Respectful Insolence

Well, it looks as though I’ve stepped into it yet one more time.

Believe it or not, I hadn’t intended to stir up trouble among the ScienceBlogs collective, both English- and German-speaking. Really. Oh, I’ll admit that there are occasionally times when I actually do mean to stir up trouble. One recent example is when it was rumored that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. might be chosen to be Secretary of the Interior or, even worse, Director of the EPA. Much to my surprise, I actually did manage to stir up a goodly amount of blogospheric reaction, too. Although I believed it to be a good cause, this case was still a bit of an aberration, though. Usually, when I do mean to stir up a reaction against an problem that I perceive, I tend to fail miserably. The truly ironic corollary to this principle is that posts in which I didn’t really mean to cause trouble (or at least not that much) and that didn’t take much time or effort to write tend to be the ones that end up attracting hundreds of fevered comments. So it was on Sunday, when in response to a reader’s question I took about 15 minutes to whip off a quick post about some disturbing examples of what seemed to be antivaccinationist nonsense and entitled it Is there an antivaccinationist on ScienceBlogs.de? Help me figure it out, my German-speaking readers!

The title was not ironic. It was a statement of my concern and confusion. I don’t speak German; so all I could do was use Babelfish, Google Translate, and other online tools to get a rough idea of what the blogger, Bert Ehgartner, whose blog is called Lob der Krankheit, which various German readers have translated as “Praise of Illness” or “Praise of Disease,” was saying. However, what my reader had told me about one post, “Aluminium muss raus aus Impfstoffen!”, which means “aluminum must be removed (or eliminated) from vaccines” was concerning enough, which is why I investigated in the first place. The post consisted of an interview with a physician named Dr. Klaus Hartmann, who appears to make part of his living as a plaintiff’s witness testifying in vaccine injury cases in Germany. Even in a Babelfish translation, I could tell that this was a post that was not science-based. In it Ehgartner repeated several bits of misinformation that I had heard before from antivaccinationists about the HPV vaccine, ones similar to the ones I had taken on here and here. Moreover, Ehgartner seems to have a thing against aluminum in vaccines, blaming it for all sorts of neurodevelopmental problems, scientific evidence be damned. I realized instantly that this is very much of a piece with our American antivaccinationists, who, having finally realized that evidence is increasingly piling up against mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism, have made aluminum into the new mercury, so to speak. Does this make Ehgartner an antivaccinationist? Not in and of itself, but it sure did look suspicious. Certainly there was enough in that post alone to send up red flags. That’s why I literally asked my German-speaking readers for help in evaluating Ehargarten’s blog. I needed it.

Then I came across a post, which was clearly an anti-big pharma rant that seemed to be saying that the flu vaccine is useless and in essence a ploy by big pharma to make lots of money. In it Ehgartner also likened flu experts to “vacuum cleaner salesmen.” More red flags. And then there was a post entitled Neues Diagnose-Verfahren bestätigt Hirnschäden bei ADHS. Fortunately (or, perhaps unfortunately for me), one of my German readers translated this post. All I can say is: Wow. It’s bad. Painfully bad. Let’s take a look. Note that I took some minor liberties with the translation provided me to correct awkward grammatical constructions and phraseology, but not in a way that changes the meaning of the translation significantly.

Also, I will point out that the article that Ehgartner is discussing is this one. It’s actually a rather interesting study in which a special MRI technique, known as large deformation diffeomorphic metric mapping (LDDMM), was used to compare brain morphology in boys with ADHD to that in neurotypical normally developing boys. The results: “Boys with ADHD showed significantly smaller basal ganglia volumes compared with typically developing boys, and LDDMM revealed the groups remarkably differed in basal ganglia shapes. Volume compression was seen bilaterally in the caudate head and body and anterior putamen as well as in the left anterior globus pallidus and right ventral putamen. Volume expansion was most pronounced in the posterior putamen. No volume or shape differences were revealed in girls with ADHD.” Personally, I find it rather interesting that there were anatomically detectable differences in the brains of boys with ADHD compared to controls but not in girls. Unfortunately, Ehgartner represents the results thusly:

Whether the changes were present from birth or they were caused by inflammatory processes or exposure to toxins at a young age, for instance, is not clear and constitutes the main mystery of ADHD. Possible causes for this disorder have been fiercely debated for decades. Sometimes, the question arises whether it even constitutes a disorder, or whether society is merely unable to cope with “especially active and naughty children” and therefore “sedates them with pharmaceuticals.” These statements usually come from people who have never closely interacted with affected individuals.

More seriously, it has been suggested that ADHD should be classified as part of the autism spectrum. Here, roughly the same sex ratio is observed (about three times as many affected boys), the same significance of a heritable component and roughly the same age of manifestation. The main problem with autism is a lack of appropriate “networks” in the brain, so that certain important areas are not in contact with each other, but individual areas can be especially highly developed à la “Rain Man”. Therefore, ADHD would be a special form of autism. Which disorder manifests itself would therefore depend on the type and extent of brain damage.

Nothing in the study suggested inflammation as a cause of the anatomic differences detected in the study. In addition, the above claim that ADHD should be classified as a “special form of autism is a serious overreading of some studies that implicated the same chromosomal region in both ASD and ADHD, combined with the common fallacy of confusing correlation with causation. Note also how Ehgartner refers to the changes in the brain that this study found in boys with ADHD as “brain damage.” I don’t know if that’s a mistranslation or not, but it sure doesn’t sound good. Still, the above isn’t the worst part of the post, which descends rapidly into highly dubious, science-free assertions:

According to this hypothesis, an environmental component must exist. The heritable component merely influences the susceptibility to this unknown factor.  The fact that congenital disorders generally have a stable prevelance over centuries, whereas ADHD and autism cases have been increasing over the past decades supports this. According to the CDC, 1 in 100 children are affected by autism nowadays. Around four percent of German children suffer from ADHD. On average, there is one “Fidgety Philip” in every classroom. But what is this environmental influence?

Some suspect the culprit is the ongoing onslaught of stimuli children are subjected to by television, computer games and mobile phones. Others blame the lack of structure at school or overly high standards at school. Older hypotheses identify bad parenting, neglect and trauma at an early age as the cause. However, it would be unusual for any of these to cause brain damage. A year ago, a study in The Lancet addressed the influence of food additives on hyperactivity. Certain colouring agents and the preservative sodium benzoate were identified as problematic.

Note how Ehgartner completely ignores widened diagnostic criteria, increased awareness, and diagnostic substition as explanations for the apparent increase in autism diagnoses, as well as for ADHD diagnoses and simply assumes that it must be an environmental cause. That’s not so unreasonable on the surface, but it overlooks so many factors relevant to this discussion that it is as simplistic as it gets. There’s a reason. His rationale seems to be: ADHD and autism rates are rising; it must be “toxins”! Sound familiar? If you’re a regular reader of this blog, it should. Note how Ehgartner also makes the same sort of noises that the proponents of a link between vaccines and autism make about an autism (and ADHD) “epidemic.” In fact, there is good evidence that there is no autism epidemic, but rather that the increase in autism diagnoses, a congenital neurodevelopmental disorder that should seemingly have a stable prevalence. Indeed, it is more likely than not that the true prevalence of autism is stable corrected for diagnostic substitution and these other factors.

Next Ehgartner moves on to a series of dubious hypotheses for the causes of ADHD, such as computer games, mobile phones, or bad parenting. This is actually clever, because it sets the stage for his preferred idea for what the cause of this “brain damage” is by allowing him to seem to have considered and dismissed a number of other possibilities. Never mind that it’s not correct to refer to the changes in a congenital brain disorder as “brain damage” and applying that label to children with ADHD is in fact offensive. Never mind that most of the other possible hypotheses dismissed are scientifically highly implausible at best and utterly discredited at worst. That’s an inherent part of the structure of these arguments. In any case, you always know what’s coming next after a set up like this. (At least I do.) Given a buildup like that, there’s only one thing that could be following next. Yes, Ehgartner thinks the apparent increase in autism and ADHD must be due to those evil vaccines:

Personally, I think it would be important to investigate the possible influence administering vaccines to babies without prejudice; more specifically, the aluminium salts currently found in two thirds of vaccines given to children as adjuvants. A recent Canadian study has already shown that these substances have considerable potential for toxicity.

I never, ever thought I’d be saying this about a fellow ScienceBlogger, but…The Stupid, It Burns. In German.

There’s no good evidence to implicate aluminum in the development of ADHD, autism, or any other disorder other than Alzheimers, and the evidence linking aluminum to Alzheimer’s is weak and inconsistent indeed. The concentration on aluminum is nothing more than the old “bait and switch” in which antivaccinationists, now that mercury in vaccines has been exonerated as a cause of autism, have switched to various “toxins,” including formaldehyde and aluminum, forgetting that the dose makes the poison. It’s a ploy I like to call the “toxin gambit.” Does Ehgartner’s repetition of these antivaccine canards make him an antivaccinationist? Not necessarily, but it’s sure suspicious, especially coupled with his big pharma conspiracy-mongering elsewhere on his blog and his tendency to pull the “pharma shill gambit” on anyone who argues against him. The most charitable interpretation is that he is a credulous soul, prone to woo. The least charitable explanation tags him as an antivaccinationist. Neither are what I would consider models of bloggers I want to see on ScienceBlogs.

After writing my post, I thought it was bad enough that we might have an antivaccinationist on ScienceBlogs.de, but then readers in the comments started to point out something that I find even more disturbing about Ehgartner: He appears to be an HIV/AIDS denialist. For instance, he has signed the “Rethinking AIDS” (RA) manifesto/petition. RA, in case you’re not aware, is an HIV/AIDS denialist organization with prominent HIV/AIDS denialists Peter Duesberg and Christine Maggiore (remember her?) on its board. It advocates “rethinking” the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS, and in fact “rethinker” is the denialists’ attempt to rebrand themselves as something reasonable, something other than denialists. I can’t speak for my fellow ScienceBloggers, but I am not happy about being associated with an HIV/AIDS denialist in the blog network for which I write. It matters not to me whether it’s the German division of ScienceBlogs; I make no distinction. To me, we’re all part of the same wonderfully dysfunctional family.

Another issue that came out in the discussions after my Sunday post is that there is at least one other German ScienceBlog that raises serious concerns about the blogger’s ability to distinguish medicine from quackery. Specifically, it’s a medical blog by Peter Artmann dubbed Medlog. Commenters pointed out that Artmann seems prone to some heavy duty, serious woo, the very sort that would if in English lead to a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respecful Insolence. (Never let it be said that I allow a language barrier to keep me from delivering such a helping.) The problem is perhaps best encapsulated in Artmann’s post Ayurveda enthält Blei … ach nee. In it, he essentially argues that the heavy metal contamination with lead and mercury recently reported in all too many Ayurvedic herbal medicines is nothing to be concerned about because it’s all part of the medicine. I kid you not. A reader translated his post in my comments, and here is part of it (once again, I alter the translation for better grammar and style–I hope Thomas Xavier, the reader who was kind enough to do the translation, doesn’t take offense, and I also point out that the original still resides in my comments):

One of the most stupid bits of news from last week was a story about heavy metals in ayurvedic remedies. It was published by Zeit, Focus, and even the Ärzteblatt.

We could read about “contaminated” or “loaded” remedies, and that this happened “despite the manufacturer’s guarantee of purity.” But seriously. If there were no heavy metals in the remedies, it would not be Ayurvedic medicine. Metals are the active components of the Rasashastra-school of Ayurvedic medicine!

You read it right. Artmann is seriously arguing that the heavy metal contamination in Ayurvedic medicines that has been reported in multiple studies is a feature, not a bug! Truly, I can’t make stuff like this up, and I really wish that Artmann couldn’t either. This guy is a biologist?

Worse, he gets all “not-so-respectfully insolent,” which I could normally totally appreciate, the way a connoisseur enjoys a fine wine, except that he’s directing his sarcasm at those presumptuous scientists and journalists who reported the heavy metal contamination in the first place:

Can the editors be blamed? Well, the blame for this dumbing down should go to a renowned Journal. Of all things, the American journal for physicians JAMA published a study by Robert Saper, who – what breaking news- found out that Ayurvedic remedies contain heavy metals.

What a clever guy. Maybe, next time Saper will warn of pain during acupuncture and the usual suspects and then pass that news on. Attention: Acupuncture can cause pain, because you will be pricked (sounds a little bit like Feldbusch and belongs to the same league).

“But isn’t it good, when you are notified of metals in ayurvedic remedies? I heard they even contain lead?”

But of course they do! The whole Rasashastra-school of Ayurvedic medicine is based on the use of metals. Lead is but one of the metals used. Traditionally, this medicin employs copper, silver, lead, iron, tin, zinc and even mercury.

“What, even mercury? Do they want to poison their patients?”

Well, its a different kind of medicine. The mercury (and all the other metals) are not administered as plain metals, but they are heated, crushed, heated again until only a white ash-like powder remains (this can take years). The resulting product is called bashma and swims on water (try this with pure mercury). Mercury is but one ingredient, other popular ones are lead and of course arsenic.

Yes, you read that right, too. Artmann is defending the presence of mercury, lead, and arsenic in Ayurvedic medicines as a feature, not a bug. But to him it’s just fine and dandy–hunky dory, even!–because faith in the healer makes it OK:

“Yes, but isn’t it good anyway, when you inform people that these alternative remedies contain dangerous ingredients? I mean, who has read the Rasashastra?”

