People believe a lot of wacky things. Some of these things are merely amusingly wacky, while others are dangerously wacky. Among the most dangerously wacky of things that a large number of people believe in is the idea that germ theory is invalid. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that among the most dangerously wacky of nonsense is germ theory denialism; i.e., the denial that germs are the cause of disease. Few theories in medicine or science are supported as strongly by such a huge amount of evidence from multiple disciplines that converge on the idea that microorganisms cause disease, supporting it with an interwoven web of evidence that bring germ theory about as close to a fact as a scientific theory can be. True, for different diseases it’s not always clear what the causative organism is or even if there is a causative organism, but these examples all fit into the general framework of the germ theory of infectious disease.

Yet, as is the case with other incredibly well-supported scientific theories, such as evolution, a shocking number of people still assert that microbes don’t cause disease, among them Hollywood celebrities like Bill Maher. I thought it might be worth considering the question: How on earth could people seriously deny the germ theory of disease, given how much success the application of this theory has demonstrated in decreasing mortality? Think about it! Antibiotics, modern hygiene and public health measures, and vaccines have been responsible for preventing more deaths and arguably for saving more lives than virtually any other intervention, preventative or treatment, that science-based medicine has ever devised. What “inspired” me to revisit this topic was my coming across a couple of screeds against the germ theory of disease and Louis Pasteur that remind me just how much of “alt med” is permeated with germ theory denialism.

Before we get to the fun of the screeds, the first thing I should clarify is just what we mean by the “germ theory of disease.” In most texts and sources that I’ve read, the germ theory of disease is stated something like, “Many diseases are caused by microorganisms.” We could argue whether viruses count as microorganisms, but for purposes of the germ theory they do. (Most biologists do not consider viruses to be true living organisms, because they consist of nothing more than genetic material wrapped in a protein coat and lack the ability to reproduce without infecting the cell of an organism.) Now, let’s take a look at the latest germ theory denialist idiocy I’ve come across. The first one, not surprisingly, I found on NaturalNews.com. Surprisingly, it was not written by Mike Adams, but rather by someone named Paul Fassa, who proclaims You have been lied to about germs. It should have been called “You are about to be lied to about germs.”

First, though, since this article wasn’t by the usual science-hating loon Mike Adams, I was curious just who Paul Fassa is. I had never heard of him before. It didn’t take long to find Fassa’s Twitter account and then from there his blog Health Maven, which bills itself as an “escape from the medical mafia matrix.” Interesting. Why does it appear that any time I come across a germ theory denialist like Fassa, he’s someone who uses terms like “medical mafia matrix”? I don’t know, but such people also tend to write introductory paragraphs like this:

We have been taught to fear germs, pathogens, viruses, and bacteria that invade us from out there. This is the Pasteur model of disease contagion. This creates a dependency on Big Pharma to protect us from invading microbes, each having one form (monomorphic) and creating one specific disease.

Pasteur`s model of disease won over rival Claude Bernard`s more accurate argument of the inner terrain. Pasteur`s declaration, though serving the coffers of Big Pharma, creates more questions: How come some get a disease that`s going around and others don`t? How do all these new bugs come out of nowhere to haunt us? Why do vaccines and antibiotics ultimately fail and create super bugs?

These questions are answered by understanding the inner terrain and pleomorphism.

Note how Fassa first misrepresents the Pasteur model of disease. This is common among germ theory denialists, in my experience. They tend to assume that germ theory states that pathogenic microbes are 100% infectious and always cause disease. Consequently, when people are exposed to pathogenic microbes and don’t become ill, people like Fassa point to that as evidence that germ theory is invalid. After all, the germ didn’t cause disease, at least in this one case! That must mean that all of germ theory is wrong! Concrete thinking, thy name is Fassa (and other germ theory denialists.) It’s rather odd that even most teenagers can understand that catching an infectious disease is dependent not just on the microbe but each person’s resistance to that microbe. This is the same thing that mystifies HIV/AIDS denialists, who seem to view the observation that most exposures to HIV do not result in AIDS as some sort of devastating indictment of the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS. Add to that a long asymptomatic period and highly variable rates of progression, and HIV/AIDS denialists, who are–let’s face it–really nothing more than a subtype of germ theory denialists who deny vehemently that one particular germ causes disease have all the doubt they need.

But I digress.

Also notice Fassa’s early and immediate invocation of the pharma shill gambit. If there’s another thing about germ theory denialism, it’s that those who cling to it tend to be extremely distrustful of big pharma. I realize that in many cases big pharma deserves a lot of mistrust; its record in many areas demands it. What distinguishes many of these germ theory denialists is that they take healthy skepticism and take it to a pathological extreme. They also seem to think that the reason that antibiotics ultimately fail is because germ theory is invalid, which reveals an incredible ignorance of how antibiotics work. Helloooo! Evolution? Ever heard of it? Bacteria are incredibly good at evolving under the selective pressure of antibiotics. That’s what creates superbugs, that and our tendency to overuse antibiotics. But what is the “inner terrain” and pleomorphism? This is where we find the “intellectual” basis of rejection of germ theory. As is the case with many alt-med beliefs, this basis harkens back to “ancient” knowledge (or at least 150 year old knowledge). It harkens back to Antoine Béchamp, who did indeed postulate nearly the exact opposite of what Pasteur did: that microorganisms were not the cause of disease but rather the consequence of disease, that injured or diseased tissues produced them and that it was the health of the organism that mattered, not the microorganisms.

Basically, Béchamp’s idea, known as the pleomorphic theory of disease, stated that bacteria change form (i.e., demonstrate pleomorphism) in response to disease, not as a cause of disease. In other words, they arise from tissues during disease states; they do not invade from the external world. Béchamp further proposed that bacteria arose from structures that he called microzymas, which to him referred to a class of enzymes. Béchamp postulated that microzymas are normally present in tissues and that their effects depended upon the cellular terrain. Ultimately, Pasteur’s theory won out over that of Béchamp, based on evidence, but Béchamp was influential at the time. Given the science and technology of the time, Béchamp’s hypothesis was not entirely unreasonable. It was, however, superseded by Pasteur’s germ theory of disease and Koch’s later work that resulted in Koch’s postulates. What needs to be remembered is that not only did Béchamp’s hypothesis fail to be confirmed by scientific evidence, but his idea lacked the explanatory and predictive power of Pasteur’s theory. Fassa is sort of correct about one thing, though. Béchamp’s idea was basically something like this:

The inner terrain includes our immune system, organ tissues, and blood cells. Those who stepped out of line from Pasteur`s dogma asserted that the inner terrain was more vital for remaining disease free than searching for new antibiotics and vaccines to kill bacteria and viruses.

As an analogy, flies don`t create garbage. But garbage attracts flies that breed maggots to create even more flies. Removing garbage is more effective than spraying toxic chemicals, which endanger human and animal life, around the house. Similarly, adding toxins to humans is not as effective as cleaning out the inner terrain.

As I said, there’s a grain of truth there, namely that the condition of the body and a person’s immune system does matter. Specifically, it is true that the condition of the “terrain” (the body) does matter when it comes to infectious disease. Debilitated people do not resist the invasion of microorganisms as well as strong, healthy people. Of course, another thing to remember is that the “terrain” can facilitate the harmful effect of microorganisms in unexpected ways. For example, certain strains of the flu (as in 1918 and H1N1) are more virulent in the young because the young mount a more vigorous immune response. However, latter day Béchamp worshipers fetishize this idea to the point of claiming that the “inner terrain” is all that matters and that bacteria and viruses are manifestations, not causes, of disease. It goes beyond that, though. According to Béchamp, it’s said:

Blood is alive. It is not a liquid, but a mobile tissue (Béchamp was the first to describe blood thus). The things in our blood are alive. And one thing modern medicine does not accept is that something like a bacterium can change into a yeast that can turn into a fungus that can turn into a mold. We’ve talked about this in previous newsletters; it is called pleomorphism. Pleo meaning many and morph meaning form or body.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. Bacteria cannot change into yeast or vice-versa, while yeasts are organisms in the kingdom Fungi. Dimorphic fungi can exist as a mold/hyphal/filamentous form or as yeast, but this fact does not invalidate the germ theory of disease. Indeed, some of these fungi are pathogens, such as Blastomyces dermatitidis, Histoplasma capsulatum, and Sporothrix schenckii. The misunderstanding of microbiology required to accept the rejection of germ theory in favor of Béchamp’s ideas is staggering. Yet they remain very influential. Not among scientists, of course. Science moved on a long time ago. Rather, they remain influential among cranks.

But why?

I think there are a couple of reasons. First, If it isn’t bacteria or other microbes that cause infectious disease, then vaccines are not necessary. Although their rhetoric against vaccines is often cloaked in appeals to “strengthening the immune system” or similar words, much of it, when you strip away the obfuscation and come right down to it, often denies germ theory. Second, germ theory tells us that there are some things we cannot control, and alt-med is all about the illusion of control. Germs, after all, are scary. You can be perfectly healthy, and an infectious disease can strike you down–possibly even kill you–through no fault of your own. By denying that the germs are the cause of disease, germ theory denialists can tell themselves that if they just eat the right diet, do the right exercise regimen, take the right supplements, germs can’t hurt them. Righteous living triumphs!

Too bad the real world isn’t like that and infectious diseases can kill.

Comments

  1. #1 Tony
    June 15, 2011

    Matt

    Not necessarily so Matt. But as GT is such a coherent and prevalent theory as it is made out to be in this day and age I thought that somebody somewhere would have done a good job in writing a paper on it – perhaps you would like to try? Otherwise we are left with the belief that it is just an empirical genralization that cannot be defended by a microbiology that claims to be scientifically rigorous but isn’t and is just merely a form of systematic empiricism.

  2. #2 LW
    June 15, 2011

    That’s your deep insight? In order to talk about things we have to be able to talk? Awesome.

  3. #3 Krebiozen
    June 15, 2011

    @Tony
    You are asking for a single document that proves germ theory, but that does not, to my knowledge, exist. Germ theory is built upon a foundation of many thousands of research papers over 150 years or more.

    Instead, why not look at some documents that demonstrate that polio virus is the (sine qua non) cause of polio. I provided you with links to those documents and some advice on how to read them. Have you downloaded and read them yet?

    BTW, since all forms of discourse are unreliable, perhaps you could explain your objections to germ theory, or anything else, without using one.

  4. #4 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    June 15, 2011

    Rev – I still see that you like to betray your ignorance and you still haven’t a clue what you are talking about.Nukes will still blow people up but without discourse you can’t even conceive one, talk about one, or construct one can you? Unless of course you are a magician. If I am, talking crap then why bother to reply at such length to such crap using incoherent ramblings which are still a form of discourse – unfotunately there’s no way you can wriggle out of that one.

    Tony, do you never tire of demonstrating your stupidity? You can make up all the “discourses” you want. The shamans and witch doctors constructed their medicine bags or juju or whatever according to “discourses” as well. According to you and the idiots like Foucault who have destroyed your brain, all “discourses” are created equal. Ask the people of Nagasaki about that. Unfortunately you’re such a complete blithering idiot I doubt if you’re capable of understanding the difference between “works” and “doesn’t work”. You’re just as mindless in your own annoying way an Thingy.

  5. #5 Tony
    June 15, 2011

    Narad

    Who are you conducting the “discourse” with? You’re the one niggling over the inadequacy of “empirical generalizations.”

    What has the question of WHO I am conducting discourse with got to do with my present concerns about the inadequecy of empirical generaliztions in microbiology per se? You now seem to be more preoccupied with demonstrating your thesis that ‘plural minds’ are at work rather than dealing with the issue of the inadequecy of empirical generaliztions.

  6. #6 Tony
    June 15, 2011

    Rev – Wrong again. Your rambling discourse betrays your own ignorance and frustration so when nothing much is left you resort to an ad hominem attack and brand me a ‘blithering idiot” well thanks for thar Rev.

    What do they say (whoever they are)it takes one to know one! Joke of course! One of the aims in psychoanalytic discourse is to ‘frustrate the patient’ to see what emerges from the depths of the unconscious I’d say yours is pretty interesting if what you say is associated with the discourse of microbiology!

  7. #7 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    June 15, 2011

    Your rambling discourse betrays your own ignorance

    That’s some weapons-grade projection there, stupid. Your interminable walls of impenetrable word salad betray some psychological disorder which I won’t attempt to diagnose, since unlike you, I know what I don’t know.

    you resort to an ad hominem attack

    So when you were busy absorbing all that philosophical crapola, you never learned the meaning of the term ad hominem? Calling you a blithering idiot was not an ad hominem fallacy, it was a simple insult.

    “You’re an idiot, and your argument is incorrect.” is an insult.

    “You’re an idiot, therefore your argument is incorrect.” is an ad hominem fallacy.

  8. #8 TBruce
    June 15, 2011

    Way back about 5000 comments ago I confessed that I didn’t know enough philosophy to judge whether Tony was presenting a load of bullshit (or horseshit or bollocks or fetid dingo kidneys or whatever the technical mot juste is) or not. Well now I know.

    The Philosopher King doesn’t know what the ad hominem fallacy is. Even I, the Philospher Idiot, know what ad hominem means.

    That’s freakin’ hilarious. That’s augie-level stupid. That would be like a self-proclaimed microbiologist referring to the MRSA virus.

    Tony, you really should be doing that sort of stuff in private, with the door locked and the curtains drawn.

  9. #9 augustine
    June 15, 2011

    TVRBK

    “You’re an idiot, and your argument is incorrect.” is an insult.

    “You’re an idiot, therefore your argument is incorrect.” is an ad hominem fallacy.

    Did you just make that up yourself or did you hear another science blogger say it and therefore justified yourself?
    If you call someone an idiot, quack, moron, etc., it IS an Ad Hominem ATTACK because you are IMPLYING that they are NOT to be trusted in what they say without directly dealing with the specific statement they say. Even if you mention the statement and attempt to counter the statement but call the person a derogatory name you are poisoning the well. Remember, your “trolls” can do this. You, supposedly, have higher standards because you are science, logic, and skepticism.

    Just because ORAC does it practically every post doesn’t mean it’s not an Ad Hominem. He is an entertainer first you know. Bloggers have to get an audience and keep them. This is his blogging style and method. If he just spit out established facts then that little site meter counter at the bottom wouldn’t work.

  10. #10 LW
    June 15, 2011

    “Otherwise we are left with the belief that it is just an empirical genralization that cannot be defended by a microbiology that claims to be scientifically rigorous but isn’t and is just merely a form of systematic empiricism.”

    You know, conceivably Tony just expressed in relatively few words what his objection to germ theory is: it isn’t a mathematical theorem. A mathematical theorem can be proven *true* and there is no possibility that it can be proven false (if it really has been proven). But scientific theories really *are* the product of systematic empiricism, and they can be overturned by new observations. All evidence to date is that measles, for instance, is caused by a virus. Tomorrow we *might* observe that it is caused by evil wishes conveyed by telepathy, but we have no reason to believe that will occur.

    Scientists acknowledge that scientific theories are subject to being overturned by new observations. They consider that a strength. Tony considers it a weakness. So there’s not much point continuing to discuss it with him.

  11. #11 lilady
    June 15, 2011

    800 plus comments, more than half by the dolt trolls…let’s just abandon the debate with the trolls.

    Let that be a lesson, by our posting and wasting time with the fools we feed into their sick need for attention. Next time they post…and there will “next times”…don’t ever engage them…maybe they will finally get the idea.

  12. #12 augustine
    June 15, 2011

    Next time they post…and there will “next times”…don’t ever engage them…maybe they will finally get the idea.

    Can’t be done. Locked within the DNA of every regular Science Based Medicine blogger is an insatiable appetite to be right and to correct others. It’s the “know-it-all” syndrome.

    A perfect example is Chris. She can’t let any blog end without a science blogger getting in the last word. She calls it necromancer hunting as a rationalization but it’s just her expression of her “need to be right” gene.

