Over the last week or so, I’ve been confronted full bore with cranks, staring down the barrel, if you will, of a crank shotgun, one barrel being the anti-vaccine movement in general (with J.B. Handley and his misogyny being the buckshot, so to speak) and the other being Suzanne Somers and her despicable cancer quackery. Indeed, over the last five years, I’ve subjected myself to some of the most outrageous bits of unreason, conspiracy mongering, and pseudoscience. Be it the anti-vaccine movement, quacks, 9/11 Truthers, Holocaust deniers, creationists, or any of a variety of other bits of pseudoscience, I’ve come to appreciate that what distinguishes believers in such nonsense seems to be, as Prometheus so aptly put it, the arrogance of ignorance. Even so, there seems to be more than that going on, and leave it to, of all things, an article in the L.A. Times by James Rainey entitled Childhood vaccines, autism and the dangers of group think. It’s an article looking at Amy Wallace’s excellent article for WIRED entitled An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All, which documented how the arrogance of ignorance has led the anti-vaccine movement to endanger public health, and the exceedingly (and typically) nasty reaction the anti-vaccine movement with which the anti-vaccine movement responded, particularly J.B. Handley’s misogyny.

There are two key passages in Rainey’s article that tell the tale, a tale that is no surprise to skeptics, in particular skeptical bloggers like my self:

“They will say, ‘Who do you think you are to tell me?’ or ‘Who does the government think it is to tell us what is best for public health?’ ” Wallace told me this week. “They say, ‘You can’t know my child like I know my child.’ ”

Wallace has run smack into an abiding, perhaps growing, phenomenon of the Internet Age: Citizens armed with information are sure they know better. Readers who brush up against expertise believe they have become experts. The common man rebels against the notion that anyone — not professionals, not the government and certainly not the media — speaks with special authority.

Where it stops, nobody knows. But already we see a wave of amateurs convinced they can write a pithier movie review, arrange a catchier song, even assess our planet’s shifting weather conditions, better than the professionals trained to do the job.


The rise of computer literacy, high-speed Internet connections, blogging and social networks has emboldened the common man to tell his own story and, sometimes, to disdain trappings like a university degree, professional training or corporate affiliation. The citizen activists often frame themselves as truth tellers fighting against an establishment that is hopelessly venal. No matter that the corruption, routinely claimed, is seldom supported by more than innuendo.

This is indeed the cult of the amateur, as the title of a book mentioned in the article goes. There has always been a strain in American culture that is deeply anti-intellectual and suspicious of experts. That is not always a bad thing. Experts are not always right, and “the best and the brightest” have at times led us horribly astray. However, in the process, our nation appears to have somehow devalued not only expertise, but science itself. Science is the “other.” It’s not something that “everyday people” do, or at least it’s not perceived that way, which is all the more sad because anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence should be able to understand the very basics of the scientific method. The same is true of critical thinking. Indeed, in many areas of of life, the “average Joe” is admirably skeptical. For example, many people are more than capable of evaluating the sales pitch of a car salesman or, as my wife and I had to do several months ago, the high pressure sales pitch of a roofing salesman. Yet, in other areas these same people are credulous marks for any conspiracy theory that comes around.

In the case of the anti-vaccine movement, what drives this arrogance of ignorance is an old-fashioned American distrust of authority (often good, but not always) combined with a democratic tradition in which every person is assumed to be equal. The problem is that equal under the law and possessing equal rights (which is he American ideal) does not mean equal abilities or knowledge. We as a people seem to conflate the two and assume all too often that, if Paul Offit can pontificate about vaccines, so can we, even though we don’t have any special expertise in the relevant sciences. Too many of us assume that several hours (or even much, much less) spent in front of a computer studying at the University of Google renders our understanding equal to that of scientists and experts who have spent their entire lives studying a problem. Celebrities are no different, either. Indeed, fueled by ego and surrounded by yes-men and other enablers, celebrities seem even more prone to the arrogance of ignorance, be they Bill Maher, Oprah Winfrey, Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, Billy Corgan, or Suzanne Somers. Worse, they have a much larger soapbox from which to spread their nonsense. But they’re not alone. Whenever I want to demonstrate what drives this attitude, I like to quote anti-vaccine loon J.B. Handley:

I’m not intellectually intimidated by any of these jokers. Their degrees mean zippo to me, because I knew plenty of knuckleheads in college who went on to be doctors, and they’re still knuckleheads (I also knew plenty of great, smart guys who went on to be doctors and they’re still great, smart guys).

I chose a different path and went into the business world. In the business world, having a degree from a great college or business school gets you your first job, and not much else. There are plenty of Harvard Business School grads who have bankrupted companies and gone to jail, and plenty of high school drop-outs who are multi-millionaires. Brains and street-smarts win, not degrees, arrogance, or entitlement.

Except that brains and street smarts count for nothing in science if they exist without an understanding of science.

From my perspective, the progress made on developing Internet may well be the single greatest development of the last 30 years. When the Internet was first developed, it was used primarily by educational, government, and defense institutions. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s when huge numbers of people started to have access to the Internet, and today in developed countries most people take Internet access for granted. Personally, I don’t know how I’d survive without it. It’s made, for example, looking up articles for my research and writing journal articles and grants a snap. However, there’s a down side, and that’s too much information, so much information that it makes it very easy for someone without the background knowledge to separate the wheat from the chaff to develop a sense of pseudo-expertise. In other words, they may pick up a lot of facts and be able to cite a lot of studies, but they do not know the scientific context behind them. Worse, they don’t know how to recognize good studies compared to bad studies or understand that critically examining the evidence against your beliefs is even more important than examining the evidence for them. The result all too often turns into an orgy of cherry picking and confirmation bias.

The result, when combined with someone like J.B. Handley, who thinks that expertise can be so easily dismissed, is the anti-vaccine movement, creationists, Holocaust deniers, 9/11 Truthers, and quacks.

