Respectful Insolence

After a digression yesterday, it’s time to get back to business. Don’t get me wrong. Yesterday’s post was business. It was definitely something important (to me) that needed to be said, in my not-so-humble pseudonymous opinion. It just wasn’t the usual business I engage in on this blog.

I’ve often referred to what I (and others) refer to as the “arrogance of ignorance.” This particular not-so-desirable trait consists basically of people without any special training in a field or who are otherwise unqualified in a field coming to believe that they understand the field better than experts who have devoted their lives to studying it. Just search for the term “arrogance of ignorance” on this blog, and you will find that many are the cranks to whom I’ve applied it, including (most prominently) antivaccinationists, various cancer quacks, and, although not as often anymore, evolution denialists, often also known as creationists. The arrogance of ignorance derives from a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University, which occurs when incompetent and unknowledgeable people not only perform a task poorly but lack sufficient competence to realize that they are incompetent. The result is that not only believe that they are competent, but that they are much more competent than they really are, even experts. I like the way RationalWiki describes such people: They’re too stupid to realize they’re stupid.

Some view the Dunning-Kruger effect as the manifestation of the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, meaning that once people gain a little knowledge about a topic they can easily come to believe they are experts. I also like to apply the term “arrogance of ignorance” to them, because it fits. Ironically, the inverse also applies. Experts and competent people frequently underestimate their ability compared to others. They understand their topic of expertise or are skilled at a task, skilled enough to negatively analyze their every mistake and to be acutely aware of every hole in their knowledge. I even see this in myself sometimes, when, even though I am now a mid-career surgeon entering the last half of my career and thus highly experienced, I sometimes wonder if I’m actually any good, particularly after a difficult case. Don’t even get me started about how I’m constantly running into scientists who are more knowledgeable and clever than I am.

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion, based on a lot of personal experience and some evidence, that it is virtually a prerequisite to becoming a crank that the crank be endowed with huge quantities of Dunning-Kruger overconfidence in his own knowledge and abilities. It’s not just about science, either. It’s any field where expertise is valued. I was reminded of this the other day when I came across an article by Tom Nichols entitled The Death of Expertise. No, the article doesn’t imply that expertise doesn’t exist any more. Certainly it does. It has to in such a complex society with sophisticated technology, which is based oneven more sophisticates science. Rather, what Nichols argues is that society no longer values expertise. In a world of the Dunning-Kruger deluded, everyone thinks that they are an expert, which leads to a situation like this:

Today, any assertion of expertise produces an explosion of anger from certain quarters of the American public, who immediately complain that such claims are nothing more than fallacious “appeals to authority,” sure signs of dreadful “elitism,” and an obvious effort to use credentials to stifle the dialogue required by a “real” democracy.

But democracy, as I wrote in an essay about C.S. Lewis and the Snowden affair, denotes a system of government, not an actual state of equality. It means that we enjoy equal rights versus the government, and in relation to each other. Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge. It assuredly does not mean that “everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.” And yet, this is now enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense.

I blame the University of Google. Not entirely, of course, but it’s definitely a major contributor. As awesome and useful a tool the Google search engine is, its great value is simultaneously its most pernicious influence. It allows anyone to search for information about anything. The same tool that allows a child to search for information for a school report or a scientist to search for information to help his research also makes it easy for Jenny McCarthy to search for articles confirming her belief that vaccines cause autism. As Nichols aptly puts it:

I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas.

After acknowledging that experts don’t always get it right, Nichols continues:

But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.

Unfortunately, as I was also reminded this week, the antivaccine movement is based on the arrogance of ignorance that derives from the Dunning-Kruger effect. One need look no further than to a particular group of antivaccine mothers whose name is hilarious if you know about the Dunning-Kruger effect. I’m referring, of course, to the inaptly named The Thinking Moms’ Revolution. Note the implication. They view themselves as the enlightened ones, mothers who have knowledge that others don’t, mothers who think where others don’t. They might as well call themselves something like The Dunning-Kruger Moms, as it’s a way more appropriate name for them. Personally, I frequently refer to them as The (Not-So)-Thinking Moms’ Revolution.

The “Thinking” Moms’ entire message is that you—yes, you!—are a sheeple and are being lied to by the government, the medical profession, and science. They, however, proclaim themselves to have transcended that, to have knowledge that the unenlightened don’t have, knowledge that they will impart to you if you will only open your eyes and believe them. It’s all very much like a religion, very cult-like. Of course, in a way they create their own knowledge. The studies they cite are often performed by believers looking not for deeper understanding but rather evidence to buttress their pre-existing beliefs. More importantly, in their world view they face an unending battle to battle conspiracy vast and hostile and need converts to join the fray. That’s why, for example, BK writes what she calls An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends, in order to explain to them why she annoys them with her antivaccine drivel. After professing being tired of the issue herself (the cliche of the weary warrior, tired of battle, comes to mind) and, like any martyr for her cause, expressing a wish that she could post pictures of cute puppies or kittens and keep her Facebook wall “light and pleasant and a fun ‘place’ to hang out,” BK asserts without evidence that the WORLD’s children are getting sicker. Why is that? Well, leaving aside the fact that it’s highly arguable whether the world’s children really are getting sicker, full of autoimmune diseases, environmental allergies, life-threatening food allergies, ADHD, seizure disorders, asthma, cancer, bipolar disorder, and various gastrointestinal issues and bowel diseases, to BK it obviously has to be the vaccines:

I know that the media tells you that vaccines are completely safe, and that you want to t1larg.vaccine.heart.attackbelieve them. I know that vaccines make people feel safe and protected. I know that thinking that the media, the FDA, and the CDC might be lying to you is a very scary idea. We as humans have this desire to believe that our government is taking care of us, and have all of our best interests at heart. It makes us feel safe. We want to trust those who are in charge. We NEED to trust them.

But we are being lied to.

I do so love straw men like the claim that vaccine advocates believe that vaccines are completely safe. I challenge BK to find such an advocate making such an argument. The real argument, is, of course, that vaccines are incredibly safe and that the vast benefits of vaccines far outweigh the minuscule risk from them. Much of the rest of BK’s argument consists of standard antivaccine tropes and false equivalences. Full of Dunning-Kruger is her assertion that “for every ‘study’ that ‘proves’ vaccines are safe, there are more studies that prove that they are not safe.” Regular readers of this blog know that this is nonsense, because the studies that demonstrate vaccine safety are generally large, well-designed epidemiological studies, and the “studies” that “prove” (to steal BK’s scare quotes) that vaccines are not safe tend to be by shoddy and/or ideologically-driven studies cranks like Andrew Wakefield, Mark and David Geier, and the like. They are not equivalent to the mountains of science demonstrating that vaccines are safe and effective.

Of course, anyone who asserts this is an enemy to be destroyed. Remember how I mentioned yesterday that pseudonyms drive antivaccinationists crazy? The reason is that antivaccinationists view the world in “us versus them” terms. Those who criticize them and oppose their nonsense are the enemy, to be attacked, because, in all their Dunning-Kruger cultish confidence, antivaccinationists know their enemies are wrong and they are right. Meanwhile, they are fighting pure evil! They’re fighting to save the children! It’s very similar to how fans of Stanislaw Burzynski believe they are fighting to save children from death from deadly brain tumors. Certainly the language used to describe autism, even mild autism, by antivaccinationists certainly uses the same sort of apocalyptic terms that fans of Stanislaw Burzynski use. Moreover, the enemies are in a vast conspiracy. In fact, since I stopped paying a lot of attention to Jake Crosby, I haven’t seen a conspiracy post as long and detailed, not to mention as full of crazy, as one that appeared on The Thinking Mom’s Revolution two days ago. Written by Cindy Waeltermann and ending with a promise of “more to come” (oh, goody!), the post is entitled The Ties That Bind, in which she constructs a doozy of a conspiracy theory, in which all opposition to the idea that vaccines cause autism must be the result of a pharmaceutical company conspiracy of massive proportions, all designed to protect vaccine profits:

Katie Couric, a somewhat respected journalist, recently did a show about the dangers of human papillomavirus (“HPV”) vaccines. I’m not a big fan of vaccines, and I know how anything that portrays today’s immunization program in a bad light is vehemently attacked by members of the pharmaceutical industry and their paid shills. To see one of America’s leading news personalities actually tell the truth was refreshing. It piqued my interest so much that I actually watched it. The stories that the women on Couric’s show told were chilling. Much to my surprise , the pharmaceutical industry went for Couric’s throat after the program aired. After all, vaccines are a multi‐billion dollar industry with a lot to lose. And we know how they hate to lose money. Instead of actually investigating or looking into parents’ claims, they reacted like a pack of feral coyotes presented with a dead Deer. (No sarcasm or anything on the choice of word “deer.” I’m sure some of you will understand that one.) Couric’s Facebook page was littered with posts from people who advocate compliance with the current vaccine schedule who claimed to have absolutely no ties to, or payments from, the pharmaceutical industry. Included among them were Dorit Reiss and several other people from the organization Voices for Vaccines.

It needs to be emphasized again that Katie Couric’s segment dealing with HPV vaccines was riddled with misinformation and highly biased towards antivaccine pseudoscience, which is why the antivaccine movement liked it so much. The rest of Waeltermann’s post is a bravura demonstration of addle-brained conspiracy mongering. It has all the elements and more: Insinuation that enemies (such as Dorit Reiss) must be paid to post on blogs, Twitter, and in comment threads? Check. (In Reiss’s case, Waeltermann explicitly says that she thinks Reiss is paid because she’s so prolific.) Attempts to link groups promoting science-based information on vaccines to big pharma? Double check. Insinuations of conflicts of interest, whether existent or nonexistent, using Paul Offit, to them the Dark Lord of Vaccination, as an example? Triple check. Perhaps the most amusing bit of this conspiratorial tripe is Waeltermann’s lack of knowledge about government funding that leads her to write howlers like:

As Waldman points out, Reiss’s employer recently collaborated in a joint endeavor of Kaiser Permanente, U. C. San Francisco and U. C. Hastings College of Law, which was funded by The National Human Genome Research Institute – a GOVERNMENT ORGANZATION – which provided $778,000. The new endeavor benefits Reiss’s employer as it provides a new student study center. The headline of the University of California Press Release says it all: “New Center Explores Ethical, Legal, Social Implications of Genomics in Health Care: Center is Multidisciplinary Effort of UCSF, Kaiser Permanente, U.C. Hastings College of Law” – which is in line with the classes Ms. Reiss teaches. I’d say that’s benefiting from a government grant, indirectly if not directly ‐‐ it’s hard to say without taking a look at U. C. Hastings’ payroll for Ms. Reiss.

I do so love the way Waeltermann capitalizes “GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION.” If you want to emphasize your point in a way that confirms that you are a loon, that’s an awesome way to do it.

Here’s a hint. Well, several hints. First, believe it or not, for this sort of thing $778,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if it was used to provide a new student study center, and particularly not for a three year project. If you look at the website for the Center for Transdisciplinary ELSI Research in Translational Genomics (CT2G), it’s all very benign and has nothing to do with vaccines. It isn’t stated how much UCSF and UC Hastings contributed to the effort, but even so for a center like this, and even if they each contributed as much as the government, a little over $2.3 million over three years would not be out of line for the budget of such a center. Waeltermann’s whole insinuation is ludicrous in the extreme, so much so that I’m actually embarrassed for her, not that antivaccine activists tend to have any shame. The power of Dunning-Kruger protects her from that. She even quotes Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s smear of Paul Offit as a “biostitute” and repeats the antivaccine movement’s insulting nickname for him, Dr. PrOffit.