No, it is very silly. If you use Ayurvedic medicine without practitioner, you have not understood the basic principle of alternative treatment. A HOLISTIC TREATMENT WITHOUT TRUST IN THE PRACTITIONER CANNOT HEAL ANYBODY.

This western attempt to combine several elements of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda and what-do-I-know from Tibet, change nothing in your life, and then hope for the cure of a chronic disease lacks the most important part of all these doctrines: The faith in the healer.

I hope that regular readers of this blog will recognize the quackery inherent in this argument. Truly, I was flabbergasted when I read this and consider it far worse than Ehgartner’s parroting of antivaccine canards layered with seemingly reasonable plausible deniability that he is antivaccine. I could not believe that such woo is appearing under my beloved ScienceBlogs banner, under which I have proudly blogged for nearly three years now! I was especially disgusted with this comment in response to another commenter who pointed out that any remedy that absolutely requires faith in the healer to work is usually a placebo. A man after my own heart, this commenter then gave this snarky rejoinder, “Dancing completely naked three times around the fire is also sufficient and probably has fewer side effects.” (I like this guy.) Artmann replies (forgive the crude Google translation):

That so many experts in Ayurvedic medicine are gathered here together, I would have never have expected.

I am surprised by the arrogance of medical methods to the very different cultural roots and also have very different effects wants than the local medicine. And, of course, I wonder whether the commenters really believe that we are already at the end of what science has achieved.

[...]

At present, for skeptics who because of their vanity about sick people like to collect the placebo effect for all saddled with.

In principle, this is a gruesome and very poor idea and an obvious slap in the face to all mental suffering.

Ah, yes. The “arrogance” gambit. Personally, I wonder: Which is more arrogant? pointing out that there is potentially poisonous heavy metal contamination or the person who has the arrogance to assume that faith in an Ayurvedic healer can mitigate the toxicity of those metals?

So why am I making a such a big deal out of this? What’s the big deal, anyway? Can’t we all just get along?

In a word, no.

Now, no one around here claims that we ScienceBloggers are all above reproach and unfailingly brilliant, that we’re all saintly, or that we never, ever write stupid things. Certainly, I don’t, and certainly I’ve never claimed not to have fallen prey to my own personal foibles, resulting in the occasional dubious (or in retrospect completely embarrassing) post. And certainly, there have been quite a few times when I’ve strongly, even violently disagreed with something that a fellow ScienceBlogger has written and said so, even just last week. Nor would I pretend that I like every ScienceBlogger (regular readers will have an idea of who falls into the categories of ScienceBloggers I like or can’t stand), and I certainly don’t expect that every ScienceBlogger will like me (at least one doesn’t). You can’t have more than seventy people under one collective without personality clashes and substantive disagreements popping up, and we’ve had more than our share of drama, some of which I’ve contributed to. However, mere disagreements are not what I’m talking about here. Personal dislike has nothing to do with it, as I had never heard of the two bloggers in question before last weekend. No, this is a matter of protecting the ScienceBlogs name and brand. It’s all about quality.

Perhaps I’m ridiculously naïve, but I always thought that, whatever our fractious behavior and arguments over religion or politics or even scientific issues (which, let’s face it, are often full of sound and fury, signifying nothing), one thing ScienceBlogs stands for is communicating what good science is to the masses and why it’s so cool. I’ve also assumed that what it stands against is pseudoscience and misinformation. My complaint is not a matter of scientific disagreement or being annoyed by a couple of contrarians defending positions that are weak and not well-supported by the evidence. It is about clear and obvious misinformation about what science says about vaccines, autism, ADHD, and disease published under the banner of ScienceBlogs. In the case of Peter Artmann, it is about a ScienceBlogger who defends obvious quackery and makes utterly unscientific assertions while doing so. I don’t know about my fellow ScienceBloggers, be they English- or German-speaking, but I don’t like being associated with two such bloggers. I don’t like it at all. As much as I hate to say it, we clearly have a problem in our German division.

What I hate to say even more is that the leadership of our German division does not appear to “get it.” Indeed, Jessica Riccò, one of the editors of ScienceBlogs Germany, showed up in the comments to complain. I was disappointed to see that she apparently does not know that Rethinking AIDS is an HIV/AIDS denialist organization. Worse, she makes arguments from authority in pointing out that Ehgartner has apparently written for mainstream German publications. Unfortunately, by that criteria, David Kirby (who’s freelanced for the New York Times) or Dan Olmsted (who, remember, used to write for UPI) would qualify as excellent ScienceBloggers. Worse, she argues that because Ehgartner has never denied that HIV causes AIDS or urged parents not to vaccinate on ScienceBlogs.de itself, it’s OK to have him there, while labeling the criticism against him a “fatuous witch hunt.” By that definition, I suppose it would be fine to have Peter Duesberg blog for ScienceBlogs too, as long as he doesn’t write about his HIV/AIDS “skepticism,” or for Mark Geier and Boyd Haley to join the collective, as long as they don’t urge parents not to vaccinate. Heck, why not invite Dr. Michael Egnor to blog about neuroscience, as long as he doesn’t mention evolution? He is a neurosurgeon, after all. True, maybe such a situation wouldn’t be as bad as letting the antivaccine blog Age of Autism or the HIV/AIDS denialist blog HIV/AIDS Skepticism join the collective, but it would still damage the ScienceBlogs brand, and it sullies all the other excellent scientific, medical, and skeptical bloggers housed both on the U.S. and German versions of ScienceBlogs. Besides, why should we settle for “least bad” rather than actively promoting and fostering excellence? In any case, the argument that a ScienceBlogger can be a crank or support quackery as long as he does not advocate crankery and quackery on ScienceBlogs does not hold up in the face of Peter Artmann, who is clearly arguing for dangerous quackery by telling his readers that heavy metal in their Ayurvedic herbal remedies is not harmful, as long as an Ayurvedic healer directs their use. People could suffer heavy metal poisoning as a result of following such advice, and that advice appeared on ScienceBlogs.de.

In the end, I sincerely hope that The Powers That Be, both here in the U.S. and in Germany, view the identification of these two dubious bloggers as an opportunity to define what the scientific standards should be for ScienceBloggers. I realize that there has been a fair amount of whining and wringing of hands in the comments, in which the ever-reliable logical fallacy of the slippery slope argument has led a couple of commenters to ask “But where do you draw the line? Where will it all end?” This is accompanied with the suggestion that enforcing some standards against obvious pseudoscience will inevitably lead to the censoring of posts that stray from a ScienceBlogs-imposed political and scientific orthodoxy and muzzling any blogger with controversial views. Bullshit. I’m not referring to scientific controversies, no matter how contentious. I’m referring to obvious pseudoscience, like homeopathy–like claiming that the metals in Ayruvedic medicines won’t hurt you if a magic yogi administers them. The slippery slope argument is far more often than not a logical fallacy, and its invocation nearly always an argument for doing nothing. I see no evidence that it is anything different here. Enforcing minimal standards does not inevitably lead to mass censorship, and I would hope that a minimal standard we can agree on is “no consistent advocacy or promotion of obvious pseudoscience (homepathy, creationism, Holocaust denial, 9/11 Truther conspiracy theories, perpetual motion machines, etc.) on ScienceBlogs.”

Is that so much to ask? I don’t think so. What about you?

Comments

  1. #1 Thomas Xavier
    December 2, 2008

    Note that the slippery slope argument works both ways: If Artmann and Ehgartner are allowed to write for science blogs, why not holocaust deniers? After all, they have “scientific” meetings (in Teheran).

  2. #2 Christophe Thill
    December 2, 2008

    I mostly agree, but I’d find it a bit tough to just kick out those guys. A nicer solution can be considered. A new platform should be created, named not ScienceBlogs but PseudoScienceBlogs. And they should be automatically transferred to it. Now, how Seed could be convinced to sponsor such a move, I’m not quite sure. But it should be possible, as it currently has no problem hosting the guys.

  3. #3 The Gonzo Girl
    December 2, 2008

    Thanks for pointing out, that neurological differences shouldn’t be called “brain damage”
    FYI, Artmann called psychiatric wards “nuthouses”.
    I’m amazed, that the German science community doesn’t find that at all offensive.

  4. #4 Mike O'Risal
    December 2, 2008

    …Peter Artmann, who is clearly arguing for dangerous quackery by telling his readers that heavy metal in their Ayurvedic herbal remedies is not harmful, as long as an Ayurvedic healer directs their use. People could suffer heavy metal poisoning as a result of following such advice…

    But people have suffered heavy metal poisoning as a result of such advice, as I mentioned in an entry I wrote about this yesterday. So-called “folk medicines,” including the Ayurvedic hoodoo, has been implicated in literally thousands of heavy metal poisonings in the US. More about that here, but just a snippet:

    Traditional medicines may account for up to 30 percent of all childhood lead poisoning cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 240,000 U.S. children were diagnosed with high blood lead levels in 2004 to 2006.

    Many more cases are almost certainly going undetected. Only 14 percent of children are tested for lead nationwide…

    That these sorts of things should find a pulpit on ScienceBlogs.de is unconscionable, and whomever made the decision to allow them on there should no longer have the responsibility of making such decisions at all.

  5. #5 florian
    December 2, 2008

    “Note also how Ehgartner refers to the changes in the brain that this study found in boys with ADHD as “brain damage.” I don’t know if that’s a mistranslation or not, but it sure doesn’t sound good.”

    The german word he used was “Hirnschädigungen” which indeed translates “brain damage”.

  6. #6 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    Eventually something will have to be done about this, preferably involving testing Ayruvedic remedies on german science bloggers….

    For now I think the best option for now is just to encourage german readers to keep an eye on them, so we can baet them around the head with The Big Stick Of Science (patent pending) when ever they say something dumb.

    Anyone got info on Jessice Ricco? Editors supportive of this sort of stupidity are a much bigger issue.

  7. #7 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    Eventually something will have to be done about this, preferably involving testing Ayruvedic remedies on german science bloggers….

    Heh…

  8. #8 florian
    December 2, 2008

    “It is about clear and obvious misinformation about what science says about vaccines, autism, ADHD, and disease published under the banner of ScienceBlogs. In the case of Peter Artmann, it is about a ScienceBlogger who defends obvious quackery and makes utterly unscientific assertions while doing so. I don’t know about my fellow ScienceBloggers, be they English- or German-speaking, but I don’t like being associated with two such bloggers. I don’t like it at all. As much as I hate to say it, we clearly have a problem in our German division.”

    I have a blog in the German division of SB and I totally agree with this statement!

  9. #9 Ulrich
    December 2, 2008

    Fortunately, the aluminum-ADHD puzzle has been solved now.
    http://www.scienceblogs.de/kritisch-gedacht/2008/12/aluminium-adhs.php

  10. #10 Fischer
    December 2, 2008

    Eventually something will have to be done about this, preferably involving testing Ayruvedic remedies on german science bloggers…

    Well for the sake of reciprocity and fairness this also requires that everyone else is thoroughly vaccinated…

    Where do I register? I need a few antivir updates anyway.

  11. #11 Fischer
    December 2, 2008

    Eventually something will have to be done about this, preferably involving testing Ayruvedic remedies on german science bloggers…

    For the sake of reciprocity and fairness this also requires that everyone else is thoroughly vaccinated…

    Where do I register? I need a few antivir updates anyway.

  12. #12 wolfgang
    December 2, 2008

    For a virologist I just made a copy of the clinical course of a boy with measles who ist in coma since 12.Oct 2007 due to the measles complication SSPE. Until now we have 443 measles cases in 2008 all originated from unvaccinated students in an anhroposophic Steiner school. Total america had 165 cases in 2007.

    And here is another piece of Bert Ehgartner- he posted it in the guest book of an anti-vaccine group around 2005.

    Translation: In life unfortunately not all things are black or white. I repeat my arguments to mesales. Measles today has nearly nothing to do with the disease measles 20 yrs ago. Caused by immunizations measles appears more frequently in age groups, where the complication rate is significantly increased: In children below 12 month (because immunized mothers give less protection to their babys) in adolescents and in adults. So the measles immunization has caused that a harmless childrens disesae- when good care is given- has changed to a disease with frequent complications. Instead of contributing to the maturation of the immune system of the child and of contributing to the psychic development in toodlers age, the disease is weaker due to immunization, hardly has a positive effect on the immune system and carrys the risk of chronic gut disease, and the causation of severe autoimmundiseases

    and here the original text in German

    Aber im Leben ist leider nicht alles nur schwarz oder nur weiß. Ich wiederhole nochmal meine Argumentation zur Masern: Masern heute hat mit der Krankheit Masern vor 20 Jahren fast nichts mehr gemeinsam. Durch die Impfkampagnen tritt Masern heute vermehrt in Altersgruppen auf, wo die Komplikationsrate wesentlich erhöht ist: Bei Kindern unter 12 Monaten (weil geimpfte Mütter ihren Babys weniger Schutz weitergeben), sowie bei Jugendlichen und Erwachsenen. Damit hat die Masernimpfung aus einer – bei guter Pflege – harmlosen Kinderkrankheit eine komplikationsreiche Krankheit gemacht. Anstatt zur Reifung des kindlichen Immunsystem und zur psychischen Entwicklung im Vorschulalter beizutragen, verläuft die Masern in folge der Impfung abgeschwächt, hat kaum einen positiven Effekt auf das Immunsystem und birgt das Risiko chronischer Darmentzündungen, sowie die Auslösung schwerer Autoimmunerkrankungen (z.B: Autismus).

    in summary this is dangerous bullshit.

