Respectful Insolence

Gary Null loves me! He really loves me!

Well, maybe not Gary Null, but Sayer Ji. You remember Sayer Ji, don’t you? He’s the guy who runs GreenMedInfo.com who showed up on my skeptical radar when he claimed that vaccines are “transhumanism” that subverts evolution. (Seriously, you can’t make stuff like this up.) On another occasion, he attacked Bill Gates for funding projects to monitor the antivaccine movement, and went wild attacking such activities as though they were a bad thing. Most recently, Ji launched a spectacularly inept attack on evidence-based medicine in which he tried to represent it as being no better than a coin flip. It was perhaps the most spectacularly clueless argument I’ve seen in a very long time, and that’s saying a lot.

That last bit of fun passed through the pages of this very blog here a mere two and a half months ago, and it would seem that Ji is still upset about it. I say this because he made a recent appearance on The Gary Null Show a mere week ago. I couldn’t help but be seriously amused by this particular show, because it was just so damned entertaining to me. I rather suspect it will be equally entertaining to you. Basically, Sayer Ji appears on the show as Null’s guest and makes the argument that there is a new “science-based medicine” movement that is a grave threat to “alternative health.” Again, I can’t help but say to Ji: You say that as though it were a bad thing. I’d even go a bit further and say: Would that it were true! Sadly, it’s not. If anything, the SBM “movement” amounts more to a rag-tag band of rebels facing a much more powerful empire Think Battlestar Galactica and the fleet versus the Cylons (particularly the “reimagined” series that wrapped up a few years ago in which the infiltration of human-appearing Cylons can be a metaphor for “integrative physicians”), or, even better, Roj Blake and his crew against Servalan and the Federation. Maybe someday that will change, but in the meantime Gary Null fantasizes that it’s the other way around.

Before I get to Sayer Ji’s segment, which shows up around 35 minutes into the podcast, it’s worth checking out the Null’s introduction. He starts out asking, “What is the the science behind vaccines?” noting that there are a lot of blogs out there telling you that you should be vaccinated. This is true. We proponents of science-based medicine tend to be very pro-vaccine for the simple reason that vaccines are one of the most effective preventative measures to protect people from disease that there are, and the evidence supports that statement. Unfortunately, what Null fails to mention is that there are at least as many, if not more, blogs out there (Null’s website and radio show included) telling people that vaccines are toxic, don’t work, and give your kids autism. Our blogging is reactive to this misinformation and pseudoscience. Of course, to Null, it’s all a conspiracy, because the first thing he asks is: “Who’s paying for this?” Certainly, in my case, I can tell him that the answer is: No one. Yes, I get a small check from ScienceBlogs, but not because I blog about vaccines or medicine. Rather, it’s because I blog about science and medicine and have a pretty decent-sized audience for a blog. I would continue to blog if ScienceBlogs ceased to exist and I had to do it for free. It’s my hobby.

Be that as it may, Null drones on in a voice that can best be described as a combination of a golf announcer and a conspiracy nut, as he says he’s going to talk about the “new science-based medicine movement in the United States” and its “threats to alternative and holistic health.” He sets it up by saying that the “quackbusters” have been “completely discredited,” that they’re being sued and have been neutered. While it is true that, for instance, Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch is being sued by Doctors Data, it’s a huge exaggeration to claim that the “quackbusters” have been rendered ineffective. In any case, apparently Null views the “science-based medicine movement” as the successor to the quackbusters, and he doesn’t like us. Not one bit!

Instead, Null seems inordinately impressed by sheer numbers. He goes on and on about the sheer numbers of papers that Sayer Ji had featured on his website, as though quantity could make up for cherry picking and misinterpretation. Creationists have a lot of papers that they feature, too, and that doesn’t make evolution any less true. Similarly, quacks do the same thing, listing paper after paper, devoid of context (or worse, given in a deceptive context) as “slam dunk evidence” for their viewpoints when a more objective survey of the entire literature would demonstrate that the studies cited don’t necessarily say what the quacks think they say. With that background, it’s not surprising that Sayer Ji’s definition of SBM is wildly off-base, as you’ll see.

But first Null does what Jake Crosby did to ScienceBlogs by trying to imply that it is very “secretive” because he couldn’t find any contact information. In particular, Null is disturbed by Seed’s manifesto about science, which says:

It’s a different way of looking at the world. It’s about using data to uncover patterns and design to confront complexity. It’s about connecting things to reveal systems. It’s about traversing scales and disregarding disciplines, applying neuroscience to economics, math to global health, virology to manufacturing, and genetics to law… It’s about experimenting all the way to understanding. It’s about changing your mind with new evidence – and getting as close to truth as humanly possible.

Getting 7 billion people to think scientifically has never been a small mission. And it has never been more important.

Since 2005, we have offered ideas and stories to help people think scientifically. Now we’re taking the next big step in this journey by creating tools and services to help institutions – companies, governments, and international organizations – do the same. We’re taking our way of seeing and thinking to parliaments, courtrooms, hospitals, construction sites, boardrooms… around the world – to catalyze scientific thinking at scale.

Whether Seed or ScienceBlogs has always lived up to this ideal or not, it is a good ideal. At least, it’s a good ideal unless you’re Gary Null, who is very disturbed that Seed apparently donated to President Clinton’s initiative to promote science literacy—as if that were a bad thing! Through Seed’s other partnerships, Null than somehow manages to pull a Jake Crosby (you remember Jake Crosby’s hilarious conspiracy theories about ScienceBlogs, don’t you?) and do them one better, linking ScienceBlogs to “many prestigious universities (again, as though that were a bad thing), the World Economic Forum, TED, and—gasp!—The Huffington Post. Oddly enough, one would think that Null would like HuffPo, given its longstanding support for quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience, but apparently not. Actually, if this is true, I’m mildly disturbed, but obviously the connection with HuffPo is so tenuous that no one has ever said anything when I’ve written the harshest criticisms of HuffPo in which I routinely characterize it as a “wretched hive of scum and quackery.”

