Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Safe is Safe -- False Skeptics and Sheep Scientists

MySocratesNote: I will again take the time to thank Schwartz for his excellent rebuttal to Orac's "It can't be done" fallacy. Schwartz, I think that perhaps we should name a new logical fallacy after Orac, yes? Or, do you think that would be giving him too much credit.

Readers, please enjoy.

I came across an article recently titled: "Enablers of the vaccine-autism manufactroversy" describing how a group of self designated skeptical scientists from various disciplines (including medicine) have gathered together to coordinate their efforts to shout down and dissuade parents from questioning the mainstream medical establishment about vaccines. The commentary was weighted toward the standard personal attacks and name calling generalizations I've grown used to seeing from this group but I'll be gracious and ignore that part in this piece.

Apparently, these people feel that one should not be welcome to question the existing status quo and that everyone must take a hard position for or against vaccines as if the world were black and white. Of course those who dare question the establishment are arbitrarily classified as "anti-vaccine" (sound familiar to anyone here?) and are also deemed illogical and beyond logical reason. To illustrate this, they have crafted 3 questions that they insist no one is able to answer. Let's take a look:

Question 1) You say you want safer vaccines. OK then, please, define "safe enough." What rate of complications for specific vaccines would be "safe enough"? What rates of various infectious diseases against which these vaccines protect would be acceptable in order to balance the risk-benefit ratios?

This question appears reasonable enough upon a quick glance -- which is what I think they feel their audience will give this stuff -- but if you think about it you realize this is gross simplification of a problem akin to something you would see on a high school math exam. The funny part is they didn't even provide the assumptions required for such a question, which is just dishonest -- a false argument commonly utilized among this group of "scientists".

What is safe enough? It depends; that's the catch. Since we're dealing with the real world and not a simplified model, let's review with the critical information we need to know and consider to answer such a question for each individual vaccine:

A) Under what context is the question being asked?

i) i.e. Safe enough to hold a clinical trial is different from safe enough to mandate application to all citizens or children.

ii) This is an often overlooked question, yet this piece of criteria is critical.

B) What are the negative outcomes of contracting the disease where you live?

i) This establishes the background risk of the disease itself, which is important, because the safety of a preventative measure has to be measured against the risk you are being protected against.

ii) The current numbers provided by the CDC are exaggerated in some cases (i.e. influenza deaths -- read and in other cases they don't apply to the Western World because they are global statistics that are skewed by disease rates in the third world where they often don't even have basic sanitation, let alone medical care. So don't accept at face value any assumptions provided by your skeptic because the simplified assumptions rarely apply to the real world. I have yet to find credible published numbers for many of the diseases that vaccinations protect against.

iii) It is also important to identify the specific outcomes as well. For example, if death or serious permanent damage is very rare for the disease, then any substantial risk of death from the vaccine is probably an unacceptable safety outcome even if it reduces hospitalizations and saves a lot of money. (and yes, some vaccines are justified from a cost basis, not on a reduction of deaths)

C) What is the efficacy of the vaccine against the desired endpoint?

i) Beware here, as published efficacy numbers from regulatory clinical trials are almost always inaccurate. History and outbreaks -- often caused by vaccine failure despite the misinformation these skeptics distribute -- because the efficacy of the vaccine was over-estimated. So ask for details, and don't accept the assumptions provided by your skeptic who wants to simplify the problem.  The CDC and FDA post the vaccine reaction prevalence using data gleaned from the VAERS. Less than 10% of vaccine reactions are reported to this system

ii) Make sure you're getting efficacy against the desired outcomes as the clinical trials sometimes only measure antibody titers. i.e. influenza vaccines are often rated as effective because they measure anti-bodies, but when tested against reduced hospitalizations or deaths, they are found to have no measurable effect ( Another example: Gardasil has never been tested against the goal of reducing deaths from cervical cancer. Don't just accept the assumptions from your skeptic when you're dealing with questions in real life. In reality, a proper clinical trial must be designed to test this (i.e. comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated people)

iii) Beware of the simple graphs showing a significant reduction of disease since vaccination was introduced. These simplified graphs are littered with confounders and are not an acceptable substitute for quantified efficacy. I've seen the same graphs used on both sides of the argument (for and against vaccination)

D) Are there other treatment options to prevent negative outcomes of the disease?

i) This is often overlooked by many people. If there is an alternate treatment/preventative measure that changes the probability of negative outcomes of the disease, and these treatments have lower risks than vaccines, then the acceptable risk from the vaccine drops. i.e. treating children suffering from measles with Vitamin A (as recommended by the WHO) has been shown to reduce negative outcomes.

E) What are the risks of vaccination?

i) Quantify the short term risks with credible scientific evidence - this isn't always properly done. The control groups must consist of a true placebo.

ii) Quantify the long term risks with credible scientific evidence - this is almost never done and it requires the study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated populations -- no problems were suspected with HRT until independent long term large population testing was done. This doesn't mean there will be a problem, but history has shown us that unless we study the problem, the theories are virtually useless.

iii) Vaccination risks include the risks for the recommended schedules (i.e. concomitant vaccine application) -- i.e. they need to test the schedule

F) What is the biological mechanism in the cases of negative vaccine outcomes?

i) This is almost never done as follow-up and extensive documentation of vaccine damage is rare. However, this is critical to understand the mechanisms where harm is caused because it may very well lead to a drastic reduction in negative outcomes if pre-screening for at-risk populations is performed. This definitely impacts the "safe enough" determination. Why this isn't currently done is baffling. Exactly. There is no pre-screening to determine contraindications for the general populace. They give the vaccines anyway, though, despite the possibility that there could be allergies to the components or other conditions that could cause serious adverse reactions (case in point: Hannah Poling)

G) What mechanisms are in place to identify and address unforeseen problems?

i) This is critical to address the inevitable uncertainty and unknowns. Credible tracking and reporting mechanisms are required here. Why is infectious disease reporting compulsory by law while adverse event reporting of vaccines is voluntary and often ignored by doctors?

Of course, some of the more disingenuous skeptics will try use an Argument of Ignorance to turn these questions around and argue that you don't have this data, and therefore you can't state vaccines aren't safe. Unfortunately that's a flawed argument. A lack of data doesn't imply safety at all. Additionally, they omit the fact that vaccines are an unnecessary medical intervention (i.e. there is no immediate medical reason to get a vaccine) that they are trying to impose on everyone. In these cases, it is clearly incumbent to demonstrate safety for the individual, not the opposite, as they would like you to believe.

Let's examine the next Question this group of skeptics would have you answer.

2) You castigate vaccines for having "toxins." ...what "toxins" would you remove? Be specific, and provide evidence that these "toxins" actually cause harm at the levels used in vaccines.

Here we find the fallacious "argument from ignorance" in full display. The implication is that in the absence of proof of specific harm, safety is implied. I would recommend you repeat the logic required by any critical thinker; that in order to justify an unnecessary medical intervention with risks, you have to demonstrate safety, not rely on a lack of evidence of harm as an argument. This is especially true when discussing some of the more questionable vaccine ingredients.

This interaction would be humourous if the topic wasn't so serious. If I ask an expert about the safety of elements that are known to be toxic to the human body under a variety of conditions, I would expect them to demonstrate that the toxic elements under these conditions had been studied and have them explain the mechanisms by which safety is assured (i.e. they studied the pharmacokinetics). Instead, you are asked to provide information even the specialist hasn't tested for? This is akin to NASA telling to you provide specific proof that foam can damage the wings of the shuttle after mentioned that you heard that foam keeps falling off during launches. Fortunately, NASA has real scientists that actually studied the problem and found -- to their own surprise -- that foam traveling at supersonic speeds can indeed damage (i.e. punch big holes through) very strong materials such as the shuttle wing. If you had asked for their opinion prior to the testing, each one would have said the risks were very low and the scenario implausible. This illustrates quite clearly that without testing, the opinions of the good experts must be judged carefully as it is not based on evidence but belief.

