Respectful Insolence

Yesterday, I expressed concern about a FRONTLINE episode that was scheduled to air tonight entitled The Vaccine War (which, by the time you read this, should be available for online viewing in case you missed it). My concern was that there was going to be a heapin’ helpin’ of false balance, based on the promotional materials. My concerns were later somewhat assuaged based on the pre-airing reaction of the anti-vaccine movement, which was fairly wary, if not hostile even. Of course, any television show that doesn’t conclude that their view that vaccines cause autism is at plausible or even likely is virtually guaranteed to have an infiltration of anti-vaccine loons in the comments attacking relentlessly, but I was heartened to see a review like this proclaiming the documentary to be very much science-based and intolerant of the misinformation, pseudoscience, quackery, and lies of the anti-vaccine movement. I could only hope.

Another indication that The Vaccine War might be OK from a science-based perspective was that the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism (AoA) preemptively set up a post in which the merry band of antivaccinationists proclaimed that they would be live blogging and live Tweeting the special. Conveniently enough, they included links to the PBS Ombudsman, links to FRONTLINE, its Facebook page, and its Twitter stream, presumably to facilitate said influx of anti-vaccine loons to those locations to protest most piteously being mistreated by a television show pointing out that there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism and, even worse, pointing out that anti-vaccinationists are endangering children. Then there’s a convenient post full of links to AoA misinformation, cherry picking, and distortions, presumably to provide said anti-vaccine loons with links to use when they protest most piteously their treatment on FRONTLINE.

So I decided to wait until the show aired, watch it, and report back to you, my readers, in the meantime savoring a couple of characteristic reactions, first from the grand macher of the anti-vaccine movement, reclaiming his place now that Jim Carrey has apparently dumped Generation Rescue’s spokescelebrity Jenny McCarthy, your bud and mine J.B. Handley:

I personally spent 2 hours with Jon Palferman and Kate McMahaon, the producers of the piece. The whole point of my meeting was to explain that this was not Parents vs. The Science and that our community takes its cues from doctors and scientists. I encouraged them to interview Jon Poling, Bernadine Healy, Boyd Haley, and many others.

When Jenny was interviewed, Jay Gordon sat next to her the entire time and was also part of her interview – let’s see if they show him.

I told Frontline, “Get all the people from the other side you want, just be fair in telling the totality of our story, and don’t turn this into a Parents vs. the science” like the NY Times did.”

My response back from Kate McMahon:

“FRONTLINE will carry out a detailed and even-handed investigation including voices from all sides of the controversy including parents, activists, physicians, scientists, lawyers, politicians and vaccine manufacturers. We will examine the evidence relating to an association between increases in the prevalence of autism and hypothesized causes such as MMR vaccine, thimerosol and other toxins associated with vaccines.”

Here’s hoping they live up to what they said they would do.

Here’s hoping they don’t, I thought. But clearly J.B. wasn’t too happy, which gave me hope that The Vaccine War would be science-based. Then I saw these Tweets from everybody’s favorite pediatrician to the stars, apologist for the anti-vaccine movement, and pediatrician to Jenny McCarthy’s son Evan Dr. Jay Gordon:

PBS show about vaccines. Don’t bother to watch it.

And:

A number of scary articles in newspapers today to augment PBS’ scary vaccine show tonight. They interviewed me for 2 hrs and cut it all.

Gee, sounds like sour grapes, doesn’t it? It’s also interesting that Jenny McCarthy had Dr. Gordon sitting next to her the whole interview, probably because she’s so prone to saying incredibly stupid things. Of course, Dr. Jay is also fairly prone to saying pretty stupid things, too; so I don’t know if he’s much of a safeguard to the message. I guess we won’t get to find out.

So how did the show turn out? Here follows my impressions and semi-live blogging. Feel free to watch the show (embedded at the top of this post) and check it out for yourself.


The Vaccine War (viewable online)


The opening montage did a bit too much of the whole “balance” thing in that it included J.B. Handley blathering and Jenny McCarthy spewing her same brain-dead false dilemma of measles versus autism. (She’d choose the measles, of course.) I was able to forgive that, because it’s very much setting up the story. The show then launched straight into a birth and a list of the vaccines that children get, with Melinda Wharton of the CDC and Paul Offit pointing out how much good vaccines do, how we no longer see diseases that once killed thousands or even milions.

Then it’s straight to Ashland, OR and the woo and a mother named Jennifer Margulis, who is a writer for that “natural” repository of woo Mothering Magazine and spewing nonsense about “natural immunity” versus vaccines, claiming that it is better than vaccine-induced immunity. Dr. Donna Bradshaw-Walters was then introduced, and she describes how 28% of Ashland’s children are missing some or all of their vaccines, pointing out that it is only a matter of time before there is an outbreak there. It was refreshing to note that there are pro-vaccine parents, one of whom predicted that it would get ugly if there were an outbreak in which vaccinated children started to get sick because of unvaccinated children forming a repository for disease that can spread to vaccinated children whose vaccines didn’t “take,” for whatever reason. The show then described the SSan Diego measles outbreak and how unvaccinated children are a vector for infection, even to the vaccinated, who are less likely to be infected but not immune, as no vaccine is 100% effective.

There was then a segment at Pfizer. This may not have been the best idea strategically, given how it feeds into the distrust of big pharma, although the scientist interviewed, Dr. Emilio Emini, did a good job of pointing out how vaccines prevent disease. Still, right there, I could envision doubting parents becoming suspicous. Then, of course, there is Dr. Paul Offit, who, although he is the Dark Lord of Vaccination to the antivaccine movement, who is nonetheless the one of the most effective provaccine voices. Happily, Offit makes no apologies for having gotten rich from a vaccine. He is enormously proud of it, as he should be.

One thing this show revealed that I didn’t know was that bioethicist Arthur Caplan had actually contracted polio in his youth. No wonder he is so effective when he argues for vaccines. Equally effective is a scene in which paramedics are being trained, part of their training being to watch videos of children with pertussis and rotavirus. The video of the child with pertussis is horrifying; the suffering of such children is incredible. This class even pointed out that chickenpox can actually be fatal, showing a child with staph sepsis in the pox lesions.

Unfortunately, Margulis demonstrates the burning stupid by asking why we are still vaccinating for polio as polio has become more rare. This woman was truly irritating and moronic. Worse, she kept popping up throughout the show, sadly enough. But that wasn’t enough. There had to be Barbara Loe Fisher, too, spewing her usual anti-vaccine line. Unfortunately, here’s where FRONTLINE falls down. The show seriously represents BLF as a “vaccine watchdog,” rather than what she is, an anti-vaccine propagandist. Bad FRONTLINE!

Similarly, the interview with Jenny McCarthy is infuriating, as usual, but there was a rather interesting tidbit in the complete online interview:

How long after the MMR was that first seizure?

You know, a lot of people think, and probably from me saying in some interviews, that it was after the MMR I noticed changes.

I don’t think it was just the MMR shot that caused any kind of trigger with autism. I think it was a compilation of so many shots to a kid that obviously had some autoimmune disorders. So I would say maybe a couple of months, a month or so after the MMR, I started to notice some physical ailments such as constipation, rashes, eczema. That was like the first little sign. And then the train just kind of descended from there.

This is very different from the stories she was telling around the time she released her first book, and she even seems to be acknowledging it as she dances around a very simple question. Indeed, I remember McCarthy saying in interview after interview how she saw the “light go out of Evan’s eyes” right after the shot. For example, anti-vaccination activist Ginger Taylor cites what Jenny McCarthy said in her 2007 interview with Oprah:

Jenny says even before Evan received his vaccines, she tried to talk to her pediatrician about it. “Right before his MMR shot, I said to the doctor, “I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something,’ and he swore at me, and then the nurse gave [Evan] the shot,” she says. “And I remember going, ‘Oh, God, I hope he’s right.’ And soon thereafter-boom-the soul’s gone from his eyes.”

Notice how Jenny appears to have changed her story from its being the MMR to its being a gradual process due to too many vaccines. Truly, her story shifts more than the sands of the Sahara.

This segment ran right into an interview with J.B. Handley. There was really nothing new there in that J.B. claims that “tens of thousands” of parents tell him that their children were “never the same” after vaccines, combined with his simplistic mantra: Vaccines cause brain damage and autism is brain injury. Ergo, to him, vaccines cause autism. Of course, it is not really true that autism is “brain injury.” It is a difference in the brain, but there’s no good evidence that autism is primarily due to “brain injury,” although there’s all sorts of quackery out there that purports to treat “vaccine injury” to the brain.

Here’s another point where the FRONTLINE special drops the ball a bit. The show immediately goes into the MMR fear mongering provoked by Andre Wakefield. The problem is that J.B. Handley wasn’t about MMR. Generation Rescue until recently said that autism is a “misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning.” But the MMR has never had mercury in it, ever. In conflating these issues, FRONTLINE confuses two related issues that are not really the same thing, particularly when it starts showing a speech by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at the Green Our Vaccine rally from two years ago. As someone who knows about the anti-vaccine movement and its history, this was irritating, and it is more than just a nit to pick.

That being said, I do like how, right after a segment in which Jenny McCarthy claims that scientists won’t study whether vaccines cause autism, the show immediately goes on to show that that she is either mistaken or lying, take your pick. (Personally, I think she’s too stupid to realize how wrong she is about this.) The issue has been studied extensively in multiple countries, and no link between vaccines and autism has been found. Moreover, FRONTLINE did a good job of explaining how correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Just because a diagnosis of autism is made soon after a vaccine does not necessarily mean the vaccine caused autism. It finished this middle part of the documentary by documenting the fall of Andrew Wakefield, in particular pointing out how some of the children in his studies had been referred through lawyers suing vaccine manufacturers.

The beauty of this segment is how FRONTLINE showed that, no matter how much evidence, with J.B. Handley saying, “I don’t give a fuck about the MMR in isolation in one study.” (Yes, he did use the F-word, although it was bleeped out and turned to “crap” in the online transcript.) This was rapidly followed by a demonstration of Barbara Loe Fisher shifting the goalposts asking for more epidemiological studies and basic science studies. It is, as Dr. Offit put it, a classic shifting of goalposts, with Jenny McCarthy blathering about her “mommy warriors” and how “Evan is her science.”

Unfortunately, this segment depressed me, because it shows just how much science doesn’t matter in trying to persuade these parents and how the web perpetuates not just the old vaccine myths, but facilitate the spread of new ones. It demonstrates just how much the Internet’s “democratization” of knowledge devalues knowledge, expertise, and science. The forces of pseudoscience proliferate and infiltrate, and, quite frankly, those of us who promote science-based medicine are way behind the eight ball in trying to counter these messages. One thing I had no idea about was just how effective the Desiree Jennings story had influenced high school students not to vaccinate. Roughly half of one class who hadn’t taken the H1N1 vaccine said that the reason they didn’t take the vaccine was because they saw Desiree Jennings on YouTube. This makes me think, more than ever, that blogs such as this one and others are essential in tearing apart such bad information. The result of this information is people like the mothers in Ashland that I discussed last time who ask, “If vaccines work, who am I hurting by not vaccinating?”

The result was shown in the story of a baby who came down with pertussis and almost died. Her situtation was so bad that a chaplain was brought in for possible last rites.

Near the end of the show, there was presented a focus group of people who discuss vaccination. What was interesting is how much vaccination is viewed as a parental choice rather than a societal duty. This in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that this choice is being increasingly undermined by misinformation on the Internet and out there. The message of the anti-vaccine movement that the days of “paternalism” are over echoes very strongly with the whole “health freedom” movement. It’s very difficult for anyone to make a well-informed choice when most of the information that pops up when you search the Internet is from the anti-vaccine side.

In the end, I was mostly relieved by The Vaccine War. It was science-based, and it pulled no punches in asserting that there is no good scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism. True, it did confuse the issue of the MMR vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines, and that’s more than a minor mistake. It also was far too kind in its treatment of Barbara Loe Fisher, calling her organization, the National Vaccine Information Center a “vaccine safety” advocacy organization, when it is an anti-vaccine organization, plain and simple. It did a little better with Generation Rescue, showing a bit of the sheer insanity behind the organization and how, no matter how much evidence there is against its position, it never looses sight of its founding principle, namely that it’s absolutely, positively always the vaccines. Always. Those complaints aside, FRONTLINE did a far better job than I expected in deconstructing the anti-vaccine movement. It didn’t compromise on the science, although it may have compromised a bit in how it describes, for example, the NVIC and Generation Rescue.

Will The Vaccine War change minds? Maybe. There’s no way it’s going to change the minds of hard core antivaccinationists of J.B. Handley’s ilk. Almost nothing I can think of can. But it might–just might–reassure parents on the fence that all that horrible stuff they’re hearing on the radio, seeing on TV, and, above all, reading on the Internet about the evils of vaccines are not based in science. That’s actually quite an achievement.

Comments

  1. #1 NZ Skeptic
    April 28, 2010

    At least ‘parents on the fence’ might begin to ask themselves why Jenny McJuggernauts appears to be dissembling now. As I had understood it the MMR allegedly switched Evan’s ‘autism’ on like a switch. It now seems that may not have been the case!

  2. #2 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    Orac, what are you doing up at this hour? Don’t you have rounds in the morning?

  3. #3 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    No wonder he [Arthur Caplan] is so effective when he argues for vaccines

    In what way???? What compelling argument does he make that hasn’t been parroted ad infinitum by the vaccine militia

  4. #4 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    Offit thinks vaccines extended our lifespan by 30 years he must be:

    either mistaken or lying, take your pick. (Personally, I think he’s too stupid to realize how wrong he is about this.)

  5. #5 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    Roughly half of one class who hadn’t taken the H1N1 vaccine said that the reason they didn’t take the vaccine was because they saw Desiree Jennings on YouTube

    You don’t actually believe that story do you? It’s an anecdote!

  6. #6 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    PS
    Did you catch the SBM website appearing in the show?

  7. #7 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    That story about the OUTBREAK in San Diego where the INFECTIOUS measles RAGED through the city and then spread to a plane to Hawaii was terrifying. I’m surprised the CDC just didn’t shoot the plane down.

  8. #8 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    It’s like, why do we even have an air force?

  9. #9 hat_eater
    April 28, 2010

    A great review. I’m very grateful for providing me with such a window into the ongoing dispute, or rather war, which I’m afraid sooner or later will start for good here in Poland too. And I agree that PBS and other media covering this issue should be more vigilant in pointing out any and all discrepancies in the stories of antivaccinators. They should show how the antivaccine activists distort facts when it serves their ultimate goal of making vaccination entirely optional. I think there lies the way to winning the hearts of the parents whose minds are too busy with other tasks to direct their lives.

  10. #10 NZ Skeptic
    April 28, 2010

    Thank goodness you showed up hat_eater. It sure wasn’t fun in these comments with only Sid Offit for company!

  11. #11 Sean Wills
    April 28, 2010

    There’s some sort of irritating spammer clogging up the comments. Note to Offit: The CDC is not a military organisation.

    Based on your review, Orac, I might have a look at this if I can find a way to watch it from Ireland. The anti-vaccine stupidity hasn’t reached critical levels here yet, but it’s spreading fast and the resistance is nowhere in sight. We could do with some more balanced coverage.

  12. #12 DLC
    April 28, 2010

    I didn’t watch it, so thanks for doing the heavy lifting.
    I’d rather not have to put up with the antivax-antiscience-anti-brains crowd right now.

  13. #13 K R
    April 28, 2010

    As a fellow skeptic, I must admit I rather despise these poisonous, unsympathetic if not outright contemptuous articles. You will gain nothing, zip, nada by villifying either the anti-vaccine crowd or their champions. If you want to actually change minds, why not try the hell to work out where they are coming from and whether in some part (autism aside) some of them may possibly have a real point. If you can’t do this, you will never reach them. All that this jeering vitriol about “spewing” and “woo” will do is get people’s back up. NOT constructive.

  14. #14 Orac
    April 28, 2010

    Sid,

    Flooding my comments is one of the rare offenses that I ban commenters for. You are coming perilously close.

  15. #15 Orac
    April 28, 2010

    KR:

    You come across as a concern troll. Or is it just on vaccines that you think we’re being too mean?

    As for whether these parents have a point, on the basis of science, quite simply, they don’t. On political grounds, one can argue about how far public health officials can go in requiring vaccination in a free society, but on the science there is no “there” there. There is no good evidence that vaccines cause autism or any of the other problems that parents blame vaccines on.

  16. #16 Vindaloo
    April 28, 2010

    So K R says fix autism, don’t wage war on scientific illiteracy, pseudoscience, and, in this case, Handley-Gordonesque snake oil.

    Or if you are flusterated by pointed and precise criticism of their science-free ramblings then I suggest you befriend John Best, Sid Offit, Sue M, Jay Gordon, Handley and the other loons. They’ve got the cure for autism you’re looking for.

  17. #17 K R
    April 28, 2010

    I’m afraid I’m not sure what a “concern troll” is, though I doubt it’s a compliment!

    Granted, you may not think they have a valid point, but they firmly believe they do and they also believe they have ‘data’, false and faulty though it is, to back up their concerns. Unless your approach is to try to meet them where they are, instead of dismissing them as inherently stupid ignoramuses (ignorami?!) who don’t know their heads from their asses, you WILL NOT REACH THEM. That was my only point in posting, and I still think it is a fair and valid criticism: contemptuous ridicule will not win them over.

    I can’t actually imagine you could disagree with me on that point, really, though if you do I’d be interested to know the reasoning behind it?

    The only reason I can see for not taking that into account is expecting that the entire readership of your article (intended to be other skeptics, presumably) are other “insiders” who will not object to such jibes. If that’s your only intention, fine, carry on. But if you were hoping some anti-vaccine or on-the-fencer (who are, after all, most often just parents concerned about their children) might stumble across your article and suddenly realise the error of their ways, well, no. Not going to happen while you dismiss them and their concerns with such contempt.

  18. #18 thordora
    April 28, 2010

    K R, if science and data won’t win them over, I doubt petting them on the head and nodding sagely will. If you endanger my children, contempt is warranted.

  19. #19 Lawrence
    April 28, 2010

    @K R -

    The main part of the problem with “reaching out” to the other side, is that they won’t accept any reasoning that doesn’t 100% gibe with their own perspectives (which is vaccines are the cause of autism).

    The science has shown, again and again and again and again, that vaccines aren’t the cause – and it has really distracted the entire community from trying to find out what really is causing this problem (I’m betting on genetics & some environmental factor as well).

    By targeting vaccines, these people are causing an incredible amount of harm & I don’t really feel it is necessary to try to placate them when kids are being struck down by diseases that they shouldn’t be getting (measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, etc).

    I wonder if they would be saying the same things if a major killer, like Smallpox, was still around?

  20. #20 Muzz
    April 28, 2010

    As a lay-follower of this stuff I thought it was pretty good. Talking to the mothers was interesting. In fact following the community health guy around could have been most of the show. That and the political analyst guy. The mixture of individualism and percieved resistance to authority is what intruigues me the most. I got the impression some of those mothers were going to pull out “If you don’t exercise a right you don’t have it” had the conversation continued and they ran out of arguments against vaccines. Which makes no sense of course but seems like how far heels are dug in, if you know what I mean.

    There’s a couple of talking points I wish they’d squashed. Hep B does seem a weird vaccine for a kid to get if you don’t know why, but they left that hanging. Also Fisher and others’s demand for “old fashioned bench science” tests instead of epidemiology should have been countered. I’d think it’s not obvious to most people why this would be very hard-to-impossible to do.

  21. #21 John C. Welch
    April 28, 2010

    My dad said, one time, when i was complaining about some stupid crap happening in high school:

    “You can’t fix stupid. It’s got a million reasons, a slick tongue, and the most agile, facile arguments on the planet. You can’t nail it down long enough to prove it wrong. You can only call it out as stupid, and hope the person swimming in the stupid pool sees the ladder to pull themselves out and stop bein’ stupid. But there’s no way you can ever fix it.”

    If someone wants to be stupid, being nice won’t get them to stop. Being mean won’t get them to stop. you can only keep saying “you know, if you stop being stupid, you might have fewer problems.” and hope one day they listen.

  22. #22 epador
    April 28, 2010

    Re: K R’s vs the Orac approach:

    You see the same problem with trying to reason reality with folks sold on a (any) particular political philosophy who pompously pontificate their positions and belittle anyone who challenges their belief system.

  23. #23 angrylagomorph
    April 28, 2010

    Sid Offit: So using arguments that work is wrong if they are old and used by other people? “Fire is hot and will burn you” is an argument that has pretty effectively served to keep me un-cooked throughout my life, and it’s older than civilization itself.

  24. #24 MI Dawn
    April 28, 2010

    @KR: if this is your first visit to RI, and/or any other science-based blog that addresses the autism/vaccine non-link, you may find the tone “harsh”. The problem is that Orac has been addressing the issue for YEARS, and the lines from the anti-vax side haven’t changed, although they haves shifted the goal posts (from “it’s the mercury to it’s the MMR to ‘too many, too soon’ and ‘Green our Vaccines’”) The chants have changed but the pseudo-science behind the lines have not. So, Orac and many others get frustrated.

    It’s like telling a toddler “No” over and over again. Eventually the whining gets to you, and you may lose your temper a bit.

    If you really want to learn, there are several good, science-based blogs that can help. Science-based Medicine is one, Todd W. (a frequent commenter) keeps a great informative blog at http://antiantivax.flurf.net/, and there are others.