Sayer, as usual, is none too bright in that he fires off a massive straw man, namely saying that skeptics deny that there’s any evidence for “natural medicine,” and that his website is designed to counter that. Of course, we do nothing of the sort. We analyze the evidence and usually find it wanting. Moreover, we complain about the co-opting of natural products pharmacology by “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), such that CAM practitioners overlay mysticism, vitalism, and magical thinking. We try to counter the infiltration of pseudoscience and quackery into medicine. Of course, the truly hilarious thing is the massive case of projection that Ji mentions. What’s also hilarious is that only one other blogger on ScienceBlogs, Mark Hoofnagle, routinely blogs about CAM and quackery (but I repeat myself). Yet Ji and Null make it sound as though ScienceBlogs does nothing but attack purveyors of “natural health” like them, when in fact there are a few dozen blogs, and only rarely do any of them other than Marks and mine cover these issues, and Mark doesn’t post nearly as regularly as I do.

Which means that Ji and Null appear to be conflating ScienceBlogs with me. I had no idea I was so powerful! “L’état, c’est moi!” (Or at least the blog network.) Or maybe “La médecine basée sur la science, c’est moi!” (Sadly, I couldn’t think of a pithy French term for SBM.) It’s ridiculous, of course. While ScienceBlogs might not have the same identity that it once did, it’s still made up of a bunch of really talented bloggers, the vast majority of whom probably don’t even know who Sayer Ji is. In fact, in light of this it’s rather hilarious to me that Ji seems to conflate ScienceBlogs with the SBM movement, neglecting…oh, you know…the Science-Based Medicine blog that started it all five years ago.

In particular, I was amused by Null’s attempted defense of Tom Jefferson, whom I criticized for having appeared on Null’s show and for his tendency towards methodolatry. Not surprisingly, Null exaggerates Jefferson’s criticism of the evidence base for the flu vaccine and then takes a not-unexpected tack, in essence an argument from authority that goes something along the lines of, “How dare this Orac character criticize the Great Tom Jefferson?” My reasons, of course, are in the links, along with my citation of the evidence that leads me to believe what I believe, none of which Ji addresses. For instance, what Jefferson said about vaccinating pregnant women was shockingly in its level of ignorance and mischaracterization. While dismissing my readership (which, while not insubstantial, is probably not as wide as Gary Null’s), Ji then accuses me of trying to write posts with an eye, more than anything else, to search engine optimization to put my posts at the top of Google search lists.

It was at this point that I lost it. The very thought was just too hilarious. If I could really do that, if I really knew what I was doing to the point where I could slime people like Null intentionally by writing my posts so that they show up at the top of Google searches, I don’t think Ji would be able to disparage my traffic so easily. It’d be through the roof because I’d craft those oh-so-Google-savvy posts in such a way as to get my posts at the top of the relevant Google searches. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. On the other hand, on uncommon occasions I do apparently get lucky in spite of my lack of Google gaming skills. For example, last night I typed “Gary Null” into the Google search box, and guess what came up on the first page of hits? This post from three years ago about Null’s having accidentally poisoned himself with his own supplements! That was completely unintentional, but it happened. Then I typed “Sayer Ji” into Google, and guess what came up on the first page of hits? This link! Again, that was unintentional, but somehow my post ranked high in spite of my lack of search engine savvy. Maybe Ji’s on to something after all, but probably not, particularly if he thinks I have a lot of money and power. Maybe some day when my nefarious plans come to fruition I will (insert obligatory rubbing of hands together accompanied by a hearty, villainous, “Muhahahahahaha!”), but right now I’m just a moderately successful blogger who is exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

At this point, Null tries to take the high ground, saying that he doesn’t mind being criticized as long as “it’s all out there” and his critics’ funding and conflicts of interest are known. The implication, of course, is that all my funding and COIs are not known, that I’m hiding something. It’s the pharma shill gambit, of course, which is why I’ll say right here, right now: I am not funded by any pharmaceutical company. In fact, my research seems not to be of much interest to drug companies, and they won’t fund it! True, I have had one small pharma grant in the past, but right now I have none. My only sources of income are my day job, the small amount of cash I get from ScienceBlogs each month for my blogging, and the meager interest on my savings and retirement accounts. But, hey, if Null and Ji want to think me some sort of powerful avatar of SBM, I won’t do or say anything further to disabuse them of the notion other than to mock them for their use of the pharma shill gambit.

Much of the rest of the interview consists of Null attacking Stephen Barrett, gloating about Stephen Barrett, and saying that we supporters of SBM are “not worth talking about” as he spends several minutes talking about us. Meanwhile, Ji holds up the peer-reviewed literature that he cites as a talisman against criticism, while cluelessly not realizing that individual studies prove little. Replication, is critical, as is study quality, filtered through Bayesian prior plausibility, which makes Ji’s fetishizing his citation of scientific papers all the more amusing, particularly in the context of Null’s rant against SBM, which he ends up characterizing a “stupid.” Meanwhile, Ji touts his background in philosophy and phenomenology, as if that were even relevant, as he complains about science “objectifying our bodies as machines.” Then Null wraps it up by criticizing Steve Novella for being the “grand inquisitor,” pulling the silliest bit of nonsense quacks like. Basically, he pulls the “how do you know it’s quackery if you haven’t tried it?” gambit, saying that if you haven’t met quacks or spoken to their patients, you have no right to criticize their methods.

I have to wonder. Does it mean I’ve arrived, now that Gary Null apparently knows who I am and has spent a whole segment of his radio show attacking me?

Comments

  1. #1 herr doktor bimler
    February 5, 2013

    Ji then accuses me of trying to write posts with an eye, more than anything else, to search engine optimization to put my posts at the top of Google search lists.

    Well we know who *does* worry about search engine optimisation (one Dr Burzynski). And we know that Sayer Ji, in his quest for natural remedies, is a big supporter of Burzynski. So it is only natural that he should suspect its use by everyone else.

