I promised myself I would back off from blogging for a while. I swore that I would focus on my work and my family and not get drawn into the stupidity and arrogance of the false skeptics and the pseudoscience nutjobs. We all know them. They are the ones who ridicule parents like myself because we believe that our children were injured by vaccines. They are the ones who laugh at parents of vaccine injured children, proclaiming that we have all the answers and that we think we know everything, all while arrogantly proclaiming to have the answers and that they know everything. They are the ones who make a game of mocking parents of vaccine injured children, then they become all offended that the parents fight back. They are the ones who cling so desperately to flawed epidemiological studies, and laugh that parents of vaccine injured children have no science to defend their hypothesis. And, when the parents offer a hypothesis, they refuse because they claim that there is no more to learn and that they already know what will be found. The same ones who laughingly mock a father who writes about his son’s first words in 5 years and how that made him feel.
And so I found myself clicking on a link that one of my Facebook friends sent me. Lo and behold, it was an article from a well known false skeptic, Kim Wombles. Yep, I’m sure you’re all familiar with her.
After reading her article titled, “The Reinforcements That Community Brings: Anti-Vaccine Narratives Provide More Drama,” I spent some time laughing uproariously…I mean, it tells you everything you need to know about bias and how illogical her article will be when she starts it off in the title with an insult and a generalization fallacy. I mean, my goodness, calling someone anti-vaccine and full of woo does so much to help build community and promote meaningful discussion, don’tcha know? So, I will point out what’s wrong with her article and then discuss what was said in the comments.
So, the basic essence of her article is that the online autism community has polarized itself. For the most part, I agree. People have taken sides in this discussion, and all sides think they are the right one. Though, personally, I don’t feel I’m on anyone’s side but the children's. I don’t agree with many of the things AoA does, and the same goes for the false-skeptics. So, I guess you would say I’m somewhere in the middle. That doesn’t matter to Kim, though. I’m either with her or against her.
However, there is more to what Kim is saying here. She has already decided that she is right and that everyone who doesn’t agree with her paradigm is wrong. She blithely continues to say that those that she has determined are wrong are not open to new evidence that contradicts their world view, so they should not be reached out to; i.e. they should not be made part of the community. Because she says she is “science-based,” then, to her, that means she is superior to those she opposes. So she should try to reach (read that as brainwash) those who are on the fence or who are moderate. These people can be persuaded to not think critically about what the Pharmaceutical industry publishes and tries to disguise as science and that they should believe everything they are told without question.
In other words, she has already made it clear that she is not open to new evidence that contradicts her world view. She creates polarization by claiming that those who do not agree with her are anti-science, anti-vaccine, or a dumbass, a tactic we see all to often in the false-skeptic community. She doesn’t even acknowledge that the tactics she is using are what created the whole polarization in the first place (“My child was injured by a vaccine.” “Correlation is not causation, so stop spreading anti-vaccine fears, dumbass.”). She accuses those who disagree with her of being like a religion who hold fervently to their beliefs. But, if you read this blog post carefully, you’ll clearly see that her and the rest of the false-skeptics are as well. I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, I will continue with my analysis.
She continues with a brief discussion about how Jamie Bernstein and Ken Reibel were removed from the recent Autism One conference. She goes on to say that the removal was due to Ken being recognized. Of course, I will give the benefit of the doubt to Ken and Jamie in that that may very well be how they perceived what happened because of their personal biases. However, the reality is quite a bit different than the perception, and this is something that Kim, I think, deliberately failed to disclose in her article. By their own admission, Ken and Jamie were breaking the rules of the conference by taking photographs of the event. The Autism One terms and conditions specifically state that no photography is allowed. Don’t believe me? Read the link. But Kim didn’t provide that info, did she? Reading her article, she leaves the impression that what Autism One did was wrong, and that those on “her side” wouldn’t do anything like that. And yet, she leaves out the part about the rules and how they were broken. Then, she claims that the “Science-based” side is more reasonable, and I tend to agree with this statement. However, it’s pretty clear that she, and those she associates with, aren’t actually science-based. I tend to think of people like PassionlessDrone as being someone who is actually science-based. Again, more on that in a moment.
Then she discusses (or rather complains) that “anti-vaccine” narratives are compelling, and that is what is causing their ranks to swell. She goes on to discuss how some at AoA complain about how those that claim to be “science-based” just try to discredit the speaker and don’t really address the science. I will step up and agree with Kim here and say that AoA does this too. And they can be pretty mean and nasty about it, just like Kim’s “science-based” nutjobs can be. She then makes a very curious statement.
