Respectful Insolence

Oh, goody! Vox Day wants to play.

You remember Vox “Hey, it worked for Hitler” Day,” don’t you? It’s been a long time. In fact, I had to do a search to find the last time I had a run-in with him, and it appears that it’s been about a year since I last noted him mindlessly parroting antivaccinationist myths and spouting his usual misogyny. Alas, Vox has been a regular irritant to this blog since very early on, when he didn’t like my likening his views towards women to the Taliban for his arguing that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they are “fascists at heart.” Since then, every so often it’s been one thing after another, whether it be parroting antivaccinationist lies as though he understood what he was talking about, in essence labeling Title IX a threat to science, making excuses for rape, rejecting evolution, misrepresenting a scientific study suggesting that moderate housework can decrease a woman’s risk of breast cancer, and attacking “materialist” philosophy. If I had to pick my favorite examples of Vox’s utter vileness it would be obvious which two I’d pick. The runner-up would be when he expressed more admiration for the Nazis than for feminists. But the pièce de résistance of Vox crankitude occurred when he argued that it would be “possible” for the U.S. to solve our illegal immigration problem because the Nazis managed to expel millions of Jews from their territories, a screed that even WorldNet Daily couldn’t stomach and edited to remove the offending Vox-isms.

I’ve often complained about Jenny McCarthy as a sterling example of the “arrogance of ignorance.” Whatever the ignorant hubris that Jenny likes to lay down on a regular basis, however, she is limited by her puny intellect in just how much hubris she can generate, although it is that very same puny intellect that allows her to lay down such bursts of enormous stupidity that threaten to fry the brains of anyone with intelligence greater than one standard deviation below average. Over the years, though, I have noticed that it is not the puny intellects like Jenny McCarthy that are necessarily the most prone to the arrogance of ignorance. In fact, it is those with a modicum of intelligence, who, knowing they are intelligent, mistakenly believe that they are able to understand virtually anything without actually taking the time to do the hard work to learn the topic. Indeed, I rather suspect that’s why Vox is willing to charge into any topic and lay down a blistering barrage of stupid with zero self-awareness, utterly unaware that he is making a fool of himself and at the same time utterly confident that he knows what he is talking about–more than that, utterly confident that he understands a topic better than people who have spent decades studying it and have dedicated their lives to it. Indeed, Vox is proof positive that the arrogance of ignorance is, if anything, far more dangerous and toxic in an intelligent person, so much so that it renders someone like Vox capable of laying down some of the most amazingly stupid rhetoric while simultaneously bragging about how smart he is. It’s also proof positive that high “intelligence” as measured by IQ can in many cases has little or nothing to do with understanding or reason.

But Vox sure thinks it does, which is why he’s decided to tug on Superman’s cape once again, if you know what I mean. Remember that post I did about a week ago about an anesthesiologist who had committed massive scientific fraud over the course of a dozen years or more? Remember how I said that the forces of anti-science would use this incident as “proof” that science is corrupt to its core and that, by extension, they must be correct? Vox Day is only the latest to fulfill this prediction. And, boy, oh, boy, does he ever! Even better, he does so by linking to and quoting my original post, in essence plaintively begging me, hat in hand, for a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence.

Request granted.

Vox should know that I rarely turn down such a sincere and heartfelt request for what I do so well.

True to his being an über-crank, Vox thinks that the Reuben case is some sort of slam-dunk, incontrovertible evidence that his hated science is rotten to the core. But, first, he begins with a sort of a reverse argumentum ad populum:

Actually, Orac is decades out of date with regards to the public’s view of scientists. Scientists no longer occupy any special place in the public’s regard. After more than 30 years of being told to “question authority”, the average non-scientist doesn’t automatically believe a scientific authority any more than he believes any other authority. Scientists aren’t lumped in with completely untrustworthy types such as politicans, used-car salesmen, lawyers, and journalists, but they’re no longer viewed as standing on some sort of objective pedestal and they haven’t been for quite some time. Orac should understand this, after all, is his blog not entitled “Respectful Insolence”

The reality is that scientists aren’t considered much more trustworthy than the clergy, the military, or the police, and are less trusted than doctors and teachers. This is striking when one considers the fact that unlike the other professions, scientists supposedly have the benefit of relying upon what is supposed to be a completely objective system, which means that their constant tendency to play bait-and-switch, wherein they substitute appeals to scientific authority, peer review, and statistical reviews for actual science, has had a more detrimental effect than the otherwise high credibility ratings would appear to suggest.

I have no idea why Vox thinks the title of my blog has anything to do with whether or not scientists are held on pedestals anymore (logical fallacy: non sequitur), but I find it very strange that while implying that scientists are viewed in lower esteem by the public than they used to be because of “fraud,” he links to a poll that reports that scientists are actually more trusted now than they were in 2002 and that they are as trusted as they were in 1998. Meanwhile he mentions that scientists are less trusted than doctors or teachers, but doesn’t mention that they only come in third after doctors and teachers. Of course, he neglects the fact that physicians do most biomedical research and that Dr. Reuben is a physician. And what group comes out at the top of most trusted? Doctors. Truly, the stupid, it burns.

For purposes of discussion, I’ll include both scientists and physicians. In fact, if you look at the poll’s numbers, you’ll see that there was an anomalous dip in the public’s trust in scientists and physicians in 2002, but overall the numbers are remarkably stable otherwise. In 1998 79% reported that they would trust scientists; in 2002, it was 68%; in 2006, it was 77%. Given that the range of error is 3 percentage points, there is, statistically, no difference in the number of Americans who trust scientists in 2006 and in 1998. In fact, as I look at the tables in the poll results, what is amazing to me is just how stable those numbers have been. For physicians, the numbers are similar: in 1998, 83% trusted doctors; in 2002, 77%, and in 2006, 85%. In other words, there was no statistically significant difference between 1998 or 2006. I will give Vox and his self-proclaimed superior intelligence credit, though. He cleverly did not list the numbers and cleverly failed to mention that scientists came in #3 among the professions, with physicians coming in #1. Also, by any stretch of the imagination, having such an overwhelming majority of either 85% or 77% saying that they trust your profession to tell the truth is a pretty damned high degree of trust, and that level has been remarkably stable since the 1990s. So not only was Vox’s argument a logical fallacy, but it’s a badly done logical fallacy. I can only conclude that either Vox can’t read or that he didn’t think anyone would actually check the results of the poll that he cited. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on that “superior intelligence” of his.

Let’s count the other logical fallacies. Let’s see. We have the logical fallacy of the straw man argument. We scientists do not claim to rely on a “completely objective system,” and if that’s what Vox thinks science is supposed to be, he’s more of an idiot than I thought. No endeavor devised by human beings can ever be a “completely objective” system. The scientific method, in fact, is designed such that it tries very hard to minimize human biases as much as possible, scientists knowing that such biases can never be completely eliminated. The reason scientific medicine (mostly) rejects anecdotal evidence as anything more than hypothesis-generating is because scientists recognize the possibility of bias and how anecdotes can so easily lead people astray. Humans are pattern-forming animals; we look for patterns in everything. This tendency leads us to be particularly prone to confusing correlation with causation. Yes, even people who like to boast of their supposedly stratospheric IQ. Indeed, in my travels through the blogosphere, I’ve found that it tends to be the IQ-boasting types like Vox who have the hardest time understanding this very basic fact about how humans draw conclusions from observations of their environment. Their inflated sense of their own intelligence and tendency not to realize that they are just as prone to the very same cognitive shortcomings that lead to confirmation bias, confusing correlation with causation, and failing to see regression to the mean is just as great as people of average intellgence lead them to believe that they are “better” than that and that they are too smart to be fooled by such mundane failings of human reason. Oh, no, not them.

The arrogance of ignorance strikes again.

Vox is also full of crap when he claims that scientists rely on arguments from authority–as if that’s all we rely on. There are two reasons. First, science is not about authority. It is about a method for minimizing bias and mistaken inferences. Second, arguments from authority are not in and of themselves a logical fallacy if the authority is legitimate. It’s arguments from dubious or false authority that are logical fallacies. Also, when arguing for a mass audience sometimes it’s necessary to use shorthand like arguing from authority. It may not be ideal, but there’s often no time to go through the often complex scientific arguments. Of course, I could also point out to Vox that one reason I use a pseudonym on this blog is because I want my arguments to stand or fall on their own, without any reference to my credentials or position in the academic world. But we scientists also try to argue the science. Vox ignores or attacks the scientific arguments because he doesn’t like them and whines about “arguments from authority” because they’re easy to attack. Much easier than actually understanding and addressing the science.

Vox then demonstrates exactly what I say above about accepting anecdotal evidence over science:

Just as the televangelist and pedophile priest scandals drove down the trustworthiness of the clergy from 90 percent in 2001 to 64 percent in 2002, the credibility of scientists will likely fall below their 2002 low of 68 percent as the AGW fraud – to which I note Orac himself subscribes – becomes ever more apparent to all and sundry, as more scientific charlatans such as Scott Reuben and Hwang Woo-suk are unmasked, and as scientists constantly flip-flop over quotidian matters such as whether red wine is good for you and if it’s a high-fat diet or a high-carbohydrate diet that causes weight gain.