  13. #13 Tsu Dho Nimh
    December 2, 2008

    Die dummen Brände hell

  14. #14 Christian
    December 2, 2008

    As a fellow ScienceBlogs.de blogger, I have followed these discussions (here and over at ScienceBlogs.de) for a few days now. Since I am a computer scientist, who knows jack about medicine, I generally do not blog about medical issues or feel compelled to discuss them.

    However, it seems very odd to me, that you would actually link someone who writes an article about aluminum in vaccines – no matter how wrong this article may be – to a Holocaust denier. This is an ad hominem argument so unjust, it makes the Ehrgartner article look much better than it actually is. To compare people with scientificly questionable views (antivax, homeopathy etc.) to actual hate groups such as Holocaust deniers, is certainly not the kind of response you would expect in an academic discussion.

    Furthermore, I fail to understand why none of the people who are obviously very agitated by Ehrgartners arguments would bother to just compile a bunch of links to scientific, peer-reviewed studies, that devalidate his claims. Instead of comparing Ehrgartner to a Holocaust denier and demanding that every blogger, who makes an antivax statement be fired from ScienceBlogs, would it not be a much more proper and more scientific way to refute his claims using scientific references?

    “An angry man opens his mouth and shuts his eyes.”
    - Marcus Porcius Cato

  15. #15 Robster, FCD
    December 2, 2008

    I would love to offer myself up to scienceblogs to write about the value of the four humors theory of medicine.

    It is a long established, traditional medical “theory” with a long history of successful treatment (in that practitioners had a history of being paid for their services) until it was supplanted by evidence based medicine.

    Since there are a handful of diseases, disorders, injuries and poisonings for which bleeding and emesis are actually called for by evidence based medicine, all of the four humor’s treatments must be valid, and if you disagree, then you just haven’t been bled by the right person.

    I demand to be heard, even if I don’t believe in what I would be writing.

    [Yes, that was sarcasm]

  16. #16 Martin
    December 2, 2008

    To be honest, I think this was always going to be the problem with this kind of blogging project. As soon as you allow a single popular magazine to become the hub of science blogging, you end up subject to their whims.

    Realistically, the best thing you can do I think is to get someone at Seed onside, or just club together with some colleagues and threaten to walk.

  17. #17 Ludmila
    December 2, 2008

    Jepp Florian, I’m with you. Particularly the statement from Jessica was really disappointing and disturbing. I mean, why the hell do we waste precious time to battle anti-science, quackery and scientific misinformation on Scienceblogs.de, again? Not only do have we at least one person sprouting the worst sort of nonsense under the disguise of science right within our midst, the editor also defends him on the basis of his “outstanding” and shining past accomplishments as science writer for the news paper.

    I couldn’t care less. Bullshit is bullshit and still smells of shit, no matter who excretes it.

    I’m tired and I’m frustrated and I’m seriously considering quitting altogether. If anti-science is not only invited but actually defended with very dubious arguments, then Scienceblogs.de is already rotten to the core. And that in the first year of its launch.

    BTW. Scienceblogs.de is maintained by Burda media not SEED. A large german publishing company.

  18. #18 perceval
    December 2, 2008

    Christian, to find the arguments you are looking for, see Orac’s blog. Heck, a google of scienceblogs.com and vaccination will do. Seriously. Orac has deconstructed this particular nonsense time and time again, with extensive references. It’s Ehgartner who hasn’t done his homework.

    perceval, a fellow computer scientist

  19. #19 wolfgang
    December 2, 2008

    @Christian

    may I correct you: Bert Ehgartner ist not at all a holocaust denier. He undersigned the rethinkers, who claim that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.

  20. #20 Robster, FCD
    December 2, 2008

    Christian, the use of “denial” and “denialist” are partly due to the clumsy English language.

    HIV denial is referred to as such because proponents deny the evidence that HIV is the cause of AIDS. We have yet to come up with a word that is more appropriate without being crudely vulgar.

    Also, the peer reviewed evidence is known to many of us, and is present in many of Orac’s links. I’d love to put a few together, but I am supposed to be grading lab reports, but am an extraordinary procrastinator, and am doing what I do best.

  21. #22 Ludmila
    December 2, 2008

    Jepp Florian, I’m with you. Particularly the statement from Jessica was really disappointing and disturbing. I mean, why the hell do we waste precious time to battle anti-science, quackery and scientific on Scienceblogs.de, again? Not only do have we at least one person sprouting the worst sort of nonsense under the disguise of science right within our midst, the editor also defends him on the basis of his “outstanding” and shining past accomplishments as science writer for the news paper.

    I couldn’t care less. Bullshit is bullshit and still smells of shit, no matter who excretes it.

    I’m tired and I’m frustrated and I’m seriously considering quitting altogether. If anti-science is not only invited but actually defended with very dubious arguments, then Scienceblogs.de is already rotten to the core. And that already in the first year of its launch.

    BTW. Scienceblogs.de is maintained by Burda media not SEED. A large german publishing company.

  22. #23 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    However, it seems very odd to me, that you would actually link someone who writes an article about aluminum in vaccines – no matter how wrong this article may be – to a Holocaust denier. This is an ad hominem argument so unjust, it makes the Ehrgartner article look much better than it actually is. To compare people with scientificly questionable views (antivax, homeopathy etc.) to actual hate groups such as Holocaust deniers, is certainly not the kind of response you would expect in an academic discussion.

    You misunderstand.

    The comparison to Holocaust denial is not meant to call Ehgartner a Nazi. It is to point out that he uses the same sorts of logical fallacies, misrepresentations of evidence and science, and dubious assertions to make his case as Holocaust deniers do. Holocaust deniers. In this I consider Holocaust deniers to be of a type with other types of pseudoscience, including creationism, quackery, paranormal phenomena, etc. It is not calling anyone a Nazi or anti-Semite; it is pointing out commonalities among cranks.

    In case you doubt my blogging credentials on this, note that I have a long history of speaking out against Holocaust denial, and I daresay that I probably know more about Holocaust denial than you do:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/history/holocaust_denial

    Given that history, I am well aware of how toxic the term can be and have in the past urged caution in using it:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/11/denialism_sometimes_theres_no_other_way.php

    However, that being said, we should not shy away from lumping this very pernicious form of denialism in with other forms of denialism when appropriate just because of its connotation of anti-Semitism and Hitler apologia, either. It fits. Indeed, Michael Shermer did just that in his book Why People Believe Weird Things:

    http://skepdic.com/refuge/weird.html

    I view Holocaust denial as being the same as a lot of other pseudoscience, including creationism, quackery, various forms of paranormal pseudoscience, etc., in that it uses the same sorts of fallacious and pseudoscientific arguments, nothing more. Substitute the word “creationist” if you like.

  23. #24 Christian
    December 2, 2008

    @wolfgang: I know that he associated himself with that weird group. But when did he undersign the rethinkers? Last year, two years ago, five years ago? I could not find any hint on their website. And does his signature mean that he should be automatically banned from ScienceBlogs for life?

    I am not against calling out Ehrgartner for his claims. I just question the tone. We should really make an effort to argue with people we do not agree with in a somewhat civil manner. I know I fail that test sometimes, too. But all the agression and the anger directed against this one person…

  24. #25 abb3w
    December 2, 2008

    Asking for studies to look? Not a big problem.
    Claiming a connection despite existing studies showing provisional falsification? Problem.
    Claiming any opposition is because of “big pharma”? BIG problem.

    Feel free to keep looking, so long as you keep publishing the “still nothing here” papers. But don’t take the mockery as anything but your just due for looking in an apparent dead-end; just say “Fools, I’ll show you all!!!” (with optional maniacal laugh), get back to work, and be sure to mention the mockers by name at your awards acceptance speeches if/when you solidly prove your conjecture.

  25. #26 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    And does his signature mean that he should be automatically banned from ScienceBlogs for life?

    Not necessarily, but he sure as hell should have to explain himself, and if he no longer believes in “rethinking AIDS” he should tell RA to take his name off of its website. That’s a start.

    As for the “aggression and anger,” I’m actually more annoyed with Peter Artmann now than Bert Ehgartner. Artmann is explicitly advocating quackery.

  26. #27 Jane
    December 2, 2008

    @Christian: “it seems very odd to me, that you would actually link someone who writes an article about aluminum in vaccines – no matter how wrong this article may be – to a Holocaust denier.” Who did so? It certainly wasn’t me. If you think so, read my post again. I actually came to Artmanns and Ehgartners defence when they were linked with Hamer.

    “Furthermore, I fail to understand why none of the people who are obviously very agitated by Ehrgartners arguments would bother to just compile a bunch of links to scientific, peer-reviewed studies, that devalidate his claims.”
    But people did so in the comments to their articles and Ulrich did so, too.
    http://www.scienceblogs.de/kritisch-gedacht/2008/12/aluminium-adhs.php

    Just a personal note: I have seen what AIDS-Denialism does. I have no understanding whatsoever for people who peddle dangerous unscientific nonsense in medicine. And although I have been fighting holocaust denialists for some time now and although these people are the most despicable rabid morons ever, at least nobody dies from their sick lies.

  27. #28 Christian
    December 2, 2008

    @Orac: I know that your mentioning of Holocaust denialism does not mean that you called Ehrgartner a Nazi. Still, it is a remarkably crass connotation. I doubt that I would ever feel compelled to make that kind of comparison even when confronted with the most hideously false statements in my area of research.

    Anyway, the discussion is moot now, since Ehrgartner has been fired from ScienceBlogs already due to the outrage over his aluminum article. I somewhat doubt that this is the best possible decision but so be it.

  28. #29 Wolfgang
    December 2, 2008

    @christian.

    When you look at the list of people who singned the rethinker list you will find Bert Ehgartner making advertisment for his first book “Die Lebensformel” this book was launched in 2004.

    So he must have signed after this date. If Ehgartner want to get off the list he could immideately cancel his signature.

  29. #30 ERV
    December 2, 2008

    Christian, dude, before you make an ass of yourself– search SciBlogs for ‘vaccination’ ‘thermisol’ ‘autism’ ‘HIV’ ‘denialism’, etc.

    Several of us over here have had anti-vaxers/HIV Deniers/woo peddlers in our cross-hairs for years (me, Orac, Aetiology, Denialsim Blog, etc).

    This might be a new topic to you, but its old as the hills for us– we spend a considerable amount of time and effort explaining the science of these topics to normal people to combat the idiocy of the tards you have on German SciBlogs.

    We are pretty damn pissed off.

  30. #31 Robster, FCD
    December 2, 2008

    Christian, The cause of any dismissal is due to what he wrote, which was patently irresponsible and plainly false, not the reaction to it.

  31. #32 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    Cristian, your area of reserch is computer science this is medicine we’re talking about, HIV/AIDS denial is causing a holocaust of it’s own in some parts of the world. In medicine psuedo-science kills people, in computers it just means you’ve bought vista.

  32. #33 Aaron Golas
    December 2, 2008

    This may be the impetus I need to brush up on my German. :-P

  33. #34 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    Anyway, the discussion is moot now, since Ehrgartner has been fired from ScienceBlogs already due to the outrage over his aluminum article. I somewhat doubt that this is the best possible decision but so be it.

    Actually, if this is true, I’m not entirely sure the worst offender is gone. In the two days since I first posted, I’ve–shall we say?–done some “rethinking” (sorry, couldn’t resist). That rethinking has led me to believe that Peter Artmann might well be a worse offender than Bert Ehgartner as far as peddling pseudoscience goes.

  34. #35 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    Almost sad that he’s gone (Ehrgartner) I’d just come up with a plan to sneak my experiment passed an ethics comitte…

  35. #36 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    In medicine psuedo-science kills people, in computers it just means you’ve bought vista.

    Ramel, I may have to steal that line. It’s hilarious.

  36. #37 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    Feel free, but if it makes you a profit I want a cut

  37. #38 Blake Stacey
    December 2, 2008

    In order for me to get worried that booting these crackpots from ScienceBlogs would impede the discussion here, I’d have to be presented with a legitimate grey area. Arguing over the side effects of a particular drug, or debating the interpretation of a particular set of animal-intelligence experiments, is insignificant next to the wholesale denial of modern science implicit in endorsing Ayurvedic “medicine”. By way of analogy, imagine that ScienceBlogs.de had hired an astrologer (perhaps even a Vedic one). Would kicking them off the site hamper the discussions among real astronomers about whether liquid water exists on Saturn’s moon Enceladus? Of course not. Would it have a “chilling effect” on the (largely political) argument over whether to continue manned spaceflight? I highly doubt it.

    So, when Orac says the following:

    I realize that there has been a fair amount of whining and wringing of hands in the comments, in which the ever-reliable logical fallacy of the slippery slope argument has led a couple of commenters to ask “But where do you draw the line? Where will it all end?” This is accompanied with the suggestion that enforcing some standards against obvious pseudoscience will inevitably lead to the censoring of posts that stray from a ScienceBlogs-imposed political and scientific orthodoxy and muzzling any blogger with controversial views. Bullshit.

    I fully agree.

  38. #39 Conrad
    December 2, 2008
  39. #40 MKandefer
    December 2, 2008

    Ramelk said,

    “Cristian, your area of reserch [sic.]is computer science this is medicine we’re talking about, HIV/AIDS denial is causing a holocaust of it’s own in some parts of the world. In medicine psuedo-science kills people, in computers it just means you’ve bought vista.”

    I don’t mean to cause a war between disciplines, but I am also a computer scientist* and I think you’re mistaken about more than one of your claims.