The other driving force behind the proliferation of pseudo-expertise is a very human trait that we all share, namely the tendency to confuse correlation with causation. Once again, this is one of the first lessons in science, not to confuse correlation with causation, but those of us in science forget just how against human nature this is. We are creatures that value personal experience over statistics and science. One good anecdote trumps reams of evidence. This produces, for example, anthropogenic global warming denialists who justify their rejection of climate science by their observation that this summer was unusually mild in their area or the alternative medicine maven who swears by homeopathy because the symptoms of their self-limited condition got better after they tried it.

Moreover, let us not forget that, at the level of a single person, correlation sure can appear to be causation. As I pointed out a month ago, one example is heart attacks and the flu vaccine. More than 3,000 people have heart attacks each and every day, which means that by random chance alone there will be probably several people a day who have a heart attack within 24 hours of being vaccinated for the flu. To those people, it may appear all the world as though the vaccine caused the heart attack, when in reality it really was just coincidence. It’s not enough simply to observe an adverse event happening after something, say, vaccination. You have to show that there is an incidence of that adverse event significantly greater than what could be predicted by chance alone. The same applies to the claim that vaccines cause autism. If you have a child who regresses within a day or so of vaccination, it will appear all the world to you that the vaccine caused the regression. In that case, it is then very difficult even for highly educated parents to accept the results of science, namely that epidemiological studies do not find an elevated incidence of autism after vaccination.

Combine the all-too-human tendency to confuse correlation with causation with the anti-intellectual attitude of a J. B. Handley and the arrogance of ignorance that pseudoexpertise derived from studying at Google U. produces, and you have fanatical adherence to a crank movement. It all boils down to a basic human need for a perception of order in the universe. We need causes when bad things happen; we need explanations. “You were unlucky” or “it was just an unfortunate coincidence” are not answers to the question “Why?” that satisfy. Blaming something is, be it blaming vaccines for autism or constructing elaborate conspiracy theories to explain how 19 men with box cutters could hijack commercial airliners and cause the deaths of 3,000 Americans.

Becoming an expert in anything is very hard. It’s been estimated that in general it takes 10,000 hours of practice and study to become an expert in surgery, for example. There are no shortcuts. The Internet may seem like a shortcut that levels the playing field between experts and the great unwashed masses, but in reality it only gives the illusion of expertise or, as I’ve called it, pseudoexpertise. Similarly, in the past, the lay person just plain did not have direct access to medical studies. Obtaining such studies would require a trip to a medical school library, which may or may not be far away, prolonged searching through Index Medicus, piling journal upon journal on a cart, and then spending tons of change to copy the articles desired. Now, virtually any abstract can be accessed through PubMed, and articles reporting federally funded research are deposited in PubMed Central within a year of publication, where anyone can access it. While this open access to knowledge is appropriate, given that our tax dollars funded the research, it inadvertently fueled the rise of the pseudoexpert.

Finally, it’s not all bad. The very same forces that produced the anti-vaccine movement and fuel the panoply of cranks provide the weapons to combat them. For example, I started out blogging using a free service called Blogspot, and I would almost certainly still be on Blogspot or on one of the other free blogging platforms that have proliferated had ScienceBlogs not spotted me for the awesome blogging talent that I am and asked me to be assimilated into the collective. Should ScienceBlogs and I ever decide to part ways, I can always go back to that. It is that easy access to blogs and the web that cranks take advantage of to spread their message that provides scientists and skeptics the weapons to combat cranks. Unfortunately, it’s a lopsided battle, and not in our favor.


  1. #1 the bug guy
    November 7, 2009

    DF, Please actually read the studies. They describe surveillance over all age groups above six months.

    I’ll repeat some of the relevant quotes (with emphasis added):

    Fox, CB 2009. Squalene Emulsions for Parenteral Vaccine and Drug Delivery. Molecules 2009, 14(9), 3286-3312: “Perhaps the strongest case for the safety of squalene in a vaccine setting is the well documented safety record of MF59®, which has been reviewed elsewhere [63]. Approximately 27 million doses of MF59® have been injected into humans of all age groups (including infants) with little or no adverse side effects.”

    That one also mentioned that the animal studies linking squalene to autouimmune problems used very high doses of pure oil (200 and 500 microliters), or that nerve damage was done with the extremely high dose of 20 grams per kilogram for four days.

    Schultze, et al., 2008. Safety of MF59™ adjuvant. Vaccine Volume 26, Issue 26, 19 June 2008, Pages 3209-3222: “The safety and adjuvanticity of MF59TM has been widely tested in children, adolescents and adults with different antigens.”

    I also covered the WHO press conferences that you quoted (though interestingly, you haven’t mentioned them since I did that). From the Oct. 30 statement, in reference to adjuvated vs. unadjuvated vaccines: “So there is no reason in SAGE view to distinguish between both types of vaccines.”

    Others have gone into details about the strengths and weaknesss of Dr. Chu’s blog posts.

    You are essentially complaining about people here being closed minded, but the case is regretably the opposite. You are taking everything that Dr. Chu says as gospel and have decided that the scientific data presented is unreliable, thus ignoring it.

    Let’s put this in perspective. Based on a couple of high-dose animal studies using non-emuslified squalene oil in rates far above what is contained in vaccines, Dr. Chu has suggested that there might be autoimmune problems in humans. Since there are much less safety data available for non-elderly populations (though we have good safety information on over 40 million doses already administered), Dr. Chu has called for more safety studies on them before they are approved for use against a pandemic we are facing now.

    Now, looking the other direction, we have a world facing a potentially very serious pandemic and needing a way to vaccinate as many people as possible to ameliorate the situation. Adjuvants allow for less antigen to be used per person, thus allowing more people to be vaccinated per unit of antigen grown from rearing the H1N1 virus. We have to weigh the possible risk of a side effect that has not been determined to actually exist in humans against the need to protect millions. The data currently available on the at-risk populations, while not as large as we would like, still has shown no indication of this potential side effect. Therefore, the decision has been made to continue with the adjuvated vaccines and closely monitor on the slight chance that a rare side effect may occur.

