Why have I not heard of ZDoggMD before? Internet, you’re supposed to tell me about these kinds of things.
Posts Tagged ‘antivaxers’
There’s an embedded link to the full comic, but this story adds another participant in the extended game of Telephone that is our public discourse on scientific issues. And that person is a notoriously unhinged nutcase called Alex Jones.
It all started with a profile of Robert Sapolsky in Wired Magazine by the excellent science writer Jonah Lehrer. In part it covered some work Sapolsky and others are doing on a possible vaccine which may be able to reduce neural damage caused by chronic stress. This would be analogous to the first panel in the above SMBC comic.
The second panel matches up with how the Daily Fail tried to relay that information to their generally clueless readers. Here’s how they interpreted Sapolsky’s work:
Forget the age-old remedies of yoga, meditation or popping pills. Relieving chronic stress could soon be as simple as having an injection, according to scientists.
Academics say they are close to developing the first vaccine for stress – a single jab that would help us relax without slowing down.
So that’s bad enough, right? The Daily Fail failed to distinguish between our own subjective perception of stress and the purely material neurological damage it causes. But the failure of science coverage in the media has not ended yet. Enter Alex Jones:
If you don’t know, Jones is this conspiracy theorist who does a radio show which is very popular amongst people who think that the UN is going to invade Kansas in black helicopters piloted by illegal immigrants who use microchips to take away our guns and 9/11 was an “inside job,” etc…
As you might guess, he’s also against vaccinations. So when he saw that the Daily Fail had reported on something that had something to do with vaccines, he just knew that the “New World Order” must be behind it, somehow. And so he screamed in a video and on his blog about how he had discovered the hidden truth behind this article, which is that evil scientists are plotting against his normal, gasoline-huffing audience. The guv-mint, they just want to control you, see? So they make them up this here vaccine and they a-tell ya that it’ll calm ya down. But it’s really just to make you a passive and obedient SERF WHARGARBL.
So you start with a group of people who are trying to understand the damage caused by chronic stress and what can be done to reduce it. Then you add a filter of media failure and general incompetence, and all it takes to turn the story completely ass-backwards is to add a pathologically anti-science lunatic with a bullhorn into the mix. When Lehrer later followed up on this weird phenomenon, he was met by an army of angry, Jones-motivated commenters. Here is an excerpt of one I picked at random just now:
Nice try CoIntellPro Agent. Gee, I wonder how and why you got this out so darn fast, lol. If only you knew how damned obvious you are.
The word for being aware of such things as that the New World Order, or The Shadow Government is going to attempt to dumb down or pacify the people prior to culling them is not being “Paranoid” as you suggest. It is merely being “Circumspect”. If a smart Jew in the mid to late 1930’s tried to warn other Jews (and I’m sure that they did) that the Nazi’s ENDGAME was to eventually imprison and exterminate all Jews, they would not have been being “Paranoid”. They would have merely been being “Circumspect” after reading or hearing factual evidence that supported their worst fears. Learn to differentiate between the two, vastly different terms. Thee is no grey area between the two.
Oh, and, by the way, the Nazi’s also spiked the imprisoned Jew’s water supply with Fluoride to make them passive. Yep, the same stuff they have been spiking everyone’s city water with here in Amerika during the last 40+ years.
But there is a happy ending to this story, friends, because then Lehrer followed up on the follow-up (YO DAWG I HERD U LIKE FOLLOW-UPS) with a blog post about the psychology of conspiracy theories and cognitive dissonance. Very interesting stuff, and very well written. So now I’m sure the conspiracy nuts will see the error of their ways and stop supporting stupid bullshit. Or maybe not.
A while ago I wrote this generic thing about how vaccines don’t cause autism, and part of it dealt with the case of one Andrew Wakefield – specifically reports of him being a fraud who hid conflicts of interest and faked his data.
Now some kind of legal action against Wakefield is imminent. From The Guardian:
Dr Andrew Wakefield, the expert at the centre of the MMR controversy, “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant” and showed a “callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research, the General Medical Council (GMC) ruled today.
Wakefield also acted dishonestly and was misleading and irresponsible in the way he described research which was later published in the Lancet medical journal, the GMC said.
The thing is that this is all happened in England. Meanwhile, Wakefield already moved over here to the colonies and is running a center for autistic children in Texas. And if the FDA or the NIH goes after him here, he’ll probably just pick up and move to South America and try to sell his quackery there.
This doesn’t even have much of an effect on believers either. They’re still backing him up:
The panel chairman, Dr Surendra Kumar, was heckled by parents who support Wakefield as he delivered the verdicts.
One woman shouted: “These doctors have not failed our children. You are outrageous.” She called the panel of experts “bastards” and accused the GMC of being a “kangaroo court”. Another shouted: “This is a set-up.”
This is the problem with injecting a conspiracy without evidence into these kinds of issues. No matter what evidence is presented and no matter what judgement is made against someone, they can always say that the lines of evidence presented are just another part of the conspiracy. Does taking thimerosol out of the MMR vaccine cause autism rates to decrease? Well, no, but that’s just because the conspiracy set it up that way. Does it look like Oswald shot Kennedy? Well, that’s just because the conspiracy wanted you to think that.