    Search, learn, and be a skeptic in the true meaning of the word.

  25. #25 Todd W.
    April 28, 2010

    Nice review, Orac. Overall, I also thought it was a decent show, but there were some things that I wish they would have covered:

    * As Muzz points out, discussing HepB and why we give it to newborns would have been very good, highlighting that it is not only transmitted through sex.

    * The Larry King Live clip should have included Jenny’s comment that she thinks these diseases are going to have to come back and people will need to die for the manufacturers to make “safer” vaccines.

    * While they pointed out that Barbara Loe Fisher was involved in the creation of the VICP and Vaccine Court, they should have pointed out how she is pretty actively against the program and court, now.

    * It would have been nice to see Handley’s variant stories: “I hear from tens of thousands saying their kid changed after the X” up against “I never heard anyone say their kid changed after the X”

    * The social and political tactics of the antivaccine movement should have been mentioned, such as Wakefield’s attempt to use libel law to silence Deer, Loe Fisher’s attempt to use libel law to silence Offit et al., “outing” bloggers to their employers, and other sundry underhanded tactics.

  26. #26 K R
    April 28, 2010

    Thordora, “petting them on the head and nodding sagely”? My only point, which seems to bear repeating, is that risible contempt is not constructive in achieving a change of attitude in the people at whom you direct it. Whether you think it is “warranted” or not. Seriously, do you actually disagree with me on this point? How many people honestly find ridicule a useful tool in their arsenal of persuasion?!
    Also, bear in mind whilst re-reading your own comment thordora that in their heads, vaccines endanger THEIR children.

    John C. Welch, whilst I like your father’s quote I can’t agree with it. Anti-vacciners’ view is in many cases just as strongly held as yours, and their data is just as compelling to them as yours is to you. Tell me, how many idiots yelling at you that you are stupid for thinking what you think would it take for you to change your mind? Any? Or would you be more likely to change it if someone came along and showed you the flaws in your reasoning/’data’?

    Now it seems to me that the constructive way through this, if anyone wants to try it, would be to try to show anti-vacciners where the data they lean on is a) plain false, b) incomplete and c) faulty (misunderstanding of the way statistics works plays a HUGE part here). And I get that that is what lots of people are trying to do, but since they do nothing but focus on the autism “question” (which is actually only one really tiny part of the anti-vaccine concern) they are often completely missing the point.

    Contrary to, it seems, popular belief among skeptics, it is perfectly possible for anti-vaccine adherents to have been made to believe something that is wrong because of such faulty data and still be intelligent enough to see reason when it is given. I think anti-vaccine people, for the most part, differ from religious adherents in this regard: it is NOT a result of brainwashing to the same degree that religion is. Don’t forget that anti-vacciners are statistically quite highly educated – there just isn’t the same correlation with low education that there is with, say, religious nuts.

    I am sorry but I just cannot see how this attitude of: well we know they can’t see reason so lets jeer at them instead is at all helpful.

  27. #27 maxh
    April 28, 2010

    Right now vaccinations are particularly important to me, as I am about to live in Africa for a year. I wonder if Handley et al. would prefer me to catch Yellow Fever or Rabies than inject myself with ‘toxins’. Or are those vaccines ok?!

  28. #28 Jojo
    April 28, 2010

    Orac, thanks for the review. If I can find the time, and if I can stomach it, I’ll try to watch this.

    One advantage of this show is that it is a PBS show. Many of less zealous anti-vax parents are well educated, left leaning people. PBS (and NPR) are part of their culture and they have more trust in PBS than they do in commercial MSM. For those who haven’t already drunk the kool-aide, I think this will have a decent chance of getting through.

  29. #29 Landru
    April 28, 2010

    Yay! Concern troll is concerned! Against my better judgment, I will briefly and temporarily engage concern troll!

    K R, do you have an opinion about the other side’s constructive attitude? Answering well-researched science with nonsensical and illogical arguments about disclosed potential conflicts of interest (while not disclosing their own), accusing skeptics of shilling for pharma and hating children and parents, constantly shifting the goalposts…all constructive, right? All perfectly valid answers to actual science, because, what, because they believe? Yeah. Constructive. Relevant, too.

    This isn’t about changing their minds. It’s about credulous media depictions of people who essentially believe that the Earth is flat. As Orac made abundantly clear in his post.

    Ooh, I’m sorry. I see that my contempt was risible and, therefore, my argument must be invalid. My bad. Have a nice day!

  30. #30 mikerattlesnake
    April 28, 2010

    @KR

    You are simply wrong. The people this ridicule is targeted at are NEVER going to change their minds. ORAC (and others) don’t ridicule parents who are taken in by these nonsense-peddling scam artists; raising a child can be a scary thing and people given bad information often make bad choices. Ridicule against the right folks can (and has been in the past) an extremely effective tool for marginalizing the views of those who ignore facts and reason but feel the need to proclaim their expertise loudly.

    The thing is, people don’t like being part of a group that is mocked and considered idiotic. If we slam these folks down every time they raise their heads and make our message one of clear, well-supported ridicule, any parent on the fence will get a clear picture of the loons that are on that side. People don’t do well with wishy-washy, and aren’t likely to see the antivaxers for what they are unless it is spelled out in bold, harsh, honest terms.

    P.S. Sid, nice meltdown. Always fun to watch.

  31. #31 David
    April 28, 2010

    K R, I think the point is that being nice, supportive, et al. has been tried, and completely failed to penetrate the “burning stupid”. These people are so far down the pit of illogic that they will (a) never realize they are in a hole or (b) need the proverbial kick to the head to make them see that they are in said hole.

  32. #32 MikeMa
    April 28, 2010

    KR,
    While I understand your point, the anti-vaccine folks are not who all this vitriol is aimed. Well, not entirely. It is aimed at those on the fence looking for information. If you pander to the moving goal posts, it looks like you are not sure of your position and lending credence to the foolishness.

    AoA doesn’t allow negative comments. Anything that might upset their echo chamber is struck. They don’t WANT information. They want to believe what they want to believe. No amount of science, nagging, or even ridicule will change most of them. They like their pool of stupid. We just want to prevent a few more from jumping in.

  33. #33 exarch
    April 28, 2010

    I think the problem with concerned parents is that they don’t actually have a point.

    Sure, they have concerns and worries. But any reasons they have for not vaccinating their children are based on lies and nonsense from anti-vax sites.
    It seems to me that perhaps the best way to convince parents that their worries are unfounded is by showing them that their reasons for worrying are lies and nonsense repeated by lying liars who lie and talk nonsense.
    That their “expert” is an ex Playboy centerfold whose only real knowledge about autism and vaccines is the fact she has a uterus and managed to successfully use it to push out offspring.
    To show them that the people they’ve relied on for their information are quacks and frauds who don’t deserve the trust they’re getting.

    But perhaps my expectations of the intellect of the average parent are too high?

  34. #34 Dangerous Bacon
    April 28, 2010

    K R:Tell me, how many idiots yelling at you that you are stupid for thinking what you think would it take for you to change your mind? Any? Or would you be more likely to change it if someone came along and showed you the flaws in your reasoning/’data’?”

    That’s odd. In Orac’s review of Frontline, I see factual and reasoned discussion of issues likely to make sense to parents “sitting on the fence” about vaccination – which is the group we can most hope to reach. The same goes for all the other articles appearing on this site, Science-Based Medicine and elsewhere, tirelessly reviewing the science and using calm logic to debunk all the distortions and falsehoods spread by antivaxers. Have you read those articles before leaping to conclusions about how pro-immunization information is presented?

    The fact is that people like Handley, Barbara Fisher and McCarthy are not reachable by reason, as they’ve proven time and again. If, in addition to solid facts, a dose of ridicule helps expose their ludicrous and dangerous antivax agenda, it’s a good thing for public health and the safety of our children.

  35. #35 Jojo
    April 28, 2010

    @exarch What you are describing is exactly what worked for me when I became a mom and had to make the decision to vax or not. Being nice and wishy-washy would not have been very convincing to me. Presenting facts and fallacies was very effective. Of course, I’m also just old enough that I’ve met several people who survived polio and I’ve seen with my own eyes what it can do.

  36. #36 Prometheus
    April 28, 2010

    KR opines:

    ” Anti-vacciners’ view is in many cases just as strongly held as yours, and their data is just as compelling to them as yours is to you.” [emphasis added]

    The problem is that “their data” is non-existent. And they’ve been told – repeatedly – that their “data” is nothing more than anecdotes, made-for-court poorly designed “studies” and disconnected, unrelated and irrelevant facts. That they continue to believe that their “data” is compelling speaks volumes about their ability to discern fact from fantasy.

    KR continues:

    ‘Tell me, how many idiots yelling at you that you are stupid for thinking what you think would it take for you to change your mind?” [emphasis added]

    Of course, when you put it that way….

    If there were a bunch of “idiots” yelling at me, I’d ingore them. However, if a large number of people who are legitimate experts in the field were telling me that I was “stupid for thinking what [I] think”, I’d give that a great deal more weight.

    KR finishes that line of reasoning with:

    “Or would you be more likely to change it if someone came along and showed you the flaws in your reasoning/’data’?”

    Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

    When people show – repeatedly – that they are uninterested in the flaws in their reasoning or data, what is the purpose of continuing?

    I can’t speak for Orac, but I have given up on trying to convince the hard core of the vaccines-cause-autism movement. They are not only impervious to reason, they are actively hostile to it. For them, the facts are irrelevant if they contradict their fixed belief that vaccines cause autism.

    Concern trolling is the act of rebuking a post for its tone in an attempt to indirectly discount its content. The tone of this post may upset the closed-minded believers in vaccines-cause-autism, but it may also help convince those “on the fence” who are willing to consider new information.

    Trying to debate and reason with people who are unreasonable only gives them undeserved credibility. Ridiculing them, especially if – as Orac consistently does – you also show how their data and reasoning are flawed, is the most effective way to show the rest of the world how closed-minded and unreasonable their aguments are.

    Prometheus

  37. #37 Orac
    April 28, 2010

    “Or would you be more likely to change it if someone came along and showed you the flaws in your reasoning/’data’?”

    You’re either a concern troll or an incredibly naive newbie to this whole manufactroversy.

    What makes you think that I and others haven’t tried to show these people the flaws in their data, “science” (I hate to use that word to describe the pseudoscience they use), and “reasoning” (such as it is). I have. Paul Offit has. The CDC and AAP have. Virtually every public health governmental agency and private institution has. Hell, Dr. Jim Shames on the FRONTLINE special itself was portrayed trying to reason with antivax mothers using a very cuddly, quiet, respectful tone. How far did he get? Not very. How far is he getting? Judging from the frustration in his voice during some interviews, not very.

    In fact, I’ve written a couple of posts about this very issue. Here’s one where I challenge those who tell us to “make nice” on other scientific issues (like creationism, for example) in order to “persuade” the unpersuadable to come up with a technique to persuade antivaxers:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/07/a_real_challenge_for_science_communication.php

    I have yet to see a good response.

    Here’s one where I criticize a friend, Chris Mooney, for hopeless naïveté when he proposes “building bridges” to leaders of the antivax movement:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/02/building_bridges_to_the_leaders_of_the_a.php

    In particularl, I suggest you read that last piece carefully.

  38. #38 MikeMa
    April 28, 2010

    Prometheus
    The experts in your second argument will all be classified as part of a conspiracy with big pharma behind it. That’s yet another way the loons build a wall against reason and evidence. They taint it with money.

  39. #39 Nick
    April 28, 2010

    KR:

    Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them – Thomas Jefferson

  40. #40 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    Two things:
    1) Didn’t see the show but the fact that Orac didn’t completely go ballistic over it suggests to me that it is a pretty strong statement against vaccines. Good for them.
    2) To add to the “we’ve tried rational discourse and it failed” comments, notice especially the part about “changing goalposts.” I realize that is said a lot in this post and the comments, but that is because it is absolutely relevant to this point. How can you talk rationally about flaws in reasoning or data when, as soon as you point out a flaw that they can’t refute, all they do is ignore and trot out another? For example, in the early 2000s, it was all about mercury and thimerasol. Ooooooo, mercury was the source of all the problems, it’s the evil mercury. Shoot, even JB Handley tied his cart to the thimerasol horse, and predicted that autism rates would drop once it was removed. It was, and they didn’t. Did that stop JB Handley? Nope, he’s still around complaining about vaccines. I don’t know what he thinks of thimerasol now, but it doesn’t matter, because there are always other vaccine boogeymen to blame. If not thimerasol, it is MMR. Wait, it’s not MMR, so it’s “too many too soon.” It’s HepB or DTaP or the flu vaccine (which have never been associated with autism but are mentioned nonetheless).

    It’s Jenny McCarthy and JB Handley constantly changing their stories about how their children’s behaviors changed after the shot. When they were blaming MMR, it was “he got the shot, and suddenly everything changed.” However, look at Jenny these days, now that it has been shown that her son had autistic indications before the shot, now she is claiming that he OBVIOUSLY had an autoimmune disorder, and the vaccine triggered it.

    You can’t have a rational discussion with people who don’t have a rational position in the first place. They don’t consider whether vaccines cause autism or not to be a question. That is a premise for them, and the starting point. They aren’t going to discuss whether vaccines cause autism, because they already know that answer. It’s the biggest flaw in reasoning they have, but nothing anyone can say can change it.

  41. #41 Scott
    April 28, 2010

    KR,

    The problem with your argument is the simple fact that those who did not reason themselves into a position cannot be reasoned out of it. For McCarthy, Handley, Fisher, and their ilk, the “fact” that vaccines absolutely and unquestionably cause autism has a similar standing to that which the “fact” of God’s existence has for the pope. They have persistently and repeatedly demonstrated that they will completely ignore any evidence which doesn’t validate their delusions, while manufacturing lies and disinformation to support it.

    They are unreachable. Reasoning with them is just about as futile as reasoning with Osama bin Laden that Israel and US aren’t really that bad. (And that analogy has more than one level – I would honestly not be the least bit surprised if an AoA/GR fanatic were to try and blow up, say, the CDC. Or murder Offit. Or take hostages at an AMA meeting and demand that vaccines be banned.) It’s those who are deceived by their lies who need to be reached.

  42. #42 Kristen
    April 28, 2010

    But if you were hoping some anti-vaccine or on-the-fencer (who are, after all, most often just parents concerned about their children) might stumble across your article and suddenly realise the error of their ways, well, no. Not going to happen while you dismiss them and their concerns with such contempt.

    Actually, this is exactly what changed my mind. RI has the right blend of science, evidence and smack-down (which, to me shows frustration that people won’t listen) to make me listen. Evidence will never work to change the minds of those who have already decided that they know better.

    I think anti-vaccine people, for the most part, differ from religious adherents in this regard: it is NOT a result of brainwashing to the same degree that religion is. Don’t forget that anti-vacciners are statistically quite highly educated – there just isn’t the same correlation with low education that there is with, say, religious nuts.

    I just love the hypocrisy! You want the anti-vaccine nuts to be treated with compassion and deference, but you spew bile at another group. It’s great that you can show disdain a whole category of people (religious) all in the same sentence that you call for empathy for the anti-vax crowd. Why? Because anti-vaccers are educated, of course, much more important then the uneducated, religious slime.

  43. #43 Harold L Doherty
    April 28, 2010

    I didn’t get to see the show. As a science oriented show did it feature the views of Dr. Bernadine Healy and Dr. Julie Gerberding who have stated that comparative autism studies of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations could and should be done?

    Did it feature the feature the views of Dr. Jon Poling and Dr. Erva Hertz-Picciotto that more research is needed?

    In particular, did the show mention Dr. Hertz-Picciotto’s observations that the thimerosal-autism studies are flawed and stronger science is needed on the issue/

    Were any of these perspectives covered or was it just another Bash Jenny and the Quacks session like those featured on this “science” blog?

  44. #44 Joseph
    April 28, 2010

    Granted, you may not think they have a valid point, but they firmly believe they do and they also believe they have ‘data’, false and faulty though it is, to back up their concerns. Unless your approach is to try to meet them where they are, instead of dismissing them as inherently stupid ignoramuses (ignorami?!) who don’t know their heads from their asses, you WILL NOT REACH THEM.

    Complete nonsense. The point is not to reach them, and Orac is not trying to do that (I’m quite sure.) That would be a waste of time. The point is to reach fence-sitters.

  45. #45 Landru
    April 28, 2010

    Awesome! Vinegar draws flies. Who knew?

  46. #46 Anton P. Nym
    April 28, 2010

    Sigh… the comments section for the documentary on PBS.org is as dismal as I feared; the same ol’ same ol’. I’d like to think that’s due to AoA and GR linking to the site; in fact, I think I’ll irrationally cling to that slender hope.

    — Steve

  47. #47 Joseph
    April 28, 2010

    The show must have been rather effective, judging by how Sid Offit got her pantys in a bunch early on in the thread.

  48. #48 Scott
    April 28, 2010

    @43:

    Considered and rightly dismissed. Those who have been repeatedly proven wrong should not be given any air time, even if they happen to have “Dr.” in front of their name.

  49. #49 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    Sigh… the comments section for the documentary on PBS.org is as dismal as I feared; the same ol’ same ol’.

    I’m trying to think of some of the reasoning that would be provided as to why PBS is so biased against the anti-vaxxers.

    PBS is in the pockets of Big Pharma, maybe?

  50. #50 Landru
    April 28, 2010

    No, Pablo, they’re part of the ginormous gummint conspiracy, although to be fair to you, that’s a conspiracy with Big Pharma. However, you’ll be pleased to know that I am selling a (very nearly patented) tinfoil defense system (now with 25% less mercury) to defend the citizenry against PBS, Pfizer, and CDC.

  51. #51 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    BTW, I forgot to mention when I saw it, but how fun was it watching JB Handley whine about how the show actually told the complete story, and didn’t just take his version as their premise?

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAH, I gave them a two hour interview and told them this and that, and they won’t even show that part! WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH

    Uncle Jay Gordon is apparently similarly miffed that they don’t consider his smugness to be the last word, either.

  52. #52 Wayward son
    April 28, 2010

    K R – “My only point, which seems to bear repeating, is that risible contempt is not constructive in achieving a change of attitude in the people at whom you direct it. Whether you think it is “warranted” or not. Seriously, do you actually disagree with me on this point? How many people honestly find ridicule a useful tool in their arsenal of persuasion?!”

    Well nothing is going to work for the overwhelming majority of these people. But I have been on both sides and actively and angrily campaigned against vaccines from 2001 until 2006. What caused my shift from one side to the other? The evidence not only being overwhelming on the side of science, but also the evidence the that anti-vaxers were extremely dishonest. Why did I not see that evidenece before I did? Well, because I was only allowing myself to see one side of the issue and selectively searching out “evidence” I would agree with. It wasn’t until I was yelled at…smacked down hard…by a friend of mine who was a medical doctor that I set out to compile all the evidence – only to convincingly and devastatingly prove that friend wrong that I realized that he was right. Purely ancedotal, but I hadn’t and wouldn’t respond to kid glove treatment, and I don’t think that any conspiracy theorist that I know will either.

  53. #53 Karl Withakay
    April 28, 2010

    @KR

    “You cannot reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into.”

    -Ben Goldacre, MD (Paraphrased from Jonathan Swift- “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”)

  54. #54 Michael
    April 28, 2010

    This sentence has been cut-off and seems to have a typo:

    ” The show then described the San Diego measles outbreak and how unvaccinated children are a vector for infection, even to the unvaccinated, who are much less likely to”

    I think there are some words missing after “to”. Also, the second “unvaccinated” should be “vaccinated” I think. Or am I just reading it wrong?

  55. #55 Kristen
    April 28, 2010

    Pablo,
    Your half right. It is obvious that PBS is kowtowing to the scientists who are in the pockets of Big Pharma. Otherwise the black helicopters will take them to the remote island where the government hides those who know too much. There they will be forced to slave for our alien overlords building pyramids on which to sacrifice babies to the Pharma masters.

    I am surprised you didn’t think of it.

  56. #56 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    On another topic, I see one of the Ashland whackos was from sMothering.com. As I said, I didn’t see it, but did they ask her how much advice on sMothering.com is given by moms who are REALLY poisoning their child?

    Recall that a very significant and respected participant of sMothering.com was arrested for Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, where they intentionally keep their kids sick by giving them poisons (there is an example of it in The Sixth Sense).

  57. #57 Zaher Bey
    April 28, 2010

    KR I disagree with your point that “risible contempt is not constructive in achieving a change of attitude in the people at whom you direct it.”

    Just because in everyone’s minds these methods would have no effect because everyone thinks they stand up so tough to those oh so mean words, does not make it so. I have no scientific data to back up this opinion, though I do have a personal anecdote!

    My wife and I were ourselves once Concerned Parents(tm). We had heard the scary stories about vaccines and became very scared and unsure of what would be the best course of action to take on the matter when our child was to be born. So, we decided to raise the question with pediatricians we were interviewing for our child’s care. The first Dr. we saw, went into a towering rage of indignation at the very notion that a parent would not want to vaccinate their child, but he backed up his rage by slamming hamfisted facts down our gullets about the entire controversy, and what the science says. The man did not hide his distaste of parents trying to pretend they know more about the medical profession than him. I loved every second of it. I thought “Here is someone who knows more than me on the subject and is not going to put up with our sewing circle health tips when it comes to the health of my child.” This episode sparked me to actually dig into the issue deeper and take a look at the arguments.