Ignoring the disingenuous nature of the question however, we can still give a credible answer.

Any element or chemical used as a preservative, adjuvant, or other ingredient that is known to be toxic to humans should be safety tested against the target population in the form it will take during vaccination (dose and method of application). Of course, this includes, but is not limited to: Mercury, Aluminum Salts and newer experimental adjuvants.

Lets move on to the last question that no one can supposedly answer:

3) What specific evidence would it take for you to accept that vaccines are safe relative to the risk of disease and to vaccinate your children and urge your friends to vaccinate theirs?

This one is easy. A simplified form of our final risk analysis would as follows:

For any individual person for whom a specific vaccine is recommended,

A) The risk of damage or death from disease must be higher than

B) The risk of damage or death from the vaccine (long or short term) AND

C) the reduced risk of disease

A similar risk analysis methodology can and should be made before deciding on ANY medical intervention, whether it is preventative or not. Vaccines and other preventative interventions typically have to meet a higher safety bar because the risk of damage and death is much lower than that of a more immediate treatment intervention (i.e. cancer treatment).


The medical community continues to provide one of the most glaring examples of hypocrisy in any community claiming to be science based. The scientific method requires a measurement of outcomes. That means running a prospective clinical study of vaccinated populations compared to unvaccinated controls. It also means rigorously tracking and following up on adverse outcomes of vaccinations. The medical community continues to make excuses and fight this critical step in any evidence based practice. When it comes to the pseudoscience of vaccines, the scientific method is clearly MIA.

As the critical thinker has already figured out, the answers to our questions from 1 and 2 above will provide the information required to perform a logical analysis and make a logical decision. These are the questions that your skeptical scientist needs to answer before we can determine "safe enough". I welcome a discussion of these topics as these are the questions I've been asking since I started to research vaccines before my children were born. Unfortunately, most of them are still unanswered. Alas, since this group of skeptic scientists are clearly employing simplistic dishonest arguments here, they have no intention of entering a logical or scientific discussion. Consequently you will likely be promptly labeled as "anti-vaccine" for asking the questions required to actually do a proper analysis. From the evidence it appears that they just want to browbeat everyone into the same sheep-like conclusions they've drawn.

Shame on them.

Conflicts of Interest: None

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh, the Hypocrisy is Rich!

Orac's brothel has a new post today. I know it seems that I'm picking on him quite a bit lately, but he just makes it too easy! Besides, he deserves it. And this is way too good to pass up. It practically begs for my own special brand of critique.

He is again writing about the American Rally for Personal Rights, which I tore him apart for a few posts ago. This time, though, he is criticizing Michael Belkin and his new band, The Refusers, and their song Vaccine Gestapo.

Now, before I begin, I must make an admission. Michael may be the nicest guy there ever was, but Vaccine Gestapo is just plain bad. I mean REALLY bad. As in Gawdawful bad. The song sounds (remotely...well, within a few miles, anyway) like Neil Young trying to do punk. While you try to wrap your brain around that concept, I'll move on.

Orac is apparently disturbed by the song. He links to Moron Supreme's article on HuffPo, where the idiot goes on to compare the people at AoA and those doing the AutismOne and American Rally for Personal Rights to the Tea Party. He is appalled by these lyrics...I mean, how DARE someone compare them to the Gestapo!

And here's what is so damned funny. The hypocrisy of these shitheads is so profound, so astounding, that there are no words in the English language that could describe it.

Moron Supreme did this shitty parody of a movie called Downfall. It's about the fall of the Third Reich. In his parody, he put Der Fueher in as J.B. Handley, and Kim Stagliano and a few other prominent names in as his generals. AoA wrote an article about it (Here). Mercifully, the awful parody has been taken down on YouTube due to copyright violation. As a result, I have a feeling that Moron Supreme has his panties in a wad.

Back to Orac. He closes his whining rampage with the following:

These lyrics are so idiotic that I briefly flirted with the idea of doing a Hitler Zombie piece on this and ultimately decided that the undead Führer has more taste than that.

Finally, what's that again about AutismOne, Age of Autism, and the "vaccines cause autism" movement not being "anti-vaccine"? In any case, this is so hilarious that anyone who can score me a copy of the complimentary Refusers CD being passed out at the anti-vaccine rally in a week will earn Orac's eternal gratitude. I'd really love to see the artwork.

LMAO!!! Oh no! He was going to unleash one of his teenaged wet dream fantasies on The Refusers. And, really, do I need to repeat my rebuttal to his claim about AutismOne and AoA being Anti-vax?

I must say, if anything, Mr. Gorski is awfully fun to ridicule. I laughed.....a lot!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Destroying Another One of Orac's Brainless Posts

Oh look! Another Orac rant! More verbal diarrhea. And I get to pick it apart? Awww…I didn’t get Orac anything!

Today’s crapfest, titled “Destroying the vaccine program in order to save it” is just like the rest of his rants concerning vaccines and autism. So, why do I pick them apart, you ask? Why do I torture myself so by dealing with his odious personality and the banality of his multitudinous brain-washed servants? Several reasons, actually. I think it’s important to show that those who claim to be “Science-Based” like Mr. Gorski continually does are not actually science-based. It’s important to show that his reasoning is flawed on so many levels. Orac is one of the go-to guys of the “science-based” movement, and it’s relevant to show that he is biased, close-minded, and hypocritical, all of which are not the qualities of someone who claims to be a critical thinker. I’ll get into that a little later. And most importantly, I do all of this for you, my dear readers, so you don’t have to.

So, let’s start with his article, shall we? His latest tirade begins with the following:

Last week, I did three posts about the anti-vaccine movement. (What? Only three? Well, last week was slower than usual on the anti-vaccine craziness front. It happens.) Two of them were variations on a theme, namely how the anti-vaccine movement vehemently, desperately does not want to be seen as "anti-vaccine, even though that's what many of them are. First, I pointed out how the "health freedom" movement is teaming up with the anti-vaccine movement next week in Chicago to hold an anti-vaccine rally in Grant Park as part of its annual autism quackfest known as AutismOne. My second post asked a simple question: Why, if Age of Autism is about doing better for autistic kids rather than being anti-vaccine, do the the bloggers there spend so much time and verbiage ranting about Gardasil, which, even if the vaccine-autism connection were true, couldn't possibly cause autism because it's given a decade after the typical first onset of autistic symptoms?

My answer is that it's always, first and foremost, about the vaccines, not autism.

Every so often, though, the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism provides me with an insight to how the anti-vaccine movement thinks. This time around, Julie Obradovic serves that purpose with a post entitled How to Actually Save the Vaccine Program. My first impression was that, it's very, very nice of die hard enemies of the vaccine program to give public health officials advice on how to "save it." In essence, the post is a list of what Ms. Obradovic thinks public health officials should do before the the anti-vaccine movement will listen to them. In doing so, she demonstrates perfectly exactly why it's virtually impossible to reason with die-hard anti-vaccine loons. She also demonstrates the utter sense of entitlement that so many of them have, a sense that the world must cater to her.

His first paragraph is just treading over old ground. I addressed one of his posts on a previous blog entry, so I won’t rehash. Do notice that he continues to use the word “quack” in his spittle-flecked rant. I would say that he is projecting, but even those who are really quacks have standards. The second part of his introduction discusses AoA’s aversion to Gardasil, and here I will have to step up and say that I agree with him somewhat.

“What?” you say. “Craig agreeing with Orac?”

Before you run outside to see if the world is coming to an end, keep in mind that I am just acknowledging a point, which reasonable people do (and since Orac consistently fails to acknowledge the valid points from us, what does that tell us about him?), though I’m not acknowledging his point in the way that he thinks.