    * – Though I prefer the term “cognitive scientist” as I research A.I., cognitive psychology, philosophy, and some neuroscience. It also has the benefit of immunizing myself from questions like, “My computer’s task bar disappeared, how do I restore it?”

    First, I don’t think that because one is from outside the medical profession that they cannot research, and learn about manufactured controversies; such as HIV/AIDS denial, or anti-vaccination. I think science bloggers like Orac do a great deal to help me understand the issue, and I think this has helped me pursue additional sources for edifying myself on the issue. I do think that we should be humble about this knowledge, as we don’t have the many years of experience Orac has in the medical profession, but I don’t think we should be afraid of discussing the topics at a “popular science” level of framing with our friends and family, distinguished medical experts, or if we should ever encounter an anti-vaccination movement in our local communities, our local newspapers and politicians.

    Second, in computer science, bad methods can kill people. Computers are utilized throughout the world. They’re utilized for the defense of numerous nations, the stability of our infrastructure, transportation, search and rescue, disaster management, and yes, even the medical profession. These devices needs to meet certain standards or people die. It’s crass to suggest that computer scientists don’t have to worry about human lives, just operating system functionality (which also, might cost human lives if it fails at an inopportune time).

    Third, your science is supported by computer scientists that work on developing, and improving medical imaging technology and software. It’s also supported by data analysis tools and large scale data management. We’d never be able to analyze the vast amount of genomic data we have on the variety of viruses without the aid of the computer scientists that develop these tools:

    http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2008/11/scale_how_large_quantities_of.php

    Similar issues of analysis, and scale can be found in other scientific disciplines.

    Forth, our field is not immune from quackery. See this software retailer scamming consumers with his “homeopathic” computer software, and the subsequent debunking by a computer scientist:

    Lardge J, “Salt lamp: heated Himalayan salt improves your health” in There Goes the Science Bit…, Sense About Science, 2007. pg. 5

    http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/voys/theregoesthesciencebit.pdf

  40. #41 MKandefer
    December 2, 2008

    “Ramel, I may have to steal that line. It’s hilarious.”

    Orac, you disappoint me. =(

  41. #42 StuV
    December 2, 2008

    Christian: you don’t consider willfully spreading misinformation that has been proven to harm people crass?

    Odd.

  42. #43 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008
    In medicine psuedo-science kills people, in computers it just means you’ve bought vista.

    Ramel, I may have to steal that line. It’s hilarious.

    Orac, you are a computer. Have you considered what would happen if you were loaded with MSWinVista?

    (And, yes, that line’s a keeper.)

  43. #44 windy
    December 2, 2008

    What if an Ayurvedic practitioner administers mercury-containing vaccines? Would that be all right?

  44. #45 bob
    December 2, 2008

    @Christian:

    I think you’ve been reading our friend Nisbet too seriously. It’s not our fault that these guys are arguing *like* neo-Nazis. They are continuing to use debunked lines of argument, ignoring new evidence that’s contradictory to their views, stubbornly clinging to their conclusions despite scientific consensuses (consensi?) to the contrary … all classic denialist strategies.

    They’re putting themselves in line with holocaust deniers with their BS-filled arguments.

  45. #46 SC
    December 2, 2008

    Now, no one around here claims that we ScienceBloggers are all above reproach and unfailingly brilliant, that we’re all saintly, or that we never, ever write stupid things. Certainly, I don’t, and certainly I’ve never claimed not to have fallen prey to my own personal foibles, resulting in the occasional dubious (or in retrospect completely embarrassing) post. And certainly, there have been quite a few times when I’ve strongly, even violently disagreed with something that a fellow ScienceBlogger has written and said so, even just last week.

    Oh, sure – provide a link to an example of the second but not the first. What fun is that?

  46. #47 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008

    MKandefer:

    As one CS to another, lighten up. It was a cute throwaway line.

    Of course bad software can kill. More than twenty years ago our office had a poster on the wall of a pilot punching out of an F-16 in flight, with the caption

    Fly-by-Wire gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘System Crash.’

    More recently, a good bit of our current economic meltdown seems to be the result of financial-system software with unexamined premises and dubious logic — and that’s closer to pseudo-science rather than just bad execution of good science. Before anyone goes all holy on “lives vs. mere money,” keep in mind that there are always tradeoffs. A billion here and a billion there just might make the difference between life and death for someone.

    Still, it’s a great line.

  47. #48 Blake Stacey
    December 2, 2008

    windy:

    What if an Ayurvedic practitioner administers mercury-containing vaccines? Would that be all right?

    Congratulations, you’ve won The Internet!

    . . .

    Following up on what I said in my last comment, it occurs to me that the presence of these antiscientific crackpots can itself cause a “chilling effect”, if for no other reason that we science bloggers are doing this gig in our copious free time. The more we have to smack down pseudoscience and pseudomedicine, the less time we have to actually have fun and spread a positive message about science. You think the internecine quarrels among English-speaking SciBlings are bad, and that our recurring sound-and-fury exchanges are too boring to read anymore? Imagine that, but significantly worse.

    If the only purpose of a science blog were to bash creationists, I for one would have gotten tired of the hobby a long time ago. (The same goes for the idea that the primary aim of science blogging is and should be “gee whiz! science is shiny!” cheerleading.) I don’t want to have to deal with blatant nonsense and the unsinkable rubber ducks who espouse it any more than I have to, and having these loonballs under the ScienceBlogs banner would certainly shift the balance of obligation in the direction I would not enjoy.

  48. #49 MKandefer
    December 2, 2008

    D.C. says,

    “As one CS to another, lighten up. It was a cute throwaway line. [...] Still, it’s a great line.”

    I’m less concerned with the quote, than the context it was offered in, which was to malign computer scientists as outsiders to medicine, incapable of contributing to the discussion. I also wasn’t trying to focus on bad software, which as you appropriately point out is related to pseudoscience, but also good software which is used exclusively for the purpose of saving lives, such as disaster management software. It might have been a “cute throwaway line”, and I may need to lighten up, but that doesn’t make the line (in the context it was offered in) any less false.

  49. #50 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008

    I’m less concerned with the quote, than the context it was offered in, which was to malign computer scientists as outsiders to medicine, incapable of contributing to the discussion.

    Hey, I resemble that remark!

    I am a CS (among other things) and as Orac omnisciently knows have been slugging it out with woo merchants for more than a decade. I even like to think that I sometimes have something positive to contribute on health topics other than anti-woo, but that may be a conceit of an admittedly inflated ego.

    Anyone who can reason logically (and one hopes that CS isn’t totally destructive to that ability) has lots to contribute, particularly when the “opposition” are the minions of irrationality.

  50. #51 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    To be clear, I’m not putting computer science down and I recognise that when computers fail or are miss-used lives can be lost. The key difference is that medical and biological information is important to all our lives in the most fundimental way (except for orac, living creatures are just his hobby) and bad information can be spread a long way and can exist in the public conciousness for a very long time. Bad information leads people to make bad decisions (and we’re back to buying vista), I’m stuck with an OS that I hate untill I can afford to change but a cancer patient that chooses alt med over real med will probably die. Thats the point I’m trying to make. And vista sucks.

  51. #52 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    Reading the responses to my comment I feel I should clear up any confusion over myself, I am not a health professional nor did I intend to imply that I was. Like D.C. Sessions I have been following debates on woo and psuedo-science for a long time and I feel (and DC may be right about the ego bit) that I occasionally have something to offer a debate. Usually in the form of cruel and/or unusual snarkyness. And I never pass up an oppertunity to bash vista.

  52. #53 MKandefer
    December 2, 2008

    Thanks Ramel. If I understand your point, you’re claiming that everyday choices normal people make with regards to computers have little impact on their health, while they do when it comes to medicine. Fair enough, I can agree with that. However, I would encourage you (and any interest computer scientists) to read this (fixed the reference from the previous post):

    Sheldon T, “Computer Clear uses your PC to release over 34,000 different homoeopathic type remedies into you” in There Goes the Science Bit…, Sense About Science, 2007. pg. 5

    http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/voys/theregoesthesciencebit.pdf

    I thought it was interesting that pseudoscience concepts like homeopathy are applied to software in an effort to make a buck. The rationality for mechanism underlying the software is also a hilarious read.

  53. #54 Danimal
    December 2, 2008

    Orac you are missing the links in the statement “ones similar to the ones I had taken on here and here.”

  54. #55 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    MKanefer I think we’re on the same page now. That homeopathic software is truly bizzar and it still amazes me even now that people would pay money for a program like that (although it probably works better than a certain OS).

  55. #56 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    Hallo, da bin ich.

    It’s me. The Pater Artmann. Amen. Better known as bad egg and master of half-truths or spoiler of the science’s spirit.

    So what’s the question? Do you think, I say: heavy-metal is not harmful?

    That’s rubbish.

    I say: Ayurveda is not science.

    That’s why nobody can say it is wrong.
    Ayurveda is simply without any rights and rules and everybody can tell: From now on I am an Ayurvedan physician.
    Each village builds there own medicines – do you know what’s inside their pot? Does Saper know it?

    But if you want to fight against something you need to have a target. Where is it?

    I have been to some parts of india, maybe you should see it, too.
    There is no bad science in Ayurveda. It is just no science at all.
    But the most disturbing thing is: People take this kind of medicine … and they don’t get sick.
    Often they get better.

    I saw it and I am still looking for an explanation. Do you have it?

    And by the way … you are talking about lead, but did you notice the dirt?

    Anyway I have put an update in my old post.

    http://www.scienceblogs.de/medlog/2008/09/ayurveda-enthalt-blei-ach-nee.php

    It’s in german.

  56. #57 Mu
    December 2, 2008

    Nice of you that you don’t recommend for anyone to take toxic heavy metals in lethal doses. What would have helped so would have been a recommendation of staying a mile away of Ayurveda since you can’t tell if any of the homebrews contains the poison or not, instead of claiming it’s intolerant of us to condemn the use of it. Odd, these scientists and their idea of 21st century != 19th century.

  57. #58 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    Well, I live in Europe, you live in the states, they live in India. I guess they like their homes and medicines.

    I am not going to shoot their physicians.

    And in fact, they are not so different from us. Shall I say “stay away from Indians”? They have just a different method to cure people. I am not recommending it.

    What about you? Are you going to destroy their pots?

    Some time ago the europeans went to america and brought Jesus to native americans. They were certain to bring the best of all medicine.

  58. #59 Koray
    December 2, 2008

    Nobody can say it’s wrong, eh? But, surely you are saying it’s right: those who take such medicine don’t get worse, and they often get better. So, if they did get worse, or they didn’t get any better, then we’d surely say it’s wrong, too.

    Everybody should see India for their own personal anecdote, which is how science works anyways.

  59. #60 Thomas
    December 2, 2008

    To the various CS’s above: from one CS to the others, that *was* a funny line. As inaccurate as it was funny, but funny nonetheless. Well, there was a grain of truth (which seems to have been recognized universally by now): we don’t deal directly with matters of life-and-death, whereas in medical science they do.

    Just to throw in an anecdote: when I went from biologist to computer scientist to engineer, I got a lot more dangerous. Whereas at first about the worst I could do was come tumbling out of a forest canopy, maybe bringing a colleague or two with me, now … let’s just say that if I took a homeopathic approach to verifying the correctness of a braking circuit for an automobile, that would do a lot more harm.

  60. #61 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    Peter,

    I don’t know if it’s the language barrier or you, but what you just wrote doesn’t even make sense.

    Of course, what you said in your post about Ayruvedic medicines and heavy metal contamination in the post I linked to didn’t make sense either, and there wasn’t the excuse of not using your native language.

  61. #62 Blake Stacey
    December 2, 2008

    But the most disturbing thing is: People take this kind of medicine … and they don’t get sick.

    Oh, really?

    Often they get better.

    I’m sure the placebo effect is a wholly American phenomenon.

  62. #63 Thomas
    December 2, 2008

    @Peter: Die Dumm, es brennt!

    @Orac: It’s an okay summary of his update. You know when you’ve dug so far down you can barely see the sky? Peter apparently thinks you should keep digging.

  63. #64 Kristjan Wager
    December 2, 2008

    I’m less concerned with the quote, than the context it was offered in, which was to malign computer scientists as outsiders to medicine, incapable of contributing to the discussion.

    MKandefer, I might have missed it, but unless I am much mistaken, I’m still the only guest blogger Orac has had, and both my posts where related to health and medicine. Since Orac knows I am a computer scientist, I doubt he seriously consider CS incapable of contributing to the discussion.

    It was a funny remark, nothing more.

  64. #65 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    I didn’t say it’s right.

    I said I don’t understand it.

    And I said I don’t recommend it.

    Maybe its Placebo. I have no explanation.

    P. S. I am talking about my experience in india. In Germany our government does not allow medicine with as much lead and arsen as Saper found.

    @Blake I guess there are slightly more indians who did not die.

  65. #66 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    I think Peter is trying the old “If it’s true for you it’s not necessarily true for me” philosophy bull.

  66. #67 wolfgang
    December 2, 2008

    @Peter

    Peter you are not aware of scientific papers. Ayurvedic medicine makes sich due to heavy metal poisoning, due to e-coli contamination, due to aristolochia acid remedies (a strong carcinogen) due to not standardized production, due to adding mercurials to the remedies and so forth- you gnore the literature. You are not aware of the Belgium nephropathy syndrom where obese ladies made a diet and got kidney cancer- many of them where prophylactically nephrectomezed- dialysis makes people loose weight- correct? So could you agree that the diet was successfull? I can`t

  67. #68 MKandefer
    December 2, 2008

    Kristjan,

    Orac didn’t offer the remark, nor the original post I was arguing against. He just said he should keep the quote in mind for future use. I was dissapointed as I thought he was endorsing the view. I think we’ve resolved the issue with the original author of the quote, and came to the conclusion that it was a miscommunication, and that I should lighten up. Now, let’s continue with the “persecution” of the quack. =D

  68. #69 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    Dear Orac,
    I am trying again:

    There is no Ayurvedan Medicine. There are a thousand ayurvedan medicines.