    More severe forms of the genetic expression are when this attitude is expressed in social settings such as parties and family get togethers. In lesser forms, the urge is always there but the blogger is able to suppress it until they can get back to the internet and vent with a support group.

  13. #13 Chris
    June 15, 2011

    TBruce:

    The Philosopher King doesn’t know what the ad hominem fallacy is. Even I, the Philospher Idiot, know what ad hominem means.

    We also know basic logic, which Tony has consistently failed to use. He claims I don’t know any philosophy, but it seems he knows less than I do. I have even pointed him to the work of a professor of philosophy, that he has ignored.

  14. #14 augustine
    June 15, 2011

    On cue. This is one of the more severe cases that I’ve seen.

  15. #15 Narad
    June 15, 2011

    What has the question of WHO I am conducting discourse with got to do with my present concerns about the inadequecy of empirical generaliztions in microbiology per se? You now seem to be more preoccupied with demonstrating your thesis that ‘plural minds’ are at work rather than dealing with the issue of the inadequecy of empirical generaliztions.

    What I’m getting at is that your Blobovian lit-crit routine embeds facts about the world in cosmic slop-buckets mediated between disembodied minds through an ether of “discourse.” I’m quite sure you’re familiar with the term “unconditioned postulate” (like, really sure). There is no epistemological “problem” for a monist materialist, monist idealist, or philosophical nihilist, only for the supernaturalist demanding the externality of relations. Defense of this is logically prior to your demands for “proof.”

    Not that any of this really matters, since it’s pretty clear that this posturing is really just a smoke screen for rank germ-theory denialism.

  16. #16 Beamup
    June 15, 2011

    It occurs to me:

    If postmodernism can credibly be used to argue against germ theory, without going the least bit outside its normal applications, what exactly does that say about postmodernism?

    The correct answer, of course, is that anyone who tries to apply it to science has a brain-shaped hole in their head.

  17. #17 Narad
    June 15, 2011
  18. #18 Stu
    June 15, 2011

    Projection, thy name is augustine. What an abject clownshoe you are.

  19. #19 Dedj
    June 15, 2011

    “Otherwise we are left with the belief that it is just an empirical genralization that cannot be defended by a microbiology that claims to be scientifically rigorous but isn’t and is just merely a form of systematic empiricism”

    Of course, if ‘systematic empiricism’ is a form of ‘scientific rigour’ , then it would make very little sense to criticise modern virology on that basis.

    One would have to wonder why something that demands empiricism and a systematic approach would fail at being termed rigourous or scientific.

    In short, Tonys complaint is utter self-defeating nonsense of the highest order and he should be dealt with as such.

  20. #20 Tony
    June 16, 2011

    Krebiozen

    Instead, why not look at some documents that demonstrate that polio virus is the (sine qua non) cause of polio. I provided you with links to those documents and some advice on how to read them. Have you downloaded and read them yet?

    I will do what you advise. I really didn’t think that the situation was so bad in imicrobiology when it is thought that empiricism (an epistemology) is the basis of science, and that it really does deliver the ‘knowledge’ that it claims when I have already demonstrated how such ‘knowledge’ is problematic. That is because the specification of the conditions in which it is thought to take place presupposes a ‘prior knowledge’ of those conditions which has nothing to do with science at all and is thus based on a circular argument.
    I cannot understand why this has been ignored by so many so-called intelligent people so may be I am an ‘idiot’ as the Rev says for trying to convince them otherwise.

    What I haven’t said is that the criticism of empiricist epistemology does not effect the substantive concepts in and of microbiology – there are different forms, and levels of discourse, just as there are different objects and phenomena. Different scientific methods do not all derive from philosophy, but methodology-in-general is based on philosophy. However, I still hold that universal empirical generizations as such are not scientific because its impossible to prove them conclusively.
    I will get back to you after I have read the papers that you have suggested.

    Best regards

  21. #21 Krebiozen
    June 16, 2011

    Tony,

    I really didn’t think that the situation was so bad in imicrobiology when it is thought that empiricism (an epistemology) is the basis of science, and that it really does deliver the ‘knowledge’ that it claims when I have already demonstrated how such ‘knowledge’ is problematic.

    Science is based on empiricism, and it does deliver the knowledge it claims. That applies to ‘germ theory’ (that term makes me cringe now) as much as it does to designing a nuclear reactor. If science didn’t deliver the knowledge it claims, planes would be falling out of the sky, and we couldn’t be having this conversation.

    A person comes to the hospital with pneumonia, a swab is taken and cultured, bacteria grow, different antibiotics are applied to the bacteria, and the one that kills them most effectively is prescribed for the patient. The patient gets better and goes home. This happens thousands of times every day in every developed country in the world. That’s empirical knowledge.

    Virologists have figured out which enzymes HIV uses to reproduce, and designed drugs to interfere with these enzymes. People who are HIV positive now live for decades longer as a result. That’s empiricism in action.

    I really don’t see what is problematic about science. Who cares about some philosophical semantics about the nature of knowledge when the scientific method allows us to cure childhood leukemia, or perform a successful liver transplant? Maybe you should learn a bit more about the scientific method. Wikipedia has a good discussion of it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method .

  22. #22 Luna_the_cat
    June 16, 2011

    …methodology-in-general is based on philosophy.

    Actually, a great deal of methodology-in-general is based on simple pragmatism; not any philosophical decision, just the fact that if you don’t get useful or reliable results from any given methodology, you will try different methodologies until you do. What works is kept, although it may be improved. What demonstrably doesn’t work is discarded (at least amongst the sane). But to reduce this type of interaction with the physical universe to “philosophy” is to fundamentally miss the point, and really to crawl up one’s own backside.

    I note that there has been a lot of backside-crawling in this thread. Yikes.

  23. #23 Tony
    June 16, 2011

    Krebiozen

    There’s nothing problematic about science, there is a problem if it relies purely on empiricism and reduces all forms of knowledge to experience and calls itself science.

    What you are using to specify leukemia, or transplants depends on theory and concepts that are not reducible to experience. That does not imply that you can’t cure leukemia or perform operations.You use theory {and maths} to calculate the load on beams when you build a house but they are not reducible to experience. So experience is not a priviledged measure of the validity of the knowledge that you deploy is it? It is not a question of semantics. If the calculations you use for your beams are incorrect then the house you are building will collapse! -its surely down to the calc’s based on physics, maths, and structural engineering.

  24. #24 Tony
    June 16, 2011

    Luna

    Everyone seems to get the impression that I am arguing from a philosophical standpoint when I am arguing against it. Philosophy has been hailed as the Master Science because it legislates what can pass as ‘knowledge’ for the sciences and empiricism and methodology in general derives from it. Pragmatism says the ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’ so what! It does nothing more than seek a guarantee – success in practice, but what precisely is the mechanism. We are interested in the mechanism that it really is a pudding we are eating and not a grilled microbiologist, though we THINK we are eating our daily pud!
    Proof by repetition based on experience you will say for hundreds of years or longer. What has this empiricist repetition produced? All the established ‘obviousnesses’ from the most to the least respectable.

  25. #25 Niche Geek
    June 16, 2011

    Tony,

    I’m curious, what do you mean by “All the established ‘obviousnesses’ from the most to the least respectable”? Do you mean that in the plain English sense that the results of scientific investigation have been obvious?

  26. #26 Vicki, Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief
    June 16, 2011

    Tony–

    After more than 800 comments, you admit

    What I haven’t said is that the criticism of empiricist epistemology does not effect the substantive concepts in and of microbiology.

    And you follow that by wondering why people are saying that your theoretical critique is irrelevant to the practice of microbiology.

    We appear to all be agreed that your critique doesn’t affect the practice of medicine or biology. The only difference is that nobody else here has spent hundreds of posts suggesting that it does make a difference, or that anyone who doesn’t see the difference is woefully ignorant or stupid.

  27. #27 Krebiozen
    June 16, 2011

    Tony,

    Science makes models (more or less the same as a theory) that explain observations (experience). A model also allows you to make predictions, and carry out experiments to see if the predictions are accurate. Sometimes a new observation is made that is inconsistent with the model, and the model has to be changed. Sometimes someone comes up with a model that explains existing observations better than the current one. That is the essence of the scientific method. You can experience a model of “germ theory”, in a sense, by reading a good textbook of microbiology.

    I don’t see how this “reduces all forms of knowledge to experience”. The model is tested through experience, through observation. No good scientist would ever claim that their model exactly corresponds with reality, just that it is a good approximation, and as science progresses, the approximation gets better.

    “Germ theory” is a small part of a larger model that explains thousands of observations about infection, diseases and immunity. I mean no offense, but I don’t think you understand how large and detailed this model is – it’s mind-bogglingly complex. Take a look at the HIV drug resistance database, or Google “complement cascade” for a small taste of that complexity. I also don’t think you understand that a large portion of the model has been thoroughly tested and found to be robust.

    If the house doesn’t fall down, it is a good sign that your model (physics, maths, and structural engineering) that predicts how much load a beam can bear is a close approximation to reality. That model has been tested repeatedly against experience until it is as robust as possible. That’s why it works. The same is true in microbiology.

    Scientists are unlikely to take any claims that “germ theory” is incorrect seriously until someone comes up with:

    1. Replicable observations that are inconsistent with “germ theory” or

    2. A theory or model that explains experimental observations better than “germ theory” does.

    Unless you can come up with either of these I see little point continuing this discussion.

  28. #28 Tony
    June 17, 2011

    Vicki

    The critique of empiricism as an epistemology is valid and is coherent, as I have already stated there are different levels of discourse and diffrent orders of concepts that are used as a means to specify objects and phenomena within that discourse.

    Empiricist epistemology conceives an independently existeing realm of objects and phenomena that may never the less be correlated with their representations or appropriations in discourse. To deny empiricism is to deny that correlation. It is not to deny forms of existence outside microbiological discourse but it is to deny that existence takes the form of objects/phenomena representable in that discourse since they are a function of the epistemology. The rejection of empiricism in that sense implies a rejection of its epistemological conception of knowledge based on experience. Empiricism in case you have not noticed presupposes the capacity of human experience to function as representation/appropriation and the capacity of human judgement to describe and to compare what is represented in experience. It’s clear that those capacities can’t be established within the limits of empricist epistemology, since that would entail either a demonstration which rests on what has to be demonstrated, namely the capacities of experience and judgement (the ‘established obviousnesses’)to function as the means of designation of what is represented/appropriated, or an attempt to theorise the human being in such a way that its attributes of experience and judgement in question and another knowing subject (recall the subject-object structure of epistemology) is not supposed. In that case the subject-object structure of the knowledge process becomes the object of “knowledge’ of a transcendental subject and so on, so you end up with an indefinite regress unless you arbitrarily bring that transcendental movement to a halt. But that does not really solve the problem does it? Neither does taking the conditions of the knowledge process (subect, object and relation between them) to be ‘absolute’ (Read post 622 again if you have not already done that i.e. on what an epistemology must presuppose.

  29. #29 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 17, 2011

    Tony, if you keep dropping these steaming piles of tl;dr in response to simple questions then the few people left who think you might be reachable are just going to conclude that they’re wrong in that assessment and you’re really an unreachable fool.

  30. #30 LW
    June 17, 2011

    So Tony *seems* to be saying (as best I can make out) that all science is invalid because it is based on experience interacting with theory. Why pick on germ theory, then? What can you replace it with that *isn’t* based on experience interacting with theory?

    Oh, right. Woo.

  31. #31 Krebiozen
    June 17, 2011

    I’m wondering if #821 is the result of one of those post-modernist gobbledygook generators, and not Tony at all. He refers Vicki to #622, which was a comment from me – I’ll save you scrolling up:

    there is no ‘real’ or ‘reality’ that has not been constructed in discourse/language

    If you said that to a Zen master, they would bite you on the bottom and ask, “What hurts?” and, “What kind of discourse/language is ‘Aaaarrrgghhh!!!’ that constructed the pain in your ass?”

  32. #32 Anton P. Nym
    June 17, 2011

    Empiricist epistemology conceives an independently existeing realm of objects and phenomena that may never the less be correlated with their representations or appropriations in discourse.

    Still stuck in Plato’s cave, are we?

    I suppose I could see a die-hard metaphysicist getting fussed and bothered by the lack of an ideal form for germ theory; however, as a die-hard empiricist with a strong practical bent, I don’t fuss too much so long as the correlations found by empirical research provide useful and accurate results. And germ theory has proven itself imminently useful and accurate in study after study.

    Living, as we do, in a world wherein common household appliances can measure time to fractions of a billionth of a second (my home computer has a 2.66GHz clock rate) and constructed with a precision that measures down to billionths of a metre (45nm chip, I think) I think that I can live with the uncertanties inherent in the empirical world.

    — Steve

  33. #33 augustine
    June 17, 2011

    Only one of these is certainly true. Which is it?

    A) 2+2=4
    B) Measles virus will certainly kill you.
    C) Measles virus will probably kill/maim you.
    D) Polio virus will cause clinical disease every time.
    E) God doesn’t exist
    F) Mathematics explain reality.

  34. #34 Gray Falcon
    June 17, 2011

    Five strawman arguments in as many sentences. Not bad, augustine. Seriously, you’re not St. Augustine, you’re no Thomas Aquinas, you’re not even a Duns Scotus.

    For those of you wanting to know: The real arguments are that A) Measles and polio can kill/main, B) The vaccines can prevent this 99% of the time, but may have minor side effects, C) The fewer people suffering and dying, the better. A lack of knowledge might allow one to argue A and B, but only a monster would argue C.

  35. #35 Gray Falcon
    June 17, 2011

    Correction, my language was ambiguous: A) Measles and polio can kill/main, and have done so, B) The vaccines can prevent this 99% of the time, but may have side effects about one in a million times, and are less harmful than the diseases they protect against, C) The fewer people suffering and dying, the better. A lack of knowledge might allow one to argue against A and B, but only a monster would argue against C.

  36. #36 augustine
    June 17, 2011

    Only one is true, Gray. Only one.

  37. #37 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 17, 2011

    It doesn’t matter a rat’s ass whether the premises of a straw man argument are true or false. The fact that they are not the premises which your opponents are actually proposing makes them irrelevant.

  38. #38 augustine
    June 17, 2011

    Anteus

    It doesn’t matter a rat’s ass whether the premises of a straw man argument are true or false

    These are the facts. Does that upset you?

  39. #39 Beamup
    June 17, 2011

    Let’s also note that, while empiricism isn’t perfect, it is also the ONLY way to gain knowledge about the physical world. There are no alternatives.

  40. #40 Chris
    June 17, 2011

    Beamup:

    There are no alternatives.

    Naval gazing just does not work.

    Now if you are willing to put pencil to paper you can use mathematics to come up with predictions, like using Fourier transforms to figure out a number of sine waves of certain frequencies and amplitudes make up a random vibration (or a square wave, or a sawtooth wave, etc). But that first required observation of the waves, and Euler figuring out from a power expansion that eix = cos(x) + i sin(x).

    But what do I know? Obviously not Tony’s fractured philosophy.

  41. #41 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 17, 2011

    If you call someone an idiot, quack, moron, etc., it IS an Ad Hominem ATTACK because you are IMPLYING that they are NOT to be trusted in what they say without directly dealing with the specific statement they say. Even if you mention the statement and attempt to counter the statement but call the person a derogatory name you are poisoning the well. Remember, your “trolls” can do this. You, supposedly, have higher standards because you are science, logic, and skepticism.

    Wow, Boring Auger really schooled us all, didn’t he? He showed that he’s really intensely opposed to any form of ad hominem argumentation, didn’t he? It’s so clear that he’d never do anything of the sort hims–

    What was the design purpose of that colorado insurance study? You see, scientist like that don’t just perform experiments and “go where the evidence takes them”. He purposefully, with biased intent set out to show that unvaccinated…oohhh…can get disease. He performed a retrospective case study. His agenda has also been recorded as trying to find out why parents don’t vaccinate and THEN MAKE a study to refute their reasons. Is that REAL science? HELL NO! Is he biased? YES! Propaganda. He would make a good little corporate scientist. Which is essentially what he is.