The reason that AoA focuses on vaccines so much is because so many people who read and post on AoA witness a significant and life-altering event in their children so soon after a vaccination. While Gardasil may not be associated with Autism (I agree), it does have an unusually high record for adverse events. Since many people think that Autism in their children was caused by adverse reactions, or events, to one or more vaccinations, then it is reasonable to say that by showing the high adverse event rate for Gardasil and proving that it is unsafe, then it would call other vaccinations into question. Again, this looks like they are attacking vaccines. However, it goes further than that. This is not an attack on the vaccine; it’s an attack on those that make the vaccines. If Gardasil can be proven unsafe (and I think that will happen soon), then further scrutiny into Vaccine maker policies can be enforced. They can try to force the Vaccine makers to make safer vaccines. But, of course, Mr. Gorski thinks this is a bad thing.

His second paragraph discusses Julie Obradovic’s article that she posted on Age of Autism a few days ago (here). He begins with a false assumption (this tells him how anti-vaxxers think) and moves immediately into ad hominem and hypocrisy (they are loons that are incapable of being reasoned with). Of course, Mr. Gorski has repeatedly demonstrated that anyone who doesn’t follow his point of view is anti-science (or anti-vaccine…they are really the same in his book). This clearly implies that he is also incapable of being reasoned with. Later, he accuses Ms. Obradovic of having a false sense of entitlement towards public health officials and those who make vaccine policies.

It isn’t a false sense of entitlement because the various agencies are supposed to be working for the people. The FDA and CDC are government agencies, and the US Government is a government that is allegedly for the people by the people. The Vaccine Industry are corporations that are dependent on sales and income from products sold to consumers. If that doesn’t entitle Ms. Obradovic to offer suggestions to these agencies, I don’t know what does. Obviously, however, Orac is completely opposed to that simple concept that is a cornerstone of our Democratic society.

Let’s move on. In the following paragraphs he discusses some of the things that Julie thinks would help the various agencies. I’ll skip the portions where he quotes Julie (I’ve linked the article) and just get to the meat of his sniveling. Ms. Obradovic’s first point discusses transparency on the part of the FDA, CDC and Vaccine Industry and discusses how honesty would be integral to regaining the trust of many people. She discusses the limited studies performed by scientists with numerous Conflicts of Interests on the safety of one vaccine (MMR) and one ingredient (Thimerosal) and then calls a spade a spade by saying these agencies are lying about the removal of Thimerosal from vaccines (and they are).

Of course, it never occurs to Ms. Obradovic that the scientific community has been telling the truth. She's also good at building up straw men of burning man size and then aiming the aforementioned flamethrower of burning stupid at it, incinerating it. No one has said that "all vaccines in any child at any time" are completely safe. What science says is that there is no good scientific evidence that vaccines given according to the current vaccine schedule cause autism and that there is a lot of evidence that they are not at all correlated. She claims that mixing mercury with aluminum causes problems because of "high reactivity," betraying such an ignorance of basic chemistry and pharmacology that it is really, really hard not to be snarkier about it than I've been.

David goes into a clear state of denial in the very first sentence. He says that the scientific community has been telling the truth. If this were true, they would have removed Thimerosal completely from vaccines as early as 2001, when they said they would. But, as can be seen from my earlier link, Thimerosal was still in the formulations of many childhood vaccines as late as 2007, and is still in many formulations of the Flu vaccines today. Not only that, he wants us to take it on faith that the Pharmaceutical Industry, which has on numerous occasions in the recent pas; 1) lied about the safety of their products, using ghost writers to publish fake studies and paying doctors to sign off on them (Vioxx); 2) sold HIV tainted drugs to foreign countries (Bayer); 3) wrote fake journals to publish the fake studies about the safety of their products, then threatened the livelihood of any doctor or scientist who spoke out against these studies by “destroying them where they live” (Merck). The list is a mile long. But David expects us to take it on faith that they couldn’t possibly lie about the safety of vaccines. Riiiight. More on that Faith thing later.

Orac’s second sentence clearly shows his utter lack of maturity and again makes him look like a teenaged boy who has just discovered that he likes boobs. He goes on to moan about how no one is saying that “all vaccines in any child at any time are completely safe.” That doesn’t stop Pediatricians and doctors from grabbing the next child and stabbing them with a needle, does it? Do you think they have all the data on whether or not a newborn child being injected with the HepB vaccine may have a condition that could cause problems or contraindications? Do they know if the child is allergic to a component of the vaccine? No, they do not. Doesn’t stop them from sticking the needle in, though, does it? His next statement is a good example of sophistry. What science has shown is that the science of vaccines and autism is incomplete. The evidence that shows a lack of correlation is done by scientists who have a vested interest in showing a lack of correlation (Verstaeten, who went to work for GSK in the middle of the now famous Danish study; Thorsen, etc.). Does that invalidate their research? No, but it does call the objectivity of the researchers into question. And finally, Mercury and Aluminum are highly reactant to each other, and even the vaccine manufacturers have gone on the record to state that they are unsure about exactly how the adjuvants work.

David then cherry picks a few quotes from the article (hey, I thought science and evidence based people didn’t do that!). Julie’s next quote talks about how the scientists and researchers employed by the Pharmaceutical industry, and those employed by the CDC should acknowledge their bias and lack of objectivity. Orac’s pathetic response?

I call a strawman and raise you a "pot, kettle, black."

And, I see your “pot, kettle, black” and raise you one deluded, narcissistic, egomaniacal asshole. From reading that cesspool that David calls a blog, it is easy to see that he is NOT objective and IS very much biased.

Mr. Gorski gets amused by Julie’s next point. Essentially, she asks that they quit going to Dr. Offit as the spokesperson for vaccines. While I see her point (he’s biased), I don’t necessarily agree with her. More of that in a minute. First, Orac’s response:

I bet the anti-vaccine movement would like it a lot if Dr. Offit gave up, if he refused to do battle with the anti-vaccine movement anymore. He is arguably the single most tenacious and effective combatter of anti-vaccine nonsense there is. Of course the anti-vaccine movement would like to see him removed from the battle!

I don’t think that Dr. Offit is particularly effective. Nor do I see him as tenacious. He certainly has experience with infectious diseases, but he’s also biased in favor of vaccines. Personally, I have no problem with him continuing as the voice of the “grab ‘em and stab ‘em” movement. He has failed to demonstrate the safety of the product he’s defending and has failed to come across as a reasonable, unbiased supporter of his science. He has failed to provide those “death threats” that he goes on and on and on about. The only thing he has done is made himself look foolish and made himself out as a whiner because no one will listen to him. Oh, and isn’t he on the Merck payroll? I wonder if that has something to do with it…

The next comment from Ms. Obradovic I will write in full, because I want there to be no misunderstanding about what Mr. Gorski turns the comment into.

Here is Julie’s comment:

Understand that you are under investigation by the parent community for a crime: medical negligence. Understand that no amount of self-investigation will ever be good enough to convince them of your innocence.

And here is David’s response:

Actually, no amount of investigation, period, will convince someone like Ms. Obradovic that vaccines don't cause autism. It doesn't matter who does it. It doesn't matter who funds the research. It doesn't matter how bulletproof the research is from a scientific standpoint. It won't convince Ms. Obradovic. It won't convince J.B. Handley. It won't convince Jenny McCarthy. It won't convince any of the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement. The best way to illustrate this, should you ever get into a discussion with a die-hard vaccine rejectionist, is to ask that person to tell you in very specific terms exactly what evidence would make her change her mind and vaccinate her child. Then follow up on the questions. Inevitably, what you'll find is that no evidence will. Either that, or the level of evidence will be so unrealistically high that science could never provide that level of certainty.

Now, Julie’s comment does not say what David thinks it says. Julie says that no amount of self-investigation (emphasis is mine) will convince her. This is true. Right now, the CDC and the Pharmaceutical industry have a nice, incestuous relationship going on. The only people who are investigating them for the medical negligence that Julie proposes are themselves. That’s right…they are investigating their own alleged crime. And we are supposed to take it on faith that the results are unbiased and true. And I’ve mentioned how Orac’s next canard is wrong, i.e. the asking “what evidence it would take” thing. What happens is, when we give what evidence it would take (a retrospective study on the neurological health outcomes of unvaccinated children done by an independent researcher), we are told “It can’t be done.” This, as I mentioned in my last post, is known as a Burden of Proof fallacy. Additionally, he again throws out the “No evidence will ever convince you” hypocrisy.