Like the increasingly discredited news media, (journalists are near the bottom at 39 percent), scientists often seem to assume that the public has no memory. This is understandable; most people are short-sighted idiots with little recall. But, even a complete idiot will notice when he gains 20 pounds on a low-fat diet, when a blizzard shuts down the roads for the tenth time that winter, or when an infant screams and slumps unconscious right after being injected by a “perfectly safe” vaccine. Scientists have relied far too long on their reputation rather than their method, and the public has finally begun to take note.

Note the fact- and science-free ranting. For one thing, outright scientific fraud, such as that of Dr. Reuben, is actually very uncommon. As Ben Goldacre notes, there is actual evidence to support this. In 2005 Nature published an anonymous survey of 3,247 scientists, with the following results: 0.3% admitted they had falsified research data at some point in their careers (outright scientific fraud), while 6% admitted failing to present data if it contradicted their previous research (a tougher call, given that doing so is arguably sometimes justified if there is a legitimate explanation for the discrepancy). From my perspective, though, even if it underestimates the fraud, 0.3% a mighty low number. The 6% who would selectively leave out data is somewhat more disturbing but also pretty low.

Be that as it may, once again, Vox clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He just doesn’t like the conclusions of science, be they evolutionary theory, vaccines, how the brain works (in which neuroscience makes belief in Cartesian dualism increasingly untenable), or anthropogenic global warming; so Vox attacks science itself while pretending to understand and support science. He tells himself that scientists are arrogant and “materialist.” Unfortunately for him, his comments reveal that he doesn’t understand the very nature of science itself, as evidenced by his complaining about scientists “flip-flopping over quotidian matters such as whether red wine is good for you and if it’s a high-fat diet or a high-carbohydrate diet that causes weight gain.” Studying such questions in human beings is difficult; it takes time to resolve such questions, because doing such studies is complex. It is not surprising that on such issues there may be a period of conflicting studies, especially if the effects are not much greater than the background noise. In fact, Vox shows that he doesn’t even understand the difference between weather and climate, as evidenced by his about blizzards. Indeed, what comes to mind most of all when Vox calls most people “short-sighted idiots” is: Pot. Kettle. Black.

But Vox is only getting warmed up. If you think what he’s written thus far is dumb, get a load of this supermassive black hole of stupid, which threatens to suck all intelligence out of the galaxy much the way a real supermassive black hole sucks in matter in a galaxy. Truly, beyond the event horizon of this stupid, no intelligence can escape, and even nearby the energy waves of neuron-apoptosing stupid created as intelligence gets sucked into the black hole’s yawning maw are far more than I should ever have to endure just for a single blog post:

Orac and other science fetishists will naturally be tempted to dismiss my words, to take them out of context, and to claim that I am too stupid to understand the miraculous wonders of science. But this will only further undermine their credibility; since I have the benefit of a demonstrably higher IQ than most as well as a seven-year archive containing a high percentage of correct calls on everything from market collapses to housing and gold prices, (yes, there were of course some misses – Hillary! – too), avoiding the subject by calling me names is not going to convince anyone who isn’t already a mindless science groupie.

Translation: Respect my authoritay, because I am Vox Day, Suuuuuuuuper Genius. (Sorry about the mixed cartoon references.)

Of course, the reason I’m marching through nearly all of Vox’s post is exactly because his post reveals his arrogance of ignorance for all to see, with no need at all to cherry pick juicy bits of stupid to be taken out of context. (Trust me, Vox, your idiocy taken in context is more than enough to reveal your intellectual bankruptcy.) In essence, he seems to be expecting me to bow down before him, like one of Khan’s followers in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, proclaiming, “Yours is the superior intellgence.” Orac don’t play that. At least, he don’t play that with someone like Vox, who, whatever his vaunted IQ may be, demonstrates time and time again that IQ does not correlate with understanding, knowledge, or the ability to construct a cohesive argument.

I will at this point cull the single non-neuron-apoptosing thing Vox says, something that I actually partially agree with:

Science isn’t some sort of grand mystery approachable only by the elect, it’s merely a process. It’s not difficult to understand; those who claim that it is are merely advertising their own intellectual limitations.

The part that I agree with is that the scientific method should be understandable by almost anyone and that it is a method. However, it’s not at all improper to point out that science itself is also difficult. Although the actual method may not be that hard to grasp, applying the scientific method to specific problems can be quite difficult. That’s because to understand a specific scientific result often you have to have some understanding of the background knowledge that led to that scientific result. There’s a reason that a PhD usually takes around four or five years to obtain. It’s not the learning of the scientific method per se; it’s learning the background knowledge and how to apply that knowledge at a high level to a scientific problem, as well as learning the techniques necessary to do the experiments. Vox’s mistake is that he doesn’t think he needs to know the background behind the scientific work he likes to criticize. In the arrogance of ignorance, he apparently thinks he can identify good or bad science on the basis of his intellect alone, background knowledge be damned.

Too bad the grand finale of Vox’s post reveals that intellect is no substitute for knowledge and understanding. My readers, I have to tell you, this last bit of Vox’s post was such a hunk o’ hunk o’ burnin’ stupid that, were it not for my four years of blogging about pseudoscience and my years before that engaging Holocaust deniers on Usenet, I might have died of a massive wave of neuronal apoptosis (look it up, Vox) due to excess stupidity:

As for vaccines, if he truly wishes to change even a single parent’s mind, Orac and other vaccine champions simply have to stop attempting to wave the increasingly tattered flag of “but science says” in the face of the growing number of science skeptics and think very seriously about why so many people are rejecting the modern American vaccine schedule despite constant pressure from their doctors, schools, and the science fetishists in the media. More pounding the table isn’t going to work, because the parties pounding the table are already considered completely biased and untrustworthy. As I wrote yesterday, show the science! The real science, where the damn hypothesis is actually tested! No more BS “no statistical correlation has been found”, no more “no peer reviewed study has proven”, no more dancing and ducking and evading the obvious solution of actually putting the scientific method to work. Interpolation and extrapolation aren’t sufficient. Statistical analysis isn’t enough. Peer reviewed metastudies are of zero value. Pump 1,000 kids full of toxinsvaccines according to the complete schedule and leave a control group of 1,000 completely unvaccinated. Then report on how they’re doing every six months. There’s no excuse not to do it, it’s eminently doable.

That, and that alone, will suffice to convince parents that science proves the vaccine schedule is sufficiently safe. And if scientists can’t be bothered to actually do the relevant science and show their work to the public, they shouldn’t be surprised when the public tells them to stick their fraudulent, faux-scientific propaganda up their collective posteriors.

Ow. I mean, “Owwwwwwww!” I hope Nietzche was right when he said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” because the concentrated stupidity and ignorance in the above two paragraphs sure tried their best to kill my brain. Antivaccine canards about children turning autistic right after vaccines meet ignorance about clinical research!

Vox is so utterly clueless about how to do proper clinical trials that he actually thinks such a study would be just hunky dory to do. In suggesting a placebo-controlled trial of vaccines, he demonstrates that his understanding of medical science that is cringe-inducingly simplistic, of the “randomized clinical trials are the only way to answer a question” variety. Vox obviously doesn’t know that clinical trials can never be just about pure scientific method. The reason is very, very simple, but since Vox is apparently ignorant of it, I’ll make it real simple: Ethics. Clinical trial subjects are human beings, and their well-being must come first, part of which is minimizing the risk associated with experimental therapies and providing them with at least the standard of care. All clinical trials, in fact, are a careful balance between human subjects research ethics and scientific rigor. Human subjects protections must be paramount. In fact, they must come first, even if it means doing a trial that may not be “perfect” from a scientific standpoint.

Contrary to Vox’s ignorant blather, there are a quite a few circumstances in which it is unethical to use a placebo control group in a clinical trial, and a randomized, double-blinded “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” study is one of them. I suggest that Vox read the Helsinki Declaration and the Belmont Report, which are two of the major documents that lay down the ethical precepts of modern clinical trials. Of the two, the Helsinki Declaration binds virtually all developed nations to its ethical precepts through mutual agreement. Specifically, according to the Helsinki Declaration, with only very limited exceptions and only with extreme justification both scientifically and ethically, a placebo may not be used unless no current proven effective intervention exists for the condition under study or the condition is so benign that no treatment is not an unacceptable option. That is most definitely not the case in vaccine trials. Proven effective preventatives of severe disease do exist, namely vaccines. In addition, no group is a clinical trial may receive less than the standard of care. It is thus unethical to have a placebo control group in a randomized clinical trial of vaccines. The only exception is when a disease for which no effective vaccine yet exists is being studied.