    I came across Respectful insolence later, and have loved every word of it as well. I loathe those people who misled me with their willful ignorance. I still can’t get over that sneaking fear that’s camped in the back of my mind every time I bring my son in for his immunizations, even thought I KNOW BETTER. Fear is a powerful thing.

    One thing you seem to be missing about Orac, is that he backs up what he says with facts, and links to more facts, and sound argument skills. He not only tells you that such and such person is an idiot, he explains WHY that person is an idiot. He verbosely illustrates the frivolity of the other argument, taking us on a wondrous journey through every logical fallacy, misrepresentation, and half-truth along the way.

    Orac’s methods may not work on those deeply entrenched in their own nonsense, but they worked on me.

  58. #58 Anton P. Nym
    April 28, 2010

    @K R: “Age of Autism” and “Generation Rescue” have made no attempts to sway those they deem to be “pro-vaccine” with kind words and sweet reason, and they have been successful in propagating their message to their intended audience; undecided parents. Thus I refute thee.

    (Of course I don’t recommend the corollary, that those supportive of scientifically-based medicine begin publicly imputing as many false and malign motives as possible for individuals in the anti-vax crowd. I think this fight for mindshare is better fought from the high ground, though that might be foolish naivete on my part in the era of “reality TV”.)

    — Steve

  59. #59 Skeptico
    April 28, 2010

    Jenny re-writes history.

    As recent as February 23rd (when I wrote this post) McCarthy was still quoted on her generation rescue site with the “And soon thereafter — boom — the soul’s gone from his eyes” quote.  I note that today that page has gone. 

  60. #60 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    So if PBS is just part of the government conspiracy, then it must be that vaccination is a liberal plot, right? Because we all know that PBS is a leftist organization…

  61. #61 exarch
    April 28, 2010

    PBS is short for Pharma-Business Shill?

  62. #62 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    @K R: “Age of Autism” and “Generation Rescue” have made no attempts to sway those they deem to be “pro-vaccine” with kind words and sweet reason,

    TWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTT!

    I call foul!!!

    True, AoA and GR don’t use kind words and reason, but they also have a powerful tool not available to us. Lying. It is the 4th Hallow.

    They aren’t successful because they don’t use kind words and reason. They are successful because they lie through their friggin teeth, and just make shit up. When you have that weapon in your arsenal, you have a lot more power.

  63. #63 SC (Salty Current)
    April 28, 2010

    Here’s one where I criticize a friend, Chris Mooney, for hopeless naïveté when he proposes “building bridges” to leaders of the antivax movement:

    Please. Mooney was absolutely right. This ongoing mess is the fault of you shrill, closed-minded, militant New Vaccinationists.

  64. #64 Pen
    April 28, 2010

    KR – I noticed the part where Orac was jeering at Jenny McCarthy and JB Handley, but I missed the part where he was jeering at parents in general. Are you sure you’re not all just having a great long argument over nothing?

  65. #65 Anthro
    April 28, 2010

    I was a little sympathetic to KR’s point at first–especially if referring to parents, not to AoA, et al. But (s)he lost me with the comparison to religion. Anti-vax thinking is EXACTLY like religion. These parents have been “converted” and while they may be well-educated, it is usually in the Arts, not the Sciences. They have a very religious fervor in their belief that so-called mainstream medicine (including pharmaceutical mfgs) is evil.

    I have personally tried your approach many times; that is, present the science clearly and simply with no hint of disrespect. What is the response? Something like: “Well, that’s your view, but science doesn’t know everything”. How can you deal with a supposedly educated person who has no clue how science actually works or how it differs from “belief”?

    I know it will sound very facist, but these people need to be “deprogrammed” and taught some basic science before they will be able to be reached by reason. The really amazing thing (that points to a neurological or “hard wired” basis for belief) is that so many doctors are into all sorts of woo.

  66. #66 Deiloh
    April 28, 2010

    I used to be a vaccine skeptic. My eldest was not vaccinated until first grade. At the time of my son’s birth, I was confused about vaccines and not sure where to get information. It didn’t help that the doctor chewed me out for being hesitant (I now understand the frustration she must have been feeling). We moved and my son got a new doctor. She was very considerate about my decision but did not offer any information (maybe she feared a crazy rant). Eventually, I put my critical thinking cap on and snapped out of it. My second child was fully vaccinated on schedule. More programs like Frontline are needed even if it seems like they are hitting walls.

  67. #67 Dangerous Bacon
    April 28, 2010

    I haven’t seen the Frontline program (I have it recorded for later viewing), but it must have been a decent show based on how much it’s ticked off our antivax pediatrician friend, Jay Gordon.

    Gordon has sent off an outraged e-mail to the co-producer of the show, griping about how his interview did not air. It’s full of his usual antivax nonsense, including the following gems:

    “I don’t think that Dr. Wakefield’s study proved anything except that we need to look harder at his hypothesis…”

    Never mind Wakefield’s gross ethical lapses, profiteering, sloppy and perhaps fraudulent science, all Jay Gordon gets out of the affair is that “we need to look harder” at Wakefield’s theory. The absence of any concern over Wakefield’s collecting a huge sum from lawyers hoping to sue over the MMR vaccine is even more striking, when you see that Gordon is upset because PBS didn’t slime Dr. Paul Offit over the money he made from a successful rotavirus vaccine.

    Gordon: “You should be ashamed of yourself, Kate. You knew what you put on the air was slanted and you cheated the viewers out of an opportunity for education and information. You cheated me out of hours of time, betrayed my trust and then you wasted an hour of PBS airtime. Shame on you.”

    Wow. “Hours” of Dr. Gordon’s time wasted. Is this the same Dr. Gordon who is constantly saying that unlike the rest of us he has little time to spare since he’s so busy saving lives as a pediatrician? Not being featured on the show is probably what has him steamed the most, as he missed out on a chance for the national media spotlight.

    Gordon says that further research will vindicate his antivax views, but then reveals that it doesn’t matter what that research shows, because he knows The Truth already:

    The way vaccines are manufactured and administered right now in 2010 makes vaccines and their ingredients part of the group of toxins which have led to a huge increase in childhood diseases including autism. Your show made parents’ decisions harder and did nothing except regurgitate old news.”

    “Old news” being the large volume of good science that shows no link between vaccines and autism.

    See, K R, people like Jay Gordon get soberly debunked as well as ridiculed on this site, because they use pseudoscience, anecdote and (in Jay’s case) faux appeals to authority to spread their dangerous and false antivax views. You will also note if you search through articles and comments on this site that Dr. Jay has been quite nasty in his remarks to Orac and posters here, suggesting we’re a bunch of pharma shills among other things, while also complaining how mean we are to him.

    As PBS is probably being targeted by a vituperative e-mail campaign from antivaxers upset that science got a big play on the program, it would be nice if they also heard appreciative comments from those of us who value an alternative to Larry King and Oprah’s promotion of antivax nonsense.

  68. #68 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    See, K R, people like Jay Gordon get soberly debunked as well as ridiculed on this site

    I admit, I am one who does the latter.

    I realized very early on that you can’t take Gordon seriously. So I don’t. Although I admit I love watching him lather up so nicely.

    As I said about Handley, they are just pissed because the producer of the show actually considered the whole of the material, and didn’t just parrot what he told her. Come on, he’s Jenny McCarthy’s son’s pediatrician!!!!! Doctor to the Stars!!!!! MD, FAAP!!!!!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!!!!!!

    The producer of the show (Kate, apparently?) sees him sitting next to the Blonde Bimbo with a smug look on his face, listens to him rant, listens to everyone else and thinks, this guy is nuts!

    I don’t think he did himself any favors by associating himself with the Dingbat. No one who says, “I support Jenny’s views” is going to get a lot of support among serious people. I mean, what is his selling point for why we should take him seriously? He taught Jenny McCarthy everything she knows?

    DB – do you have an email address for the show?

  69. #69 Ian
    April 28, 2010

    @KR

    I hope you are still reading these comments. I’ve been on the wrong side of an RI issue before, and believe me it’s not fun to get dog-piled by strangers on the internet… even when you ask for it a bit.

    I really do suggest you stick around and keep reading. There’s a reason (and it isn’t the frustration of dealing with a toddler) that ridicule is useful as a persuasive tool. It exposes the fact that “Everyone is entitled to their opinion” is a lie. Some positions are wrong, and pretending as though there is some validity to them is not a virtue. There are plenty of people out there who are bending over backwards to play nice with people who doggedly stick to ridiculous ideas. There needs to be those who are polemic and yes, a bit dickish, to snatch the rose-coloured glasses of false compromise off the faces of the public.

    If I was a fence-sitter and read a thorough take-down that was based on evidence, derision and quality writing, I’d sit up and take notice. I really hope you don’t stop reading because commenters jumped you. You’re clearly new to the site – don’t give up yet.

  70. #70 Denice Walter
    April 28, 2010

    I saw the show and felt that they used the time wisely, unfolding the narrative,punctuating with brief soundbites from the scientists(I’m pleased to see that neither Offitt nor Fauci have horns or a tail.Nor Hviid).This might be an effective film for “those on the fence”-people with concerns about vaccines who have perhaps been misled by the sciency-sounding “studies” quoted frequently by anti-vaxxers(my cousin and his wife were there,vaccinating although nervous).I liked how the evolution of the anti-vaccination movement was portrayed.Of course, we’ll hear/read the conspiracy theories about BigPharma,BigGov,and PBS,from the usual suspects,which will be accepted by(hopefully)a small minority.As I’ve said previously,the rise and fall of Wakefield should be an extremely salient feature for the general public.

  71. #71 Anne
    April 28, 2010

    I see PBS is running a forum on their website related to the show, with several doctors commenting on issues raised, including the reason for the newborn HebB vaccination.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/vaccines/forum/

  72. #72 Poogles
    April 28, 2010

    “But if you were hoping some anti-vaccine or on-the-fencer (who are, after all, most often just parents concerned about their children) might stumble across your article and suddenly realise the error of their ways, well, no. Not going to happen while you dismiss them and their concerns with such contempt.”

    Just joining the other commenters here who have, in fact, had their minds changed by Orac, not-so-respectful insolence and all! You shouldn’t make the mistake in thinking that just because you don’t see how anyone could be reached with this “tone”, that no one actually will be reached. Some will be have their minds changed with this type of writing, others will not. I don’t believe Orac’s goal is to change every anti-vacc mind that wanders in, only to do what he can to get the correct information out there and dismantle the misinformation for those who can’t see through it themselves.

  73. #73 Paul Hutch
    April 28, 2010

    Harold@43

    comparative autism studies of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations could and should be done?

    You should watch the show, they did better than that, they covered the completed studies from Denmark.

    Landru@45

    Awesome! Vinegar draws flies. Who knew?

    Anyone who’s thought about it or tried it. That very wrong old saying really needs to be changed to “You’ll catch more bears with honey than vinegar” because that is likely true. Try counting the number of houseflies around your garbage pail vs. around the flower bed then think about it.

    @KR The CDC, AMA and many other organizations take the approach you endorse. Orac provides a different approach, both approaches work for different people. The CDC, AMA, etc. will keep doing it their way and Orac will keep doing it his way. We need the multiple approaches to appeal to as many people as possible if we are to avoid huge problems down the road.

    I’ve been watching Frontline for all of its 27 years on the air, I still remember feeling bad for Judy Woodruff who always seemed to be on a balcony in a Washington snowstorm doing the introduction. Frontline is one of the main shows that drew me into 25+ years of continuous monetary support for PBS. I have found that many documentaries on Frontline have more impact years later when the problem a show warns about finally comes to pass. Frontline then re-plays the original documentary and it documents what we knew and should have acted on before the crisis.

    Sadly I feel this may be one of those Frontline documentaries. Ten, twenty or more years from now if dropping rates of vaccination cause large scale disease and death we can point to the documentary and see why it happened and who is to blame. (I’m looking at you McCarthy, Handley, Fisher, Kennedy, and the other out front deniers)

    A final note I loved how they had to bleep J.B., I can’t remember the last time someone was stupid enough to swear in a Frontline interview. He came off as an crude dolt to me and I suspect a large portion of the audience will feel the same.

  74. #74 Bob
    April 28, 2010

    In general I have found it a good idea to read a book, or watch a programme, or experience a work of art before reviewing it!

  75. #75 Paul Hutch
    April 28, 2010

    Arghh, screwed up the blockquote tags.

  76. #76 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    Response to KR thread:

    At the risk of being ridiculed, I think KR is right *in that* the tone of Orac’s posts do come across to the uninitiated observer as very harsh. And I agree that the tone is not constructive in that way. But I doubt that is really what Orac is trying to do, change the minds of people on the fence who lean towards not vaccinating. He is doing his thing, being Orac and laying the smack down on crazy BS in his way. We (many followers, including myself) find this entertaining so continue to read.

    I totally agree that people on the antivaccination side are completely beyond reason and there is really no point in engaging them with patience. They clearly don’t have problems with naming-calling nastiness, so I don’t blame Orac or anyone else for calling out their stupid for what it is.

    However, there are people who watch stories like this developing that are silent readers who do fence-sit. They may lean towards not vaccinating because of their socio-economic situation. The *science* on changing minds like these, those that don’t agree but haven’t solidified their position and come from a different social group, is very clear. You should engage them in a respectful and patient way that emphasizes their values and concerns.

    This is where I agree with KR in that if you use harsh language and rhetoric with people who are trying to decide but lean toward the route of least cognitive dissonance, staying within their social norms to not vaccinate, you are likely to drive those people away. It is not rational, it is not reasonable, but it’s the truth.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. I wouldn’t have Orac change a single thing, but also I think that it’s incorrect to think that this kind of rhetoric helps to change people’s minds. I hope I don’t come across as a concern troll.

  77. #77 Todd W.
    April 28, 2010

    After watching the show, my better half and I were talking about the subject of compulsory vaccination, and she had a couple interesting ideas:

    * Exemptions should not be given for public school attendance. If you don’t want to vaccinate, then your child can go to a private school (not exactly a new idea, but worth mentioning). Alternatively, we joked that unvaccinated children could attend public schools, but should be quarantined in negative-pressure rooms and kept separated from other kids.

    * Allow exemptions, but if someone refuses a vaccine, then they are assessed an additional tax.

    When it comes down to it, everyone has the right to choose the medical treatment that they or their children receive. However, there are also responsibilities to those around you. If your decision has significant potential to directly, negatively affect others, then there should be a cost associated with it.

    Granted, neither of the ideas above would fly, realistically, but the tax idea struck me as a somewhat novel and interesting concept.

  78. #78 Visitor
    April 28, 2010

    They should put Anders Hviid up against Jenny McCarthy. He’d win every time.

    Oprah Winfrey, are ya listening?

  79. #79 BA
    April 28, 2010

    The show was produced (written and directed) by Jon Palfreman. He’s very good at telling the story and conveying the facts about an issue. He previously produced a Frontline episode in the 90′s on facilitated communication titled “Prisoners of Silence.” It was excellent and spent a good amount of time on the impact on families of the unfounded allegations of abuse lodged by facilitators.

  80. #80 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    Oh, and I also think it was a bit odd for the content of KR’s post to be concern about the harsh tone of Orac’s rhetoric while using a harsh and emotional tone herself. Perhaps KR should take her/his own concern to heart.

  81. #81 WLU
    April 28, 2010

    I’m a big fan of vaccination, and though I think objections to them are usually irrantional (ooh – a typo that deserves spreading!), stupid, and made by people who have already made up their minds on completely unfounded grounds, I still don’t think it should be mandatory (unless for a serious life-threatening condition like weaponized smallpox or Ebola).

    What I do think, is that people who have unvaccinated children should pay more of a social penalty for their choice, based on the potential harm. If a child shows up with chickenpox, mandating that all unvaccinated children remain home for the duration seems reasonable. Less reasonable, but more personally satisfying, would be making them visit the hospitals, funerals and grave sites of any vaccinated child who got sick (because vaccines aren’t 100% effective) and caught it from an unvaccinated child.

    I haven’t made up my mind about whether they should be responsible for the cost of medical care in countries with public health plans. Perhaps drug plans could be adjusted to not cover those particular medications.

    Freeloading is detrimental to society at large, and should not be coddled.

  82. #82 David N. Brown
    April 28, 2010

    “spewing nonsense about “natural immunity” versus vaccines, claiming that it is better than vaccine-induced immunity”
    As I understand it, this is technically TRUE: Vaccination commonly requires multiple doses, while a single exposure to a disease can be enough for permanent immunity. Of course, this doesn’t come close to justifying the anti-vax assumption that vaccines weaken or damage the immune system.

    Also, regarding Jenny, I think it was always clear enough that there was no real correspondence between Evan’s autistic symptoms and the MMR shots. For example, “Louder Than Words” acknowledges that she observed “flapping” by age 1.

  83. #83 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @ David Brown –

    Yes, but a single exposure can also give you the disease which is not so good when the disease can be lethal. That makes the argument seems really weird… Why would you want to exposure yourself to a disease to get immunity to prevent the disease when it’s likely that you’ll get the disease by being exposed?

    Also, exposing yourself to a disease can give yourself immunity, but it can also give a chance for the disease to lay dormant in your system and come back to haunt you later. I am very sad that I’ve had chickenpox, because that makes me at risk for shingles later. UGH. Talk about not fun.

  84. #84 MikeMa
    April 28, 2010

    Natural immunity is a tricky thing. When I was little, moms would hold chickenpox parties when a neighborhood kid came down with it so that everyone could ‘share’. This was reasonable and effective because the risks associated with the disease are small and the benefit lifelong. I’m certain the risk benefit ratio for measles isn’t nearly so good. Polio and smallpox, not at all.

    Vaccination provides that immunity boost without the horrendous risk. Unless the natural immunity crowd is doing selective breeding for the desired natural immunity, I’m not sure what they are selling.

  85. #85 Andyo
    April 28, 2010

    Is there a vaccine for accomodationism yet? It seems to be spreading from evolution to medicine.

  86. #86 E.R.
    April 28, 2010

    I have very little respect for the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement. They are either liars, or stupid, or both.

    I do, however, have sympathy for parents. Many of them (most?) don’t have the tools to know who to believe. The anti-vaccine folks put up a great facade of credibility. And they are very vocal. So, many parents just end up taking what they feel is the “safe” route… the status quo of not getting their kids vaccinated.

    I have found, however, that gentle persuasion is the key. One of my good friends and his wife have refused to vaccinate their kids. I had a long discussion with him about it, being careful to not be insulting at all, but to listen to concerns. I am a biologist, so I know a thing or two about the issues, and I was able to answer many of his concerns.

    Ultimately, though, it came down to this: I mentioned the fact that if his kids ever picked up a vaccine-preventable disease and then spread it (in its early phases when it would be mainly similar to a bad cold, at best) to my <1-year old son who was not yet vaccinated due to his age… if that happened, I would be livid.

    That argument seemed to suddenly tweak something in him. I don’t think that he had ever thought that:

    a) his kids could catch something and be contagious for a time before the full reality of the disease set in, or

    b) there were people in the population (infants, elderly, those for whom the vaccine did not “take” for whatever reason, those with other immune deficiencies, etc.) who could be severely impacted by his and his wife’s choices.

    After those points sunk in, his (and his wife, in my later interactions with her) stridency receded dramatically. And, a couple of weeks ago, his kids had their first set of vaccines, including the MMR. (Just in time, too… there is a small measles outbreak fairly nearby).

    My point… blogs like this, and documentaries, are great. And, no doubt the impact some people. But, the rubber really hits the road in one-on-one, honest, respectful (heh… like this blog! :) interactions.

    And, frankly, I could care less about convincing those like Jenny et al. They’re not redeemable at this point. It’s the folks like those mothers in the focus group – your day-to-day contacts, friends, and relatives – that really matter. And, if you show yourself to be trustworthy… if you “put yourself in their shoes” a la “To Kill a Mockingbird,” you might just successfully save a few kids’ lives, and the lives of those that they interact with.

  87. #87 Andyo
    April 28, 2010

    I’m watching this right now fresh off the DVR. It is pretty good so far. I think it should do a good job in convincing almost anyone who’s not got their head up their ass. Facts are clear, and it’s also clear that the antivaccine crowd doesn’t have any more than shaky anecdotes. I liked especially how they clearly were shown moving the goalposts, and Offit calling them out on it.

  88. #88 Ian
    April 28, 2010

    @WLU

    The problem with not mandating vaccinations is that it is impossible to mandate what people do afterward. Sure we can kick them out of schools, but we can’t track them 24-7 to see if they get on a plane or go pick up their kid from daycare, or have a birthday party, etc. There are a million ways to spread infection, and one very simple way to prevent it.

    It might seem draconian to mandate health practice, but the alternative is to allow illness to spread out of control. Quarantines are useful, but not 100% effective, especially considering people can become contagious before they become symptomatic.

    I can appreciate the slipperiness of the slope – for example, could government mandate that fat people have to lose weight by forcing them to exercize for the good of society? Slippery slope arguments are cognitively simple, but ultimately not consistently supported with evidence. For example, we allow people to kill others in self-defence, but that hasn’t lead to sanctioned pre-emptive murder due to perceived threat (at least, not outside of Florida). Treat things on a case-by-case basis.