Ms. Obradovic’s next comment is quite reasonable. It asks the medical community and researchers to reach out to those who criticize them. Listen to their stories, because their dismissal of these parents’ stories makes these parents feel betrayed.

Orac’s response?

Actually, been there, done that. What makes Ms. Obradovic think that the public health community hasn't reached out to its loudest critics? I once criticized a friend for naïveté for proposing exactly the same thing. In doing so, I pointed out several examples of scientists and public health officials doing just what Ms. Obradovic claims that she wants to see. Not only did it not work, but at every turn representatives of the anti-vaccine movement took advantage of the gullibility of those trying to "reach out" to them in order to cause more trouble.

This is not to say that we shouldn't reach out to parents. Of course we should! Parents who are confused, parents who keep hearing that vaccines cause autism and are afraid, parents who don't know the science and don't know whether they can trust their doctors, these are the people we should reach out to. These are the people whom we should treat with respect. The J.B. Handley, Julie Obradovics, Kim Staglianos, and Jenny McCarthys of the world, not so much. The reason is that they have shown themselves over a long period of time to be about as close to unreachable as can be.

I’m sure all of you can see what’s wrong with these 2 paragraphs, yes? In the second paragraph, he says that the scientific community should reach out to parents who are frightened by the bloated vaccination schedule, but contradicts himself in the first paragraph by saying that he criticized a friend for doing just that. He doesn’t want to reach out to anyone; he only wants to insult those who don’t adhere to his narrow-minded paradigm and marginalize anyone who disagrees with him. This is further reinforced by his insults to J.B. Handley, Ms. Obradovic, Kim Stagliano and Ms. McCarthy. To him, they shouldn’t have a say, nor should they be reached out to. And then, he further calls himself a hypocrite by saying that they are unreachable.

I once reached out to him in an attempt to turn him from his treatment of parents like me. You can all see how he reacted to that, I’m sure.

He then mentions some of the comments posted on Julies article, then ends his article with this gem:

It's not the current vaccination program that it madness. Far from it. Rather, it's the anti-vaccine movement that is madness. It is madness to try to pursuade parents not to vaccinate based on fears born from fear and ignorance and suckled on pseudoscience and conspiracy mongering. What Obradovic seems to want is for scientists to "destroy the vaccine program in order to save it." She doesn't want "dialog," at least not any meaningful dialog where both sides listen. Her post makes it abundantly clear that she wants to be heard without listening. Rather, what she is in essence demanding is unconditional surrender of the "enemy" to the demands of the anti-vaccine movement as a precondition for negotiations. Under such circumstances, it would be madness to give in, because, as Ms. Obradovic has shown us in no uncertain terms that anything less than total capitulation to what she wants is unacceptable! "Reaching" out to such people runs the very real risk of giving up more and more ground in a futile hope that a reasonable accommodation can be reached, until one day everything has been given up and there is nothing left. What the anti-vaccine movement wants is nothing less than the utter destruction of the current vaccination program. After all, her leader J.B. Handley himself has said as much!

The sad thing is that Ms. Obradovic, for all her spewing of anti-vaccine canards, misinformation, and pseudoscience combined with a sense of utter entitlement, is, compared to the commenters on AoA, about as close to reasonable as anti-vaccinationists come.

Whew!! There is a lot of bullshit in those two paragraphs. I’m going to have to deconstruct his argument sentence by sentence.

It's not the current vaccination program that it madness.

The current vaccine schedule was made with the convenience of the parents and pediatricians in mind. There is nothing that looks at potential contraindications prior to vaccination; no tests that determine if a child has conditions that could cause injury. So yes, it IS madness.

Rather, it's the anti-vaccine movement that is madness. It is madness to try to pursuade parents not to vaccinate based on fears born from fear and ignorance and suckled on pseudoscience and conspiracy mongering.

Strawman. There are very few people who are saying “Do not vaccinate.” Not once has Ms. Obradovic said that. Nor Ms. McCarthy, nor Mr. Handley. And I call a conspiracy reductionist gambit on Orac here. And who, exactly, is doing the fear mongering? How many times have we heard Orac and the rest of his talking heads go on, ad nauseum, about the dangers of teh eebil Chicken Pox? Oh…we’s all gonna die from teh Chicken Pox. (Disclaimer: this is just satire. I understand that chicken pox has rare cases that can kill a child, but this is mostly in 3rd world countries where this happens). The truth is that he is just as guilty (if not more) of fear-mongering as those he is accusing.

What Obradovic seems to want is for scientists to "destroy the vaccine program in order to save it."

So, asking for transparency; asking for the scientists to listen to the parents who have children who regressed after a vaccination; asking for independent research into Vaccines and the claims of the CDC; asking for an independent oversight committee into the Pharmaceutical companies’ practices and their vaccine policy; asking for the CDC to open the VSD to independent researchers; asking to remove known neurotoxins from vaccines; all of that is bad in David’s book. All of that will “destroy the vaccine program.” I think you all get the point.

She doesn't want "dialog," at least not any meaningful dialog where both sides listen. Her post makes it abundantly clear that she wants to be heard without listening.

And I call hypocrisy. Mr. Gorski has clearly shown that he is completely uninterested in meaningful dialog and that he should be heard without him having to listen. His only interest is in insulting those who don’t agree with him, and with being right.

Rather, what she is in essence demanding is unconditional surrender of the "enemy" to the demands of the anti-vaccine movement as a precondition for negotiations. Under such circumstances, it would be madness to give in, because, as Ms. Obradovic has shown us in no uncertain terms that anything less than total capitulation to what she wants is unacceptable!

And so has David. He has clearly shown that he thinks that we should all capitulate to him because, by golly, he’s a SCIENTIST and he’s smarter than everybody else. He demands that we listen to him, but doesn’t want us to question or think for ourselves.

"Reaching" out to such people runs the very real risk of giving up more and more ground in a futile hope that a reasonable accommodation can be reached, until one day everything has been given up and there is nothing left.

No, that’s your interpretation. In any argument between reasonable adults, people give ground until there is a point where equilibrium is reached. Since Mr. Gorski thinks that there should be no reason to even listen to Julie’s requests, then he is showing how unreasonable he is. That goes back to my whole point about the “critical thinking.” More on that in a minute.

The sad thing is that Ms. Obradovic, for all her spewing of anti-vaccine canards, misinformation, and pseudoscience combined with a sense of utter entitlement, is, compared to the commenters on AoA, about as close to reasonable as anti-vaccinationists come.

No less so than Orac and some of his commenters. Hell, I’ve seen people over there saying that they hope that parents like me all die of vaccine preventable diseases. Or, how Orac mocked parents saying that he didn’t become autistic after his vaccines. And then, his drones all jumping into the comments saying the exact same thing. For someone who claims to be science-based and a critical thinker, he sure fails to realize that people react differently to different things. For instance; not everyone can eat peanuts. But, Orac thinks they can, according to the logic above! Not everyone can safely take Penicillin. But Orac thinks they can! Oh, I know…if he reads this, he will say that I’m building a strawman. No, I’m taking the stupidity of his mindset and showing how ridiculous and preposterous he is.

Now, onto the critical thinking part. Here is a good list of what a critical thinker should be, and I will post whether or not we see these qualities in Orac.