    I mentioned this before and I think it bears repeating. You have become focused on one detail and have blindered yourself to the larger set of data. The decision to use a treatment must be made on examining the totality of safety and efficacy data and not simply on looking at whether or not one possible side effect has been ruled out.

  2. #2 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    BugGuy, the first study you cited (industry sponsored maker of squalene vaccines) states a number but does not show the data of the numbers- no evidence backs it up.
    There’s NO research with pregnant women. Just like my “unsupported” statement (see Sismondo and several others) that outcomes nearly unanimously favor industry – you can’t then use a double standard and produce questionable and unsupported data to support your arguments. Nearly all of the arguably 28 million (cited in other places as 10 or 20 million) were over 65 except for very paltry thousands by comparison.
    There are many studies that I have read online, including a brand new one in this months NEJM, that support Chu’s work- just on the merits of cytokines and inflammation triggering autoimmune disease. Yes, its complex- but the risk/benefit ratio is by no means clear enough to warrant the uncritical support of every current and upcoming vaccine.
    Did they keep the rats in your second study (above) around for two years? No. Will autoimmune symptoms showing up two years down the road in pregnant women or their children who are vaccinated today be attributed to the vaccines- NO. There are over 40 autoimmune diseases making the surveilance nearly impossible to track, let alone estimating the incidence correctly in the first place.
    It is the perfect scenario where no matter how you cut it, your asses are completely covered as to causation and even if the incidence soared, it will be years until it’s figured out. I’m just very tired of it. There are countless studies that show that oil-based adjuvants stimulate an autoimmune response- lupus, hep B, arthritis- and it could take YEARS until we “get around” like Luna said to an eventual relationship. You will say citations, please. No- look them up- they are there.
    Thanks though, bugguy, for a great example in your reply of what may yet someday be a fruitful dialogue betwen very disparate camps.
    Um, Luna, I never called you rapists, murderers, killers, whatever. I pointed out that the tactics used here are diminishment, aggression and group scapegoating. They are also common among very irrational, cold-blooded dictatorial types.
    Many of you feel entitled to excuse those tactics as justified in the case of stupid, boring or troll-esque people, I don’t. If you don’t want to suffer “fools”, ignore them, as Chris has been saying all along.
    And I’m not Jesus honey, I don’t turn the other cheek and I will fight back, 30 to 1 or not.

  3. #3 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    You are wrong, Luna. According to Titmouse, it’s good science to admit to it occasionally.
    >>Although more than 1/3 of all cancers occur in people over 75, most cancer screening programs in the NHS do not include people over the age of 65.5 Only one in fifty lung cancer patients in Great Britain receives surgery.6<<< Which begs the question what will happen to all the people who may or may not have worsened pain and suffering in the absence of jobs and medical care from untested vaccine ingredients. What Will Happen to the Elderly under New Health Care System Proposed By President Obama? July 26, 2009 by Dawn Filed under Featured Writers, Features Leave a Comment By Richard G. Fessler, MD, PhD “If the experience of other countries is any guide, the elderly have the most to lose under a national health insurance system. In general, when health care is rationed, the young get preferential treatment, while older patients get pushed to the rear of the waiting lines.”1 Since the president has often praised the health care system in Great Britain, perhaps that system would be informative of what elderly Americans can expect with a single payer system. One in ten patients in Great Britain reported noticing a difference in the way they were treated by the National Health Service (the single payer administration of Great Britain) after they turned 50.2 One in twenty people over the age of 65 said that they had been refused treatment.3 The British newspaper The Observer reported that elderly patients received a lower standard of care and were treated less respectfully than younger patients.4 Although more than 1/3 of all cancers occur in people over 75, most cancer screening programs in the NHS do not include people over the age of 65.5 Only one in fifty lung cancer patients in Great Britain receives surgery.6 Denial of care to the elderly seems to be sanctioned by the British government. The NHS cut the number of geriatric hospital beds by over 50% between 1985 and 2004.7 Critics of the NHS have accused the policies toward care of the elderly as involuntary euthanasia.8 That may explain why deaths from pneumonia among people over the age of 75 are three to four times higher in the UK than the US.9 A more extreme example of rationing of health care can be seen in New Zealand, another “single payer health system.” Guidelines for treatment of end stage renal failure state that, “under usual circumstances, people over seventy-five should not be accepted” for renal dialysis.10 Since there are no private dialysis facilities in New Zealand, that amounts to a death sentence for an elderly person with renal failure! So what can the elderly American look forward to then, under a government controlled single-payer system? Although there is little overall correlation between the amount of money spent on health care and longevity in the developed OECD countries, it is clear that among the elderly, there is a direct correlation between the amount of money spent on health care and life expectancy.11 Unlike other countries, the American elderly currently have relatively little difficulty accessing health care. However, as the population of elderly Americans continues to grow, simultaneous to decreased funding for senior health care, access to care will necessarily decrease. Proof of this was recently demonstrated by the President’s proposal to partially fund his health care proposal with a $300 billion dollar cut in Medicare spending! Thus, as the federal government uses its “monopsony” power to drive Medicare reimbursement even more below market prices, fewer doctors will accept Medicare patients. More patients with fewer doctors and less money translates into limited access to health care, and health care rationing! As the above data demonstrates, it is the elderly that bear the overwhelming brunt of this rationing, deleteriously affecting their health and life expectancy. __________________________________________ 1 Goodman, J.C., Musgrave, G.L., Herrick, D.M.: Lives at Risk, Roman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2004. pp. 147. 2 Beecham, L., “Patients Say the NHS is Ageist,” British Medical Journal, April 24, 1999, pp 1095. 3 Hall, C., “Campaign to Halt Ageism in NHS”, Daily Telegraph (London) November 8, 1999. 4 Ahmed, K., “Elderly Suffering Ageism in NHS”, The Observer January 27, 2002. 5 Turner, N.J. et al., “Cancer in old age: Is it inadequately investigated and treated?” British Medical Journal 319:309-312, 1999. 6 Partridge, M.R., “Thoracic Surgery in a Crisis”, British Medical Journal February 16, 2001, pp 376-377. 7 Rao, J.N., “Politicians, Not Doctors, Must Make the Decisions about Rationing.” British Medical Journal, April 3, 1999, pp 340. 8 “Pensioners a Burden to NHS”. BBC News, December 6, 1999. 9 Redwood, H. “Why Ration Care?” (London: CIVITAS, Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2000). 10 Feek, C.M. et al., “Experience with Rationing Health Care in New Zealand”, British Medical Journal 313:1346-1348, 1999. 11 Schoen, C., et al., “The Elderly’s Experiences with Health Care in Five Nations”, Commonwealth Fund, May 2000.