    Well, never mind then.

  42. #42 Narad
    June 17, 2011

    The critique of empiricism as an epistemology is valid and is coherent, as I have already stated there are different levels of discourse and diffrent orders of concepts that are used as a means to specify objects and phenomena within that discourse.

    It’s “valid and coherent” because you merely asserted that there are “different levels of discourse” and “different orders of concepts”? Perhaps a drawing of your cosmic hierarchy would help.

  43. #43 Luna_the_cat
    June 17, 2011

    Tony appears to be in love with words, but it definitely comes across as pretentious twaddle. I have certainly read a basic amount of classical philosophy, logic, and the philosophy of science, and I am familiar with the arguments and capable of wading through the verbiage. But where these things can be lucidly and coherently discussed, especially by people like Alan Chalmers and Deborah Mayo, Tony has a lot of shifting goalposts, shifting positions, and many of his statements make just as much sense as claiming that the fatness of the pig is less fuschia than the designated hitter rule.

    ~My personal suggestion: For a really good dissection of what science is and how it relates both to the physical world and to philosophy, read Alan Chalmers and Deborah Mayo, the ideas they delineate are fabulous for discussion. But further discussion with Tony is pointless unless you have a lot of spare time and an armored forehead. The stuff he dumps here is just self-indulgent word-wanking. (Honestly, I am not one of those people who thinks he is reachable or that he has any interest in learning and understanding, as if this couldn’t be guessed.)

  44. #44 Anton P. Nym
    June 17, 2011

    A) 2+2=4
    B) Measles virus will certainly kill you.
    C) Measles virus will probably kill/maim you.
    D) Polio virus will cause clinical disease every time.
    E) God doesn’t exist
    F) Mathematics explain reality.

    For those following at home, note how Augie tries to use framing to make his argument rather than facts or reasoning. In fact, none of these points are relevant to the vaccine or germ-theory debates at all.*

    Don’t let him fool you, folks, but do take note of his techniques and do be suspicious of others using the same techniques to sell you something.

    — Steve

    *B-D appear to be on-base if you only give them a glance-over, but as phrased they are not; no one is claiming that measles or polio are always fatal or always have permanent debilitating effects, merely that those illnesses (and others) did have such effects before they became vaccine-preventable, and that such effects for vaccines are vastly lower than they were in the days before we could prevent these illnesses.

  45. #45 Tony
    June 17, 2011

    Luna

    If you have read a basic amount of classical philosophy and logic as you claim then you should have no problem in understanding my argument and there is no need to refer to anybody else like Chalmers and Mayo is there?. I note that you are also into the pretentious twaddle business too as you call it.

    “his statements make just as much sense as claiming that the fatness of the pig is less fuschia than the designated hitter rule”.

    You took the trouble to respond so it must have struck a nerve somewhere. So in your esteemed opinion what is wrong with the argument against epistemology in general and empiricist epistemology in particular? Which statements do not make sense to you in particular and in what context?

    You have just made the accusation that:

    “the stuff he dumps here is just self-indugent word wanking”.

    What specific ‘stuff’ are you referring to in particular?
    Please explain how you arrive at the conclusion that the ‘stuff’ is what you claim it to be, without reference to your mentors or what other bloggers have said in the let’s ridicule Tony campaign that seems to be well underway now.

  46. #46 Tony
    June 17, 2011

    Narad

    So you are clued up on ‘cosmic hierachy’ what has that got to do with different levels of discourse and different orders of concepts pray tell, with specific reference to microbiology?

  47. #47 Beamup
    June 17, 2011

    @ Tony:

    We understand your argument just fine. It simply happens to be entirely without meaning.

  48. #48 Niche Geek
    June 17, 2011

    Tony,

    You still haven’t answered my question: what do you mean by “All the established ‘obviousnesses’ from the most to the least respectable”? Do you mean that in the plain English sense that the results of scientific investigation have been obvious?

  49. #49 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 17, 2011

    Tony, it’s not anyone else’s responsibility to prove that your rambling diatribes don’t contain a lick of sense; it’s your responsibility to demonstrate that they do. Simple as that. If you have read a basic amount of elementary logic you will have no trouble understanding that.

  50. #50 Tony
    June 17, 2011

    Chris

    What precisely are you on about.

    I have already stated elsewhere that observation is to a certain extent ‘theoretical’. You cannot observe a waveform without a concept of it because you would not otherwise know
    what you were observing would you? I bet you can’t prove otherwise – if you can let’s have the proof. Its ironic that you accept mathematics with respect without question wich has its basis in the imaginary and symbolic domains but do not get the point I am making and accuse me of ‘navel gazing’ one of your concepts no doubt, but what do you mean precisely by it in my case without being vulgar?

  51. #51 Tony
    June 17, 2011

    Beamup

    If my argument was ‘entirely without meaning’, then it must have meant something to you to make it possible for you to even make that statement about it.

  52. #52 Tony
    June 17, 2011

    Antaeus

    That’s just an easy get out for you Antaeus because you can’t prove that my argument about empiricist epistemology is wrong can you?. The only recourse you have is ridicule.

  53. #53 Niche Geek
    June 17, 2011

    Tony,

    So your claim appears to be that the map is not the country… the country is a reflection of the map. Somehow that doesn’t sound quite right.

  54. #54 Beamup
    June 17, 2011

    Tony is so lost to rational thought that he thinks it is required for something to have meaning in order for it to have no meaning. Nice.

  55. #55 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 17, 2011

    That’s just an easy get out for you Antaeus because you can’t prove that my argument about empiricist epistemology is wrong can you?. The only recourse you have is ridicule.

    If you call that “ridicule,” I can only take that to mean you have an absurdly broad interpretation of what “ridicule” means.

    As for proving that your argument about empiricist epistemology is wrong, I will repeat again that the burden of proof is upon you to present a coherent argument before anyone else has any responsibility to refute that argument.

  56. #56 Narad
    June 17, 2011

    So you are clued up on ‘cosmic hierachy’ what has that got to do with different levels of discourse and different orders of concepts pray tell, with specific reference to microbiology?

    That was a repetition of my earlier accusation, Tony, and your position has nothing in particular to do with microbiology, so you can bugger off on that one. I suggested an illustration in order to get a better idea of the flavor of your particular supernaturalism. It’s easy, man. Start by drawing yourself at the center of “the system.”

  57. #57 Tony
    June 17, 2011

    Beamup

    To be able to assert that my argument has no meaning implies that the argument meant something to you because you could not otherwise convey its non meaning to me other than by some form of language.

  58. #58 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 17, 2011

    To be able to assert that my argument has no meaning implies that the argument meant something to you because you could not otherwise convey its non meaning to me other than by some form of language.

    That all depends on what your meaning of “meaning” is. If you mean that it uses language to convey some thought (however muddled or unclear) then that may be true. If “meaning” is intended to mean significance or coherence, then there is not necessarily any such implication. Remember that “meaning”, just like “truth”, “falsehood”, “beauty” and such is a relative term and not an absolute. Thus an argument could very well have vanishingly small meaning (in the sense of significance) yet still mean something in the sense that the words when put together make more-or-less coherent sentences that map to concepts.

  59. #59 Gray Falcon
    June 17, 2011

    Tony, does this sentence have any meaning: The wallpaper drinks the buttocks thoroughly.

  60. #60 Chris
    June 17, 2011

    Tony:

    What precisely are you on about.

    That you don’t have the mathematical background to understand what I wrote. Which is reasonable given your lack of knowledge of basic science… and philosophy.

  61. #61 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 17, 2011

    Gray Falcon,
    That would be a phenomenal premise for a horror movie. Just sayin’.

  62. #62 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 17, 2011

    That or new nanobot-based liposuction technology.

  63. #63 Narad
    June 17, 2011

    To be able to assert that my argument has no meaning implies that the argument meant something to you because you could not otherwise convey its non meaning to me other than by some form of language.

    No, Tony. Do try to put forth some effort. Have you ever had a linguistic exchange in a sleeping dream?

  64. #64 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    June 17, 2011

    Tony, whatever drugs you were taking when you read all this postmodernist French gobbledygook may have so permanently imprinted it into your neural pathways that you think it makes sense, but trust me, it doesn’t. Everything you say in these impenetrable walls of word salad is absolutely without meaning of any kind. You really need to seek psychiatric help if you think you’re conveying anything by posting screeds like 821. Let me convey the exact same information you did more succinctly: “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”.

    Augustine: A) and E) on your list are both true, therefore your premise is incorrect.

  65. #65 Krebiozen
    June 17, 2011

    “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”.

    Why Reverend, my proposition is that you are familiar with the works of Robert Anton Wilson, and his multi-valued non-Aristotelean logic? True, false, indeterminate, meaningless, game rule or strange loop?

  66. #66 Jarred C
    June 17, 2011

    Rev. Battleaxe:

    F isn’t true?

  67. #67 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    June 17, 2011

    Jarred C:

    I almost said F), too, but on second thought, IMO Mathematics doesn’t explain reality, it describes reality.

    Here’s what I think: After millennia of counting objects and measuring land, a discipline we call mathematics was slowly abstracted from those experiences and yielded propositions that could be used generally, in areas that they hadn’t been formulated specifically for.

    Centuries of performing mathematics allowed us to abstract from that experience a discipline we called logic, which was secondary to and derivative from mathematics, which is secondary to and derivative from reality.

    This is why trying to derive mathematics from logic,as in the Principia Mathematica, was such a bass-ackwards enterprise from the get-go.

    Unless I’m wrong, and the Platonists are correct. I will say that in order to contribute anything to mathematics, one has to act as if one were a Platonist.

  68. #68 Matthew Cline
    June 17, 2011

    @Tony:

    What I still don’t understand is why your arguments about epistemology/discourse/etc presents more of a problem to the establishment of the existence viruses than it does to the establishment of the existence of bacteria. Is it that observing bacteria only involves one level of indirection, while observing viruses has two levels of indirection? That bacteria were stumbled upon without first having any concept of what they were like, while with viruses scientists had a preconceived idea of what they were like and went out looking for them?

  69. #69 Narad
    June 18, 2011

    This is why trying to derive mathematics from logic,as in the Principia Mathematica, was such a bass-ackwards enterprise from the get-go.

    Oh, tish-tosh. I’ve never had the patience or inclination to wade through the Principia, but one can readily construct the reals from, essentially, counting. I highly recommend Michael Spivak’s calculus text.

  70. #70 Drivebyposter
    June 18, 2011

    Gray Falcon,
    That would be a phenomenal premise for a horror movie. Just sayin’.

    Wall of Death: The Wall That Eats Asses?

  71. #71 Tony
    June 18, 2011

    Gray

    Tony, does this sentence have any meaning: The wallpaper drinks the buttocks thoroughly.

    Yes it means that it has no meaning, unless it appears in the context of a dream linked with other signifiers.

  72. #72 Tony
    June 18, 2011

    Rev

    Sorry to be a pain but as usual you have not yet refuted ‘screed 821’ – you think you know it all but don’t really do you? The argument may be a little hard to understand (for you) but I still get the impression that you get the picture but don’t like it because it upsets your ‘apple cart’ – fruit salad intended. DSMIV applies as much to you as it does to me in that case!!!!!

  73. #73 Tony
    June 18, 2011

    Antaeus

    As for proving that your argument about empiricist epistemology is wrong, I will repeat again that the burden of proof is upon you to present a coherent argument before anyone else has any responsibility to refute that argument.

    That’s just another ‘get out’ Antaeus – you can’t refute it can you? What is not ‘coherent’ about it for starters and why?

  74. #74 Chris
    June 18, 2011

    Tony, why are you here? Do you have any evidence? Oh screw that… do you have a point?

    This article is about germ theory and those that do not believe micro-biotic organisms cause disease. If you have an alternate theory of what causes syphilis, tuberculosis, yellow fever, typhus, pertussis, gonorrhea, polio, measles, tetanus, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, mumps, haemophilus influenzae type b, and a bunch of other diseases, please share them with us.

  75. #75 Chris
    June 18, 2011

    Quoting myself:

    please share them with us

    With actual PubMed references! Come on, dude! Bring on the references. Show us that measles is something other than a virus! Is it a weakening of a child refusing to see something? (kids with measles are often sensitive to light).

    Or some odd refusal to breathe… which happens with pertussis, polio and haemophilus influenzae type b?

    You have all the answers. But are they real?

  76. #76 Krebiozen
    June 18, 2011

    It’s maybe a little unfair to bring this up, but on the TPUC link that Narad found, someone called Tony wrote:

    The virologists… blind us with ‘science’ -try reading one of their papers- you’ll soon see what I mean and you will require more than a dictionary to decipher what they are saying.

    If this is the same Tony it perhaps gives us some insight into what is going on here. Just saying.

  77. #77 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 18, 2011

    A small comedy sketch presented for your consideration, entitled “Tony Tries His Hand”:

    (Scene 1: Interior of a sports arena. THE CHAMP is warming up in the boxing ring, practicing his punches. TONY comes bounding along and clambers over the rope.)

    TONY: Whattya say?? I’m here in the ring, it’s you and me! Let’s go at it, see who’s the real champ!

    THE CHAMP: … Who are you?

    TONY: I’m Tony! I’ve studied under the best! Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Rocky Marciano!

    THE CHAMP: Really? You studied under all of them?

    TONY: Sure did? I watched the TV at least long enough to learn their names and get a hazy idea of the rules of boxing, and now I’m ready to take you on!

    THE CHAMP: Uh-huh. Well, nice meeting you, Tony, but I’m warming up for an actual match, so if you’ll let me get to it…

    TONY: Ha! That’s proof that you don’t dare face me in the ring, ’cause I’m too good!

    THE CHAMP: I haven’t seen any evidence of that. If you’ll excuse me…

    TONY: Chiiiicken. Bawk-bawk-bawk!

    THE CHAMP: There’s no need to be immature.

    TONY: More proof you’re afraid of me! If you weren’t afraid you’d get in the ring –

    THE CHAMP: I *am* in the ring –

    TONY: – and face the terrible onslaught of my fighting fury!

    THE CHAMP: *sigh* Okay, show me some of your moves. Maybe if I give you a few pointers you’ll go away.

    (TONY gets in the center of the ring and begins lurching from foot to foot, arms flailing out occasionally in what he might think are punches. At first there seems to be no pattern to the chaos, but after a while it begins to strongly resemble a number Fred Astaire performed in Top Hat, if Fred had been performing shortly after a major stroke. THE CHAMP watches in appalled fascination. TONY grinds to a halt.)

    TONY: There! Impressed, hunh??

    THE CHAMP: In a sense. Tell me… I know I’ll regret this, but … when you were ‘learning’ from those boxing matches on TV, did someone else have the remote control?

    TONY: You’re a good guesser! But that won’t help you avoid my Rocket Punch!

    (TONY steps back and windmills his right arm, preparing for a punch that couldn’t be telegraphed more clearly by Western Union. Nonplussed, THE CHAMP watches in disbelief, and when the punch is actually thrown, leans a few inches to the side to let it pass completely by.)

    TONY: There! I hit you!

    THE CHAMP: Uh?

    TONY: Had enough yet??

    THE CHAMP: I had enough two seconds after you walked in – but where do you get off with this “I hit you!” malarkey?

    TONY: Super Robot Tiger Z’s Rocket Punch never misses!

    THE CHAMP: The relevance of that –

    TONY: Therefore, I hit you!

    THE CHAMP: – did you escape from somewhere?!

    TONY: Yeah, now you’re cowering before my might! KEEYAHH!

    (THE CHAMP only barely dodges as TONY tries a leaping kick, from which he only barely manages to land without falling.)