Assuming that critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do, a critical thinker:

1. Is open-minded and mindful of alternatives (Nope)

2. Tries to be well-informed (Nope)

3. Judges well the credibility of sources (Uh uh)

4. Identifies conclusions, reasons, and assumptions (Since most of his reasoning is based on assumptions? No)

5. Judges well the quality of an argument, including the acceptability of its reasons, assumptions, and evidence (Again, no)

6. Can well develop and defend a reasonable position (No, he just hurls insults and ad hominems against those he disagrees with)

7. Asks appropriate clarifying questions (I’ve never seen him do this)

8. Formulates plausible hypotheses; plans experiments well (Yes…when he discusses his expertise area, i.e. cancer)

9. Defines terms in a way appropriate for the context. (Yes…again, when he’s discussing cancer)

10. Draws conclusions when warranted, but with caution (HAHAHAHA…Definitely not)

11. Integrates all items in this list when deciding what to believe or do (Not at all)

Critical Thinkers are disposed to:

1. Care that their beliefs be true, and that their decisions be justified; that is, care to "get it right" to the extent possible. This includes the dispositions to

    a. Seek alternative hypotheses, explanations, conclusions, plans, sources, etc., and be open to them (Nope)

    b. Endorse a position to the extent that, but only to the extent that, it is justified by the information that is available (Absolutely not)

    c. Be well informed (Heh)

    d. Consider seriously other points of view than their own (HAHAHAHAHAHA)

2. Care to present a position honestly and clearly, theirs as well as others'. This includes the dispositions to

    a. Be clear about the intended meaning of what is said, written, or otherwise communicated, seeking as much precision as the situation requires

    b. Determine, and maintain focus on, the conclusion or question

    c. Seek and offer reasons

    d. Take into account the total situation

    e. Be reflectively aware of their own basic beliefs

    (I’ve seen him do this when he talks about Cancer)

3. Care about the dignity and worth of every person (a correlative disposition). This includes the dispositions to

    a. Discover and listen to others' view and reasons

    b. Avoid intimidating or confusing others with their critical thinking prowess, taking into account others' feelings and level of understanding

    c. Be concerned about others' welfare

(I will allow all of you time to read this and think about if you’ve seen Orac do this. And then, please take the time to compose yourselves. Please try not to rupture something while laughing).

We’ve all seen Orac say, definitively, that there is no connection between Vaccines and Autism. The science has spoken. This sounds an awful lot like faith, doesn’t it? We are supposed to take it on faith that the Pharmaceutical industry is telling the truth. We’re supposed to take it on faith that their studies are unbiased. We are just supposed to shut the hell up and take our medicine! That sounds like a religion…not science.

My good friend Hellbilly wrote this little tune about such blind faith. It’s sung to the tune of George Michael’s “Faith”

Well I guess it would be nice

If I could vaxx your baby

I know not everybody

Has got a baby like you

But I've got to think twice

Before I collect my pay

And I know all the things you’ll say

Because Jenny says them too

Oh but I

Need some time off from that commotion

Time to pick my needle up off the floor

And when that vaxx comes down

With excessive promotion

Well it takes a straw man baby

But Orac’ll be a good whore

'Cause I gotta have faith...


I know you're asking me to wait

Say please, please, please, don't vaxx today

You say I'm giving you the flus


You mean every word you say

Can't help but think of yesterday

And how easy it was without Thimerosal rules

Before this river

Becomes an ocean

Before AoA shows everyone the score

Oh no I won’t reconsider

My greedy notion

Well I need another Mazarati

So I can be like Offit some more

Yes I've gotta have faith...

Ok…Shower time...again. I feel so…defiled!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

No Catchy Title. These Just Say it All

Not much to write here. I think that these pictures will sum up Orac's latest crapfest and all future rants and crapfests. Thanks to my friend, Hellbilly, for these Demotivationals.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another of Orac's Egomaniacal Rants; A Deconstruction

I know it’s been some time since I’ve had the dubious pleasure of taking down one of Orac’s nonsensical posts. Usually, his posts are so chock full of verbal diarrhea that it’s difficult to wade through the crap to get to the portions of his arguments that actually contain substance.

His latest egomaniacal rant, “A confluence of the anti-vaccine and "health freedom" movements at AutismOne in Chicago,” (no, I don’t link to his blog) is one of those posts. In fact, it’s just verbal diarrhea, ad hominem fallacies, strawmen, and ego masturbation, all bundled together into a hodge-podge of logical fallacies.

I must thank Schwartz for his inspiration in this. His previous take-down of Mr. Novella was an excellent source of ways to take down Orac’s arguments using pure logic. I will attempt to do so with as little malice as possible.

Let’s start with his opening paragraph.

“One of the biggest examples of either self-delusion or lying that emanates from the anti-vaccine movement is the oh-so-pious and indignant denials that inevitably follow from its members and leaders whenever someone like me has the temerity to point out that they are, in fact, anti-vaccine. The disingenuously angry denials usually take a form something like this, "I'm not anti-vaccine; I'm pro-safe vaccine." (This is Jenny McCarthy's favorite variant of this gambit). Another variant is for anti-vaccine activists to claim that they aren't anti-vaccine at all; they're just "concerned" that children are getting too many vaccines. What belies their claims, which are seemingly reasonable on the surface to the uninitiated, is what happens if you try to pin them down on just what, exactly, it would take to convince them that vaccines are safe as administered. A good way to approach this is to try to ask them to tell you specifically exactly what it would take to convince them to vaccinate their next child. What evidence would convince them? What you'll almost inevitably find, if you push them, is that the answer to that question is: Nothing! Nothing will convince them. Ever!”

So much wrong with this opening paragraph that it is difficult to know where to begin, isn’t it? In the very first sentence, he begins his diatribe with a logical fallacy known as a sweeping generalization. He is using one or two specific examples to validate his argument that all “anti-vaccine” proponents think this way. Not only that, but he is clearly using the epithet “anti-vaccine” incorrectly. A person who is anti-vaccine is someone who clearly states that they are against all vaccinations. Someone who is advocating for safer vaccines is not anti-vaccine because they WANT vaccines. For someone who claims to be a critical and logical thinker, this simple logic is obviously way beyond his comprehension.

Continuing on with the 1st paragraph, Mr. Gorski further extricates himself from logical thinkers by attempting to pigeon-hole those he disagrees with. This means that because he says they are anti-vaccine, then they must be so. This is an egotistical approach to any argument, and forces the person who invokes this fallacy to fall into the same trap that he accuses the person he pigeon holed. In other words, “Because I say you are anti-vaccine, that means you are. Nothing you say will change my mind.” This is again repeated in the last part of the paragraph when he asks what evidence will change the mind of the alleged “anti-vaxxer.” The problem here is that we’ve given him a scenario that would need to be done in order to change the minds of many people who he labels as anti-vaccine (i.e. neurological health outcomes in an unvaccinated population), and he returns with, “It can’t be done.” This is a burden of proof fallacy. The last sentence of the paragraph is simply hypocrisy; he accuses us of being unable to be swayed from our position when it is clear that he is unable to be swayed from his position.

Let’s move on.

“The reason I bring up this topic is the impending arrival of the yearly autism quackfest known as AutismOne. As far as gatherings of the anti-vaccine movement and all manner of autism quacks goes, AutismOne is the 900 lb gorilla; everybody who's anybody in the anti-vaccine and autism quackery world will be there, with Jenny McCarthy giving the keynote, as she has for the last couple of years and the disgraced anti-vaccine "scientist" Andrew Wakefield being a featured speaker. This year, apparently three days not being enough, the quackfest has expanded to a full week. As if that weren't bad enough, on Wednesday, May 26, there will be a rally in Grant Park, an "American rally for personal rights." Perusing the website, you'll rapidly find out that the manifesto of the rally is about vaccines:”

Wow…more gems there. He starts off this paragraph with an ad hominem fallacy, and then builds upon this until it reaches ridiculous measures, repeating “quack” or some variation thereof no less than 4 times in one paragraph. You’d figure that someone with as much education as he claims would be able to expand his vocabulary a bit. Additionally, from reading this paragraph, and from previous articles and exchanges with him, Mr. Gorski clearly believes that anyone who opposes his views on science is a quack. He uses “scare quotes” to highlight his loathing of Dr. Wakefield, falling into the No True Scotsman fallacy. For example, no true scientist would believe that vaccines are associated with Autism. When doctors and scientists are presented who carry this view (Dr. Healy, Dr. Poling), Gorski says that they aren’t true scientists (this fallacy comes from a story about Angus, a Scotsman. Angus puts sugar in his Oats. It is argued that No True Scotsman would put sugar in his oats, therefor Angus is not a true Scotsman). Hey David, just as a bit of snark…no true Scientist would fall into that fallacy.