  4. #4 kayleigh
    November 7, 2009

    Perhaps DoctrinalFairness/DF is actually Daniele Fanelli!

    In post 123, he/she posted a link to this article about the incidence of scientists fabricating data:
    The author? Daniele Fanelli from the University of Edinburgh in the UK.

    In post 129, he/she says they are of Italian descent.

    In post 175, he/she says they hold a resident visa in the UK.

    So, am I right? Do I win the internetz?

  5. #5 JohnV
    November 7, 2009

    “My anecdotal experience here on this blog is that this “war” is an insoluble problem without any real interest in seeing the “opposing camp” as anything but
    evil conspirators”

    Gee at least you’re above doing this.

    “it’s fairly easy to arrive at the conclusion that scientists are a cold, sadistic bunch who get their jollies from the same energy that drives gang rape and Inquisitions.”

    “You have a need to punish and control. I make a poor victim and slave”

    “I pointed out that the tactics used here are diminishment, aggression and group scapegoating. They are also common among very irrational, cold-blooded dictatorial types”

  6. #6 Orac
    November 7, 2009

    My observation has been that the anti-vaccination movement argues from a position of authority only when it suits them. For example, Handley demeans scientific expertise in his post but then argues that Offit’s comments on autism don’t count because he doesn’t treat children with autism (although he is a pediatric immunologist). Hence, it appears that no formal expertise is fine if you agree with Handley whereas you must have the right subdiscipline expertise to be qualified to disagree with him.

    Exactly, Brother Abel! Exactly.

    It’s just another manifestation of cherry-picking that the anti-vaccine movement does. They cherry pick their “experts” just like their studies. Unfortunately, the quality of those whom they view as “experts” is just as bad as the quality of the studies they cherry pick.

  7. #7 Luna_the_cat
    November 7, 2009

    Ignoring all the gratuitous martyr complex and feigned wounded innocence —

    you do realise, don’t you, that rats may only live 2 years? They’re smaller, they’re given far higher doses, they tend to show immediate reactions, and they age a lot faster. It’s not an absolute given, but it is not unreasonable to expect that they might show up long-term health effects a lot faster than humans, given the compressed time scale of their lives.

    But really, there is a VERY big question — it’s been asked before, but maybe you didn’t see it. Why would you expect such a delayed reaction? What evidence indicates, to you, that the injection of a substance which is already made -and- cleared in the body would cause something more than immediate local inflammation, YEARS down the line?

    If this were the case, why aren’t we ALL subject to lupus and arthritis from our very own body’s squalene, given how much of it we produce?

    There are countless studies that show that oil-based adjuvants stimulate an autoimmune response- lupus, hep B, arthritis

    Please, cite some of these… Seriously, you demand we look up specific data for you, same standards apply in reverse. What ARE these “countless” studies, or even a few of them?

    There are certainly a bajillion studies about cytokenes and various interleukins. What is your link to squalene adjuvants?

    >>Although more than 1/3 of all cancers occur in people over 75, most cancer screening programs in the NHS do not include people over the age of 65.5 Only one in fifty lung cancer patients in Great Britain receives surgery.6

    You sent me this link: http://www.ageconcern.org.uk/AgeConcern/response-BMJ-article-NHS-care-failures-150808.asp , and this certainly wasn’t anywhere on there. So it’s from “Dawn’s” article, above? Where is THAT from? I’ll certainly be looking at the references she provides. I would invite you to note, though, that “Only one in fifty lung cancer patients in Great Britain receives surgery” was not said in reference to over-65s, but to everyone; the relevant question there is, how many people would it be indicated for?

    …You know, you could just say, “ok, pensioners in the UK DO get cancer care, just not always to the standard they ought to.” Are you capable of backing down even that much, holding that much of a nuanced view?

  8. #8 Luna_the_cat
    November 7, 2009


    No. Daniele Fanelli is still at Edinburgh, and is actually a very smart man.

  9. #9 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    DF, the link you provided about care for dying patients in the UK is tangential to the disagreement between yourself and Luna. From another thread:

    Luna: “There is no age limit to who gets cancer treatment here!!!”

    DF: “And THAT is complete bullshit! I’m in the UK as we speak and spent the morning with a friend whose 62 yr old brother is too old to be enrolled in ANY clinical trial for his cancer. He doesn’t have private insurance, which anyone who is affluent in the UK seems to require. On my way over here, my seatmate was a nurse from the USA who was going to see her dying mother in Essex and SHE WAS THE ONE who told me that.”

    DF, it appears that the US nurse who told you that the UK had an age limit for cancer treatment was mistaken. Your denouncement of Luna’s statement above as “complete bullshit!” is not justified.

    Merely saying, “that’s what I was told,” is insufficient. It leaves your position ambiguous. Better to state clearly whether you accept or reject the claim that is under discussion.

    Given that you have no evidence to refute the claim, “There is no age limit to who gets cancer treatment in the UK,” you have but three options:
    1. Concede the point.
    2. Recommend that you and Luna agree to disagree on this point and request move on to something else.
    3. Withdraw from the conversation.

    You can concede a point without committing yourself. Here’s how: “Apparently I was misinformed and the UK has no rule about limiting cancer treatment to people under a certain age.”

