuff was based purely on ingredients.

        I will say, I love me some roundup. My battle against the deadly nightshade in my garden has finally turned a corner and I WILL prevail.

      • Kerlyssa
        December 5, 2017 at 2:03 am #

        i worked in an organic greenhouse for a while. the boss wouldn’t let me or any of the other workers be onsite when he had to apply pesticides, because of how unhealthy they were(he was a good guy). but hey, organic!

      • Steph858
        December 5, 2017 at 9:18 am #

        Want food grown with less pesticides? Great! We can do that; all we need to do is splice in a few genes for pest resistance here, a few for drought resistance there …

        • Charybdis
          December 5, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

          No, no no! Then it becomes a GMO and is Frankenfood, right? Monsanto shill./s

          • KeeperOfTheBooks
            December 9, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

            Frankensushi! 😀

        • Ex-hippie
          December 5, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

          I horrified above mentioned family member by telling them I made GMO antibiotic resistant glowing bacteria in micro lab.

          My eldest child on the other hand thought it was the coolest thing ever and wants me to do it at home. Ha.

          • Mike Stevens
            December 7, 2017 at 6:35 am #

            Maybe get him some glow in the dark GMO zebrafish?

    • Merrie
      December 4, 2017 at 10:50 pm #

      I feel like a lot of the more conservative folks in this way of thinking tend to skew more libertarian… the government doesn’t have any right to tell me to vax my kids or not drink raw milk or not use an unqualified midwife, etc. etc.

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