Now, before Vox goes pontificating again that this isn’t how it’s done in other clinical trials, that’s just plain not true, either. In cancer trials, for instance, new drugs are only rarely compared against placebos alone anymore. Rather, they are usually added to or compared against the best currently available therapy. Ditto antibiotic trials. Ditto trials of many drugs. Indeed, there are many clinical questions for which the use of a placebo control group is either impractical, impossible, or completely unethical. Trials of surgical therapies come to mind, for example. Moreover, ethical restrictions do not mean trials can’t be done; it just makes them more difficult, and it takes more controlling for potential confounding factors to make up for the inability to do randomized clinical trials (RCTs). That’s why any trial of vaccinated versus unvaccinated can’t be a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Under the Helsinki Declaration, a placebo alone control group would be unethical except in the cases of specific diseases for which we do not currently have an effective vaccine. In adults, for example, trials of HIV vaccines using a placebo control group would likely be ethical.

In other words, it’s a massive misunderstanding of science- and evidence-based medicine for Vox to insist that a placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial must be done to verify the safety and efficacy of the vaccination schedule. Indeed, the issues involved in doing a study of “vaccinated” versus “unvaccinated” are far more complex than that supergenius brain in Vox’s pointy little head can possibly imagine. His understanding of the issue is painfully childish.

The bottom line is that Vox simply does not know what he is talking about when it comes to clinical trials and science. His massive IQ and concomitant arrogance of ignorance lead him to think that he does, but he does not. He does not know science; he does not know epidemiology; he does not know clinical trial design; and in particular he is clearly utterly ignorant of the bioethical framework upon which clinical trial design has been built since the horrors of World War II.

The arrogance of ignorance, indeed.

Finally, Vox needs to know that the Helsinki Declaration requires that human subjects research “must conform to generally accepted scientific principles, be based on a thorough knowledge of the scientific literature, other relevant sources of information, and adequate laboratory and, as appropriate, animal experimentation.” In other words, for a clinical trial to be ethical, one major condition is that the hypothesis being tested must be science-based and founded on sound and compelling preliminary evidence from basic science, animal work, and clinical observations. Vox seems to think that vaccines aren’t extensively tested for safety and efficacy in addition to the current vaccine schedule. He is about as wrong as wrong can be. (Par for the course.) The hypotheses to be tested, apparently that the unvaccinated group will be so much more healthy than the vaccinated group and that the rates of autism will be much higher in the vaccinated group, have no basis in science. Vox believes the anecdotal reports that vaccines cause all sorts of horrible things, but, again, his arrogance leads him to think that it’s somehow not totally unethical to leave a group of 1,000 children completely unprotected against infectious diseases that could kill them. Such is the reality warp within which Vox lives. Worse, if the hypothesis is that the current vaccine schedule causes autism or greatly increases the risk of autism, statistically it’s not enough children to detect a difference in a condition (autism) that affects only around 1 in 150, which means that the control group would only be expected to have, on average, seven autistic children.

But to Vox what are a few dead babies due to vaccine-preventable disease sacrificed in a clinical trial that is underpowered even to provide an answer to the question it studies? It’s science!

The bottom line is that there are numerous studies that have failed to find even a whiff of a correlation between either thimerosal in vaccines or vaccines themselves and autism or the panoply of health problems blamed on vaccines by the antivaccine movement, of which Vox appears to be a card-carrying member. He (along with the antiscience, antivaccine movement with which he clearly identifies) can deny it all he wants, but, as they say, Vox may be entitled to his opinion but he is not entitled to his own facts.

As for his mention that my blog is called Respectful Insolence, that is true. However, respect must be earned. When I encounter honest disagreement or simple ignorance without arrogance, the “Respect” stays in the Insolence. However, Vox has gone far, far past that point with his numerous ignorant and at times despicable transgressions. When someone (like Vox) repeatedly lays down the most ridiculous and vile antiscience canards and outright lies, the “Respect” leaves the”Insolence.” He hasn’t earned it; he doesn’t deserve it.

Which is why he gets the not-so-Respectfully Insolent treatment. And he always will. All I can hope is that I don’t have to do this again for another year.

Comments

  1. #1 Dunc
    March 20, 2009

    his arrogance leads him to think that it’s somehow not totally unethical to leave a group of 1,000 children completely unprotected against infectious diseases that could kill them

    I don’t think Vox is even aware of the existence of ethics.

  2. #2 Interrobang
    March 20, 2009

    You can’t lecture ethics at a guy who thinks “Hitler did it” is a good argument, because the concept of “ethics” is not even on his mental map way over in the part that says “Here Bee Dragons,” it’s off the edge of the world somewhere. He really doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of right and wrong as it pertains to other people at all; his ethical development seems frozen at about a four year old’s level — if I think it’s a good idea (and/or it benefits me), then it must be “right.”

    Hell, I wouldn’t even say he’s ethically bankrupt; I don’t think he had any ethical assets to begin with…

  3. #3 AlexS
    March 20, 2009

    I wonder if Vox realizes that having an IQ of 101 qualifies as having a demonstrably higher IQ than most.

  4. #4 Mu
    March 20, 2009

    Vox could combine his Endloesung of the immigration problem with a controlled vaccination study – put them all in one big camp, vaccinate half, and count the survivors in each group.

  5. #5 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 20, 2009

    This “controlled study” of vaccination appears to be gathering momentum among the anti-vax idiots. Well, I’ve got 3 words for them: Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

  6. #6 amhovgaard
    March 20, 2009

    One of the main reasons people consider doctors so trustworthy is that we have no choice but to trust them with our lives. They had better be trustworthy, or we’re screwed. So we convince ourselves that they are.

  7. #7 anon
    March 20, 2009

    Vox’s narcissism appears to impede his ability to “know what he doesn’t know,

  8. #8 AlexS
    March 20, 2009

    …until a quack liberates people from the shackles of conventional Western medicine and empowers them to make their own choices about their health, I suppose?

  9. #9 Mu
    March 20, 2009

    I hope you’re being sarcastic AlexS, or I have to make you wash down that beating cobra heart with some bear bile tea.

  10. #10 IasonOuabache
    March 20, 2009

    I would like to know why Mr. “Day” thinks that “peer reviewed metastudies” where kids that took vaccines are compared against kids that didn’t take vaccines are bad bad bad while his crazy idea of injecting a bunch of kids full of placebos is good. What exactly is the difference between the two? In both you have a group that took the vaccines and a group that didn’t. The fact that one group knows that it didn’t take the vaccine is virtually meaningless.

  11. #11 Dunc
    March 20, 2009

    Oh, and is it just me, or does anyone else generally assume that anyone who brags about being a member of Mensa is highly likely to be an insufferable tool?

  12. #12 Dr. Rocketscience
    March 20, 2009

    Orac and other science fetishists will naturally be tempted to dismiss my words, to take them out of context, and to claim that I am too stupid to understand the miraculous wonders of science.

    I’m reminded of Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda.
    “Don’t call me stupid!”
    “No, calling you stupid would be an insult to stupid people!”

  13. #13 Xerxes1729
    March 20, 2009

    Putting ethics aside, a placebo-controlled study of vaccines would be worthless.

    If we did the study, it would confirm that vaccines are safe and effective.

    The anti-vaccine people would then find some aspect of the protocol to object to after the study was completed, thus discrediting the results.

    It’s the same reason studying CAM is worthless — the results will never change anyone’s behavior.

  14. #14 LC
    March 20, 2009

    @Dunc

    No it’s not just you. Whatever its original purpose, Mensa these days seems more like a circle jerk for people who insisit they are just soooo much more intelligent than the mere peons who actually do something. Actually boasting you are a member not only indicates one is a tool, but an insecure one as well.

    As for Vox – it sounds like he and Dr Mengele would have gotten along famously. Mengele doing the medical woo without a hint of ethics, and Vox providing the fellatio.

    Hmm, can one Godwin a Godwin?

  15. #15 Joseph C.
    March 20, 2009

    Oh, and is it just me, or does anyone else generally assume that anyone who brags about being a member of Mensa is highly likely to be an insufferable tool?

    +1

  16. #16 freelunch
    March 20, 2009

    Oh, and is it just me, or does anyone else generally assume that anyone who brags about being a member of Mensa is highly likely to be an insufferable tool?

    The bumper stick I need: “I’m smart enough not to join Mensa”.

  17. #17 wfjag
    March 20, 2009

    But, at least (as far as you know) he hasn’t set up a sham organization to ask for money. See Kathleen Seidel’s column

    Dialing for Autism Dollars · Mar 12, 02:30 PM
    http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/187

    (what’s especially disturbing is when you’re done reading her column, it’s clear how easy doing that is).

    And, she isn’t in it for the money — although anyone looking for a world class researcher might want to contact her. See

    Position Wanted · Mar 2, 12:30 PM
    http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/186/

  18. #18 TechSkeptic
    March 20, 2009

    In my younger days I looked into joining mensa. Yeah, I was a tool. Iou know, young and oh sooo damn smart, I thought “I should hook up with other smart people”.

