Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A blogoversary; the Good, the Bad, and the Hypocrisy

In the midst of my after-Christmas lethargy, I came to realize that I’ve had this little blog for a year now. So much has happened, some good, some bad.

For example; my son is beginning to understand that he can use a toilet to urinate. This is a fascinating endeavor for him, made more-so by his mother’s gleeful reactions and the handful of treats he receives as a reward. The bad, though, is that we cannot seem to break him of the habit of playing with his feces and smearing it everywhere. And I honestly have no clue how to correct this behavior.

More good; we recently got a very nice house, much larger than our previous one with an enormous yard. The bad; other than having to mow this enormous yard, we had to move, change our number, and various other things in order to hide from a very loathsome and creepy internet stalker. The fact that I completely ignore this worm and he continues to try to harass me speaks volumes about his lack of maturity and intelligence. Really, I think he has some weird obsession/vendetta. Perhaps he’s a closet homosexual who has fixated on me. While I have no problems with homosexuals (under normal circumstances I would think that such attention is flattering if misguided), coming from this guy, it is extremely nauseating and disgusting. Not to mention how badly his fixation disturbs my family. My wife has had to purchase a gun, and she’s taking shooting lessons (which she greatly enjoys), and our new house has an alarm installed in case his strange obsession crosses the line more than it already has. Sadly, there is very little I can do to retaliate other than ignore him and do what I’ve already done. But, if I find him on my doorstep, then he has a very nasty surprise waiting for him.

Good; the Nate man loves his new house! He has a nice bed (a racecar…and he actually SLEEPS in it…will wonders never cease?), a nice front porch that runs the length of the house that he uses as a runway. The bad: We have a pond in the back that he decided to try to jump into. Scared the shit out of both myself and my wife, because this is one of the greatest fears she and I have concerning his safety. However, it is my hope that his realization of how freakin’ cold the water was will curb his enthusiasm to jump in again.

But, I digress. Reflecting on things from the past year has made me remember why I started blogging in the first place. It was at the suggestion of Kim Wombles that I start this blog, and it is one thing that she offered that I truly am thankful for. Sadly, Kim has descended into hypocrisy and rhetoric, so she and I no longer have correspondence. Occasionally, though, I take the opportunity to check out her blog and see what she’s been up to. And also, continuing with the topic of false skepticism and pseudo-skeptics, I thought I would write a little about what I read there.

Recently, she wrote a piece about Christmas cheer. While I found it quite interesting, I felt I should point out the good and the bad in her article (you’re noticing a theme here, I suspect).

On the subject of where the Christmas cheer is in our little community, she begins with the following:

“I think we know it's not in the angry places. I wish it were. I wish sincerely, fervently, that each person over at AoA would have a merry Christmas, one in which they are surrounded by their loved ones and able to celebrate that they have each other.”

This is a lovely sentiment, and coming from almost any other person, I would take it as sincere and heartfelt and express the same sentiments in return. However, coming from Kim, it seems to ring hollow. Let’s continue with her article and you’ll see why.

“I was commenting at Laura's this morning that it's depressing as hell to read them, and it is. It's also interesting, though, that on the blog AoA put up to illustrate that the anti-vaccine label is misapplied (quoting from Harold's post refuting Kev Leitch's post), that so many of them are proudly anti-vaccine. 

Can't we move past this? Can't we, for gods' sakes, stop beating the hell out of each other? No? Okay then. Right.”

The anti-vaccine label IS misapplied. You see, the pseudo-skeptics apply this label to anyone who questions in any way the safety of vaccines, even if they have vaccinated their family.

And yes, it is depressing to read AoA. I have a lot of respect for many of the people there, but I’ve noticed recently that they are just descending into personal attacks and vengeful rhetoric. I can’t take that anymore. It saddens me greatly that they have had 3 strikes with me, and now they’ve lost someone who willingly defended them.

But, on the other hand, can we not see why they do so? I certainly can. But looking at Kim’s above comments, we can see that she doesn’t understand. More on that in a moment.

“There's real rancor here between some of these folks who've been on the interwebz slinging this shit out for years. There's swagger and bluster and whipping it out to see whose is the biggest of all. Are they fighting for king of the interwebz?  Is there a medal, a trophy? No? If I felt like photoshopping one, I could make one, but I don't.

No, instead, I am frustrated.

Frustrated that people can write things like
this: "PharmaKorp Nazi Drug Troopers has a nice ring to it. Hey? Has anyone explored the connection of the Pharmaceutical industry with Nazi Germany? Seriously."

Seriously disturbed that AoA's unabashedly anti-vaccine poster person can write
this: "Autism will come raping or should I saw wrapping at their door, and they will soon find themselves in the oh shit position." Bless her, she's more than drank from "the bitter cup"; she's bathed in it, steeped in it. And her rhetoric hurts to read.”