You get to have it both ways when you take that kind of position. So when Wakefield’s “research” was originally published, it was kind of taken seriously as possibly having some merit. To his followers, this vindicated Wakefield. Apparently there was no such thing as a huge medical conspiracy against Wakefield back then. And now when the real story comes out about how he acted unethically, that also vindicates Wakefield because it proves how desperate the conspiracy is to, you know, get him. That’s about as close as one can get to being absolutely close-minded because nothing can convince someone in that position to change their mind.
UPDATE: A media representative from the autistic children’s center run by Wakefield which I mentioned e-mailed me asking that I link to a press release they made in response to the GMC ruling, which is of course not hypocritical or anything at all because the alt med industry always cites their critics. Here is my response:
Seriously though, I think it’s enough to give your side of the story by citing Wakefield supporters cited in the Guardian article. Thanks
Still no word back…
So if anyone’s reading this on the actual website and not through a reader, you might have noticed that I have a few of these ‘widget’ things on the right side here. The first one is for a campaign by Sense About Science in support of science writer Simon Singh in his ongoing legal battles with the British Chiropractic Association. Here is what it looks like:
You can click on it to read more about Singh’s case, but the gist of it is that he said that the BCA happily promotes bogus treatments, because they do, and the BCA sued him. This all happened in the UK, where libel law is completely ass-backwards and the burden of proof is on the defendant(s) to prove that they’re innocent, instead of on the prosecution to prove guilt.
Anyway, now Rachael Dunlop of the Australian Skeptics is reporting that something similar is happening to Amy Wallace and her publisher at Wired for an article published a few months ago about the anti-vaccine movement. The pdf of the case is here.
Barbara Loe Fisher has a problem with Wallace citing someone who called her a liar, even though she is one. But that doesn’t seem to be in dispute here. Fisher seems to be much more upset that she wasn’t given an opportunity to say to Wallace pre-publication, “Nuh uh, I’m not a liar!” Seriously, just look at the pdf linked to above.
The antivaxers are actually starting to get pretty funny at this point. They skip over the whole point of suing for libel (i.e. proving intentional disinformation, material damages, etc.) and go right into their whiny political rants:
“The article does not present science concerning the risks or the informed consent rights issues that arise from mandatory vaccination but adheres to a bias in favor of the general safety of vaccines and a presumed medical necessity blah blah blah.”
So they don’t appear to have much interest in pursuing their case for the goal of actually winning it; and it’s being done in the US, where libel law is more reasonable than most other places. These two facts together add up to this being nothing but another SLAPP-suit by the alt med industry, just another attempt to frighten and silence critics. And the pattern recently with those kinds of things is that they reveal much more ugliness about the plaintiffs than they do about the defendants. Hopefully this case will fit in that pattern.
UPDATE: Case dismissed.
Vaccines don’t cause autism.
If the mercury in Thimerosol or anything else caused autism, then we would expect to see higher mercury levels in autistic children than in children developing typically. But we don’t.
If autism were caused by preservatives in the vaccine, we’d expect older people who were vaccinated before these preservatives were added to not have it. But there are older people with autism.
Thimerosol is a mercury-based preservative. That doesn’t mean that somebody is just dumping mercury into vaccines for the hell of it. Think of it this way: Pretty much every living thing that we know of is carbon-based. Every day we eat carbon-based life forms. YOU are a carbon-based life form. Carbon, in its purest form, is coal. But something like an apple being carbon-based does not make it coal. And similarly, a preservative being mercury-based doesn’t mean it’s just a bunch of mercury.
This comic is making fun of a logical fallacy often used by antivaxers called Post hoc ergo propter hoc (“After this, therefore because of this”). That one event occurred after the other is not evidence that the first caused the second. Correlation isn’t the same thing as causation. It just happens to be the case that symptoms of autism are first apparent around the same time period of childhood vaccinations, i.e. within the first three years.
To top it all off, this whole vaccines-cause-autism thing was started by a guy who’s since been shown to have been a fraud and a liar who fixed his data and hid conflicts of interest. And that’s not in some other unrelated field, these are all allegations which resulted from Wakefield’s “research” on the alleged autism-vaccine link.
Alt med is business, in other words. It’s big business. And all the while its proponents see real doctors like this:
and only focus on the money “big pharma” makes, they can’t seem to bring themselves to notice all the actual lying-for-profit on their own end.
“The Earth can’t take 6.5 billion people. We just can’t feed that many. So what are you going to do? Kill as many as you can. We have to develop a science that kills them and makes it look as though they died from some disease,” Farrakhan said, adding that many wise people won’t take the vaccine.
Farrakhan doesn’t seem aware that “science” is a method, not a vaccine or a poison. But I do agree that there are many wise people who won’t take it. Lots of wise people are dead, so that would prevent them from getting it. I don’t think that’s what Farrakhan meant, though.
Anyway, here is a good summary of how we really know that these people are wrong. And here are some more search engine terms which have led people here, for your amusement.