    It seems like some of their medicines are extremely harmful.

    But they have never set standards.

  69. #70 DCP
    December 2, 2008

    Parts of the update (rough translation):

    (…) Das ist nur die eine Seite der Medaille. Auf der anderen Seite gibt es dort fundamentalistisch eingestellte Menschen, die “wissenschaftsgläubig” sind und übereifrig nach “esoterischen” Beiträgen in naturwissenschaftlich-orientierten Gemeinschaften suchen und sich diebisch freuen, wenn sie die Urheber dieser Beiträge als “ungläubig” oder nicht aufgeklärt brandmarken können.

    (…)That’s just one side of the same coin. On the other side there are fundamentalistically inclined people who are “science-believers” and search fanatically for “esoteric” posts in science-oriented coummities. And then they become fiendishly happy once they can mark the originators of these posts as “infidels” or not enlightened.

    Science is not faith-based. You should know that, considering that you are a biologist.

    Wie schön und tolerant ist doch Europa, denkt man da.
    Doch ganz sicher ist man auch hier nicht, denn ob ihr es glaubt oder nicht- sogar ich bin jetzt in genau dieses Feuer mit meinem alten Beitrag über Ayurveda geraten.

    One muses how nice and tolerant Europe is.
    But, believe it or not, one isn’t totally safe here, either – even I was drawn into this fire with my old post about Ayurveda

    Poor you. If you don’t want to get called out for your stupidity, don’t write stupid things.

    5. In unserer freiheitlich liebenden europäischen Kultur wissen wir jedoch auch, dass das erste Mittel gegen Syphilis auf Arsen basierte und dass nahezu alles, was wir heute verdammen, vor gar nicht allzu langer Zeit auch hierzulande als Medikament eingesetzt wurde.
    Es gibt deshalb keinen Grund auf die Medizinsysteme anderer Länder verächtlich herabzublicken.

    5. In our liberty-loving, European Culture, we are well aware, that the first Syphilis cure was based on arsenic. And that almost anything we are condemning today was, until recently, used here as medicine, too.
    That’s why there’s no reason to be condescending towards the medical systems of other countries.

    Yeah, liberty sure has a long tradition in European Culture, eh? And there’s a difference between drugs based on something and drugs consisting of something. And yes, there was pseudoscientific medicine in Europe, but guess what? We got rid of that! That’s the whole point – the methods which were used did more harm than good and were discarded. Easy, huh? Why should we even be respectful towards a medical system that has no plausible mechanism, hurts more people than it heals (by far) and has shown nothing a placebo couldn’t do just as well (maybe without the accidental deaths…)

    6. Europäische Toleranz bedeutet mehr als Haschrauchen in den Niederlanden.

    6. European tolerance is more than just smoking weed in the Netherlands.

    Tolerating something doesn’t mean one can’t criticize it.

  70. #71 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    @Peter- Ayurvedic medicines are often dangerous, have no quality standards, and don’t work. If they did work real medicine would be doing the same thing.

  71. #72 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    (…)That’s just one side of the same coin. On the other side there are fundamentalistically inclined people who are “science-believers” and search fanatically for “esoteric” posts in science-oriented coummities. And then they become fiendishly happy once they can mark the originators of these posts as “infidels” or not enlightened.

    Ah, yes, the old “Science is just another religion” fallacy, combined with a bit of the ol’ “You’re just mean” gambit.

    All added on top of his previous “You have to believe in woo for it to work.”

  72. #73 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    It’s ok to criticize me.

    I have no problem with that. In fact, I am blogging.

    From my point of view it’s not bad science.

  73. #74 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    From my point of view it’s not bad science.

    And that’s exactly the problem.

  74. #75 DCP
    December 2, 2008

    From my point of view it’s not bad science.

    Says Ken Ham… oops, I’ve mistaken you for somebody else…

  75. #76 windy
    December 2, 2008

    I am talking about my experience in india. In Germany our government does not allow medicine with as much lead and arsen as Saper found.

    and

    There is no Ayurvedan Medicine. There are a thousand ayurvedan medicines.
    It seems like some of their medicines are extremely harmful.
    But they have never set standards.

    So, do you think that standards are good for one country but not the other? Or are the German standards bad?

  76. #77 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    Nice,

    so you have an answer to my questions?

  77. #78 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008

    It’s an okay summary of his update. You know when you’ve dug so far down you can barely see the sky? Peter apparently thinks you should keep digging.

    Nonsense. If you find you’ve dug yourself into a hole too deep to shovel the dirt out, then it’s time to start using explosives.

  78. #79 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    I think standards are good, because if you have standards, than you can argue.

    In Germany we always had very restrictive laws concering medicines. That was good and helpful.

  79. #80 bob
    December 2, 2008

    “Ayurveda is not science. That’s why nobody can say it is wrong.”

    What?!?! Ayurveda being unscientific is what *makes* it wrong! It’s nothing but anecdotes about random treatments, as you just explained!

    Gah! Between this and PZ’s recent post about Ray Comfort, I need to take a break from ScienceBlogs … there’s too much BS to handle! (BS being reported on, that is.)

  80. #81 G Barnett
    December 2, 2008

    Well, from a particular point of view, you could agree that it’s not bad science — but that’s because it’s not science at all.

    I think the phrase “not even wrong” comes into play here….

  81. #82 David Marjanović
    December 2, 2008

    Sure, the philosophy/religion behind Ayurveda is not science. But this does not mean that all of its claims are untestable = outside of the realm of science.

    That should be obvious. Especially to a PhD student.

  82. #83 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    “so you have an answer to my questions?”

    State them clearly, and we’ll answer them.

    It amazes me that this is heading for 80 comments when the more interesting and important post on breast cancer only got 8…. I sometimes think we need to sort out our priorities…. Then vista breaks again and I have more important problems to worry about.

  83. #84 windy
    December 2, 2008

    I think standards are good, because if you have standards, than you can argue.
    In Germany we always had very restrictive laws concering medicines. That was good and helpful.

    So why can’t we criticise the lack of standards in Ayurvedic medicine? Standards are good, but we can’t argue at all until there are standards? Just trying to follow you here.

  84. #85 Robster, FCD
    December 2, 2008

    Peter, do you have any evidence that it works? Other than hearsay and anecdote?

    When I was working on my degree in toxicology, I had as classmates two doctors from India. Both of them decried the levels of heavy metal poisoning caused by Ayurvedic medicine. What you observed is apparently not the same as what the medical professionals of India are observing.

    ——-

    Orac, I may have found some woo for you to look at when this dies down. Apparently, there are some chiropractors who think that spine cracking is a treatment for shingles…

  85. #86 SC
    December 2, 2008

    Well, I live in Europe, you live in the states, they live in India. I guess they like their homes [?] and medicines.

    Who are “they”? Everyone in India is in complete agreement?

    I am not going to shoot their physicians.

    And in fact, they are not so different from us. Shall I say “stay away from Indians”? They have just a different method to cure people. I am not recommending it.

    What about you? Are you going to destroy their pots?

    Scientists pointing to the lack of demonstrated effectiveness and the dangers and calling for evidence in support of an alleged treatment is the same as neocolonial racism, murder, and destruction? Cultural relativism taken to absurd extremes.

    I have no explanation.

    For what, exactly?

  86. #87 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    My last comment:

    Ayurvedan Medicine can be harmful.

  87. #88 David Marjanović
    December 2, 2008

    There are some chiropractors who think that spine-cracking is a treatment for anything you can imagine and then some! Orac has blogged about this several times. :-)

  88. #89 Ramel
    December 2, 2008

    Peter you say it can be harmful, that is not disputed. The question is “does it do any good?”. The answer is no, no it does not.

  89. #90 David Marjanović
    December 2, 2008

    The question is “does it do any good?”.

    More precisely, “does it do more good than damage?”.

  90. #91 Peter Artmann
    December 2, 2008

    very last comment:
    Dear windy,

    I would support an indian plebiscite for standards in medicine. But the situation in Kerala looked different. People were not interested in more laws.

  91. #92 Iris
    December 2, 2008

    Somewhat off topic, I want to add to the discussion between Christian and others, where he was shocked that you compared Artmann to a Holocaust denier. I think most people in the US don’t understand how much of a taboo it is in Germany to call someone a Holocaust denier, or even a Nazi. (Yes I know, this is not the same, but both are huge cultural taboos in Germany) I’ve been living in the US for several years now and I’m still sometimes shocked by the casual use of both terms here.
    It is even forbidden by law to deny the Holocaust in Germany, since it is considered a from of hate speech. (I don’t want to start a discussion on free speech here, I just wanted to explain why Christian reacted so strongly to your use of the term.)

  92. #93 DCP
    December 2, 2008

    very last comment:
    Dear windy,

    I would support an indian plebiscite for standards in medicine. But the situation in Kerala looked different. People were not interested in more laws.

    And thus it’s okay to just watch them how they poison themselves? Charming.

  93. #94 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008

    Ayurveda is not science. That’s why nobody can say it is wrong.

    I can predict the behavior of the stock market tomorrow, that’s not science either. Does that mean nobody can say I am wrong about the DJIA?

  94. #95 Orac
    December 2, 2008

    Except that I didn’t call Ehgartner a Holocaust denier or Nazi; so Christian’s reaction was still overblown.

  95. #96 SC
    December 2, 2008

    Well, I guess that answers your question, windy. Unless and until standards are codified in Indian law, scientists should remain uncritical, apparently. Quite a principle, there.

  96. #97 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008
    The question is “does it do any good?”.

    More precisely, “does it do more good than damage?”.

    More precisely yet, “What balance of good to damage can we reasonably expect from it?”

    There is always uncertainty, but we have to make decisions even so.

  97. #98 Dangerous Bacon
    December 2, 2008

    Peter Artmann: “Some time ago the europeans went to america and brought Jesus to native americans. They were certain to bring the best of all medicine.”

    I nominate the above statement for dumbest tu quoque of 2008.

    “Die Dumm, es brennt!”

    I like that one.

  98. #99 Jon H
    December 2, 2008

    florian wrote: “The german word he used was “Hirnschädigungen” which indeed translates “brain damage”.”

    ADHD used to be called “Minimal Brain Damage” in the US, decades ago. I suppose the term he used could be an outdated translation of the old English term. I don’t know if it remains current in Germany.

    Breaking the German word down to ‘brain damage’ might be literally correct, but a case of over-translating, missing out on the current usage of the whole word.

  99. #100 David Marjanović
    December 2, 2008

    I think most people in the US don’t understand how much of a taboo it is in Germany to call someone a Holocaust denier, or even a Nazi.

    Yeah. For example, the term “grammar Nazi” gives me stomach cramps (“even though” I’m Austrian).

    That said, it’s fairly obvious that Christian simply hadn’t encountered the term “denier” in another context than “Holocaust denier” so far. Holocaust deniers are a special kind of deniers, not the other way around!

    “Die Dumm, es brennt!”

    I like that one.

    I’m just still wondering what’s so feminine about the stupid. Stupidity, yes, but stupid per se? ~:-|

    But maybe it’s one of those words that have different gender in Austria and Germany, like (Coca) Cola, E-Mail, Blog*… ;-)

    * That one actually has a more complicated distribution, though.

    florian wrote: “The german word he used was “Hirnschädigungen” which indeed translates “brain damage”.”

    Well, we could get picky and point out it’s a plural. Perhaps “brain lesions” comes closest, though I’m not quite sure what exactly is called a lesion in medicine; Schädigungen would include physiological as well as mechanical damage.

  100. #101 William Miller
    December 2, 2008

    “Brain damage”? I really, really hope that’s a translation issue…

    I’m not ADHD, but I know quite a few people who are (or are diagnosed ADHD anyway – it’s apparently overdiagnosed) and I’ve never seen anyone act like it was “damage”. Most people don’t even act like it’s a bad thing — it’s apparently strongly correlated with intelligence and creativity. There are certainly downsides, but…

  101. #102 storkdok
    December 2, 2008

    I was going to say, “Das Dumme, es brennt!” I sort of take exception to the notion that “the Stupid” is feminine! But I learned German in Vienna, and many other students took great delight in teaching me slang, so I don’t always know if I am correct on these things!

  102. #103 storkdok
    December 2, 2008

    @ERV
    I kindly ask that you not use “tards” (retards) as a put down. Those of us who have special needs children would most appreciate it! :0)

  103. #104 storkdok
    December 2, 2008

    @DCP
    Thank you for the quick translation, it corroborated what I thought I was reading. I am not very good with nuances and sarcasm in German, but I did get the gist of it, and my thoughts were the same as yours! ;0)

  104. #105 J. J. Ramsey
    December 2, 2008

    Christian: “We should really make an effort to argue with people we do not agree with in a somewhat civil manner.”

    There is incivility that comes from playing loose with the truth and caricaturing one’s adversaries. There is also incivility that comes from speaking the truth bluntly. Only the former kind of incivility has no proper place in reasoned discourse. So far, we’ve been doing only the latter here, and as long as that holds true, complains about civility are largely a distraction.

