Science Tales: short comic stories about science, skepticism, evidence and woo

Darryl Cunningham's Science Tales is a fantastic nonfiction comic book about science, skepticism and denial. Divided into short chapters with simple layouts and graphics, Cunningham's book looks into belief in chiropractic and homeopathy; denial of moon landings, climate change and evolution, the anti-vaccination movement, and related subjects. It concludes with a tremendous piece on the forces that give rise to anti-scientific/anti-evidence movements, which Cunningham attributes to the deadly cocktail of cynical corporate media-manipulation and humanity's built-in cognitive blind-spots.

Cunningham has a real gift for making complex subjects simple. If you're a Mythbusters fan, admire James Randi, enjoyed Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, and care about climate change, you'll enjoy this one. More to the point, if you're trying to discuss these subjects with smart but misguided friends and loved ones, this book might hold the key to real dialogue.

To get a taste of Science Tales, click through below for the first five pages of the MMR story, courtesy of publishers Myriad Editions.

Science Tales


20 Responses to “Science Tales: short comic stories about science, skepticism, evidence and woo”

  1. Keating – Funny, out of the first eleven papers you list, Wakefield is one of the authors, the next two were withdrawn, and the others have little to absolutely nothing to say about vaccination links to autism.

    Also, PROTIP: Try to stick to one crazy at a time. I appreciate a holistic approach, but it tends to show a lack of focus. Any thoughts on 9/11?

  2. Mantissa128 says:

    Yeesh. Keating. Seriously.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say even if it were true that vaccinations had side effects like this – which they don’t – your children would be far less safe experiencing the diseases themselves.

    Edit: and thank God for my chiropractor. I don’t think it’s anything more than fancy knuckle-cracking for your spine, but I’d be a twisted-up mess without it.

    • Artor says:

      Yup. Some of the claims on chiropracty (sp?) are pretty woo, but they’re lifesavers when I throw my back out.

      • EvilTerran says:

        Quite. Claims of long-term health benefits, or the ability to treat conditions other than those directly relating to the joints being manipulated, are clearly hokum — but a good joint-popping feels great, dammit, and topically soothes some joint problems for a time at least. I’d file it next to massage and heat-rub, not, y’know, actual medicine.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        I get the impression that chiropractic in the US is really different from in the UK.  In the US, your doctor refers you and your insurance probably covers it.  And when you go, it’s just physical manipulation of your body, no promises of auric cleansing.  I went from frequent, severe neck and sacral pain to rare, mild neck and sacral pain after three months of chiropractic sessions.  And I’m still okay after two decades.

        • Ito Kagehisa says:

          The empirical evidence is manifest that chiropractic works, for specific problems.  Saying it does not work because it won’t cure polio is analogous to saying allopathic medicine doesn’t work because you can’t burn penicillin to fuel your car.

          But maybe you’re right and this is a UK thing; I dunno.  I’ve always just assumed anti-chiro was a faith-based position; it has all the tells. 

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            It probably depends on the chiropractor.  For instance, certified yoga teachers get a minimum of five hours of ‘training’ in ayurvedic medicine.  A few of them essentially hang out a shingle as an alternative ‘doctor’.  And the answer to every spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical problem is either:  Eat more cucumber, eat more yogurt or eat more turmeric.

        • EvilTerran says:

          You *can* get chiropractic on the British NHS, but only “as a treatment option for one condition: persistent lower back pain”, because “there is good evidence that spinal manipulation is an effective treatment[, but] there is no good evidence that [it is effective] for any other health condition” — quoting the NHS itself:

          So we do non-woowoo chiropractic, too. I’ve never actually heard any Brits espousing the “flow of life-force” side of it, only the “makes me back feel better” side, although I’ve no doubt they’re out there.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Insurance companies here usually pay for a certain number of visits or negotiate a reduced price with certain providers and allow patients to self-refer.

  3. Jim Nelson says:

    Oh, man. I’m gonna keep coming back here over the next day or two to see what kind of crazy this’ll stir up. It’s hit all the high water marks for conspirational BS – Vaccines, the moon landing, homeopathy, and climate change. The awesome thing is, pretty much every person who believes in one of these things will believe in two or three of ‘em…

    • EvilTerran says:

      “pretty much every person who believes in one of these things will believe in two or three of ‘em”

      Yeah, I’ve noticed that. My hypothesis is a lack of critical thinking skills leads to excess credulity in all fields.

    • howaboutthisdangit says:

      Once a person makes up his or her mind that their beliefs are more true than facts and time-tested theory, that opens the floodgates.  What they know to be true in their hearts will trump reality every time.  For some it is obviously cultural, others are just afraid to face the unknown without a strong, if absurd, belief system backing them up.

    • peterkvt80 says:

      I believe in three of the things in your list. And I used to think that homeopathy was completely useless but my friend makes a living out of it so it has at least one use.

  4. Daneel says:

    The whole MMR cartoon is available here – from when Xeni linked to this a couple of years ago.

  5. I’d also like to recommend “Psychiatric Tales” by the same author. De-mystifies a lot of things about mental illness in a clear and straightforward manner.

  6. Ito Kagehisa says:

    If you’re a Mythbusters fan, admire James Randi, enjoyed Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science, and care about climate change, you’ll enjoy this one.

    Well, I care about climate change – is that enough?

  7. MarkV says:

    I notice that 9 of the 11 entries in the first group list A(ndrew) J(eremy) Wakefield as an author. Interesting.

    I selected one of the ones that didn’t–the first one, “Colonic CD8 and T cell filtration with epithelial damage in children with autism”–and checked it against the claim that it “supports the findings of the original work by Wakefield.”

    It does not. The only mentions of “vaccine” occur in footnotes; one a study that DISAGREES with the original work by Wakefield (Taylor B, Miller E, Farrington CP, Petropoulos MC, Favot-Mayaud I, Li J, et al. Autism and measles mumps and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal association. Lancet 1999;353:2026-9.) 

    The other is a reference to a letter that says “The second idea was the unsubstantiated reporting of an association between this new syndrome and measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine. This anecdotal reporting of a biased sample is poor science and has no place in a peer-reviewed journal.”

    So, essentially, it not only does NOT support Wakefield, it references two outright opponents.

    I also looked at #9 (Focal-enhanced gastritis in regressive autism with features distinct from Crohn’s and Helicobacter pylori gastritis), and again it has no relevance to vaccination.

    This list seems to be complete bunk, and if you had bothered to check before copy/pasting it, you would know that. NONE of them support a link between vaccines and autism. None of these studies’ titles even mention vaccines, for FSM’s sake. 

    Shame on you for posting misinformation. Shame on you for trying to twist science to fit your discredited notions. Shame on you for not thinking for yourself.

  8. EvilTerran says:

    @Antinous, may I be so bold as to suggest editing out all these citations? The entire list is copy-and-pasted verbatim from the link immediately above it, so anyone who actually wanted to look through them could just go there. As such, it’s taking up an awful lot of scrollbar on this page for no good reason at all.

    (edit: I see the entire post has been removed; for reference, the link in question was — enjoy the woowoo, if you like that sort of thing)

  9. EvilTerran says:

    Ah, bogus citations — also used as a major tactic by “Zeitgeist”. Wonks of all stripes often seem to think “more citations = more true”, regardless of the actual quality or relevance of the citations. It strikes me as cargo-cult scholarship — “good scholars provide lots of citations… so if I add lots of citations, I must be a good scholar!”

    This is the only citation I need, thanks:

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