  2. #2 Renate
    February 5, 2013

    This and some other behaviour of quacks and their fans, like accusing critical blogs on censorship, reminds me on an old Dutch saying “Zoals de waard is, vertrouwd hij z’n gasten.”
    This could be translated roughly as: “The landlord trusts his guests, like he is.”
    Which means: “one judges other people’s character by one’s own”

  3. #3 Liz Ditz
    February 5, 2013

    Isn’t the “search engine optimization” obsession a hallmark of the Bolen Report?

  4. #4 The Typical Pharma Shill
    NWO HQ, Denver, Colorado
    February 5, 2013

    Hello fellow disinformation agents, I’ve been lurking this blog enough, and now it’s time to start commenting. Kudos to Orac, it’s great to see alties being exposed as the scourge they are.

    Now on topic… Holy moly, vaccines are now transhumanism? I hope the kids who dream of the so-called “singularity” start promoting them now.

  5. #5 Eric Lund
    February 5, 2013

    @HDB: It’s all about projection. Lots of woo pushers, Burzynski included, have something to sell. They therefore have an interest in promoting their web sites to search engines. So far, so rational. Their error is in assuming that people who promote SBM through blogs also have a financial interest in selling something (a.k.a. the pharma shill gambit). Thus they assume that Orac et al. are trying to promote their blogs to search engines.

    I have no evidence that Orac is intentionally optimizing for search engines, but like all computer algorithms, search engines do what they are told to do rather than what you want them to do. We’ve seen the downside of this before on Orac’s blog, when Google served up ads in which some celebrity is pushing some woo on posts where Orac is trashing said celebrity for pushing said woo. But there is an upside as well: people wanting to find out more about Mr. Null and Mr. Ji land on one of Orac’s columns demonstrating how full of it Mr. Null and Mr. Ji are. There is at least one documented instance of a similar result being intentionally achieved: when a group of left-wing political bloggers made then-President George W. Bush’s official White House biography the top result of a Google search on “miserable failure”.

  6. #6 Composer99
    February 5, 2013

    Orac rated a mention on Gary Null’s show. Is that a sign of having ‘made it’, like having your song parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic?

    More on topic, the Gish Gallop style of citing enormous lists of papers, without regard to whether they support the citing agent – or even have anything to do with the topic at hand – seems to be a hallmark of pseudoscientists and other cranks (or people appealing to pseudoscientific/crank arguments) seeking scientific respectability.

    IMO, a far stronger approach is to cite a much smaller number of references, but including explanation and context showing how these references support one’s point. This is, of course, the approach one generally sees in the literature (even if dozens or over a hundred different references are included) or on sites such as SBM or here at ScienceBlogs.

  7. #7 Ren
    Dealing with Ravens fans on the metro
    February 5, 2013

    A somewhat well-known pediatrician who likes to “poke my ribs” on Twitter asked his followers to follow me on Twitter. He said something about learning a lot from me, etc. I got flooded with new follower requests. (You have to be vetted, have more than 50 tweets of substance, and be following at least 10 people I follow before I accept you. That, or I must know you in person.) I predict that people will now Google “Orac” and be directed here.

    You should do an “Orac Primer” to welcome new readers.

    Then again, half of the people who rant and rave about conspiracies can’t spell very well in their anger. I predict a similar proportion will be looking at a vacuum cleaner site and wondering what’s going on.

  8. #8 Denice Walter
    February 5, 2013

    Orac, the Great Nullifier knows about you for more than a year: another show featured his henchman and frequent co-author, Richard Gale, talking about you, Dr Barrett and others. Just think, every time he shills his own dried vegetable or fruit powders that are “high in ORAC” ( anti-oxidants), he’ll be reminded of the power and majesty of our esteemed and gracious host. ( see Gary Null.com for product list).

    Null has managed to gather together every type of woo and conspiracy purveyor on the planet to fill air time on his so-called Progressive Radio Network ( archived ; prn.fm) with shows featuring prominent hiv/aids denialists, anti-psychiatrists and whistle-blowing lawyers. Anti-vaccination is important as is trashing medicine, doctors and professionals in all disciplines- especially the government and the media. The is a wealth of trash at his various websites; whilst older articles have gone disappeared, newer ones show upon the Gary Null Blog- which isn’t a blog. But then again, his knowledge and usage of English is abysmal.

  9. #9 Denice Walter
    February 5, 2013

    Another amusing feature of Null’s mania involves the idea that he is a masterful debater as well as a paradigm-shifting researcher, inventor, teacher and healer: he narrates about how he has won “every debate” he has participated in with the scions of SBM since the 1970s. He has debated cancer experts and medical experts, always coming out on top.

    He especially brags about how he won more recent “debates” with a physicist, Lee Phillips, and a journalist, Brian Deer. Here’s what really occured: 4 or 5 years ago, Phillips wrote a letter to a public radio station complaining about Null’s anti-science- and long story short- he wound up “debating” the idiot on the radio- who didn’t let him speak much. Afterwards he wrote this up on a blog ( lee-phillips.org) – including a post entitled, “Does Gary Null have a real PhD?”- Lee was sued because he made money from blog ads! Null sued him for 10 million USD and one of his legal minions sued for 3 million. The case was tossed.

    The other “debate” is also telling: he had the journalist as a guest about 2 years ago ( late January 2011). He questioned whatever Deer revealed about the Wakefield affair somewhat hapharzardly- one remark involved why the latter didn’t accept parents’ reports about their children’s descent into autism. Parents should be taken at their word, I suppose: you must trust them. Later, he regaled his enraptured audience with tales about how he “won’ that “debate”. Which wasn’t a debate. More of a demonstration of human variability in verbal intelligence and formal operational thought, I’d guess.

    He invites his critics to debate him over the air.
    Sorry, I’m busy.

    Null’s MO involves having his audience mis-trust ANY authority and fear for their own future- beware the “cult of the professional”!. The government will collapse, solar flares will destroy our electrical grids, banks will fail, gangs will take over the posh suburbs, doctors will kill you or a combination of the above. He provides plans for taking care of your own health ( supplements/ diets) and being “sustainable”: telling people to flee the cities, grow their own food, get off the grid, invest in old silver/ gold coins, keep your cash out of banks ( Talkback show; prn; this past Sunday). The economy will totally collapse “within 3 years” – which he’s been saying since 2008. If folks would have followed his financial advice in early 2009, they’d have lost a great deal of money. He often features “trends analyst”, Gerald Celente, whose prognositications vary little from his.