    Rational discourse is not about winning or losing. It’s about clarifying the nature of disagreements and seeking their resolution whenever possible. Settling one question at a time keeps the conversation productive. I’m just saying.

  10. #10 Joseph C.
    November 7, 2009

    “There is no age limit to who gets cancer treatment in the UK,” you have but three options:

    Don’t forget option 4: Whine about everyone ganging up on you.

  11. #11 Antaeus Feldspar
    November 7, 2009

    “There is no age limit to who gets cancer treatment in the UK,” you have but three options:

    Don’t forget option 4: Whine about everyone ganging up on you.

    Well, that’s not an option where the option-taker gets to keep their dignity. Although come to think of it that doesn’t rule it out for DF…

  12. #12 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    Titmouse, lessons on rational discourse from a man who listed 40 variations on the word drunk as a reply to me will be taken with the grain of salt they deserve.

    Unfortunately for Luna, whose sharp bared claws do cast some doubt on her rationality, I happen to also reside in the UK for half of each year. Despite my feeble powers of intelligence, I do manage to notice my surroundings.

    Luna hon, I have to go pack for my little holiday,
    but before i go- lets have a chat about nuance, OK.
    I can’t answer all your other questions and you are about to get a nice break from me, but lets go back to the cancer business.

    Just a few weeks ago, didn’t the damn Secretary of State Andy Burnham address Parliament about the institutionalized ageism in the NHS and as a result, a BAN of ageism is now underway? A BAN on ageism in every area of care, Luna? Why ever would that be necessary??

    So keep on nit-picking about the outrageoues excess of my example- based on two personal conversations that I had just had, which were then presumtiously trumped by your superior anecdotal info. Naturally.

    Health secretary promises to outlaw ageism from the NHS by 2012
    Zosia Kmietowicz

    >>More recently, John Young, who heads an academic unit of elderly care and rehabilitation, lamented the endemic ageism of the NHS. Decades of health service underfunding had provided an environment in which ageism flourished: “Whenever a clinical stone is turned over, ageism is revealed,” he wrote, citing studies in cancer services, coronary care units, prevention of vascular disease, mental health services, and the management of transient ischaemic attacks and minor strokes.15

    There you have it. Dan Ackroyd in my college days had a name for you, Luna, but I won’t say it.

  13. #13 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    Joseph C.

    Don’t forget option 4: Whine about everyone ganging up on you.

    Hmm. Is #4 a sub-set of #3 or something else?

    Analogy: A group of kids are playing Monopoly. One player recognizes that he’s no hope of winning. He says…

    1. “I’m bored. I’m going to go do something else.”
    2. “Hey, an eagle just flew by the window!” Then he steals $500 from the bank.
    3. “Hey, how come I always lose? That’s not statistically possible! You guys are a bunch of lousy cheaters! My turn again or it’s no fair!”
    4. “Oops!” He then knocks the board and its pieces onto the floor. “HAHAHA!”

    Re-defining the above in terms of mutual rule agreement and mutual play agreement:
    1. “Yes” to rules, “no” to play
    2. Covert “no” to rules, “yes” to play
    3. Overt “no” to rules, “yes” to play
    4. Overt “no” to rules, “no” to play

    The above gambits have this in common: they’re all destructive of a shared effort toward mutual understanding. The first example is unique in that it leaves rule agreement intact.

    Next question: What options are possible to those faced with any of the 4 gambits above?

  14. #14 Joseph C.
    November 7, 2009

    Titmouse, lessons on rational discourse from a man who listed 40 variations on the word drunk as a reply to me will be taken with the grain of salt they deserve.

    Considering the paranoid, rambling nature of your comments, I don’t think titmouse made an error in putting alcohol abuse on your differential. Heck, she’d probably be considered a crap doctor to not at least consider it.

  15. #15 Chris
    November 7, 2009

    Just a reminder, please do not feed the troll.

  16. #16 Dedj
    November 7, 2009

    That the NHS is ageist is a radically different claim to ‘the elderly cannot get cancer care’. If you don’t have a ban on ageism then you can’t prosecute when it arises. Same for leaking confidential information, having relationships with patients, shooting up on the med cabinet stock, failing to store records properly, and so forth. It is positively delusional to insinuate that a behaviour is universal simply because it is banned.

    The ageism in the NHS was one of the reasons for the Older Persons NSF. The Older Persons NSF sets the standard that all services must work toward. There are hundreds of pages of guidance and target documents from the DoH alone for how services can and should meet these standards. These are all available in the most obvious place to look.

    In other words, theres a government sanction to not exclude older persons from clinical treatment on the basis of age.

  17. #17 titmouse
    November 7, 2009


    Just a reminder, please do not feed the troll.

    I think we agree this is good advice. But are we clear on the meaning of “feeding”?

    Is any comment on a troll infested thread a form of feeding? Or only direct responses to the troll post?

    Are there occasions when “setting the record straight” is justified for the sake of naive readers?

    Do we have any evidence favoring one strategy over another in handling disruptive commenters?

    FYI there’s a discussion at Pharyngula about an IRL troll (US communist agitprop). PZ largely takes the troll’s side over the tea-n-cake group reaching for the banhammer. Commenters more or less troll-sympathetic also. Police over-reaction largely responsible for allignments, predictably.

    Clever, clever professional troll.


  18. #18 the bug guy
    November 7, 2009

    DF, it is proper to note weaknesses in studies, but it is also improper to ignore the full picture, which is what you are doing. And when you are talking about numbers, please remember that there are time lags between when an article is submitted and when it is published, so for changing values like total vaccines given, the number will be different depending on when the source was written. The WHO press conference I quoted in the earlier thread mentioned that over 40 million does of squalene-adjuvated vaccines have been used without detection of unusual numbers or types of adverse events.