See, she thinks it is ok to call someone a dumbass or mock and ridicule someone because they feel that their child’s condition is caused by vaccines, but it isn’t ok for these people to defend themselves or retaliate in a similar vein. That, boys and girls, is called a double standard.

Yes, the comments were bad. But, are they any worse than someone comparing members of the AoA team to the Nazi leaders? Or saying that they hope that all of our children die of vaccine preventable diseases? Or having someone spit in your face because you were passing out flyers about vaccine ingredients? Or having some creep continually harass and stalk you after you explicitly told them to stop contacting you? Oh, right…I forget. Such tactics are ok only if you follow the dogma of those who claim to be science and evidence based.

No, I don’t think that this should be happening, and that’s one of the reasons why I spoke up against AoA, especially after the threatening post they did on their facebook page about Skepchick. But, if you’re going to attack AoA for their rhetoric, you should acknowledge and attack those whom you agree with about theirs. But, we don’t see that here, do we? It’s terrible when AoA makes what I perceive as threatening posts, but it’s perfectly ok when people she agrees with do the same. Yes, the hypocrisy is thick.

“Are all the commenters at AoA anti-vaccine or off the deep end? No. And the reality is that we can not assess how well these comments reflect the day-to-day lives of these people, either. Is their behavior situational and egged on by the close-knit community they have built there? Are they victims of group polarization? I suspect, based on the science regarding both personality and group polarization, that this is accurate. We see only one dimension of these people; we may not see them at their best. They may be venting, and the group they find themselves in reinforces a shift to the more extreme end of things. Certainly these two commenters I've singled out are the extreme end there, although there are several more who are close seconds.”

Here, she and I are in agreement. I truly believe that some of what goes on over at AoA is just venting. Hell, I used AoA quite a bit to vent some of my anger and frustration out. It was cathartic and in many ways comforting to know that I had people going through many of the same things I was going through. Now, I mostly use my blog.

“Should we hate these people? No.”

But she does. It shows every time she writes about AoA. It shows every time she calls someone a dumbass or bat-shit crazy. Or calls them anti-vaccine, an epithet that is synonymous with someone who is despised. Whether she believes it or not, those insults are hateful.

“Feel disgust? Yeah, those two comments are worthy of disgust, but if that's where we stop, we won't understand them, and for me, understanding these individuals is important.”

But she doesn’t understand them. And that’s the important distinction here. She doesn’t understand that these people are angry and frustrated because they feel as if no one is listening to them. They try and try to make people understand that their children may have had serious adverse reactions to a vaccine, and they are immediately called insulting names and labeled as fringe elements or compared to tea-baggers and birthers. Ever watch a non-verbal autistic child grow angry and frustrated because they can’t tell you what is wrong? It’s very similar.

“Can we change them, move them back from the brink? Oh, no I don't think so, but maybe if we understand how they got there, we'll be able to help others not go there. 
And that's where it is for me: understanding them so that we can create a community that stands in front of that abyss and lets no more go over.”

As long as you do not (or refuse to) understand them, you won’t be able to reach them. As long as you continue to treat them as inferior or as someone less than human, you won’t understand them. That is a simple fact of life.

“Mocking them is easy. Deriding them even more so. Compassion is harder, but if you look at them and realize that they have been broken by what they perceive as their burdens, then you must feel compassion.”

But that’s what she does. She mocks and derides them, which as we all know, is very compassionate. And she should also understand why they return the favor. I mean, we all know it is so very compassionate to call someone a dumbass or bat-shit crazy, right?

She goes on to discuss some of the blogs she visits, about the trials and struggles of these parents. And that is all fine and good. But, then she follows it up with this:

“We must look to those who do this so that we can help others do this, too. We must provide a community built on compassion and respect. We must continue to allow ourselves to feel just as keenly for those who dwell in the angry places as we do for those who get up and reject the angry places.”

Compassion and respect? She keeps using those words, but I do not think they mean what she thinks they mean. Compassion is the deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. Is that what we see from her? Take a moment to read some of what she’s written here and decide for yourselves. Is what she does respectful? Is she showing deferential regard or esteem to those she writes about? Is she trying to relate to them or show them concern? Again, consider some of the names she calls those she disagrees with and then decide for yourselves.

“So, today, I ask that if you read this blog, you spend a moment in contemplation for what it would take to lead you to the angry places, to dwell there. I ask that you picture yourself in the midst of that bitterness that has pervaded all and how you would ever see a flicker of light from down there in the abyss. And I ask you to have compassion. Yes, they're wrong. Oh my. Yes, they're damaging, but they do far greater damage to their own psyches than they can ever do to us. After all, we can still walk away from the edge of the abyss.