    I strongly suggest that SB supporters listen to his archived shows: he is a consolidater of trash, accumulating large piles all in one convenient location.,

  10. #10 sirhcton
    February 5, 2013

    “Isn’t the “search engine optimization” obsession a hallmark of the Bolen Report?”

    As I mentioned in an e-mail to our Master of Medical Minions, “. . . our dear, respected, knowledgeable, keenly observant and intellectually gifted friend at the Bolen Report has gained recognition for his site’s design (http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/dailysucker/2013/02/04/bolen-report-an-example-of-bad-web-design-for-february-4-2013/). I am sure that it is only an iota of what his hard work deserves. . . .”

  11. #11 Lee Phillips
    United States
    February 5, 2013

    “Does it mean I’ve arrived, now that Gary Null apparently knows who I am and has spent a whole segment of his radio show attacking me?”

    Well, after he spent two segments attacking me, the second one featuring me as a guest so that he could “debate” me, he filed a $10M lawsuit against me – because he “doesn’t mind being criticized” [http://www.credentialwatch.org/legal/null.shtml]. Good luck!

  12. #12 Narad
    February 5, 2013

    While poking around for examples of Ji’s “background in philosophy and phenomenology,” I came across this gem from two days ago.

    The seeds of the annual flowering plant, Nigella Sativa, have been prized for their healing properties since time immemorial. While frequently referred to among English-speaking cultures as Roman coriander, black sesame, black cumin, black caraway and onion seed, it is known today primarily as black seed, which is at the very least an accurate description of its physical appearance.

    I’m sorry, but repeating this error is foolishness. That’s the real black cumin, you know, the one actually shaped like caraway. Anybody who knew anything about spices would recognize this immediately.

  13. #13 Denice Walter
    February 5, 2013

    Lee Phillips kindly provides us with a URL detailing the action against him; it also mentions Null’s suit against Wikipedia ( for their article) for 100 million USD that failed as well. He tried to sue Barrett but was caught up by the statute of limitations. Or so he says.

    Barrett’s Quackwatch article on Null includes information about his attempt to stop distribution of the H1N1 vaccine by suing the FDA in 2009: it was ruled that he “lacked standing”. I’ll say!

    The article goes on to delineate suits against Null by customers who were harmed by his supplement-gone- awry: two victims settled out of court but a third -who died- is being represented by her estate. The last suit was filed much later than the previous two.

    Null supposedly has a stable of lawyers- perhaps 7 or 8 of them- doing his bidding. Oh my lord, who does that remind me of- science by legal action? Let me think.

    Not bad for a down-home, folksy, spiritualistic guy- fighting passionately for his customers’ sacred rights to health freedom and personal liberty against the deeply entrenched, moneyed powers of elitism and corporatocracy – and their minions.

  14. #14 Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
    Headed for the vats . . .
    February 5, 2013

    SOOPER SEEKRET™ ENCODED MESSAGE BEGINS——————–

    Shills and Minions:

    This dreadful and aptly named Null is getting closer and closer to the truth about our plan. I’m not sure who the mole is, but be assured, when found it will be . . . whacked. I have instructed the ladies on Level 7 to create new ubreakable codes for our missives. Our cybernetic host is acting as suitable decoy, distracting the Null set from finding out the truth about our cold-blooded plans for Pharmageddon. If you want the lucre and luxuries to which you have become accustomed to continue to flow Shills and Minions, it would be wise if Null were turned down to zero, if you catch my drip. Catch my drip. . . . Honestly, I’ve never understood your language. Did I use that correctly? But I digress . . . carry on with Plan 294375-C and keep me in the loop, but not in the morning, I’m molting and all photosensitive.

    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL

    Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Monkey Master of Mars, Hero of Zero

    Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
    00101110101111010101011111

    ———————–ENCODED MESSAGE ENDS[.]

  15. #15 Sandra Pleites
    United States
    February 5, 2013

    It doesn’t take a scientist to crack down all the crap that sayer ji says on his articles. i personally dissected his hep B vaccine article that a friend shared on her facebook page. i can’t believe she actually believed it. just the title made me laugh. i knew i would be reading a bunch of blown out of proportion stuff. and that’s exactly what i read.

  16. #16 Denice Walter
    February 5, 2013

    Sandra makes an excellent point: you don’t need to be a scientist to figure out that these fellows are pulling the wool over people’s eyes.( including Oz, Adams, Mercola, AJW etc)

    So why do they have an audience?

    They serve a few purposes:
    1. they present science ( although spurious) to people who would like to improve their lives- be healthier, have better relationships, deal better with societal problems and the intrinsic pressures of modern everyday life. People want to understand things that are important to them.
    2. they provide an ego-boost to those who feel left out from a culture that values education, technology and professional acumen. “We know better”, they avow: our deeper, truer, more spiritual science trumps their pharma-compromised strumpetry.
    3. Alt media- on television, radio or the internet- enables lonely people to feel that they have a “friend in high places”- someone to look out for their interests.
    A solidarity of the like-minded follows in their leaders’ path, making them part of a powerful force, soon to be recognised and to be reckoned with.

    They are – in brief- playing with people’s lives in order to gain fame and a larger bank roll.

    People who are scientists- or who value science- need to speak up and set the public right about these charlatans and their products.

  17. #17 Shay
    February 5, 2013

    @Denice:

    And I’ll bet Null’s stable of lawyers are chuckling all the way to the bank.

  18. #18 Ken
    February 5, 2013

    vaccines are “transhumanism” that subverts evolution

    Joining the company of fire, agriculture, and sanitation systems.

  19. #19 Pareidolius
    Axis of Me-ville
    February 6, 2013

    . . . pharma-compromised strumpetry.

    Awesome. I’m not a strumpet, but I play the strumpet in a band.