- david attenborough naked
- demons in h1n1 vaccine
- does god want me to get h1n1 immunizatio
- mind-controlling nanobots flu shot
- banana man ray
I am really not sure which is less sane – wanting to see a naked David Attenborough or worrying about demons and mind-controlling nanobots in a flu shot.
OK, I’m going to try to summarize all this crap at once.
It all started last year when Bill Maher did his Religulous movie. Besides the boring autobiographical stuff and the stupid ending, it was pretty funny.
Then, a few months ago, the Atheist Alliance International decided to give Maher the Richard Dawkins Award, which they give out at their annual convention. People who pay attention to people like Maher here in the States got all up in arms about it because one of the criterion for the award is to promote science. Bill Maher’s an alternative medicine kook who’s against vaccines and doesn’t believe in the germ theory of disease. Here is a good summary of the problems with giving this award to Bill Maher. And just as a side note, what’s kind of weird about this is that nobody seemed to have a problem with giving Penn this same award while he was denying anthropogenic global warming, but whatever.
So some people got in touch with Dawkins and asked if he was aware of this aspect of Bill Maher. Unsurprisingly, since he’s in England and doesn’t have the same exposure to American celebrities as we do, he didn’t. He said something like “Religulous gave me the lulz and I don’t know anything about what he thinks about medicine.”
At some point before presenting Maher with his award, Dawkins looked into it and found that Maher was promoting some of the same crap Dawkins had actually attacked in print and on television. At the AAI convention last weekend he said that he doesn’t share all of Maher’s views, especially those regarding medicine – but hey, we work together with liberal religionists to keep church and state separate and fight against creationism, so this isn’t something to get too upset over.
OK, here’s where it gets weird. In a recent interview PZ Myers, who was also at the convention, said that Dawkins asked Maher if he could go back on his show to discuss “alternative medicine,” and Bill Maher said no. But later that week, Maher had Bill Frist on his show to do exactly that.
This is weird. It’s like Maher doesn’t want to be seen disagreeing with Richard Dawkins. He wants to be seen disagreeing with the conservative Republican who diagnosed Terri Schiavo as “alive” based on a few minutes of video. In the above link, Maher even tries to use some idiotic line like, “Well conservatives don’t believe in evolution (???), so you must be wrong about vaccines too! Ha ha!” And then, like usual, he derides “western medicine.” Uh, right – the same scientific basis used to show evolution as true is great, except when you apply it to medicine. What an asshole.
I’m going to have to go take a shower now. I feel dirty for being on Bill Frist’s side on this one.
- Nanobots will destroy us all
- Is Ray Comfort retarded?
- I detest Glenn Beck
- The holy nanobots
- Are nanobots in vaccine?
- Nanobots enemy of man kind
- Nanobots in seasonal flu shot
- Radiohead not enslave us
- Sad monkey
There were actually several dealing with the idea that the government would actually be injecting nanobots into the H1N1 vaccine in order to (why else?) enslave us all.
So I kind of had to do the search myself to see where this idea was coming from. Here’s a comment from a freeper thread:
“I heard that the whole swine flu thing was man-made in order to get people to take the vaccine, which is really made up from nanobots that will be used for universal mind-control, and Obama is behind it.”
To be fair, the other freepers mocked him, although pretty gently. One even said that he was wrong because it was “childish” to think that the nanobots in the H1N1 thing was in order to induce mind control. A much more adult approach, according to him or her, was that it’s all about population control. One thing I don’t get about people espousing this population control conspiracy idea is that since the population is steadily increasing, whoever is running this alleged conspiracy must be comically incompetent.
There were also returns from things called Godlike Productions and Survivalist Boards. Completely rational and upstanding ladies and gentlemen, I’m sure.
The other half are just dumb, apparently. To be fair, this was an internet study so the results might be a bit biased.
But then I have to wonder about that, because it’s not like half of Americans read “Natural News” and other New Age crackpots. So where does this irrational fear come from?
Debbie Goddard at the Center For Inquiry might have an answer to that question. She received an email from some pastor about the role of the H1N1 vaccine in the “End Times.” He hilariously describes his “vision” showing him that, although he thought he was amongst sheep, they were really WOLVES IN DISGUISE!!!!!! Get it? They looked like sheep, but they were really wolves in disguise. It’s almost as if they were wolves in sheep’s clothing.
After this revelation, God did that authorial intrusion thing it sometimes does:
Here, God spoke to me saying ‘my son, every person will be asked to compulsorily take immunization against the swine flu in the next few days. This is a disguise. They will in the process be infected with demons from the abyss; all who do not have my spirit and my seal upon them. Yes, it will be such that that they will receive a deadly spirit inoculated into them.
Two things occur to me:
- Did Mesac Damas get an advance version of the “deadly spirit” injection? Is that how the devil got him?
- God’s promise about every person being forced to vaccinate against H1N1 sounds like a testable claim. If this actually happens “in the next few days,” I will sell everything I own and become a mindless servant to this pastor. Actually, I’ll be generous and interpret “the next few days” as being until the end of flu season.
On that second point, I wonder if this pastor will admit he was mistaken in his “vision” if everyone is not forced to vaccinate. I guess we will have to wait and see. [UPDATE: Good debunking of H1N1 antivaccine fears here]