    THE CHAMP: HEY!!

    TONY: Ha! I bet you never saw that one coming!

    THE CHAMP: No, I certainly did not! For the very good reason that in boxing, kicking is illegal!

    TONY: You’re just saying that ’cause you know you’re no match for me!

    THE CHAMP: No, I’m saying that kicking is illegal in boxing because kicking is illegal in boxing!

    TONY: You’re just saying that ’cause you know you’re no match for me!

    THE CHAMP: Oh, this is getting nowhere fast.

    TONY: I float like a bee and sting like a butterfly! Hoo! Hah!

    THE CHAMP: Look, if you want to be a real boxer, you have to do certain things. You have to learn the rules of boxing, for one…

    TONY: Ah am the greatest!

    THE CHAMP: And you can’t be the greatest at something just by announcing that you are and challenging people to prove you wrong. If you’re ignorant of the basics of what you’re trying to do, people will turn down your challenges, not because they’re afraid of you beating them but because you’re wasting their time.

    TONY: You’re only saying that because –

    THE CHAMP: Yeah, yeah. You keep on thinkin’ that. I’ve had enough an’ I’m going down to the deli for a good pastrami on rye. Hopefully by the time I get back, they’ll have taken you back to whatever home you came from.

    (THE CHAMP walks out of the arena. TONY raises his ungloved hands in triumph.)

    TONY: Woooeee! I’m the new champ! I’ve won all the titles! Top of the ladder!

    (After a little more lurching and flailing, he slows to a halt.)

    TONY: Hunh. Boxing’s less fun when you’ve mastered it. No one’s gonna challenge me, after they hear how I whooped The Champ.

    (TONY leans on the ropes, contemplative. Suddenly he brightens.)

    TONY: I know! I’ll go down the courthouse and try some cases; that’ll be fun! … I wonder if they make you pick beforehand which side you’re arguing for?

    (Exeunt Omnes.)

  78. #78 Chemmomo
    June 18, 2011

    Krebiozen,
    Whether or not it’s the same Tony, this is exactly why I suggested Tony to take classes in science – the source materials aren’t going to do any good without at least a basic understanding of what the words mean, and those aren’t going to be found in a dictionary.

    Unfortunately for us, Tony hasn’t figured out yet that he can’t philosophize himself into scientific knowledge, in spite of the fact that the rest of the world figured that one out several centuries ago.

  79. #79 Narad
    June 18, 2011

    I will surely have egg on my face if it’s a different Tony complaining about germ theory being a “monocausal doctrine.”

  80. #80 Tony
    June 18, 2011

    Antaeus

    Very amusing Anataeus – you have gone to much trouble to write that lot and you have definitely missed your vocation.

    Krebiozen my intention was not to ‘philosphize’ myself into anything. My intention was to show by way of argument that empiricist epistemology is untenable, which it is, but that will not stop those who think it’s still valid from doing what they do in microbiology, it cannot can it?.

    I knew from the outset that I was up against a brick wall however, I have learned much from the EXPERIENCE of putting my head in the lion’s mouth. You see I can still use the word ‘experience’ but I’m not refering to scientific knowledge in doing so and I’m not philosophizing either.

    Answer this, if you find something wrong with a ‘theory’ or anything else in microbiology what recourse do you have? Do you have to keep playing the game to Queensberry Rules like everyone else, or do you at least try to do something about it that would make you very unpopular like me for instance? Trouble is I get the impression that nobody here is willing to admit even the slightest possibility that GT is untenable no matter what sort of argument or evidence is put forth by anyone.

  81. #81 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    June 18, 2011

    Answer this, if you find something wrong with a ‘theory’ or anything else in microbiology what recourse do you have? Do you have to keep playing the game to Queensberry Rules like everyone else, or do you at least try to do something about it that would make you very unpopular like me for instance? Trouble is I get the impression that nobody here is willing to admit even the slightest possibility that GT is untenable no matter what sort of argument or evidence is put forth by anyone.

    See, Tony, this right here is why we all think you’re an idiot—and you keep demonstrating it over and over and over and over….

    If you don’t accept the prevailing theory, come up with a different one. It’s that simple. Propose it, and oh yes, The. Most. Important. Part.—make a prediction based on your theory that differs from the prediction of the orthodox theory. Absent that, coming up with a new theory that explains the same facts as the old theory with no basis to choose between them is just intellectual masturbation.

    Seriously, though, I would advise you not to start with germ theory. Really. Your chance of overturning the germ theory is about equal to your chance of overturning the round-earth theory. You’d do better to tackle something like string theory. Believe me, if you come up with a new theory that explains the physical universe better than string theory or loop quantum gravity or whatever, and makes testable predictions, your Nobel is waiting.

    Just as a test, though, before you submit your paper, print it out, print out the Sokal hoax paper, and honestly ask yourself: “Could anybody tell which one was seriously intended if they read them cold?”

  82. #82 Chemmomo
    June 18, 2011

    Tony,

    Answer this, if you find something wrong with a ‘theory’ or anything else in microbiology what recourse do you have?

    Let me give you a short history of science lesson. It’s not from biology, because that’s not my specialty (note my screen name). Way back in 1808, John Dalton proposed atomic theory: matter is made up of tiny indivisible particles, and each element is composed of identical particles that are different from all of the particles of any other element. About a hundred years later, other scientists discovered atoms are composed of smaller particles (electrons, protons, and neutrons). What happened to atomic theory? Did the new findings invalidate all of Dalton’s ideas? Was the theory overthrown and chemists and physicists started over?

    As a matter of fact, no. Chemists still attribute atomic theory to Dalton. His ideas incorporated the scientific evidence available at the time, and even with that limited knowledge he had more right than he had wrong. The thing is that later on, new experimental evidence established that subatomic particles exist, and atomic theory was modified to include the new evidence. Dalton wasn’t wrong because he had an incomplete picture. We just have a better picture now.

    Biology, virology included, works the same way.

    We learn from new evidence, and improve our theories to include it. That’s science.

    But do keep this in mind: as the Very Reverend said above, it’s experimental evidence that modifies theories, not internet philosophers looking for new experiences. I repeat: experimental evidence. If you wish to challenge science, you have to do with science. You’re the one who chose to enter our playing field, and when you’re here you have to play by our rules.

    And I’ll repeat this, too: in science we learn from new evidence, and improve our theories to include it.

  83. #83 Narad
    June 18, 2011

    My intention was to show by way of argument that empiricist epistemology is untenable

    But you failed to do so. In fact, you got rather pissy over the possibility of defending the assumptions that you’re relying on.

  84. #84 Tony
    June 19, 2011

    Narad

    How so? By providing ’empirical’ evidence to prove that empiricist theory of knowledge is untenable???? I think there are some very serious misunderstandings taking place here and it’s not all down to me is it? What you are referring to are not my ‘assumptions’ – insofar as they relate to epistemology they are based on the assumtions of the empiricist theory of knowledge and what it actually claims to be able to establish. How do you define empiricist epistemolgy then in case I’ve got it wrong?

    Chemmomo does have a point – we learn from new ‘evidence’ but it depends on how that ‘evidence’ is specified in the first place and the precise conditions in which it was obtained and how we come to arrive at that conclusion – would you disagre?

    Experiments are as much dependent on theories and concepts as are the objects and phenomena that are specified by those theories and concepts or do you disagree with that?

    You cannot conduct an experiment effectively if you do not comprehend what you are doing i.e. the theoretical and practical aim of the experiment, how to set up the experiment, and the experimental means you are going to use to obtain results can you? If your theoretical work is wrong in the first place which also incorpoates the experimental specifications then so will be the likely outcome of your experimental work. That is because experiments are constructed to demonstrate that the concepts that specify the objects and phenomena in the initial theory are correct and also the specific connections that obtain between them in practical terms.
    The discovery of something ‘new’ presupposes that you have already made changes in your theoretical work otherwise you would have no conceptual means to be able to recognise whatever you are claiming to be ‘new’ with regard to the particular experiment in question would you? Experience alone can’t tell you that can it? If it can then demonstrate precisely how without resorting to philosophical assumptions that claim to be scientifc?

  85. #85 LW
    June 19, 2011

    “The discovery of something ‘new’ presupposes that you have already made changes in your theoretical work otherwise you would have no conceptual means to be able to recognise whatever you are claiming to be ‘new’ with regard to the particular experiment in question would you?”

    Strangely, people have been discovering new things for all of human history, even before they had Tony to help them understand what they had to do in order to discover new things.

  86. #86 Krebiozen
    June 19, 2011

    Tony,
    I think part of the confusion here is because philosophical empiricism is not the same thing as scientific empiricism. Philosophical empiricism argues that our knowledge and concepts can only be based on our personal experiences. Scientific empiricism is about constructing models and then testing them empirically by experiment. Not the same thing at all. I can construct a scientific concept in my head, and then test it empirically, that’s scientific empiricism.

    I’m also confused because the challenges to philosophical empiricism I am familiar with argue that our knowledge and concepts are not wholly based upon our personal experiences, that there are other ways of knowing besides experience. You seem to be arguing that our knowledge and concepts are not based on our personal experiences at all.

    Experiments are as much dependent on theories and concepts as are the objects and phenomena that are specified by those theories and concepts or do you disagree with that?

    I do disagree because much scientific knowledge comes initially from natural experiments. Someone makes an observation, and constructs a hypothesis that can be tested. Sometimes the hypothesis is disproven, and another has to be made to explain the experimental results.

    A good example of a natural experiment related to “germ theory” is the work of John Snow. In the 1850s there were frequent outbreaks of cholera in Britain. The prevailing theory to explain cholera was that it was caused by bad air. Snow was sceptical, and when there was an outbreak of cholera in Soho in 1855 he found that cases clustered around a pump in Broad Street.

    From this natural experiment Snow formulated the theory that something in the water from that pump was causing the cholera. He tested this hypothesis by persuading the local council to remove the handle of the pump, and the outbreak ended. The bacteria that cause cholera had been isolated by Filippo Pacini a few years previously, but his work was not widely known.

    Another example is the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming. He noticed that mold on his culture plates had killed bacteria. He hadn’t carried out this accidental experiment on the basis of any pre-existing theory.

    For examples of the hypothesis an experiment is based on being falsified by the experiment you could look at how diseases like scurvy, beriberi and pellagra, which were once thought to be contagious diseases, were eventually found to be vitamin deficiency diseases. Once the original hypothesis (a pathogen) was eliminated, another hypothesis had to be constructed, and then tested.

    experiments are constructed to demonstrate that the concepts that specify the objects and phenomena in the initial theory are correct

    No, no, no, you misunderstand the scientific method entirely! Experiments are constructed to test the hypothesis, not to prove it. A good experiment sets out to prove a hypothesis wrong. If John Snow had removed the handle of the pump and cholera had continued to rage in Soho, his hypothesis would have been proved wrong. You can never prove a hypothesis right, only prove it wrong. The more attempts to prove a hypothesis wrong fail, the more confident you can be that it is correct, but you can never be 100% sure.

  87. #87 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 19, 2011

    The discovery of something ‘new’ presupposes that you have already made changes in your theoretical work otherwise you would have no conceptual means to be able to recognise whatever you are claiming to be ‘new’ with regard to the particular experiment in question would you?

    This doesn’t follow at all. It is certainly possible for the results of an experiment designed to test a hypothesis to produce entirely unanticipated results which require reworking of theory in order to explain.
    In science, when an experiment produces results that don’t agree with the predictions of the hypotheses there are three major possible alternatives: you did the experiment wrong; the hypothesis is wrong; there’s some unexpected factor that influenced the results not related to what you expected to be testing.
    For example, theory used to state that there had to be some medium that light – a wave – traveled through. After all, waves in water don’t exist without water; waves in air don’t exist without air. If you’re moving through that medium, the waves you generate move at different speeds relative to you depending on whether they are headed in the same direction you’re going or back the way you came. So logically, if you measure the speed of light in different directions you should be able to find how fast the Earth is travelling relative to that medium.
    Only when they did the experiment, they found that the speed of light did not vary based on the direction used to measure it. This was not expected, and required new theory to fully explain.

  88. #88 Chris
    June 19, 2011

    I still think he is confused because science used to be called “natural philosophy.” He obviously does not have the education in science, nor in philosophy, to speak intelligently about either. Chemmomo is right on target to suggest that he take some classes (which would include labs), and as is being noted in more recent comments: he should read up on the history of science.

    I find it interesting that he has not come up with any documentation or evidence for his alternative to “germ theory.”

  89. #89 Krebiozen
    June 19, 2011

    The discovery of something ‘new’ presupposes that you have already made changes in your theoretical work otherwise you would have no conceptual means to be able to recognise whatever you are claiming to be ‘new’ with regard to the particular experiment in question would you?

    This just reminded me of that awful movie, “What The Bleep…”. I have a copy of it somewhere (didn’t pay good money for it, I hasten to add), but have never been able to sit through it all. At one point the movie explains that initially Native Americans were unable to see the Spanish ships because they had no conceptual framework for them. Only a canny old shaman had the the ability to reorganize his perceptions…

    This discussion on the matter begs to differ: http://www.forteantimes.com/strangedays/science/20/questioning_perceptual_blindness.html

  90. #90 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 19, 2011

    If you don’t accept the prevailing theory, come up with a different one. It’s that simple. Propose it, and oh yes, The. Most. Important. Part.—make a prediction based on your theory that differs from the prediction of the orthodox theory. Absent that, coming up with a new theory that explains the same facts as the old theory with no basis to choose between them is just intellectual masturbation.

    For instance, if you have a theory that the diseases which are currently attributed to pathogenic agents are actually the result of poor sanitation, then you should be able to look at the major advances in sanitation and show a statistically significant drop in those diseases greater than any other factor of increase/decrease in the time frame when each sanitation measure would have entered widespread deployment. Of course, such evidence has been looked for, and the fact that it does not exist makes it evidence against the sanitation hypothesis.

  91. #91 Doc Rocketscience
    June 19, 2011

    If Tony is arguing here from philosophical empiricism (which, to quote the Wiki, is “that knowledge comes (only or primarily) via sensory experience”), allow me to refute the validity of that premise. The human sensory system is, at best, an unreliable instrument for recording the world around us. Consider the image here: http://goo.gl/4SFn6 If you are like me and many others I have spoken to, you are probably finding it difficult to bring the image of the young woman into focus. It may appear as though the image is distorted, or perhaps it is shifting or “vibrating”. The image is perfectly static. It has been modified, probably with something like Photoshop. The woman’s head is stretched vertically, and the images of her eyes and mouth have been duplicated. Your brain expects the human face to have certain proportions. The image is constructed such that the upper set of eyes and mouth are spaced correctly relative to the rest of her face, excluding the lower set of eyes and mouth, which are similarly proportionally correct to the rest of her face. Thus, your brain is attempting to construct two distinct images of a human face, while at the same time trying to construct a single image based on the picture. Your brain’s attempts to empirically construct knowledge about the image is failing.

  92. #92 Chemmomo
    June 19, 2011

    Tony:
    Here’s where I think you’re going wrong. The whole point of my little history of science lesson is that scientific theories are NOT STATIC (please forgive the shouting).

    Your argument seems to hinge on wedding oneself to a single idea and understanding the universe through it as stated before you began your experiment. That’s not how science works.

    Unfortunately I don’t have time to elaborate on this now but I hope to get a chance to later today.

  93. #93 Chemmomo
    June 19, 2011

    Tony @ 877

    The discovery of something ‘new’ presupposes that you have already made changes in your theoretical work otherwise you would have no conceptual means to be able to recognise whatever you are claiming to be ‘new’ with regard to the particular experiment in question would you? Experience alone can’t tell you that can it?

    As a matter of fact, what you’ve said is not true.