  20. #20 Militant Agnostic
    February 6, 2013

    @Ken, also eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, bicycles, hammers, spears, prybars, shovels, canoes, wrenches etc.

  21. #21 Politicalguineapig
    February 6, 2013

    Orac: If anything, the SBM “movement” amounts more to a rag-tag band of rebels facing a much more powerful empire Think Battlestar Galactica and the fleet versus the Cylons (particularly the “reimagined” series that wrapped up a few years ago in which the infiltration of human-appearing Cylons can be a metaphor for “integrative physicians”), or, even better, Roj Blake and his crew against Servalan and the Federation. Maybe someday that will change, but in the meantime Gary Null fantasizes that it’s the other way around.

    And yet, just a few days ago, I got smacked down by you guys for saying the Dark Ages are coming round again and people, in a mass, are agonizingly stupid. And here, Orac’s statments directly support my observations. Ironic.

  22. #22 viggen
    February 6, 2013

    vaccines are “transhumanism” that subverts evolution

    I don’t know about “transhumanism,” but vaccines would substantially decouple speed of the immune response from survival of the disease in people who have been vaccinated. It’s possible that people who would otherwise not survive because they are genetically predisposed to a slow immune response become able to survive more easily. From an evolutionary perspective, maybe those people end up breeding in the presence of the vaccine umbrella where maybe they didn’t historically. It isn’t necessarily far-fetched to claim that vaccines could have an overall diminishing effect on the strength of the human immune system from a long-term evolutionary perspective. Clothes probably made us hairless and alcohol supposedly influenced our livers. I don’t know what you consider “subversion” but it is completely within reason that our technology influences our selection, particularly in survival with disease.

    Not that this is either here or there, I don’t really agree with how people like Ji argue otherwise.

  23. #23 Kathryn
    Valley of the Superfund Sites
    February 6, 2013

    Regarding the “vaccines are transhumanism” comment and the corollaries that fire, shelter, etc. are therefore also transhumanism, this reminds me of the cranky old cavewoman from the first story arc of the First Doctor Who. In this prehistoric political drama, the caveman leaders are vying to produce fire, and she keeps grumbling that fire will be the ruin of everyone, things were better before fire, etc.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/episodeguide/unearthlychild/

  24. #24 Dangerous Bacon
    February 6, 2013

    Sad to say, I’d never heard of Sayer Ji before this. He’s way way down on the list of altie antivax loons – badly in need of search engine optimization, as well as a clue.

  25. #26 sirhcton
    February 6, 2013

    Not to distract from the main topic, but it seems Mr. Bolen has shown up to comment on the recognition of his web site noted in my comment #10 above. Reading the comment section of http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/dailysucker/2013/02/04/bolen-report-an-example-of-bad-web-design-for-february-4-2013/ shows his calm, keenly observing, well-reasoned analysis at work.

  26. #27 Denice Walter
    February 6, 2013

    I think I understand Politicalguineapig’s frustration and perhaps her feeling of being threatened by these attitudes BUT exaggerating their prevalence doesn’t help her cause.

    If you, PGP, are worried about particuar actors or groups of extremists- state that- who are they? ( they DO exist) ; if you are speaking metaphorically or using simile for effect: say so. If you are worried about trends that show an increase in these attitudes in certain places – or a change in laws or public policy- say which those are.

    It is true that there is a minority in the west who are extremely conservative in their beliefs about women. Some of them are well-funded. They are not the same as the Taliban, who shoot school girls for speaking up about education for girls ( Malala Yousafrai). Not all people in her country are like that either.

    We can say EXACTLY what we mean and even show data. I have seen recent information that shows MORE liberal attitudes in the US because of the younger people, which showed up in election results. We can contrast attitudes about a said topic- say abortion or same-sex marriage- in several countries and show how it lines up – in numbers- and look at specific regional differences with a country or differences related to social class or education.

    PGP: you can do this, you can state your frustration with exactly what and who bothers you without making sweeping generalisations that may put off people who are in sympathy with you. You have the skills already to do so.

  27. #28 JGC
    February 6, 2013

    From an evolutionary perspective, maybe those people end up breeding in the presence of the vaccine umbrella where maybe they didn’t historically.

    Which would be due to a change in slective pressures in the environment the population is exploiting, such that individuals with a slow immune responses, normal immune responses and rapid immune responses all exhibit equivalent fitness. Don’t see why that would be a source of concern.

  28. #29 S
    Long Live Green Martians
    February 6, 2013

    Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital: Catch my drip. . . . Honestly, I’ve never understood your language. Did I use that correctly?

    That would be “drift”, not “drip”. Think of it as a thought possibly passing/drifting by, and without you understanding/catching it.

    OTOH, true evil Pharma Shill monsters from Mars could indeed be dripping with green slime. Evil Pharma Shills from Mars are sensitive creatures who simply can not digest all the quacks they “turn to zero”. Thus, after a good meal, the earthly incarnations of Evil Pharma Shills from Mars often drip green slime. You’ve heard of green Martians? This is where they get their name.

    Carry on. May your meals be plentiful and your appetite ‘healthy’.

  29. #30 taylormattd
    February 6, 2013

    Off topic, but I’ve got one for you Orac. Apparently some folks from Washington and Oregon have been idicted for essentially selling bleach to folks as a miracle cure. The two key graphs:

    Prosecutors say they were involved in a business called Project GreenLife, which imported sodium chlorite from Canada, and that they sold the chemical online as a “miracle mineral supplement.” Buyers were instructed to mix it with orange juice or other source of citric acid before drinking it.

    Mixing sodium chlorite with citric acid makes chlorine dioxide – a powerful bleach. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured by consuming it.

    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020298687_apwamiraclebleach.html

  30. #31 bad poet
    February 6, 2013

    @Militant Agnostic, also the transistor, large-scale distribution of electricity, the microscope, x-rays, MRIs, cellular telephony, personal computers, antibiotics, et al.

  31. #32 Narad
    February 6, 2013

    Apparently some folks from Washington and Oregon have been idicted for essentially selling bleach to folks as a miracle cure.