    What did I find? A group of idiots. Smart idiots, but conspiracy theory prone, woo fostering, idiots who use the same logical fallacies, albeit more effectively, than normal idiots.

    “Being smart” has virtually nothing to do with “knowing things” or being open minded enough to learn things you don’t agree with.

    When I hear someone mention they are in Mensa I always snort.

  19. #19 doctorgoo
    March 20, 2009

    Oh, and is it just me, or does anyone else generally assume that anyone who brags about being a member of Mensa is highly likely to be an insufferable tool?

    I have an older relative who does this. She seems to think that her Mensa membership is an accomplishment in and of itself.

    I’ve tried to explain before that having a high IQ is a measure of potential greatness, instead of greatness itself. But she is full of so much woo that I can’t talk with her anymore without getting really annoyed.

    Her son, who has an MS in (synthetic, small molecule) chemistry, has a job making the pre-diluted base materials for a homeopathic dog food manufacturer**. And in comparison to his mom, he’s the NORMAL one. I can’t even discuss her varied careers without wanting to vomit. She has bounced from one wooey mess to another, at different times claiming expertise in getting rid of ghosts, hypnotism to get rid of addictions, crystal therapies… you name it. If there’s money to be made off teh stoopid she’s been there, done that… and always using her high IQ as “proof” of her expertise.

    **Actually, this might be the best job ever… just look busy working in a few hood for weeks at a time, then at the end take a sugar pill and squash it up into pieces, and let them make the dilutions of this instead. Nobody would ever notice, much less the dogs who would end up taking this so-called “medicine”.

  20. #20 doctorgoo
    March 20, 2009

    What did I find? A group of idiots. Smart idiots, but conspiracy theory prone, woo fostering, idiots who use the same logical fallacies, albeit more effectively, than normal idiots.

    This describes these certain relatives of mine, perfectly.

  21. #21 eNeMeE
    March 20, 2009

    I highly object to your comparison of this turd with the poor, long suffering Wile E. Coyote.

    It’s not his fault that he lives in a nonsensical universe!

    …Cartman’s just a jackass, and totally appropriate, though.

  22. #22 John R.
    March 20, 2009

    Wow. This has been up at least three hours and VD has not commented.

  23. #23 Blazer
    March 20, 2009

    Friends want to confess that a few weeks ago, I came looking for my medicine, I take oxycontin and could not find a suitable place where to do so, because as you know it is hard to get here, plus the cost because we spend money on an unnecessary, when we know that is what we are going to prescribe, at least for me is because I have chronic fibromyalgia and I need medicine for my pain, I found http://prescriptions-pain-medications.blogspot.com/ and saw that their prices are cheap and easy purchase and I do not need a prescription. ..

  24. #24 viggen
    March 20, 2009

    Vox seems to like to make his anecdotes dramatic rather than accurate. The statement “or when an infant screams and slumps unconscious right after being injected by a “perfectly safe” vaccine.” is probably an event that has never actually happened, or has happened so rarely that there are extenuating factors unmentioned that go beyond the event described. At the very least, it is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. He’s making an oversimplification while trying to make his argument emotional instead of rational. This does not say much for his vaunted intelligence: an emotional appeal is not about a thinking response.

    When I read that sentence, I had a vision of a stage melodrama rather than a serious argument.

  25. #25 bobh
    March 20, 2009

    When will VD figure out that he doesn’t have any thoughts, he just has prejudices?

  26. #26 Becky Fisseux
    March 20, 2009

    > I don’t think Vox is even aware of the existence of ethics.

    He is. He’s pretty sure it’s a little thouth of Thuffolk.

    Kind regards,

    Becky.

  27. #27 David
    March 20, 2009

    “Pump 1,000 kids full of …vaccines according to the complete schedule and leave a control group of 1,000 completely unvaccinated.”

    yes, quite stupid. Such a trial would be unethical for the reasons Orac gives, and also would be inadequate, as follows…

    Safety: To investigate the hypothesis that the autism rate, estimated as about 1/150 is inlfated by vaccines, you need to have an effect size. Let’s say we want a trial to detect the difference between events ocurring at 0.6% versus 0.4% (e.g.; that vaccines increase the risk of autism by 50%). Under typical statistical assumptions (balanced randomization, alpha 0.05, beta 90%, chi-square test), you’ld need over 50,000 children in the trial. The trial Vox has proposed has <10% chance of showing the difference.

    Efficacy: Testing the efficacy of vaccines with a group of children who are embedded in a larger vaccinated population won’t work, due to herd immunity.

  28. #28 John Fryer
    March 20, 2009

    Hi

    Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated

    There are enough unvaccinated children around to do this study.

    The reason is simple. Their first children were vaccinated into oblivion and the second child did not get the 50 or so vaccines in 3 years of life.

    Some people ignored the warnings and vaccinated their second child not when their first got autism but when they died from vaccines.

    Angela Canning’s children and Sally Clark’s children are but two examples.

    The rest as they say is history.

    And Hitler didn’t do it but but English Medico-Legal justice did.

    Incarcerated mothers in prison so vaccines got the all clear.

  29. #29 Tsu Dho Nimh
    March 20, 2009
  30. #30 Sean Walker
    March 20, 2009

    This is the best title of a post ever!

  31. #31 Marc
    March 20, 2009

    The comments on the Vox post are quite interesting (and disturbing). Apparently they believe that because something is never rock-solid “proveable” that they should never listen to scientists. I wonder if any of them have investigated things like the “law” of gravity, and how the concept of gravity changed radically in the 20th century (just to pick an obvious example demonstrating how scientific discovery just doesn’t work like Six Sigma quality controls do in manufacturing).

  32. #32 ennui
    March 20, 2009

    Awesome as always, Orac!

    Say, didn’t PZ Myers give a talk at last summer’s MENSA annual gathering? Surely there are at least a few members of worth (I don’t belong to MENSA, btw).

  33. #33 Siamang
    March 20, 2009

    I remember when I was ten years old and Omni magazine had an iq quiz and articles about joining Mensa.

    I really wanted to join.

    When I was about 12 I realized that any club that required an IQ test to get into was more about keeping “the wrong people” out than ensuring the right people got in. I didn’t want to join Mensa anymore, despite the fact that I passed their little quiz when I was ten.

  34. #34 Joseph
    March 20, 2009

    Wait; if science is an inherently corrupt process, and scientists can’t be trusted, what is he/she doing citing polls? How can he/she claim high intelligence? By what means is his/her intelligence measured such that it doesn’t involve science and research into the predictability of outcomes based on the IQ construct?

  35. #35 Shay
    March 20, 2009

    “He is. He’s pretty sure it’s a little thouth of Thuffolk.”

    Rim shot!

  36. #36 Epinephrine
    March 20, 2009

    I rather like the portmanteau word ignorrogance; it feels like the mot juste in a case like this.

    Nice serving of insolence for Vox, that pathetic bastard.

  37. #37 Daniel J. Andrews
    March 20, 2009

    “He does not know science; he does not know epidemiology; he does not know clinical trial design…”

    He doesn’t know climate science either. We ignore anyone who doesn’t know the difference between climate and weather. If they have that kindergarten concept wrong, then there isn’t a chance they have anything else right.

    Mensa joiners tend to be those who haven’t already demonstrated excellence and/or intellectual success in other ways (e.g. getting advanced degrees, publications, societal contributions, communication, recognition by other experts, etc). Why join the couch potatoes when you’re already playing in the major league?

  38. #38 Mu
    March 20, 2009

    hmm, I must read more AOA, the SIDS-vaccine connection by JF was new to me. You should edit the wikipedia entries so, they don’t mention vaccines anywhere.

  39. #39 Doris Day
    March 20, 2009

    Good Afternoon,
    I’m terribly sorry that my little Vox has been bothering all of you. He’s been insufferable ever since he sent away for that Captain Science Sooper Decoder ring when he was seven. It never arrived, you see, so he’s hated science ever since. I told him it was just a cartoon and not real science, but to no avail. He’s always been quite the contrarian and suffers from insecurities and resentments since I was often away on the set with Rock. Yes, he’s a very smart boy, but he has his little tantrums and only his binky will settle him down, and I’m afraid it’s a bit tattered after fifty seven years (and a tad ripe too). Anyway, I hope he’s not been too much bother. Maybe if you could send him some kind of sciencey certificate or a membership in your club that might make him feel like he belongs. He’s really awfully sweet when you get to know him.

    Que sera, sera,
    Doris Day

  40. #40 Dr. Rocketscience
    March 20, 2009

    Wait; if science is an inherently corrupt process, and scientists can’t be trusted, what is he/she doing citing polls? How can he/she claim high intelligence? By what means is his/her intelligence measured such that it doesn’t involve science and research into the predictability of outcomes based on the IQ construct?