    In addition, to the other examples above (Krebiozen @879 re John Snow and Alexander Fleming, Mephistopheles O’Brien @880 re waves), I will refer you again to atomic theory. Here’s a link for you to read about Ernest Rutherford’s discoveries and theories: http://www.visionlearning.com/library/module_viewer.php?mid=50
    Please note that during his experiments in 1908, Rutherford expected to be providing supporting evidence for the atomic model of the time, which stemmed from the discovery that atoms held both positive and negative charges –the atom itself was still considered fairly solid. Rutherford’s results were completely unexpected: he discovered that any atom includes a lot of empty space. It took him a few years to come up with, test, and refine a new theory which incorporated that new experimental finding, and he published his theory in 1911. And that theory still isn’t the end-all-and-be-all of atomic theory today – these days we understand even more.
    You’ve accused us of not being open-minded, yet you’re the one who’s fixed on a particular way of pre-understanding the universe. We’re not the ones clinging to dogma in this conversation. If scientists weren’t “open minded,” we wouldn’t be able to do science. You’ve now been given multiple examples from different scientific fields showing scientists learning from unexpected results. Different scientists, in different fields – it’s not a fluke. It’s how we do things.

    Please, Tony – take an introductory course including laboratory in any science and find this out for yourself.

  94. #94 Narad
    June 19, 2011

    If Tony is arguing here from philosophical empiricism (which, to quote the Wiki, is “that knowledge comes (only or primarily) via sensory experience”), allow me to refute the validity of that premise.

    It’s not necessary to do so. If one accepts the premise, what changes?

  95. #95 Tony
    June 20, 2011

    Narad

    In case you haven’t yet figured it out. Philosophical empiricism as you call it is not limited to that ‘Wiki’ quote namely “that knowledge comes (only or primarily) via sensory experience”)allow me to refute the validity of that premise.

    There are rationalist forms of empiricist epistemology that are still ‘philosophical’ but unfortunately they fall pray to the same argument as do all epistemologies that attempt to establish ‘knowledge’ guarantees. ‘Wiki’ does not mention that or rational forms of empiricism because even ‘Wiki’ doesn’t ‘know’ it all!

  96. #96 Vicki
    June 20, 2011

    “Heads.
    “Heads.
    “Heads.
    “Heads.
    “Heads.
    “Heads.
    “Heads.”

    (Stoppard wasn’t specifically writing about science there, but it seems relevant.)

  97. #97 Narad
    June 20, 2011

    In case you haven’t yet figured it out. Philosophical empiricism as you call it is not limited to that ‘Wiki’ quote namely “that knowledge comes (only or primarily) via sensory experience”)allow me to refute the validity of that premise.

    I didn’t bring up philosophical empiricism or the Wiki definition, Tony. And that’s not a sentence.

    The simple fact of the matter is that you have failed to demonstrate the slightest bit of practical significance to your case of epistemological constipation. Why should I go on your bad trip? I can assert wholesale nondualism of the Nagarjuna variety, cut out the middleman, and very little changes. Of what does, germ theory isn’t a part.

  98. #98 Tony
    June 20, 2011

    Narad

    You really don’t understand the argument do you? If you did then you would not have given such an asinine response. You can go on whatever ‘bad trip’ you like, but don’t blame me, I did not invite you personally to go anywhere you got yourself into a ‘bad trip’. I’m surprised you are still at it – thought you might have better things to do with your time than keep on replying to me.

  99. #99 Narad
    June 20, 2011

    You really don’t understand the argument do you? If you did then you would not have given such an asinine response.

    Tu quoque, Tony, and I mean that literally. I repeat that you have not demonstrated that the smokescreen that you’re using both to get you to and to distract attention from your rank germ-theory denialism is of any actual import. Maintaining this evasion appears to be the only “epistemological problem” that is actually in play.

    And having “you’re not smart enough to understand me” as a fallback position is not particularly impressive.

  100. #100 Tony
    June 22, 2011

    Narad

    Please explain why you think that my alleged ‘smokescreen'(empirisist epistemology) as you call it has no actual import. And is a distraction from GT denialism when GT as it stands is based on an empiriciist epistemological position that claims to establish the ‘scientific knowledge’that germs and nothing else are the cause of disease?

    Here’s Orac’s quote again:

    Few theories in medicine or science are supported as strongly by such a huge amount of evidence from multiple disciplines that converge on the idea that microorganisms cause disease, supporting it with an interwoven web of evidence that bring germ theory about as close to a fact as a scientific theory can be. True, for different diseases it’s not always clear what the causative organism is or even if there is a causative organism, but these examples all fit into the general framework of the germ theory of infectious disease.

    There are no ‘facts’ independent of the theories in which they are specified GT is no exception – otherwise you end up with the distinstion/correspondence problems of epistemology/methodology.

    What is a ‘causitive organism’ and what precisely are the specific conditions in which it operates in the host body according to GT?

    Also if the precise nature of the ‘causative organism’ cannot be determined i.e. what the ‘causitive organism’ actually is and the conditions in which it operates etc, or whether there is any ‘causative organism’ at work at all in any particular disease how is such evidence thought to ‘converge’ to support the idea that microorganisms cause disease and bring GT as close to a ‘fact’ as a scientific theory can be?

    Does this imply that GT is not really a scientific ‘fact’ at all but only close to one (whatever that is supposed to imply) and just an ‘idea’ (Orac states that) based on empirical generalization – summary descriptions of particular observations from multiple disciplines that are supposed to function as causal law when they are somehow thought to ‘converge’?.

  101. #101 Krebiozen
    June 22, 2011

    Tony,

    There are no ‘facts’ independent of the theories in which they are specified

    Of course there are! Theories are developed to explain facts, not the other way around. The idea that we can’t recognize a virus unless we know what a virus is, is just silly.

    Take a look at an article about tobacco mosaic disease, from 1924. Hopefully you have figured out how to read PDFs by now:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2130931/pdf/129.pdf
    Notice that although the article uses the word “virus” the authors have little idea of what a virus is.

    Tobacco mosaic virus was the first virus identified, and you may find it useful to read more about the work that was done to understand it. If you find some philosophical leap of faith that makes the idea of the tobacco mosaic virus untenable, please share!

  102. #102 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 22, 2011

    Please explain why you think that my alleged ‘smokescreen'(empirisist epistemology) as you call it has no actual import.

    “Please explain why stepping into the ring and telling you how my right hook will knock you out is not the same as actually knocking you out!”

  103. #103 Narad
    June 22, 2011

    Please explain why you think that my alleged ‘smokescreen'(empirisist epistemology) as you call it has no actual import.

    Because it doesn’t. Nothing changes. All the experimental data are still sitting there happily. No other explanations magically spring into being.

    And is a distraction from GT denialism when GT as it stands is based on an empiriciist epistemological position that claims to establish the ‘scientific knowledge’that germs and nothing else are the cause of disease? [sic]

    Because you’re not also bitching about everything else in the realm of scientific endeavor that has been slain by your sword of reason. It seems like, oh, say, electricity should be in for a rough ride here too. How do we ‘know’ that these ‘electrons’ do what the physicists say they do? Maybe something is terribly amiss.

  104. #104 Tony
    June 22, 2011

    Narad

    Who’s paticular ‘experimental data’ are you taking about here and what precisely are you referring to? Please specify. I see you have not answered the rest of the questions I put to you Narad. I take it that you do not see any problems with regard to all that ‘experimental data’ that is supposed to be immune from criticism and is ‘still sitting there happily’ until the cows come home. That’s exactly what an epistemology tries to do, render it’s brand of ‘knowledge’ sacrosanct.

  105. #105 Narad
    June 22, 2011

    I see you have not answered the rest of the questions I put to you Narad.

    And you’ve failed to (1) demonstrate that they’re of any practical significance, (2) define “precise and specific conditions,” (3) advance any sort of alternate description of the phenomena, and (4) prove the existence of noumena in the first place, if you want to hold yourself to your own standard.

    Indeed, perhaps you could quit mincing around and get down to the standard of proof (precise and specific, please) that you’re looking for.

  106. #106 Misty
    June 22, 2011

    Hi All,

    I am unversed in science, and in philosophy, in comparison with many of you here.

    However, of course I believe that microorganisms are the root cause of many diseases.

    I do not understand the position of the germ theory deniers. I think that many diseases or ‘dis-eases’ are caused by microorganisms, including, perhaps, Hodgkins lymphoma, which has been likened to a human form of crown gall disease.

    Naturally, I therefore believe in suitable medication, and in vaccines.

    That is not to say that the ‘Big Pharma’ industry is always right and moral. There is no point in wiping out most of one’s GABA receptors by imbibing the anti anxiety medication quipped about earlier in the thread, for example. The benzodiazipines were originally used on circus animals, and then ‘mother’s little helper’ was unleashed on the public, by virtue of one man testing the drug on himself, and his wife saying it made no appreciable difference. What needless tragedy and misery has since ensued!

    I see that Morgellon’s disease has been mentioned here, by dangerous bacon, as an example of a factitious disease where patients want treatment.

    The infectious element will not be elicited by cuture.

    That does not mean that the infection is not present.

    Perhaps it is not carbon based.

    Perhaps it is silicon based, (having its roots in a laboratory).

    Perhsps the apical growth can be observed by those willing to look hard enough at the arrangement of fibers just underneath the epidermis.

    Patients will initially think it is fungal, and may latch on to candida, or similar fungal infections, that they have read about.

    How is it that such patients develop deeper manifestations, such as a clinical picture resembling neurogenic bladder?

    Dr Schwartz maintained the infection was probably accidentally released from a lab.

    He was crucified.

    He was not the only one to state that the fibers seem to grow or travel along the nervous system. He hypothesised that some patients might end up needing hospice care if the proliferation was allowed to grow unabated, (because of the ultimate effects on the spine, or spinal nerves).

    Professor Omar Amin is once again advising the CDC. He found a nematode pressing on the nervous supply to a patient’s urinary bladder. Please see his publications on the de novo neurocutaneous syndrome. He concurs that this is indistinguishable from Morgellon, right down to the unidentifiable fibers found in the patients’ scalps.

    If you question long term Morgellons sufferers, you will find that they often report symptoms consistent with a neurogenic bladder, (and/or consistent with irritable bowel disease). They themselves may not have linked the Morgellons to this.

    Much earlier in the clinical picture, many will report touching, e.g. an area of scalp furunculosis, and feeling the touch instantly in another area of the body.

    The undoubted itching is one thing. Other somatic experiences are consistent with action potentials.

    Have a patient extract the smallish grey/white fiber in a comb, and watch how it swirls about like a cobra.

    Prescribed medication that removes insect acetylcholine apparently kills this particular fiber.

    What kills the relatively small bright scarlet and cobalt blue fibers? Check out Professor Amin’s safe use of insect growth regulators.

    Some sufferers are using silver medication as an antibiotic.

    Better preparations are in existence.

    Please do not take this the wrong way, but are some doctors being germ theory deniers here?

    We did used to say that asthma sufferers were in thrall to a psychosomatic condition, until allergies were regarded as one of the main factors.

    Morgellons is being putatively regarded by some as psychogenic.

    The need to belong to internet sites is not that strong.

    Orap/pimozide will kill helminths and perhaps arthropod larvae. It may help, but that does not mean the patient is de facto delusional.

  107. #107 Narad
    June 23, 2011

    Oh, and Tony, could you please verify whether or not you indeed wrote this particular bit of obfuscatory, supernaturalist tripe?

    Viruses have no independent effectivity of their own and what physical and chemical effectivity they may appear to possess is always reducible to and /or dependent on something else e.g. the biochemistry and electrodynamics of the cell and also that of the extracellular fluid matrix.

    Because, you know, it’s not clear to me where the epistemological line is between the obvious concepts of the “electrodynamics of the cell” and its friend, “the extracellular fluid matrix,” as compared with the obvious yet secretive put-on known as the “virus.”

  108. #108 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    Narad

    I asked you some valid scientific questions about Orac’s post on GT, and if you are genuine about defending GT as it stands they need to be answered:

    1)What is a ‘causitive organism’ and what precisely are the specific conditions in which it operates in the host body according to GT?

    2)Also if the precise nature of the ‘causative organism’ cannot be determined i.e. what the ‘causitive organism’ actually is and the conditions in which it operates etc, or whether there is any ‘causative organism’ at work at all in any particular disease how is such evidence thought to ‘converge’ to support the idea that microorganisms cause disease and bring GT as close to a ‘fact’ as a scientific theory can be?

    3)Does this imply that GT is not really a scientific ‘fact’ at all but only close to one (whatever that is supposed to imply) and just an ‘idea’ (Orac states that) based on empirical generalization – summary descriptions of particular observations from multiple disciplines that are supposed to function as causal law when they are somehow thought to ‘converge’?

    The only person doing the ‘mincing around’ here Narad is you – so answer the questions with your ‘standard proof’ seeing that there’s so much ‘converging’ evidence out there. Let’s see if that proof stands up to scientific scrutiny. If you are not prepared to do that then there’s not much point in replying to your obfuscations as they are going nowhere.If GT is invalid at a THEORETICAL level in its present form then how is it supposed to explain the cause of any particular disease effectively? The answer is it can’t.

  109. #109 Krebiozen
    June 23, 2011

    Tony,
    I think you misunderstand Orac when he wrote:

    True, for different diseases it’s not always clear what the causative organism is or even if there is a causative organism

    There are some diseases that are possibly caused by a pathogen, but that pathogen has not yet been identified. That doesn’t mean that “germ theory” fails. There are plenty of diseases that we know with a high degree of confidence are caused by a pathogen.

    Have you read the papers about polio that I suggested?

    Have you read about the discovery of the tobacco mosaic virus?

    I suggest you stick to discussing specific diseases believed to be caused by specific pathogens. That would avoid a lot of confusion.

  110. #110 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    Krebiozen

    You may not agree with my arguments but I do seem to get more sensible responses from you mostly.

    As you point out:

    I suggest you stick to discussing specific diseases believed to be caused by specific pathogens. That would avoid a lot of confusion.

    I agree but GT purports to be general theory of disease causation (as it stands)based on general empirical knowledge and that appears to pass as being unquestionably ‘scientific’- it is that which creates the confusion.

    The polio stuff is in hand I will comment on that in due course. I will also post my comments on the TMV to you soon. I suggest you let Narad answer the questions I put to him if he can, as he seems so full of himself.

  111. #111 Gray Falcon
    June 23, 2011

    Tony, why are you still going at this? You still haven’t explained how smallpox was eradicated, why the polio vaccine worked, or anything? Do you really think you can overthrow that much evidence with philosophical twaddle?

  112. #112 JohnV
    June 23, 2011

    Had a chance to check out those papers on gangrene I posted Tony? I believe they all even had html versions.

  113. #113 Krebiozen
    June 23, 2011

    Tony,

    GT purports to be general theory of disease causation

    But it doesn’t. If it did then it would claim that all disease is caused by “germs” but it doesn’t. There are plenty of diseases that are not caused by “germs”. I mentioned beriberi, pellagra and scurvy earlier as diseases that were once thought to be contagious, but are now known not to be.

    “Germ theory” is really a strawman in disguise. The only times I have ever come across the term is in the context of Pasteur’s research, and when people claim it is all wrong.

    The science I know and love tells me that under certain circumstances some microorganisms can cause disease in some people. It tells me that you can prevent or cure those diseases by avoiding or killing those microorganisms, or by stimulating the adaptive immune system with a vaccine.

    I find it a bit baffling when I find myself expected to defend the idea that these microorganisms always cause disease in everyone, and if that isn’t true then they can’t be causing disease in anyone. That logic doesn’t seem to follow.

    I’m sure Narad can answer your questions, but I wouldn’t blame him at all if he didn’t bother. I agree with him that so far you don’t seem to have brought much to the table apart from some misunderstandings about the meaning of causation, and what “germ theory” is actually about.

  114. #114 Dedj
    June 23, 2011

    “it is that which creates the confusion.”

    No one else here appears to have any trouble understanding the situation.

