Ask Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins some questions at the AAI Conference this weekend!

I promised last week in a post in which I described Bill Maher’s latest pro-quackery remarks (this time, supporting cancer quackery), today is the day that I’m going to ask you, my readers, for some help. As I complained a while back, Bill Maher, who is anything but a rationalist or a booster of science (at least when it comes to medicine) is being awarded the Richard Dawkins Award by the Atheist Alliance International at its convention this weekend in Los Angeles.

As I said before, given that (1) the award lists “advocates increased scientific knowledge” as one of its criteria; (2) that Maher is an anti-vaccine crank, sympathetic to HIV/AIDS denialism, a booster of PETA, and believer in cancer quackery; and (3) that Richard Dawkin’s response to the criticism of Maher’s pseudoscientific medical beliefs was tepid at best, today I’m requesting from my readers suggestions for questions to ask both Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins at the AAI about Bill Maher’s beliefs in quackery and woo. Then, on Thursday (the day before the AAI conference begins), I will post a list of these questions in a handy-dandy one-stop-shop blog post for any readers who might be attendees, assuming I end up with a sufficient number of good questions.

As I said before, yeah, I’m trying to make trouble, and I don’t apologize for it. I might fail, fall flat on my face, and end up looking like an idiot given that no one else seems to be agitated enough by this to make much of a sustained complaint about it, but I’m going for it anyway. If I end up looking like an idiot, so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time and it won’t be the last. Look at it this way: I’m just doing what P. Z. Myers suggested, and helping to give those of you who are as disgusted with Maher as I am ammunition to help put him in the hot seat. I also don’t want you to forget Dawkins. Remember Dawkins’ reaction to learning about the controversy over the selection of Maher for the award bearing his name:

This year, the committee of AAI took the decision to give the RDA to Bill Maher. They asked me, as an individual, if I approved, and I was delighted to do so because I find him, and especially Religulous, very funny. I know nothing of any stance he may have taken on medical questions.

Well, here’s a list of posts by me and others to educate Professor Dawkins and fill in this rather glaring hole in his knowledge base:

And, now, my request. Please list in the comments suggested questions to ask of Bill Maher and of Richard Dawkins. Please mention before each question to whom it is addressed.

I’ll start, with a couple for each.

To Bill Maher:

  • Mr. Maher, you’re on record numerous times saying that flu vaccines don’t work, that they “compromise” the immune system, that healthy eating and getting rid of the “toxins” will protect you from the flu, yet you have also been very much in favor of HPV vaccination (i.e., Gardasil). Both are vaccinations. How do you reconcile your belief that the flu vaccine is harmful and compromises the immune system with your advocacy of HPV vaccination? Why is it that the flu vaccine “compromises the immune system” and apparently the HPV vaccine does not?
  • Could you please name some of these “numerous” American people with cancer who were given a “death sentence” by their conventional doctors but went to clinics in Mexico or other countries for “alternative” medicine and beat their cancers?
  • You said that “Western medicine” has not made any strides in treating cancer in 50 years. Tell us, what was the ten year survival rate for most cancers in 1959? What is it now?

To Richard Dawkins:

  • Professor Dawkins, you stated that you were unaware of Bill Maher’s views about medicine. Fair enough, but why is it that, upon people complaining about his views, you showed absolutely no interest in finding out what Maher’s medical views were and why they upset your admirers? Given that Maher is being given an award bearing your name and that his medical beliefs are far better suited to one of the hapless quacks you skewered in the second half of your The Enemies of Reason documentary, don’t you think finding out what it is about Maher’s views that upsets advocates of science-based medicine would be important?
  • Would it matter to you if the Richard Dawkins Award were given to a creationist? If it would (as I assume it would), then why doesn’t it apparently bother you that the RDA is being given to an advocate of a different, but equally fallacious and pernicious, form of pseudoscience, namely cancer quackery and anti-vaccine views every bit as loopy as those of Andrew Wakefield?

Your turn, loyal readers. Please put your suggested questions for both Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins in the comments below and then come back here for a compilation and summation of them on Thursday.

Finally, for those of you, if there ultimately are any, who actually do get a chance to ask any of these questions of Maher or Dawkins, don’t forget to tell ’em Orac sent you. And be polite. Polite but insistent.