    [montypython] I’m sorry, I think you’re looking Logical Consitantcy. This is Abuse. Logical Consistancy is down the hall. [/montypython]

  41. #41 notmercury
    March 20, 2009

    John Fryer:

    “Some people ignored the warnings and vaccinated their second child not when their first got autism but when they died from vaccines.”

    And some didn’t vaccinate child two at all but child two is still autistic.

    John, what happened to the credentials in your sig line and just a reminder, don’t pipette by mouth.

  42. #42 ERV
    March 20, 2009

    Youre 1:50, Vox. There are 134 million people on this planet as ‘smart’, or ‘smarter’, than you.

    Heres a cookie.

  43. #43 Epinephrine
    March 20, 2009

    Youre 1:50, Vox. There are 134 million people on this planet as ‘smart’, or ‘smarter’, than you.

    Heres a cookie.

    Oh, that’s cute. Poor little Vox is only at +2SD, but is bragging about it?

    Not that IQ is a particularly good measure, but come on Vox. I’d have expected at least 3 or 4 standard deviations above the mean with the amount of arrogance you manage to display.

  44. #44 badrescher
    March 20, 2009

    It’s also proof positive that high “intelligence” as measured by IQ can in many cases has little or nothing to do with understanding or reason.

    This is my dissertation topic – if I ever get through it – so I’m really interested in what others have to say about it.

    It is actually pretty well-documented in the literature (there is a good book called What Intelligence Tests Miss by Keith Stanovich for those who don’t want to trudge through research reports) that IQ measures abstract reasoning well, but there is a disconnect between abstract and contextual reasoning.

    What I find most often in people like this guy Vox is a problem of tenacity or arrogance. To be rational, one must also hold beliefs tentatively – even the strongest beliefs. I’d use the term “open-minded”, but there are too many connotations of that term that do not fit.

    Rational people hold beliefs that are based on current evidence. If there is enough to draw a conclusion, we do. (yes, I’m going to go out on a limb and claim to be rational). When that evidence changes (or we learn more), the beliefs change to accomodate that new information.

    It is not possible to evaluate evidence or argue rationally if one is not willing to loosen one’s grip on what one believes to be true.

    Many children are rational. They believe in Santa & the Easter Bunny because it fits their understanding of the world. When that understanding changes, beliefs change.

    Oh, and is it just me, or does anyone else generally assume that anyone who brags about being a member of Mensa is highly likely to be an insufferable tool?

    These comments just woke me up to something, but my comment on it is getting too long. So, I think I’ll write a blog about it instead. If you’re interested, it’ll be up shortly.

    In the meantime, thank you all for prompting me to pull my head out of my ass about Mensa (a bunch of snotty, closed-minded pseudointellectuals who think they are superior, but really have nothing of substance or truth to say).

  45. #45 Dan Weber
    March 20, 2009

    I hope I don’t invite the wrath of the community by suggesting that we could test for immunization response by randomizing a trial in which children get all their vaccines, but in different orders.

    I try to avoid woo so please gently explain to me why this would be unethical. We could still make sure that everyone got all their shots by age 2.

    (Is one reason it would be unethical is because the delayed children would be at risk because we can no longer count on herd immunity? Thanks to the anti-vaxxers it actually becomes harder to do such a study ethically. Thanks a lot, bozos.)

    I remember that we pushed off MMR until 12 months because the risks of delayed vaccination were lower than the side-effects. Will we have to reconsider this in light of the lessened herd immunity?

  46. #46 Superla
    March 20, 2009

    Ethical considerations aside, someone needs to explain to him how to properly calculate an adequate sample size. I’m not the stats fairy, but I’m pretty sure 1000 subjects per group is not large enough to detect any statistical differences in developing a condition as rare as autism, which has an incidence of around 2 per 1000 person-years. Just counting on my fingers, I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t work.

  47. #47 Kim
    March 20, 2009

    This post is about 80% more print than Vox Day deserves.

    I remember lots of happy time spent in the lab with his dance music CD playing in the mid-90s…shame it turned out to have been made by such an objectionable human being.

  48. #48 Dan Weber
    March 20, 2009

    Superla, thank you, that’s a very good point. Even with a good herd immunity it would be hard to test enough children to notice something so rare.

  49. #49 Marcus Ranum
    March 20, 2009

    Oh, and is it just me, or does anyone else generally assume that anyone who brags about being a member of Mensa is highly likely to be an insufferable tool?

    It does seem to correllate. But remember, that doesn’t imply causality.

    My observation is that insufferable mommy’s boys who grew up being emotionally rewarded for being “smart” tend to gravitate, as adults, to that same reward structure in the form of Mensa. What’s ironic is that, once there, they find that “being smart” is the basis of competition, and then cognitive dissonance sets in: they really want to be the only “smart kid” in the room but have to jockey for position with others. Consequently, having a website/blog of their own, where they can control the content, agenda, and membership, gives the best of both worlds.

    I am considering offering an internet-based sucking up service. For a certain amount of $$, paid by paypal, I’d have an agent (probably in China, Mexico, or India, via amazon mechanical turk) post fan-service in the client’s blogs. Meat cloud computing meets social climbing!

  50. #50 Marcus Ranum
    March 20, 2009

    If science is a corrupt process, what kind of F’in retard hangs his emotional well-being on an IQ TEST???

    Either:
    IQ tests aren’t science: collect +50 fail for citing IQ
    -or-
    IQ tests are science: collect +50 fail for trusting corrupt scores

  51. #51 Art
    March 20, 2009

    With all due respect, I think you missed the not so hidden message when Vox wrote:
    ……….
    “As I wrote yesterday, show the science! The real science, where the damn hypothesis is actually tested! No more BS “no statistical correlation has been found”, no more “no peer reviewed study has proven”, no more dancing and ducking and evading the obvious solution of actually putting the scientific method to work. Interpolation and extrapolation aren’t sufficient. Statistical analysis isn’t enough. Peer reviewed metastudies are of zero value. Pump 1,000 kids full of toxinsvaccines according to the complete schedule and leave a control group of 1,000 completely unvaccinated.”
    ……

    The message is clearly an open statement of innumeracy and ignorance of statistics. He is, in effect, saying that he understands only the simplest of study designs, the classic and easy to understand double-blind study which studies one factor and does so simply, directly. One that can be understood without much need of statistical methods.

    His reference to statistical correlation, interpolation and extrapolation, statistical analysis, and meta-studies as, variously: BS, dancing and ducking, insufficient, not enough, and zero value is just another way of saying he can’t handle the math. Vox is clearly unable to handle statistics.

    When he demands the sort of study he proposes he is telling us he needs a study that yield results that are simple and logically obvious so he can more easily wrap his mind around them. He prefers his results pre-chewed and easily digestible so his vaunted intelligence won’t choke or suffer indigestion having to use statistical methods. He has to have a study that gives simple answers, preferably numbers that are small enough to be counted on fingers and toes, so he will be able to understand it.

    He is also telling the world that if spoon feeding him a study that yields sufficiently digestible data, one catering to his innumeracy and limited mental inabilities, requires children to die that this has to be seen as a fair trade off to have the his royal highness, the celebrated Vox Day, approve of said study.

    Evidently Vox thinks that the fact that vaccinations have saved literal millions pain, suffering, disability and death is not sufficient. No, not to get his royal approval. We must throw down what we are doing, risk the lives of a thousand children, and feed the hungry bee, lest his plaintive voice ring the intertubes and his gargantuan mind, not to mention his ego, crush us all under weight of its logic.

    We must all tremble in fear. Lest his highness, the royal Vax Day, by force of intelligence alone, blot out the sun.

  52. #52 Prometheus
    March 20, 2009

    Funny thing about the alleged association between autism and vaccination – when GR did a telephone survey to “research” the question, they found that having some of the recommended vaccines was associated with autism, but not being “completely” vaccinated or unvaccinated.

    They also found a much higher prevalence of autism than anybody has ever claimed – before or since.

    Bottom line: poorly-designed “studies” are not only worthless, they can give results that the pressure groups (like GR) won’t like.

    Mr. Weber “remembers” that the MMR vaccine was “pushed off” to 12 months because of side-effects. That’s not entirely true.

    There has been a lot of effort trying to develop a measles vaccine that can be given earlier in life, to bridge the gap between the loss of maternal antibody protection at about 6 months and the maturation of the infant’s immune system (to allow them to produce a long-lasting immune response).

    The problem is that to do that, you need a vaccine strain that is very “aggressive”, which leads to increased side effects. In effect, the vaccine strains that can yield long-lasting immunity to measles at a very young age have to be more like the wild type measles virus than is good for optimum safety.

    The current vaccine strain is simply not enough of a stimulant to the immune system to prod it into long-lasting action before the age of 12 months (in fact, it doesn’t even work that well at 12 months, which is why the recommendation is to give it at 15 months).