The next part of the article mentions some of the things that the American Rally for Personal Rights is about. This is pretty standard fare, and really should be a no brainer for anyone who believes in personal rights. But then, Mr. Gorski adds this long and rambling paragraph after he lists some of the things that they will be rallying for:

“Is it a coincidence that this rally is occurring smack dab in the middle of AutismOne? Of course not! The happy band of anti-vaccine loons at Age of Autism are pimping this rally, but get a load of who's going to be the keynote speaker there! Come on, guess! Oh, all right, I'll tell you:

Andrew Wakefield himself!

If you wanted yet more evidence that the "pro-safe vaccine" movement is really the anti-vaccine movement, here it is. But, wait, I hear. It's an entirely legitimate issue about how much power the government should have to require that children be vaccinated and under what circumstances, but the whole "personal rights" bit is a smokescreen to hide the true nature of the rally: Anti-vaccine to the core. In reality, this "personal freedom" angle is very much the intellectual offspring (I think I just choked on the word "intellectual" in this context) of the "health freedom" movement. As I've said more times than I can remember, "health freedom" in reality is nothing more than the freedom of quacks to ply their trade on their marks without any pesky interference from laws, regulation, or the government. "Vaccine freedom" is little different at its core. It's also profoundly deceptive in that parents already have the freedom to decline vaccines. The only real enforcement point of our vaccination policy is admittance to public schools, virtually all of which require children to be up to date on their vaccines before they can attend. Even with that leverage, in nearly every state, there are mechanisms within the law to claim exemptions from vaccination requirements based on religion or even personal philosophy, the latter of which can be something as simple as saying that the parent has some sort of "philosophical objection" to vaccines. In other words, this is a rally for a right that parents in nearly every state already have.”

Well, here we go. Let’s see…ad hominem, and several strawmen, to boot. So nice that Mr. Gorski subscribes to the whole “logical thinker” thing, yes? Let’s deconstruct it!

The first few sentences are purely ad hominem. He just rehashes the same tired screed about AoA and Dr. Wakefield, so I won’t bother deconstructing that. No, I want to start with the second part. Apparently, since they are allowing Dr. Wakefield to speak at the rally, then that is unequivocal evidence that the pro-safe vaccine movement is actually anti-vaccine. How he leaps to this logic I can only guess, but it appears to be nothing more than Guilt by Association, which is a fallacy that states that since David believes that Dr. Wakefield is anti-vaccine, anyone who would allow him to speak at their rally is also anti-vaccine. Of course, that is built entirely off of a strawman, especially since Dr. Wakefield is most assuredly not anti-vaccine. The next part is actually the meat of what I want to deconstruct. If you read Mr. Gorski’s comment as written, then the gist of his argument is that because they are having a rally to support the right for philosophical objections to medical procedures, then this rally is Anti-vaccine. So, apparently from his reaction to this and his obvious dislike, Orac doesn't want people to have the basic human right to object to medical procedures. Nor does he want people to rally in support of this basic human right, i.e. he is opposed to their right to free speech. Well, he is sounding dangerously close to being someone who would rather have communism instead of being someone who claims to support and promote Democracy.

David, I don’t know if you know this or not, but the right to reject medical procedures is a fundamental human right. I understand that you are opposed to this because it directly affects your paycheck, but that does not mitigate the fact that we all have this right. And having a rally to support this right does not make them anti-vaccine. Again, it appears that if David doesn’t agree with it, then it must be anti-science (or anti-vaccine…they are really the same thing in his book).

Moving on:

“Then there are what appears to be the organizers of the rally. First, there's Louise Kuo Habakus, who's described as:

...a board-certified health practitioner specializing in homotoxicology and integrative nutrition. A former senior corporate executive for Putnam Investments and The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Louise received dual degrees from Stanford University. From mainstream corporate America to mainstream parenthood, Louise's world changed when her children showed damage from vaccines. Louise confronted orthodoxy, found answers, and recovered her children. Louise lectures widely on the subjects of wellness, prevention and vaccination choices.

In other words, she's an practitioner of dubious "alternative" medicine and a die hard believer in the vaccine-autism myth. If you have any doubt just how anti-vaccine Habakus is, consider this. She was named Age of Autism's Person of the Year for 2009. Also, her website is chock full of links to anti-vaccine sites filled with pseudoscience, misinformation, and lies.”

Whew! That’s some pretty deep Bullshit there, huh? Because her child had a severe vaccine reaction, and because she used her knowledge of nutrition and opposed Mainstream Medicine’s “traditional” approach to “drugging the kid into oblivion,” then that means she practices “alternative” medicine and is an “anti-vaxxer” (see, I can use “scare quotes” too). He further reinforces this by saying that because AoA voted her Person of the Year for 2009, she MUST be anti-vaccine. Again, this is Guilt by Association. Then he moans about how her site is filled with pseudoscience, misinformation and lies. However, since he fails to specify exactly what this misinformation is or why it is a lie, we can only assume that Mr. Gorski is falling yet again into another ad hominem fallacy.

“Then there are Mary Holland and Robert J. Krakow, both attorneys and members of the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy, while Krakow runs a law office that advertises its services for parents who want compensation for vaccine injury. He's also appeared on Lisa Jo Rudy's site telling parents how to bring legal action in Vaccine Court and has been described by anti-vaccine leaders David Kirby and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as "a leading attorney for vaccine damaged children." In particular, Krakow seems quite interested in pursuing claims over Gardasil.

Finally, there's Mia Nitchun, who appears to buy into the myth that vaccines cause autism, and Ginger Taylor, who not only buys into the myth but actively promotes it, attacking anyone who tells her that science does not support her belief that vaccines cause autism and spews anti-vaccine propaganda hither and yon on her blog. The anti-vaccine team is rounded out.”

Wow! Even more ad hominem fallacies. Also, since David thinks that Robert Krakow gave out information on how to file with the NVICP, that means he’s Anti-vaccine. He defends vaccine-injured children, Mr. Gorski, because his son, Alexander, IS vaccine injured. And what’s wrong with pursuing claims about Gardasil? More and more information is emerging showing that this vaccine is not as safe as the Vaccine manufacturers make it out to be. Let’s not forget the obligatory insults to be thrown at David Kirby and Robert Kennedy Jr. An Orac rant would not be complete without one. Then, he goes on to throw more insults and ad hominems at Ginger Taylor and Mia Nitchum, particularly Ginger. As I recall from the exchange between Ginger and David, it wasn’t Ginger who did the attacking. I think David just got a sad because she chose to make the exchange public. Oh, and yes….because her and Robert and Mary Holland and Mia Nitchum all disagree with Mr. Gorski, then that means that they are anti-science (or anti-vaccine…they are really the same thing in his book).

“Next, let's take a look at some of the speakers. Andrew Wakefield, of course, needs no introduction. He's the British "researcher" who in 1998 published the now infamous study that not only launched a thousand autism quacks but sparked a major scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine that, even now, 12 years later, has not yet abated. It's not for nothing that, more than any single man, Wakefield deserves the blame for the resurgence of measles in the U.K. to endemic levels again. Jenny McCarthy has a long way to go to match his peerless inadvertent promotion of infectious disease and suffering.”

Not much to say here that hasn’t already been said. In a previous blog post, I took the task of pointing out all of the strawmen hurled at Ms. McCarthy. Since she is not actually promoting infectious disease and suffering (neither is Dr. Wakefield), then David’s argument is clearly illogical.