    You are demanding action about something with that has a weak basis. The entire idea is built around a small number of animal studies that used grossly increased doses in a form not used in vaccines. As Credentialed described, the rat studies used injections up to 5000 times above the dose given in vaccines and in pure form, was not an emulsion. For the nerve damage study I mentioned, it was even greater. 20 grams per kilogram is the same as 1.5 kilograms for a 75 kg person, that converts to 3.3 pounds. Per day. For four days. That is a huge amount of material. Many common food items have acute LD50 values far less than 20 grams per kilogram. The Fox paper goes into specifics about different safety concerns and summarizes work has that been done to investigate those concerns.

    If there was a good basis for suspecting that squalene caused serious autoimmune problems at the dose used in vaccines was problem, your position would be justified. However, there is little evidence supporting that position for reasons given by me and many others.

  19. #19 Chris
    November 7, 2009

    titmouse, I am in a hotel lobby with really slow wifi… so I am answering before waiting for the PZ page to load: Personally I think that after repeating the same answers multiple times to the same troll over a period of two days, or at least ten comments is just feeding the troll.

    It has become clear that DF has no interest in participating in intelligent debate, so interacting with her on any level is feeding her ego.

  20. #20 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    Do keep in mind that I am attempting to respond to as many of the accusations against me as possible…
    Thanks for clearing up my confusion about the NHS Ban on Ageism. I see the error of my ways and now completely agree that a Ban on Ageism is “vastly different” than seniors not having access to cancer care.
    And I understand perfectly now that the new Ban on Ageism is merely a very astute offensive move that has been very thoughtfully put into place to prevent ageism from ever occuring!
    And all of those differences in the standards of all of the levels of care for pensioners, including cancer screening and access to treatment, were all just hypothetical!
    So, this whole new pack of guidelines are the product of a crack team of foreward thinking visionaries and not the result of much survey data and huge public outcry regarding the rampant ageism in the different standards of care.
    And, finally, I also figured out that “postcode lottery” is just a gambling game that benefits senior citizen health care. It’s all cleared up for me now, thanks again.

    BugGuy, thank you. I have bookmarked 37 studies and have read 14. No idea about the rats and the squalene yet, but other studies HAVE shown a systemic response. Yes, I am “stuck” on this like a broken record. It is no small matter.
    No less than three of my classmates of old now have daughters with degenerative autoimmune disease. My daughter has had numerous classmates with Crohn’s, RA, Lupus or CFS. None of these diseases were around when I was young.
    In addition, I have watched two strong, productive professional women slowly become weaker and weaker.

    Excuse my unapologetic disgust with people who I view as apologists for every single decision, no matter how poor, that has grown from this whole pandemic business. It’s startling to me that NO ONE here is addressing the idea that by now, huge numbers of people have already been exposed and more than likely are at little risk from death. Yet not one scientist here or anywhere seems to be bothered in the slightest by the fact that the millions of people in Europe and Canada who have these diseases are largely UNAWARE of even a theoretical relationship between vaccines and autoimmunity. No one is too worried about warning them about the risks/benefits at this late date of the 2nd wave to not get a vaccine that may be unnecessary, either.
    It’s been an enlightening experience.

    No relationship at this time? There was no such thing as MAP in Crohns, either.
    At least Alt/Med provides symptomatic relief and many kind and caring practicioners for my friends.
    But instead, you’d expect that should all keep coming back for more of that vaccine love of yours. The parent of the child with eczema who died- was she a troll too? When there’s evidence that doesn’t support YOUR hypothesis, it’s a coincidence. You are NEVER wrong. Horrible.

    BTW, titmouse, please be more clear with the careful diagnoses, you know I confuse easily with my left hemi whatever-it-is. Do decide quickly whether I am a “very, very clever troll” or (do you actually think this way about patients you don’t like?)someone who “can’t think things through coherently.”, meaning they think DIFFERENTLY than you. Yay for neurodiversity and all those stupid morons you have to work to pretend to include under your big bird bosom.

    Some reading:

    Billiau A, Matthys P. (2001) Modes of action of Freund’s adjuvants in experimental models of autoimmune diseases. J Leukoc Biol. 70: 849 – 860.

    Kuroda Y, Akaogi J, Nacionales DC, Wasdo SC, Szabo NJ, Reeves WH, Satoh M. (2004) Distinctive patterns of autoimmune response induced by different types of mineral oil. Toxicol Sci. 78: 222 – 228.

    Offit PA, Hackett CJ. (2003) Addressing parents’ concerns: do vaccines cause allergic or autoimmune diseases? Pediatrics. 111: 653 – 659.

    Carlson BC, Jansson AM, Larsson A, Bucht A, Lorentzen JC. (2000) The endogenous adjuvant squalene can induce a chronic T-cell-mediated arthritis in rats. Am J Pathol. 156: 2057 – 2065.

    Vial T, Descotes J. (2004) Autoimmune diseases and vaccinations. Eur J Dermatol. 14: 86 – 90.

    Fujinami RS, von Herrath MG, Christen U, Whitton JL. (2006) Molecular Mimicry, Bystander Activation, or Viral Persistence: Infections and Autoimmune Disease. Clin Microbiol Rev. 19: 80 – 94.

  21. #21 Joseph C.
    November 7, 2009

    Yay for neurodiversity and all those stupid morons you have to work to pretend to include under your big bird bosom.

    If you’re going to pretend to not be anti-vax, you shouldn’t give yourself away by bitching about neurodiversity. Why put in all this work just to blow it like that?

  22. #22 Dedj
    November 7, 2009

    Thanks for clearing up my confusion about the NHS Ban on Ageism. I see the error of my ways and now completely agree that a Ban on Ageism is “vastly different” than seniors not having access to cancer care.
    And I understand perfectly now that the new Ban on Ageism is merely a very astute offensive move that has been very thoughtfully put into place to prevent ageism from ever occuring!
    And all of those differences in the standards of all of the levels of care for pensioners, including cancer screening and access to treatment, were all just hypothetical!”