    If measles becomes endemic in the US, we may have to consider moving up the MMR vaccine to earlier than 12 months, accepting the fact that it won’t be terribly effective in order to buy at least partial immunity in some children. Of course, a better solution is for people to realise that the MMR panic was generated by bad (perhaps fraudulent) science.

    As for giving the same vaccines in a different order, that doesn’t make much sense. The vaccines are given at the ages they are for specific reasons.

    The hepatitis B vaccine is given at birth because that is when infants are infected with it (if their mother have active Hepatitis B).

    The DPT, HiB and polio vaccines are given at 2, 4 and 6 months because they are inactivated vaccines and can produce some protection even when given that early (and because these disorders can be catastrophic, so early partial immunity is a good thing).

    The live virus vaccines (MMR and Varicella) are given later, when the child is able to mount a sufficient immune response to provide immunity from an attenuated virus [note: early childhood infection with wild type varicella and measles can provide partial immunity but still leave the person capable of a second - milder and less apparent - infection which can spread the virus to susceptible people].

    Giving these vaccines in a different order would be very unlikely to have any effect on autism prevalence (which has convincingly been shown to NOT be associated with vaccines), but it would have a significant (negative) effect on the effectiveness of the vaccines.

    Prometheus

  53. #53 Jesse
    March 20, 2009

    Marcus is absolutely correct to point out that VD is as much the embodiment of hypocrisy as is Phylis Schlafly: You can’t simultaneous attempt to argue that science is inherently flawed and try to give yourself some sort of ‘credentials’ (seriously? MENSA? Just how little self-confidence does Mr. Beale have?) based upon a scientific measure of intelligence.

    I think it all boils down to VD’s desire to have his name mentioned in the same sentence as Fred Phelps or Ann Coulter and his willingness to go to great lengths to accomplish this.

  54. #54 Dr. Steve
    March 20, 2009

    I’ve always been interested in the IQ question. The only time mine was ever measure was when I was 7, and it was 131. Not too bad, but nothing special. I was valedictorian of my HS class of 267, which is a little better than a z-score based on my IQ would predict. I also scored 98th percentile or higher on all 3 steps of my medical boards. So if only 1 in 40 people are “smart enough” to go to medical school and I claim to be smarter than 98% of those – I can claim to be 1:2000.
    Of course I would never claim such a thing, since it would be meaningless to do so. It did not make me a better doctor. I was so unhappy in practice that I was probably no better than average (which is why I don’t do it anymore).
    There are plenty of people who are smarter than me and it would be insane to promote myslef as someone who had a leg up on the rest of the world. These inter-tubes contain so much crystallized information that even an ability to synthesize/retain it that dwarfs my own is perhaps less important than it used to be – or perhaps not. That is an even more interesting question.

  55. #55 Chayanov
    March 20, 2009

    “As though he understood what he was talking about” is really all that needs to be said about Day.

  56. #56 Joseph
    March 20, 2009

    Funny thing about the alleged association between autism and vaccination – when GR did a telephone survey to “research” the question, they found that having some of the recommended vaccines was associated with autism, but not being “completely” vaccinated or unvaccinated.

    Which is an obvious finding, since a lot of parents will stop vaccinating as soon as the child is diagnosed with autism. Basically, the survey designers didn’t know what they were doing.

  57. #57 Irene Delse
    March 20, 2009

    In comparison to all the rest, it may be trivial, but VD’s blog title “Vox Popoli” shows that he can’t even quote properly a well known Latin phrase: it’s “Vox populi“, with one “o” and one “u”.

    Well, it fits with the pattern. Too much time spent in stroking his ego and bragging about his IQ, and not enough gathering basic information…

  58. #58 JCmacc
    March 20, 2009

    Excellent post Orac.

    Not an original comment, but as VD thinks he’s smarter than scientists, somebody should challenge him on scientific principles: physics says if you walk off the top of a skyscraper, you’ll fall to your death. Biology states you can’t stay underwater unaided for more than a few minutes or you’ll fail to oxygenate your blood and perish. Prove them wrong, oh genius VD!

  59. #59 Joseph C.
    March 20, 2009

    I had never heard of Vox before today. What a smorgasboard of asshole. I wanted to read his blog for a few laughs, but decided against giving him the pleasure of more page hits. I have to wonder about a person who signs his posts as “VD”. Maybe he hates women so much because that’s what one gave him.

  60. #60 sinema izle
    March 20, 2009

    thanks for sharing.

  61. #61 trrll
    March 20, 2009

    There is something particularly sad about adults bragging about their IQ scores. After all, the primary value of IQ is in testing of children as an aid to judging whether they are performing up to their capabilities. The value of IQ is that it is often predictive of adult achievement–but not always.

    Of course, by the time somebody gets to be an adult, they typically have real achievements, so nobody much cares about a healthy adult’s IQ. For an adult to talk about his IQ is decidedly odd, a bit like bragging about how good he is at coloring inside the lines of coloring books. It conveys that he has achieved so little of note that he is brandishing his IQ as his sole mark of distinction. And the fact that he does not realize that in bragging about his IQ, he is lowering the opinion that others have of him, suggests some sort of a serious cognitive deficit.

  62. #62 Llano Escantado
    March 20, 2009

    Outstanding, Orac! My compliments to you sir.

  63. #63 Tyler DiPietro
    March 20, 2009

    “…arguing that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they are “fascists at heart.”

    Someone arguing that we should disenfranchise a whole class of people is calling other people fascist. Clearly irony detection is not Vox’s strong point.

  64. #64 Mal Adapted
    March 20, 2009

    Like many denialists, VD exhibits the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  65. #65 David Marjanović
    March 20, 2009

    and just a reminder, don’t pipette by mouth.

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

  66. #66 Arakiba
    March 20, 2009

    Damn, this Vox guy (and the Crack guy) sound like a couple of damn nuts!

  67. #67 G Felis
    March 21, 2009

    So let me get this straight. A guy who accuses scientists of being unethical liars proposes, as his final solution (pun intended) to the vaccine/autism question, a study that is quite possibly MORE UNETHICAL than the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. (I say “more unethical” only because it would lead to vastly more suffering and death, not because the TSS was less than absolutely heinous in every way…)

    I have always thought that IQ was a bullshit measure of something much less important than people make it out to be – and I say this as someone who vaguely recalls having a very high IQ score the last time I was tested. If nothing else made me absolutely certain of that judgment, Vox Day would. I mean… Wow. The stupid. FSM preserve us!

    On the one hand, VD isn’t worth the time. On the other hand, Orac could’ve posted ten times as much smack-down and not given this asshole nearly the smacking down he deserves. Go Orac!

  68. #68 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    March 21, 2009

    There is something particularly sad about adults bragging about their IQ scores.

    Especially since the IQ measurements are completely variable in what they are purported to test. Are we still referring to Stanford-Binet, or are we looking at a multiphasic test?

    On Stanford-Binet I scored a “145″ and I thought it meant something until it came to college and I actually had to show effort in order to succeed. Nobody gave me any passes because I was “smart.” If I didn’t turn in the paper, or if I didn’t take the test, there wasn’t a professor around who would take my word that I sufficiently understood the material enough to just give me an “A.”

  69. #69 mayhempix
    March 21, 2009

    At least VD didn’t brag this time about his 80s sexual conquests when he drove a Porsche and had record contract (just like everyone else I know in Hollywood). Of course these are the same women he now disdains. He’s just another religious casualty of the mommy/whore syndrome.

  70. #70 DLC
    March 21, 2009

    On Vox Day: WoW. supermassive stupid. Orac, do you have to file papers with the EPA to have that much stupid in one area, or does the Insolence counterbalance it sufficiently ?
    You disassemble the stupid like a pack of hungry Rottweilers going after a box of Omaha Steaks.

    On Mensa: allow me to echo Groucho Marx: “I would not join any club that would have me for a member!”

  71. #71 catta
    March 21, 2009

    In comparison to all the rest, it may be trivial, but VD’s blog title “Vox Popoli” shows that he can’t even quote properly a well known Latin phrase: it’s “Vox populi”, with one “o” and one “u”.

    What do you expect from someone using a pseudonym based on the Latin for “voice of God”? Delusions of adequacy, I tell you.

  72. #72 Shirakawasuna
    March 21, 2009

    I can imagine the poor little neurons with their aptosis fates, screaming out in terror! You must have a cranium of steel to resist those waves of unadulterated stupid – I can barely handle this filtered form.

  73. #73 Laser Potato
    March 21, 2009

    Mmmm, steak.

  74. #74 N.C.
    March 21, 2009

    I can’t take Vox Day’s claims of intelligence seriously. A guy who would willingly have this haircut is clearly not firing on all six cylinders.

  75. #75 Bryn
    March 21, 2009

    Re: Mensa – same experience, evidently, as many here. Joined in high school (my folks thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be with other “smart people”). First get-together I attended, people were fighting for spots in groups dealing with ESP, UFO’s and Uri Geller (that should give you an idea how old I am). I turned around, left and told my folks that intelligent != smart. Unlike Mr. Day, I’m both intelligent enough *and* smart enough to know what I don’t know.