There have been a lot of other powerfully dumb examples of Dunning-Kruger in action on the part of the antivaccine movement that I don’t have time to write about now. Maybe later. I’m referring to a three part post by Bill Welsh on the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism in which he posits a new hypothesis to explain regressive autism involving a microorganism, Mycoplasma fermentans, and, of course, vaccines. There’s a post up by Teresa Conrick linking another microorganism set of infections to autism. It’s as though they draw hypotheses out of a hat. In fact, if anyone really wants to see a new quackfest that will challenge the Autism One Quackfest for displaying the arrogance of ignorance, you might check out the Give Autism A Chance Summit.

However, when Dunning-Kruger rules, prior plausibility matters not at all, nor does science, except inasmuch as it can be twisted to support a crank’s agenda. I applaud “The Thinking Moms’ Revolution” for such over-the-top examples of exactly what I’ve been writing about for so long.

Comments

  1. #1 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    January 24, 2014

    Much to my surprise , the pharmaceutical industry went for Couric’s throat after the program aired. After all, vaccines are a multi‐billion dollar industry with a lot to lose.

    Claims like these always make me shake my head and wonder in awe about the cognitive dissonance these “thinking moms” possess. If the pharmaceutical industry was as powerful and undermining as the “thinking moms” claim then how did Katie Couric air her HPV vaccine segment to begin with? Why didn’t “they” get to her first? In fact, with all of that power that the “thinking moms” seem to think Pharma has, why are they being allowed to speak out?

  2. #2 Beana
    January 24, 2014

    Is D/K effect genetic or learned behavior? Or both somehow? It seems to run in my family, on various topics, vitamins, politics etc. And yet in other families, there is a child that is quietly watching what is going on around them, and says, no, this isn’t right. For example, being raised catholic, then turning atheist. Are some people just more easily duped? Or non-analytical? Is it to feel superior to believe the entire world is against you, and only YOU know the truth?

  3. #3 Beana
    January 24, 2014

    And stating, for the record, once again, I would really like a check because I LOVE VACCINES!

  4. #4 Ashley
    January 24, 2014

    It’s been amusing, as one of the parent-volunteers running Voices for Vaccines out of my living room, to see the way this woman and others like her literally writhe and froth about it. They’ve never produced a shred of proof to back their ramblings, like VFV being some sort of pharma-backed front group. If that’s the case, I’d like to know why I am in my sweatpants right now manning three cooking pots as my roof leaks from accumulated ice dams. Couldn’t Big Pharma pay up?

    One of our mentors told us that once we begin attracting the best in the business as well as the worst, we’re doing something meaningful. No matter how many knots these people tie themselves into, they will not be able to produce a coherent or believable argument that the pro-vaccine movement is funded by Big Pharma. The truth is, for them, far more terrifying: parents are speaking out in favor of vaccines because they want to, and because the antics of the anti-vaccine crowd have gone so far that even parents who never even thought there was an anti-vaccine movement have felt compelled to stand up and be counted. They are digging their own grave and Cindy W. is an apt gravedigger. Keep it coming.

  5. #5 ebohlman
    http://turnipsandpotatoes.wordpress.com
    January 24, 2014

    Here in Illinois’s 9th Congressional District, one of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination for US Rep has come up with a novel explanation for the supposed rise in autism. I’m really wondering why I didn’t anticipate it, since it’s a near-perfect example of crank magnetism.

  6. #6 Dorit
    January 24, 2014

    I should probably thank Ms. Killeen-Waeltermann for letting me know about this exciting new project.

  7. #7 Dorit
    January 24, 2014

    I have to admit that it’s a little sad when someone is saying “I’m going to keep speaking up for leaving children vulnerable to diseases that can harm, maim or kill them, because it’s for the children.”

  8. #8 AnObservingParty
    January 24, 2014

    Seriously. You reading this, Big Pharma overlords who pay everyone to “attack” misinformation? I LOVE VACCINES! SEND ME THE MONEY YOU OWE ME.

    Beana,

    I’m that child. Watching the nonsense that I grew up in–plus instability I won’t get into–has turned me into a cynical, cold stickler for evidence in an effort to avoid the trickery and hypocrisy those I grew up with fell prey to. My family is the kind of Catholic family that lends to the bad name, and it’s even more apparent to me as I was schooled by Catholic Jesuits. Who can say what it is?

  9. #9 Jeff1971
    January 24, 2014

    If Big Pharma was so powerful, how come it was the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service who first raised concerns about thimerosal in vaccines?

    How come the UK government funded Wakefield and his buddies to publish attacks on MMR?

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    Before they even hit google, they were already lost:

    the ability to self-evaluate is part of a complicated system that psychologists call ‘executive function’- this starts developing around adolescence ( to mid-20s) and includes abilities like self-regulation of emotions, planning, sarcasm, sizing up self in relation to others, creative verbal language, metacognition etc, In order to perform these skills you need to be able to handle abstractions ( what Piaget calls ‘formal operations’)- thus few 8 year olds study algebra but many 13 year olds do. This is a social side to advanced skills as well as an academic and they don’t always correspond.

    Not all adults do well in these areas and lots** can interfere with their development. Unfortunatelly, the material I survey is rife with examples of D-K. Also the inability to look at things *globally*: doing a fly-over of an entire subject area and making an overall judgment.

    Then there’s TMR and Conrick….

    ** lower intelligence, disadvantage, psychological problems, SMI.

  11. #11 Broken Link
    January 24, 2014
  12. #12 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    January 24, 2014

    @ ebohlman, OMH! Illinois has got some real talent running for office don’t they?

    @ Broken Link, I’m heartened to see the comments drowning out the anti-vaxx nuttery.

  13. #13 Reuben Gaines
    http://thepoxesblog.wordpress.com
    January 24, 2014

    Cindy Killeen Waeltermann apparently took the idea of that “Ties That Bind” post to John Stone of Age of Autism, who promptly plagiarized it:

    h_ttp://thepoxesblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/connecting-the-dots-when-you-cant-connect-two-brain-cells/

  14. […] UPDATE: Here’s Orac’s take on CKW’s post. […]

  15. #15 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    TMR is the vastest sinkholes of unreason I’ve ever had the misfortune to step into: I ruin all of my boots this way. BUT it’s worth it because ….. of you, kind readers.

    BK follows the Canary Party line in asserting that children are getting sicker. She may perhaps be over-stressed at this time: she wrote recently that the breast cancer that she thought she had overcome had returned.
    So I imagine I can forgive her her histrionics but not her lack of reasoning and evidence.

    TMR’s most vitriolic anti-SBM advocate is probably Alison MacNeil who informed us that she stopped taking her anti-depressants a few months ago. She also initiated an internet radio show/ website, “Fearless Parent” with Louise Kuo Habakus along with medical commentary from Kelly Brogan (*quelle triple threat*): the show is “broadcast” on Gary Null’s PRN.fm; the Voice of Woo-topia.
    So I imagine that she has an excuse as well- although she misleads parents about many health issues. There’s no excuse for that.

    Conrick has made a career of playing physiologist and attempting to uncover the *secrets of autism* to explain away her daughter’s problems- all without any relevant education or appropriate guidance. She, like many of the others, asserts that she educated herself.

    So have idiots like Mike Adams and Gary Null: they may have studied a smattering of nutrition but they expand their beliefs of their own expertise to cover all of medicine and psychology – not to mention economics, politics and hiphop.

    Instead of asking why these characters are unable to contain themselves, I’ll ask instead-
    Why are others able to see their own limits realistically?

    As children grow up they get feedback from adults ( teachers, parents, coaches) that enables them to *place* themselves on a scale that is similar to that which most people use. Thus, their unrealistic, (mostly) over-confident beliefs about themselves are moderated with the opinions of others who DO know more.

    Usually with education in skills comes experience using them in the real world and seeing how others react. A student can engage in comparions with others’ efforts.

    So I would venture that many of those we survey never were able to form accurate evaluations about their own abilities and are loathe to take criticism from people who are well-versed in specific areas. There is also an angry rejection of those who have studied for years and acquired the ‘papers’.

    When I read material by woo-meisters about an area I know it’s easy to me to see the glaring deficits because they PICK and CHOOSE what they read rather than survey the entirety of the field guided by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

    Some may call this solipsistic, I call it ‘par for the course’.

  16. #16 Beana
    January 24, 2014

    @AOP, so maybe that is it, the ridiculousness is just so overwhelming the person (child) has no where to go but common sense? My childhood was fairly even keeled, religion and science, not much pseudoscience. As my parents got older, is when they started falling prey to religion and pseudoscience. My parents are no longer married to each other, and somehow both married ultra religious bigots. And we all know the FDA is out to get us by wanting to regulate vitamins . . .

  17. #17 Beana
    January 24, 2014

    @Denice Walter, once again, thank you for the insight.

  18. #18 Eric Lund
    January 24, 2014

    If the pharmaceutical industry was as powerful and undermining as the “thinking moms” claim then how did Katie Couric air her HPV vaccine segment to begin with? Why didn’t “they” get to her first?

    That Couric’s show got so much pushback from the pharmaceutical industry is evidence of a vast conspiracy on their part. That they did not prevent Couric from airing that show is evidence that they are concealing the evidence of this vast conspiracy.

    If the preceding paragraph made no sense to you, then congratulations, you have a working brain. If you thought it made sense as anything other than a parody, you might be a conspiracy theorist.

  19. #19 Arcanyn
    January 24, 2014

    The pharmaceutical companies would stand to profit far more if people stopped using vaccines and instead got sick with the diseases they protect against. In fact, I imagine, given how evil and greedy they are, they’d jump at any excuse to stop supplying them. I think this proves who the real pharma shills are; clearly all the anti-vax organisations are false flag operations run by the pharmaceutical companies in an attempt to discredit vaccines so they have their excuse to stop selling them, and start making big bucks from all the disease outbreaks that result.

  20. #20 Jerry
    Tulsa
    January 24, 2014

    @Denice

    Alison MacNeil, Kelly Brogan, Mike Adams, Gary Null, Louise Kuo Habakus

    A veritable who’s who of woonatics. How many boots have you ruined? My whole wardrobe is dirty just from reading Orac’s quotes.

    Only Brogan has professional credentials though- good ones- which make her writings credible to the unsuspecting. She certainly is an example of someone who “PICK and CHOOSE what they read.” But even worse than that, she often extracts a quote or two from a paper to make it seem like it says the opposite of what it says. In her essay on the flu vaccine and pregnancy, the “the most concerning study I came across” is a profoundly pro-vaccine piece which concludes,”The inflammatory response elicited by vaccination is substantially milder and more transient than seen in infectious illness, arguing for the clinical value of vaccination.” But she omits this conclusion. Of course.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21945263

    And she shills for the Fisher-Wallace Stimulator and seems to get kickbacks from supplement companies. Her latest writing has appeared on Mercola.

  21. #21 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    There’s another variant of D-K:
    when a person is successful in one area they assume to prognosicate across the board in areas in which they haven’t a clue.

    Anti-vaxxers include a host of chemists, biochemists and business people who believe that because they are successful in one area, they can criticise adjacent or even remote areas of study. I think you know of whom I speak.

    In reality, a bright person with university education in liberal studies or in business might have the basic skills to comprehend science: television and news journalists can often craft information-driven stories that are accessible to many adults.

    BUT the woo-meisters and AOA/TMR contributors go far beyond trying to *comprehend* science- they want to OUTWIT it, chase it down, strangle it and replace it with the much vaunted paradigm shift. (( shudder))

    Obviously, they have a crappy grasp on reality.
    It ain’t gonna happen.
    Conrick will never prove her dripping font watertight and Orac’s visitors will never prove our combined shilldom
    BECAUSE it ain’t real, kids.
    On to the next. Take up a new hobby. Read fantasy novels or learn to knit. At least you’ll get something for the time you spend.

  22. #22 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 24, 2014

    @Denice Walter

    Recall the time that Ms. Conrick “proved” her daughter had heavy metal poisoning causing her autism because her eye color changed? Ah, good times.