  105. #106 D. C. Sessions
    December 2, 2008

    There is incivility that comes from playing loose with the truth and caricaturing one’s adversaries. There is also incivility that comes from speaking the truth bluntly. Only the former kind of incivility has no proper place in reasoned discourse. So far, we’ve been doing only the latter here, and as long as that holds true, complains about civility are largely a distraction.

    When someone is bullshitting, there really is no way to call them on it that a bullshitter can’t twist into “you’re picking on me!”

  106. #107 J. J. Ramsey
    December 2, 2008

    I agree, D. C. Sessions, I agree.

  107. #108 windy
    December 2, 2008

    I would support an indian plebiscite for standards in medicine. But the situation in Kerala looked different. People were not interested in more laws.

    That sounds like the Kenyans in Sapolsky’s Primate’s memoir, who weren’t all that upset when the crooked meat inspector and butcher happened to give everyone food poisoning.

    I offhandedly asked Timpai, over his tea, whether it was possible that the cows possible that the cows were ever sick when they were slaughtered. Oh no. How do you know? Because the meat inspector tells me when they are good. How does he know? Oh, he knows.

    What I would conclude from this is that people in different countries have different priorities, but not that the meat inspector has some “other ways of knowing” that we mustn’t criticize, or that TB-infested meat is safer if you trust your butcher.

  108. #109 Robster, FCD
    December 2, 2008

    Windy, Thats why there is only one way to cook meat of any kind in Kenya… Well done.

  109. #110 Adromir
    December 3, 2008

    First to make this clear: This is not a pro Ehgartner post!

    After following this “story” on the german scienceblogs and now reading this entries and comments, da completly different question crossed my mind:

    “How does time change the way, people stand for their principles”. In some times a lot of people demonstrate and even fight for them, and in other time, there is mostly talking.

    And this leads to the next question for me: What would happen, if the german devision of the seed media group finaly decides, there is no actual need to take action? Will everything goes back to normal, when the interest in this discussion decrease? Or would any involved blogger take consequences and say “I dont wanna have my name or my work connected with unscientific quackery, and because its wether him or me, i leave scienceblogs”.

    Perhaps it could be called childish, but on the other hand i dont understand the tendency to complain and talk about things, which one disfavours, but having no option to act..

  110. #111 bcpmoon
    December 3, 2008

    Without having read all the comments:
    I say kick them out of scienceblogs.de. Tolerance and slippery slope arguments take you just so far, but there is a point when a decision has to be made. Its not on a whim, its because of good and sound arguments, its not my 2c, not an opinion. You can clearly say that those two bloggers have a non-scientific mindset and therefore should look for a forum elsewhere.

  111. #112 ali
    December 3, 2008

    The twitter links posted by Tobias and Conrad lead to the below. I am not sure if the message was noted.

    Kurze Information bzgl. der überbordenden Diskussionen um vermeintliche Pseudowissenschaft auf SB.de: wir trennen uns von Bert Ehgartner

    and in English:

    Brief info on the discussions going overboard concerning the alleged pseudoscience on SB.de: We part with Bert Ehrgartener.

  112. #113 Raiko
    December 3, 2008

    Maybe you can roughly imagine what we, other scientists in Germany, feel like when we read such nonsense coming from our colleagues.

    Why is such a person on scienceblogs?

  113. #114 DCP
    December 3, 2008
    “Die Dumm, es brennt!”

    I like that one.

    I’m just still wondering what’s so feminine about the stupid. Stupidity, yes, but stupid per se? ~:-|

    But maybe it’s one of those words that have different gender in Austria and Germany, like (Coca) Cola, E-Mail, Blog*… ;-)

    * That one actually has a more complicated distribution, though.

    I suspect that “Die Dumm, es brennt!” is merely a google translation of “the stupid, it burns!”. Other than that “dumm”, as an adjective, has no gender. The noun “Dummheit” on the other hand is feminine. “Das Dumme, es brennt” sounds awkward to me, but it’s okay, I guess.
    Which gender do cola, e-mail and blog have in Austria?

  114. #115 Thomas
    December 3, 2008

    I suspect that “Die Dumm, es brennt!” is merely a google translation of “the stupid, it burns!”.

    Ouch! First of all, I don’t get why people are taking offense to giving the made-up noun ‘Dumm’ a feminine gender; this is grammatical gender, not human gender. (Maybe those taking offense are all anglophones?). Second, I actually did put thought into that translation. I was pretty pleased with myself that I could accurately convey the English meaning perfectly. Here’s my reasoning:

    In the English, “the stupid, it burns”, ‘stupid’ is serving as a replacement for ‘stupidity’. Other possibilities could be ‘stupid person’ or ‘stupid idea’. Going with ‘stupidity’, we could use “die Dummheit”, or shorten it in the same way as was done in English: “die Dumm”. Even if we went with a more literal translation and imported “stupid” as a loan-word, I would still make it “die Stupid” by analogy, again, with both Dummheit and Stupidität.

    Now, I suppose you could end out with “der Dumm” by going with Dumm=Dummkopf or “dumm Gedanke”, but I think those are both mistranslations of the nuance of the original English. It’s not the person, nor a single idea, it’s the whole mess of stupidity and poor reasoning that causes the little guy’s head to burst into flames.

    And with that, I conclude my most off-topic comment ever on ScienceBlogs.

  115. #116 MH
    December 3, 2008

    _die_ Cola
    _die_ E-mail
    _das_ blog

  116. #117 ali
    December 3, 2008

    das Cola
    das E-mail
    der Blog

    Greetings from Switzerland.

  117. #118 Thomas Xavier
    December 3, 2008

    Mr. Artmann has augmented his posting. Here is my translation, I hope I did a good Job:

    ———————————-Cut–
    Update Dec. 2nd 2008

    Old wine in new skins- or how an old thread starts a new discussion

    Some people believe, that in America there are only Christian
    fundamentalists trying to erase all scientific proof of evolution. But
    this is only one side. On the other side, there are fundamentalist
    minded people, firm believers in science, overeager searching for
    “esoteric” contributions in science oriented communities, overjoyed if
    they can stigmatize the author as “infidel” or not enlightened.

    How nice and tolerant is Europe, one comes to think.

    But even here you are not safe, because believe it or not – even I got
    into this fire with my old posting on ayurveda.

    “It is claimed, I would recommend people to take mevy metal containing
    remedies, or I would deny the toxicity of these elements. And now I
    must write a reply and explain, why I do not condemn ayurveda despite
    this.”

    And of course I know that there are enough people who want to
    misunderstand me, but for me the situation seems easy enough:

    1. Ayurveda is no science and no homogeneous school of thought. There
    is no licensure and no consistent training. Ayurveda can in principle
    be everything and nothing. What is forbidden in one village by the
    physician can cure people in the next village… but where everything
    is possible, there is no anchor for scientific review.

    2. The same is true for remedies. Here too, nothing is standardized and
    many are made by discretion. Often behind some huts and under
    stupendous hygienic conditions. The circumstances of preparation have
    a high significance.
    But if there are the same ingredients with one healer as by the other
    and if the pot behind hut X contains any heavy metals? Who knows? I
    suggest an on-site inspection- but beware: There is no cleanroom.

    3. Surprisingly some ayurveda healers are successful with their
    method. I cannot explain why this is the case- but I do not want to
    deny it.

    4. On principle, I can not and do not want to recommend to anybody
    remedies containing heavy metals above a certain concentration. Oh
    yes, the semimetal arsenic kills in concentrations above 200 mg, which
    is why I discourage it use.

    5. But in our freedom loving European culture we know, too, that the
    first remedy against syphilis was based on arsenic and that almost
    everything we condemn today was used as remedy even here. This is why
    there is no reason to look down upon the medicine of other countries.

    6. European tolerance is more than smoking pot in the Netherlands.
    ———————————-Cut–

    PS: Peter, 200mg is no concentration, its a mass…

  118. #119 DCP
    December 3, 2008

    @Thomas:
    The gender of “dumm” doesn’t concern me that much. What bugged me a little bit was your use of it as a noun. Because of that I thought you’ve just put the English words into google and got a literal translation – without noticing that it wasn’t a correct one. So you see, it didn’t even cross my mind that you actually spoke German and that you translated it deliberately that way.

    @MH & ali:
    die Cola
    die E-mail
    der Blog

  119. #120 TSK
    December 3, 2008

    Apart from the response from David I was heavily flagged and rhetorically asked if I want to invite white supremacists. As Jane pointed out: We don’t want these people here.
    But I anticipated this response and I intentionally pushed the red button of pseudoscience (“unscientific”) and repugnant behavior (“out of bounds”). Why ?

    Because we have some candidates…
    -Newton (theology,alchemy)
    -Barkla (insistence on the non-existent J phenomenon)
    -Shockley (antisocial, racist)
    -Watson (racist, sexist)
    -Brian Josephson (parapsychology)
    -Konrad Lorenz (nazi)
    -Lenard/Stark (racist, nazi)
    -Fritz Haber (Inventor of chemical weapons)
    -Linus Pauling (Orthomolecular medizine)
    -Ivar Giaever (global warming denier)
    -Heaviside (crankish)
    -Wolfgang Pauli (believer of paranormal powers)

    Despite growing evidence, Einstein never accepted quantum
    theory and would be considered as crank without his merits.

    So dear readers, accept the fact that if you insist that irrational behavior, believing in pseudo science and promoting intolerance are inacceptable for ScienceBlogs, you would exclude many of the Nobel prize winners and most prominent scientists. That is quite ironic because many of them are still praised as shining examples because both school and university hide their character flaws.

    Do you still don’t see a problem ? Promoting science in a way the excludes the most (in-)famous proponents ?

    Now you can say: “Hm, ok, let’s try to let him promote his good parts and suppress the nasty ones”, but Orac thankfully
    is very concise: It would damage SB and sully all the other bloggers if done so. Moreover:

    “Besides, why should we settle for “least bad” rather than actively promoting and fostering excellence”.

    Excellence of what ? If we think of SB as evolutionary environment, what traits will be fostered ? I think social competence and brilliant explanatory and rhetoric talents are candidates, but controversy and scientific brilliance ?

    Controversy is per definitionem something when the majority of people think that it is plain wrong. And it is also a consistent trait of people that a) they don’t like people who challenge their beliefs and b) noone except masochists likes to be heavily criticized for challenging beliefs. Scientists are *not* exceptions.
    So despite good intentions what will happen before someone will publish an article ? As he/she cannot read minds, he/she will scan the article not for things which will offend people, but things who he/she thinks *might* offend people. He must choose between evidence for and against a given position and must anticipate that the controversial evidence will be heavily criticized or ridiculed. He will shift his data to a more acceptable value (That actually happened with the replications of Millikans experiment).

    Scientific brilliance ? I don’t know anything about string theory so how can I judge how brilliant a high-level paper about is ? The more brilliant a mind is, the less people are able to understand and access it. No, SB can’t promote scientific brilliance.

    For the protocol, I don’t see a perfect solution for the problem. One possible solution I can think of is an arbitration commitee which may respond to an inquiry and prohibit posters from promoting certain viewpoints on SB. *But*, and that is a big *but*, the poster may link to his personal homepage where he can post his scientific heresies. It is debatable if it should be possible to ban the most obnoxious ones.

    [Poll crashing on Pharyngula]

    David, it is not always harmless. The problem is that the adherence of posters give Myers or other bloggers the possibility to abuse their power for his/her own purposes.
    The best example is Myers spoiling the “Best Scienceblog Award 2007″ because he didn’t like ClimateAudit resulting in a highly dubious race between CA und Bad Astronomy.

    And what I fear is: In controversial articles people are very likely to react how an article is *perceived*, not what the author actually said. It is sufficient to label an opponent with something disgusting to shut down criticism.
    Politicians use “leftist”,”defeatist”,”communist”, scientists use “kook” or “crank”. I fear “mob mentality” if a disgruntled blogger tries to paint his opponent black; using his power given by his adherents to strike or retaliate against *perceived* enemies. And, given the storm, that it may be impossible for the controversial author to defend himself. If Orac uses the argument that the presence of such a blogger sullies SB, will he stand by
    a controversial blogger even if he knows that he is wrongly accused and therefore sullies himself ?

    And I also fear that the influence spreads outside. That, as Dr Isis demonstrates, articles from journals and their authors are ridiculed, especially before people who cannot ascertain who is right or wrong.

  120. #121 Bert Ehgartner
    December 3, 2008

    It was very interesting for me to follow your discussion about my articles in scienceblog.de
    I now understand what the German “Spiegel” meant in a recent article about the “powerful blogging scene” in the States.

    It must be pretty exciting to work on controversial scientific issues like the vaccine or the hiv/aids field in such an open-minded academic atmosphere.
    Seems to me that you saved some good portion McCarthy spirit from last century.

    Concerning the “hiv denial” list: I did sign it more than ten years ago and I cannot remember in detail what has been the explicit motive in those days. Guess its been people like you who inspired me to express my solidarity with the counterparty.

    If you are interested in more translation work you could take this piece, where I explain my critical few and some objections to hiv/aids policy:
    http://med.blogger.de/stories/1072863/

    I know that some crackpots deny the existence of hiv or think that AIDS has been invented by CIA.
    Thats not my point of view.

    best wishes, Bert

  121. #122 TSK
    December 3, 2008

    Sorry for the double post. I have currently an unstable connection and it busted some seconds after “Post”. As I didn’t get a response and the web site didn’t have it, I reposted. Please remove the double entry and my explanation.

