Monday, May 16, 2011

A Response to Orac’s Evidence Free and Fact Free Response to MySocratesNote

Sadly, this will be my last post for a while. I had an all too brief respite from my extremely heavy workload last week, and tomorrow (Monday, when I have this post set to publish) it will be back to work for me. And, until the end of September, I don’t see any time in the near future that I will have time to blog.

So, today I will take a brief interlude and respond to something the good Quack…err, I mean “Doctor” posted in his comments section on the article I wrote about in my last post.

Now, to remove any cries of hypocrisy on his part, I will post the 2 comments that he devoted to me first (and one from one of his commenters), and then reply to them in my usual manner, i.e. picking them apart, showing how and why it’s wrong, and then making fun of him.

Let’s begin.

Post 1:

Oh, dear. It would appear that I've managed to annoy someone. Yet another irony meter is fried as Craig accuses me of "missing the point":

Holland et al found no such thing [vaccines causing autism]. Really. They didn't. Because the number of possible autistic children found among the VICP-compensated, even being as generous as possible, is not really distinguishable from the expected prevalence in the general population (and they came by their number using criteria much less strict than the commonly accepted 1% prevalence), there isn't even a correlation shown to make us suspicious that vaccines might have caused autism in the VICP-compensated group. Correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation, but if there isn't even a correlation then there's no reason even to suspect causation.

Me, "missing the point"? Pot, kettle, black, Craig. Pot, kettle, black.”

Post 2, from someone named JayK:

“Did you notice how well cited Craig's posting was? I mean, he obviously knew that the only reason that the CDC, the authors of the Korean study and most recent studies on autism all use the 1:100 rate for autism is because of the one British study. He sure showed all them intellectual academic fools!

And I notice you've been poisoning the well again, what have we told you about that?”

Post 3:

“No, no, no, no, JayK, you've got it all wrong! I'm shifting the goalposts! Craig himself says so in the comments of his post (Blogger's down, and Craig hates me so much that deletes any comment I leave on his blog)

First off, the government's own data do not "prove" that vaccines cause autism. Second, there is no "shifting of goalposts." I could have easily made the same argument without the South Korean study. It was nothing more than conveniently timed icing on the cake. Craig simply does not understand the concepts that (1) correlation does not necessarily equal causation; (2) in order to justify looking for causation, you need to have at least correlation, which the PACE study doesn't provide, given that it can't show a significantly higher risk of autism in the VICP-compensated population; and (3) that legal evidence is not scientific evidence.

Poor Craig. With his realization that Andrew Wakefield is a fraud, I thought there was hope for him. I really did. But he appears to be backsliding.”

Ok, take a few moments to read those comments (and compose yourselves…laughing that hard can rupture something if done too much).

Ok, now that you’ve had time to wipe the tears of laughter away, let’s pick his first post apart.

David, you didn’t annoy me…not in the least. I find it highly amusing that you like to pretend and play at being a scientist and skeptic. And, I’m quite certain that those who are truly scientists and skeptics also find your antics amusing in an “aww, isn’t that cute!” sort of way. Kind of like a “baby skeptic.” I and others have explained the reasoning for this in several posts. And, laughably, it seems that I may have struck a nerve with him, especially considering the tone of both of those comments. He took the time out of his busy day, breaking into his comments, to announce to his sycophants what I had said.

Oh look, and there’s another reason for my condescending amusement; the irony meter comment!  The lack of maturity inherent in that comment is profound. Not only that, but it calls into question both his emotional and intellectual maturity/health, simply because of the fact that it makes him look like a twelve year old child. Besides, the hypocritical blathering that I pointed out in his article has already destroyed all future irony meters, melting them into a puddle of radioactive slag.

And, the next sentence is, again, unscientific. Holland et al found confirmed cases of autism in children who received compensation from the NVICP. Records from the NVICP confirm that these children had a brain injury and subsequent autism. Saying that their autism is exclusive to the vaccine injury, without reviewing the evidence, is laughable at best. I, and the authors of the paper, agree that extrapolating that this is a clear case of the vaccine courts compensating for autism is ill advised. Which is why the authors are asking for more study. But it is clear that David is opposed to doing this. Is he afraid of what they’ll find?