“Then there's Michael Belkin, a man who suffered the loss of his daughter to sudden infant death syndrome and attributes it to the hepatitis B vaccine. As sad as this loss is (no parent should have to lose a child, whatever the reason), he has used it to become an anti-vaccine activist whose testimony even appears on Whale. to. Joining Mr. Belkin are Habakus and a coterie of lawyers, all of whom appear to be involved in litigation over vaccines and one of whom, James S. Turner, is described as the "nation's leading natural health freedom advocate for over 40 years." He was particularly incensed at John McCain's ill-fated attempt to tighten up the regulation of dietary supplements. Finally, there's Boyd Haley, who most recently rose to "prominence" by selling an industrial chelator as a "supplement" with which to treat autism. What more needs to be said?”

This shows just how deeply disturbed Mr. Gorski is. Not only is this the type of man who dances on the grave of one of the people he doesn’t like (like he did with Hulda Clark), he insults Mr. Belkin, calling him an anti-vaccine activist with really no other reason than because Mr. Belkin’s child died because of a vaccine. That is utterly and completely pathetic, and there really is no nice way of saying how disgusting it is. I won’t go into the whole “industrial chelator” (insert dramatic horror music here) because I already picked apart that screed in another post.

“As much as I miss Chicago at times, having lived there for three years in the late 1990s, I'm glad that I won't be there the week leading up to Memorial Day. I might actually be tempted to wander down to Grant Park on the 26th. I doubt I'd actually say anything much. I'm not stupid. I could picture the reaction of what will probably be a few hundred rabid anti-vaccine loons if they were to learn that Orac was in their midst, and enough of the AoA crowd has seen enough photos of me to know what I look like.”

From this point he talks about showing up at the rally, but showing his cowardice by saying that he’s too afraid of the mean, eebil anti-vaxxers. David, you might be surprised, they may be perfectly polite, though I doubt they would give you any credence since you talk about yourself in the 3rd person and call people who don’t agree with you loons. And, if they did attack you (not that I encourage or condone it), you have to admit that your repeated and venomous attacks against these parents would not be unwarranted (see the loon reference).

Finally, we have his closing statement:

“My temptation to do something that not only might lead my brain to suffer massive neuronal apoptosis from flaming waves of stupid but could also potentially lead to physical harm aside, the fact that this anti-vaccine rally is occuring the very week that many the luminaries of the anti-vaccine movement will be in Chicago is definitely no coincidence. It was clearly planned, and the reason is obvious. The "health freedom" movement (i.e., freedom for quacks movement) has always had a strong anti-vaccine component to it that goes far beyond a simple political debate over individual rights to make medical decisions versus a societal interest in preventing the spread of harmful or even deadly vaccine-preventable diseases, and virtually every hard core activist subscribing to the scientifically discredited notion that vaccines cause autism is, his or her self-deluded or disingenuous denials notwithstanding, anti-vaccine to the core. No matter how much the leaders of and foot soldiers in the anti-vaccine movement deny that they are "anti-vaccine" or claim that they are in reality "anti-toxin in vaccines" or "pro-safe vaccine," in the end to them it comes down to the vaccines and nothing but the vaccines. No amount of scientific evidence will ever sway them that vaccines are safe. Unfortunately, it's incredibly difficult for someone to reason himself out of a belief he did not come to through reason.

What was that again about Andrew Wakefield and J.B. Handley swearing to high heaven that they aren't anti-vaccine?”

I won’t go into too much detail because this is just a reiteration of his original thesis statement. However, I will say that the opening sentence in this paragraph shows just how incredibly immature he is. Keep in mind that he is supposed to be a trained medical professional, yet he talks as if he is a teenaged boy who just discovered how to masturbate. This statement enforces my belief that Orac does not write about medical issues, but merely writes an immature form of Meditainment. Then he goes on about a conspiracy that the AutismOne conference and the rally are deliberately scheduled together. Really, David? How many people would need to be involved in that conspiracy? Don’t you know that conspiracy theorists are all crazy? And, ironically, his comment about no amount of evidence being enough and about it being incredibly difficult for someone to reason himself out of a belief he did not come to through reason is aptly appropriate for him.

His final remark about Dr. Wakefield is a strawman….again. However, I will concede that David’s comment about Mr. Handley does merit some validity, but not in the way he thinks.

J.B. certainly comes across as being anti-vaccine. He wants to bring the vaccine industry to its knees, and while I may not agree with how he is doing it, I understand why. Mr. Handley wants the vaccine industry to be accountable for its actions, which is something that is sadly lacking currently. They have entirely too much power and no oversight to keep it in check. If Mr. Handley’s actions were to cause better oversight and scrutiny into the Vaccine Industry, then I am of the firm belief that the Vaccine Industry would collapse when all of the corruption and underhanded dealing came to light. Does that make him anti-vaccine? Not when you look at it like that. It certainly does make him Anti Vaccine-Industry.

Now, I need to go have another shower....a very hot one....the burns!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

To Someone I Used to Consider a Friend

There's been a discussion on the Jay Gordon piece (here) that garnered my interest. The gist of the comment is that anyone who is "anti-vacc" is comparable to a Birther or Tea-bagger. Gotta love that Medieval Catholic Church mindset.

My response was my usual; mocking and sarcastic. In it, I accused people like him as being akin to the Medieval Catholic Church accusing anyone who disagrees with them of being a heretic (this is all just a recap, mind you).

The whole point of my comment was mockery. First of all, if you're going to demonize parents who have reason to believe that their children may have been injured by vaccines, you'd better expect someone to say something. I've come up with my own way of demonizing these people in the same vein that they demonize people like me; by calling them Vaccine Injury and Death Promoters. Is it a tu quoque fallacy? Yep. Two wrongs don't make a right? You betcha. Do I care? Nope, not a fucking bit. I'm tired of dealing with people who have no concept of common courtesy or who have no intention of being courteous. If you want to speak to me like a human being, then I'm all for it. And, I can often have very pleasant disagreements as a result, like I did with Cable1977 on the Jenny McCarthy HuffPo piece.

Essentially, to these people, it doesn't really matter that some children are potentially getting injured by vaccines. It's all necessary, you see....for the good of the herd. The studies they pray to are riddled with Conficts of Interest and bias; so riddled, in fact, that the prestigious Cochrane Review was appalled. But it's ok...they defend vaccines. The VIDP's always get so bent out of shape when you bring this up to them, you see, because the Vaccine is Sacred! It's Holy! It's the Mohammed of the Medical DARE you question it!

So, in response to my mocking retort about how everyone has the right to choose what to put into their bodies or their children's bodies, a former friend went into histrionics about how horrible and over the top my comment was. The whole, "Oh no, he di-nt!!!" And then, I'm sure she slithered over to her own blogsite and said something scathing and derogatory toward me. Really, Kim....I would be wounded, but all I have to do is consider the source. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Kim, my grandmother once told me that if you're gonna wallow with the pigs, don't be shocked when you get dirty.

You see, Kim, you give the impression that you're above all of that. You come across as being superior to the unwashed masses, when in truth you are simply one of them. You get all appalled and melodramatic when a person whom you disagree with says something that you perceive as over the top; but it's ok when someone you agree with says something just as bad or worse. Because, as your comment on Huffpo implies, since you are "Science-Based," you and people you agree with get to make off-color comments without fear of retaliation. Because, by golly, you're "Science-Based!"

You get to mock and ridicule fathers who write about how they felt when their non-verbal child said their first word in 5 years. You get to make off-color comments about how all of these stories about vaccine injuries are similar. This is the very reason I quit visiting your site. I saw the comment about me by Kathleen, and I saw your response. That told me everything I needed to know about who you really are. But when I call you out on it, you get all huffy about it? Riiiight. Smell the shit you're shoveling, dear.