  23. #23 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 24, 2014

    Hmm…my comments seem to be going into limbo. Testing…

  24. #24 jdavis
    Midwest
    January 24, 2014

    I’m torn with vaccines. I mean, yes I understand their contribution and I myself just recently received the TdaP. I cut my leg on some rusty metal while collecting trash in the Adopt-a-Highway Program. The majority of my concern revolves around the fact that there are far too many parents who have witnessed a direct link of their children receiving shots and an immediate deterioration in their child. Eye-contact and happy-go-lucky pre-vaccine…then lack of eye-contact or no eye-contact and inconsolable/irritability which doesn’t wane.
    Ignoring thousands upon thousands of these observations seems to be an arrogance of ignorance, no?
    I’d like to add that the TdaP made me feel like crap…but I guess it’s much better than having lockjaw and all that comes along with Clostridium tetani.

  25. #25 cakesphere
    January 24, 2014

    @Denice
    I gotta say, I’m guilty as charged in the executive function department. My difficulties lie in the social skills and time management areas, though. I’m able to self-evaluate in an academic sense, but when it comes to evaluating how I’m doing socially I’m lost.

    Guess I dodged a bullet. I may have escaped D-K, but I can’t tell how loudly I’m talking. Heh.

  26. #26 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    @ cakesphere:

    But you see, you’re working on it!
    People with ASDs may have problems in this area – that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn. And NO one is perfeckt.

    -btw- everyone can benefit by increasing their skills in dealing with others, being honest with one’s self, language, specific areas of study- learning is a lifetime occupation.

  27. #27 imr90
    Springfield, MA
    January 24, 2014

    I have read the posts by Bill Welsh. It’s so simple and brilliant I can’t understand why we didn’t see this before. “Mycoplasma Fermentans” (note the capitalized species name indicating extreme seriousness) from vaccines enters the cells and neutralizes the midichlorians! This causes children to become disconnected from the Force and hence is the cause of autism. We always knew that Big Pharma was from the Dark Side!

  28. #28 jre
    Overeducated Boulder
    January 24, 2014

    Apropos the “death of expertise” I just learned today that Stephen Moore of the WSJ’s editorial staff will now be that publication’s chief economist. This is the guy who wrote a whole op-ed piece on the theme that all you need to understand economics is to trust your common sense and ignore those pointy-headed academics:

    [That unemployment insurance is stimulative is] a perfect Keynesian answer, and also perfectly nonsensical. What the White House is telling us is that the more unemployed people we can pay for not working, the more people will work. Only someone with a Ph.D. in economics from an elite university would believe this.

    Indeed; if there’s anything that shows you don’t know economics, it’s a Ph.D. in the subject from an elite university [facepalm].

  29. #29 cakesphere
    January 24, 2014

    @imr90
    Big Pharma is bringing balance to the Force, one MMR vaccine at a time.

  30. #30 rs
    January 24, 2014

    “It’s as though they draw hypotheses out of a hat.”

    That’s it! All those TMR and similar anti-vax blogs are being funded by Big Hat. I smell a conspiracy. If we would only have the courage to ban hats the cranks will melt away.

    I wonder which pays better, pharma lucre or hat lucre?

  31. #31 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    @ rs:

    And silly me! I thought they were drawing them out of .. er.. some other place.

  32. #32 Sastra
    January 24, 2014

    Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge. It assuredly does not mean that “everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.” And yet, this is now enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense.

    Although the Anti-vaxx movement seems to be firmly fixed in the “we’re right and they’re wrong” camp, I can still discern elements here and there of the “all opinions are equal” nonsense which helps to fuel the D-K effect. Mostly, I run in to it when the Tolerance and Acceptance Brigade tries to defend the Warrior Moms and their right to hold their “deeply held beliefs.” While they may not themselves believe that vaccines cause autism, they would never be crude or rude enough to try to impose their own views on people who have “chosen differently.”

    Especially when they manage to hit a lot of positive tropes, like Motherhood and Natural Healing. And especially if the villains are unappealing to them, too — like the Pharmaceutical Companies and Government Control. Being against vaccines is thus classified as a personal moral issue, like being vegetarian or being against consumerism. The facts don’t matter: what matters is that people are granted respect for who they are.

    Another facet of the D-K Effect: the confusion of the truth or falsehood of an issue with someone’s “right” to their own opinion — which apparently entails the “right” to hold it without being “bullied” into changing it.

  33. #33 lilady
    January 24, 2014

    Did you ever read about an anti-vaccine person….and just *know* that you’ve encountered that person before…somewhere? Such is the case of Cindy Waeltermann for me.

    So now good buddies you are in for a treat. Cindy showed up on Matthew Herpes Forbes’ blog about the Katie Couric HPV vaccine show debacle:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2013/12/04/four-ways-katie-couric-stacked-the-deck-against-gardasil/

    (Expand all comments) to see just how crazy Cindy is, starting on page 3,

    to page 5 “…you people are morons”,

    to page 6 “…All of these children are NOT acceptable casualties. Just say no.”,

    to page 8 for three separate comments:

    “I am so sorry for your problems. My sons are also vaccine injured. Make no mistake… there are people on this newsfeed who are representing the pharmaceutical industry doing damage control. I’m sorry for your pain and suffering. The pharma industry has no empathy for your child. I do. I’m sorry for what you’re going through”

    “Welcome to the world of an autism parent. None of u want to be in this boat……. but here we are.”

    “Matt… you are an asshole, towing the line of the pharma whores who trolling this page and posting and posting and reposting. These women are not COLLATERAL DAMAGE. Tell their parents that.”

    On to page 10 for this gem:

    “I find it absolutely hysterical that the pro vaccine people are attacking every single news story and website that even mentions this. It smacks of desperation. Most of the people who continue to post have ties to either the pharmaceutical industry, or to pro vaccine movements, the largest of which is “Voice for Vaccine.” They routinely call out their hounds, point them to a particular social media website, and instruct them to kill. The members? Dorit Reiss, Liz Ditz (last name, need I say more?), Sarah Norris, Stacy Mintzer Herlihy, Melody Anne Butler , Katie Ellis , and a few others. Please, disregard their posts. They are paid pharmawhores who are doing damage control for none other than vaccine industry tycoon Paul Offit.”

    (Am I not worthy to be listed as a “paid pharmawhore” by Cindy? //sniff, sniff)

    At the end of Waeltermann’s TMR article she claims she was the founder of an autism treatment center in Pittsburgh, which she was. Under her leadership she arranged for conferences including this 2008 conference which was labeled as “controversial” even then:

    https://ajax.sys-con.com/node/665676/mobile

    Autism Center of Pittsburgh to Present Controversial Conference on Autism and Environmental Toxins, Vaccines

    “…The conference will focus on the relationship between vaccines, the environment and autism spectrum disorders and feature some of the country’s top experts on the subjects of nutrition, environmental toxins, and the relationship between autism and vaccines.

    “Recent findings in several cases at the CDC indicate that there may be a link between vaccines, autism, environmental toxins and mitochondrial disease,” said Cindy Waeltermann, President of the Autism Center of Pittsburgh. “Parents are very concerned and hungry for information on these topics.”

    David Kirby, the New York-based investigative journalist and author of the NY Times Bestseller, “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic – A Medical Controversy,” the keynote speaker, will discuss recent developments in what has become perhaps the most contentious medical debate of a generation.

    Presenters include Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D., board certified neurosurgeon, author and lecturer; Dr. Philip DeMio, M.D., DAN Physician and father of a child with autism; Dr. Cheryl Leuthauser, D.O., Integrative medicine specialist; Kelly Dorfman, MS, LN, Nutritionist; Drs. Len Brancewicz and Joe DiMatteo, Board Certified Nutritionists and Homeopaths; Dr. Charles Simkovich, DC, Chiropractor & Cranio Sacral Therapy; Dr. Scott Faber, M.D., Developmental Pediatrician….”

    Yes indeed, Cindy is a genuine frothing-at-the-mouth anti-vaccine, conspiracist loon. I look forward to reading her series of articles on Thinking Mom’s Revolution.

  34. #34 lilady
    Where's my comment?
    January 24, 2014

    I just tried to post a long comment and it hasn’t appeared. What happened?

  35. #35 janet
    dangit! snowing again.
    January 24, 2014

    Beana @2–I’m also that child. I’m the oldest of many, since I come from a good catholic family. I just about can’t read my siblings’ Facebook posts due to the heavy religious content. Interestingly, my mom, who carried all those children, confided in me later in life that had she known at age 20 what she knew at age 50, more than a few of us wouldn’t be around.
    Oh, and I’m the only one who studied science. And I’m my own harshest critic, because I KNOW what I don’t know. It’s a lot.
    @ cakesphere–my significant other sounds just like you. :)

  36. #36 Eric Lund
    January 24, 2014

    Indeed; if there’s anything that shows you don’t know economics, it’s a Ph.D. in the subject from an elite university

    In fairness, there really are far too many Ph.D. economists with no understanding of economics. See the writings of Brad DeLong or Paul Krugman, who have to do the intellectual garbage pickup. Unfortunately for Moore’s thesis, his ideological allies tend to be members of this group.

    There’s another variant of D-K:
    when a person is successful in one area they assume to prognosicate across the board in areas in which they haven’t a clue.

    As a Ph.D. physicist, I resemble that remark. Even a Nobel Prize is no guarantee of sanity: see Linus Pauling on vitamin C, or Brian Josephson on race.

  37. #37 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    @ jre:

    Oh right I think I’ve heard the Moore creature speak.

    I’ve also studied economics which is probably why he usually sounds off his rocker.

  38. #38 Mrs Woo
    January 24, 2014

    I grew up with a LITTLE “woo” (when my mom was diagnosed with lymphoma, a friend convinced my parents that carrot juice could cure her, so they got a juicer and juiced carrots and celery (celery juice is terrible!), but they also followed doctor’s orders for chemo, etc. Sadly, she didn’t last six months, and I saw her maybe twice between January 1 and June 2 of the year she died.

    My father called all chiropractors quacks of the worst kind, and refused to even consider seeing one, ever. So I saw a respect for real medicine, a disdain for some parts of alternative medicine, except when it came to desperation.

    I don’t believe I’m an expert on much. I believe there are areas where, through experience or education I might be more knowledgeable than some, but I have enough self-awareness and education to know there are many things I’m clueless about. If anything, my problem is sorting out when some (not all) people are portraying themselves as experts when that is far from the case. It can take months of research to figure out truth on any given topic parsing through the University of Google, because half of what is out there is uninformed drivel pretending to be information.

  39. #39 jre
    Boulder, piled higher and deeper
    January 24, 2014

    Eric @ 36: point well taken. The self-fulfilling aspect of D-K is not the caveat that highly educated people can be wrong — they certainly can be, and frequently are — it’s the conviction that “stands to reason, consarn it all” is a cogent argument, and that credentials are positively disqualifying. Sean Carroll (the astrophysicist, not Sean B. the geneticist) once wrote a brilliant post on what homework you need to do before submitting your paper refuting Einstein. I’ll try to locate it.

  40. #40 Shay
    January 24, 2014

    @Breana: I have one sister who is an RN (with a very low threshold of tolerance for willful ignorance — 8 years in the Navy *will* have an effect on your people skills) and one sister who believes that nearly everything can be cured with acupuncture, massage, or herbal tea.

    It’s fun to watch them being polite to each other at family gatherings.

  41. #41 AdamG
    January 24, 2014

    @jdavis

    here are far too many parents who have witnessed a direct link of their children receiving shots and an immediate deterioration in their child[…]Ignoring thousands upon thousands of these observations seems to be an arrogance of ignorance, no?

    Do you have evidence that there are “thousands upon thousands of these observations”?