  89. #89 E.G.
    April 28, 2010

    Hmmm… seemingly screwed up a phrase in my comment due to a less-than sign… something must have thought that it was screwed-up HTML. So here is the screwed up bit, for the record:

    “Ultimately, though, it came down to this: I mentioned the fact that if his kids ever picked up a vaccine-preventable disease and then spread it (in its early phases when it would be mainly similar to a bad cold, at best) to my less-than one-year old kid, I would be absolutely livid.

  90. #90 KWombles
    April 28, 2010

    @David in 82,

    The immunity might last longer, but since vaccines don’t require you to get the disease or risk permanent damage or death, I fail to see how the immunity is “better.”

    An AoAer wrote today over there on Gordon’s post: “I don’t have kids with autism (because I never vaccinated them).”

    My first thought was an uncharitable but justified dumbass. Well, the person is in good company over there.

  91. #91 Ian
    April 28, 2010

    There is a poll at PBS. I know we don’t Pharyngulate (Insolate?) polls here, but it might help to balance out the fact that AoA is telling people to go there.

  92. #92 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @86 I agree. I have found the same style works for creationists, and I’ve even been able to change minds about it.

    @85 Vaccine accommodationists? Don’t you think that’s a pretty disingenuous representation of people who think it might be more effective not to call other people idiots to change their minds? I don’t think anyone who has voiced concern over tone implied that not vaccinating would be acceptable or to tolerate nonsense from the antivaccinationists. The point is that when you talk to people on the fence that you should be nice and treat them with respect. You know, like you learned in kindergarten (supposedly)?

  93. #93 Ian
    April 28, 2010

    I think a major problem here is the failure to dissociate a person’s ideas from themselves. Nobody here (maybe some small number, but nowhere in anything I’ve read by Orac) calls parents stupid. Rather, we attack the ideas as stupid. Ideas are stupid when they’ve been refuted by evidence. No idea starts off stupid, and people aren’t necessarily stupid for falling victim to a bad idea.

    And yes, stupid ideas should be attacked vociferously with as much scorn as you can muster. There have been a few parents who have shown up on the comments and they’ve all been treated incredibly respectfully. The only people who get insulted personally are the ones like Sid who persist in repeating the same lies over and over with no effort made to provide decent evidence.

  94. #94 E.G.
    April 28, 2010

    @Ian @93:

    I hear what you are saying. And, yes, the ideas are completely idiotic when analyzed in the light of real science.

    Unfortunately, most people don’t have the flashlight of real science in their toolbox. It costs time and effort to get that flashlight.

    The anti-vaccine crowd, however, hand out a junk science flashlight that is dull and unreliable. But, it’s free and easy. And so many people are happy to take that one instead of putting in the effort. And then they make that flashlight their own.

    When you attack their flashlight, they feel like you’re attacking them. Instead, I find that it’s best when I pull my flashlight out of my toolbox and shine it on the evidence in front of them. Then I simply ask “can you see that better? What do you think now?”

    Heaping scorn just gets backs up… even if the scorn is heaped upon the idea itself. And that gets no one anywhere… at least it doesn’t get to the result that we want. That is, getting kids vaccinated.

    Many of the fence-sitting and anti-vaccination parents that I’ve spoken to have had more than enough scorn heaped upon them. They have a very sensitive “back-up” hair trigger. One inkling of disrespect (even if it is for their idea and not for them), and you’ve lost the battle, no matter how persuasive you are otherwise.

    Instead, show them how your ideas are better in a graceful manner.

    On the other hand, if you ever find yourself debating with Jenny or her ilk, feel free to heap as much scorn as you wish.

  95. #95 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @ Ian,

    I totally 100% agree. The things everyone has to keep in mind are:

    1) Not everyone is used to having their ideas challenged. This is why echo-chambers thrive in the first place, because to critically look at your own beliefs is a supreme act of self-awareness that often results in cognitive dissonance. Dissonance makes people physically uncomfortable, and the first thing they think isn’t, “oh maybe I am wrong,” it is “well, I’m still right because…” and proceed to self-justify their original beliefs to relieve the dissonance.

    2) Even people who are used to being criticized often have difficulty not taking attacks on their ideas personally. I can name a bunch of examples from the history of science where scientists fought viscously for their pet theory because they didn’t want to admit their life’s work was just not right.

    Many of these parents are smart, well-intentioned and well-meaning, but ill-informed. They identify with other parents (AoA people) who are also (I believe) well-intentioned people with similar values; they are good parents, they care about their kids and other peoples’ kids. So they read AoA posts and start to identify with antivaccinationists, then they read something from the other side that is disrespectful.

    These fence-sitters are presented with a choice: should I reject obviously well-meaning people with kids just like me, or do I reject science and those rude, disrespectful people? Guess which path produces less dissonance.

    It’s not rational. It’s not reasonable. It is the way things are. I think this is why AoA and their ilk are so effective at winning minds, because they focus on identifying with parents first and peddle the crap after they have won trust.

    This is not to say that I think all pro-vaccine people should do this. I love this blog. Please keep it the way it is. I think it also works well with people who are more likely to identify with scientists than ‘generic’ parents, so I’m positive that it does win minds that way.

    But I think there is definitely other ways of interacting with people that will be more effective for other populations. I don’t think that you have to compromise your position. I actually think Phil at Bad Astronomy does this really well on the vaccine issue. He is firm but comes off much more diplomatic than Orac.

    Besides, it is pretty fun to see the really crazy antivaccination people squirm when you just refuse to take their bait. They really don’t know what to do when you don’t call them names back!

  96. #96 Todd W.
    April 28, 2010

    @E.G.

    That’s one of the reasons that I wrote antiantivax.flurf.net. It addresses a lot of the issues and myths raised by antivaxers in, I hope, a respectful manner, focusing on the facts and providing links to further resources. I’ve actually gotten some good feedback from fence-sitters, as well as physicians who have used it as a resource to discuss vaccines with parents.

    I also heeded some feedback and removed original references to “pro-disease”, as quite a number felt that was very off-putting. There are resources out there that take a less vociferous approach.

  97. #97 Adam_Y
    April 28, 2010

    When you attack their flashlight, they feel like you’re attacking them. Instead, I find that it’s best when I pull my flashlight out of my toolbox and shine it on the evidence in front of them. Then I simply ask “can you see that better? What do you think now?”

    The problem is that their flashlight is a black hole that sucks the light out of your flashlight. A large part of the antivax mentality is pure conspiracy mongering the level of which rivals 9/11 conspiracy theories.

  98. #98 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    Kudos to you, Todd W. I can tell you put a lot of work into compiling this information and the fact that you are able to respond to feedback in order to reach more people is great. It is much appreciated!

    I’ll bookmark it and send it to people who ask me about antivaccination claims, which happens a good bit since I live in California in the lion’s den of crazy woo ideas. Thanks!

  99. #99 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    I think a major problem here is the failure to dissociate a person’s ideas from themselves.

    At the risk of sounding sexist, another major problem is that moms, almost more than anyone else, take everything very personally, particularly on-line.

    I have some experience with it, because, as an expectant father, I like to hang out in forums for expected parents, which are generally dominated by moms (not sMothering.com). I have basically given up on it, though, because you have to tip-toe around so delicately that, ultimately, nothing ever gets said. As soon as anyone makes a comment with any substance, it gets beaten down as being a “personal attack” or “not supportive.”

    For example, a mom starts a thread saying she just can’t stop smoking. The responses come in mostly as you would expect, basically saying, you know you need to stop, there are lots of bad things that can happen, so good luck keeping up the effort. Some former smokers chime in and say, do it for your child, we did it, and are proof that it can be done. Well, some idiot jumps in with, “I can’t believe how unsupportive you all are, and some of these responses are bordering on personal attacks!” WTF? Telling her that, yes, you really need to stop smoking is not supportive and personal attacks? Jeezus mozus.

    But it gets worse. That same person continues, “It’s ok honey. (see, she’s being supportive) I smoked throughout my first pregnancy and everything turned out alright, I’m sure you will ok.”

    At which point I had enough. I respond to say, “NO, it is NOT alright that she is smoking. There are people who drive drunk and make it home, too, but that doesn’t mean it is a safe or ok thing to do. You need to stop smoking.”

    And then all hell breaks loose, because _I_ am not being supportive, and am making a personal attack on the idiot.

    So you can’t even tell someone they should not tell someone else that it is ok to smoke during pregnancy. We had another thread where I and a few others got into trouble for telling someone that marijuana is not illegal end of story, and is actually legal for medicinal usage in some areas of the country (we didn’t even advocate its usage or anything, we just said it’s not always illegal). But that was called a “personal attack.”

    I attribute it to the current practice of parenting advice books that say, “When in doubt, use your instincts, they are usually right” which makes them think that they are always right, and it is an insult to question their judgment.

    As I mentioned, the net result of such attitudes is that it turns in to a pretty much substance-free forum. Most of the threads consist of, “I have morning sickness!” with responses of, “Oh poor you. I hope you feel better. Have you tried (my favorite woo-remedy)?” “I got an ultrasound today!” response: “Good on ya!” And the ever popular, “Nurses are so insensitive!” response, “Oh what an idiot she is.” My response of, “You know, pregnant women always remind us about how hormonal they are, do you think maybe the bad interaction you had with the nurse wasn’t necessarily her fault?” doesn’t go over so well. :-)

  100. #100 lizditz
    April 28, 2010

    Todd W. @77:

    Exemptions should not be given for public school attendance. If you don’t want to vaccinate, then your child can go to a private school (not exactly a new idea, but worth mentioning).

    Most responsible private schools insist on vaccination — no opt outs.

    Of course, the Waldorf schools are different — because infectious disease is important for children’s karmic development.

    Re K R at #13 — strongly expressing contempt for a movement’s bankrupt nonsense (such as the repeated lies and misstatements of fact from the likes of Jenny McCarthy, JB Handley, and Barbara Loe Fisher) is quite different than the conversation I would have with a vaccine-refusing parent, which is in turn different than the conversation I’d have with a vaccine-questioning parent.

  101. #101 E.G.
    April 28, 2010

    Adam_Y @ 97

    The hard core wackos… yes. True enough. But the mom and dad next door… not so much.

    The next door neighbors just want to do the best thing for their kids. They want to hear the truth, they just aren’t sure where to turn to or whom to believe. If you can gently persuade them that the right thing is vaccination (and the wrong thing, for their kids and for the community at large) is not to vaccinate, then you’ve won one battle in this war.

    So, it’s the average Joe and Jolene that we should care about, and approach in a respectful manner.

  102. #102 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    So, it’s the average Joe and Jolene that we should care about, and approach in a respectful manner.

    I don’t know what is disrespectful about telling Joe and Jolene that Jenny McCarthy and JB Handley are clueless dolts, and they need to listen to real experts, not a Playboy model.

  103. #103 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    Pablo – That did come off as a bit sexist to me, but I forgive you. :-)

    It can be extremely frustrating to deal with this type of thing because it seems that you wrote something very clearly and you just can’t understand why people take things the way they do. But I think it is worth it to stick in there and try to clarify your position.

    I am from the South, and we are insanely polite and apologize for everything whether or not the situation deserves it. It gets a little ridiculous sometimes, like getting stuck at a stop sign and no one goes because they are all trying to wave each other on, but stuff still does get done and people end up getting the message and still feeling pretty good.

    It sounds kind of insane, but a dog training book about positive reinforcement training finally convinced me this was a great way to deal with people: Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor.

  104. #104 Adam_Y
    April 28, 2010

    These fence-sitters are presented with a choice: should I reject obviously well-meaning people with kids just like me, or do I reject science and those rude, disrespectful people? Guess which path produces less dissonance.

    Are you kidding me? The Age of Autism blog just approved a comment saying that Amy Wallace was giving the pharmaceutical industry a blow job and that she is a whore. How the hell does that even come close to Orac’s rhetoric?

  105. #105 BLUEMAXX
    April 28, 2010

    SIMPLE VERSION: natural immunity is indeed better than acquired immunity. FOR THOSE THAT SURVIVE.

    One of the things I love about the PEDS practice I am privileged to be in is that we, as a group, have taken a stand. We vaccinate according to the collective wisdom and expertise of the leading minds in PEDS ID and Immunology. WE FOLLOW THE CDC/AAP guidelines.

    We tell those parents that do not wish to follow those guidelines with us that they should consider seeking care with another practice. If they choose us for their pediatric family experts…. they buy the package.

    One of the problems that we started to see, when we were being more understanding/flexible/pliant about stretching out the vaccines and dealing with the moms (and dads) that wanted one vaccine at a time every few weeks was that we would say;
    ” THIS IS NOT IDEAL, THIS IS NOT THE RECOMMENDED WAY ” (…but we thought that some vaccines and slow progress was better than not)

    they would HEAR

    “my pediatricians say this is okay to do things this way”

    So.. we changed what we say to be crystal clear.. and less likely to be reinterpreted to endorse those wonderful “alternate vaccine schedules” as seen on TV!

  106. #106 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    It can be extremely frustrating to deal with this type of thing because it seems that you wrote something very clearly and you just can’t understand why people take things the way they do. But I think it is worth it to stick in there and try to clarify your position.

    There wasn’t anything to clarify. It’s not that they didn’t understand what I wrote, just that they think I wrote it as a personal attack. Clarifying would only be more of a personal attack, in their mind.

    I gave up on it and left the group, telling them that the group sucks, and that it isn’t any fun to sit around talking about favorite color, which is effectively what they are doing.

  107. #107 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @ Adam_Y

    Well, obviously my blanket statement doesn’t cover everything ever written by AoA; I’m sure you could cherry-pick a lot of nasty names and baby-eating photoshop disasters to show they are way more nasty. There are two important points to stuff like that: 1) it’s likely not the first thing these parents usually see, much of it looks much milder and more legitimate, and 2) ridiculing and attacking people who criticize you is an important part of polarizing the debate (usually through having to justify something nasty like that as necessary and valid to themselves), so your allies more strongly associate with you and thoroughly reject your competition.

    I don’t think Orac does this, or anything close. That is a different type of rhetoric entirely. But that kind of thing does show up in the comments occasionally. If he did, I would dump his blog off my bloglines like I did Pharyngula because it because such a nasty echo-chamber nightmare. Who needs all that in their life? I honestly wonder if calling other people names makes them feel better or more crappy.

  108. #108 Adam_Y
    April 28, 2010

    Well, obviously my blanket statement doesn’t cover everything ever written by AoA; I’m sure you could cherry-pick a lot of nasty names and baby-eating photoshop disasters to show they are way more nasty.

    Actually, I’m not cherry picking. I am really surprised they don’t censor their comments more.

  109. #109 historygeek
    April 28, 2010

    i think the problem is people today have no clue what these deases can do to people they don’t know anyone who had them. they know people with autism or at least know about it. this makes vacines a perfect boogyman there is also this undercurrant that “natural” is better and won’t hurt you and we will have narvna if we just got back to nature. nearly everyone in the devoled world has no experance with what a harsh mistress nature really is so it easy to put her on a pedstral on ritgiousness

    maybe if the pro vacine side showed more picture about wheat these deasses do to people maybe they would pay moor attention

    by the way the only deasses that had partyies where mumps and smallpox to the best of my knowlagde they wheren’t done for anything eles as it was belived children survied them better then adaults so shingles suck but death sucks worse

  110. #110 E.G.
    April 28, 2010

    BLUEMAXX @105 – I appreciate that stand that you take… “no vaccinations, you can’t be a client in our practice.”

    If more pediatricians and GPs would do that, it would make a really positive impact. There’d be screaming, but it would show the anti-vaccination crowd that there were distinct consequences to their actions.

    As a parent, I don’t want to be sitting with my kids in a waiting room with anti-vac, virus-laden kids interacting with mine. So, your stand is good for the anti-vac crowd (helping them to see the error of their ways through a specific consequence) and for the responsible parents in your practice (protecting their kids).

  111. #111 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @Pablo

    If you wrote it as not a personal attack and they took it as a personal attack, then they definitely didn’t understand what you wrote! It clearly wasn’t what you meant, so there was a disconnect. Sometimes it takes several reiterations before the point kind of gets through that you’re not there to stir things up, just give constructive feedback.

    It tries my patience to no end, but it is very interesting that once you get through some of the initial flip out, people are more willing to sit down and have a real conversation with you. I find conversations like that very rewarding, like solving a hard math problem. Just like learning math, you have to solve be patient to solve hard communication problems in order to learn how to get through to people on important issues.

  112. #112 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @ Adam_Y 108 – I guess I’m not surprised. After the whole thing on Pharyngula with someone suggesting that Chris and Sheril be raped with a rusty knife, I am pretty convinced that people can justify saying all sorts of really awful things on the internet with a lax moderation policy. It reminds me of what happened to Tom Cruise after his publicist left (I think?), he just started to spiral down further and further into crazy without someone there to tell him “Um, OK that’s enough.” I think everyone could end up jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch without someone there to point out how crazy-pants it looks to everyone else.

    I don’t know why they don’t moderate more comments. Maybe it’s just born of frustration in dealing with these types of communication issues. I’m not saying that they are right on the science or that comments like that are justifiable, but they are trying to communicate just like we are and we can at least empathize with that.

  113. #113 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    There’d be screaming, but it would show the anti-vaccination crowd that there were distinct consequences to their actions.

    That would be great. Parents would learn they can live without all those unnecessary well pediatrician visits and move away from the medical model of interventionism

  114. #114 blueMaxx
    April 28, 2010

    just took a peek at site link as posted by LIZ @100

    the WALDORF SCHOOL/ PROJECT/ SALAD of “homeopathic free range children free form educational structure” insanity…

    http://www.openwaldorf.com/academics.html
    and http://www.openwaldorf.com

    or the related http://www.artemisia.net/ society for “anthroposophic medicine”

    <20> OH MY GOD!!!! OH MY!!! Someone call CPS!

    talk about your evidence against believing things you can find on the World Wide Web of Wackiness and Woopidity.

    you should go take a look.. follow the web links. Thankfully…there seems to be a lack of evidence of actual schools/institutions offering this “approach”

    DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!

  115. #115 BLUEMAXX
    April 28, 2010

    missed the big picture, main point again, huh Sid…

    seems perhaps you yourself missed a few too many well visits as a child, perhaps?

  116. #116 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    If you wrote it as not a personal attack and they took it as a personal attack, then they definitely didn’t understand what you wrote!

    Either that, or we have very different views of what is considered a personal attack.

    If I say, “That is factually incorrect. The sky is not blue because Bob Ross spills his blue paint. It is blue because of dispersion that occurs at different wavelengths,” then I am saying that the person made a factual misstatement, and I am providing the correct version.

    If the person hears, “He is calling me an idiot. How dare he insult me that like that!” then it is not because of anything I said.

    I may think that person is an idiot, but it is not stated or implied in the statement. Saying you are wrong =/= personal attack.

    The reason I say that they understand what I said is that they understand full well that I have corrected their factual mistake. They just think that correcting a factual mistake is a personal issue. Any further discussion is going to continue to be about correcting factual mistakes (“Don’t call me an idiot!” “I never called you an idiot, I said your explanation of why the sky was blue was incorrect, and explained why” whoops, now I insulted their reading comprehension skills, “So are you saying I can’t read?” “I never said that. I said that I wasn’t calling you an idiot when I explained why your explanation was wrong.” “You arrogant, condescending prick, think you always have to be right about everything.” “What? I was just clarifying the reason why the sky is blue…”

    etc
    etc

  117. #117 blueMaxx
    April 28, 2010

    just took a peek at site link as posted by LIZ @100

    the WALDORF SCHOOL/ PROJECT/ SALAD of “homeopathic free range children free form educational structure” insanity…

    http://www.openwaldorf.com/academics.html
    and http://www.openwaldorf.com

    or the related http://www.artemisia.net/ society for “anthroposophic medicine”

    <20> OH MY GOD!!!! OH MY!!! Someone call CPS!

    talk about your evidence against believing things you can find on the World Wide Web of Wackiness and Woopidity.

    you should go take a look.. follow the web links. Thankfully…there seems to be a lack of evidence of actual schools/institutions offering this “approach”

    DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!

  118. #118 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @ Bluemaxx 105

    That’s a completely reasonable position for a health care professional to have and commendable. Did you happen to read the extended interview with Paul Offit on the Frontline site? He brings up a good point about why not to space vaccines out (other than making them susceptible for a longer period of time), that it stresses poor kids out more to have many visits with few shots as opposed to fewer visits with more shots at one time. I’m sure that’s totally obvious to you, but perhaps it would be a good thing to remind parents who want to space their kids’ shots out as well.

  119. #119 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    I don’t know why they don’t moderate more comments.

    We are talking about AoA, right?

    The kings of comment moderation? There are multiple websites that have been created to allow people to post the things that got moderated out of AoA! They absolutely have moderation, and use it heavily for things they don’t like.

    This is why the comment that got through is so scandalous. Apparently the moderators let it through. Say something factually true but negative about Andy Wakefield, and it gets zinged. Go over the top hyperbole insulting someone pro-vax, and that is perfectly acceptable.

  120. #120 Denice Walter
    April 28, 2010

    OT(but is woo *ever* truely OT here?)Jose Martinez(@The Daily News.com,today;also GaryNull.com/PRN)Woo guru and super supplement salesman, Gary Null had a “near death experience”(?),suffering kidney damage,because of large amounts of vitamin D contained in one of his own products;he is suing the “sub-contractor” who manufactured the product for him.He freely admits(on his radio show)that he is his “own guinea pig” often taking many times the recommended dosage.((I don’t hear him as often as I did previously-due to my schedule-I did fortuitously tune in today)).Karma kicking in? No, more like physiology.