    Just thought I’d point that out so that you could maybe consider where (or rather, with whom) the confusion resides.

    That should hopefully re-enable you to consider whether or not it is worth our time for you to continue posting here.

  115. #115 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    Gray

    If you accuse me of ‘philosophical twaddle’ – you must specify in detail what precisely that ‘twaddle’is and how and why you believe I am using such ‘twaddle’ to overthrow ‘that much evidence’. The ‘evidence’ I have seen so far is largely descriptive rather than explanatory.

  116. #116 Gray Falcon
    June 23, 2011

    Tony, just about everything you’ve written about epistomology is “twaddle”. Likewise, you’re ludicrous ideas of what constitutes our current state of knowledge. Seriously, if the principles modern science is so wrong, why do they work? You may as well be trying to disprove that heavier-than-air flight is impossible!

  117. #117 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    Orac does not say that re GT, the statement is categorical: ‘germs are the cause disease’.

  118. #118 Gray Falcon
    June 23, 2011

    He doesn’t say they are the sole cause of disease. You’re reading more into Orac’s words than are really there. Now tell me, if germs aren’t a cause of disease, how was smallpox eradicated?

  119. #119 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    Gray

    We must have a lot of ‘nutcases’ then who have got good jobs at Oxford, Cambridge, and London that accept the stuff about epistemology and you don’t – perhaps they’ll all get the sack after listening to you, and you still haven’t answered the question as requested seeing as you are so knowledgeable and wise.

  120. #120 Gray Falcon
    June 23, 2011

    Tony, I have no problem with all of the people at Oxford, Cambridge, and London who talk about epistemology, because they also know that there’s such a thing as indirect evidence. For example, if a man’s body is riddled with bullet holes, one does not need a direct eyewitness to know he was shot to death.

  121. #121 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    Gray

    As George Bush Senior would probably say: READ ORAC’s LIPS:

    Perhaps a better way of putting it is that among the most dangerously wacky of nonsense is germ theory denialism; i.e., THE DENIAL THAT GERMS ARE THE CAUSE OF DISEASE” (capital emphasis mine for those who can’t see very well)
    and again:

    ”THE IDEA THAT MICROORGANISMS CAUSE DISEASE”

    and again:

    First, If it isn’t bacteria or other microbes that cause infectious disease, then vaccines are not necessary.

    Orac does not say in those quotes that there are any other causes of infectious disease.

    Your question re:the eradication of smallpox should be: what were the determinate conditions that led to the eradication of smallpox? That is a valid scientific question. Your question presupposes that the eradication of an alleged ‘germ’ should be the only answer without further scientific investigation.

  122. #122 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    Krebiozen

    “It tells me that you can prevent or cure those diseases by avoiding or killing those microorganisms, or by stimulating the adaptive immune system with a vaccine”.

    What about just shoving the needle in with or without the vaccine – do you know what I’m talking about here and I don’t mean an acupuncture needle either?

    A simple yes or no answer will suffice.

  123. #123 Gray Falcon
    June 23, 2011

    It seems I misread the term disease, Orac was probably referring to infectious diseases. Tony, there’s a difference between theory and fact. Perhaps there are diseases not caused by microorganisms, but that’s where the evidence lies. Regardless, they don’t always cause disease, and Orac does acknowledge that.

    The smallpox vaccine was introduced across the world, with mass vaccination programs, followed in very close correlation with the reduction and elimination of the disease. Of course, you tried to suggest it was the placebo effect, so I really can’t trust you to be honest or intelligent in what you say.

  124. #124 Gray Falcon
    June 23, 2011

    What about just shoving the needle in with or without the vaccine – do you know what I’m talking about here and I don’t mean an acupuncture needle either?

    That wouldn’t do anything. Seriously, Tony, do you think the vaccine was the only attempt made to deal with smallpox? The disease has been around for much longer, and for more cures were attempted. If the placebo effect was all that was needed to eliminate it, it would have ended long ago.

  125. #125 101
    June 23, 2011

    Tony complains about Orac’s assertion that “MICROORGANISMS CAUSE DISEASE”

    Elementary formal logic: A causes B.

    Tony further complains that “Orac does not say in those quotes that there are any other causes of infectious disease.” The most obvious intended inference from this statement is that Tony attributes to Orac an unstated argument of the form: all B is caused by A.

    This is, of course, a failure of basic logic.

  126. #126 101
    June 23, 2011

    I’d like to read Tony’s honest answer as to what would convince him that

    1. there is/was a virus that could be reliably identified as Variola (and thus unique from non-Variola viruses)
    2. Variola virus was a necessary causative agent in the human disease known as smallpox

    That’s it. Fairly simple request, I think…

  127. #127 Tony
    June 23, 2011

    101

    Orac doesn’t state ‘A causes B’, Orac states “A’s Cause B” so don’t bother to quote failures in logic when you can’t even read the statements correctly.

  128. #128 Narad
    June 23, 2011

    The only person doing the ‘mincing around’ here Narad is you – so answer the questions with your ‘standard proof’ seeing that there’s so much ‘converging’ evidence out there. Let’s see if that proof stands up to scientific scrutiny.

    Do try to read, Tony. I asked you what your standard of proof is, given that you seem be perfectly happy to wave around the “electrodynamics of the cell” to distract an audience. The problems that I enumerated for you @898 are logically prior to your apparently singularly purposed complaints about invalidity “at a THEORETICAL level.”

  129. #129 Krebiozen
    June 23, 2011

    What about just shoving the needle in with or without the vaccine – do you know what I’m talking about here and I don’t mean an acupuncture needle either? A simple yes or no answer will suffice.

    Do you mean placebos? You are seriously suggesting that a placebo would work as well as a vaccine? There are lots of placebo controlled studies of vaccine efficacy you can look at if you want. I was reading a Cochrane review of acellular pertussis vaccine yesterday, which includes several placebo controlled studies. It found that the vaccine is 84-85% effective at preventing whooping cough as compared with placebo. What is your point?

    I read Orac as meaning “some microorganisms cause some diseases”. Not all microorganisms cause disease, obviously (the bacteria that are used to make yogurt for example), and not all diseases are caused by microorganisms (pellagra is not caused by a microorganism, CJD isn’t caused by a microorganism, and it’s transmissible).

    “Drinking alcohol causes car crashes” doesn’t mean that all car crashes are caused by drinking alcohol or that drinking alcohol always causes car crashes.

    As for smallpox, the best scientific understanding available was brought to bear on the objective of eradicating smallpox. The way this was done was by surveillance, isolation and vaccination. Every time a smallpox case was detected by surveillance the case was isolated and the surrounding population vaccinated. This was continued for 30 years until there were no more cases.

    We have not seen a single case of smallpox since 1979. The idea that after at least 12,000 years smallpox disappeared during a 30 year eradication campaign by coincidence seems a little far-fetched.

  130. #130 Narad
    June 23, 2011

    Oh, and Tony, could you learn how to indicate quotation in some fashion?

  131. #131 101
    June 23, 2011

    *eyeroll*

    The key point, and where the logic of your comment above fails, is that Orac never states All A or All B in his writings on germ theory.

    Since we’re being super, extra, obnoxiously pedantic then…Orac’s statement that “microorganisms cause disease” is problematic because he actually means “microorganisms cause diseases“: he should actually be arguing As Cause Bs (while we’re being über-pedantic, apostrophes should not be used for plurals)

    Unless one is being deliberately obtuse…looking at you, Tony…or, I suppose, astonishingly ignorant, A causes B is the simplest logical formulation of specific subsets of claims within the framework of germ theory (e.g., smallpox is caused by Variola virus). The theory itself is of the form Some A cause Some B, A being the general class of “microbes” and B being “diseases”. The framework of the theory establishes necessary and sufficient conditions (e.g., Koch’s postulates) whereby a specific “A” can be determined to be a causative agent in the development of a specific “B” in a reliable and repeatable sense. Naturally, there is not a 1:1 correlation (e.g., many influenza viruses cause influenza, the site of a MRSA infection dramatically alters the presenting disease, individuals vary greatly in immunological capacities and histories).

    This is not a weakness or deficiency of the theory, as there is ample explanatory and predictive power within germ theory and other experimentally-derived biological frameworks that account for the complexities of infectious disease.

    The only one asserting a “monocausal doctrine” is you, Tony, up in #463 and in other comments. Such a “monocausal doctrine” is a colossally imbecilic straw man. Let it go.

  132. #132 Narad
    June 23, 2011

    while we’re being über-pedantic, apostrophes should not be used for plurals

    If you want to be really pedantic, not even the CMOS really subscribes to this as a broad prescription any longer, and it was dead in-house a long time ago in places where it mattered.

  133. #133 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 23, 2011

    OK, Tony, since you’re such a whiz-bang hotshot of philosophy, answer one question: why are you, alone of all people, immune from responsibility for following the principle of charity?

    The principle of charity holds that one interprets one’s opponents’ statements in the most charitable and reasonable fashion. When someone writes “Germs are the cause of disease” in the context of contrasting that with the claim “Germs are the consequence of disease,” to interpret that as meaning “Germs are the only cause of disease” is already cutting very close to the edge of the principle of charity. To insist that the statement must mean that, after being politely informed that it was not intended to, can only mean one of two things: either you’re a pathetic faker who hurls around phrases like “empiricist epistemology” but doesn’t understand absolutely basic principles like the principle of charity, or you understand the principle of charity but for some reason you think that you, unlike everyone else on the planet, are exempt from it.

    So which is it? Tell us. Don’t dance around the question. Don’t name-drop Lacan or mention any sort of epistemology. Don’t change the subject. Just tell us why you think you get to be immune from the ground rules of debate that every other mature adult accepts.

    And if you can’t do that, then just shut up.

  134. #134 Tony
    June 24, 2011

    Krebiozen

    No I do not mean placebos. I mean the effect of the actual puncture by the needle on some of the body’s systems.It has been called the ‘puncture phenomenon’ or ‘puncture effect’.

  135. #135 Tony
    June 24, 2011

    101

    An apologia for the subset of pure Bull – Orac said what was said, not what Orac ought to have said.

    Antaeus

    I have never claimed to be any such “whiz-bang hotshot of philosophy” since you are presupposing that I am, shame on you. As far as charity here is concerned there is none for
    anyone who is not a ‘mainstream’ robot. After your moralizing spiel you end by telling me to “shut up”. The argument re: ’empiricist epistemology’ stands and cannot be refuted by means of Aristotlean logic.

    Narad

    You are at it again nit picking as usual, I am not a rule following bureaucrat.

  136. #136 Tony
    June 24, 2011

    Krebiozen

    “We have not seen a single case of smallpox since 1979. The idea that after at least 12,000 years smallpox disappeared during a 30 year eradication campaign by coincidence seems a little far-fetched”.

    I agree, but the action of a particular vaccine is always conditional, and it is never the vaccine alone that eradicates anything.

  137. #137 Krebiozen
    June 24, 2011

    No I do not mean placebos. I mean the effect of the actual puncture by the needle on some of the body’s systems.It has been called the ‘puncture phenomenon’ or ‘puncture effect’.

    That is a non-specific effect that is one of several non-specific effects collectively called the ‘placebo effect’. A placebo vaccine involves injecting saline instead of a vaccine. You would expect the ‘puncture effect’ from the placebo, yet placebos are ineffective both in inducing antibodies, and in protecting against disease.

  138. #138 Krebiozen
    June 24, 2011

    the action of a particular vaccine is always conditional, and it is never the vaccine alone that eradicates anything.

    I was not suggesting that it is. That is why I mentioned surveillance and isolation. These measures are also based on “germ theory”, or more accurately the understanding that smallpox was caused by a virus that was spread by infected bodily fluids, usually through aerosols from coughing and sneezing. Isolation of a case minimized the number of people who were exposed to the virus, and vaccination protected those who were. All these measures are based on “germ theory” and they worked. No more smallpox.

    “Germ theory” is not a mathematical formula or a proposition that can be refuted by logic. Medical science is complicated and messy. Medical research does not deal with absolutes, it deals with probabilities. You seem to be trying to shoehorn a model that involves hundreds of different microorganisms that interact with an extremely complex human immune system into a single logical proposition that can be refuted using simple logic. That’s not going to work!

  139. #139 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 24, 2011

    Yes, Tony, I told you to either give us a damn good explanation for why you were flagrantly disregarding a ground rule of debate or to shut up. Just as, if you jumped into the middle of a soccer game and insisted on grabbing the ball and tucking it under your arm, you’d get told to either start playing by the rules of soccer or go home.

    If you think you haven’t been treated with sufficient “charity” it shows exactly one thing, and that’s just what a Dunning-Krueger poster child you are. You’ve received extraordinary patience despite your obvious ignorance of the basics of both immunology and elementary philosophy and now you’re whining because that patience with you has run out? Tough.

  140. #140 Narad
    June 26, 2011

    You are at it again nit picking as usual, I am not a rule following bureaucrat.

    Oh, the irony.

  141. #141 Dedj
    June 26, 2011

    “I agree, but the action of a particular vaccine is always conditional, and it is never the vaccine alone that eradicates anything.”

    Of course, this does not eliminate the possibility that one of the determining conditions of eradication could be the introduction and effective distribution of the vaccine. The short form of this would be ‘the vaccine eradicated disease x’. It would be difficult to argue that one is both competant and in possession of sufficient knowledge, yet also argue that one is right to take that statement in its literal form.

    I will repeat my previous observation that no-one else here seems to have the difficulty with understanding the basic theories and practise behind germ theory and vaccines that Tony seems to have.

  142. #142 Tony
    June 28, 2011

    Dedj

    “The short form of this would be ‘the vaccine eradicated disease x'”.

    I wish that statement was true. I really do. The claim that vaccination played a major role in eliminating infectious disease still remains unproven. According to G.Dick,in Smallpox: A Reconsideration of Public Health Policies. Progress in Medical Virology 1966: 8: 1-29 vaccination had little effect on smallpox. Smallpox disappeared in countries with little or no vaccination, such as Australia and New Zealand, as well as countries with widespread vaccination.
    If that is correct then it is not the vaccine alone that eradicated smallpox.

  143. #143 lilady
    June 28, 2011

    Cripes Tony…get a grip…start by getting some education about epidemiology of infectious diseases and stop cherry-picking articles for your specious “theories” about world eradication of smallpox. Smallpox eradication was a world-wide effort through a very expensive intensive collaboration of scientists, doctors, nurses and governments which provided those resources.

    A few years back, during the WMD scare, I was one of the first public health nurses in my state to receive (repeat) vaccination against smallpox. One qualification was my license as a nurse and my public health experience. Another qualifications was my age (born before 1977) when the smallpox vaccine was discontinued as part of the Recommended Childhood Vaccines list, in the United States. Still another qualification was a history of having been re-vaccinated for foreign travel in 1977. I did not have any untoward reactions to prior vaccinations, did not have any history of immuno-suppression or eczema and I was “willing” to volunteer. Once the vaccination crusted over, my health department set up small clinics and the five nurses who were vaccinated along with me, vaccinated two or three staff from each of our catchment area’s hospitals. Fortunately, no further vaccination was required because the WMDs concerns turned out to be a non-starter (political fiasco).

    I did however, have the opportunity to meet a retired physician who participated in the world-wide successful effort to eradicate smallpox from the face of this Earth. He was part of the team operating in the Indian sub-continent…by trudging through small villages, identifying individual cases or small outbreaks, vaccinating all contacts first…then vaccinating in an ever-widening circle anyone who hadn’t been vaccinated or who had been vaccinated years before. That Tony, is numero uno, when containing an outbreak (of any vaccine preventable disease)…or participating in a heroic effort to eradicate a disease worldwide.