Then he claims that the number of of cases of autism in children in the NVICP is consistent with the general populace. Right here, we see him trying to shift the goalposts, and in EXACTLY the way I said he would. The point of the paper, quite simply, was to call for more study into the unscientific claim of “Vaccines don’t cause autism.” The prevalence was merely an afterthought. Furthermore, David is basing his accusation/claim off of his own misrepresented data. In a letter from Robert Krakow to the Medscape editors, Mr. Krakow makes clear that, “83 cases computes to slightly more than 3% of the approximate total number of compensated cases, which is approximately 2500. We deliberately avoided any such statistical conclusions in the paper because our research is preliminary and constituted review by interview and verification of only 150 cases. While extrapolation allowing use of the 3% computation is tempting and would allow the statement that 41% of reviewed cases showed "autism", we deliberately avoided making this statement, as our analysis is not an epidemiological or statistical one.” Again, calling for more inquiry.

But, let’s throw that out. Let’s just say that the paper does not exist. Now, let’s perform a little thinking exercise here. Let’s say that the NVICP compensated one child for a vaccine injury that caused autism. Just one! Would that invalidate the claim that “Vaccines don’t cause autism?”

Using simple and binary logic, if a statement is stated as true, and another statement verifiably contradicts the first statement, then it invalidates the first statement. This is why real scientists never make claims like “Vaccines don’t cause autism,” because real scientists never make such absolute claims in the first place, and in the absence of all evidence. Science never argues in absolutes. Why? Because doing so removes the possibility that the person making this unscientific claim will be open to evidence that opposes this view. Real scientists understand that it only takes a single example that contradicts a claim to invalidate that claim. One single case of vaccines causing autism would invalidate the “Vaccines don’t cause autism” claim. Just one.

Which is why I say that Orac is not a real scientist or a real skeptic.

In the next sentence, we see how he shifts the goalposts (in exactly the way I said he would).  I’ll get more into that in a minute.

Finally, he accuses me of missing the point, saying that I’m the pot calling the kettle black. Oh, the hypocrisy in that comment…

He keeps using those words, but I don’t think they mean what he thinks they mean.

My point was that the paper was trying to use the NVICP cases to claim that there were instances of vaccines that resulted in brain damage and autism. They were doing this to attempt to call for more investigation into these 83 cases, and ultimately to disprove an unscientific claim that “Vaccines don’t cause autism.” He obviously missed the point.

Whew…and that was just his 1st comment! Ok, on to the next.

This one is easy. JayK attacks a strawman. His poorly executed sarcasm claims that I am invalidating the CDC and all recent prevalence studies because of the British prevalence study. All I said was that the false-skeptics pray to the British study, which used a survey on the adults, many of them self diagnosed. But, they dismissed the SCQ survey because it just doesn’t mesh with their paradigm. I don’t see anywhere where I was claiming that any recent prevalence studies were invalid. I did say that the Korean study was pretty bad, though. Sadly, starting tomorrow, I won’t have time to write about it in detail until at least October. And, obviously, JayK is unaware what poisoning the well is…even though I explained it clearly in my previous post.

Poisoning the well:

This sort of "reasoning" involves trying to discredit what a person might later claim by presenting unfavorable information (be it true or false) about the person. This "argument" has the following form:

  1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented.
  2. Therefore any claims person A makes will be false.

This sort of "reasoning" is obviously fallacious. The person making such an attack is hoping that the unfavorable information will bias listeners against the person in question and hence that they will reject any claims he might make. However, merely presenting unfavorable information about a person (even if it is true) hardly counts as evidence against the claims he/she might make. This is especially clear when Poisoning the Well is looked at as a form of ad Hominem in which the attack is made prior to the person even making the claim or claims.

So, JayK apparently doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand that simple concept. Let’s look at how Orac the Quack…err “Doctor” opened his article from last week.

“So it is, now that I've sat down to write about the "study" or "report" (or whatever you want to call it) that was touted late last week as "proof" that the government has compensated vaccine-injured children based on their having autism. Maybe the buildup was just too much. After all, the anti-vaccine flacks at Age of Autism have been flogging this report relentlessly since the press release was first announced. So have other anti-vaccine groups. A little known fact is that I'm on the mailing list for a number of anti-vaccine groups. I do it for you, to keep my finger on the pulse of the anti-vaccine loons and as an early warning system to let me know when they're up to various chicanery. Between being plugged in to anti-vaccine blogs and various mailing lists, I can report that the entire anti-vaccine crankosphere was abuzz with excitement over the release of this report, so much so that I was starting to wonder if there would be anything there that might be be worth paying attention to. Heck, even FOX News took the bait:

I needn't have worried. Now that the report, written by anti-vaccine stalwarts Mary Holland, Louis Conte, anti-vaccine lawyer Robert Krakow, and Lisa Colin and entitled Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury, has been published, I sort of wish I hadn't promised to blog about it, because now that I've actually read the damned thing I can't believe it. It's just that bad.