  121. #121 Dangerous Bacon
    April 28, 2010

    MikeMa said: “When I was little, moms would hold chickenpox parties when a neighborhood kid came down with it so that everyone could ‘share’. This was reasonable and effective because the risks associated with the disease are small and the benefit lifelong.”

    Diluting the “reasonable”-ness of this approach is that wild-type chickenpox killed up to 100 people a year in the U.S. before vaccination (the vaccine is much safer than getting sick with chickenpox), immunity may not last a lifetime and you can still come down with excruciatingly painful shingles as an adult after having had childhood chickenpox.

    From vaccineinformation.org:

    “…when a safe vaccine is available, parents need to weigh the supposed benefits of infection against its potential risks, including severe disease with complications such as infection with flesh-eating bacteria. No one can predict which child will develop a life-threatening case of chickenpox; in fact, most serious cases occur in previously healthy children.”

    Having chickenpox parties instead of vaccinating also increases the odds of exposing someone with immune system dysfunction to the disease – which can be fatal.

  122. #122 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    Pablo-

    I apologize, I meant to specify that I don’t know why they don’t more heavily moderate supportive and very nasty comments. I didn’t mean to imply that they didn’t moderate at all, which as you’ve pointed out, it is very clear that they do in order to create a louder and more reflective echo-chamber. I should have more carefully phrased my comment.

    I think the bigger question is why they feel that such an echo-chamber must exist (and therefore actively participate in creating one) and how we can ultimately combat that type of rhetoric. Honestly, I have no idea what to do with that.

  123. #123 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    He brings up a good point about why not to space vaccines out (other than making them susceptible for a longer period of time), that it stresses poor kids out more to have many visits with few shots as opposed to fewer visits with more shots at one time.

    I didn’t read the interview, but did he also point that there is not one lick, shred, iota of evidence that “spacing out vaccines” is in any way safer than the standard schedule?

    Ask Bob Sears, he will admit it. It is all talk, and there isn’t any evidence at all to suggest that the alternate schedule is safer in terms of vaccine reactions. Moreover, we know it does put people at risk. Admittedly, the risk of delaying a month or two isn’t huge, but considering that their is no benefit to it, why bother?

    Then again, it does provide a good reason to bring your child to the pediatrician every month, instead of every 3 – 6 months, so the doc gets to bill another office visit.

    I agree that BLUEMAXXX has a fine approach. I completely concur with the attitude, “If my medical advice is not good enough for you, find someone else.”

  124. #124 welshandgrumpy
    April 28, 2010

    @KK, When Ayaan Hrsi Ali was asked ‘but how will you convince them?’ (away from the shackles Islamic fundamentalism) she answered simply and generically: “cognitive dissonance”. And I think she’s right. There’s not one strategy, there’s lots and they have to be applied in parallel; different strategies hitting home with different people…

  125. #125 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    Pablo,

    He did. I just thought that point was particularly interesting because I hadn’t heard it before, so thought I would share it. Also, sometimes it could make a stronger argument to say “doing this will most definitely stress your kid more” than “doing this doesn’t help your kid more.” Something additional to mention, at the very least!

    No joke about extra visits, those add up I bet.

    Reminds me of looking for a new vet for my dog. I just recently got a puppy and was looking for a vet in Lion’s Den of Woo, CA. I wanted to avoid all the woo, so I asked them if they had or referred out to “alternative” practices like acupuncture or homeopathy. I finally found one (after 5 or 6 calls) that said basically, “Um, we practice *science-based* veterinary care.” I’m still with that vet!

  126. #126 Pablo
    April 28, 2010

    I apologize, I meant to specify that I don’t know why they don’t more heavily moderate supportive and very nasty comments.

    Is this a rhetorical question?

    Maybe because the moderators…um…don’t have a problem with people making nasty comments about pro-vax people?

    I think the bigger question is why they feel that such an echo-chamber must exist

    Rally, is it that hard to understand? They don’t want to have real discussion, they simply want a forum to pontificate without the burden of having to actually support their positions against naysayers.

    “Getting rid of nasty comments” would be an approach to maintaining a civil discussion. “Getting rid of dissenting opinion” OTOH is about preventing any discussion at all.

  127. #127 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    “Is this a rhetorical question?”

    And I’m saying it is a useful question to ask why otherwise good, well-intentioned people would find these kind of comments acceptable. I think that’s a fair question to ask, and the answer is probably pretty important in understanding the dynamics of these kinds of interactions.

    “Maybe because the moderators…um…don’t have a problem with people making nasty comments about pro-vax people?”

    Yes, you are right… if they did they would delete the comments. I’m sorry if I’m coming off as dense, but I have a hard time stopping at the “oh because they are clearly crazy jerks” point. Besides, I think it is kind of fascinating that otherwise reasonable people can spiral into this kind of behavior that to any other context they would be embarrassed to be associated with. Maybe that makes me weird?

    Also, it’s easy to just write them off as crazy jerks, but that doesn’t get us any closer to understanding how to reach out to people whose minds could be changed but are at risk to falling into the same behavior. (NOTE: I am NOT saying reaching out to the people already engaged in it, I’m not trying to make Chris Mooney’s mistake over again.)

  128. #128 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    including severe disease with complications such as infection with flesh-eating bacteria. No one can predict which child will develop a life-threatening case of chickenpox; in fact, most serious cases occur in previously healthy children.”

    ——————————————

    http://www.sljol.info/index.php/SLJCH/article/viewFile/671/652
    Necrotizing fasciitis [flesh-eating bacteria] is a recognized severe complication of chicken pox. Chicken pox is traditionally viewed as an irritating but inevitable
    childhood infection. However, certain groups such as
    the immunocompromised, neonates, adults and
    pregnant women, have a higher risk of severe
    disease.

    Seems like it is predictable

  129. #129 A Nonny Moose
    April 28, 2010

    @Lindsay

    Reminds me of looking for a new vet for my dog. I just recently got a puppy and was looking for a vet in Lion’s Den of Woo, CA. I wanted to avoid all the woo, so I asked them if they had or referred out to “alternative” practices like acupuncture or homeopathy. I finally found one (after 5 or 6 calls) that said basically, “Um, we practice *science-based* veterinary care.” I’m still with that vet!

    Coincidentally for me, the Frontline special was the day after a big life event for my daughter — she had her one year checkup this morning, where she was getting her MMR (plus HepA and Varicella vacines) After her pediatrician finished examining her, I decided to ask him what, if anything, he said to parents who told him they were declining the MMR due to an autism link. He rolled his eyes and said, bluntly, “there isn’t one”. He explained the science and the lack of evidence in terms most parents would be able to understand, and he included (I’ll assume because he already knew my position on the matter) his happiness at the deconstruction of Andrew Wakefield.

    I knew there was a reason I liked him.

  130. #130 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    A.N. Moose – Wow, you are really lucky to have found a doctor so good. I wish I could find one like that for myself!

  131. #131 Ian
    April 28, 2010

    It’s as I said, Lindsay. The echo chambers spring up because people don’t like to be told their ideas are wrong – they attribute that as personal attacks. A few months ago there was a topic about animal testing and I said something innocuous about where we could reasonably draw the line between humans and animals, considering that animals have been observed doing a lot of things that were once thought of as “uniquely human.” I got skewered from all sides, accused of being an animal-rights activist, lumped in with the same type of people who are against all animal testing. It was not a pleasant experience, especially in a place where I saw myself as a like-minded person.

    Suffice it to say, the only reason I didn’t run away from RI forever (and I thought about it, believe me) is because I said to myself “Self, these people don’t hate you. They don’t even know you. They are reacting to your ideas, which they clearly do not share.” I was then able to debate, come to some understanding, and leave with my dignity (and the skin on my wrists) intact.

    When you can’t separate your self-worth from your ideas, then the last thing you want is to hear opposition. So you find a place where you’re pampered for being a member of the group, and whipped into hatred against your enemy. It worked for Orwell, and it works for AoA.

    Personally, I’m glad when smart people disagree with me. It means that one of two things is going to happen: either a) I’m going to bring someone smart around to my way of thinking, or b) I’m going to learn something and become a smarter person as a result. I’d much rather learn than be obsequiously flattered for simply toeing the party line.

  132. #132 E.G.
    April 28, 2010

    Sid Offit @ 126

    “higher risk” does not mean predictable. Yes, folks in those groups are more likely to have a severe complication. But that does not exclude people in other groups.

    And, in any case, neonates can’t be immunized. Immunocompromised individuals either can’t be immunized or won’t respond to a vaccine. I’m pretty sure that pregnant women can’t be immunized with this vaccine (though I stand to be corrected).

    So, by not ensuring that the vast majority of the population that *can* be immunized is immunized, you put those high risk groups at greater risk of contracting an infection and experiencing complications.

    By not getting yourself (if you haven’t had chicken pox as a kid) and your kids vaccinated, you not only put yourself and them at risk, but you also put everyone else at risk. Chicken pox is contagious well before disease symptoms show up to any extent.

    ***A lot of people think that not getting vaccinated is akin to not wearing a seatbelt – i.e., a personal (and, in my opinion, unwise) decision. But, the reality is, it’s more like DUI. That is, it’s a personal decision that is likely to have grave effects on others.***

  133. #133 Anthro
    April 28, 2010

    Pablo, I totally understand your frustration with these forums. I’ve had the same experience with a backyard chicken group and with a foundation that funds research into an illness that affects my youngest son. These groups don’t give a damn about facts–they are a subgroup of the woo-friendly and know nothing of presenting an argument and defending it with facts. You will get no credit from them for doing so yourself. It’s best just not to bother if you don’t want to get your blood pressure up.

    I know you’re laughing that I had problems with a chicken group, but if you want to see some high-powered woo, try asking an ordinary question about the care or feeding of chickens and see the nonsense that results; then when you ever-so-gently question some of it you get told off big time. However, I’ve been told off on this blog as well, for reasons no better than the chicken folks and by people who are poorly informed on the subject being addressed.

  134. #134 amoebamike
    April 28, 2010

    I enjoyed this post. I TiVo’d the Frontline episode and watched this morning when I woke.

    Upon finishing my post on this very topic, I wanted badly to include @JennyfromMTV and the hashtag #AoA, but decided even if I got an influx of hits, those weren’t the kind of people I wanted reading my pot. They’ve made up their mind and anything I say certainly won’t sway them at this point.

  135. #135 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 28, 2010

    Seems like it is predictable

    Here’s a prediction:

    If we can immunize almost all healthy children against chicken pox, the rate of serious complications will drop drastically – because “certain groups such as
    the immunocompromised, neonates, adults and
    pregnant women” will be protected by herd immunity.

    Why do you have a problem with this?

  136. #136 MikeMa
    April 28, 2010

    Dangerous Bacon @119,
    I totally agree with the value of the chickenpox vaccine. Sorry if it wasn’t clear that the ‘party’ idea was from pre-vaccine days when I was young, some 40 years ago. I’m not even sure if I ever attended such a party. Sid will be along to say that chicken pox isn’t so bad in spite of the annual deaths.

    My mom, at age 73 or so came down with shingles. As an active person, the pain and resulting enforced inactivity distressed her a lot and she can get them again as I understand it. Sid will also try to minimize that pain as well.

  137. #137 Chris
    April 28, 2010

    I bet Sid Troll dislikes the idea that if kids don’t get the diseases then they don’t end up with chronic conditions (like deafness from mumps or permanent nerve damage from chicken pox and/or shingles). Chronic conditions he probably has some kind of “cure” for.

    Sorry, not in the mood for being nice. We are going through a large amount of belongings of a recently deceases family member who had a chronic condition. Along with numerous pain diaries, we found an entire box of various expensive supplements (tossed into the trash), and a series of event calendars she kept where she listed trying some kind of detox program, going on some kind of supplement, and appointments with various “doctors” and “therapists.” She apparently started these “cures” in 1982 (one reason there is lots to go through is that she kept everything, we even found a box of what looked like her paper recycle box that traveled through two moves!).

    I suspect Sid Troll is a naturapath. Just like the one this relative went to who sold her homeopathy as a substitute for her real medication.

  138. #138 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    @ Ian 129

    That’s my understanding of the echo-chamber situation as well, and it is very interesting to note that can happen in both woo-localities like AoA and other sites connected with reason and science as well. I think everyone is guilty of taking things personally. I’ve gotten attacked as an accommodationist in the evolution/creationism debate. People have told me I didn’t know the first thing about either side from both sides, which is funny because I am a grad student in biology (so I actually know a couple things about evolution) and grew up as an atheist in the South (so I know a couple things about creationism as well).

    And by far, the most startling criticism comes from those you think are allies. I almost always comment on posts where I disagree with the common theme of the comments, which has gotten me attacked in the past. I always try to clarify my position first and never get personal or too upset. At the very base of it, we are all strangers, and even if someone out there in on teh interwebz thinks I’m an idiot because of what I say or my position on a topic, I don’t care.

    It is an unfortunate rhetorical tactic, but we should be brainstorming on how to deal with it in an effective manner. I mean, it could be a pointless waste of time (though probably more productive than my matlabbing is going right now), but generating ideas to try is always good. I’ve found that not taking their bait makes it at least harder for them to hate you (same way I dealt with bullying in high school). Any other ideas??

    I feel the same way when I run into people that disagree. I find it great exercise for the mind. To me, it really isn’t about winning an argument, it is about learning. Sometimes I make mistakes, and smart people will always correct me. (Hopefully they’re nice about it, but either way it happens.) Making mistakes and changing your mind are all part of learning, and I like the fact that I can still be wrong and change my mind when good arguments come up.

  139. #139 Enkidu
    April 28, 2010

    People are still holding chicken pox parties. They are organizing on parenting sites and Facebook. Here’s an example:

    http://forum.baby-gaga.com/about985086.html

    I love how the one commenter is going to spread it through someone who has shingles. Lovely.

    What I don’t understand is this: it’s harder to have these pox parties because the incidence of chicken pox is down. So why not just let the disease die out, why actively seek it out and keep spreading it around? If people are so afraid of the vaccine, WHY are they in turn in love with getting the actual disease?

  140. #140 Dan Weber
    April 28, 2010

    How does the risk of shingles compare from getting chicken pox as a kid to getting the vaccine?

    My impression (possibly incorrect) was that getting chicken pox provides you a lot longer immunity, and a problem with the vaccine is that if you don’t keep up (a lot of people just don’t go to the doctor if something isn’t wrong) your immunity wears off, leaving you more vulnerable to a late bout and/or shingles.

    I’m probably not understanding fully, though.

  141. #141 Ian
    April 28, 2010

    @ Lindsay

    I have a few ideas of how to communicate more effectively in a world of those who refuse to see evidence. From a blog post I wrote on the subject:

    * Understand your own position
    * Be consistent
    * Counter value arguments with value arguments
    * Speak to the audience (those undecided)
    * Refuse to compromise truth
    * Be respectful of the opposing side’s humanity, if not (and definitely not) their beliefs

    But as I said earlier, I don’t think Orac has violated any of these principles; he’s just refusing to pretend to be nice about it. His “friend” has another blog where he’s a lot less “mean”. I think this is just where he lets the gloves drop and doesn’t worry about censoring himself.

  142. #142 Lindsay
    April 28, 2010

    Ian,

    Those are all great suggestions to remember when engaging with people you disagree with. I don’t think Orac has violated them either, really. He is actually very careful not to go completely over the top, which is great. And I like his “friend’s” blog as well, and I appreciate the duality in the mission of each.

    I think I mentioned in my original post that I think this blog is a lot more about entertainment (of Orac himself and the rest of us) than it is about changing the minds of parents, and that’s totally fine. What comes across to me in this blog is his passion about the issues and science as he has a little fun with some of the wackier ideas. He clearly cares though about what’s written, that it is accurate, and that it is fair. Like I said, I love it and don’t change a thing!

  143. #143 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    @EG

    1 – A prediction or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge.

    2 – In general, neonates are protected by maternal antibodies

    ——————————–

    it’s more like DUI. That is, it’s a personal decision that is likely to have grave effects on others.***

    Bad analogy. With DUI I act to create a risk that was previously non existent. On the other hand not vaccinating is a non action and the “risk” of chickenpox existed long before me

  144. #144 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    If we can immunize almost all healthy children against chicken pox, the rate of serious complications will drop drastically – because “certain groups such as
    the immunocompromised, neonates, adults and
    pregnant women” will be protected by herd immunity.

    Why do you have a problem with this?

    Because I have no desire to put my child at risk in order to ensure someone else can never become ill. And I’m not sure what you mean but drastically since pregnant women have the opportunity to be vaccinanted before pregnancy, neonates are protected by Mat antibodies and the immunocompromised make up a small segment of the population

  145. #145 Joseph
    April 28, 2010

    Bad analogy. With DUI I act to create a risk that was previously non existent. On the other hand not vaccinating is a non action and the “risk” of chickenpox existed long before me

    If I were not to do anything when I’m driving and I see a red light, is that also a non-action? I think I’m completely within my rights to ignore red lights. It’s a personal decision. What do you think, Sid?

  146. #146 Frank B
    April 28, 2010

    There is a reason President Obama made a deal with Big Pharma to get health care reform passed. A clearly bought and paid for Frontline!
    Blaming the internet and the spread of information is a dead give away…welcome to corporately controlled America! Wake up people.

  147. #147 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    If I were not to do anything when I’m driving and I see a red light…

    Your statement is a contradiction. The fact that you are driving means you are acting.

  148. #148 Joseph
    April 28, 2010
    If I were not to do anything when I’m driving and I see a red light…

    Your statement is a contradiction. The fact that you are driving means you are acting.

    That was weak, Sid, even for you. I could point out that by putting your children in contact with others, you are acting. So “not vaccinating” is an action, if “ignoring red light” is an action.

  149. #149 d macnin
    April 28, 2010

    I think we should consider the Handleys, McCarthys, and Kennedys in the same class as the very late duke of windsor. Til the day he died, he considered WW II a big misunderstanding; if we had only talked things out with the Nazis, all of the unpleasantness would have been avoided. These people will never be reached.

    I would also like to ask the medical types what can be done by people willing to vaccinate in communities with growing anti vax tendencies. (moving is not an option)

  150. #150 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    @Dan

    This is from 2005

    The concern arises from a hypothesis, backed by some evidence, that exposure to children with chickenpox helps increase adults’ immunity to shingles, which is caused by the same virus. With far fewer children contracting chickenpox because of the vaccine, that effect would vanish, and adults, who have by and large, not been vaccinated, would be at greater risk of shingles.

    And from 2010

    Epidemiol Infect. 2010 Apr;138(4):469-81. Epub 2009 Oct 2.
    Modelling the impact of varicella vaccination on varicella and zoster.
    Karhunen M, Leino T, Salo H, Davidkin I, Kilpi T, Auranen K.

    It has been suggested that the incidence of herpes zoster may increase due to lack of natural boosting under large-scale vaccination with the varicella vaccine. To study the possibility and magnitude of such negative consequences of mass vaccination, we built a mathematical model of varicella and zoster epidemiology in the Finnish population. ..According to the analysis, a childhood programme against varicella will increase the incidence of zoster by one to more than two thirds in the next 50 years. This will be due to increase in case numbers in the 35 years age groups. However, high vaccine coverage and a two-dose programme will be very effective in stopping varicella transmission in the population.

  151. #151 Enkidu
    April 28, 2010

    Sid, we have a vaccine for shingles which I’m sure you know. There is a billboard reminding people of this that I pass every day on my way to work.

    Also, if kids are vaxed, and not getting and spreading WT chicken pox, eventually it will die out and then no one has to worry, kid or adult, about shingles anymore.

  152. #152 maydijo
    April 28, 2010

    KR – Just yesterday I was on another, non-autism related blog, where someone made a ridiculous claim about geography – something that could be proved demonstrably false just by looking at a map – and I told her so. Her response? “Why are you being so mean to me?” This is a casual acquaintance who actually went behind my back and e-mailed mutual friends that I was “terrorising” (her word) her on her blog. Simply for pointing out that she was wrong, about something that could be proven wrong by looking at a map. Not some “areas of grey” part of truth, but a very black-and-white, true-or-false situation. The end result was that, after she called me all sorts of names and accused me to the ends of the earth of picking on her, she banned me from her blog.

    This person is also (surprise surprise) anti-vax.

    There is a certain subset of people who believe so strongly that ALL truth is relative, that they are willing to embrace a lie – even when it is shown to be a lie, through hard fact, through science, through looking at a map – rather than change their minds. Who, when confronted with the truth, will respond with, “Why are you being so mean to me? It’s MY truth and that’s what matters!” Who actually think that because something sounds right to them it must be right, and it doesn’t matter if there is a mountain of evidence stacked against them, what matters is how the lie gives them that warm-fuzzy feeling.

    It’s fun to argue with people like that – but you can’t actually change their minds. If you actually do them the courtesy of entertaining their idiocy they will see it as proof they are right; and if you shoot them down in a flaming ball of stupid they will see it as proof they are right (because prophets are always persecuted, you know). So, why not ridicule? It won’t change their minds either, but at least you’ll feel better.

  153. #153 Anne
    April 28, 2010

    The shingles vaccine is the chicken pox vaccine. It’s a misconception that exposure to someone (presumably a child) can cause shingles, it can’t, shingles is the reactivation of the cp virus. However, the opposite is true, that a person with shingles with active lesions can pass chicken pox on to a non-immune person.