    With any luck, this will bode very ill indeed for the rest of the MMS crowd. The DOJ statement is here.

  32. #33 Narad
    February 6, 2013

    It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured by consuming it.

    Background from the Pacific Northwest Inlander:

    “They’d like to get a plea bargain out of me, but it ain’t going to happen,” Smith says. “Why would I offer to be a felon to people who can’t prove their case?”

    Jobless and living off donations from supporters, Smith spends his days filing court briefs in his own defense. He says he is innocent.

    You really don’t want to go pro se against a federal prosecutor, brah.

  33. #34 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    February 6, 2013

    Here’s more on the MMS arrests. The Canadian company they bought the raw ingredients from used to have a banner ad right here on RI!

    http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/02/four-charged-with-selling-ingredients-for-miracle-mineral-supplement-in-us/

  34. #35 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    February 6, 2013

    Taylor,

    It’s called MMS and is very well documented on skeptic blogs. There was a very long discussion right here on RI last summer, with some parents of autistic children showing up in the comments to defend the stuff and tell us “it’s not bleach and stop oppressing us!”

    Jenny Braindead McCarthy’s autism’s group has endorsed it at their conventions as a “viable” treatment for autism.

    By the way, it’s administered by enema to autistic children.

    Child abuse.

  35. #37 S
    February 6, 2013

    “Adam” at Healthy Action in Wantaugh, New York promotes and sells MMS from Long Island, NY at: http://www.mms-healthyliving.com/Contact-us.html

    http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/Wantagh/2320-Sycamore-Ave-Wantagh-NY-11793-a36922773.aspx

    Go get ‘em you guys! :-)

  36. #38 Narad
    February 6, 2013

    “Adam” at Healthy Action in Wantaugh, New York promotes and sells MMS from Long Island, NY

    These people aren’t hard to find. This guy (one JohnPaul Doyle of Florida) seems to have made a rather poor marketing decision. The site is hilarious, though. From the “about us” page:

    MMSGL is a superior group of professional’s in various fields….

  37. #39 S
    February 6, 2013

    My last comment must be held in moderation. Meanwhile, MMS is also promoted for the treatment of Lyme disease by people like Jenna Smith and some at the Lyme-Induced Autism Foundation.

    Jenna Smith’s blog also promotes the work of Dr. Burrascano, a founder of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society, ILADS. Burrascano was mentioned in a recent Medscape article.

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/778482

  38. #40 Denice Walter
    February 6, 2013

    Sayer Ji may not be very pleased with this:

    my search engine’s results for Green Med Info just turned up this RI post, ranked as the SECOND result.

    Obviously Orac’s search engine mojo/ voodoo rules the day-

  39. #41 lilady
    February 7, 2013

    @ S:

    You need to be a member of Medscape, which I am. Here’s your article from Medscape:

    http://lymedisease.org/news/lyme_disease_views/advanced-labs-uproar.html

  40. #42 lilady
    February 7, 2013

    @ S:

    I found this undated announcement about Dr. Burrascano retiring from his medical practice and beginning a career as a Lyme disease researcher:

    http://www.publichealthalert.org/Articles/susanwilliams/world%20renowned%20doctor%20retires.html

    “Only two months after his courageous testimony, the New York State Department of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) notified Dr. Burrascano that he was being investigated for an “anonymous” complaint that had been filed against him.

    In 2000, the OPMC charged Dr. Burrascano with allegations of medical misconduct stemming from the use of long-term antibiotic therapy. The OPMC had previously investigated numerous other Lyme physicians, often resulting in fines and having the physicians’ medical licenses restricted, suspended, or revoked.

    The unjustified OPMC procedures were based on erroneous claims that a mere few weeks of antibiotics were sufficient to effectively cure all cases of Lyme disease, in spite of contradictions by numerous research studies. Many of these attacks on Lyme physicians appear to have been initiated by health insurance companies who want to avoid paying the expenses of long-term medical treatment in spite of its appropriateness.

    The Lyme community quickly responded to the charges against Dr. Burrascano by planning a rally at New York City’s Plaza Hotel and hosting letterwriting campaigns, visits to legislators and contact with media. Hundreds of patients from across the country rallied to Dr. Burrascano’s side to show their support and called on legislators to hold public hearings to investigate multi-state harassment of Lyme doctors.

    Physicians from all over the nation, as well as Switzerland and Germany, signed a petition in support of Dr. Burrascano that was presented to state officials. These fellow physicians referred to Dr. Burrascano as “an international leader in establishing comprehensive medical and ethical standards for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses.”

    The original decision handed down by the hearing panel in November of 2001 not only exonerated Dr. Burrascano from the charges, but also criticized the OPMC for attempting to prosecute a medical debate rather than actual medical misconduct. An excerpt from their decision remarked, “The Hearing Committee recognizes the existence of the current debate within the medical community over issues concerning management of patients with recurrent or long term Lyme disease. This appears to be a highly polarized and politicized conflict, as was demonstrated to this committee by expert testimony from both sides, each supported by numerous medical journal articles, and each emphatic that the opposite position was clearly incorrect. What clearly did emerge however, was that the Respondent’s approach, while certainly a minority viewpoint, is one that is shared by many other physicians. We recognize that the practice of medicine may not always be an exact science, ‘issued guidelines’ are not regulatory, and patient care is frequently individualized.”

    Here’s Dr. Burrascano’s statement about his hearing….

    The OPMC attempted to file an appeal and, in April of 2002, that appeal was refused by the Administrative Review Board who agreed with all of the findings of the original hearing panel.

    Dr. Burrascano noted, “Both the Appeals Board and the Hearing Committee favored me and had no problems with my methods in managing Lyme disease. They succinctly stated that it is not the role of the OPMC to pass judgment on what is a scientific debate in the medical community, and how I treat Lyme is not a matter of professional misconduct or competency… They posed no restrictions on my practice, no restrictions on how I manage my cases and, in their written decision, the Committee was quite complimentary.”