  42. #42 Vicki
    January 24, 2014

    jdavis @24:

    It turns out that there aren’t a meaningful number of parents who noticed such things right after their children were vaccinated. Looking at things closely, sometimes the allegedly causative vaccine was given weeks or months before the parents noticed a problem. Other times, it was given *after* the symptoms appear: first the child is showing signs of autism (on home video and/or noticed by other relatives or caregivers), then they get a vaccine, and some time after that the parent says “my child is autistic and was vaccinated, there must be a connection.” This is no more valid than “my child was vaccinated and has brown eyes, if not for the MMR he’d have gorgeous blue eyes.”

    The ONLY known correlation between vaccines and autism is the other way around: women who have been vaccinated against rubella are less likely to have autistic children than those who haven’t. So if you want to reduce the rate of autism, you should be promoting the MMR vaccine, not trying to scare people away from it.

    This has been covered at length in other posts on this blog.

  43. #43 Shay
    in the state where we are grateful to Louisiana
    January 24, 2014

    Ebohlmann, let’s be fair — not all Illinois politicians are fruitloops. Most of them are just crooks.

  44. #45 AdamG
    January 24, 2014
  45. #46 Chris HIckie
    January 24, 2014

    I’m trying to determine if this increased aggression in the AV community is a good sign or a bad sign.

  46. #47 squirrelelite
    January 24, 2014

    Thanks for the link to the article, jre (44).
    I particularly like the part about how a theory needs to make predictions that can be tested, not just explain one experiment or data point.

  47. #48 AnObservingParty
    January 24, 2014

    @ AdamG

    Do you have evidence that there are “thousands upon thousands of these observations”?

    In the spirit of a D-K discussion, they’ve convinced themselves there are that many people. I can’t remember which post it was in, but someone had posted a link to a poll posted on AoA to get the congressional hearing back in motion, and that signatures at that time were up to a whopping…35.

  48. #49 Krebiozen
    January 24, 2014

    @ AdamG

    Do you have evidence that there are “thousands upon thousands of these observations”?

    When this claim rears its tired old head yet again I always like to refer to this study done in North East London in 2003, five years after Wakefield’s fraudulent paper was published. In only 12 of the 118 cases of regressive autism did the parents blame vaccines. It was also clear that some parents had changed their view on what had caused their child’s autism only after Wakefield’s study was published.

  49. #50 cakesphere
    January 24, 2014

    @jdavis

    It’s been said so many times before on this blog, but it bears repeating.
    The plural of anecdote is not data, nor does correlation equal causation.

  50. #51 jane
    January 24, 2014

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is a real phenomenon, no question, but if it becomes used, like various putative Fallacies, as a three-word means of putting dissenters in their place with no further discussion allowed, it will likewise become a meaningless concept. For one thing, no expert possesses all facts on their subject, while non-experts can easily possess some facts, so there will be times when the non-expert knows something that the expert doesn’t. I know far less about the particular field of medicine for which I have been forced to do the most journal reading than even the worst practitioner of that field, but there are certain facts that I know that several -ologists I dealt with either did not know, because they had avoided reading the relevant studies and recent review, or pretended not to know. To give a timely example: If a commoner in an orthopedist’s office with knee pain questions the insistence that he rush to arthroscopic surgery, based on his knowledge that negative double-blind trials exist, and is met with bellows of “Dunning-Kruger!”, it will not likely make him accept that he’s too st00pid to read about such things.

    Second, the vast majority of potential choices that people disagree or get angry about do not involve just facts and technical skills, but the application of values to facts. Again in the medical field, I have seen MDs in action who made it very, sometimes abusively obvious that they considered their expertise to extend to a superior ability to make value judgements. Mechanics and vets are agreed to have superior knowledge in their own fields, but they also understand that decisions on how to use their services involve trade-offs whose relative importance can be decided only by the customer. Too often, “experts” gloss over such issues and effectively assume that their own values are the only or best possible lens through which to view a necessary decision. I find it strange that the average American IQ would have substantially increased in the past century or so, if they did not keep renorming the test to compensate, and yet it has become an article of faith with some that the average citizen is too brainless to be capable of participating meaningfully in the decision of how to approach serious issues, which formerly was not believed to be the case.

  51. #52 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    About the entrenched belief that “deterioration” follows quickly on the heels of vaccination with MMR.

    So why then did Wakefield have to _fix_ data to show that?

    It is were true wouldn’t there be video? And DATA?

  52. #53 Denice Walter
    January 24, 2014

    IF IT were…
    Aiiiiii!

  53. #54 Jeff1971
    January 24, 2014

    It’s easy to poke fun at a serious issue, but my neighbour’s child was so poisoned with heavy metals that when she went out in the sun she got taller.

  54. #55 EBA
    January 24, 2014

    @AnObservingParty wrote: “In the spirit of a D-K discussion, they’ve convinced themselves there are that many people.”

    This reminds me of this gem, from a soon to be disciplined doctor who has a particular affection towards thyroid extracts:

    “The reason I am writing this letter is an unabashed solicitation for help from anyone in the Townsend Letter community who has experience with desiccated thyroid, as well as testing for and treating heavy metals. I would ask you to please write a brief letter stating just that. My hope is that, even if I cannot find an MD who will satisfy the medical board as being an expert, that the overwhelming numbers of health professionals practicing as I do will prove to them that I am not dangerous merely by the fact of using desiccated thyroid and testing for heavy metals.”

    He then goes to cite a fellow thyroid extracts lover:

    “Alan Gaby estimated, in an exchange of e-mails, that “there are probably hundreds if not thousands of doctors who are using thyroid hormone the way we do,” but that he knew of nobody in particular.”

    Source: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Seeking+experience+with+desiccated+thyroid.-a0261241081

  55. #56 jre
    January 24, 2014

    Didja hear about the thermometer factory that got closed down? They found tuna fish in the mercury!

  56. #57 George
    January 24, 2014

    I do so love the way Waeltermann capitalizes “GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION.” If you want to emphasize your point in a way that confirms that you are a loon, that’s an awesome way to do it.

    Someone alerted me to a program which will “insanify” your comments this way. It is a lot of fun.

    http://gendou.com/crap/temp/insanify.php

  57. #58 sheepmilker
    In from the white out
    January 24, 2014

    Just saw this Tweet from Ben Goldacre: (NSFW)

    @bengoldacre: Useful resource -> RT @MedicosSinMarca: How do vaccines cause autism?
    http://t.co/v9y8rSohXf
    vía @FJBengoaT

  58. #59 sheepmilker
    January 24, 2014

    ^ Clear enough for you Greg?

  59. #60 herr doktor bimler
    January 24, 2014

    Lilady @33 quotes Cindy Waeltermann:
    towing the line
    It’s like she’s *trying* to make me all shouty and language-prescriptionist.

  60. #61 Krebiozen
    January 24, 2014

    jane,

    I don’t think you intended to give an example of the D-K effect in action, but I think you have. For example, it may be true that, “non-experts can easily possess some facts, so there will be times when the non-expert knows something that the expert doesn’t”, but the non-expert may not have the background knowledge and understanding that allow those facts to be interpreted meaningfully.

    If a commoner in an orthopedist’s office with knee pain questions the insistence that he rush to arthroscopic surgery, based on his knowledge that negative double-blind trials exist, and is met with bellows of “Dunning-Kruger!”, it will not likely make him accept that he’s too st00pid to read about such things.

    Firstly, do orthopods normally insist on rushing patients into accepting arthroscopic, or any other surgery, before even diagnosing the problem? That certainly hasn’t been my experience, nor that of anyone I know who has had joint problems. I have seen orthopods talk their patient through the pros and cons of various alternatives, along with their recommendation, and then leave up to the patient to make the final decision. Perhaps you have had a bad doctor, or perhaps you think you know more about the subject than you really do.

    Secondly, even the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons does not recommend knee arthroscopy for osteoarthritis of the knee, but the mere existence of negative double-blind trials does not meant that arthroscopic knee surgery is never a good idea. I have seen reviews that conclude otherwise, for example here:

    Knee arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive technique that allows intra-articular assessment and treatment of knee joint pathology. It has proven benefits of reduced patient morbidity, earlier recovery and mobilisation, and it is cost-effective. In this paper we review the anatomy of the knee joint, indications and contra-indications to knee arthroscopic use, and consider the main techniques of knee arthroscopy including types of anaesthetic, prophylactic antibiotics, theatre setup and arthroscopic portals, and post-operative care.

    Again, it’s a matter of assessing the entire evidence base in the context of a comprehensive understanding of the whole area, and what alternate treatments are available. An average layperson simply cannot acquire this without formal study.

    I have never been bullied into accepting any particular treatment by a doctor, though sometimes they have refused to prescribe a treatment I gave requested, probably quite rightly in retrospect. I can’t remember anyone I know complaining that they have had this experience either. Your characterization seems to me to be based more on a stereotype than on reality.

    I also don’t accept your apparent suggestion that since we are all more intelligent than people used to be, we can acquire the knowledge and skills of an orthopedic surgeon after a couple of hours’ Googling. That’s the D-K effect in a nutshell.

  61. #62 Shay
    January 24, 2014

    Dr B: Perhaps she has an old mule name of Sal….

  62. #63 Eric Lund
    January 24, 2014

    But democracy … assuredly does not mean that “everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.”

    It’s even worse than Nichols suggests in this paragraph. I see an increasing tendency for people to use their own facts. It’s not just limited to anti-vaxers, nor are they the worst offenders: the problem is pervasive in any subject with public policy implications. For instance, I mentioned above that many Ph.D. economists don’t understand economics. I conclude this, despite not being an economist myself, because I read articles by people who are economists and who explain in clear language why the economic claims of their rivals do not match observable facts. So it is with the anti-vaxers: many of the alleged facts they bring up aren’t true.

    Where Google comes into this is that other people can then find and repeat these zombie lies, no matter how many times these lies have been debunked.

    “The problem with quotes on the internet is that they are so easy to fabricate.” — Abraham Lincoln

  63. #64 jdavis
    January 24, 2014

    @#41, 42, 48, 49 & 50.
    Wait, wait…where are these thousands of parents??
    Really? Wow, I didn’t realize you had your head that far in the sand.
    Heck, in 2007 alone during the Austism Omnibus Trial—5,000 families made the claim that following vaccination their child quickly deteriorated. This information isn’t hard to find.
    Vaccination is designed for the greater good–to protect the majority…and it does so at the expense of a minority. That minority are those who are damaged by vaccination(s).
    If you do not believe that vaccines cause damage then why have billions of dollars been paid out to those who seek justice in a court of law?
    I remember not too long ago, doctors testifying in a court of law that smoking did not cause cancer…heck, they used to prescribe it for anxiety.
    The pharmaceutical companies are exempt from lawsuits.
    Part of the cost of the vaccine goes towards the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
    There have been a number of cases which point to certain autistic children being directly damaged by vaccines.
    Emily Moller was awarded money and the judge said, ‘Emily has autism, and I don’t want to give other families who filed autism claims any hope.’

    It seems the government’s aim here is to make things as difficult as possible for vaccine injured children. Parents often describe Vaccine Court as a place where they face government lawyers, defending a government program, using government money.

    It’s clear that’s what’s happening here. Thousands of parents report their child was normal and healthy until they received certain routine vaccinations. Suddenly, they changed. They lost learned skills and regressed into autism. Health officials and mainstream medicine can’t explain this. They call it a coincidence.
    HHS did not admit that vaccination caused encephalopathy or autism, but merely decided not to dedicate more resources to defending the case.

    “I don’t understand why they fought so hard,” Moller said. “We had the evidence: the EEG, the MRI, everything was consistent with encephalopathy, post-vaccination. How can government attorneys claim what our doctors said happened, didn’t happen?”
    I understand that many of you are scientists and very-well educated scientists at that. I just hope you’re not putting too much faith into the government.
    That would be the biggest arrogance of ignorance of all.