  122. #123 MH
    December 3, 2008

    Bert “Guess its been people like you who inspired me to express my solidarity with the counterparty.”

    So you admit to being an contrarian? You sound more like a troll than a scientist.

  123. #124 Jane
    December 3, 2008

    @TSK: Pauli had to flee to the States because he was Jewish and you lump him together with white supremacists. Nice.

    I still don’t get your point. Why exactly do we need two people on scienceblogs.de that the vast majority of readers and bloggers objects to? How antidemocratic and oppressive of you!

    And for the rest of you post: Kiss my rear. I have had discussions with racists and antisemites way to often, I know a moron when I see one. Yes of course, that’s why I object to Holocaust Deniers: Because they challenge my believes and because I do not like controversy! Ah now you got me.
    And that’s why scientists are pissed of with anitvaccinationists and idiots who peddle heavy metal poisoning.
    What a genius you are.

    In case you haven’t noticed: Criticism is an integral part of the scientific discourse. Scientists are criticised all the time by their colleagues during all of their professional careers.
    So when you say scientists can’t take criticism than that’s as idiotic as stating that surgeons can’t handle the sight of blood. I wonder if there is any other profession where you are constantly confronted with criticism in the way that scientists are, I doubt it.

  124. #125 Magrat
    December 3, 2008

    another german says: hi
    OT ADHS: During the sixties ADHS was called “minimale cerebrale Dysfunktion” over here, which should not need any translation and that surely is something different from minimal brain damage.
    Fact ist, the posting in Question indeed used the term “Hirnschädigung” which, as mentioned before, translates “brain damage”.
    I think, that term was used deliberately and shows the way, that fellow is thinking about ADHS.

  125. #126 wolfgang
    December 3, 2008

    Bert told us: I know that some crackpots deny the existence of hiv or think that AIDS has been invented by CIA.
    Thats not my point of view.

    best wishes, Bert

    and one of those crackpots is the organizer of an anti-vaccine “symposium” in May 2009 in Germany where Bert Ehgartner gives a talk.
    If it is not your point of view, why do you join the crackpots yearly assembly? If you have the opinion that HIV is the cause of AIDS why do you sign such a mess?

    http://www.impf-report.de/veranstaltungen/symposium2009.htm

    50% of the talks are held by people who have signed the rethinkers list.
    And Tolzin has signed a petition to the German parlament to stopp measles immunization, because crackpots believe that natural measles infection is beneficial for a childs development.

  126. #127 Dangerous Bacon
    December 3, 2008

    Regarding TSK’s examples of scientists with “controversial” forays into nuttery/racism: I’m not familiar with some of them, but at least two (Shockley, Pauling) started embracing, um, alternate views late in their careers – and the censure they received did not affect their valuable work. And I didn’t see anyone on the list who was trying to damaging a valuable public health program like vaccination or encourage maltreatment of a serious disease (AIDS). And of course, Bert Ehgartner has not been making original contributions to science to my knowledge.

    Speaking of Bert, he is predictably whining about being persecuted: “Seems to me that you saved some good portion McCarthy spirit from last century.”

    No, but we do question why you are trying to revive 17th century fears about medicine.

  127. #128 Thomas
    December 3, 2008

    @DCP: regarding Dumm as a noun; well, yeah, it’s not a noun in English, either. That’s part of why it’s funny.

  128. #129 Ludmila
    December 3, 2008

    Dear commenters,

    I have now talked to the editors from Scienceblogs.de and they have assured me, that they both agree that Berts last articles were unscientific speculations. And they therefor decided to part with him.

    They also assured me that Jessica’s statement regarding Bert Ehgartner was completely misunderstood by everybody, including me. She was not trying to justify Ehgartners writings through his authority.

    It was meant as a reaction that some commenters implied that Scienceblogs.de lacks qualitiy control. Which is not true. Ehgartner was invited because of his reputation as a newspaper journalist who writes primarily on medicine for quality newspapers. From the editor’s point of view, there was nothing there to indicate that his would abuse his writings.

    Of course, science journalists should also be part of scienceblogs.de and we have several good ones within our group.

    And Jessica was a little bit puzzled that some commenters, not all of them, seemed to pursue a personal vendetta. She just wanted to point this out, not accuse all of you of being personal enemies of Ehgartner.

    I believe there was a serious misunderstanding here. Please keep in mind, that we are not native speakers. In addition, this blog-thingy is very new for us ;-) We started only this year and were you perfect from the start?

    Personally, I am very satisfied and relieved after my conversation with the editors and I also admit that I overreacted and that I definitely want to continue my writings on Scienceblogs.de.

    I like being part of the Scienceblogs.de consortium. I cherish it as a place were lively and interesting discussions take place.

    I am sure that Ali, Christian und Florian who write excellent and thoughtprovoking posts agree with me. (If you understand german, you should check out Zoon Politicon (Ali), Astrodicticum Simplex (Florian) and Frischer Wind (Christian). *hint, hint ;-)*)

    Regarding Peter Artmann… Jeez. I had my disputes with him, precisely over this one article you pointed out. But I think, he has improved a lot over the last few months. Go ahead, check his last articles. You will find nothing remotely like that there. I therefor consider this one articles as a slip and give him the benefit of doubt.

    But his last comments here and his update on the infamous article… Jeez, Peter! That is no way to react to criticism!

    However, from my point of view, he is a very different case than Bert Ehgartner.

    Peter falls for the “Be open”-plot that to my dismay I frequently encounter among science journalists and even a lot of scientists. And he likes to be polemical and takes it sometimes to the extremes. And yes, from my point of view, he cannot handle criticsm.

    But is this enough to cry for his head?

  129. #130 Matt Heath
    December 3, 2008

    Whatever gender is chosen for the fake noun “Dumm” it should be consistent. So if it’s feminine, “Die Dumm, sie brennt!” right?

  130. #131 Chris Noble
    December 3, 2008

    If you are interested in more translation work you could take this piece, where I explain my critical few and some objections to hiv/aids policy:

    http://med.blogger.de/stories/1072863/

    Und dass sogar das Risiko, dass sie HIV-positiv sind um ein Vielfaches höher ist, wenn sie NICHT gestillt werden.

    Mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 infection during exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life: an intervention cohort study

    Except that is not what the study says. The study does not compare breast feeding with exclusive bottle feeding. It compares exclusive breast feeding with mixed breast feeding with bottle feeding or solids.

    In studies where exclusive breast feeding is used the transmission risk is dramatically reduced.

    The problem is not that exclusive breast feeding doesn’t reduce the transmission rate but that in a resource poor setting bottle feeding comes with many unrelated risks.

    The misrepresentation of the study is typical of AIDS Denialists.

    Thabo Mbeki listened to the the people who signed the “rethinkers” list and as a result around 30,000 babies were needlessly infected with HIV.

  131. #132 storkdok
    December 3, 2008

    @Thomas
    I wrote that with my tongue firmly in my cheek, no real offense taken, I am no expert in German! I merely harkened back to the slang use I was taught in the 80′s, informally of course, by the other students at the Uni Wien! I have fond memories of those days!

    It is awkward in English as well, but it sounds so good! I’m sure everyone understands the sentiment! And if it is in reference to Jenny McDumm, the feminine most certainly makes sense!

    ;0)

  132. #133 The Perky Skeptic
    December 3, 2008

    I think, Ludmilla, that people here are merely crying out for evidence-based thinking in science blogging. The trouble with Artmann’s Ayurveda article is that he cites anecdotes as if they were evidence. Anecdotes are a great place to go for initial formation of hypotheses, but anecdotes by themselves do not constitute evidence. They are too susceptible to confirmation bias and a pile of other confounding factors. (The highest standard of evidence remains the controlled double-blinded study, precisely because it serves to eliminate bias.) I would hope that he would make the absence of evidence clear in future writings, and that he would be more of a public advocate for medical treatments based on scientifically-derived evidence.

  133. #134 Coriolis
    December 3, 2008

    To put it simply Ludmila: Yes. A scientist needs to be critical of his own work and that of others. His “defense”, if you want to call it that of his views is just silly – the non-overlapping magisteria idea taken to an extreme. Just because voodoo magic isn’t science, means that we can’t say anything about it’s efficacy or lack there of? If a priest mumbles over some heavy metals, you never know it might cure people? This is absurd. Not to mention the whole “waah waah americans are intolerant” defense, which I find especially embarrassing when it comes from other europeans (I’m bulgarian).

    Now if you’re saying he no longer believes such nonsense than sure, we can forget about it. His comments in this thread say otherwise however.

    TSK: this is not the case of someone who is racist/sexist/whatever, but who otherwise does (or has done) lots of excellent scientific work. We’re talking about articles where they’ve clearly said things that are just nonsense, so basic that I’d expect an undergrad from any hard science to be able to see through. Whatever their other views the people you quoted did excellent science – and we use their results, while condemning their other views unrelated to science.

    When they disagreed on the science, specifically when it comes to Einstein and QM, Einstein didn’t just whine about QM, he gave what seemed like a very interesting counterpoint in the form of the EPR paradox. A paradox that is arguably still only partially resolved through Bell’s theorem (arguably because it only addresses local hidden variables, not global ones). And Bell only published this almost a decade after Einstein’s death. Einstein was making a scientific attempt to disprove QM, not simply denying it. He turned out to be wrong in the end, but there’s nothing wrong with being wrong in science.

  134. #135 bob
    December 3, 2008

    What is this, the Bizarro World Galileo Gambit? Newton was an alchemist, so it’s acceptable to have active pseudoscientists on this reputable blog network? Are people seriously making this argument?

  135. #136 Blake Stacey
    December 3, 2008

    David, it is not always harmless. The problem is that the adherence of posters give Myers or other bloggers the possibility to abuse their power for his/her own purposes.
    The best example is Myers spoiling the “Best Scienceblog Award 2007″ because he didn’t like ClimateAudit resulting in a highly dubious race between CA und Bad Astronomy.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

    . . .

    Oh, wait, were you serious?

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA Ha ha ha ha ahhhh.

  136. #137 storkdok
    December 3, 2008

    Ludmila, I most certainly will be visiting your blogs! I have enjoyed your and your colleagues thoughts on this post! It will be a very nice way to brush up on my German! But your English is far better than my German, so my ability to comment in German is limited.

  137. #138 Ludmila
    December 3, 2008

    @The Perky Skeptic: Well, after that stupid article he did indeed focus on reporting on medical studies alone. BTW he is mainly a science reporter. So I wouldn’t count him as a scientist. Of course, this doesn’t explain away his errors.

    @Coriolis: *sigh* Yes, sure. I understand completely what you mean. If someone has shown once to be susceptible to highly unscientific notions and is apparently not able to see this, should we trust him further?

    I’m also very embarassed by his pathetic defenses.

    Actually, the editors had after the Ayurveda article a talk with Peter and did warn him that rubbish of the sort he wrote then are not within the standards of Scienceblogs.de. But they were willing to give him another chance.

    Until this unfortunate incident I think his writing was ok. But of course his defenses now really seem to imply that he didn’t learn anything from that experience.

    Funny, if Bert Ehgartner wouldn’t have made such a mess, do you think Peter Artmann would be such a big issue now?

  138. #139 Dangerous Bacon
    December 3, 2008

    Ludmila said: “Jessica was a little bit puzzled that some commenters, not all of them, seemed to pursue a personal vendetta. She just wanted to point this out, not accuse all of you of being personal enemies of Ehgartner.”

    I don’t see where there was a “misunderstanding”. Jessica’s original post to Orac’s blog on this issue included the following statements:

    “So what happened? As also posted in the comments above, there is an entire bulletin board designed to harm Bert Ehgartner…Please don’t let yourself be exploited by some fool who simply wants to endamage Bert Ehgartner. So far I experienced blogs as an open-minded way of journalism in which a democratic style of communication is possible. But what is happening now appears to be more of a fatuous witch-hunt.”

    It’s pretty clear she was blaming the entire mess on un-named “enemies” of Bert.
    There was also a very clear appeal to authority in Jessica’s declaring that we should have faith in Bert not being a quackery promoter, since he had written for Austria’s “leading reputable newspaper” and had books published by leading publishers.

    I see Bert’s “banishment” from the German ScienceBlogs as a win for everybody. The group over there gains some credibility by not being associated with an advocate for bad science. Meanwhile Bert gets to play the victim card and will probably pick up some paid speaking engagements where he can tell credulous woo-ists how They Don’t Want You To Know about real controversies in medicine. He’s probably already preparing a presentation slide showing him and Galileo side by side, bravely facing persecution.

    Still, with people like Jessica still running the show (and in denial about this mess), writers for German ScienceBlogs (and readers) still need to keep a sharp eye out for more Bert-style nonsense from other (present or future) bloggers.

  139. #140 Ludmila
    December 3, 2008

    Dangerous Bacon you said: Writers for German ScienceBlogs (and readers) still need to keep a sharp eye out for more Bert-style nonsense from other (present or future) bloggers.

    We did and we still do. Who do you think started the whole process? Please also note that Bert’s and Peter’s unscientific posts were shredded to pieces from fellow bloggers, including me, and commenters.

    I still do hope that the editors learned from this experience although I completely understand why you are still suspicous. Your are right to be after such a blunder. I certainly would have whished for better advertisement.

  140. #141 Pieter B
    December 3, 2008

    A HOLISTIC TREATMENT WITHOUT TRUST IN THE PRACTITIONER CANNOT HEAL ANYBODY.

    I don’t think all holistic treatments are placebos, but Artmann apparently does. Interesting.