  154. #154 Jud
    April 28, 2010

    Orac -

    Don’t know if you saw/heard it, but there was a very effective bit in the Frontline piece where it was noted that the neurological effects produced by mercury poisoning are nothing at all like the symptoms of autism.

    Also very much appreciated the coverage of Hviid’s careful studies showing no autism impact of MMR and thimerosal.

    Two other items in the piece that came through to me:

    - Every single time they interviewed Fisher, she was taking a book from somewhere in her office and going through it. This came across to me as an utterly transparent attempt at seeming knowledgeable and authoritative. If I’d known nothing about Fisher going in, this in itself would have made me suspicious.

    - I’d never bothered to watch the Jennings video before. It was just ludicrous: the exaggerated movements, and how it all suddenly vanished when she walked backwards! I’d wager good money any high school kids who decided not to get vaccinated on the basis of that video ain’t within sniffing distance of the honor roll. Unfortunately they serve just fine as disease vectors.

  155. #155 Rogue Medic
    April 28, 2010

    KR,

    How many people honestly find ridicule a useful tool in their arsenal of persuasion?!

    Ridicule is the right weapon when logic is ignored.

    I let my sarcasm be my umbrella. :-)

    I may have used more ridicule than Orac in my coverage of this show. I think that their coverage of Barbara Loe Fisher suggests that she is somehow a reasonable person. This is, of course, ridiculous.

    They refer to BLF as a vaccine watchdog. I point out that this is like referring to Timothy McVeigh as a government watchdog. The main difference is that BLF will probably end up producing a larger body count.

    I think it is important to point out that ridicule of the ridiculous anti-vaccination leaders is not the same as ridicule of the misinformed anti-vaccination followers.

    I think that all of us try to minimize the latter, but ridicule of the ridiculous anti-vaccination leaders is appropriate and unavoidable.

    To those not familiar with the vaccine controversy, BLF may look like a reasonable person. The successful devil, that tempts you to do something destructive/self-destructive, generally doesn’t look like a devil. The temptation looks like just a couple of drinks to unwind from a stressful day, but after years of this, increased tolerance and the long term ineffectiveness of alcohol will probably have contributed to a different problem.

    Temptation works best when it appears reasonable.

    The anti-vaccination movement tries to appear reasonable.

    If I point out that the anti-vaccinationist leaders have abandoned reason, that their approach to protecting children is unreasonable, that the anti-vaccinationist leaders are ridiculous, I do not feel any need to apologize. I may be helping to protect children from the mistakes that overwhelmed parents can make by trusting the sincere sounding, but completely wrong anti-vaccinationist leaders.

    I wrote about this today. Ignorance and Misunderstanding Science. I suspect that you will disapprove, but I would like you to realize that I am attacking the leaders.

    The anti-vaccinationist leaders are ridiculous.

    I ridicule.

    I might as well be in a Reese’s commercial.

    My biggest concern is that I do not ridicule enough.

    Other times, I do think that I maintain at least an acceptable minimum standard of ridicule. Jenny! McCarthy Announces Her Dead Baby Tour – Coming to an Abattoir Near You!

  156. #156 Seb30
    April 28, 2010

    @ 142 Sid

    “Because I have no desire to put my child at risk in order to ensure someone else can never become ill.”
    All is said.
    Ever heard of the concept “I scratch your back, your scratch my back” ? Most of these “someone else” are vaccinated, and thus put themselves at risk to ensure that your kid would never become ill.

    “neonates are protected by Mat antibodies”
    Only for about 2 months, and only for the bugs the mom was (recently) exposed too; after a while, the baby is free game for any passing virus.
    Oh, right, the mom just has to vaccinate. The same vaccines you don’t want. Do as I say…

    “immunocompromised make up a small segment of the population”
    Right, they just have to quarantine themselves forever.
    Neonates, elderly, peoples with diabetes, dialysis, cancer, HIV… Yes, just a small segment. Smaller than 50%, for sure. Where do you put the threshold for a segment to be important for you?
    All of these peoples spending more time than the average Joe around hospitals, where, surprise, there are also a lot of (sick) peoples. And most of them with relatives who would rather prefer not to bring them a nasty bug.
    You remind me of a old lady who was looking down on some disabled child: “When one has a child like this, one stays home!”
    It is always very easy to ask other peoples to sacrifice themselves.

  157. #157 Kristen
    April 28, 2010

    Seb30,

    I don’t know how long you have been reading the comments on RI, but Sid seems to be of the opinion that the “weak” need to be weeded out.

  158. #158 Sid Offit
    April 28, 2010

    @seb

    “neonates are protected by Mat antibodies”

    Only for about 2 months,
    —————
    since one is only a neonate for 1 month, those 2 months of protection seem adequate

  159. #159 gaiainc
    April 28, 2010

    Just to be clear: the chicken pox vaccine is a live virus vaccine and is not given to pregnant women.

    Shingles aka zoster is reactivation of the chicken pox aka varicella virus that has lain dormant in one of your neural ganglia (I do believe) that suddenly reactivates for whatever reason. This is why shingles affects one side of the body and not the other (though if your immune system is compromised, all bets are off). It is also why shingles hurts like heck (nerve pain is awful stuff and opiates famously do not work to block that pain) and why a person who has no immunity to chicken pox can get it from someone’s shingles lesions. The APA Red Book 2006 quotes rates of shingles after natural infection at 68 per 100,000, while rates of shingles after chicken pox vaccination at 2.6 per 100,000. They do note that the former rate is based on longer and more data. The latter is presumed due to chicken pox infection prior to the vaccination that was not clinically evident (I think that’s what it said–my colleague has my Red Book right now and I have to get the heck out of dodge).

    Scientists in Japan developed the chicken pox vaccine back in the 1970′s. It was licensed for use in Japan and Korea in 1988, 7 years before the US started using it. My son’s gotten it and I had my husband get it. The strongest argument I use with my patients is that the immunizations I give their children are the same ones I give my son. I haven’t had to use that in a long time, but when I do, it is effective.

  160. #160 Azkyroth
    April 28, 2010

    Offit thinks vaccines extended our lifespan by 30 years he must be:

    either mistaken or lying, take your pick. (Personally, I think he’s too stupid to realize how wrong he is about this.)

    When half of the people born are no longer dying before they’re five, it does tend to increase the “average lifespan” a bit. The average part is important. No one is claiming that everyone died before they were 60 before vaccines were invented, or anything equally stupid.

    As for K R, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re a false flag concern troll or a sincere coward. Any cowardice, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from sabotage attempts.

  161. #161 zoe
    April 28, 2010

    I agree with KR and Lindsay and Chris Mooney. Calling people stupid is not going to convince anybody, and I do know a couple of people who don’t vaccinate. They ended up solely taking their children to chiropractors when they were basically called stupid by their peds. Which would be fine (doesn’t affect anybody else), except children don’t have a say in what their parents decide. But maybe other commenters are right that this blog isn’t to convince anybody but more for entertainment. I certainly find it entertaining. Probably a personal taste thing, because I’m sure there are people out there who are persuaded by stronger language.

    Also, there are certain people who will never be convinced by science at all. They are primarily convinced by anecdotes and stories, which the PBS show did a good job of covering for the pro-vax side.

  162. #162 Azkyroth
    April 28, 2010

    I agree with KR and Lindsay and Chris Mooney. Calling people stupid is not going to convince anybody

    Interesting. Any comment on the several commenters here who’ve stated that their minds were changed by Orac in spite of his tone?

    Or is the prejudice that sees everyone around you as a fragile little child who has to be petted and stroked JUST SO rather than dealt with frankly like an adult too thick to recognize them?

  163. #163 Seb30
    April 28, 2010

    @154 Kristen

    Oh, I know. I was just feeling like battling some windmills tonight. You may have noticed I have a tendency for misguided hope :)

    @155 Sid
    Yeah, right. Nitpick on terminology. Scuse my French. OK, the neonate will have enough antibodies (maybe), it’s the toddler (or whatever you call an older child) which will suddenly feel naked when the maternal antibodies get depleted. It’s the same individual, and it will fit in a 1-foot coffin all the same.

    Maternal antibodies could actually last longer than 2 months, I was mistaken here. But it was not my point.
    My point was, maternal antibodies only last so much, and only protect so much. And again, only if the mother was exposed to the same bug. Eventually, the baby will have to produce its own.
    Maternal antibodies are great, but they are just antibodies. Right at birth, a baby has no B-cells ready to replenish these antibodies, and no T-cells ready to go kill virus-infected cells. Two severe limitations, especially against virus infections. Hopefully, the baby will quickly generate its own immunity, but it will take 2 to 3 weeks after exposition to the bug.

    A lot can happen in 2 weeks.
    I would rather prefer that my baby get a chance to train its B/T-cells on dead viruses (and inactive tetanotoxin) before meeting the real stuff, and ideally before the maternal antibody shield wears off.

  164. #164 zoe
    April 28, 2010

    “Interesting. Any comment on the several commenters here who’ve stated that their minds were changed by Orac in spite of his tone?”

    Yes, you are right. I should have said “not going to convince MOST PEOPLE” rather than anybody (as I stated in my last sentence in that paragraph).

  165. #165 Rogue Medic
    April 28, 2010

    Seb30,

    You’re calling me Sid? What did I ever do to deserve such disrespect? I am hurt, crushed, humiliated. Is it my writing style? Did I forget to capitalize, or did I use ALL CAPS? Did my grammar abandon me in my moment of sarcasm? Did my comment look as if someone threw feces against a wall, misinterpreted it as a Jackson Pollock, and hit Post? Oh, woe is me! ;-)

    My post had a couple of links in it, so it popped up later.

    Thanks for the giggle.

  166. #166 Chris
    April 28, 2010

    My daughter was a fully (and only) breastfed baby when she was six months old. That is when she got chicken pox from an older brother.

    Truly a miserable experience. Something I could have lived without. From a baby who slept through the night, to two weeks of pure misery 24 hours a day.

    My kindergarten age son (who was the earliest one to potty train) spent two week wetting his bed. Which made the poxes on his back inflamed.

    Since it incubates for two weeks, and generally lasts for two weeks (the one week versions are only for those who have been vaccinated)… we had it in our house for a month. We went through lots of oat meal and water.

    That was a year before the vaccine was available, and it swept through the school attended by oldest child. At least one child enrolled in the school ended up in the hospital with a real chance of losing a leg due to a secondary bacterial infection.

    Before the vaccine was available, over 100 people died from it (many were previously healthy children, and some previously healthy children still die from chicken pox). Many times due to secondary bacterial infections. Which is why when I got it as a child in the 1960s, the first treatment I got was a very close fingernail clipping (something I did to all three of my children). I really want to see data that shows the vaccine causes that kind injury.

  167. #167 Seb30
    April 28, 2010

    @165 Rogue Medic

    Oh, I do apologize.

    It should be @157 Kristen and @158 Sid, now. Hope this reference will be right.

    Nice posts, BTW, Rogue Medic. You use rhetoric like a fencing master.

    “Temptation works best when it appears reasonable.”

    Yep.

  168. #168 Chris
    April 29, 2010

    Using the post numbers here can be confusing. The numbering will change when a moderated comment is approved, or a spam comment is deleted.

    Referencing the comment with a quote is handy, because you can cut and paste the words into a find function to find the quote (though rarely I have seen quotes used from a previously banned person, and that comment gets deleted)

  169. #169 kps
    April 29, 2010

    Skeptico wrote:

    As recent as February 23rd (when I wrote this post) McCarthy was still quoted on her generation rescue site with the “And soon thereafter — boom — the soul’s gone from his eyes” quote. I note that today that page has gone.

    Gone, but not forgotten. Wayback Machine for the win.

  170. #170 Rogue Medic
    April 29, 2010

    Seb30,

    Thank you for the kind words. I enjoy your comments, as well.

    Sid is probably scrubbing his keyboard with bleach (assuming that he/she approves of bleach as a disinfectant that is naturally immune from the great conspiracy theory du jour), that is if he/she assumes there is some sort of cause and effect other than the delay due to having links included.

    Cause and effect seem to be the first thoughts that pop into the heads of the anti-vaccinationists, just without any discrimination. May his/her children be rational! ;-)

  171. #171 Andyo
    April 29, 2010

    92

    @85 Vaccine accommodationists? Don’t you think that’s a pretty disingenuous representation of people who think it might be more effective not to call other people idiots to change their minds? I don’t think anyone who has voiced concern over tone implied that not vaccinating would be acceptable or to tolerate nonsense from the antivaccinationists. The point is that when you talk to people on the fence that you should be nice and treat them with respect. You know, like you learned in kindergarten (supposedly)?

    Posted by: Lindsay | April 28, 2010 2:44 PM

    And don’t you think that yours is a disingenuous, simplistic representation of Orac’s and others’ position? Ridiculing McCarthy, Handley and Loe Fischer is pretty OK in my book. Same as ridiculing the Ken Ham, Pat Robertson and Jarry Falwell. Those idiots lost their right to be treated seriously long ago.

  172. #172 shawmutt
    April 29, 2010

    I enjoyed the show as well, although I saw different “ball drops” in addition to yours, and posted them on the Frontline episode site. They really didn’t do a good job with the Desiree Jennings story. They mentioned her disability was psychosomatic, but never really explained what that meant. It could have been construed that the woo methods (chelation and hyperbaric chamber) cured her.

    They also didn’t mention that Jenny McCarthy’s may not have even had autism, as stated in the Time article.

  173. #173 zoe
    April 29, 2010

    Andyo:
    “And don’t you think that yours is a disingenuous, simplistic representation of Orac’s and others’ position? Ridiculing McCarthy, Handley and Loe Fischer is pretty OK in my book. Same as ridiculing the Ken Ham, Pat Robertson and Jarry Falwell. Those idiots lost their right to be treated seriously long ago.”

    Maybe. I thought saying J Margulis “demonstrates burning stupidity… is irritating and moronic” goes a little far in my book, even if it’s true, even for the Orac. Then, I’m not super familiar with her, other than she’s Lynn Margulis’ daughter and a mom herself, so maybe she did deserve it. She was wrong and misinformed, but why not address the point instead/ link to past blog? (For the millionth time, granted).

    Definitely too nice to Handley though… lol/

  174. #174 mikee
    April 29, 2010

    I’m curious about some of the arguments that are being used to counter those who suggest that contempt for antivaxers is counter productive.
    It has been claimed that choosing not to treat antivaxers contemptuously is equivalent to “seeing everyone around you as a fragile little child” (#162) I disagree. I will quite happily use rational arguments with an antivaxer or other “woo” believer but see no value in name calling, smugness or contempt. A contemptuous attitude in my eperience causes most people to return the same in kind and harden their ideas.
    Name calling, calling people concern trolls or cowards doesn’t make much sense to me. More useful would be an explanation of how calling people names, either antivaxers or contributors here, is productive, other than making the author of such comments feel better about themselves by putting someone else down?

  175. #175 NZ Skeptic
    April 29, 2010

    Sid Offit said: “Because I have no desire to put my child at risk in order to ensure someone else can never become ill.”

    Sid you are sad, sick excuse for a human being. Just you go and say that to the family of my teenage friend who lived for years with leukaemia, then caught chickenpox, and died.

    Oh wait, you’re so selfish and so stupid, I bet you would!

  176. #176 Boiler Plate
    April 29, 2010

    Sometimes, you really have to use contempt. I once had a co-worker who was famously loud-mouthed and dense; kept going on at length with stupid positions. Many were on technical subjects where I had extremely firm proof that he was wrong.

    But it slowly dawned on me that trying to be polite about correcting him (as I usually do) wasn’t working, because he was emotionally driven and saw everything as a battle of wills. There is no level of polite, non-aggressive conversation or offering of fig-leafs like “misinformed” or “misunderstanding” that his ego would let him accept and say “oh, I guess reality works this other way instead.” As I put it when I realized, “it’s more important to him that he is right, than that he is right.”

    Once that realization dawned, that the only important thing to him was that he be able to leave the conversation having not surrendered his position in the slightest, I completely changed my tactics.

    ” “You know, it doesn’t work like that.” “No, really, .” “You really believe that?” “Yes, .”

    That’s funny! Hey, everyone! Come over here and listen to the guy who things ! Come on, say it!” “

    “Hahahaha! Have you ever heard anything so stupid? Say it again!”

    Guy got incredibly pissed and stormed out of the office in mid-day. Didn’t talk to me for two (blessed silence!) weeks. And for ever after was much more circumspect about making stupid assertions around me.

    One thing I’d like to point out, though: the trick wasn’t name calling per se, it was making him look ridiculous in the eyes of others. Because that, specifically, was the reinforcement his ego cherished. There was nothing I could do one on one, but “gather around everyone and laugh at the fool” was wickedly potent.

    Unfortunately, my solution presumably doesn’t work as well with with folks who have built an organization of sycophants to give them the chorus they seek.

  177. #177 Svlad Cjelli
    April 29, 2010

    Huh. Is there no one non-crazy with the name Margulis?

  178. #178 cynic
    April 29, 2010

    Todd @ 77

    Exemptions should not be given for public school attendance. If you don’t want to vaccinate, then your child can go to a private school (not exactly a new idea, but worth mentioning). Alternatively, we joked that unvaccinated children could attend public schools, but should be quarantined in negative-pressure rooms and kept separated from other kids.

    Most anti-vaxxers I know don’t have a problem with this… the problem they have, is that they pay taxes for public schools – if they pay taxes and support the school system monetarily, they should be able to go… or get that money refunded in some way.

    If we’re going to run around and be irrational about infectious disease and what prevents it (the more accurate phrase would be “what prevents symptoms“) – then the show was a success. If rabid provaxxers will not extend an olive branch to those that vaccinate on a delayed schedule (because they are mindful of their own medical history and genetics), then we’ll have more of the same. I suspect it will be more of the same.

    That said, no, you won’t convince people that are certain their child has suffered a reaction (which most of you would routinely dismiss anyway) with this kind of rhetoric. “I’m sorry your kid died but at least mine is protected” is not a message that’s being well-received.

    As more and more children have reactions (also routinely dismissed by their own doctors) people will continue to make up their own minds based on their child’s well-being, not a handful of epidemiological studies disproving an association for two components of the schedule. If you’d like to make the statement that “vaccines don’t cause autism” more relevant (and more accurate), you might suggest getting behind the idea of studying a vaccinated and unvaccinated population of children for autism prevalence. 28% unvaccinated seems like a good place to start.

  179. #179 Chris
    April 29, 2010

    cynic:

    As more and more children have reactions (also routinely dismissed by their own doctors) people will continue to make up their own minds based on their child’s well-being, not a handful of epidemiological studies disproving an association for two components of the schedule. If you’d like to make the statement that “vaccines don’t cause autism” more relevant (and more accurate), you might suggest getting behind the idea of studying a vaccinated and unvaccinated population of children for autism prevalence. 28% unvaccinated seems like a good place to start.

    What evidence do you have that more children are having reactions? Really, show us the data.

    Well, Oregon would be an interesting place to check if vaccines cause autism… because it has the highest autism prevalence in the USA.

  180. #180 Chris
    April 29, 2010

    Forgot to mention, “not a handful of epidemiological studies disproving an association for two components of the schedule.” is a classic moving the of the goalposts.

    As far as your study suggestion, you should petition Handley, McCarthy, Blaxil, Redwood and others to pay for this suggested study.

  181. #181 Natalie
    April 29, 2010

    Most anti-vaxxers I know don’t have a problem with this… the problem they have, is that they pay taxes for public schools – if they pay taxes and support the school system monetarily, they should be able to go… or get that money refunded in some way.

    I don’t even have children and I pay taxes that support public education systems. Suck it up.

    (the more accurate phrase would be “what prevents symptoms”)

    How, precisely, is this phrase more accurate?

    “I’m sorry your kid died but at least mine is protected” is not a message that’s being well-received.

    How many fatal vaccination reactions have occurred in the US in the last, say, 25 years?

    As more and more children have reactions

    [citation needed]

  182. #182 cynic
    April 29, 2010

    Chris @

    What evidence do you have that more children are having reactions? Really, show us the data.

    Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I know what you mean, when doctors aren’t even required to report adverse reactions to the only system in place to track them, then there certainly is a problem there. I guess the difference between you and I, is that I’m not going to dismiss the fact that people are reporting their children having reactions (and some that go unreported)… and you are.

    I’d be happy to see Prometheus involved in that kind of study, actually, since he’s one of the only intellectually honest people involved in this debate. If the other people you’ve mentioned actually pay for such a study, you would dismiss it based on that alone such as they do when the shoe is on the other foot. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, and since it has the potential to silence the issue of autism and vaccines, I thought the skeptical community would support it.

    is a classic moving the of the goalposts.

    Uh, nope. I’ve read the studies constantly used to exonerate TCVs and MMR… You cannot claim that “vaccines don’t cause autism”. You can claim that TCVs and MMR have been studied on a population level in other countries and showed no association, and that’s all you can claim. Those studies have some flaws as well, hence my statement which was entirely relevant. You are free to be convinced by the battery of data. You cannot make others do the same.

    Natalie @181 I don’t even have children and I pay taxes that support public education systems. Suck it up.

    Neither do, and so do I – put your snob away. The difference, is that I’m not injecting my opinion on public health as a matter of attendance. When you start telling people what to do while taking their money, some of them won’t like it.

    How, precisely, is this phrase more accurate?