  64. #65 Lawrence
    January 24, 2014

    @Jdavis – actually, the plaintiffs in the Omnibus hearings were given the opportunity to present their best, most iron-clad and evidence-supported cases to represent all of those other cases….and it was found that those “best cases” weren’t even close…which means that none of the other cases, which were considered to have “less evidence” had any credence either…..

  65. #66 AdamG
    January 24, 2014

    There have been a number of cases which point to certain autistic children being directly damaged by vaccines.

    I dare you to name a single one.

  66. #67 Shay
    January 24, 2014

    5,000 families made the claim that following vaccination their child quickly deteriorated.

    How many of those families were able to provide verifiable evidence that this was in fact the case? The fact that a great many people believe in something does not make it real.

    (I could start with supply-side economics, but I won’t).

  67. #68 janet
    where I'm really happy it's Friday
    January 24, 2014

    re: #64
    Someone has his/her head that far into somewhere, but I don’t think it’s sand, and I know it ain’t us.

  68. #69 jdavis
    January 24, 2014

    Most of you on here depend on the government’s teat to keep you afloat.
    Good luck in your chosen profession.
    Keep on believing in the federal government!
    Woo hoo!

  69. #70 Karen
    The frozen north
    January 24, 2014

    Amusingly enough, Cindy stopped by VFV’s Facebook page to “accuse” us of being a major Gates Foundation recipient.

    Well I would love that! Sadly, we aren’t. But for a few minutes, I pretended that we were. Instead of typing at my 5 year old Macbook on my IKEA dining room table, I pretended that I was sitting on a throne of gold with in the large Big Pharma-Bill Gates-Human Genome-Evil Reptilian Overlord campus somewhere warm. I laughed a maniacal laugh as dolphins served me drinks at the swim up bar and my minions worked tirelessly to post comments all over social media. It was a glorious fantasy.

    And now that I’ve typed that on the Internet, Cindy, the worst Google researcher ever, will take it as proof of my Pharma connections.

    Also, one last note. I really don’t know much about the Task Force for Global Health and how they get their money and what they do with their money. Their monetary issues are very separate from ours. Don’t get me wrong–I’d love to have billions of dollars for Voices for Vaccines.

    I do know, though, that much of what the Task Force receives from “Big Pharma” is in the form of pharmaceuticals that they deliver to poor nations so that children don’t die. And Cindy thinks they are evil. There’s no convincing some people of anything rational.

  70. #71 AdamG
    January 24, 2014

    Guess it’s a lot easier to resort to insults and Pharma Shill gambit than it is to cite a single case.

    Seriously, jdavis? Not even a single example?

  71. #72 Johanna
    January 24, 2014

    Meh. Today’s troll is weak sauce.

    I’m going back to daydreaming about that Pharmawhore HQ Karen described. I particularly like the notion of a swim-up bar with dolphin waiters…

  72. #73 herr doktor bimler
    January 24, 2014

    depend on the government’s teat to keep you afloat

    Now I am imagining “the government’s teat” as an inflatable swimming-pool toy (complete with the disclaimer on the side, “Not to be used as a life-saver”).
    Please make it so.

  73. #74 herr doktor bimler
    January 24, 2014

    Jane @51:
    The Dunning-Kruger effect is a real phenomenon, no question, but if it becomes used, like various putative Fallacies, as a three-word means of putting dissenters in their place with no further discussion allowed, it will likewise become a meaningless concept.

    This is a useful caveat. “DKE” could be used as a put-down for anyone who questions the advice of a professional (be it an orthopedic surgeon or a car mechanic), though I don’t know if it is being used in that dismissive way.

    But the situation here is not so much an orthopedist insisting on arthroscopic surgery, and more like a network of carpenters, deciding that their experience in hinges and how to hang doors makes them experts in knee anatomy. If these chippies networked on social media, and formed lobby groups demanding dietary changes to stop the “modern plague of knee injuries” (which results from not enough oil in the diet), writing books and recruiting minor actors to promote their case on TV, rejecting contrary advice because anyone who disagreed with them must be an industry shill, then it would be fair to invoke Doctors Dunning and Kruger.

  74. #75 lilady
    January 24, 2014

    “depend on the government’s teat to keep you afloat”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7loP7OsLZ8

    woo hoo! back at you jdavis

  75. #76 Krebiozen
    In an grumpy place
    January 24, 2014

    jdavis,

    Keep on believing in the federal government!
    Woo hoo!

    That’s it? You dump a load of clearly inaccurate misinformation on us and when challenged you emit a curious infantile squawk and run away?

    Heck, in 2007 alone during the Austism Omnibus Trial—5,000 families made the claim that following vaccination their child quickly deteriorated. This information isn’t hard to find.

    Yet their claims were found to be false, or mistaken, to be charitable. Video evidence of the best cases showed that neurodevelopmental problems preceded the vaccines.

    If you do not believe that vaccines cause damage then why have billions of dollars been paid out to those who seek justice in a court of law?

    Strawman – I have never seen anyone ever deny that vaccines can rarely cause problems.

    I remember not too long ago, doctors testifying in a court of law that smoking did not cause cancer…heck, they used to prescribe it for anxiety.

    Do you have a reference for either of these claims? If by “not too long ago” you mean more than half a century, the first might be true, but have doctors ever prescribed tobacco for anything? Is your argument that if science got something wrong once therefore it is wrong about everything?

    The pharmaceutical companies are exempt from lawsuits.

    That’s not true.

    Part of the cost of the vaccine goes towards the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

    Which is a good thing, isn’t it?

    There have been a number of cases which point to certain autistic children being directly damaged by vaccines.

    Children can be damaged by vaccines, very, very rarely, and autistic children are not immune to this. Are you implying that vaccines cause autism? There is a lot of evidence that says otherwise.

    Emily Moller was awarded money and the judge said, ‘Emily has autism, and I don’t want to give other families who filed autism claims any hope.’

    A sensible judge who is familiar with the research. Your point?

    It seems the government’s aim here is to make things as difficult as possible for vaccine injured children.

    That is the opposite of the truth. The Vaccine Court is a good thing for those few children that have been damaged by vaccines, and it is easier to get compensation for a table injury. I wish we had something similar in the UK.

    It’s clear that’s what’s happening here.

    There we agree.

    Thousands of parents report their child was normal and healthy until they received certain routine vaccinations. Suddenly, they changed. They lost learned skills and regressed into autism. Health officials and mainstream medicine can’t explain this. They call it a coincidence.

    Coincidence is an explanation. Study after study has found no link between vaccines and autism. Since autism is usually noticed at around the same time MMR is given some children will show symptoms shortly after MMR purely by coincidence. The question is whether coincidence can explain all the cases where this has happened, and the answer is clearly “yes”. There are several conditions which cause apparent regression at around 18 months, with or without vaccines.

    “I don’t understand why they fought so hard,” Moller said. “We had the evidence: the EEG, the MRI, everything was consistent with encephalopathy, post-vaccination. How can government attorneys claim what our doctors said happened, didn’t happen?”

    No one was claiming that what happened, didn’t happen, what was contested was whether there was a casual link between two events – the post hoc fallacy. Medical consensus is heading towards the view that vaccine-induced encephalopathy is a myth.

    I understand that many of you are scientists and very-well educated scientists at that. I just hope you’re not putting too much faith into the government.

    What has the US government to do with any of this really? I’m in the UK, and it is crystal clear to me that the idea that MMR or other vaccines cause autism is a typical scare, with people jumping on board either because the vaccine-autism tale seemed to suddenly make something puzzling clear, or because they might be able to blame someone and even gain financially.

    I dearly wish those of you who are still trying to keep this fabricated controversy alive would give it up. You are not helping anyone. Reducing vaccine coverage is very damaging, and billions of dollars of research money has already been squandered on this red herring.

  76. #77 JGC
    January 24, 2014

    The majority of my concern revolves around the fact that there are far too many parents who have witnessed a direct link of their children receiving shots and an immediate deterioration in their child.

    Forgive me if this has been addressed before, but those parents have not witnessed a direct link. They’ve not witnessed a link of any kind, onyl a temporal association.
    You might want to google the fallacy “post hoc ergo procter hoc”.

  77. #78 Krebiozen
    January 24, 2014

    That reference to Emily Moller bothered me, because the name was only vaguely familiar. A little digging revealed it should be Emily Lowrie, whose case Orac discussed here. As Orac pointed out, there is no mention of autism or ASDs in the court ruling.

  78. #79 Krebiozen
    January 24, 2014

    You might want to google the fallacy “post hoc ergo procter hoc”.

    Or just click the link in my last comment, that I suspect beat yours here by a millisecond or two.

  79. #80 herr doktor bimler
    January 24, 2014

    the judge said, ‘Emily has autism, and I don’t want to give other families who filed autism claims any hope.’
    A sensible judge who is familiar with the research. Your point?

    The point is that jdavis is out-&-out lying. The mother of the girl in question claimed that her attorney had claimed that the judge said that to the attorney. Actual evidence for the statement presented as factual? None.

  80. #81 Laura
    January 24, 2014

    Sometimes he “experts” don’t know. Google, and a persistent mother, saved my daughter’s life. At two she was diagnosed with a somewhat rare, although you would think not rare enough that an “expert” pediatrician wouldn’t know about it, form of cancer called sarcoma botryoides. Her’s was a vaginal tumor. She presented with vaginal bleeding and a vaginal polyp. I was put off by her “expert” doctor for over a month, told it was a scratch. When I asked about the possibility of a malignancy, I was told to, “Not be ridiculous” and to “calm down.” and to put Neosporin on the polyp. Luckily,I didn’t listen and even in it’s infancy, the internet led a site for Rhabdomyosarcoma. I knew immedietly this is what my daughter had. When I called the doctor’s office, I was told that she already seen my daughter for this and it wasn’t cancer. That night I called Children’s National Medical Center. They had us in the next morning and the rest is history. NOW, I agree with you on the quacks and anti-vaccine movement BUT……sometimes the “experts” miss the zebra because they are looking for horses.

  81. #82 herr doktor bimler
    January 24, 2014

    The mother of the girl in question claimed that her attorney had claimed that the judge said that to the attorney

    Or to be more accurate, David Kirby claimed that Moller had claimed that her attorney had claimed that the judge claimed — in the absence of other witnesses — to have diagnosed Emily as autistic, this being the sort of confidence that judges often share with a plaintiff’s attorney.

  82. #83 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 24, 2014

    I was working on a polite reply to jdavis, and then he posted that nitwitted “y’all are dependent on the gubmint teat” thing and I realized it wasn’t worth it.

    The essence of the polite reply was that, no, it isn’t the “arrogance of ignorance” to believe that fear of vaccines causing autism is not a good reason to avoid vaccinating. It isn’t, because we are not ignorant of the fact that those “thousands and thousands” of reports exist.

    Believing that those thousands and thousands of reports actually happened the way they were claimed to, now that’s a different story. I’m sure few of us here need to be reminded of Michelle Cedillo, who was supposed to be one of the six cases in which it was most clear that vaccines had caused autism – and instead, the family’s own home videos demonstrated that Michelle was displaying the early signs of autism well before the vaccines that the family was blaming. If Michelle’s was one of the six best cases, how much less convincing were the other 4,994?

    But suppose we even grant that there are some among those 5,000 claimants where the signs of autism only showed up after the vaccination, and did so in a reasonable amount of time (no “she got autism, it MUST HAVE BEEN the vaccination she got eleven months previously!!” stuff). Let’s grant that for the sake of argument. Does the fact that those cases exist mean that autism must have been caused by the vaccines?

    There are those who would tell you “yes”. There are those who would tell you, there has to be a vaccine-autism connection, because the number of reports is too high to be coincidence.