    WTF?!?!? What the hell does any of this have to do with the previous discussion that has occured over the past few days? Neither I, nor anyone else here, has said anything remotely like the arguement you appear to be deliberately and maliciously misattributing to people in these statements.

    Are you even trying to remain serious?

    Get back on track or just fuck off if you’re going to be a little kid about it.


  23. #23 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    So let me get this straight. Any individual who HAS a learning disability is anti-vax, too? And the fact that I spent the last two and a half decades working with a very neurodiverse group of people gives me away as an anti-vaxer?

    “I have discovered few learning disabled students in my three decades of teaching. I have, however, discovered many, many victims of teaching inabilities”
    Marva Collins

  24. #24 Mr. B
    November 7, 2009

    DF: Are you being intentionally obtuse? (That’s rhetorical; don’t answer it.) What Joseph C. said had nothing to do with those who are neurodiverse and everything to do with those who complain about it (indicating that they have disdain for the notion that there are individuals who are wired differently and that this does not necessarily indicate any sense of inferiority to those who are “neurotypical”).

    And as both a teacher and the parent of an autistic child (perhaps two; time will tell there), I think that there may be a point to be made about trying to find the ways that neurodiverse individuals are able to learn, since many (most?) do not learn in the same ways as neurotypical individuals (insofar as there is a single way of learning for the neurotypical, which is not really true at all).

    I’m still waiting to see if we can find out what method will get through to you here. Call me an idealist.

  25. #25 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    Mr B.
    We are all neurodiverse- and there’s very little room in here for ANY difference of opinion, let alone seeing any value in neurological difference.

  26. #26 Mr. B
    November 7, 2009

    We’re all “special” too, but obviously that’s not what we mean with we refer to children having “special” needs. (Oddly, I’m reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time right now, and the narrator Christopher, who is autistic, explicitly states that everyone has special needs but that something else is meant by that phrase when it comes to people like him, speaking specifically of a school setting.)

    And your statement is wrong: you have stated a different opinion without censorship. It’s that your opinion is not informed or justified by the evidence, so it is denounced – harshly because there is much to be lost by casting unjustified doubt on the efficacy or safety of vaccines. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, that’s how this whole search for truth is supposed to work. I’m surprised, with all of your references to well-known educators (Gatto notwithstanding), that you aren’t on board with this, choosing instead to cry oppression and persecution. No one’s persecuting you, only the crackpot ideas that you’re espousing around here. The sooner you understand that and stop casting aspersions on those who are defending current scientific/medical understanding, the sooner that things will settle down a bit.

  27. #27 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    Mr. B
    You’ll have to forgive me, because I am RAGING right now.
    NONE of YOU represent ME, who has had a learning disability ALL MY LIFE. I just Googled Neurodiversity and honestly feel ill.

    And I am a f%$#*& expert about that.
    How utterly VILE that like CHADD, an org responsible for priming the nervous system for later drug abuse, the drug companies now own the right to define neurodiversity???
    Holy shit.
    YOU HATE DIFFERENCE. How many times was I called stupid, ignorant, retarded, paranoid, disordered- because I disagreed and WAS DIFFERENT???
    If you want your kids drugged and institutionalized, go for it Mr. B- I’m not going to change your mind if you are in here trying to change mine. Lots of luck to you and the kids you teach, because YOU haven’t got a clue.
    Diagnose me now, Titmouse, you ASSHOLE.
    GRRR- bring on the stillettos.

  28. #28 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    Do decide quickly whether I am a “very, very clever troll”

    No, that comment referred to Sunsara Taylor.

    “Trolling” means repeatedly saying inflammatory things in order to disrupt an attempt at productive conversation.

    “Neurodiversity” is a shibboleth.

    Roughly translated it means: “The jig is up, Ms. Phoney-balloney.”

  29. #29 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    I wonder if your patients have a CLUE what you are about.

    Au contraire. Your most creative solution to difference is to medicate it, punish it, patronize it, pathologize it, silence it and control it, because you don’t understand it and you are repulsed by it. Get help.
    You people are the anti-thesis to an inclusive diverse and cooperative planet. THE POLAR OPPOSITE.
    I honestly think its time to burn the “medical model” in effigy.
    I plan to help organize the event.
    I could have spared my keyboard and a lot of hours.
    Bring on the Alt/Med.
    Dr Jay, I’ll be right over.
    They now have managed to have me spooked about ALL vaccines if neurodiversity means Ritalin, Thorazine and ECT.
    Parents with difficult kids, try Heartmath and RUN from these people.
    They lie.

  30. #30 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    No you, mean abusive lady person.

  31. #31 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    *high-fives Joseph C.*

    Our work here is done.

  32. #32 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    Don’t gloat yet honey.

  33. #33 titmouse
    November 7, 2009
  34. #34 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    fairgame someone else, fairness lady.

  35. #35 Joseph C.
    November 7, 2009

    Since arguing by YouTube is the new black:


    This video PROVES that ALL vaccines are 100% safe and 100% effective.

  36. #36 doctrinalfairness
    November 7, 2009

    I’ve seen the video.
    And you neither own nor speak for science or neurodiversity.
    Your paradigm is about to come tumbling down and I say bring it on.

    The United States has more people imprisoned right now than there are prisoners in Russia. Controlling human behavior is not the goal of science, it’s the goal of fascism.
    Neurodiversity implies the fullness of the circle where people with disabilities and special needs really ARE included and connected, not imprisoned, medicated, punished, patronized and treated like shit. You people thrive on that energy- it’s your juice.
    And you call me abusive. I’m not done. You’ll be hearing from e again.

  37. #37 Joseph C.
    November 7, 2009

    You damn scientists! Filling up the prisons and poisonin’ babies with squalene. I’m on to you! I ain’t finished with you even though I said “bye” 400 comments ago. Also, I is commenting on here from my Blackberry while I eat granola on my backpacking trip.

  38. #38 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    Ders a parteh in mah tummeh!

    So yummeh! So yummeh!

  39. #39 titmouse
    November 7, 2009

    Had to rickroll myself to recover from that video, Joe.