“I don't know of any evidence-based individuals who have alleged that Wakefield is a nut. Dishonest. Unethical. Fraudulent. Greedy. But not a nut. And we really shouldn't care if McCarthy is a slut (not a phrase I've seen used against her unsubstantiated claims, by the way). If her claims are backed by evidence, whether she gets around or not is irrelevant. I think the argument has been that she's a Playboy bunny who doesn't know what she's talking about (and since she thinks antifreeze is in vaccines, it's fair to say she doesn't), but that's not the same as claiming she's a slut and should be ignored.”
Really? She hasn’t? She’s never seen Orac make statements that essentially boil down to, “She showed her bewbs, and I’m a doctor…you gonna believe her over me?” Or, maybe she’s seen people call her a killer? Naw….her “side” never does that…
Then she mentions how AoA focuses on Thorsen and his role in the extortion of a few million dollars, and then AoA’s focus on the fact that Seth Mnoonkin is a recovering heroin addict. Here’s what she has to say:
“The first is relevant and it's fair to ask what role he played in the studies themselves; the second is an actual attempt at an unjustified discrediting.”
And here, I will agree with her 100%. Nothing bad to say to this statement.
But then, she screws up the whole thing with this:
“How do you reach parents to show support and get there before those with more compelling, dramatic explanations convince parents that there are answers for why their kids have autism and that they can be healed if you just try the right mining chelator or other quack treatment? How do we create a vibrant, supportive community that lets parents feel comfortable in the absence of certainty while having the courage to withstand the temptation of promises of instant cures? How do we make our narrative more compelling than the vaccine-injury's?”
So, in other words, how does she prevent parents who have children who suffered from a vaccine injury from telling their stories? How does she censor their pain? How can she deny that these children exist and help these poor, stupid parents who are questioning vaccines understand that all of these stories that these crazy people talk about are all fake and never happened (Disclaimer: I am in no way implying that these questioning parents are stupid, just that this is how Ms. Wombles is coming across)? She talks about creating a vibrant, supportive community, but not if she calls you a dumbass…then, she is not interested in having you in her community. Then, she makes a wonderful generalization fallacy, i.e. that if you believe that vaccines cause injury, then you must be someone who uses mining chelators or quack treatments. And her final question, how to make their narrative more compelling? As long as she continues to treat those she disagrees with the way she does, she won’t. As long as she continues to claim that the vaccine injuries that these children experienced are somehow not real (oh, I know, if she ever reads this, she’ll say that she never does this. She’ll say that she believes that vaccine injuries do exist….but it didn’t happen to their kids), then it looks like she is in denial and is afraid of these parents and children. That does absolutely nothing to help her cause. In fact, this is the main thing that turns people away. The mocking, the ridicule, the snide comments about these parents who have vaccine injured children…yeah. That would compel anyone to join her “side.”
Now, onto the comments. I’ll begin with the one that caught my attention; a comment that a friend of mine left. He pointed out that Kim was being a bit hypocritical in her article (she was) and that it was downright funny that she claims to be science-based. She then returns, with no evidence, that he must be anti-vaccine. My friend responds with the observation that since he doesn’t agree with her, then in her book, he’s anti-vaccine, and such a comment without evidence is preposterous (it is…but I’m paraphrasing). She then accuses him of being someone else (without evidence again). At this point, I jump in (under a pseudonym, but I wasn’t really hiding who I was), saying that, using her logic, since she thinks he’s an anti-vaxxer, he must be so. And, since she thinks he is this other person, then he must be so. His next argument boils down to the fact that scientists don’t make definitive claims in the absence of all the relevant data (again, I’m paraphrasing). What follows is a highly entertaining exchange that I will copy here for your perusal.
This comment is from some nameless moron (Well, maybe he has a name, but he was so boring that I’ve forgotten it):
“A comment like that is simply a twisted version of reality. Of course, scientists accept the possibility of being wrong, unless they're not wrong. How can they tell? Its called data. Scientists don't wonders if Newton's theories are wrong, every time they perform an experiment. They don't wonder if the laws of chemistry will hold up today. These are things that are known, and they are not going to be questioned, nor will any scientist consider the possibility that they are wrong.
This is typically a subterfuge to allow all manner of crackpot ideas in, because if they aren't taken seriously, the accusation is leveled that one is not being "scientific" by considering the possibility. However, that's not true. Science requires evidence and the evidence doesn't support the opposing views of the anti-vax crowd. Now, if someone can produce actual evidence and not simply anecdotes, or claims that others don't know what they're talking about, then perhaps there would be a basis for a scientific discussion.