The things I do for you! One thing that I didn't do for you, I will admit, is to watch the press conference announcing the report. After all, why bother with the spin when I can look at the report itself, which has plenty of spin, all wrapped up in legalese and logical fallacies commonly used and abused by lawyers?”

He’s presenting adverse information beforehand in order to bias his readers against the persons in question and hence reject any claims.

It must be nice for JayK to be so stupid that he allows others to think for him.

Now, to Orac the Quack…err “Doctor’s” last post.

First off, I don’t hate Orac; quite the contrary. I find he is an intelligent person, though he is terribly misguided. And the reason I write about him so much is that it amuses me greatly to see someone who is so intelligent do so many things that are unintelligent. Sure, some of my comments are derogatory, but that’s me just poking fun at him in the same vernacular that he pokes fun at others. To be honest, I have a good deal of respect for him, and I find his articles on cancer research extremely fascinating. If, sometime in the future, I were to ever come down with cancer, and I somehow ended up at his hospital (this is all hypothetical, of course), I am quite certain that he would be able to provide me with sound advice and excellent care. What saddens me about him is that he is so willing to accept any trash or garbage that comes out of the Pharmaceutical industry. Oh, sure, he’s written about some of their atrocities, and was rightfully appalled. But he is unwilling to accept that they are not being forthcoming about vaccines, that they are not being completely truthful. Sure, I understand the importance of vaccines. Sure, I understand that it is terrifying to accept the possibility that vaccines are causing damage like what happened to my son. But being unwilling to accept that they (the Pharma industry) have been dishonest before and could also (and likely) be lying about vaccines baffles me.

Also, his parenthetical comment leaves the impression that he tried to leave a comment on my last post. That, however, is completely untrue. If he had tried, and was polite in his response, he would have been allowed through. This is why I allowed someone like Mr. Reibel to start posting here again. And he and I have had some serious knock-down, drag-out verbal brawls.

Now, going on. He says that the paper, and the government’s data, did not prove a single case of causation. I agree; it did not. My previous post was made in error before I finished reading the paper, and for that, I ask my readers to accept my apologies. However, he IS shifting the goalposts. Let me explain why.

Let’s say that the paper DID find causation. David’s excuse for dismissing this is that, since the prevalence is not greater than the autism prevalence in the general populace, then it is irrelevant.

Yes, in other words, if a single case exists of vaccines causing autism is found, then he would still say that vaccines don’t cause autism.

Then, he makes a blatant ad hominem fallacy, saying that because the PACE study wasn’t performed by scientists (who were consulted in the review), then it is invalid and is not evidence.

What is remarkable, to me, about the PACE study is that it has never been done. None of these children in the NVICP have had any type of follow-up. Orac is making his definitive claim on studies performed by parties with vested interests (oh yes, I know that he will say that studies that purport to prove causation also have vested interests), who are essentially policing themselves, and who have never looked at the population that actually got sick! I find it both odd and depressing that it took a group of lawyers to do this, and not scientists. Sadly, science looks as if it is afraid of what they’ll find. As a result, these children and families are being left in the dust. They are dismissed, marginalized, and essentially are pariahs to society for doing their duty to society and getting their children vaccinated. It isn’t their faults that their children got sick.

Lastly, Orac claims I’m slipping. However, I ask you this; I was willing to accept new information that contradicted my previous views and change my mind on something that was important to me. Have any of you ever seen Orac do the same thing? Or, does he drop the subject and never speak of it again?

Orac, in the words of Eric Clapton;

“Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.”

Goodbye for now, friends.


  1. You might want an attribution for this, otherwise it looks like you're plagiarizing:

    Poisoning the well:

    This sort of "reasoning" involves trying to discredit what a person might later claim by presenting unfavorable information (be it true or false) about the person. This "argument" has the following form:

    Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented. Therefore any claims person A makes will be false.

  2. Ooo...thanks Ken! I didn't notice that.

    It was linked before, but it must have lost the link when I uploaded it from my Live Blogger. I really appreciate the heads up, man. I'll take care of it now.