    Because clinical disease is defined by symptomalogy. If a person exhibits no symptoms, does this mean they are not capable of spreading disease? Certainly not (vaccination status is irrelevant). Last I checked, vaccine efficacy is measured by seriopositivity – unless you’re privy to some conveniently unethical direct infection studies I’ve missed? If you’re going to define who is ill, and who is not, by symptom expression alone (and usually exclude the possibility of having a disease that you’ve been vaccinated against only because you’ve been vaccinated) then vaccines have definitely shown to reduce symptoms in the vaccinated. But that’s all you’ve shown.

    How many fatal vaccination reactions have occurred in the US in the last, say, 25 years?

    Bait much? How about I show you data from the only crappy system we have set up to record such events and then you tell me that you submitted your own report as Betty Boop. As far as I can tell, the medical profession is in denial that it even happens. Are they rare? Maybe… not any more so than staph sepsis from chicken pox. I’d have to check the USCFC, but then you’ll tell me that since it’s a no-fault system, I’ve proved nothing. So tell me… what’s the point of your question?

  183. #183 Shay
    April 29, 2010

    You know what’s ironic? Not one of the mothers interviewed on this program would dream of second-guessing her car mechanic or hairdresser the way she does her pediatrician. Because medicine is like, y’know, easy.

  184. #184 JohnV
    April 29, 2010

    @sid

    a few quick questions. since you have no interest in your child getting vaccinated for the sake of herd immunity, have you considered moving somewhere where vaccination compliance is extremely low? or are you content to freeload off of the rest of the populace getting vaccinated?

    also, can you briefly summarize which types of antibodies cross the placenta and which are present in breast milk? there will be immunology implications, but i’ll do that part of the assignment :p

  185. #185 Chris
    April 29, 2010

    cynic:

    Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    You made a claim. It is up to you to back it up.

    By the way, claims can be made to VAERS by anyone. Which means your statement “when doctors aren’t even required to report adverse reactions to the only system in place to track them” is silly. Of course, that is one of its flaws. Especially when a guy in the UK can use VAERS to report that a vaccine turned his daughter into Wonder Woman.

    Provide actual evidence. Argument by blatant assertion has gotten a bit old and tiresome, and will be ignored.

    If you want a specific study, then get the money to pay for it. If Handley can pay for full page newspaper ads and several websites (and perhaps Olmsted’s salary), and if Bernard could pay for Kirby to write his book, and if Blaxill could pay to get his silly paper written with his SafeMinds friens published in Medical Hypothesis almost ten years ago… I am sure they can cobble together enough funds to pay for the study they are screaming about.

    Stop wasting public funds on your fairy tale theories that could be better used for fully funding IDEA and providing transition programs for disabled adults like my son.

  186. #186 Vicki
    April 29, 2010

    Cynic–

    Do you have any evidence that more reactions are being reported? Or is this like someone claiming that X disease/problem is now more common because they know someone whose child has it, without any comparison to how many children had it 10 or 20 or 100 years ago?

    Maybe there are more reactions. Maybe there are fewer. Maybe the per capita rate is the same, and it only looks more common because there are more people.

  187. #187 KMiller
    April 29, 2010

    KR, you are correct, but I am afraid it usually falls on deaf ears here. The information here can be valuable, but it will never do any good for the people who really need the info. The skeptics here are wrong to think you cannot reason with anti-vaccs…you most certainly can! I do it every single day, and most of them listen! I may be a doctor/scientist/skeptic, but communication is the key. These parents are scared, uneducated in this area, sometimes combative, and some are clinging to a shred of information(albeit, not true) for survival. You will never reach them (educate them) be pounding stupidity in their face. To be fair, Orac’s blog is supposed to be insolent, so it isnt a good place for parents to do their research. However, for so many people who claim they want to ‘educate’ the public and stop the anti vaccs, they need to admit that this forum will never do that. Unfortunately, when parents do find this site, it usually ‘bullies’ them even deeper into their anti-vaccination stance. Those are the unintended consequences that some here should not be proud of. I do use the information here and pass it on, but I would never recommend a parent come to this site. Yes, this is ‘actual concern’ for the need for vaccination programs.

  188. #188 Natalie
    April 29, 2010

    Bait much? How about I show you data from the only crappy system we have set up to record such events and then you tell me that you submitted your own report as Betty Boop. As far as I can tell, the medical profession is in denial that it even happens. Are they rare? Maybe… not any more so than staph sepsis from chicken pox. I’d have to check the USCFC, but then you’ll tell me that since it’s a no-fault system, I’ve proved nothing. So tell me… what’s the point of your question?

    The point? The point is that you made a claim (children die of vaccine reactions) and I expect you to support it. It’s quite obvious from your answer that you actually can’t support your claim. Until you can, your objections to whatever your objecting to (a specific vaccine? some combination of vaccines? “too many, too soon”? Who know!) have no validity.

    BTW, it’s incredibly rich to accuse me of baiting when your claim was made in a ridiculous strawman assertion. Perhaps you should trundle back to AOA or mothering.com or whatever hole you crawled out of – they won’t let any of the mean scientists ask you questions over there.

  189. #189 Pablo
    April 29, 2010

    Most anti-vaxxers I know don’t have a problem with this… the problem they have, is that they pay taxes for public schools – if they pay taxes and support the school system monetarily, they should be able to go… or get that money refunded in some way.

    As Natalie notes, the childless demonstrate why this is incorrect. When you pay taxes for school, you are not paying for your child to go there. Everyone is contributing to the education of everyone’s children.

    (Everyone paying property taxes that is)

    This is the same fallacy that the school voucher people make. “I pay the money, I should get to determine where it goes.” Nope, you don’t. Then again, I’ll tell you what. We’ll figure out how much you pay, divide it by the total number of kids that are supported, and we’ll give you a voucher for that much. But just because you pull your kid out of the school does not give you the right to stop paying for everyone else.

  190. #190 mikee
    April 29, 2010

    “Guy got incredibly pissed and stormed out of the office in mid-day. Didn’t talk to me for two (blessed silence!) weeks. And for ever after was much more circumspect about making stupid assertions around me.” Boilerplate #176

    Boilerplate, it is interesting to hear an example of where contempt has worked, although applying an argument I’ve seen here often is that it is anecdotal evidence. It would be interesting to see if any psychology studies have been done on the use of contempt to change people’s minds.
    However, I do wonder if you have actually changed your colleagues view or whether he just doesn’t mention them around you and continues to promote them elsewhere. Still, at least you don’t have to hear them.
    Glad you don’t go in for name calling. I’m a little bit disappointed that if some one on here even raises the possibility of only debating an antivaxxer with rational arguments and not insults or contempt they can be called a vaccine apologist, coward etc.
    I do hope you don’t live in a country where people have ready access to weapons. I would have thought a colleague storming out of work could be a prelude to someone going “postal”

  191. #191 Pieter B
    April 29, 2010

    KR expresses concern about ridiculing anti-vaxers.

    How does he feel about anti-vaxers making death threats against Dr. Paul Offit and others?

  192. #192 Dangerous Bacon
    April 29, 2010

    KMiller:“Unfortunately, when parents do find this site, it usually ‘bullies’ them even deeper into their anti-vaccination stance.”

    Really? How do you get to this conclusion? I’ve seen parents post here who reported being on the fence or even holding antivax views before, who were convinced otherwise by all the good evidence for vaccine safety repeatedly presented here.

    I have found it unfortunately common for antivaxers (and defenders of all sorts of non-evidence based convictions) when visiting sites such as these to zero in on any rude comments, and ignore the vast majority of posts which are civil and informative. It’s a common technique with which to dismiss evidence one does not like.

    Truly, if insults and demeaning remarks were the deciding factor in what one believes about vaccines, antivaxers would have extremely little support. In addition to the falsehoods they promulgate, they include some of the nastiest, most vituperative characters I’ve ever run across online.

  193. #193 squirrelelite
    April 29, 2010

    @blueMaxx 114,

    Thanks for the Waldorf references. Seriously, orac should do a good Friday Dose of Woo on anthroposophic medicine. It’s sort of a weird cross between homeopathy and standard medicine started in Germany about 100 years ago. I guess that makes it the Old German Medicine!

    Anyway, I was sort of curious because I used to work near a Waldorf school and just figured they were a sort of touchy-feely place that emphasized early pre-school and music or something like that. (It’s been a while.) But, I was curious about anthroposophic so I clicked on a link to find out what they meant and got a long spiel that said it’s too complicated to explain so go read Steiner. Then, they rambled on and on about reincarnation and Karma and what-all. And, I thought, just give me the dimethylnitrosamine and get it over with. (That was my previous Google search from watching CSI:NY last night.) Nasty stuff.

    So I went to Wikipedia instead and found that it “postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development—more specifically through cultivating conscientiously a form of thinking independent of sensory experience.”

    Actually, I’m a little surprised one of them hasn’t showed up on one of our science vs religion debates to tell us about this spiritual world accessible to direct experience! But, doesn’t independent of sensory experience sound a little like sensory deprivation torture? Are they really doing that to little kids?

  194. #194 Televisionless Conservative
    April 29, 2010

    Well crap! I used to watch a litle PBS from time to time. Even though I didn’t believe half of what they say, I still like the thrill getting to laugh at people who don’t shave or comb their hair and then say we evolved from monkeys.

    Now I cannot get PBS becuase I have government run television (Digital converter box), so I do not get to watch these programs. I will have to admit that Frontline is actually a pretty good show. Nova on the other hand is a waste of time and resources.

    Back to government run television, aka – damned converter box. If the government screwed up televison, just imgaine what HELLthcare is going to be like. What a screwed up government we have. I believe in change – CHANGE IT BACK!

    I hear people tell me to just get cable or satellite. I cannot do that. I have a job and have to work for a living. Maybe if I was poor enough to be on welfare I could afford to get satellite or cable. I have to pay most of my check in taxes so that takes away the ability for me to afford luxuries like cable televison. See what happens when government runs everything? Obama lies and capitalism dies. If I could keep at 25 % more of what i make I could do real well. As long as the government steals it from me every week, I doubt if I will ever do as well as those who do not ay taxes or work. Socialism is an ass that stinks like a dead hog.

  195. #195 Chris
    April 29, 2010

    You obviously have internet, so watch it online.

    If you are using a phone modem, go somewhere with free wi-fi. If you only have a desktop without wi-fi then go to your local library and check out a terminal for an hour.

    If you “most of my check in taxes” then hire an honest tax preparer. “Most” means more than 50%, which means you must be making a whole lot more money than most of us!

  196. #196 Chris
    April 29, 2010

    I have to pay most of my check in taxes so that takes away the ability for me to afford luxuries like cable televison.

    The definition of “most” is more than 50%. The maximum tax Federal Income Rate is 35%. That is less than 50%.

    Some suggestions:

    1) Get someone who knows what they are doing to prepare your tax return. You can achieve that extra 25% by filing a proper return if (in fact) over half of your paycheck is going to taxes, that way you will get a refund of the overage (in the USA the only folks even coming close to a 35% tax bracket earn over $200000 per year!).

    2) Learn about tax breaks, like for college tuition. If you have a really sucky job that pays by the week, get a better education. You can get a tax break when you pay college tuition. You might also learn how to do your own taxes.

    3) Watch the program online. Just follow the links. If you are on the internet with a phone modem (not DSL, that would be fine), just go to your local library and check out a computer terminal for an hour. With a library card you will have access to high speed internet.

    4) Sell some stuff to raise the $50 to $60 to by a converter. What I am using is the satellite box from a failed satellite company, Voom (which I noticed are selling on Ebay for about $60).

    5) Get a TV-tuner card for your computer (yeah, unless you are only accessing this site from the library, we figure you own a computer). They range from $60 go $160, but with the added feature of allowing you to record to your computer (or to the external hard drive that is part of the more expensive one).

    6) Actually learn about the subject you are whining about.

  197. #197 dogmatichaos
    April 30, 2010

    God Damn it. I just started watching the Frontline special, and saw that it hit too close to home: Ashland, Oregon, about two hours away from my hometown. My head almost exploded when the first mother started talking about how she’d rather have her child “naturally” catch a disease and how it’s better because it’s “natural”…it’s painful being that close to burning levels of stupid. There’s a reason articles about science should be written by people with degrees in science, and not English.

  198. #198 Muzz
    April 30, 2010

    Televisionless Conservative gets my vote for Poe of the Year so far.

  199. #199 cynic
    April 30, 2010

    Natalie @188

    (children die of vaccine reactions)

    Where did I say that? That’s right, reading challenged, I didn’t. I said more and more children are having them. We have a shitty system in place to track the reactions, and the GAO in collusion with the CDC reports that less than 10% are actually reported. Parents are claiming it, and people like you are slamming the door in their face. A wonderful tactic to get them to contribute to herd immunity.

    I DID put a sentence in quotations that summarized what I read on a parenting board three days ago though when a calloused skeptic (no shortage of them here) showed absolutely no remorse for Ian Gromowski who died tragically and unnecessarily from a birth dose of hep B.

    it’s incredibly rich to accuse me of baiting when your claim was made in a ridiculous strawman assertion. Perhaps you should trundle back to AOA or mothering.com or whatever hole you crawled out of – they won’t let any of the mean scientists ask you questions over there

    Where was my strawman? I made the claim that more and more children are having reactions. And you want me to prove that how? (why else would you ask me to prove something that cannot be proven except to bait me?) The only way to prove that is to listen to the parents and put a system in place to deal with the reactions. When people mock (like you aptly demonstrated with that Wonder Woman bit, Chris) the only system in place to track reactions and have a no-fault judicial system in place exempting vaccine makers from discovery, how on Earth can anyone prove anything by regular evidentiary standards? You either believe the parents that are claiming they are happening, or you don’t. Not believing them, after they have participated in the vaccine program, is selfish to the utmost degree. It tells them that you don’t care what happened to their kids, and that they don’t matter. If you don’t believe me that this message isn’t being well received, perhaps you should trot your snobby little self on over to a place where real parents (you know, the people you’re trying to convince to vaccinate their kids) actually engage each other in a meaningful way.

  200. #200 Enkidu
    April 30, 2010

    Cynic: If you have no data that more reactions are occurring, why say that they are? Just because the tracking system is shoddy doesn’t mean that you can make up your own “facts.”

  201. #201 Todd W.
    April 30, 2010

    @cynic

    have a no-fault judicial system in place exempting vaccine makers from discovery

    You say that as if people are not allowed to pursue cases in the regular court system. News flash, they can. True, they need to go through the vaccine court first, but if they wish to reject the ruling and pursue civil or criminal suits against the manufacturer, that is completely within their rights.

    The vaccine court allows people much faster addressing of their complaint and avoids the regular court system from getting bogged down in suits that can be handled quite adequately by the special courts.

    I find it humorous, and a bit disturbing, that people with antivax sentiments complain about the vaccine court, which Barbara Loe Fisher herself helped to establish!

  202. #202 Televisionless Conservative
    April 30, 2010

    Chris,

    Filing a tax return has nothing to do with it. I still haveto pay too many taxes. Federal income, state, medicare, social security, medicaid, health insurance (I count it as a federal tax since it is now illegal to be without it).

    Lower my federal income tax by 50%, get me out of social security altogether, let me drop my insurance, and get me out of medicare altogether. Then I will have the money to improve the economy by buying products that I need and want. The more government steals from people, the less people have to spend and the more the economy suffers. That’s how the real world works.

    I do not wish to go bak to college. Had enough of that, also cannot afford it.

    I want a permanent tax break for life.

    I cannot get DSL where I live.

    I have a digital tv, but it will not pick up the same programs as my real tv did. I tried the digital converter box. It sucked. I lost 4 channels and gained three that I did not want. I want my Andy Griffith Show back dammit.

    The stupid incompetent government should have never got into the broadcasting business to start with, they should have been focused on the econmy and protecting us from foreign threats like the constitution says.

    I know about the subject I am “whining” about. I actually live it.

    I say we dump the digital crap and put back the way it was. and make it illegal to ever change it again. I guess making television digital is far more important than keeping out Mexican drug cartels and Islamofascist terrorists though.

  203. #203 Science Mom
    April 30, 2010

    I said more and more children are having them. We have a shitty system in place to track the reactions, and the GAO in collusion with the CDC reports that less than 10% are actually reported. Parents are claiming it, and people like you are slamming the door in their face. A wonderful tactic to get them to contribute to herd immunity.

    @cynic, how do you know that more children are experiencing vaccine reactions if, at the same time, you report that a fraction of them are being reported? There is no ‘collusion’; VAERS can be filled out by anyone, including parents and all claims are followed up on provided they have sufficient contact information.

    I DID put a sentence in quotations that summarized what I read on a parenting board three days ago though when a calloused skeptic (no shortage of them here) showed absolutely no remorse for Ian Gromowski who died tragically and unnecessarily from a birth dose of hep B.

    I have not seen any formal report of that child having died from his Hep B vaccine. The child had sepsis amongst other problems both post and prenatally. Of course people are saddened by the death of an infant but it is disingenuous of you to cry ‘foul’ when you have absolutely no proof of a vaccine-related death.

    The only way to prove that is to listen to the parents and put a system in place to deal with the reactions. When people mock (like you aptly demonstrated with that Wonder Woman bit, Chris) the only system in place to track reactions and have a no-fault judicial system in place exempting vaccine makers from discovery, how on Earth can anyone prove anything by regular evidentiary standards?

    Do you even reside on this planet? There is a system in place to report reactions and there is a system in place to compensate those that were presumptively harmed by vaccines. Instigated by BLF herself as someone mentioned and because they aren’t cutting a blank check to anyone that files a petition, she’ upset, boo-hoo.

    NVICP has a much lower burden of proof, petitioner litigation expenses are paid for if their petition is filed in good faith (most are found to be) and take a much shorter time to resolution than full-tort litigation. What is your complaint with that? Not working out quite the way YOU think it should? Furthermore, as someone else mentioned, petitioners are free to seek remedy directly against vaccine manufacturers after they seek the remedy of NVICP.

  204. #204 mikee
    April 30, 2010

    KR wrote:

    As a fellow skeptic, I must admit I rather despise these poisonous, unsympathetic if not outright contemptuous articles.

    KR, the tone of your message is little better than those you criticise. I think you have some good points to make but saying you dispise someone is hardly respectful.

    Vindaloo replied:

    So K R says fix autism, don’t wage war on scientific illiteracy, pseudoscience, and, in this case, Handley-Gordonesque snake oil.

    Sorry , vindaloo but thats a strawman. All KR is arguing for rational debate with out the name calling and denigration of our opponents. As far as I can see he still thinks we must challenge those who advocate “woo”
    A number of other posters also produced similar strawmen in response to KR’s points, a bit disappointing for a skeptical blog.

  205. #205 Chris
    April 30, 2010

    TC/Medicien Man/not Dr. Smart, get over yourself. Throw out the TV and learn how to read a book.

  206. #206 ebohlman
    April 30, 2010

    Just to amplify on what Science Mom wrote, in the no-fault vaccine court the petitioner’s burden of proof is merely to demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence that the vaccine caused the alleged harm. In regular civil litigation, the plaintiff would not only have to demonstrate that, they’d also have to demonstrate either that the manufacturer of the vaccine was negligent or that the vaccine used was defective. The manufacturer would be off the hook if it turned out that the vaccine recipient had a known but rare reaction to the vaccine, a reaction that that was listed as a possibility in the vaccine’s labeling. In vaccine court, those reactions are called “table injuries” and simply documenting that the kid did in fact receive the vaccine and did in fact experience the symptoms listed in the table is enough to get an award.

  207. #207 Joseph
    April 30, 2010

    I said more and more children are having them.

    @cynic: If you think that’s what VAERS shows, you’re completely wrong. VAERS autism reports peaked in 2002, and cases filed with the vaccine court peaked in 2003.

    Not that it would be a good measure of actual reactions. It’s easy to show that VAERS autism reports track media coverage of anti-vaccination topics. At best, it’s a measure of how well the anti-vaccine movement is doing in its PR campaign.

  208. #208 Chris
    April 30, 2010

    Joseph:

    At best, it’s a measure of how well the anti-vaccine movement is doing in its PR campaign.

    Or how many lawyers were looking at “vaccine injury” as a cash cow. Note this paper: Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System Reporting Source: A Possible Source of Bias in Longitudinal Studies

    RESULTS. In recent years, most case reports to VAERS that were related to overdose, neuropathy, and thimerosal were related to litigation. Many cases that were related to autism and mental retardation were as well.

  209. #209 Joseph
    April 30, 2010

    Or how many lawyers were looking at “vaccine injury” as a cash cow.

    @Chris: Or how many people SafeMinds was sending to lawyers due to its PR campaign in 2002. See their May 2002 homepage and pay particular attention to the “Late Breaking Lawsuit Info” link at the top of the page.

  210. #210 Chris
    April 30, 2010

    I think I remember that. I remember that was the lawyer who went after ritalin, and had some kind of scary “ritalinfraud” website, and then added a “thimerosalfraud” website to solicit clients. Poking about I found this webpage which had this paragraph:

    Then, out of the blue, Bothwell’s old boss called and said he had something she needed to see. Andy Waters had left Los Angeles to set up his own law firm, Waters & Kraus, in Dallas. But he had kept in touch over the years and knew that Frisk and Katrina had autism. The document Waters wanted to show Bothwell was a report called Autism: A Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning. It claimed that children were being exposed to unsafe levels of mercury because of an ingredient called Thimerosal used in vaccines. “She was the first person I thought of when I saw it,” Waters says. He went on to ask Bothwell to help him open a new Los Angeles office. She agreed, but on the condition that Waters take on the Thimerosal case. Within a few months he had filed the first Thimerosal lawsuit in civil court.