  76. #76 Alison
    March 21, 2009

    I always thought that people who were exceptionally smart or talented or wise, etc., didn’t need to remind other people that they were. Somehow, if you needed to tell everyone how wonderful you were (or join a club for similarly wonderful people) then maybe there was a reason they weren’t getting that idea on their own. Vox Day (thanks, catta – “Vox Dei” hadn’t even occurred to me!) might not find this quite as obvious as I did. Or even as one of his heroes did, in. . .oh, let’s see. . .Matthew 23:12, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Yeah, not quite the same, but still the idea of making a big show when there’s nothing behind the curtain.

    Orac, IMO, the ratio of Respect and Insolence was just perfect.

  77. #77 Dave C
    March 22, 2009

    I can think of very few people who deserve insolence (whether respectful or not) more than VD. Watching him get his ass handed to him just never gets old.

  78. #78 storkdok
    March 22, 2009

    Damn, I came back to compliment you on this post, and I thought I’d look at VD’s original post real quick. I think my retinas have been permanently damaged at the stupidity there.

    You were too light on him. He deserves MORE insolence, after reading his post and comments. Please do not restrain yourself in the future.

    ;0)

  79. #79 NickR
    March 22, 2009

    An important distinction to be made is that the identification of child-abusing priests was made by those outside the Catholic church (who tried to cover up the situation), while the identification of scientific fraud is typically the result of fellow scientists scrutinizing each others’ work. (In Dr. Reuben’s case by the company that underwrote his research). Scientists are not free from human failings, but the ability to identify and remove fraudulent data and thinking speaks to the strength of science and scientists’ commitment to their work. Such incidents as Dr. Reuben’s fraud are regrettable and unforgivable, but we should be grateful they have been brought to our attention.

  80. #80 Laser Potato
    March 22, 2009

    We had a Mensa troll on scam.com a looooong time ago named gussser. He communicated in broken sentences, used sub-4chan quality insults, couldn’t refute a meaningful point to save his life, and in short demonstrated the intelligence of a decomposing turnip. Here’s his posting history:
    http://www.scam.com/search.php?searchid=4470564

  81. #81 TexDoc
    March 22, 2009

    Nice take down of Vox Stercoris. Much like the pancreas, you don’t f*** with the Orac.

  82. #82 Rich
    March 25, 2009

    He also deletes links to scientific studies on his website. NO EVIDENCE ALLOWED!

    Here’s a thread making fun of him:
    http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=49ca3cff3087df41;act=ST;f=14;t=5752;st=0

  83. #83 El Guerrero del Interfaz
    March 25, 2009

    When I was a kid I also diagnosed both dyslexia and a “superior” IQ. From my own point of view, neither of these hindered or favored me in any way.

    But my brother, although not dyslexic, did not performed so well on the IQ test. And that did fucked him up quite a bit. He was the stupid one so why bother? And that was not because my parents or anybody told him that he was stupid. The bloody IQ test did that.

    So, when it was my turn to be a parent, I shunned all this IQ stuff and kept my kids away from it. And I still don’t know if they are smart or stupid. Knowing that they are happy is enough for me :-)

  84. #84 ledzemlin
    March 25, 2009
  85. #86 Orac
    March 25, 2009

    God, ledzemlin is slow:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/05/some_monkey_business_in_autism_research.php

    Did Vox send him/her/it over here? It would make sense, given the resurrection of that old crappy study, which I had enormous fun slapping antivaccine macher J.B. Handley over.

    By the way, I’m aware of Vox’s response to this post. Quite frankly, it’s so brain dead that I’m not sure if I want to do “If you hand me some stupid, yes, in fact I am going to hit you over the head with it. Because you absolutely deserve it, Part II” because, well, I expected a less brain dead (albeit not much) response from even Vox. Usually I find pulling the wings off of the metaphorical blogospheric fly entertaining for only a brief period of time; so I’m not sure it’s worth rip into Vox another time. I blame adult ADHD. That, and my fervent wish that I could actually ignore Vox again for another year.

    But, hey, if I get bored enough sometime during the next few days, I might still have a little fun, given that Vox apparently doesn’t know when he’s been stomped flat and apparently still wants to play at tugging on Superman’s cape when it comes to science. He kind of reminds me of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that way. Oh, and I also noticed that prior to his first broadside at me he had been credulously lapping up the antivaccine propaganda over the Somali question, clearly clueless that AoA, as evidenced by its own blog posts, had been trying to convince these people that vaccines must have caused their children’s autism. That might give me a reason, given that I haven’t really addressed the Somali antivax canard before.

    In any case, truly Vox’s scientific and medical ignorance know no bounds. It’s a shame I missed that one the first time around.

    In his attempted “rebuttal” to me, Vox even brought up the much deserved trouncing he took over his “Hey, it worked for Hitler” post! Comedy gold!

    So maybe I’ll ask any of my readers who are still on this thread: Does Vox deserve another heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence, or is it a waste of my time and beneath me?

  86. #87 Bisch
    March 25, 2009

    or is it a waste of my time and beneath me?

    Dude, that’s funny that you think you gave it to him. Awesome.

  87. #88 Dr. P
    March 26, 2009

    Dude, it’s hilarious that you fail to see the obvious. Wicked…Dude.

  88. #89 Brian X
    March 26, 2009

    I have this to say about Mensa:

    I’ve been branded for life with the “gifted” albatross; as someone with some pretty severe psychological issues, it’s not a label I dwell on because it reminds me of all the potential I’ll leave unfulfilled over my life. When I was a kid, Mensa seemed like a pretty cool idea, but it was probably around college, when I was arguing vehemently with my mother over whether to enter the honors dorm at school (I wanted nothing to do with it; I’m self-isolating enough without putting myself in an even more isolated situation) that I realized elitism based on intelligence is crap. Someone asked me the other day if I was familiar with Mensa and whether I would want to join; I think she was a little taken aback by my distaste for the organization and the worthless luftmenschen that seem to be its public face.

    Smart people don’t need self-congratulation societies and intellectual ghettos. What smart people need are fora like Wikipedia and the like where they can make positive contributions to help other people be like them, without being encouraged to be complete and utter tools. (Just a thought: I wonder how many of the more obnoxious Mensans are Randroids as well. I bet it’s pandemic.)

  89. #90 Emanuel Golstein
    March 27, 2009

    Orac tells us that of course he does not think scientists are “completely objective”.

    Bullshit. You couldn’t tell that from reading most of the “science”blogs like the PZ Myers Bigot Blog.

    You all think that science will…eventually…have all the answeres and solve all our problems.

    And that there is no other way.

    Just admit it and quite beating around the bush.

    (In the meantime, maybe scientists could slow down just a little on the more and more advance wmds they are supplying the governments of the world. Just a little.)

  90. #91 Emanuel Golstein
    March 27, 2009

    Hey, did you know that the “trusted doctors” kill more that 100,000 people a year throught medical malpractice, according to the AMA’s own statistics.

    So you know its at least twice what they admit.

  91. #92 Emanule Gollstein
    March 27, 2009

    ONLY ONE child in 150 is autistic?

    That is a MASSIVE number, and a massive tradgedy. If only one time in 150 that you drove a car you had an accident, would you pooh pooh that.

    Orac, you want to see stupid. Look in the mirror.

  92. #93 Orac
    March 27, 2009

    Yawn.

    Mr. Gollstein is boring, even by troll standards. Pretty lame. Did Vox send you over? That would explain the low intelligence and knowledge level clearly behind your comments.

    I also see that Vox is still trying to get another rise out of me by laying down even more stupid. Hey, at least he’s reading my comments.

  93. #94 Scott
    March 27, 2009

    Hmm, let’s see here…

    You all think that science will…eventually…have all the answeres and solve all our problems.

    Strawman.

    And that there is no other way.

    Again strawman.

    (In the meantime, maybe scientists could slow down just a little on the more and more advance wmds they are supplying the governments of the world. Just a little.)

    Irrelevant.

    Hey, did you know that the “trusted doctors” kill more that 100,000 people a year throught medical malpractice, according to the AMA’s own statistics.

    Irrelevant.

    So you know its at least twice what they admit.

    Cite.

    ONLY ONE child in 150 is autistic?

    That is a MASSIVE number, and a massive tradgedy. If only one time in 150 that you drove a car you had an accident, would you pooh pooh that.

    Compared to the mortality rates from vaccine-preventable infectious disease, 1/150 is less than a rounding error.

    Orac, you want to see stupid. Look in the mirror.

    Ad hominem.

    Wow, you almost got one meaningful argument into six claims. Keep it up and it might actually take more than 5 seconds for anyone marginally knowledgeable to demolish you.

  94. #95 Joseph
    March 27, 2009

    ONLY ONE child in 150 is autistic?