1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion

2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.
You claim to be a critical thinker. Well, you give the impression that either I agree with you, totally, or I'm anti-science. The world doesn't work like that, Kim. If you truly were able to think critically, you'd know that.
You know you're right, and that's all that matters to you. Which is exactly what you accuse me of. The thing is, I accept the possibility that I could be wrong, and it's obvious that you do not do the same thing. I don't WANT to be right, you see? I would give ANYTHING to not be right. But, seeing what happened to my son within 6 hours of his vaccinations kind of gives me the impression that I might be right. And, the fact that science refuses to look at children like my son further enforces that belief. And such vehement and vitiolic attacks from people who claim to be "science-based" enforces that belief even further. Science should never be defended so religiously. It's not science anymore when that happens.
I just don't want any other children to end up like my son. If there's even a small chance that vaccines can cause injuries like my son's, then people need to know.
Oh, and Kim...Orac is about the furthest thing from being "Science-based" as John Best. You see, being science based means that you don't make such definitive claims as he does without having all available evidence. You don't make these sweeping generalizations about a person or a condition without evidence. You don't pretend to be an expert in something when you really are not. You also admit when you're wrong. You know, like he did with Hannah Poling?
Where did he admit his error there? Has he admitted his error about Dental amalgams? No? What about admitting the error about his claim that Dr. Wakefield was fired from Thoughtful House?

Look, if you want to be looped in with the Westboro Baptist Church of the scientific community, be my guest. But, I guaranty you that it isn't a compliment.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Jenny McCarthy Strawmen Fallacies, Take One.

After seeing some of the comments on Jenny McCarthy's Huffington Post piece (here), I decided that I would write a brief summary of some of the problems that those that claim to be "science-based" have with Ms. McCarthy. Really, it only boils down to a few minor problems blown entirely out of proportion. I'll list the major complaints I see, then address each of those complaints in turn.

Let's start with this one:

"Jenny says she cured her son."

There is a problem with semantics here. Jenny actually has said that she has recovered her son, not cured him. She continues to say that it is an ongoing process, and she has to carefully monitor his diet to make sure that he doesn't get foods that may aggravate his condition. But she has not really said that she has "cured" Evan. She has gone on to say that people who say that she has cured her son "confuse the word recover with cure." So, let's examine those 2 words.

1. To get back; regain.

2. To restore (oneself) to a normal state: He recovered himself after a slip on the ice.

3. To compensate for: She recovered her losses.

4. To procure (usable substances, such as metal) from unusable substances, such as ore or waste.

5. To bring under observation again: "watching the comet since it was first recoveredfirst spotted since its 1910 visit" (Christian Science Monitor).


1. To regain a normal or usual condition, as of health.

2. To receive a favorable judgment in a lawsuit.
Here's the definition of Cure:
1. Restoration of health; recovery from disease.

2. A method or course of medical treatment used to restore health.

3. An agent, such as a drug, that restores health; a remedy.

4. Something that corrects or relieves a harmful or disturbing situation: The cats proved to be a good cure for our mouse problem.

5. Ecclesiastical Spiritual charge or care, as of a priest for a congregation.

6. The office or duties of a curate.

7. The act or process of preserving a product.

v. cured, cur·ing, cures

1. To restore to health.

2. To effect a recovery from: cure a cold.

3. To remove or remedy (something harmful or disturbing): cure an evil.

4. To preserve (meat, for example), as by salting, smoking, or aging.

5. To prepare, preserve, or finish (a substance) by a chemical or physical process.

6. To vulcanize (rubber).
While the definitions of these words are fairly similar, there are notable differences between the two. Recovery means that she was able to restore many of Evan's skills through dietary and biomedical interventions. But, she has not cured him. Even though, psychologically, he is not considered to have autism anymore (I believe his doctors have said that he has lost his diagnosis, but I can't find that reference at this time), he still has many of the features and markers that are associated with autism. This is not a cure! A cure would be a complete eradication of the condition or disease.
Going on.
"She's telling people not to vaccinate. She is undermining Herd Immunity."
(By convention, you must capitalize things that are divine)
This one will be the one that they usually fall back on. There will also be many sub-arguments associated with this accusation, and I will try to address as many as I can remember (there are a lot of them).

To begin with, she has never said, "Do Not Vaccinate!" Never! If she believed that people shouldn't vaccinate, she wouldn't have an alternative vaccine schedule on her website.

Their response to this is usually, "But, she's pushing the idea that vaccines harmed her son, and she's warning people away with this unproven rhetoric."

No, it hasn't been pushed by Ms. McCarthy. It has been repeated over and over by parents who have seen their children have a severe reaction to a vaccine within hours of vaccination. Ms. McCarthy just happens to be one of them. This was going on a long time before she even came into the picture.
These people seem to think that the general public is too stupid to weigh the risks and benefits for themselves. Giving people information so that they can make informed decisions does not mean she is telling them not to vaccinate.
How is it unproven rhetoric? How can you know that vaccines don't cause autism if you don't know what actually causes autism. Simple logic is lost on these meatheads, apparently.
Here's another one; "She says if she has another kid, she will refuse to vaccinate him. That doesn't sound very pro-vax to me."
And that is both her opinion and her right. Since when is it wrong in this country to express an opinion? No, that comment certainly doesn't sound pro-vax. As a friend so eloquently put it, it means she is pro-choice. And, apparently, weighing the risks and benefits and making an informed decision based on these risks and benefits (she has had one child who had a vaccine reaction, and she weighs the fact that a second child could have a vaccine reaction) means one is anti-vaccine in their book. As if the world is so black and white.
"She's said that she'll take measles over autism."
Yeah, she did. And? So the fuck what? Measles in the U.S. is rarely, and I do mean rarely, a serious illness, especially with the medical care that we have. Autism, on the other hand, particularly autism like my son's, is a lifelong, debilitating disease. Oh, and's her opinion, too. Damn, people and those opinions....
"She says she's for safer vaccines and wants to green them, but what she really wants to do is get rid of them." (I've seen that one from the King of the Vaccine Injury and Death Promoter shitheads himself, Orac)
Oh, so you can read her mind? Wow! She's advocating for safe vaccines, which means that she WANTS VACCINES. Again, their tenuous grasp of logic is laughable at best.
Here's a good one.
"Jenny has gone on record saying she is for diseases coming back."
Bullshit! Here is her actual quote:
"I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their fucking fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's shit. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.”

Ah, but that means she's anti-vaccine since she wants safer vaccines and would want the polio vaccine rather than the disease. And of course, the cherry-picked misquote demonizes her further.
Here is my favorite one. I like this one because it shows just how hypocritical the Vaccine Injury and Death Promoters are, especially after they got all hot and bothered about a comment made on Age of Autism about Nancy Snyderman giving Offit a hummer. They dramatically went on and on and on about how mysogenistic the comment was (pressing the back of my wrist to my forehead....oh, I feel faint), and how they would Never do something like that.
"She posed in Playboy/showed her boobs/has a boob-job/does soft porn/is a blonde bimbo. Are you going to take her word?"
So, because she showed her boobs, she's wrong? Nice.
Using this logic (which isn't really logic at all, but an ad hominem fallacy...and mysogenistic to boot), I could say that we shouldn't believe Amanda Peet because she's shown her boobs in a movie or two. Thanks for clearing that up. Oh, and did I mention it was mysogenistic?
Of course, there is also the Jenny McCarthy Body count website, which is just a rehash of all the rhetoric I mentioned above. All my points apply to it as well. Not only that, but the entire premise and basis for their argument against Ms. McCarthy is based on a strawman.
You see, they all seem to think that Ms. McCarthy is our "leader." No, she's a mother who's son had a vaccine reaction. She found us, not the other way around. Many of us have been in this ordeal since long before she showed up in the picture. She just happens to have the voice and fame that allows her to bring this to everyone's attention. And whether you hate her or not, you must accept the fact that if it wasn't for her, Autism would not get the attention it now gets.
I think I'm going to make a new website and call it I'll tally up all of the mysogenistic insults thrown her way and keep a count of the ad hominem fallacies used against her whereever I find them. It'll be an interesting diversion, methinks.

Hey, if any of you, my dear readers, have any comments that you've seen against Ms. McCarthy that you think could be posted here, please do. I'm gathering a collection.