  141. #142 Ludmila
    December 3, 2008

    *sigh* Ok, fine, there is now the official declaration of the Scienceblogs.de editors. It will be posted anyway.

    Disscussions and Dissidents – about fairness and scientific discourse at ScienceBlogs

    Could somebody please translate it? I do not wish to say anything about that post.

    When you have read it, maybe you understand why.

  142. #143 Frank Oswalt
    December 3, 2008

    Here is my quick and dirty translation of the editor’s statement that Ludmila mentions:

    ———-
    What standards apply to academic blog posts? What kind of argument and debate culture do we want for ScienceBlogs?

    The last few days were very tumultuous. Individual blog articles and their authors were criticized from various sides. And some critics even went as far as speculating that the entire ScienceBlogs portal might possibly be a forum of pseudo-science and charlatanerie. Anyone who has spent five minutes looking around also ScienceBlogs can see that these allegations are nonsense. Let’s look at the events in proper sequence.

    Legitimate criticism

    The starting point for the discussions was this blog posting by Bert Ehgartner. In the comments [to this article] there were complaints — and rightly so — that this posting mixes potentially legitimate criticism of the HPV vaccination with the question of the allegedly harmful effects of aluminum salts as an adjuvant for vaccines.

    As I say: the criticism in the comments was justified. What was annoying: Bert Ehgartner (initially) failed to provide evidence for the link [between the HPV vaccination and health risks]. We have always respected Bert Ehgartner on ScienceBlogs as a blogger who had a history of dealing critically with certain aspects of the medical system. However, every ScienceBlogger – regardless of his previous achievements – has the duty, in each new blog article, to argue carefully and honestly. Unfortunately, Bert has not fully met these requirements.

    In this respect, of course, we also accept the worried criticism that some authors at our partner site ScienceBlogs.com have formulated, although some of the accusations aimed at ScienceBlogs.de undoubtedly missed their mark by a wide margin. But in the heat of battle (especially when there are language barriers to deal with) such argumentative quick shots are probably inevitable.

    We had, in the meantime, talked with Bert Ehgartner, who posted a follow-up article justifying his clamis on Monday. However, he did not really manage to resolve our doubts and we have decided to close blog “Praise of disease”.

    Both our blogging colleagues on SB.com and our German readers can rest assured: there is no room for speculation, let alone pseudo-scientific theories, on ScienceBlogs.de now or in the future.

    Lively and fair discussion

    We certainly have also learned our lesson – in the future, we will be even more conscientous in ensuring that all blog posts meet our standards. Honesty in argumentation and the reference to sources and evidence are obviously part of these standards. At the same time, we will also enforce higher standards in the comments threads: irrelevant and polemical statements will be erased immediately.

    Objectivity and fairness are the guiding principles for a culture of discussion worthy of the name. It must be mentioned in this context, that even Bert Ehgartner was unfairly attacked by some. We will no longer tolerate such attacks.

    And, before there are calls for additional (blogger) heads to roll: sure, Peter Artmann is an argumentative blogger, who sometimes argues for controversial theories in his medlog. However, he always owns up to his views argumentatively — Peter is, and will remain, an enrichment to our blog community.
    ———-

    They really just don’t get it…

  143. #144 wolfgang
    December 3, 2008

    just recently I have posted a furter comment:

    http://www.scienceblogs.de/kritisch-gedacht/2008/12/aluminium-adhs.php

    please scroll to #71

    a well respectd newspaper “Kurier” tomorrow has an article on iths health site (sic!) Front against the vaccine is broadened.

    http://www.kurier.at/freizeitundgesundheit/gesundheit/276786.php

    In the article E Joura (he was involved in the clinical trial (phase III) with Gardasil see medline…and on the con site a guy named Cristian Fiala. Fiala too has signed (as one of 7 austrian) the AIDS-denial list (and has written a book, that HIV is not the cause of AIDS) he is a gynaecologist. He cites the death of a 19 yr old girl who died last year 24 days after having a Gardasil Immunization. Autopsy was delayed and a cause of death therefor was not found. This however is no reason for Bert Ehgartner (also signed the AIDS denial list) to claim that Gardasil was causaly related to the death of the girl. This happend with the backup of K Hartmann (hhe did not signe the list) and who as a physician claimed (per telephone?) that the girl was killed by the vaccine. K Hartmann often gives talks on the German “highlight of anti-vax activists” organised by Hans Tolzin (also on the AIDS denial list). The next time in May 2009 he will give a talk, together with Bert Ehgartner.

    That are the facts in Austria, and due to the bullshit in the media we have a very low coverage (<1% with HPV Vaccines) and other vaccines (Prevenar max 15%) with children suffering from disease and dying. Horrible.

    One may ask, who is reponsible for this vaccine preventable diseases and fatalities…

  144. #145 Frank Oswalt
    December 3, 2008

    By the way, commenters in the thread to the editor’s statement are now questioning Peter Artmans qualifications and his representation of them.

    The short biography on his blog reads:

    Peter Artmann ist Biologe, promoviert an der Medizinischen Hochschule Hannover, arbeitet als Wissenschaftsjournalist und als Webdesigner.

    Translation:

    Peter Artman is a biologist, {holds|is pursuing} a Ph.D. degree at the Hannover Medical School, works as a science journalist and web designer.

    The problem here is that the German verb form promoviert is ambiguous in this context: it could be a past participle (which would suggest that he already holds a Ph.D.) or a third person present tense form (which would suggest that he is pursuing one). He has a link on his blog, that says “Doktorarbeit” (PhD thesis), but this link just takes you to the start page of the Hannover Medical School. Peter Artmann’ name, however, is nowhere to be found on the website of the Hannover Medical School. While this does not prove that he is not pursuing a Ph.D. degree at this school, it does make one wonder.

    Also, a search for his name on the web pages of large German-language newspapers and magazines (both general and related to popular science) does not turn up any articles written by him, which casts doubts on his claim to be a science journalist.

    In fact, it is difficult to find any references to him outside of the ScienceBlogs.de website (there are hits for his name, but these clearly refer to other individuals).

    Perhaps the good, honest scientists who also blog there (Ludmila Carone and Ulrich Berger spring to mind) could demand that his qualifications are checked and honestly represented in his biography?

  145. #146 Dangerous Bacon
    December 3, 2008

    I hope this part of the “editor’s statement” represents a language-based misunderstanding:

    “…we will also enforce higher standards in the comments threads: irrelevant and polemical statements will be erased immediately.

    Objectivity and fairness are the guiding principles for a culture of discussion worthy of the name. It must be mentioned in this context, that even Bert Ehgartner was unfairly attacked by some. We will no longer tolerate such attacks.”

    Looks like the editors are at least as upset about “unfair attacks” as they are about pseudo-scientific postings by their bloggers. Maybe they’re hoping to forestall future controversies by discouraging and rapidly excising “unfair” criticisms from reader comments.

    If, with their own readership muzzled there are still pointed critiques in other venues (like this one), they’ll have to employ other strategies. Maybe a U.N. declaration expanding the definition of illegal “hate speech”? ;)

  146. #147 Frank Oswalt
    December 3, 2008

    @Dangerous Bacon: I can assure you, there is no misunderstanding. I’m aware that my translation leaves room for stylistic improvements, but I can vouch for its accuracy. Yes, they are threatening their readers with an arbitrary and extremely strict comment policy. In a comment to a different post, the editor of ScienceBlogs.de says the following:

    Please: four hours ago I explained over there that we will maintain a stricter comments policy starting immediately. We will not delete anything that is already there, but mark my words: if you adopt the wrong tone and if your comment is not matter-of-fact and constructive but merely polemical, you will not find a platform on ScienceBlogs.de.

    Seems that its not just the bloggers on ScienceBlogs.de that are having difficulties grasping the concept of science blogging…

  147. #148 Orac
    December 3, 2008

    Oh, fer cryin’ out loud! That’s exactly the wrong response. I would rather have seen Ehgartner say and an open comments policy remain in place than what has happened.

  148. #149 The Perky Skeptic
    December 3, 2008

    Wow… I am seriously stunned and saddened by the editorial response at ScienceBlogs.de. If legitimate criticism strikes “the wrong tone” it is not to be allowed, I see. Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that threatening the commenters with suppression is really f*cking terrible decision.

  149. #150 magrat
    December 4, 2008

    Personal Insults are accusable and punishable in germany. So you have to act like the editors from the .de blog or you have to have lots of money to pay your lawers and spare time to attend the hearings.
    You can and you will be brought into a court for calling a person or nickname an idiot, because of this law against insults.

    Sorry, no native speaker

  150. #151 bcpmoon
    December 4, 2008

    Well, you can still insult people in Germany, but when it gets defamatory and really bad, then there is this nice little thing called “Mitstörerhaftung”, which means that if you set up a forum where person 1 defames person 2, person 2 can hold you liable if you let that happen for too long.
    What about american law, is the blog owner in any way resonsible for comments?

  151. #152 Mu
    December 4, 2008

    Grey area, most blogs have disclaimers about “comments are not the responsibility of the blog owner/organization/isp” but it’s hard to judge if you can get away with it. Interestingly, if you do zero moderation, you’re probably safe by claiming “common carrier” type status. But if you do any deletions, and if it’s only for porn spam, you wave those rights and might get in trouble. So the courts usually give you a (much higher than in Europe) right to free speech exemption.

  152. #153 sil
    December 4, 2008

    America, one problem solved!
    The latest entry on Peter Artmanns Blog:

    “Worldwide 74% lesser deaths from measles

    One of the mostly odd name-callings i learned at scienceblogs, is the term antivaccionist…”

    (“Weltweit 74 Prozent weniger Maserntote

    Zu den seltsamsten Beschimpfungen, die ich bei ScienceBlogs gelernt habe, gehört die Bezeichnung: Impfgegner….”)
    http://www.scienceblogs.de/medlog/2008/12/weltweit-74-prozent-weniger-maserntote.php

    The last few days were very interesting.
    Seems like a happy end. ;-)

  153. #154 schamkat
    December 5, 2008

    Dear Orac
    http://blog.esowatch.com/index.php?itemid=161

    thanks for helping!

  154. #155 bcpmoon
    December 5, 2008

    Over at .de, the comment policy has been clarified in so far that no censorship will be imposed but a moderation policy will be followed which sounds rather sensible to me.
    http://www.scienceblogs.de/neurons/2008/12/diskussionen-und-dissidenten-uber-fairness-und-den-wissenschaftlichen-diskurs-auf-scienceblogs.php
    I think the discussions about and at .de were very helpful and led to a better understanding what comments are for and how to handle posts which are controversial.

  155. #156 Frank Oswalt
    December 5, 2008

    sil, except the problem with Artmann is not that he is, or was, an anti-vaccinationist (from what I can tell, he isn’t and never was). The problem with Artman is that he thinks metals at toxic levels are fine in Ayurvedic medicine and he has not distanced himself from that opinion. He also has a recent post in which he rehashes a press release about a study that claims to show that being religious will make you live longer. The study, once you look at it in detail, of course contains no data whatsoever to support this claim. This has been pointed out to Armann in the comments, but he clearly does not have a sufficient grasp of scientific methodology to understand these problems. A happy ending? Yes, for Artmann, who can continue his clueless blogging under the ScienceBlogs.de brand…

  156. #157 Joseph
    December 5, 2008

    To be clear, I’m not putting computer science down and I recognise that when computers fail or are miss-used lives can be lost.

    Another computer scientist here. That’s true enough, but there’s a difference I think. If I worked for Boeing, sure, then lives are at stake. That’s why they have fault tolerance, redundancy, and so forth. In most computer related jobs, however, the worst that can happen is that you’ll lose customer’s data or perhaps money.

    That’s one thing I don’t envy about doctors, who usually have tremendous responsibilities involving health, life and death.

  157. #158 sil
    December 5, 2008

    Consensus, Frank.

    I think, I was a bit effusive.
    But for me is his blog not very important and it´s easy to ignore it, except he writes again bullshit about ADHS, ayurveda and laboratory animals.

  158. #159 Dr Benway
    December 12, 2008

    magrat: Personal Insults are accusable and punishable in germany. So you have to act like the editors from the .de blog or you have to have lots of money to pay your lawers and spare time to attend the hearings.
    You can and you will be brought into a court for calling a person or nickname an idiot, because of this law against insults.

    Seriously? You can’t call someone an asshole in Germany? Or a douche? Clueless git? Wanker? Two bricks short of a load?

    Until reading the above, I confess that I did not form a high opinion of the scienceblogs.de editorial staff. My reaction to this thread was something like, “OMG! What are they, twelve? Who told them that scientific standards = making nice-nice talk?”

    Poor bastards. Must be hell over there.

    I recommend that our German friends invent a secret code system: Pick a few innocent words or phrases and agree amongst yourselves that they might refer to bodily private parts or secretions. Someone cuts you off in traffic, you yell, “Hey! You teeny tiny spoon!”

    Thus you blow off steam without fears of litigation.

    HTH

  159. #160 sil
    December 12, 2008

    @ Dr. Benway:
    there is a new secret code on german scienceblog:
    “Die Dumm, es brennt!”.

    And bullshit (Blödsinn) works always very well too.

  160. #161 sil
    December 12, 2008

    @ Dr. Benway:
    there is a new secret code on german scienceblogs:
    “Die Dumm, es brennt!”.
    It´s cool.

    And bullshit or Blödsinn work always very well too.

  161. #162 Ulrich
    September 23, 2009

    If anyone is still reading here: Nine month after this post, Peter Artmann finally left the German ScienceBlogs.