If you cannot feel compassion for those who have lost all hope (and so many there have), I think you lose an essential part of yourself and step just a little bit closer to that abyss.”

Wrong how? In their spiteful rhetoric? Yes, I agree. But so are the people she is so chummy with, those whom she idolizes. They are just as guilty of the same hateful rhetoric. Or is she alluding that they are wrong in their beliefs about how their child(ren) developed autism. How does she know this? Has she seen their medical records? She’s making some pretty definitive claims in the absence of evidence. That isn’t very science and evidence based, is it? They are damaging to whom? The pharmaceutical companies? By the fact that they are trying to change a corrupt industry’s out-of-control vaccination policies, then these people are somehow evil in her mind. At least, that is what I am gathering from her little diatribe here.

Oh, I know what some people are going to say. They are going to say I’m being a hypocrite because I use insults and belittling language with those I disagree with. Yes, I do. I freely and openly admit that. But, I don’t preach about being compassionate and pretend that I’m that way on one hand and then spew hateful insults and rhetoric on the other. I make no secret of the fact that I don’t like these people, and that they have done nothing to earn or receive my respect. The best way for me to respond to these hypocrites is with as much contempt and derision as I can muster.

She doesn’t feel compassion. She feels that because she is “science and evidence based,” then those she disagrees with are inferior to her and therefore should be pitied. In fact, if you look at her hateful rhetoric and the way she treats those she disagrees with, you can see that she is falling into the very trap that she warns you of in the previous passage. And this, my friends, is yet more hypocrisy. Do as I say, not as I do.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

False Skepticism

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a substantial post about the king of the anti-science shitheads, David H. Dorkski. Today, however, I’m taking a different approach and instead of attacking his insipid, drudging and puerile blog posts, I think I will address his beliefs and the falsehoods behind them. In fact, you can easily take what I am about to discuss and apply it to all of those who follow Doucheski’s vapid talking points.

Orac, and those who worship him, espouses himself as a skeptic. I think that to understand what this means, we must first look at the definition of the word and why he would believe himself to be a skeptic.

What does this mean, though? What is a skeptic?

First off, let us look at the meaning of the word as defined by several English language dictionaries. We will further compound this definition by examining their philosophical outlooks. Then, we will compare that with Orac’s interpretation and see if they match up.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Skepticism is as follows:

1: an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object

2a: the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain

b: the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics

Let’s start with point one. Does Orac exhibit an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object? For the most part, I will say yes. But, this only goes so far. Before I explain why, let me continue with our analysis.

Looking at points 2a and 2b, does he follow the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain? Does he follow the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism characteristic of skeptics? Consider the following statements that I’m sure that you’ve all seen Orac say on numerous occasions:

“The Science has spoken. Vaccines do not cause autism.”

Ding ding ding!!!! We have a winner, folks!

Now, re-read points 2a and 2b. Is he following the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain (he claims with absolute certainty that vaccines cannot cause autism using flawed studies)? Does he follow the method of suspended judgment, etc. (the science has spoken…there is no more need to look further)?

Before I go any further, let me go back to point 1 again. Does Orac exhibit an attitude of doubt, etc.? As long as it does not defend his personal bias, yes he does. Anything that opposes his personal views, whether it be alternative cancer treatments, mercury dental amalgams, or the vaccine/autism link, then he is extremely doubtful and critical of it. But, when it defends his personal bias, then he does not turn a critical eye to it. Does that fall under the definition of skepticism? No, it does not.

Really, this is a human failing. I do not fault him at all whatsoever for having this selective skepticism because we all have a tendency to defend things that correspond with our own biases. AoA does this, I do this, and most people I’ve seen online do this. But where I take exception is when I see him mock and ridicule someone for being biased. As I have clearly demonstrated, he is just as biased. And I take great glee in pointing out such hypocrisy. This type of double standard is pathetic and should not, in any way, be taken seriously. But, Orac’s feeble-minded and drooling lickspittles soak it up as if it is a gift from the Gods. Disgusting and laughable.

Anyway, let’s move on. Let’s have a look at the Skeptic philosophy and the skeptic movement in general, and then we’ll see if this applies to David.

The closest approximation to Dorkski’s paradigm would be Scientific Skepticism. These types of skeptics are off-shoots of the philosophical skeptics from ancient Greece who believed that they should critically examine whether the knowledge and perceptions that they have are actually true, and whether or not one can ever be said to have absolutely true knowledge. Scientific skeptics are very similar, but they use the scientific method and critical thinking as a basis for testing the truth of their knowledge.

I’ve already addressed David’s lack of critical thinking skills, so let’s bypass that and verify whether or not he meets the definition of a scientific skeptic.