    That is a MASSIVE number, and a massive tradgedy.

    About 1% of the population is considered to have mental retardation. It has always been this way.

    About 3% of the population will score below 2 standard deviations from the mean in IQ tests. It’s not a tragedy. It’s a normal distribution.

  95. #96 Chris
    March 27, 2009

    Also, about 1 in 100 persons will have schizophrenia:
    http://www.schizophrenia.com/szfacts.htm

  96. #97 the bullcooker
    March 27, 2009

    Orac tells us that of course he does not think scientists are “completely objective”. Bullshit. You couldn’t tell that from reading most of the “science”blogs like the PZ Myers Bigot Blog.

    Self parody slam dunk.

  97. #98 Boris
    April 1, 2009

    You have to admit the guy can write:

    He manfully resisted the temptation to share the uncharitable thoughts that were still flowing rancorously through his mind.

  98. #99 Joseph C.
    April 1, 2009

    You have to admit the guy can write:

    That’s bringing a knife to a gun fight. Being able to produce decent prose is important, but in this “debate” knowing what you’re talking about is much more crucial.

  99. #100 Orac
    April 1, 2009

    Besides, I’m no slouch at writing myself, you know. :-)

  100. #101 Joseph C.
    April 1, 2009

    Besides, I’m no slouch at writing myself, you know.

    I didn’t mean to slight you there. :)

    My point was that Mr. VD is like that college freshman who thinks he can still get away with not reading the book because he can compose decent prose. A decent professor will see through this sophomoric nonsense every time.

  101. #102 Boris
    April 1, 2009

    Oops, irony fail. I was pointing out how bad is writing is, actually. Just read that sentence a couple of times. The utter terribleness of it might have slipped by you on first inspection.

  102. #103 Chris
    April 1, 2009

    Sorry, Boris… I also thought you were serious. You’ve been stimied in a version of Poe’s law:
    “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.”

  103. #104 Boris
    April 1, 2009

    I don’t know what’s sadder: my failure or the fact that you guys have become inured to bad writing :)

  104. #105 DLC
    April 1, 2009

    e man mule gallstone, do you think you could throw a few more generic anti-science and anti-medicine canards out ?
    You make a good example of how not to argue.

  105. #106 stoat100
    April 25, 2009

    People who mention their (always high) IQ are always fools, no matter how many long words they use.

  106. #107 gokhan
    March 21, 2010

    And that there is no other way.

  107. #108 kaaan
    March 22, 2011

    He manfully resisted the temptation to share the uncharitable thoughts that were still flowing rancorously through his mind.

  108. #109 Homer 3D
    August 31, 2011

    On Stanford-Binet I scored a “145″ and I thought it meant something until it came to college and I actually had to show effort in order to succeed. Nobody gave me any passes because I was “smart.” If I didn’t turn in the paper, or if I didn’t take the test, there wasn’t a professor around who would take my word that I sufficiently understood the material enough to just give me an “A.”

    Totally agree. Personally, if I could trade a few IQ points so that school would’ve been more challenging earlier on to facilitate developing a better work ethic, I would. (As it stands, I’ve gotten so lazy from years of never having to study and skipping weeks to months of school each year while maintaining my high school GPA, I have to learn time management and study skills many ten-year-olds have, and without these skills it’s difficult to live independently). It is much more advantageous in this world to have average or somewhat above average IQ and work hard to achieve from early on than to have a staggeringly high IQ but expect to breeze through life and get a cold awakening that not only are you an insignificant piece of cosmic dust, but that your fellow humans see this about you too. (My IQ isn’t staggeringly high, but it is about two or three standard deviations above the mean.)

    That’s why I put more stock into how willingly someone will question the things they are sure they know (seriously instead of cursorily considering it before returning to the safety net of what is “known”, such that they aren’t really sure after all) and how hard they are willing to work toward worthwhile goals than what their “innate” processing speed is and how easily deep understanding comes to them (high IQ people often have the capacity to do both quick thinking and deep thinking, but it is completely possible to have only one or the other at a high level and still achieve well on the test – in fact, I would think the tests would reward quick thinking more than deep thinking). I really hope I’ve developed this “self-questioning” with a modicum of success, but ultimately, if you’re fooling yourself, you don’t know it. So you just have to monitor things a lot, check with more objective perspectives, and sort of hope for the best. No one can be perfect, but it’s better to avoid outlandish self-delusion.

    Seriously, to give a kid passes or slacken the rules for them because they score highly on tests like IQ tests, is really bad (I wish more teachers understood this). The real world does not work that way, and just having the theoretical capacity to achieve doesn’t mean they will. The skills people need to turn potential into action are NOT on IQ tests; they must be developed through learning how to work through challenges, and how to cope with dull situations (which sitting through repetitive classes does not automatically confer).

    I also agree with Brian X; I have no interest in joining Mensa – I mean, why would I pay 60+ dollars a year to hang out with other people who have high IQs when I could talk about math and science and psychology and sociology on the Internet? High IQ is mostly relevant in structuring education and has little to no relevance outside that sphere, other than things such as the effects of poor education or the effects of being raised with high expectations and the confidence you can do anything without much effort, but those are problems with the environment and your psychology.

    I strongly suspect that a significant portion of “high IQ crackpots” were/are underachievers, never reached their potential, and so their minds keep busy by coming up with convoluted justifications for various weird beliefs that border on (or cross over into) the frankly delusional, so they can feel like they’ve accomplished something. I’ve been an underachiever for most of my life, and I can tell you, when I get bored, I can bring home the crazy just as well as any human (also when I’m not bored, but my thinking is more prone to wander into very strange territories when I am bored).

    I’ve tried to explain before that having a high IQ is a measure of potential greatness, instead of greatness itself. But she is full of so much woo that I can’t talk with her anymore without getting really annoyed.

    Yeah, I have some relatives like this, including one who thinks she’s got such a superior outlook on life because she’s an atheist, then starts talking about the virtues of raw vegan diets, macrobiotic diets, and how the evil pharma companies are trying to cover up these natural cures (her IQ was never tested, but I would guess it’s at least above average). My dad has some weird beliefs, but at least when I talk to him, in spite of never going past high school, he can recognize where a lot of his thinking is possibly fallacious and see where someone would think differently and how that could be true. Even people with IQ 180+ are still very much human (yes, really), and everyone is vulnerable to the cognitive flaws humans have, which is why even the most brilliant scientists who have a long track record of success are not exempt from employing the methods of science. Someone who is exceptionally skilled in manipulating ideas and logic also has the exceptional potential to mangle things in such a way that they can make utterly foolish trains of thought sound perfectly reasonable. Self-deception is remarkably easy to fall into, and stay with that groove as it becomes comfortable. Doctorgoo’s experience seems to resonate with this.

    Seriously, it aggravates me when people go bragging about their IQ just so they don’t feel like losers (which I don’t really get that, even, considering that for an underachiever, it would be a confidence boost if I had achieved as much as I have and yet had an IQ of 70, but with an IQ in the 130+ range I seem like a rank failure – societal attitudes of material failure and success are not easy to be indifferent to, no matter what your philosophical stances on wealth and life), especially if they spout dangerous nonsense. I’d rather talk to someone utterly incapable of understanding my points but who earnestly tries than to someone so convinced of their superior reasoning that they will just say a bunch of stupid things in a very intelligent-sounding manner.

    Oh, and is it just me, or does anyone else generally assume that anyone who brags about being a member of Mensa is highly likely to be an insufferable tool?

    I think it’s because most of the other high IQ people have found better things to do with their lives, whether it’s in academic pursuits, raising a family, doing art, reading, whatever. Especially with the wide availability of the Internet these days, even poor people who have high IQ are likely to have the opportunity to talk to other people interested and able in their subjects of interest, not to mention the existence of libraries and MIT OpenCourseWare to fulfill intellectual needs.

    It also irritates because you don’t need to be a professor/CEO/(whatever is the standard of professional success) to keep your mind active and get something positive out of life. I would feel deeply sad if I thought my greatest accomplishment was my IQ, mainly because I don’t see any reason to look at IQ as an accomplishment, instead of something I can have much more influence over and actually do to make life more worthwhile for myself and others around me. (Speaking of which, it’s about time I got back to those things…)

    It’s this kind of elitism that puts a bad name to gifted/talented education, which I strongly support when the programs are useful, individualized alterations to curriculum designed to challenge the students and work on deficits in work ethic, social skills, or whatever instead of extra fluff that could benefit nearly any student.

    BTW, I don’t comment much but have been lurking since high school, so maybe around 2006? This is a great blog, Orac. It’s helped me become semi-literate in analyzing research papers and medical claims (though statistics class didn’t hurt). I am rather ignorant, and have been arrogantly ignorant as well (enough times that I am quite embarrassed about it, let’s just say). It’s nice to have a blog like this on scienceblogs to have easy access to becoming less ignorant, and it got me interested in medical science (though physics remains my first and true love).

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