    And that right there, folks, that is the arrogance of ignorance. Ask those folks to show their math, they’ll look at you blankly. They think they can just sorta eyeball probabilities and say “Oh, sure, that’s coincidence” or “no way, couldn’t be coincidence” and that that sort of snap judgment is meaningful.

    Hey, if you’re reading this and you think there’s too many reports of autism following after vaccines to be coincidence – and ESPECIALLY YOU, jdavis, if you’re reading this, don’t you DARE chicken out on this – give me an answer to this problem now. There’s a jar with five black marbles in it. You cannot remove any of those black marbles, but you can add as many white marbles to the jar as you choose. What is the SMALLEST number of white marbles you can add, which makes the chances of pulling first one marble from the jar, then a second one from the remaining marbles, and getting a white marble both times, higher than 50%?

    What? A simple problem like that, and you can’t do it in your head? A simple problem involving mostly numbers under twenty? And yet you think you CAN evaluate in your head whether the number of families reporting that their child’s autistic symptoms began after vaccination is higher or lower than the number that would be reporting that situation if there was no causal association? And whether that difference is statistically significant? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? THAT is the arrogance of ignorance right there – being more willing to accept the idea that the gubmint’s in a big conspiracy to conceal a vaccines-autism connection, than that one’s GUESSTIMATES about whether the data points to such a connection might be off.

  83. #84 Krebiozen
    January 24, 2014

    Laura,

    Sometimes he “experts” don’t know.

    That’s true, I’ve experienced that myself. For example my wife had recurrent brief periods of feeling spaced out and unable to speak, that left her feeling discombobulated and depressed. Some research and a careful examination of her symptoms led me to suspect she had temporal lobe epilepsy (I also wondered about carcinoid, as she flushed impressively a couple of times), but her GP actually shouted at me for worrying her with my ridiculous ideas, and told my wife she was neurotic and menopausal. We persisted, saw another GP who referred her to a neurologist, and her EEG showed abnormalities consistent with… temporal lobe epilepsy. She is now on an antiepileptic drug and her seizures are much rarer (titrating the correct dose is proving difficult).

    There are times when a doctor will exclude a rare possibility, and most of the time s/he will be right to do so. Testing every single patient with vague symptoms for rare conditions is impractical and expensive, but not doing so is inevitably going to result in some tales like yours and mine.
    Also some doctors, being for the most part human, can be idiots in one way or another, and can make honest mistakes. I remember seeing a doctor friend of mine utterly distraught after she made a wrong judgment call on a baby with meningitis. Do you order a lumbar puncture on every baby with a fever and a rash, just in case?

    I imagine for every tale of a patient being right when a doctor is wrong, there are hundreds of patients mistakenly insisting they have some condition they Googled. I think the patient being right is greatly outnumbered by the D-K’s. I could be wrong, but I suspect not. Any physicians care to make an estimate?

  84. #85 Leon Retief
    Moose Jaw, Canada
    January 25, 2014

    I’m looking for information on the so called homeoprophylaxis of whooping cough in Cuba which anti acres and homeopathy are quite excited about. Any information will be welcome. Thanks

  85. #86 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    Or to be more accurate, David Kirby claimed that Moller had claimed that her attorney had claimed that the judge claimed — in the absence of other witnesses — to have diagnosed Emily as autistic, this being the sort of confidence that judges often share with a plaintiff’s attorney.

    Let’s examine Kirby’s narrative further:

    “The case dragged on for years, with motions and counter-motions, status reports and expert medical reports. In 2007, Moller filed for summary judgment. That also took years, as more medical records were submitted to bolster Emily’s case.”

    This is demonstrably false. Lowrie moved for summary judgment on 2007 March 9. It was denied on August 31.

  86. #87 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    And, if one looks at the key document (PDF), neither the renewed motion for summary judgment, nor the second renewed motion, nor the third bore any fruit.

    The case was mediated, after the Special Master basically gave everybody a detailed recipe for how Lowrie could possibly prevail.

    So, let’s see: Lowrie submits a claim that is notable for being contradicted by the underlying medical records, is still unable to prove causation after nine years, and still gets a payout after CSM Campbell-Smith basically does her attorney’s job for him (for which the attorney got paid all the same), and the complaint is that

    It seems the government’s aim here is to make things as difficult as possible for vaccine injured children. Parents often describe Vaccine Court as a place where they face government lawyers, defending a government program, using government money.

    Right? If this had been brought as a regular state tort, it certainly would have been resolved much more quickly, I’ll grant you that. Lowrie would have gotten nothing except for a bill from her lawyer, who wouldn’t have been paid “using government money.”

  87. #88 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    What? A simple problem like that, and you can’t do it in your head?

    Um, is there some way of doing this in your head that doesn’t involve already knowing the square root of 1/2 and scrunching up your face while cipherin’?

  88. #89 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    I do know, though, that much of what the Task Force receives from “Big Pharma” is in the form of pharmaceuticals that they deliver to poor nations so that children don’t die.

    As it happens, I looked at the 990’s not too long ago (which didn’t include in-kind donation data). “Much” is an understatement. This isn’t.

  89. #90 herr doktor bimler
    January 25, 2014

    That reference to Emily Moller bothered me, because the name was only vaguely familiar. A little digging revealed it should be Emily Lowrie

    A little bit of research in the bowels of Google would probably reveal the stage in the human centipede where that particular falsification crept into the story, somewhere between David Kirby and jdavis. Me, I’d rather wash the cat.

  90. #91 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    @jane

    I find it strange that the average American IQ would have substantially increased in the past century or so, if they did not keep renorming the test to compensate, and yet it has become an article of faith with some that the average citizen is too brainless to be capable of participating meaningfully in the decision of how to approach serious issues, which formerly was not believed to be the case.

    It takes a certain amount of contortionism to arrive at the conclusion that the “Flynn effect” actually means that people are magically becoming more intelligent at a linear rate (until they aren’t), as Flynn himself demonstrates.*

    (In a happy item of synchronicity, I had been thinking, in the context of the economics comments above, about mentioning the fact that I really need to keep an eye out for gigs in James Heckman’s joint at the “Booth School,” as he has a lot of nonnative speakers cranking out papers in LaTeX and I like his insistence on getting some freaking empirical evidence in the house, already. It turns out that he has looked at The Bell Curve, which W—pedia tells me, coined the term.)

    [Footnote to follow.]

  91. #92 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    * Does your hippocampus look like this, or like this?

  92. #93 Doctor Biobrain
    January 25, 2014

    Fact: It’s easy to be an expert when all you’ve got to do is stick your head up your ass and take a look around. It’s a lot harder when you’re expected to prove anything, due to proof’s bias against idiots making shit up.

  93. #94 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    A little bit of research in the bowels of Google would probably reveal the stage in the human centipede where that particular falsification crept into the story, somewhere between David Kirby and jdavis. Me, I’d rather wash the cat.

    If you had the sense to keep enough around, you could delegate the duty to wash each other.

    The “Autism Media Channel” had it wrong at just about about three months out from the December 3 proffer (which wasn’t immediately payable).

  94. #95 Krebiozen
    January 25, 2014

    Narad,

    You reminded me of my almost painful desire for sea monkeys when reading imported US comics as a kid – as you can see there was no option for international orders.

    My desire was satisfied vicariously some decades later through my American wife, who explained the disappointment I had avoided.

    I still hold out some hope for the x-ray specs.

  95. #96 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 25, 2014
    What? A simple problem like that, and you can’t do it in your head?

    Um, is there some way of doing this in your head that doesn’t involve already knowing the square root of 1/2 and scrunching up your face while cipherin’?

    I actually used an online quadratic equation solver, after I’d done the math on the back of an envelope to figure out what the quadratic equation was (though I could have flipped the numerator and denominator, and used the (x-1)(x+1) = x^2 – 1 identity and the square root of 2 to get a fast ballpark figure, and then worked out the n of white marbles from there. Probably. I didn’t think of that until now, and I’m still not sure I’d be able to look at a decimal irrational and figure out which value of n in 5+n/n approximates it most closely.)

    But that’s exactly my point: that is actually an easier feat of math than figuring out “okay, if vaccines and autism had nothing to do with each other, there would still be some people who just by the luck of the draw started having their signs of autism show just after a vaccination. Given our current autism rates, and our current vaccination schedule, what is the expected number of people who would experience that bad luck of the draw? Is the figure of 5,000 families higher than that, lower, about the same? If it’s higher, is the difference actually significant, or is it just normal randomness, the way a fair coin flipped ten times might produce six heads and four tails, not five heads and five tails? How are the answers affected by choosing different measures of how soon after a vaccination is “just after”?”

    There’s nothing wrong with not being able to do that marbles problem. But when someone who wouldn’t even know how work out the marbles with paper and calculator and online quadratic equation solver, claims they CAN tell that the number of families claiming autism right after vaccines COULDN’T be coincidence – without even checking the figures – that there is the arrogance of ignorance. They don’t even understand how hard the problem actually is, but they’re so sure their answer is right, if someone suggests that it might not be, they start hurling accusations. “You’re dependent on the government teat; THAT’S why you question the math I did in my head!”

  96. #97 Lurker
    January 25, 2014

    A small story with a happy ending:

    Last week I went into the credit union to do routine biz. The teller is a guy I’m casually friendly with there, he’s smart, has a good heart, and is getting married soon. We chatted briefly about what we’d done over the holidays. He mentioned that his fiancee had come down with a nasty cold. So I said, this year’s flu is really horrible, did you and your fiancee get your shots yet?

    He said he didn’t think he needed it because he’s healthy as a horse and he only gets a small cold once a year (so do I). I told him about friends of mine who are in military-fit shape but got this one the last time it went around, and were sick in bed for a month with high fevers and almost ended up in the ER.

    Then I said, per someone else’s suggestion on this blog a week or two ago, “you know it’s the flu if someone could put a hundred-dollar bill on your door and you couldn’t get out of bed to get it.” He said, “OK, we’re going to get our shots.” I thanked him and left.

    So: Major credit to whoever-it-was who came up with the “$10 note on your door” item a few weeks ago. It works. (Adjust it to $100 for areas of the USA with high costs of living.) And I somehow doubt that the antivaxers could come up with a counter-arguement to that one.

  97. #98 MI Dawn
    January 25, 2014

    @Antaeus and Narad….MUST you really talk math this early in the morning? It’s hard enough for me to face, but to encounter it before my coffee…(scampers off, whimpering)

  98. #99 Stacy Herlihy
    January 25, 2014

    Cindy Waeltermann is the funniest human being I’ve ever run across. She accused me of writing the Skeptical Raptor blog and then living in Australia. The blog is written by man living in California. I am female, live in NJ and have never been to Australia in my life.

    It was single best display of sheer anti-vax ignorance I’ve ever seen. At this point I think the only thing you can do is point and laugh at them. You’ve never going to talk them out of their idiocy.

  99. #100 Mark Richard
    January 25, 2014

    Why waste so much time ?
    Back to the science please!

  100. #101 Orac
    January 25, 2014

    I will blog about whatever I wish to blog about. Don’t like it? Tough. This is my blog. No one’s forcing you to read.

  101. #102 Dan J. Andrews
    January 25, 2014

    Mark@100. This is science. If you don’t recognize it as science, then you need to become more familiar with what science actually is.

  102. #103 Krebiozen
    January 25, 2014

    Lurker,

    Major credit to whoever-it-was who came up with the “$10 note on your door” item a few weeks ago.

    No disrespect to whoever wrote that here, but I first heard the UK equivalent of that at least 20 years ago, probably, more. It was a £10 note on the floor across the room from your bed in the version I heard. It’s been around a long time, as of course have colds and flu.