Let us begin by clarifying what we know about scientific skepticism.

Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on anecdotal evidence. Ok, good so far. I can certainly acknowledge that David follows this rationale.

Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Ok, again, I can say that David does this. However, things start going into the grey area here. For instance, he doesn’t question or criticize any claims or studies that defend his paradigm when those claims and studies are clearly contradictory.

Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand, but rather they argue that claims should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity. And, here we see the flaw in his mindset. Scientific skeptics do not make definitive claims without reviewing as much evidence as possible. David rejects the possibility that autism and vaccines could be linked in some cases, but he hasn’t seen or reviewed all of the evidence. He hasn’t looked at the medical records of the children of the parents making these claims. Hell, he has never once in his life even seen an autistic child, most likely. How can he make such definitive claims without reviewing all of the evidence? By going on the incomplete studies that have been funded by parties with vested interests? The same studies that call for more inquiry? But, Doucheski says that more study is unnecessary. The science has spoken!

That doesn’t sound like scientific skepticism, does it? It’s more like a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. That’s not science; that’s religion.

Let’s move off on a tangent for a moment. Trust me; this is related to my point. I feel it is necessary to share with you an email I received from the good “doctor” a few months back when AoA posted his personal information. What does this have to do with my observation on his pseudoskepticism? I’ll get to that in a moment. Enjoy the email.


As much as you despise me, never let it be said that I don't notice and voice appreciation when someone sticks to their principles on my behalf, as you did in the recent slimefest in the comments of Jake's idiotic post. (There's so much wrong there that it would easily take an Orac-length post to deal with it all.) You are absolutely correct. It is cowardly and despicable to take a blog disagreement, no matter how heated, into trying to make trouble for someone at their school or place of work. You may recall that I said as much standing up for Jake against David Brown.

The irony is that I stood up for Jake in the comments of my own blog, even though he despises me and I'm not too thrilled with him, either. Then Jake repays the favor by being complicit in trying to do exactly the same sort of thing that I defended him against. Never let it be said that a good deed goes unpunished. Here's hoping your good deed is an exception to that rule.


P.S. As much as you don't believe it, we are not enemies.

Now, dear readers, I’ll leave it to you to formulate an opinion as to the sincerity of his email. Personally, I didn’t feel it was very sincere. David saw that I was “taking his side” and wanted to cultivate a potential ally in these online autism wars.

However, what I see here is someone who is supremely arrogant and full of himself. He is ultimately proud of his knowledge and gladly and gleefully throws his credentials and assuredness in the face of anyone he talks to. He’s a doctor, damnit, so you had better listen to him because he knows more than all of us combined.

But, this isn’t science (ah, now he gets to the point!). Science is defined by an intense curiosity about the world around us. One of my favorite authors and scientists (and someone who David and I share considerable admiration for) Carl Sagan, to me, epitomizes what a scientist should be. He was knowledgeable. He was intensely curious about the world around him. And he was awed and humbled by what he did not know. Arrogance was not part of who he was because arrogance is the antithesis of science. He followed the philosophy of “the only thing I know for certain is that I don’t know everything.”

That, my friends, is what a scientist should be. Does this apply to David H. Gorski and his mob of mindless minions? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

AoA Goes too Far

This is my last post about this for a while, but I wanted to bring to your attention something that I noticed AoA did recently on their Facebook page.

So, I understand that they are angry about having their PSA attacked by the Pseudo-science false-skeptic nutjobs. I can see why they are pissed about AMC refusing to show the PSA because of this. I can even understand that the attacks against the PSA was unwarranted, especially considering that the PSA was encouraging vaccination, and informing the audience that safer, thimerosal free vaccine alternatives were available. No fear-mongering involved here, and no conspiracy theories implied despite what King Quack and his band if moronic minions would have us believe.

But, going after this Skeptchic person the way they did is going too far.

They posted a picture of this person holding her child and said that she was the one responsible for the campaign against the PSA. The comments are worse. Someone suggests breaking off a few thermometers in a few key orifices?

Really? Dubya Tee Eff!!!!

I've never met this girl. I've never talked to her or corresponded with her or anything. But, even if I did; even if I thought she was the most horrible piece of crap walking this earth, I would NEVER do something like that. I don't care how much you despise someone. You NEVER bring their children or family into the argument. That is a line you DO NOT CROSS! Ever!!

I really wish they would quit pulling this shit. All it does is muddy the waters and it gives King Idiot's doltish fuckwits reason to generalize and loop everyone who thinks that vaccines can cause brain injury into the same group.

Skepchik, while I don't really agree with what you have to say, please understand that I fully condemn and am officially appalled at what AoA has done to you.