So, your comment is disingenuous, since it isn't about producing additional evidence. You can argue that I don't know you, or don't know anything about you, but I don't really need to, since you've clearly identified the kind of person you are in your posts. You aren't interested in having a realistic discussion .... you simply want to post your agenda and "laugh" about it. Well, I hope you're amused, because anyone that thinks any of this is amusing, is truly the fool.”
You all know me…I so enjoy responding to comments like this:
“Hmmm...what agenda? The fact that he was pointing out that Kimmie was being a hypocrite means he has an agenda? Brilliant!!
And I think you're missing the point. No, I'm wrong...you are missing the point. From what I can gather from your post, you are saying that science has looked at all possibilities with vaccines and autism and that vaccines do not cause autism. This is an unscientific statement simply because of the fact that a scientist will not make such a claim without all of the evidence. If they haven't actually studied the children who are alleged to have developed autism from a vaccine, then the data is incomplete. No subterfuge involved in that whatsoever. Maybe a bit of paranoia on your part, though.
The amusement, in my opinion, is that those like Kimmie who claim to be science based and who then laugh about these parents who claim that their children were injured by vaccines, dismissing their claims without reviewing all of the evidence are the true fools, and that they deserve nothing but the same scorn and ridicule that they aim at those they disagree with.”
At this point, Kim jumps in with a comment that completely confused me:
“"Kimmie?" Ouch. I'm mortally wounded now, especially given how you read the piece on my personal blog about name-calling just a couple days ago. :-)
Yeah, yeah, we got it, you don't like me. I deserve your scorn. What's new?”
I hadn’t read her personal blog. I expressed my confusion, and she makes a childish innuendo about keeping secrets and that the post was a good one with “lots of flowers".” I told her she was being childish and I had no idea what she was talking about. Here’s her response.
“Ah, here and I thought I was protecting your privacy and all.
Nah, I'll just share one of my favorites. Mint is lovely, isn't it, when it flowers?
Not only do you have the lovely scent, all the little blooms are gorgeous, and the bees and other insects love it. They flock to it.
Listen, you've obviously got some temper issues and I'm sure it's a tremendously liberating feeling and all to let that rage spew over and everything, but maybe you could go stand in a corner and tantrum instead? It'd probably be more productive for you. I hate to think of your blood pressure rising over my posts.
See, I've read rants like that before. A lot. And since you're not going to offer anything substantive other than to ratchet up the name calling and vitriol (nice work), then what's the point? Those kinds of rants don't work to get me irritated, just as the condescension you offer doesn't move me.
Didn't you get that's the whole point of this post? Neither side is going to be moved by the other side. Both sides have people on them who really despise the other side. We know that; it's not new. It's not changing. So why keep doing it? Unless it's nothing more than a solitaire game to you?
If you've read my first blog and have history with me (and you made that abundantly clear in what you've written here), then you know that I always from the get-go acknowledged vaccine injuries occur and that we need to do everything we can to make sure vaccines are as safe as possible. Why I even had someone (ahem) share his story because I think it's important people don't forget that vaccine injuries do happen.
What cannot be denied is that people change their memories, usually unintentionally, to match their current belief system. Memory is malleable. I'm not interested in arguing personal narratives (says so right on my blog on what I believe and why); with memory being so faulty and with the internet allowing records of changing stories, it just isn't worth it: the truth can't be figured out at a personal level. Not after the fact, and maybe not even during. Our biases cloud everything. At least when we're talking about how two events relate. We're good at making illusory correlations. Really good. Hey, maybe I'm even doing it now!
intussusception can be detected and linked to the first rotavirus vaccine through the VAERS reporting system, causing the vaccine to be taken off the market quickly, then why do you think a link between vaccines and autism couldn't be found?
So, instead I'd prefer to focus on the scientific studies that show no evidence of a link between autism and vaccines. If 15 cases of
Much more productive than rants and name-calling, especially without any substantiation. Of course, I'm a hypocrite, so what do I know?”
Wow! So much to pick apart there. I’ll leave my rebuttal for a moment and point out something. Notice how she complains about ratcheting up the vitriol and name calling? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
So then, I explain that my calling her “Kimmie” was not done consciously, especially since my wife’s first name is Kim (well, Kimberly, but she goes by her middle name), and I call her Kimmie to tease her sometimes. Writing that in my earlier comment was entirely unintentional. Then, it occurred to me that Ms. Wombles was so paranoid that she had to go and track down and see who was commenting on her site and where they were commenting from. So, since I accessed the site from work, and someone from where I work likely accessed her site, then that person just had to be me. So, I gave her a brief explanation about how many corporate networks run, and that there are thousands of people who work in my company, and any one of them could have accessed her site and it would look like they were accessing it from one location. Such simple things are obviously beyond her. Then, I explained that what she perceived as a rant (she’s so touchy, natch…going off half-cocked at the littlest thing) was just me being highly entertained by her stupidity.But what makes me laugh the most at her comment was when she started talking about rants and name calling without substantiation. Look above to see her rant, and look at my earlier comment to see how I substantiate my name-calling (I explain why I think they are fools).