  103. #104 Kelly M. Bray
    Wondering how to get out of this universe.
    January 25, 2014

    If you want to see Dunning-Kruger in action at the moment, look at this link to I F#$king Love Science. It is a provaccine post and in two hours has generated almost 5,000 comments. The level of anti-vax derp is astounding for a page that is about science.
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=746511688703178&set=a.456449604376056.98921.367116489976035&type=1

  104. #105 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 25, 2014

    Krebiozen @ #84, I hope you fired that GP.

  105. #106 Narad
    January 25, 2014

    I actually used an online quadratic equation solver, after I’d done the math on the back of an envelope to figure out what the quadratic equation was

    Ah. I just figured you needed about a 71% chance on the second draw, so if five balls represent 29%, 15 balls are 87%. Half of 29% is 14.5% is 2.5 balls, so make up the needed 13% with two more, for 17 total on the second draw and hope for the best.

    13/18 times 12/17 is 13/17 times 2/3 is 26/51, so Bob’s your uncle.

  106. #107 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 25, 2014

    Narad, elegant!

    True story, when I first tried to work out the problem myself a few weeks ago, I managed to mix myself up good; I was calculating the p1 and p2, the chance of drawing a white marble the first time and then the second time – but for some reason I thought I should be using the formula (1-p1)(1-p2), as if I was trying to avoid drawing a white marble either time. Needless to say, I couldn’t figure it out at that sitting…

  107. #108 dingo199
    January 25, 2014

    “£10 pinned to the door” was me. Yes it was something. I heard a long time ago, and it neatly encapsulates how bad you feel with the genuine flu.
    Mind you, the one time I had flu (serologically confirmed as flu A), I spent the week afewt an infection conference organised by the Lancet iin London.

  108. #109 Stuartg
    January 25, 2014

    Krebiozen @ 76

    IIRC, some centuries ago, tobacco smoke, when applied rectally,was believed to assist with resuscitation from drowning! (My source may have been an episode of “QI”)

  109. #110 Shay
    January 25, 2014

    Stuart, that gives an entire new meaning to the old saying about blowing smoke up someone’s a$$.

  110. #111 Krebiozen
    January 25, 2014

    Julian Frost,

    Krebiozen @ #84, I hope you fired that GP.

    Sadly he’s a senior partner in the practice we still use. Some of his colleagues are excellent, but we refuse to see him any more. I have considered putting in a complaint, as this isn’t the only poor treatment we have received from him. I could say more, but this isn’t really the right venue for me to express my concerns about some East London GPs.

  111. #112 Krebiozen
    January 25, 2014

    Stuart,

    IIRC, some centuries ago, tobacco smoke, when applied rectally,was believed to assist with resuscitation from drowning! (My source may have been an episode of “QI”)

    I believe I remember the episode of QI – Stephen Fry had a pair of the bellows used, didn’t he? I don’t think even jdavis can blame SBM for that.

    Tobacco was originally used as a sort of shamanic drug, rendering the participant unconscious aka sending them to the upper/lower world where they could talk to the spirits etc.. I seem to recall something similar happening the first time I smoked a cigarette as a teenager, if turning green and wishing I was dead counts. The strains of tobacco used by shamans were much higher in nicotine than those used today. Tobacco is a very odd drug of abuse, as it has no pleasant effects even, or especially, to the naive. I have never understood the appeal, and I was an addict for a couple of decades.

    That reminds me, some tribes of the western Amazon had a rite of passage that involved keeping their young men unconscious for several days by administering a tea made from datura rectally, via an enema using an animal horn. Those that survived would forget their childhood and would be reborn as men, having been instructed by spirits while in a trance. Our rites of passage that include getting drunk and smoking marijuana seem fairly mild in comparison.

  112. #113 herr doktor bimler
    January 26, 2014

    Stephen Fry had a pair of the bellows used, didn’t he?

    The Wellcome Institute have a kit on display.

  113. #114 Narad
    January 26, 2014

    The strains of tobacco used by shamans were much higher in nicotine than those used today.

    IIRC, the actual difference is in the degradation of nicotine that occurs during the curing process.

  114. #115 Andreas Johansson
    January 26, 2014

    Beana wrote

    Is D/K effect genetic or learned behavior? Or both somehow?

    According to this, there’s significant cultural variation. (Tho the the article doesn’t say how, or even if, they’ve determined that differences between Americans and Japanese are cultural and not inherited.)

  115. #116 Rebecca Fisher
    January 26, 2014

    Cathy Jameson has posted about her experience of getting ‘flu at AoA. I posted the following – I doubt it’ll make it through moderation;

    So, you were off work and seriously ill for two weeks, left the kids without a mother for the same time, by the sound of it ensured your husband was off work for those two weeks, spread the bug to your children and spent a fortune in vitamins and other “remedies”.

    Or you could have had a mercury free flu shot for what, fifteen dollars and saved all that?

  116. #117 Krebiozen
    January 26, 2014

    Andreas Johansson,

    According to this, there’s significant cultural variation.

    I remember looking at similar phenomena when I studied social anthropology back in the mists of time. There are variations in the degree to which people look to their own experience and knowledge to validate what is true, and how much they accept outside authority. In psychology this is called “locus of control” though I have seen it called internal and external reference, a term I quite like.

    Too much internal reference leads to D-K, and too little leads to mindless ‘sheeple’ (as our opponents might put it).
    I think what we see in the antivaccine movement is a mixture of people at the extremes: some ‘leaders’ with D-K and some followers who appear to be unable to question the BS they are fed.

  117. #118 Denice Walter
    January 26, 2014

    @ Rebecca FIsher:

    Oh guess what? They aren’t showing your comment.
    ( FYI Jameson also writes at TMR -as ‘Mamacita’- lots of other material that she wrote is archived there for your ,,er. reading pleasure).

    I’m somewhat surprised- since they think that you’re Brian: they also think that Lawrence is Brian and they sometimes
    print his comments. It may be why Jake printed you. Go figure.

    @ Krebiozen:

    Locus of control/ internal or external reference may be one of the factors HOWEVER I think that some of the people we write about have other issues…

    Notice how the followers pick and choose exactly WHICH external reference to believe: what governmental agencies and medical associations believe is automatically anathema that is rejected whilst random internet loons are not- the external source has to agree with what they hold already, quite self-centredly, dismissing all evidence to the contrary as tainted.

    The leaders and followers both seem to have problems accepting unpleasant information:
    parents can’t deal with an autism dx so they attribute it to external malfeasance
    while thought leaders ( ironic, no?) can’t deal with the rejection of their ideas by the scientific community ( and/or they themselves were never formally recognised academically) so they also concoct external malicious enemies to account for their current position.

    It’s a rather primitive defence to counter any disagreement with denial. Thus, I don’t think that proselytisers/ providers are ONLY in it for the money- it’s also about recogition,sel-worth and being right even if the whole world predominantly rejects your chosen beliefs: which sounds seriously unrealistic to me.

  118. #119 dingo199
    January 26, 2014

    Heh! Looks like Becca’s post is up, as is a similar one from Jimbo, which has been compared to that of a child abuser!

  119. #120 lilady
    January 26, 2014

    dingo199: Kat Jameson is my Sunday treat, because when the *real journalists* at AoA are not on duty, Jameson entertains us with her family drama which has a child diagnosed with an ASD.

    Note the testimonials about non-flu viruses and how they all have their favorite/favorites “flu” remedies.

    One of the amateur epidemiologist/posters there claimed there are only 1,000 confirmed cases of influenza during this seasonal influenza season:

    http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/

  120. #121 LIz Ditz
    January 26, 2014

    Remember when we were all Bonnie Offit?

  121. #122 Lawrence
    January 26, 2014

    I like being Brian Deer…..getting mistaken for a prize-winning journalist should have some privileges, right?

  122. #123 Denice Walter
    January 26, 2014

    @ Lawrence:

    Thanks, Mister!
    We really enjoyed your article on Porter Stansberry: it enabled us to insult an idiot who bought PS’s newsletter and was pitching crappy Egyptian goldmine pennysto …
    Ooops!

  123. #124 Shay
    January 26, 2014

    I think AoA allows the occasional post like Becca’s through so that a) the true believers have an opportunity to go into attack mode and prove to themselves that this poster is a truly horrible person and b) so the moderators can claim with a straight face that no, in fact, they DO allow posts from those who disagree.

  124. #125 Ren
    January 26, 2014

    Why even go over and argue with idiots. They claim that you can shed a dead virus (the one in the flu shot is dead), they claim that the CDC has identified thousands of flu viruses but only four are in the vaccine (that one was particularly idiotic), and they claim that because they all survive the flu it makes it not a big deal.

    It’s been said before by myself and others that this kind of logic would mean that war veterans are proof that no one dies in wars.

    Their lack of even a basic knowledge — or willingness to learn — how flu statistics are collected, analyzed, and disseminated put them all at a disadvantage in that they are, quite literally, embarrassing themselves.

  125. #126 Beana
    January 26, 2014

    I have been thinking about all of this and these ‘leaders’ of the AoA and the home birth movement. It doesn’t make sense to me. Then I ran across our copy of ‘Witches’ by Roald Dahl. Is it possible that some of these people actually enjoy seeing/knowing children suffer? I might be reaching, but then I again I cannot comprehend thinking it is okay for a child to suffer some of these preventable diseases. Or to be a midwife, that performed an unsafe home birth, and just shrugs and said, oh well, on to the next. Going too far? Just selfish bastards sacrificing children for what they ‘think’ or is there something more?

    Thank you Andreas Johansson for the link.

  126. #127 palindrom
    January 26, 2014

    Beana @126 – I just wanted to chime in and remind anyone who needs reminding that there are midwives, and there are midwives. I have a close relative who’s a CERTIFIED NURSE-MIDWIFE who has delivered thousands of babies in a hospital setting, in which the OB/GYN, the operating room, and the intensive-care nursery are right there, should they be needed. My close relative’s safety record has been excellent.

    This is really not to be confused with home-birth lay midwives. Whatever their skill level — and it is very uneven — the lack of backup adds an unacceptable layer of risk. Back in the day, when doctors were dictators and women were up in stirrups having no control of the process, there might have been some justification for this, but these days, it’s just nuts.

  127. #128 lilady
    January 27, 2014

    Beana & Palindrom: You’re going to love Dr. Amy Tuteur…the Skeptical OB. I’ve posted there a few times, when she has posted on non-vaccinating mommies:

    http://www.skepticalob.com/

  128. #129 Politicalguineapig
    January 27, 2014

    Beana: Is it possible that some of these people actually enjoy seeing/knowing children suffer?

    I’m pretty sure of that myself. I’m honestly surprised most of these people haven’t had a visit from child welfare.

  129. #130 Andy
    January 27, 2014

    An autism-related Facebook page is repeatedly pushing this vaccine-autism poll. Your readers might like to help the numbers along a little.

  130. #131 Narad
    January 27, 2014

    Or to be a midwife, that performed an unsafe home birth, and just shrugs and said, oh well, on to the next.

    Back when I frequented MDC, someone posted a substantial comment, which I cannot find, reminding the more recent adherents that that was exactly the mindset of ’70s-era, back-to-the-land Mothering: whatever, just make some more.

  131. #132 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 27, 2014

    @Andy, done.

  132. #133 Rebecca Fisher
    January 27, 2014

    They did post it. Well well well… And oh, what a swarm of wingnuts it’s brought out…

    @Ren – I love the war vets analogy.

  133. #134 lilady
    January 27, 2014

    Thanks Andy:

    I voted “no” on that poll. “No” votes are now at 58 %, while 23 % believe autism is associated with vaccinations.

  134. #135 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 27, 2014

    It’s been said before by myself and others that this kind of logic would mean that war veterans are proof that no one dies in wars.

    I love that. That’s going to be a go-to quote in my arsenal.

  135. #136 herr doktor bimler
    January 27, 2014

    I have also seen it argued that of all the bullets fired in a given war, the vast majority fly safely through the air without intersecting anyone, so within experimental error no-one is killed.