    The WHO, in concert with the CDC and other entities targeted polio to be the second disease eradicated from the face of the Earth by 2000. Due to political unrest and wars/displacement of populations, that goal of eradication by 2000 has been delayed. We are very close to achieving that goal however…using the same principles of disease eradication (active surveillance, immunization of contacts, immunization of others in a geographic area) that was used so long ago to eradicate smallpox. Here is the site for you to get information about this worldwide initiative:

    Global Polio Eradication Initiative

    I suggest you read it thoroughly, using the links provided to track week by week, the success of modern worldwide epidemiology principles and the use of polio vaccine to make polio eradication a reality.

    Oh, and if you have any “suggestions” or “theories” that you wish to advance, I suggest you contact the WHO and the CDC to put forth your ideas. (Please don’t bother us anymore)

  144. #144 Krebiozen
    June 28, 2011

    Tony,
    When did anyone claim that vaccination alone eradicated smallpox? I explained above that the measures used were surveillance, isolation and vaccination, all based on the “germ theory” you claim is untenable.

    I assume you read the article by Dick you refer to, or at the very least the abstract. You wouldn’t have repeated what someone on an anti-vaccination website wrote without checking the original source would you? I would be grateful for a link to it, as I can only find a review of the journal it was published in. Did you notice it was published 13 years before smallpox was eradicated?

    The author wrote an article for the British Medical Journal just a few years later. He does not express any doubt at all that vaccination is effective in preventing smallpox, but he does question the wisdom of continuing routine mass vaccination in a country in which the disease has been eradicated. Remember that smallpox vaccine had a much higher risk of serious adverse reactions as compared to current vaccines.

    Dick writes, “For more than a quarter of a century smallpox has been controlled in the United Kingdom by attempts to prevent importations, the isolation of cases, and the tracing, vaccination, and surveillance of known and probable contacts. This has been highly effective, otherwise there would have been severe outbreaks of smallpox.”

  145. #145 Dedj
    June 28, 2011

    “Smallpox disappeared in countries with little or no vaccination, such as Australia and New Zealand, as well as countries with widespread vaccination. ”

    Given that both appear to have little in the way of previous, purportedly due to isolation and lack of transmigration as well as strict quarantine, it comes as no suprise that they did not require mass vaccination to eradicate smallpox.

    Nor, therefore, are they very good examples to use in countering the claim that vaccines helped eradicate smallpox.

    Due to the pedantic and highly idiosyncratic nature of your claims and use of terms, I will have to restate the suggestion that no-one else has any trouble with the idea that the claim ‘vaccines eradicated smallpox’ is not equivilant to ‘only vaccines eradicated smallpox’, and that the ‘vaccine eradicated smallpox’ posistion does not require that all the usual mechanisms that cause diseases to ebb and flow be ignored.

    It is a ‘as well as’ arguement, not a ‘only because of’ arguement. Arguing that vaccine were the determining factor in worldwide eradication of smallpox does not require arguing that they were the only determinant, nor does it require that all the usual co-determinants never produce a case of co-incidental eradication in any local or national case.

    You remain the only person, thus far, to display any form of cognitive or intellectual difficulty with the content of the discussion. I would suggest that your constant niggling replies arise out of a difficulty in understanding that other people may be equally or more intelligent and relevantly educated than you, and that they might have already thought of the same things that you have.

    All of your replies thus far have demonstrated a profound ignorance of what the mainstream arguements even are, much less provided any sufficient challenge to them for you to be considered a valid or valuable contributor.

  146. #146 Dedj
    June 28, 2011

    Apologies for the spelling in my previous post, I’m currently juggling paperwork and online work.

  147. #147 Tony
    June 28, 2011

    Krebiozen

    Didn’t read first article by Dick only some info allegedly quoted from it. I did read your BMJ reference ‘Routine Smallpox Vaccination’ by George Dick – a highly speculative paper based mostly on assumption, generalization from reports of descriptions of particular observations, and belief.

    “For more than a quarter of a century smallpox has been controlled in the United Kingdom by attempts to prevent importations, the isolation of cases, and the tracing, vaccination, and surveillance of known and probable contacts. This has been highly effective, otherwise there would have been severe outbreaks of smallpox.”

    Notice how Dick includes vaccination here as part of the control measures when it is still an unproven means of preventing smallpox. It could well turn out that the other measures quoted are actually more effective in the eradication of smallpox as opposed to the vaccine – Dick would probably agree but that is also speculation!

  148. #148 lilady
    June 28, 2011

    Let’s just shut this posting down. Tony lives in an imaginary world and simply not worth our efforts anymore.

  149. #149 Krebiozen
    June 28, 2011

    @lilady
    I agree. I’m happy to help to educate someone who wants to learn, but this is a waste of time.

  150. #150 Tony
    June 29, 2011

    Krebiozen

    I am willing to learn when I see the proper scientific evidence instead of lots of speculation and empirical generalizations disguised as scientific evidence. If I live in an imaginary world then I am not alone because there a good few microbiologists there along with me. The problem is they do not even realize that fact. Empiricism is not science it is an easy excuse for lack of evidence and effective explanation. Descriptions of observations do not fully account for the objects and phenomena being observed or the connections that may obtain between them. Theory only seems to emerge as an after thought.I am not trying to invalidate microbiology even though you may think that, but some of the stuff described within it that is supposed to pass as being scientific is just plausible speculation.

    Lilady

    Your main effort is in providing even more speculation about the effectivity of the vaccine in the eradication of smallpox.

  151. #151 Krebiozen
    June 29, 2011

    Tony,
    What in your view would constitute “proper scientific evidence”?

  152. #152 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    June 29, 2011

    Tony,
    What in your view would constitute “proper scientific evidence”?

    You could guide him by the hand through every paper ever published on the germ theory or epidemiology or whatever, but at the end of the day, he’d say the conclusions were only one interpretation, filtered through the “discourse” of “penis science” or whatever postmodernist denigration he chooses to apply to it, and since a Yakut shaman would look at the same evidence and draw a different conclusion, nothing can be decided.

  153. #153 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    June 29, 2011

    101 – philosopher

    Tony – twat

    ‘Nuff said!

  154. #154 Gray Falcon
    June 29, 2011

    @944: By Tony’s standards, we have no evidence that jet engines are what are keeping large airplanes aloft, not knowing everything about jetstreams and spirits of the air.

  155. #155 Th1Th2
    June 29, 2011

    When did anyone claim that vaccination alone eradicated smallpox?

    […]because the disease was eradicated – by vaccination – before sequencing was available).—-LW

  156. #156 lilady
    June 29, 2011

    The return of Thingy now…for some real scientific information about smallpox, including Thingy’s “unique” germ theory and (un)informed garbled theories about immunology, epidemiology and containment of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Thingy might also take a swipe at parents whose children have died from vaccine-preventable disease…it is Thingy’s “specialty”.

  157. #157 Gray Falcon
    June 29, 2011

    It’s pretty clear Th1Th2 isn’t interested or capable of honest discussion, the question was: When did anyone claim that vaccination alone eradicated smallpox? To explain: If I said, “A jet plane uses jet engines to fly”, I am not implying that the jet engines alone are responsible for flight, the shape of the plane and the mechanical components are also necessary, only that they are an essential component.

  158. #158 Narad
    June 29, 2011

    Tony lives in an imaginary world and simply not worth our efforts anymore.

    No, if he truly lived in an imaginary world, none of this would be necessary. He lives in a supernaturalist world in which “descriptions of observations do not fully account for the objects and phenomena being observed or the connections that may obtain between them” is axiomatically sensible. Hence the pissiness when it’s suggested that the externality of relations be subjected to the same scrutiny that he demands of his bête noire.

  159. #159 Tony
    June 29, 2011

    David N Andrews
    Tony – twat
    ‘Nuff said!
    Well thanks for that Dave!You use the title MEd – but a Master of Vulgarity is a title that would perhaps be a little more appropriate as it sums you up quite well.

    Gray Falcon

    I do not think you can compare Aviation engineering with microbiology, Gray can you really? Science does provide the evidence as to what keeps large airplanes aloft, if there was no air they wouldn’t even be able to fly – jet engine or no jet engine would they? The jet engine alone doesn’t keep the plane aloft anyway does it? Germs alone don’t cause disease all by themselves either but GT is presented to the public ‘as if’ they do, Orac says so, therefore we must all believe everything Orac says!

    The microbiologists must all be right too because of the vast amount of descriptive empirical evidence available for an enthusiastic and scientifically oriented Joe public to wade through between Coronation Street and Eastenders. If they do not understand any of it they can always ask their doctor who doesn’t know much about it anyway, he thinks nearly every infection is caused by a ‘virus’ or a bacterium. If he doesn’t know what the cause is, it is still caused by a ‘virus’! If his flu shot doesn’t work and you get the flu – tough! It’s down to a different strain that the vaccine could not conveniently cater for. If somebody dies or becomes seriously ill after a flu shot or any other vaccine, the vaccine is never the cause as far as the medical authorities are concerned it always involves something else that takes the blame off the vaccine. Yet ironically, germs are hailed as the cause of infectious disease no problem whatsoever and nothing else is involved according to Orac’s version of GT – ‘microorganisms cause disease’. Weird the way this mode of ‘causality’ works, even more weird still is the fact that most microbiologists believe it!

    Reverend

    Your ignorance still betrays you – so much so, you have now lapsed into Alice in Wonderland phantasies in attempting to speculate as what my position is. What has ‘postmodernism’ got to do with my criticism of empiricism in microbiology or GT, if I have referred to concepts from Philosophy, Lacan or even Foucault wrt an argument it does not place me squarely in the postmodernist camp does it now? What then is your domain of interpretation Rev? Experience, sensation, the real, the mind, discourse, theory, the facts, reason, microbiology or what??? Lacan would say ‘when faced with a blank sheet of paper he will tell you who is the turd of his phantasy’. You have revealed yourself to me Rev!

  160. #160 Gray Falcon
    June 29, 2011

    It appears Tony thinks that if something is too complicated for him to understand, it must not be true.

  161. #161 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 29, 2011

    Germs alone don’t cause disease all by themselves either but GT is presented to the public ‘as if’ they do, Orac says so, therefore we must all believe everything Orac says!

    Aaaaaaaaand Tony shows once again what a reprehensible and dishonest oaf he is. Tony has already been alerted to the fact that when Orac said “Germs are the cause of disease,” it was specifically in the context of contrast to the claim “Germs are the consequence of disease”; that is, when there is a cause and effect relationship between a germ and a disease, the direction of that relationship is germ followed by disease, not disease creating germ.

    It’s stupid and dishonest to take that statement out of context and claim that it means “Germs are the ONLY cause of disease” or “Germs alone don’t cause disease all by themselves” but that’s exactly what Tony insists on doing! And it might have been barely forgivable for Tony to have insisted “this statement made by a supporter of germ theory means that germs are the only cause of disease in germ theory” if he had been able to move on once he learned that he was wrong – but he was too stupid and dishonest for that. Instead of saying, “okay, if germ theorists don’t believe that germs are the sole cause of disease, what do you believe on the subject?” he says “Oh, no, once you’ve said something that I can twist to make you sound like germ theory is a monocausal doctrine, I get to pretend you actually think that forever. Don’t bother trying to correct my misunderstanding, because I get too much mileage out of it!”

    I generally disagree, quite strongly, with David Andrews’ use of personal invective and profanity. But ask me if I can disagree with his characterization of Tony and I must confess that I cannot. Tony is, by his acts, repulsively dishonest and willfully stupid.

  162. #162 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 29, 2011

    Gravity makes things fall down. However, not everything falls down when exposed to gravity (say, if it’s sitting on a desk). Therefore, gravity may be the consequence of falling objects rather than a cause?

  163. #163 Narad
    June 29, 2011

    If they do not understand any of it they can always ask their doctor who doesn’t know much about it anyway, he thinks nearly every infection is caused by a ‘virus’ or a bacterium.

    And we have a winner. Enumerate the other sources of infection, Tony (the options are all vulnerable to your own argument). You have left the Bechampian terroir.

  164. #164 Tony
    June 30, 2011

    Antaeus

    I hope that you are not trying to tell me that the only hipocrisy on this blog comes from me.

    What DO you believe on the subject honest Antaeus. Let’s have your take on the subject, let us see if you can add some more wisdom to a ‘shifty’ theory. If it is true that I am so repulsively dishonest and stupid that places me in the same camp as ‘germ theorists’ who deny on the one hand that there are conditions at work other than germs in disease causation and yet also try to affirm the opposite.

    Narad

    Even if I spelled it out for you it would only be thrown back in my face because you believe what you believe and nothing is going to change that short of a miracle.

    Gray

    I thought there was nothing complicated about germ theory as it stands, it is rather some of the arguments of those who try to defend it in its present form. So perhaps you can inform me what is the ‘complication’ you are talking about that has thrown the spanner in the works of my understanding that has led me down the wrong path to the false conclusion that GT is untrue.

  165. #165 Narad
    June 30, 2011

    Even if I spelled it out for you it would only be thrown back in my face because you believe what you believe and nothing is going to change that short of a miracle.

    No, Tony, enumerate the other sources of ‘infection’. You seem to accept this as a meaningful word.

  166. #166 Tony
    June 30, 2011

    Krebiozen

    Indeed theories are developed to explain the ‘facts’ as you state. But the so-called ‘facts’ don’t explain themselves and can’t be explained independently of the particular form of discourse in which they are specified whether it is claimed to be theoretical, scientific or otherwise in which those ‘facts’ are specified.

    In the opening paragraph of his discourse Olitsky makes it clear that:

    “An examination of the extensive literature which has accumulated since the first description’ of mosaic disease in tobacco reveals the fact that the nature of the inciting agent has not yet been definitely determined”.

    Literature by the way is a form of discourse and in this example Olitsky’s examination of it “reveals the FACT that the nature of the inciting agent has not yet been definitely determined” (my emphasis).

    Thus, “facts” are always produced; they are the product of definite discursive practices, whether empiricist, theoretical, scientific, philosophical or what have you.

    Here’s a quote from Claude Bernard to illustrate the point:

    “…as the fact which the experimenter must verify does not present itself to him naturally, he must make it appear, that is induce it for a special reason and with a definite object.” (An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, Claude Bernard (1865), Trs. By H. Copley Green (1927) p.19)

    Krebiozen states that:

    ‘’Notice that although the article uses the word “virus” the authors have little idea of what a virus is.’’

    Does that just refer to the authors of the literature that Olitsky cites on the first page? Or does it mean Olitsky as well, because he does seem to have some idea at the end of the work but it’s not the idea of a bit of lifeless nucleic acid wrapped in a protein coat.

    Moreover, if Olitsky did not have some idea of what an ‘active agent of mosaic disease’ was he would not have been able to design and use an appropriate experimental method in a bid to try and identify it.

    Again according to Bernard:

    “The whole experimental enterprise comes from the idea, for it is this which induces the experiment”. (Bernard, 1865, p.32)

    Olitsky states that:

    ‘’The experiments here reported 5 show, we believe, that the incitant
    of mosaic disease of tobacco and tomatoes is a living, multiplying
    body, capable of propagation through many generations in an
    artificial medium’’.

    This certainly would not go down well with most virologists today who do not believe that viruses are ‘alive’ at all. They seem to prefer a reductionist approach to the question concerning the composition and attributes of viruses, although there are some exceptions to that.

    In Peter K. Olitsky’s paper there is no further mention that a whole ‘’virus’’ in the current sense of the term free from everything else in the stew that was actually produced, by that author.

    On the first page of the article Olitsky prefers to use the concept of “inciting agent” or ”active agent”, rather than that of a ‘filterable virus’ – a concept that he was well aware of, as well as suspecting that the ‘inciting agent’ may be filterable.

    On page 133 he quotes the work of Doolittle: “Doolittle also found that the upper limit of dilution of cucumber mosaic “virus” at which activity is still present is 1:10,000”.