    Iz Tom Cruise gone nao?

  40. #40 Joseph C.
    November 7, 2009

    Fact: I’ve rick roll’d my wife in 12 different countries.

    Fact: If I rick roll her one more time, she’ll probably stab me.

    Fact: Traveling through Scandinavia this past summer my friend kept making us watch Yo Gabba Gabba when we were on the road. It made for some, uhm, interesting drives.

  41. #41 titmouse
    November 8, 2009

    Fact: I’ve rick roll’d my wife in 12 different countries.

    [citation needed]

  42. #42 anne mouse
    November 8, 2009

    Speaking of scifags… an anon was arrested in Las Vegas last week on terrorism charges. He’s accused of making a bomb threat or something. Other anons say this is false.

    Similar MO to what happened last year when a fake anon YouTube was put up making threats against scilons. FBI had to investigate. Thankfully no charges.

    Scilon strategy: provoke or fabricate rage –> claim someone is threatening or using “hate” speech –> legal headache.

    Defense fund for the anon who is still in jail is on the web someplace.

  43. #43 JohnV
    November 8, 2009

    I’m very sad I missed the awesomeness of DF melting down last night 🙁

  44. #44 Luna_the_cat
    November 8, 2009

    Wow. DF really *did* lose it.

    doctrinal: We don’t hate difference. We don’t hate real neurodiversity — in fact, I’ve seen a number of Asperger’s and autistics on these boards, and they are perfectly reasonable human beings who appear to me at least to be quite comfortable here — certainly I’ve seen no indication they’re unwelcome, nor would I consider them so, many of them contribute a lot of insights.

    Disclosure time, I care for a profoundly autistic boy sometimes, and will eventualy be taking over as guardian for him. I don’t know if you’ll believe me — given that you have made your opinion of people abundantly clear from the get-go — but I love him, I respect him as a human being, and I protect his interests with all my heart. He has never been subjected to any of the horrible, damaging, vile quack remedies that anti-vaxxers advocate for kids like these, like unnecessary dietary controls which can lead to malnutrition and osteoporosis, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, injections of stem cells into his spine, chelation, or that vile atrocity known as the “Lupron protocol”. Consider this: the very same alt-med community which rails against the “dangers” of the “toxins” in vaccines appears to be ok with injecting kids with chemicals which scavenge the very ions which help pass nerve messages and keep the heart beating, or chemically castrating kids with the KNOWN side-effects of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and the increased risk of insulin-dependent diabetes — and all for things which have NO clinical trials, NO data. That’s the people you think are so much better than this side of things.

    The only drug my kid is on is an anti-seizure one, because he also has epiliepsy. Do you reckon it would be better to take that off him so that he can lead a “natural, un-drugged” life with seizures?

    But here’s the deal: our fights with you are not on the basis of “difference of opinion”, and you hiding behind “neurodiversity” is low, really low. Our fights with you are based on the fact that you came into this forum primed with hatred and contempt towards everyone here, have been unwilling to listen to evidence presented to you or to change your opinion even when presented with exactly the information you demanded, and have had a very consistent tendency to whine about how you are being picked on and “suppressed” even while you continue to fling insults and express your graphic opinion as to our vileness. Here’s a basic rule of life, hon: you don’t get to walk into a bar swinging and then claim the other guy started it.

    I don’t know what your “neurodiverse” status is, but you have been consistently angry, contemptuous, insulting, closed-minded, and unable to follow either information or logic whenever it contradicts what you have already chosen, on an evidence-free basis, to believe — in short, the very things that you accuse us of, only more so. You have not, and I’m willing to bet never will, ever answered direct questions about the evidential basis for your beliefs. In short, you get called a troll because you act like a troll.

    If you had at any point shown a willingness to act like a civilised human being and engage in a good-faith discussion of evidence without additional insults to everyone’s honesty and intelligence, you would have gotten a lot more respect. As it is, throwing temper tantrums about how horrible we all are is barely any different from your first appearance on the board, and we hardly expect anything else from you now. Don’t be surprised that you get contempt in return, and don’t think you can run around screaming how we HATE DIFFERENCE either — you’re the one who has thrown in her alliance with a group which considers autistic kids “diseased” and “soulless”.

    Personally, I DO think you are an idiot, now — but that is because of how you act. Don’t think that you bear no responsibility for how you’re seen.

  45. #45 Credentialed
    November 8, 2009

    Well stated, Luna.

  46. #46 Antaeus Feldspar
    November 8, 2009

    How utterly VILE that like CHADD, an org responsible for priming the nervous system for later drug abuse

    Yet another reason I don’t believe that DF is in fact who she says she is. If she was, she would be well-aware that the research shows that children and teenagers who receive medical treatment for their ADD – even those treated with that boogeyman of the Scientologists, Ritalin – are statistically far less likely to abuse drugs in later life.

  47. #47 Katharine
    November 8, 2009

    Score another one for science!

  48. #48 a-non
    November 8, 2009


    It is difficult to pretend to be rational, isn’t it, when you truly believe in the evilness of vaccines and the horrors of the medical and pharmaceutical communities. You may have been able to fool some folks on this board that your goal was rational discourse.

    But I knew better, because folks like you are a dime a dozen. They come on to blogs or message boards, pretending to be on the fence. They almost always say they’re pro-vaccine. After a few posts, the conspiracy theories kick in. Followed by the uber-spam and the wacky links. After getting stoned for a while, they eventually meltdown and show their true colors.

    So know we know the truth, DF – you’re Common Sue with a thesaurus.

    Actually, that might not be fair to Sue.

  49. #49 Chris
    November 8, 2009

    a-non, maybe it is Common Sue with a thesaurus!

    And, really, who needs a thesaurus when you can use ctrl-C and ctrl-V ?

  50. #50 Chris
    November 8, 2009

    Actually, that might not be fair to Sue.

    a-non, do we have any reason to be fair to Common Sue? She is not exactly the poster girl of reason and fairness!

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