    Which pretty much makes me think that Blaxill, Bernard, and friends wrote that silly paper to support a lawsuit. Just like the research they funded, including Burbacher’s primate study.

    And what is interesting about that study is that Bernard could not find the evil thimerosal containing vaccines, and put a request up on the Autism-Mercury Yahoo group in 2001:

    A group of university-based researchers needs several vials of the older DTaP vaccine formulations which contained thimerosal for a legitimate research study. If anyone knows an MD who might have some of these vaccines or knows where to get them, please email me privately.

    Which brings me up to a question I asked earlier: If they want the vax/unvax study, why don’t they pay for it? SafeMinds paid for other studies, why not the one they keep screaming about?

  211. #211 cynic
    April 30, 2010

    SM@ 203 VAERS can be filled out by anyone, including parents and all claims are followed up on provided they have sufficient contact information.

    The point, is that physicians are not required to file said reports. Exactly what might a person be met with by using VAERS to substantiate the deaths reported to VAERS for the alleged injuries?

    The child had sepsis amongst other problems both post and prenatally. Of course people are saddened by the death of an infant but it is disingenuous of you to cry ‘foul’ when you have absolutely no proof of a vaccine-related death.

    No contraindication for this vaccine I suppose, and evidently impossible for it to have created a burden that could not be overcome. This only happens with vaccine preventable diseases after all and we only blame the victim when there are vaccines involved. Check.

    Do you even reside on this planet? There is a system in place to report reactions and there is a system in place to compensate those that were presumptively harmed by vaccines. Instigated by BLF herself as someone mentioned and because they aren’t cutting a blank check to anyone that files a petition, she’ upset, boo-hoo.

    Yes. I do and I waive the same wooden spoon around that you do. The system is garbage and BLF’s role in its passage is reprehensible. Believe it or not, not everyone that questions vaccine safety holds her dishonest derriere upon a pedastal.

    NVICP has a much lower burden of proof, petitioner litigation expenses are paid for if their petition is filed in good faith (most are found to be) and take a much shorter time to resolution than full-tort litigation. What is your complaint with that? Not working out quite the way YOU think it should? Furthermore, as someone else mentioned, petitioners are free to seek remedy directly against vaccine manufacturers after they seek the remedy of NVICP.

    Yes, it does have a lower burden of proof. And when a petitioner is granted compensation, skeptics remind of us of the lower burden of proof as a means to avoid addressing whether or not the vaccine was causative in the injury. I know they are free to seek remedy through the civil courts, and those that have the money to do so will.

  212. #212 cynic
    April 30, 2010

    SM@ 203 VAERS can be filled out by anyone, including parents and all claims are followed up on provided they have sufficient contact information.

    The point, is that physicians are not required to file said reports. Exactly what might a person be met with by using VAERS to substantiate the deaths reported to VAERS for the alleged injuries?

    The child had sepsis amongst other problems both post and prenatally. Of course people are saddened by the death of an infant but it is disingenuous of you to cry ‘foul’ when you have absolutely no proof of a vaccine-related death.

    No contraindication for this vaccine I suppose, and evidently impossible for it to have created a burden that could not be overcome. This only happens with vaccine preventable diseases after all and we only blame the victim when there are vaccines involved. Check.

    Do you even reside on this planet? There is a system in place to report reactions and there is a system in place to compensate those that were presumptively harmed by vaccines. Instigated by BLF herself as someone mentioned and because they aren’t cutting a blank check to anyone that files a petition, she’ upset, boo-hoo.

    Yes. I do and I waive the same wooden spoon around that you do. The system is garbage and BLF’s role in its passage is reprehensible. Believe it or not, not everyone that questions vaccine safety holds her dishonest derriere upon a pedastal.

    NVICP has a much lower burden of proof, petitioner litigation expenses are paid for if their petition is filed in good faith (most are found to be) and take a much shorter time to resolution than full-tort litigation. What is your complaint with that? Not working out quite the way YOU think it should? Furthermore, as someone else mentioned, petitioners are free to seek remedy directly against vaccine manufacturers after they seek the remedy of NVICP.

    Yes, it does have a lower burden of proof. And when a petitioner is granted compensation, skeptics remind of us of the lower burden of proof as a means to avoid addressing whether or not the vaccine was causative in the injury. I know they are free to seek remedy through the civil courts, and those that have the money to do so will.

  213. #213 Science Mom
    May 1, 2010

    SM@ 203 VAERS can be filled out by anyone, including parents and all claims are followed up on provided they have sufficient contact information.

    The point, is that physicians are not required to file said reports. Exactly what might a person be met with by using VAERS to substantiate the deaths reported to VAERS for the alleged injuries?

    No, you made a claim that there was collusion keeping VAERS reports down. I would like to see more physicians filing them since it increases the quality of the report, but the fact remains that parents are free to fill them out. The CDC follows up on all reports to substantiate them and obtain more information in order to determine if there is a pattern. Even with the low number of reports, Rotashield was pulled as a result of VAERS.

    The child had sepsis amongst other problems both post and prenatally. Of course people are saddened by the death of an infant but it is disingenuous of you to cry ‘foul’ when you have absolutely no proof of a vaccine-related death.

    No contraindication for this vaccine I suppose, and evidently impossible for it to have created a burden that could not be overcome. This only happens with vaccine preventable diseases after all and we only blame the victim when there are vaccines involved. Check.

    That’s a load of shit and you know it, or should. I’m not blaming the victim, that’s a strawman. I’m merely pointing out that the baby had numerous problems prior to and associated with things other than the vaccine. And since you are drawing conclusions from a blogpost, instead of trying to find a formal or authoritative report, you are being very disingenuous.

    Do you even reside on this planet? There is a system in place to report reactions and there is a system in place to compensate those that were presumptively harmed by vaccines. Instigated by BLF herself as someone mentioned and because they aren’t cutting a blank check to anyone that files a petition, she’ upset, boo-hoo.

    Yes. I do and I waive the same wooden spoon around that you do. The system is garbage and BLF’s role in its passage is reprehensible. Believe it or not, not everyone that questions vaccine safety holds her dishonest derriere upon a pedastal.

    I don’t know what TWWS has to do with anything unless you would like to continue this conversation over there ;). Well then, why don’t you tell me what an acceptable compensation scheme would be if you think the current one is so terrible and unfair.

    NVICP has a much lower burden of proof, petitioner litigation expenses are paid for if their petition is filed in good faith (most are found to be) and take a much shorter time to resolution than full-tort litigation. What is your complaint with that? Not working out quite the way YOU think it should? Furthermore, as someone else mentioned, petitioners are free to seek remedy directly against vaccine manufacturers after they seek the remedy of NVICP.

    Yes, it does have a lower burden of proof. And when a petitioner is granted compensation, skeptics remind of us of the lower burden of proof as a means to avoid addressing whether or not the vaccine was causative in the injury. I know they are free to seek remedy through the civil courts, and those that have the money to do so will.

    You’re quite the turd merchant aren’t you? Here is your quote that I responded to:

    “The only way to prove that is to listen to the parents and put a system in place to deal with the reactions. When people mock (like you aptly demonstrated with that Wonder Woman bit, Chris) the only system in place to track reactions and have a no-fault judicial system in place exempting vaccine makers from discovery, how on Earth can anyone prove anything by regular evidentiary [sic] standards?”

    There are table injuries that are known vaccine reactions, no one disputes those. For instance, I haven’t seen anyone dispute a vaccine-association for Bailey Banks. There are others, that yes, are questionable. That has absolutely nothing to do with your claim that NVICP exempts vaccine manufacturers and has a low burden of proof, which is an odd complaint indeed. You really make no sense as far as NVICP goes.

  214. #214 cynic
    May 1, 2010

    SM,

    Even with the low number of reports, Rotashield was pulled as a result of VAERS.

    This runs contradictory to the claim made by most skeptics, Orac being one of them, that VAERS is nearly useless and proves nothing. Either we have a useful system in place to deal with reactions or we don’t. We don’t.

    That’s a load of shit and you know it, or should. I’m not blaming the victim, that’s a strawman

    The hell you aren’t. A week old infant has underlying issues and is some idiot administers the birth dose of Hep b. Yet, it wasn’t the vaccine or the dumbfuck who administered it, it was the child and his existing condition (that was exacerbated by an unnecessary vaccine). Paint it however you want, you are rejecting the vaccine’s role in this tragedy.

    But I’ll tell you what’s disingenuine…exonerating a vaccine given hours before the rapid deterioration of this child, when all it takes is a clinical diagnosis of the flu… complication and death from pneumonia, then we have a flu-associated death.

    Or a child that suffers complications from a self-limiting disease and someone points out that they shouldn’t have had antipyretics adminstered in excess, then that someone is considered to be blaming the victim. There’s very little difference here.

    You’re quite the turd merchant aren’t you? Here is your quote that I responded to:

    I guess you wouldn’t be true to form without taking every possible opportunity to talk shit. As to TWWS, my point is that you should save your smackdowns for hysterical antivaxxers running around telling everyone there is antifreeze in our vaccine supply. I’m not one of them.

    That has absolutely nothing to do with your claim that NVICP exempts vaccine manufacturers and has a low burden of proof, which is an odd complaint indeed. You really make no sense as far as NVICP goes.

    Perhaps that is because you focused on one part of what I said, and either ignored or didn’t understand this:

    the only system in place to track reactions and have a no-fault judicial system in place exempting vaccine makers from discovery, how on Earth can anyone prove anything by regular evidentiary [sic] standards?”

    The key word there being discovery. It was the only thing that held Merck to the fire with Vioxx (and Pfizer with Prempro). Guess what? They make vaccines too. Don’t waive your goddamned spoon at me for being critical of a process that has extracted a necessary part of due process from the entire program. I’m not the one concealing harmful data and that has injured and killed people. And concealing said data is sure as hell NOT the way to instill confidence in a population of parents that you want to endlessly vaccinate their kids. The passage of that piece of legislation has enabled the vaccine schedule to grow exponentially, right along with the number of reactions and deaths reported to an unreliable reporting system.

    You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig.

  215. #215 D. C. Sessions
    May 1, 2010

    There are table injuries that are known vaccine reactions, no one disputes those.

    Not exactly. Quite a few of the “table injuries” are medically questionable and the causality in individual cases is extremely questionable. However, the system is set up with a deliberate bias to getting help to kids who need help. Which is fine by me — I’d much rather see all kids who need help get it without having to argue whether vaccines are involved.

  216. #216 Science Mom
    May 1, 2010

    Even with the low number of reports, Rotashield was pulled as a result of VAERS.

    This runs contradictory to the claim made by most skeptics, Orac being one of them, that VAERS is nearly useless and proves nothing. Either we have a useful system in place to deal with reactions or we don’t. We don’t

    Comprehension fail. The sceptics’ claim is that VAERS is useless to try and use as a basis for epidemiological studies, such as that dimwit duo, the Geier Boyz, try to do or the hysterical proclamations of deaths due to X vaccine by anti-vaxxers. It picked up on the rare event of intussusception that appeared to be associated with Rotashield, as it is intended to do. VAERS doesn’t ‘deal’ with reactions, it is a reporting system to detect reactions.

    That’s a load of shit and you know it, or should. I’m not blaming the victim, that’s a strawman.

    The hell you aren’t. A week old infant has underlying issues and is some idiot administers the birth dose of Hep b. Yet, it wasn’t the vaccine or the dumbfuck who administered it, it was the child and his existing condition (that was exacerbated by an unnecessary vaccine). Paint it however you want, you are rejecting the vaccine’s role in this tragedy.

    Need I remind you that you are the one trying to use a blogpost as ‘proof’ of a neonatal death due to hep b vaccination? It would behove you to know what the chain of events were and have a more authoritative source at your disposal before going off half-cocked and wagging your finger. You have absolutely no proof of the vaccine’s role in that baby’s death do you? And therein lies the problem with so many anti-vaxxers; they are only sceptical insofar as the evidence that refutes their position. And frankly, that isn’t even being sceptical, just plain biased.

    You’re quite the turd merchant aren’t you? Here is your quote that I responded to:

    I guess you wouldn’t be true to form without taking every possible opportunity to talk shit. As to TWWS, my point is that you should save your smackdowns for hysterical antivaxxers running around telling everyone there is antifreeze in our vaccine supply. I’m not one of them.

    There was no point for bringing up TWWS unless you were planning on bringing this conversation there or something relevant from there to here. If you don’t want to be spoken to as a hysterical anti-vaxxer, then don’t talk like one. You don’t have to think that anti-freeze is in vaccines to get everything else so very wrong.

    Perhaps that is because you focused on one part of what I said, and either ignored or didn’t understand this:

    “the only system in place to track reactions and have a no-fault judicial system in place exempting vaccine makers from discovery, how on Earth can anyone prove anything by regular evidentiary [sic] standards?”

    I didn’t miss anything, you have very little understanding of what VAERS and NVICP do. There are table injuries that are known vaccine reactions and saves the petitioner a lot of time and are compensate-able. So if someone is compensated for GBS following an influenza vaccine, what the fuck else do you want? How do you hold vaccine manufacturers liable for individual biology? That is what you are looking for isn’t it? Unless the product was found to be negligently manufactured and/or marketed, like Vioxx or Bextra, why are you seeking to ascribe manufacturer negligence where there is none?

    What data is concealed? Was this concealed? If you want to be taken seriously, you may want to bring specifics to the table. If you have a complaint about the CDC vaccine recommendations, they have nothing to do with NVICP and VAERS, that’s just some more hand-waving.

  217. #217 Joseph
    May 1, 2010

    Orac being one of them, that VAERS is nearly useless and proves nothing.

    Perhaps we haven’t been all too clear, then. VAERS is generally a good idea. It can be useful in detecting anomalies. Unfortunately, anomalies in VAERS can also result from things like anti-vax PR and litigation hype.

    In particular, autism submissions in VAERS are hopelessly tainted. That’s because anti-vaxers have essentially planted data in VAERS.

  218. #218 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 1, 2010
    Even with the low number of reports, Rotashield was pulled as a result of VAERS.

    This runs contradictory to the claim made by most skeptics, Orac being one of them, that VAERS is nearly useless and proves nothing. Either we have a useful system in place to deal with reactions or we don’t. We don’t.

    Wow, a perfect specimen of the false dilemma fallacy! Actually, cynic’s abuse of the fallacy is a wee bit more clever, because here are the two options he presents as the only options, rewritten to reflect his actual claims:

    * Either VAERS by itself is a useful system in place to deal with reactions, or
    * We don’t have any useful system in place to deal with reactions.

    Note that the truth is neither of the above; the truth is:

    * We have a useful system in place, of which VAERS is a useful part, despite the fact that it generates false positives (as any such system inevitably must.)

  219. #219 cynic
    May 3, 2010

    SM,

    Comprehension fail. The sceptics’ claim is that VAERS is useless to try and use as a basis for epidemiological studies, such as that dimwit duo, the Geier Boyz, try to do or the hysterical proclamations of deaths due to X vaccine by anti-vaxxers.

    Selective application of skepticism… pass. Claiming an association of deaths related to a particular vaccine based on the only system in place to track reactions is not hysterical.

    If you don’t want to be spoken to as a hysterical anti-vaxxer, then don’t talk like one. You don’t have to think that anti-freeze is in vaccines to get everything else so very wrong.

    Right. Because you say so of course.

    Need I remind you that you are the one trying to use a blogpost as ‘proof’ of a neonatal death due to hep b vaccination?

    Are you referring to the website that contains the anecdotal report of this incident with chronological photographic evidence? Yes, I’ve seen it. I also read the VAERS report. I suppose we could wait and see if they have filed a claim to be compensated (that won’t prove anything). Better yet, you could contact the parents and tell them that they haven’t enough evidence to claim their son’s death was vaccine-related and you’d like to see something authoritative. Don’t be surprised if they tell you to shove your enquiry up your arse. This is precisely the kind of sanctimonious denial that has created “The Vaccine War” in the first place, if you’d care to peer down from your soapbox long enough to realize it.

    You have absolutely no proof of the vaccine’s role in that baby’s death do you?

    Only the photographic evidence they have furnished, and their anecdotal report (that is apparently supported by their doctor). How do you think that evidence would fare in a civil court of law? Is anyone negligent for the administration of this vaccine? You bet your ass they are.

    And therein lies the problem with so many anti-vaxxers; they are only sceptical insofar as the evidence that refutes their position. And frankly, that isn’t even being sceptical, just plain biased.

    This hypocrisy is astounding. Infallible evidence required for any claim of vaccine injury, and then out of the other side of the provaxxers mouth they say that “nobody disputes certain injuries” and that the risk is not zero. Acknowledge the risk, and deny the injury, while allowing a perpetual trap door for the vaccine to escape scrutiny every time. Put that shoe on the other foot and have an immunocompromised individual come into contact with someone spreading infectious disease, it sure as shit isn’t their predisposition that gets blamed… it’s the closest unvaccinated kid. Consistency fail.

    How do you hold vaccine manufacturers liable for individual biology?

    If individual biology dictates who will, and who will not have an adverse event – who the fuck are we to be making decisions for OTHER children? Ah yes, let’s guilt people into vaccinating to protect others having no goddamned idea how well they will tolerate a vaccine and then scare the shit out of them by globally broadcasting every vaccine available disease in the country.

    While we are all weeping for the child with pertussis in the FRONTLINE documentary, does anyone give a shit about the 11 deaths reported to VAERS from pertussis containing vaccines? Course not, because VAERS is not a reliable source for such information… well then what is? Or is that information not important because if we stopped vaccinating for this endemic, cyclical disease then a mathematical model tells us that children are going to die? They already are.

    What data is concealed? Was this concealed? If you want to be taken seriously, you may want to bring specifics to the table. If you have a complaint about the CDC vaccine recommendations, they have nothing to do with NVICP and VAERS, that’s just some more hand-waving.

    It’s surprising what you find when you actually look for it (and it’s about fucking time). Where did I suggest that vaccine makers are concealing information regarding vaccines. This attributes to their overall trust profile in the eyes of the public. Vaccine recommendations, and the consequences of them have plenty to do with each other. If injuries (overt and otherwise) are occurring as a result of hasty recommendations, and we have an inept system in place (that some people are just now learning about decades into inflated schedule) that records these events, how on Earth will we ever be able to protect the population of children that cannot tolerate being vaccinated the day they are born, then 2 months later, then 2 months later, then 2 months later? Or do they not matter because the system is not designed to address those issues? Or do they not exist and the observed deterioration is a figment of their caregiver’s imagination and they are simply telescoping? The idea that people cannot tolerate disease and everyone must vaccine, while those sacrificed to attain immunity to said disease are disregarded and ignored is disgusting. Don’t call strawman here either, because ignoring their reports of injury and death (or calling bullshit like you are right now) relays this message perfectly.

  220. #220 cynic
    May 3, 2010

    Well SM, looks we’ll have to continue at TWWS since the comment I posted at 8:45 a.m. CST was held for moderation and never posted. There were no links, only colorful language, but then yours contained it as well so there is no reason it should have been held and never posted.

    I’ll put it in Social Networks, blogs in the “around the internet” section sometime tomorrow when I have time.

  221. #221 KM
    May 6, 2010

    219, thank you. when your healthy happy little baby spikes a fever 2 hours after the immunization and slowly becomes non-responsive over the next 3 days while you sit helplessly in the hospital, then dies, you dont need some stupid test, some stupid piece of paper to prove it was the vaccine to anybody, my child is dead. Dont forget about all the ones that died so you wouldnt get sick. DOnt forget them even if they arent written up in your data bases. Dont you dare forget those dead children. You know there are risks, so dont pretend they dont happen. Spend your time being thankful instead of cynical! Someone died for you.

  222. #222 Antaeus Feldspar
    July 26, 2010

    when your healthy happy little baby spikes a fever 2 hours after the immunization and slowly becomes non-responsive over the next 3 days while you sit helplessly in the hospital, then dies, you dont need some stupid test, some stupid piece of paper to prove it was the vaccine to anybody, my child is dead.

    The problem is that this simply isn’t true. Don’t you remember Natalie Morton? She died shortly after receiving a Gardasil vaccination and many people reasoned as you do, that if she died such a short time after the vaccination, no one needed “some stupid test, some stupid piece of paper” to prove it was the vaccine that killed her. Except that when they performed an autopsy they discovered a large malignant tumour affecting her heart and her lungs, and discovered nothing suggesting that the vaccination had played any role. All those who claimed they didn’t need the tests to know the truth… proved that they didn’t know the truth.

  223. #223 Jeanmarie
    November 1, 2010

    Terrific post, and great discussion afterwards. My two bits on the communication style question: some people are persuaded by a gentler, respectful approach to pointing out their logical fallacies, and some are persuaded by public ridicule. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
    That’s why god created blogs, so everyone could have their say.

    I personally prefer good explanations enlivened with rapier wit, without the name-calling. Unless they deserve it.

  224. #224 Answering Service
    November 1, 2010

    There is no profit in vaccines. If I were a CEO of a pharma company, I’d be more inclined to but monies toward finding the cure for AIDS for the profit than developing a permutation of some vaccine that would be more effective.

  225. #225 MattD
    January 31, 2012

    Ignorance can be dangerous, so a confrontational approach is necessary (it’s too bad, really) when the studies and facts are clear.

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