    Uh…not quite, Dr. Burrascano. His probationary period was extended from 6 months to 2 years:

    http://w3.health.state.ny.us/opmc/factions.nsf/58220a7f9eeaafab85256b180058c032/7f57f08d61de929c85256a4a0047c6da/$FILE/lc145623.pdf

  41. #43 lilady
    February 7, 2013

    Emily Willingham’s excellent research about the properties of MMS…

    http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2013/01/mms-yes-it-is-bleach.html

  42. #44 flip
    February 7, 2013

    Ji then accuses me of trying to write posts with an eye, more than anything else, to search engine optimization to put my posts at the top of Google search lists.

    I dare Ji to name anyone in the world who doesn’t know about, and try to use, SEO where they can. Even more I dare Ji to say this of Null, or anyone else in the alt-med world with a well-known site who doesn’t try to use SEO.

    Seriously, if none of the alt-med crowd are doing that I’d be surprised. This is pretty much ‘how to set up a successful website 101′ stuff. And it doesn’t have to be about profit motive: it can just be about wanting people to be interested in what you have to say. What’s worse is gaming google can often be just as simple as writing good articles that contain relevant keywords – words that you would need to use whether you’re interested in SEO or not.

    @sirhcton

    Thanks for posting the link to the Daily Sucker. I am familiar with the Web Pages That Suck site, but haven’t checked in recently – so glad to see woomeisters appear there. Oh, and Time Cube is dead? How sad…

    Coincidentally, there’s also this that I saw and thought that regulars may enjoy:
    arstechnica.com/science/2013/02/site-plagiarizes-blog-posts-then-files-dmca-takedown-on-originals/

  43. #45 LW
    February 7, 2013

    @lilady:

    Many of these attacks on Lyme physicians appear to have been initiated by health insurance companies who want to avoid paying the expenses of long-term medical treatment in spite of its appropriateness.

    Interestingly these are the same health insurance companies deeply involved in a vast conspiracy to suppress effective cancer cures because effective cancer cures would mean Big Pharma didn’t get to sell so many drugs.

  44. #46 S
    February 7, 2013

    Many of these attacks on Lyme physicians appear to have been initiated by health insurance companies who want to avoid paying the expenses of long-term medical treatment in spite of its appropriateness.

    Why do the activists and their lawyers lie so much? I would think patients want the best care, if so, then why tell so many lies? Lawyers that lie should be debarred; their profession is supposed to be that involving the enforcement of ethics, which is clearly a joke in many cases.

    Why do patients prefer to believe that their doctors are being targeted by the insurance companies and medical boards, instead of the fact that they are a dangerous quack?

    Physicians from all over the nation, as well as Switzerland and Germany, signed a petition in support of Dr. Burrascano that was presented to state officials.


    Hundreds of patients from across the country rallied to Dr. Burrascano’s side to show their support and called on legislators to hold public hearings to investigate multi-state harassment of Lyme doctors.

    Yes, thus the powers of social media and the Internet. These would be the same physicians that practice Reiki, Applied Kinesiology, homeopathy and sell special house paint and bed linens to shield your family from dangerous rays.

    Why does it seem that legislators bow to the pressure and politicize medical care by passing laws to protect such physicians when many legislators are in fact physicians themselves?

    Why do legislators think they have the right to know the explicit and intimate details of any complaints against a given physician? Would they want their families medical records posted online, discussed in the media, and sensationalized on Nancy DisGrace?

    @lilady, Google that lab and see the history of it’s owner. He appears to have pending litigation elsewhere and of a very interesting nature.

  45. #47 Beamup
    February 7, 2013

    Why do the activists and their lawyers lie so much?…Why do patients prefer to believe that their doctors are being targeted by the insurance companies and medical boards, instead of the fact that they are a dangerous quack?

    Because the truth is nowhere near as comforting as “I know exactly what’s wrong and will without doubt fix it.” They don’t WANT to know the truth.

    I tend to believe that most such activists (and their lawyers are often themselves activists) really do believe that what they’re saying is true.

  46. #48 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 7, 2013

    OT, but important for those who need reminding that even those who belong to groups with hateful beliefs are more than mindless robots: https://medium.com/reporters-notebook/d63ecca43e35

  47. #49 Retro Pastiche
    In the middle of mayhem
    February 8, 2013

    OT, but did someone mention bleach enemas and autistic kids? Because it appears that another wretched hive etc etc etc the Autism One conference wil again feature the infamous Kerri Riviera as a speaker.

    http://www.autismone.org/content/list-speakers

    And yes, this is child abuse.

  48. #50 Dave
    California
    February 9, 2013

    Is this a high school blog? Unfortunate that the discussion and comments focus on trying to making others look stupid and pretending to appear more knowledgeable and important.

    I’m not informed about the issue at hand and am not supporting Null or Ji. But bickering and ridiculing like a bunch of chicks pecking a sibling to death is hardly above it all, nor convincing, nor constructive.

  49. #51 Chris
    February 9, 2013

    And Dave you seem to be only “bickering and ridiculing.” Does this mean you are not quite in high school?

  50. #52 S
    February 9, 2013

    @Dave, You state that you are not informed of the issues, yet you seem to be disagreeing to the accusations, including those of child abuse. If you don’t understand the problem, how can you consider people who are upset at others who clearly seem to be engaging in child abuse as merely “bickering” and “ridiculing like a bunch of chicks pecking a sibling to death”?

  51. #53 Dave
    California
    February 9, 2013

    I wasn’t commenting on child abuse (I thought the article was about flu vaccinations?!!?) or the merits of vaccines. I’m simply noticing the vengeful mob attitude of the blog and comments here, which I find illogical.

    Any sentence that begins with a statement akin to, “You’re a fool,” is unscientific. The goal of the Scientist is to prove or disprove the hypothesis. The ego of the Scientist that causes him to think “This person is a fool” should be tempered by modesty, impartiality and open-mindedness, simply because hostility is illogical and unconstructive.

    More to the point, ridiculing someone doesn’t prove anything. It only reveals the priorities of the jeerer.