  136. #137 Krebiozen
    January 27, 2014

    That’s a little like the average Canadian having only one testicle, or thereabouts.

  137. #138 Rebecca Fisher
    January 27, 2014

    I have an above average number of limbs. Strange, but true.

  138. #139 Beana
    January 27, 2014

    @palindrom . . . yes, sorry, I should have been more specific. (I was up late, suffering from a nasty cold) I myself had a mid-wife in a hospital setting for both of my children. My cousin, unfortunately, did not. Her baby was born in an out of hospital setting, breech. He lived a week and a half. :( The ‘birth center’ is now closed, I believe, however has tried to reopen under another name. This is what I find disturbing.

    @lilday . . . LOVE Dr Tuteur! Been following her since the unfortunate experience that my cousin went through. But thank you for spreading her name. She fights the good fight, like you!

  139. #140 Denice Walter
    January 27, 2014

    Even more arrogance and ignorance by anti-vaxxers:

    – I listened to Null’s latest Talkback show @ PRN ( archived), wherein he asserts that vaccines cause _mental illness_. I haven’t heard that one before ever.
    Fortunately, these problems can be cured with chelation, de-tox and massive dosages of supplements and green juices/ green powdered vegetables.

    – today @ TMR, DragonSlayer, who seemed to be the least objectionable of all the TMs, narrates how she and her family all got food poisoning while on a trip to Japan and she treated them with essential oils and homeopathy. She carries her supplies along with her on trips in case someone gets sick or injured.

  140. #141 Politicalguineapig
    January 27, 2014

    Narad: Back when I frequented MDC, someone posted a substantial comment, which I cannot find, reminding the more recent adherents that that was exactly the mindset of ’70s-era, back-to-the-land Mothering: whatever, just make some more.

    Boy, does that explain a lot. Seems kind of callous to me, but then again, I’m not cut out to be a parent.

  141. #142 jane
    January 27, 2014

    Krebiozen: “That’s true, I’ve experienced that myself. … Also some doctors, being for the most part human, can be idiots in one way or another, and can make honest mistakes.”

    Good for you for successfully intervening on your relative’s behalf. You were both smart and lucky. Yet when I mentioned that I had had an experience that is in one sense similar, you yelled “Dunning-Kruger!” at me. And when I gave a hypothetical example of a patient knowing about the clinical trials that have shown that arthroscopic surgery in several types of patients is worthless, you chose to suggest incorrectly that this was derived from my personal experience (again yelling “Dunning-Kruger!”) and, contradictorily, pretended that the hypothetical patient was being shoved to surgery without any diagnosis, which was not stated.

    Further, you pretended that I suggested that a person could “acquire the knowledge and skills of an orthopedic surgeon in a couple hours’ Googling”, which is a straw man. Of course one cannot do that. But one could find out about the existence of clinical trial that one’s orthopedic surgeon might not mention because they don’t support his dogma – just as you could discover factual medical information that your wife’s doctor happened not to know or to recall.

    So, it would seem that at least once in a while, you and Laura are both allowed to be right when an individual allopath is wrong, or to read and comprehend a statement of fact that is backed up by multiple journal publications … but I am not. Why is that? If it is because I have not shown myself to believe lockstep in every single thing you believe, or to hold value judgements identical to yours, then you are indeed using “D-K, D-K” as a way of telling people who might disagree with you to “shut up and sing”, and it has no more specific meaning in that usage than is contained within any other insulting word aimed at a person’s intellect or character. It’s just more fashionable within your intellectual ingroup.

  142. #143 incitatus
    January 27, 2014

    @jane

    the problem is that the kind of clinical trial that can easily be found by googling is not necessarily going to be well constructed or indeed well conducted. The internet allows access to a lot of information but provides no basis for assessing its quality. look at the boundless nonsense trials in support of homeopathy, none of which actually show an effect that can survive decent scurtiny but all of which get lauded as evidence. Its cargo cult stuff.
    When a layman looks at information thus obtained the danger is that they have not got the tools to assess the information effectively. this will not be true for all laymen but it is certainly true for many if not most.
    Generally it is not the physicians who have a dogmatic line in the sand to support, it is rather the other way around, IME.

  143. #144 Michelle
    February 1, 2014

    Wasn’t really sure where to put this, but thought regular readers of RI–and its author–would like this article:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/02/01/new_atheisms_big_mistake_debating_creationists_solves_nothing/

  144. #145 squirrelelite
    February 1, 2014

    Since the question being debated is “Is creation a viable model of origins?”, I hope he will avoid the religious aspect and focus on the scientific method.

    I’m sure he will do lots of research. I hope he takes clues from Michael Shermer, who has debated Duane Gish and Kent Hovind on this topic.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXKhO1TQ3CA

  145. #146 Michelle
    February 1, 2014

    I hope it goes well for Nye, but I hate seeing him give the creationists a platform.

  146. #147 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 2, 2014

    The creationists already have a platform, and Bill Nye will be standing by it. This is tremendous publicity for the Creation Museum and for Nye. Creation Museum attendance will doubtless increase regardless of how well Ken Ham does; if Bill Nye speaks well (and I’m sure he will since he’s a professional) he’ll be in higher demand as a speaker and, possibly, for TV projects.

  147. #148 Krebiozen
    February 2, 2014

    jane,

    Good for you for successfully intervening on your relative’s behalf. You were both smart and lucky. Yet when I mentioned that I had had an experience that is in one sense similar, you yelled “Dunning-Kruger!” at me.

    If you think that writing, “I don’t think you intended to give an example of the D-K effect in action, but I think you have”, is yelling, then perhaps you are in the wrong place. Also, I disagree that the example you described was similar to that described by Laura and myself. We both described instances where a doctor had misdiagnosed something relatively rare. You described a patient challenging a specialist’s advice on a common or garden condition that an orthopod might see a thousand times a year.

    And when I gave a hypothetical example of a patient knowing about the clinical trials that have shown that arthroscopic surgery in several types of patients is worthless, you chose to suggest incorrectly that this was derived from my personal experience (again yelling “Dunning-Kruger!”) and, contradictorily, pretended that the hypothetical patient was being shoved to surgery without any diagnosis, which was not stated.
    You described, “a commoner in an orthopedist’s office with knee pain”, who “questions the insistence that he rush to arthroscopic surgery”.

    You didn’t specify the cause of the knee pain, which I assumed meant it hadn’t been diagnosed, and you didn’t specify whether the arthrocopy was for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. In an example like that I assume that unspecified details are unknown, and that getting a diagnosis is the surgeon’s first task..

    If the hypothetical patient had a diagnosis, why did you describe him as merely having “knee pain”? There are many conditions characterized by knee pain where treatment, not just diagnosis, by arthroscopic surgery is well supported by scientific evidence – meniscus injury repair and reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament for example. Also, how does, “rush to arthroscopic surgery”, differ from “shoved to surgery”? Am I missing some subtlety here, or is this special pleading?

    If you are talking about a patient being rushed into having arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis, I agree that is questionable, and that the scientific literature doesn’t robustly support it. I would hope that an orthopod would explain this, and if they don’t then this is wrong, and the patient is right. I don’t think surgeons should ever rush their patients into making any decisions, unless time is critical, and in my experience they don’t, they explain the different options and the pros and cons of each, leaving the patient to make the ultimate decision.

    I’m familiar with the UK NHS, where doctors follow NICE guidleines, but I find it hard to believe things are very different in the US except that presumably in the US recommended treatments are dictated more by what insurance companies are willing to pay for.

    However, this is not the situation you described. I understood your example to be a patient with knee pain being offered arthroscopy as a diagnostic intervention, and refusing “based on his knowledge that negative double-blind trials exist”, where those trials are for treatment of specific conditions such as osteoarthritis, not as a diagnostic procedure. That would be an example of D-K in action.

    Further, you pretended that I suggested that a person could “acquire the knowledge and skills of an orthopedic surgeon in a couple hours’ Googling”, which is a straw man. Of course one cannot do that.

    You implied that you can somehow acquire the knowledge that treatment options recommended by a specialist for a condition they are very familiar with are wrong. How is this different?

    But one could find out about the existence of clinical trial that one’s orthopedic surgeon might not mention because they don’t support his dogma – just as you could discover factual medical information that your wife’s doctor happened not to know or to recall.

    How many laypersons are capable of assessing the quality of a clinical trial? Don’t you see the difference between a GP missing a case of temporal lobe epilepsy or a pediatrician missing case of vaginal sarcoma botryoides in a child, and a specialist making a decision about treatment in a condition that he sees hundreds of times every year?

    Don’t you think a specialist might be better able to assess a clinical trial relating to his/her specialty than a layperson? That he/she might be more up to date with the current research and thinking in that area than a layperson?

    Anyway, I think you reveal your true colors here; previously you used the word “allopath” (which always makes me cringe), now you talk of the surgeon’s “dogma”. Isn’t this what this is really about? I think you are a champion of alternative medicine and you are desperate to find ways, any way, in which science-based conventional medicine is wrong?

    So, it would seem that at least once in a while, you and Laura are both allowed to be right when an individual allopath is wrong, or to read and comprehend a statement of fact that is backed up by multiple journal publications … but I am not. Why is that?

    Where did I say that you might not be correct in a similar situation? If you had provided the anecdote about a child’s serious medical condition being misdiagnosed, I would have responded just the same. Sometimes doctors make mistakes, and sometimes the patient is right. As I pointed out above, there is a large difference between challenging a specialists’ expertise in an area that he/she knows well and deals with on a daily basis, and happening to be right about a rare condition that perhaps presents in an unusual way and has been misdiagnosed by a more generalist physician such as a GP or a pediatrician.

    If it is because I have not shown myself to believe lockstep in every single thing you believe, or to hold value judgements identical to yours, then you are indeed using “D-K, D-K” as a way of telling people who might disagree with you to “shut up and sing”, and it has no more specific meaning in that usage than is contained within any other insulting word aimed at a person’s intellect or character. It’s just more fashionable within your intellectual ingroup.

    It’s nothing so personal, but you do continually snipe at SBM, you use value-laden words such as “allopath”, talk of a doctor’s “dogma”, and you frequently defend CAM, acupuncture in particular. You don’t seem to be able to support your views with good evidence, yet to continue to argue them here. As I wrote above, I get the impression that you are a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of alternative medicine, looking ever more desperately for ways of proving that conventional doctors are all wrong.

  148. #149 Krebiozen
    February 2, 2014

    Blockquote fail in third paragraph is obvious, I hope.

  149. #150 DD
    February 2, 2014

    Just saw a great article on iflscience site that did a great job of putting the entire anti-vac nonsense on one short page:
    “One map sums up the damage caused by the anti-vaccination movement”
    http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/one-map-sums-damage-caused-anti-vaccination-movement
    Maybe if it’s short enough and uses small words some of the anti-science zealots will finally understand it? Nah! ;-)

  150. #151 lilady
    February 2, 2014

    @ DD: Same map with disease outbreaks here, on the Forbes blog.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/01/23/big-data-crushes-anti-vaccination-movement/

    Scroll down to see the usual suspects from AoA and the RI Regulars who posted at them.

    We’re waiting now, for John D. Stone, AoA’s U.K. Editor, to publish a paper refuting the recently published paper authored by Dr. Joel A. Harrison PhD-Epidemiology paper which analyzed the mistruths and blatant lies contained in Wakefield’s “Callous Disregard” book.

  151. […] My guess is that they’ve probably encountered antivaccine “Thinkers” full of Dunning-Kruger effect-inspired arrogance of ignorance who thought that looking up some crappy studies on the University […]

  152. […] as a badge of honor. Nowadays, the antivaccine cranks seem to be focusing largely on law professor Dorit Reiss and Forbes blogger Emily Willingham. At some point, new pro-science bloggers will earn the ire of […]

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