    On page 131 he mentions ‘the active agent of mosaic’, on page 133 ‘agent of mosaic disease’ and finally on the concluding page 136 ‘the incitant of mosaic disease of tobacco and tomato plants’. Olitsky never concluded that it was in fact a ‘filterable virus’ yet could have done so, since the ‘active agent’ according to Olitsky was indeed found to be filterable.

    Olitsky’s paper does not prove that either – he only “believes’’ that the experimental evidence shows that the incitant is a “living multiplying body, capable of propagation through many generations in an
    artificial medium’’ – he does not claim to know that for certain. In other words, Olitsky’s experimental evidence is indeterminate and somewhat speculative, although it could be argued that he did produce a TMV ‘isolate’ but not an isolated Tobacco Mosaic Virus free from other material substances in the filtrates. As far as I know electron microscopes were not around at the time Olitsky wrote that paper so he could not have produced any electron micrographs of the alleged ‘virus’.

    However, I think that the concept of an ‘active agent of mosaic disease’ is probably a more accurate description from the work conducted by Olitsky and probably still applies today. It certainly applies more aptly to the old concept of ‘virus’ being deployed in Olitsky’s experiments – an innoculum of ‘poisonous liquid’. That is, a ‘filterable agent’ of an indeterminate composition, combined with a mixture of other filterable molecular material derived from plant proteins, enzymes, toxins, plant DNA/RNA, and possibly other filterable ‘viruses’ in an artificial culture medium. There is nothing in Olitsky’s paper that suggests that all traces of other possible deleterious filterable materials have been effectively removed from the test samples of culture fluid used for inoculation. That is not to say that the diluted culture fluid used in Olisky’s experiments did not induce mosaic disease in the inoculated plant specimens on interaction.

    ‘Disease agents’ always have differential means and conditions of action they may play some part in a particular disease process but that does not prove that they are the cause of a particular disease.

  167. #167 Krebiozen
    June 30, 2011

    Tony,

    Olitsky’s paper was written in 1925, before anyone understood what a virus is. I was hoping you might follow the history of the discovery of the tobacco mosaic virus so you could begin to understand the process by which scientists began to understand what a virus is. Instead you take a historical paper as the current understanding of virology and demonstrate an astonishing level of scientific illiteracy in trying to refute it.

    I have really tried my best, but the only conclusion I can come to at this point is that your are either an astonishingly arrogant idiot, or you are deliberately being obtuse.

  168. #168 LW
    June 30, 2011

    *Way* back in #873, Tony stated, “My intention was to show by way of argument that empiricist epistemology is untenable, which it is…”

    That being the case, I am at a loss to understand why, eighty-six comments later, he is still driveling on about what empirical discovery did or did not show, in 1924 or at any other date. None of it produces knowledge or gives any warrant of epistemological validity, right, Tony? So why doesn’t Tony go away and talk to the really smart people, who know that today polio may be caused by the evil eye, tomorrow by the wrath of God, the next day by offended ancestor spirits, and the day after by Martians?

  169. #169 Tony
    June 30, 2011

    Krebiozen

    Is that what you thought I was trying to do? You gave me one paper Olitsky’s – so I commented on Olitsky’s experimental evidence at the time. True I referred to the modern idea of virus in passing. But does that invalidate all of the comments I made on the paper? What gives you the impression that I was trying to refute Olitsky’s paper? Where did I state that?

  170. #170 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    June 30, 2011

    Twat: “Well thanks for that Dave!You use the title MEd – but a Master of Vulgarity is a title that would perhaps be a little more appropriate as it sums you up quite well.”

    You’re welcome. You’re also an irritant. Yes, I am a Master of Education, and good with it. But when I see someone spouting pseudophilosophical shit like you do, I don’t think that it’s worth any of my skills trying to exchange ideas since you obviously don’t understand much: you just post in order to contradict what anyone says to you. Master of Vulgarity? Hmmm… I could go with that. I’m pretty good at it. When I need to be. And I’d say one needs to be when talking to a twat like you.

  171. #171 DW
    June 30, 2011

    @ David N. Andrews, M.Ed.,C.P.S.E.

    Perhaps I am be of service: I used to be pretty good at devising questionaires. How about a measure of linguistic vulgarity? ( to the exclusion of the many other divers forms of vulgarity) My Obscenity scale will measure the extent of a person’s usage, including complexity and creativity in cursing. There’s even an acronym lurking, so watchit now.

  172. #172 Krebiozen
    June 30, 2011

    What gives you the impression that I was trying to refute Olitsky’s paper?

    Your own words?

    “Olitsky’s paper does not prove…”

    “Olitsky’s experimental evidence is indeterminate and somewhat speculative…”

    We now know that Olitsky was wrong in thinking that viruses can be cultured in a medium like bacteria, and attempts to replicate his experiments failed. However he was right in his observation that the causative agent of tobacco mosaic is not easily filterable.

    I was trying to point out that science does not proceed the way you have claimed, that scientists do not simply do experiments that support their preconceptions. Often there are mysteries, like the nature of TMV. Attempts to solve the mystery are messy, and people make mistakes, but after many experiments they reach a close approximation of the truth.

    Other scientists subsequently crystallized TMV, chemically analyzed it, took electron micrographs of it, determined its structure and figured out how it infects a cell. We now have a good, though not complete, understanding of TMV. Take a look at this article, and see if you still believe that:

    the concept of an ‘active agent of mosaic disease’… probably still applies today

    I think that the hundreds of scientists referenced in this article have come up with a much better description of TMV based on solid science and replicable experiments.

  173. #173 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    June 30, 2011

    DW: “Perhaps I am be of service: I used to be pretty good at devising questionaires. How about a measure of linguistic vulgarity? ( to the exclusion of the many other divers forms of vulgarity) My Obscenity scale will measure the extent of a person’s usage, including complexity and creativity in cursing. There’s even an acronym lurking, so watchit now.”

    Now you have me totally interested! 🙂

    Lemme work on this after my supper 🙂

  174. #174 Tony
    June 30, 2011

    Krebiozen

    It was not my intention to try and refute Olitsky’s paper,my quote affirms that Olitsky did produce an ‘isolate’ of something but did not really know what it was.

    “Olitsky’s paper does not prove that either – he only “believes’’ that the experimental evidence shows that the incitant is a “living multiplying body, capable of propagation through many generations in an
    artificial medium’’ – he does not claim to know that for certain. In other words, Olitsky’s experimental evidence is indeterminate and somewhat speculative, although it could be argued that he did produce a TMV ‘isolate’ but not an isolated Tobacco Mosaic Virus free from other material substances in the filtrates”.

    You state that:

    I was trying to point out that science does not proceed the way you have claimed, that scientists do not simply do experiments that support their preconceptions.

    I think that it all depends on the particular science in question and many do proceed from theories. I agree that people do make mistakes but they do not always reach a close approximation to the truth by experiments alone. You will have to be careful there Kreb or you will be branded as becoming too philosophical for the liking of the other bloggers here! You may then end up receiving a similar measure of flak and venomous (viral) riducule from the in-house thought police!

  175. #175 lilady
    June 30, 2011

    “You will have to be careful there Kreb or you will be branded as becoming too philosophical for the liking of the other bloggers here! You may then end up receiving a similar measure of flak and venomous (viral) riducule from the in-house thought police!”

    Oh Tony…personal attacks such as this on our educated erudite Krebiozen colleague and taking swipes at other posters on this site (“in house thought police”) NEVER worked for Ugh Troll and it won’t work for you. Such prior attempts have resulted in the utmost derision. You’ve been warned now…so why not stop while you are ahead.

  176. #176 Gray Falcon
    June 30, 2011

    Tony, changing one’s ideas based on evidence is central to the concept of science. We You refused to acknowledge that germ theory may hold some validity because people were able to make working applications of it, you insisted we believed germs were the sole factor in causing disease even after we told you otherwise, you didn’t even change your belief that the sponsorship of Big Pharma was responsible for germ theory’s acceptance when I pointed out to you that it would require the conspiracy to begin before they even existed. The only one here unwilling to let go of their idée fixe here is you!

  177. #177 Krebiozen
    June 30, 2011

    @lilady
    Thanks, I appreciate that. If I do inadvertently come out with some unjustifiable BS I expect to be called out for it. I have learned a lot from this blog, and I hope I continue to do so.

  178. #178 Tony
    June 30, 2011

    Lilady

    There is no ‘personal attack’ on Krebiozen none whatsoever intended, how do you arrive at the interpretation from what I said??? I was referring to his statement about reaching a close approximation to the truth by experiments alone. What exactly constitutes ‘the truth’ can be a philosophical question as well as a scientific one hence the warning.

    Gray

    I agree about changing ideas based on evidence. I do accept what you are saying that germs are not the sole factor in causing disease. Thanks be to that.
    Let’s go back a bit with Antaeus:

    Aaaaaaaaand Tony shows once again what a reprehensible and dishonest oaf he is. Tony has already been alerted to the fact that when Orac said “Germs are the cause of disease,” it was specifically in the context of contrast to the claim “Germs are the consequence of disease”; that is, when there is a cause and effect relationship between a germ and a disease, the direction of that relationship is germ followed by disease, not disease creating germ.

    Here’s Orac’s quote, and it was not made in the particular context that Antaeus suggests, in fact the context that Antaeus is referring to comes 7 paragraphs later. This was the Orac quote I had problems with:

    “Perhaps a better way of putting it is that among the most dangerously wacky of nonsense is germ theory denialism; i.e., the denial that germs are the cause of disease. Few theories in medicine or science are supported as strongly by such a huge amount of evidence from multiple disciplines that converge on the idea that microorganisms cause disease, supporting it with an interwoven web of evidence that bring germ theory about as close to a fact as a scientific theory can be. True, for different diseases it’s not always clear what the causative organism is or even if there is a causative organism, but these examples all fit into the general framework of the germ theory of infectious disease”.

    That is the quote I was concerned about not what he said later on. Here he is presupposing that there is at least a possibility of a ‘causative organism’ at work in disease without further specification as to how the causal process is conceived to operate with regard to such an organism.

  179. #179 Narad
    June 30, 2011

    Here he is presupposing that there is at least a possibility of a ‘causative organism’ at work in disease without further specification as to how the causal process is conceived to operate with regard to such an organism.

    And how do you respond when someone asks you to “turn on the lights”?

  180. #180 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 30, 2011

    So, Goofus is called out for repeatedly using the strawman “germ theorists deny that there are any other factors than germs involved in disease causation” (the fact that the two-word phrase “opportunistic infection” exists in medicine should be enough to show the falsity of this idea.) And what does he do in his reply? He returns back to the same strawman all over again! He’s like a broken chess robot that’s got its list of “winning strategies” and “illegal moves” switched around; he keeps committing fouls and announcing victory.

  181. #181 Tony
    July 1, 2011

    Antaeus

    How exactly does the causal process operate in an ‘opportunistic infection’ and how is it specified with reference to the organism in question? How is an ‘opportunistic infection’ determined?

  182. #182 Tony
    July 1, 2011

    Narad

    Turn them on!

  183. #183 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    Turn them on!

    How do you know what’s going to happen when you flip that switch?

  184. #184 LW
    July 1, 2011

    “Perhaps a better way of putting it is that among the most dangerously wacky of nonsense is germ theory denialism; i.e., the denial that germs are the cause of disease.”

    For all his lectures about discourse, Tony seems to have a reading comprehension problem. Orac is describing what germ theory denialists contend, not what Orac himself contends, nor what germ theory actually says. Germ theory denialism is the denial that any microorganism (or “germ”) is the cause of any disease under any circumstances, ever.  Or, if you don’t want to belabor the point, it is the denial that germs are the cause of disease. 

    Tony’s complaint appears to be that Orac was insufficiently pedantic. It may have escaped the erudite Tony’s attention, but this is a blog, and Orac writes informally for his own amusement and the amusement and possible edification of his readers.  This is not a textbook, an encyclopedia entry, a journal article, or any thing else that requires meticulous proofreading and polishing of every word, with parenthetical comments and footnotes to clarify any possible ambiguity and address every possible question.

    Any number of people above have tried to clarify for Tony what Orac meant, to no avail since Tony is determined to interpret Orac’s words in his own, least charitable, way, so of course this comment will have no effect on him either.   

    I note that apparently the whole excursion into the lack of epistemological warrant of science was a red herring, as Tony has now abandoned it; if he really believed it, then no empirical evidence of any kind would ever justify any conclusion of any kind and therefore there would be absolutely no point in discussing the evidence.     

  185. #185 Tony
    July 1, 2011

    LW

    In your apologia for Orac you state that:

    “Germ theory denialism is the denial that any microorganism (or “germ”) is the cause of any disease under any circumstances, ever. Or, if you don’t want to belabor the point, it is the denial that germs are the cause of disease”.

    The question has already been answered – germs are not the sole factor in the cause of disease, so why repeat the issue? Granted germs may play a part in a particular disease process but what specific part they do play will always depend on definite and specifiable conditions.

    Narad

    “How do you know what’s going to happen when you flip that switch?

    You don’t if the determinate conditions have changed significantly since you last flipped that switch.

  186. #186 Gray Falcon
    July 1, 2011

    Tony, here’s a quote from your very first post here:

    Hasn’t it dawned on Orac yet that the so-called ‘pathogenic bacterium’ or an alleged ‘pathogenic virus’ may appear in the body as a result of a particular disease process(an EFFECT) and not as THE Cause?

    So yes, you were arguing that germs were not a cause of disease, but an effect. Revisionism is not a good tactic on a comment thread.

  187. #187 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 1, 2011

    Granted germs may play a part in a particular disease process but what specific part they do play will always depend on definite and specifiable conditions.

    For the most part, the part they play is fixed for a particular germ and disease. How “well” they perform that part and the exact progress of the disease will depend on the strain of germ, the nature of the initial infection, and other conditions (such as immune system behavior, previous exposure, other underlying conditions, etc.).
    There are diseases (e.g. scurvy) that do not involve germs at all. There are others (e.g. the common cold) which may be caused by a wide variety (or combination) of germs.

  188. #188 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    You don’t if the determinate conditions have changed significantly since you last flipped that switch.

    This is simply shunting epistemology into metaphysics. How do you know if the determinate conditions have changed? What is your method of enquiry?

  189. #189 Tony
    July 2, 2011

    Narad

    The lights won’t come on when you flip the switch.

    There’s nothing epistemological or metaphysical about it unless you make it so in this particular instance.

    Unfortunately we still have to use the terms ‘know’ and ‘knowledge’ everyday but its not an epistemological or a metaphysical question unless you make it one. Certain sciences do make epistemological claims i.e. when they assert that their ‘knowledge’ is based on a form of empiricism. But as I have pointed out that does not invalidate other substantive concepts that specify the objects and phenomena of the science in question. I have already explained elsewhere what epistemology tries to do i.e. lay down the conditions in which valid knowledge is possible and why it can’t do that because of the inescapable circularity involved in its argument.

    The ‘method’ of enquiry is a discursive one based the concepts, theory, and practice of basic electricity, and also the specification of how lighting and switches work together with the possible problems that may arise under such conditions.

  190. #190 Tony
    July 2, 2011

    Gray

    I did say MAY be an effect

  191. #191 A Nonymous
    September 7, 2011

    Help! Please?
    I’ve got a friend who is a germ theory denialist. Apart from that, he also insists that as I am the one who is making a claim (i.e. the pathogenic theory is correct) and therefor it is up to me to produce evidence for my claims.
    Unfortunately, the easy way out “Germ theory was heavily attacked in its infancy, and if there had not been convincing evidence it would never have taken off.” does not budge him.
    Also the fact that scientists by now have detailed knowledge of the mechanisms of infection employed be certain pathogens seems to be canceled out by the fact that I cannot explain them in a convincing manner, and also some guy once drank vomit from a cholera victim and didn’t get ill. Duh!
    Can you point me to any first hand sources of statistical data from precisely described (better even, explained) experiments that I can use as evidence?
    Respectfully yours,
    A Nonymous

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