    Even if a person IS wrong, it doesn’t mean they are a fool or even being foolish, nor does it mean that you are smarter than that person, or that the person has no point. In fact, all Scientists are wrong about some things some times, and every person you ever meet knows something you don’t.

    I know several medical doctors who are on the fence about the flu vaccine issue, and none I’ve spoken to see it as a black-and-white question.

    Whatever that case, showing that someone is incorrect doesn’t require being disrespectful; that part is optional.

  52. #54 Orac
    February 9, 2013

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe we’ve found ourselves a tone troll.

  53. #55 Chris
    February 9, 2013

    Dave:

    More to the point, ridiculing someone doesn’t prove anything.

    So this phrase is not ridicule: “bunch of chicks pecking a sibling to death”?

    To be an effective tone troll, you need to avoid using the tactics that you are tone trolling about.

  54. #56 herr doktor bimler
    February 9, 2013

    I’m not informed about the issue at hand
    Dare one ask why Dave is here?

    Any sentence that begins with a statement akin to, “You’re a fool,” is unscientific.
    Evidently Dave has better luck with his manuscript review than me. The 3rd Reviewer is always particularly brutal.

    The goal of the Scientist is to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

    This is a fine aspirational phrase, fresh from Grannie’s cupboard and faintly scented with lavender. In reality, however, the goal of the Scientist is not to have a capitalised title, as if it is some sort of mystical priesthood.

  55. #57 Dave
    Leaving Now
    February 9, 2013

    Not tone. Mission. But just to show I’m open-minded, I’ll try it your way.

    Ohhhhh. My mistake. I thought this was the science blog. Cute mob tho. CU never.

  56. #58 Scottynuke
    February 9, 2013

    Here, Dave, you dropped your pearls. Improve your clutching technique and come back when you have something substantive to say.

  57. #59 novalox
    February 9, 2013

    @dave

    Have anything critical or substantive to say about the article? Besides tone trolling?

  58. #60 Angelo
    United States
    February 9, 2013

    I listen to Garys show everyday for the entertainment factor. I heard him discussing you and was going to write to you but I see you know all already.

  59. #61 herr doktor bimler
    February 10, 2013

    Ohhhhh. My mistake. I thought this was the science blog. Cute mob tho. CU never.

    Dave failed to notify the readers that he had been leaning towards skepticism and science, but now their negative, hostile tone has pushed him completely over into the embrace of woo. I am going to have to dock points from his score for that.

  60. #62 Narad
    February 10, 2013

    I listen to Garys show everyday for the entertainment factor.

    Screw that. I’ve discovered Fijian reggae.

  61. #63 thenewme
    February 10, 2013

    Narad,
    OT, but you remind me of the encyclopedic Wilson Wilson from Home Improvement. He was always my favorite character!

  62. #64 Antaeus Feldspar
    February 10, 2013

    Ah, I see. Dave assumes our “mission” is to wheedle new converts into the fold, and assumes that since the best way to cajole new members into, say, the Rotary Club or the Raccoon Lodge would be to act ultra-nice at all times and ooze unctuous flattery and downplay actual objective fact in favor of “oh, well, everyone has their own opinion” and “hunh! I never thought of it that way!” that must be the best way to get people to adopt science-based medicine too.

    Too bad for him his foundational assumptions are wrong. Science-based medicine isn’t about who puts up a more appealing social display, it’s about who’s got the facts on their side. It would be at the very least self-defeating to say to people “Gee, we want you to try our way of looking at the world, which is subjecting medical claims to some pretty searching examination. Won’t you come and give us a try? We’ll be very careful to not so much as suggest that anyone might be wrong in what they believe, and we hope that will convince you to be rigorous examiners like us.”

    Will some people encounter this blog and say “Hey, wait a minute, I’m not ready to see all those things I want to believe in like homeopathy and naturopathy and alternative vaccine schedules treated so roughly! This isn’t the place for me!”? Probably. That doesn’t mean we’re failing our “mission”, any more than an advanced mathematics textbook fails its mission when a novice student opens it up and says “What? What? I’m still wrestling with percentages; how can I possibly learn all this new material about approaching limits??”

    If Dave feels so strongly that the proper role of a science-based medicine blog is to hand-hold those who are only just starting to consider that perhaps facts are facts regardless of whether they’re couched in sunny cuddly niceness or not, he’s highly encouraged to start his own blog and run it according to those principles. Let us know how it works out for you, Dave.

  63. #65 flip
    February 10, 2013

    Some day I hope I can come up with as good witticisms as I read here…. some day… sigh…

  64. #66 Shay
    somewhere in NVA
    February 19, 2013

    cookie….

  65. #67 JGC
    February 19, 2013

    cookie please

  66. #68 Orn
    Florida,USA
    April 5, 2013

    Denice Walter said ”you can do this, you can state your frustration with exactly what and who bothers you without making sweeping generalisations”.

    Hmm…didn’t you just make sweeping generalisations like this:

    So why do they have an audience?

    They serve a few purposes:
    1. they present science ( although spurious) to people who would like to improve their lives- be healthier, have better relationships, deal better with societal problems and the intrinsic pressures of modern everyday life. People want to understand things that are important to them.
    2. they provide an ego-boost to those who feel left out from a culture that values education, technology and professional acumen. “We know better”, they avow: our deeper, truer, more spiritual science trumps their pharma-compromised strumpetry.
    3. Alt media- on television, radio or the internet- enables lonely people to feel that they have a “friend in high places”- someone to look out for their interests.
    A solidarity of the like-minded follows in their leaders’ path, making them part of a powerful force, soon to be recognised and to be reckoned with.

    They are – in brief- playing with people’s lives in order to gain fame and a larger bank roll.

    People who are scientists- or who value science- need to speak up and set the public right about these charlatans and their products.

    Tad hypocritical perhaps?

  67. #69 Orn
    Florida,USA
    April 5, 2013

    Meant to write: like these ones.

  68. #70 Alain
    April 5, 2013

    @ Orn,

    What are you complaining about? I haven’t seen any generalization in Denice’s comment.

    Alain

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