So, then the idiot from earlier accuses me of being arrogant:
“Sorry, but you're simply an arrogant fool. I have neither the time or patience to waste with someone that understands science so poorly and thinks the whole issue is simply amusing.
This is an unscientific statement simply because of the fact that a scientist will not make such a claim without all of the evidence.
Hilarious, yes? I take great glee in pointing out that he’s the pot calling the kettle black, and that he is making a claim (vaccines don’t cause autism) without looking at all of the evidence. You know, like the kids who actually got sick?
.. and you think telling stories is evidence? This is precisely why such discussions are a waste of time with people like you. You think that it's productive to keep pursuing avenues of investigation for which no connection exists, because you stubbornly assume that a connection must be there. Instead of recognizing that there is more to be learned, you insist on the validity of data which doesn't exist. The scorn and ridicule isn't based on disagreement. It's based on someone using pseudoscience as a vehicle for introduce crackpot ideas and even worse .... promoting agendas where people can profit off of others desire to obtain help and/or solutions.
Just as the point of Raun Kauffman mentioned earlier. Here is an individual that has supposedly found a solution, but instead of sharing it, seeks to personally profit from it. A series of thousand dollar seminars .... just as if he were telling you the secrets of buying real estate. Yeah, that's real credible.
If you truly had evidence, then you'd present it (and not simply more anecdotes from others that think science is wrong). If you truly had evidence, then you wouldn't be laughing about it and think its hilarious that others don't know the "secret". Instead, by your mere attitude, I can already tell that you're simply someone that likes to blather on and on about what science is, or should be without actually being capable of contributing anything yourself.”
The rest of the article and comments are all there for you guys to enjoy. Do feel free to give her a piece of your minds.
Now, lets go back to what I was talking about in regards to her comment concerning religion. I’ll approach this from a different angle, though.
So, the scientific consensus is that vaccines do not cause autism, am I correct (well, no, not entirely, but let’s say yes for the sake of argument, shall we)? Anyone who disagrees with that statement, or is not completely convinced, is obviously anti-vaccine, and I am certain that you all would agree with that statement (using their logic, mind you). So, that would mean that the scientific consensus is considered “Orthodox” or “mainstream” and those that disagree with this orthodox view would be in variance to that doctrine.
So, what would you call someone who has an opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system?
A heretic. And how would those who follow that orthodox view treat those who oppose them?
Well, in medieval times, heretics were usually executed. Then, they were outcasts of society. So, tell me how many times you all have heard the false skeptics say that parents who believe that their children were injured by vaccines should be separated from society? Or put on an island somewhere so that they could die out? Or that they wish we would all die of diseases?
The false skeptics worship Science. They give it an almost mystical reverence, and they rarely question any dogma that comes from their hierarchy. They cling to it and are so devout in their true belief and conviction that anyone who questions their God is treated with utmost derision and scorn. Isaac Asimov said it best:
“Endoheretics are appropriately credentialed scientists. If the person is outside the scientific community or at least outside of his specialty, he is an exoheretic. If a person is an endoheretic, he will be considered as eccentric and incompetent, whereas if the person is an exoheretic, he will be regarded as a crackpot, charlatan, or fraud.”
Why do I point out her hypocrisy, you ask? Because hypocrisy is dishonesty in the purest sense of the word. She is being dishonest to herself and her readers, and those people she is trying to win over to her “side” know it.
I admit that sometimes I do suffer from hypocrisy; we all do. I usually try to catch myself and apologize when I do. But, the difference between me and the rest of the false skeptics (except for Orac…you know where you stand with him, I’ll give him that) is that I will let you know where you stand with me. I make no secret about my opinion of you, and you’ll always know where you stand with me. I won’t try to lull you into a false friendship, then secretly laugh behind your back about your beliefs or about how you feel when something good happens to you. If I don’t like you, you will know it because I will tell you. I will stand behind my beliefs and I will let everyone know when I change my mind. I don’t profess to know all the secrets. I don’t profess to have all the answers. I accept that I could be wrong, and when I find enough evidence that convinces me of that, I will proclaim that to everyone publicly.
Now, I ask you this; do you see the false skeptics do this? Do they profess to have all the answers (“The Science has spoken!”)? Do they accept that they could be wrong?