Baratunde Thurston and Zanny Minton Bedoes react to a particularly ignorant bit of antivaccine misinformation by Bill Maher. (February 13, 2015)

Baratunde Thurston and Zanny Minton Bedoes react to a particularly ignorant bit of antivaccine misinformation by Bill Maher on Real Time With Bill Maher. (February 13, 2015)

I really don’t want Mondays to be come “let’s refute and make fun of the conspiratorial antivaccine nonsense Bill Maher said on his show Friday night.” I really don’t. However, I figured that I might have to devote Monday to that one more time this week after Maher really let his antivaccine freak flag fly again for the first time in five years on his February 6 show. As a result of the criticism, Maher apologists crawled out of the woodwork, trying to argue that, really and truly, Maher is not antivaccine—except that he is and has been for as long as I’ve been paying attention to these issues. He just hid it for a while after the epic slapdowns he received in 2009 over the same sort of nonsense over the H1N1 pandemic and flu vaccine.

So, yes, I rather suspected that Maher wasn’t done yet, and he wasn’t. On Friday’s show, he couldn’t resist revisiting the issue, even though he really should have resisted.

I actually didn’t watch the show when it aired because, well, I had better things to do at the time, like go out with my wife to see the Oscar-nominated shorts. But the e-mails and comments kept coming in, and then my blog bud Mark did a lovely rant about Maher; so finally I broke down and watched the video. Unfortunately, unlike last week, Maher’s crew didn’t post just the vaccine segment, but rather other segments of the show, although Maher did post a relatively low resolution version of the whole show on his Google+ feed. So I’ll just tell you the relevant time marks as I go through this, and you can go look at the video if you wish.

The first thing I noticed was that Maher started out with an interview with Robert Kenner, who produced and directed the 2008 documentary Food, Inc., which examined the industrialization of the food system and how the food industry promotes unhealthy food consumption habits. Apparently he has a ne film coming out, Merchants of Doubt, inspired by the book of the same title by historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. The book famously discussed how industry and free market politicians twist science to sow “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” about established science, starting with the evidence that smoking causes cancer and moving on to acid rain, the effects of ozone on the atmosphere, and, of course, anthropogenic global warming/climate change (AGW).

It’s a fairly straightforward interview about how industry and free market fundamentalist politicians collude to cast doubt on inconvenient (to them) science about, for instance, food, pharmaceuticals, and AGW. In the context of what happens later, it’s hard not to see this as setting up the vaccine segment later in the show, given how during the previous week Maher used his anti-pharmaceutical views as part of his basis for casting his own fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines. Later on in the show, beginning at the 17:30 mark, the panel discusses Scott Walker, who apparently denied belief in evolution. He didn’t actually do that, but rather said he was going to “punt” on the question because it’s a question a politician “shouldn’t be involved in.” Of course, this does give Maher an opportunity to do one of his anti-religion bits that he does so well, proclaiming that science and faith are not compatible and declaring that “stupidity is not another form of knowledge.”

Clearly the irony of that last statement was lost on Maher. However, in the context of the show, one can’t help but wonder if this interview was intentionally set up to cast the light Maher wanted on his discussion of vaccines later in the show.

That vaccine discussion begins during Maher’s interview with David Duchovny, who was on the show to promote his new book. As a sidebar, Maher mentions that he’s a “big animal rights guy.” Of course, the animal rights group he’s chosen to associate himself with is PETA, and he’s been on its board since 1997. Not surprisingly, a vocal supporter of the group. It’s a group that, as I’ve discussed on many occasions, takes pseudoscientific positions that are sometimes impossible to parody.

At about the 35:00 mark, the discussion between Duchovny and Maher works its way to factory farming and the amount of antibiotics given to the animals. This is, of course, a real problem that’s contributed to widespread antibiotic resistance in a number of organisms. By the 36:00 mark, Maher has led the discussion to “the herd,” flowing from his discussion with Duchovny of factory farming and antibiotics. This is reminiscent of Maher’s “JAQing” off about whether, like overuse of antibiotics, we can ever overuse vaccines. So right off the bat I knew this was going to go south, as in antivaccine talking points south, in a hurry. And it did.

Digging himself in deeper, Maher begins by defending parents who argue that the measles is “not a big deal,” parroting the common antivaccine talking point that, oh, you know, if the disease were really bad, of course he’d recommend vaccinating against it. But this is just the measles, and that’s not very severe. He then equates the measles vaccine with the flu vaccine in terms of herd immunity:

MAHER: …we didn’t get to the part about the herd, and I’m very sympathetic to parents who say I don’t want my kid to get the measles even though I also understand why parents have a right to say certain diseases you’d be remiss not to protect your kids from, but that one doesn’t seem that dangerous to me. But, if we’re going to say that the herd must be protected, everybody has to get the shot. What if we said flu shot? That kills people. What if everybody now has to get a flu shot? Is this the slippery slope?

DUCHOVNY: I think that with the flu shot it’s not A to B, like with measles you’re targeting measles. I think with the flu they’re guessing which flu is coming, so they’re not…

MAHER: That’s why I don’t get it.

DUCHOVNY: …well, well, I think that you may be smart on that. In order to join in society with millions of people on this planet you have to make sacrifices you don’t want to make. So to join the herd, to get the benefits of being in the herd, you may have to do some things you may not like.

MAHER: So if the herd is saying that if you don’t get a flu shot or a measles shot, then you’re selfish, I’d also like to say to the herd: “If you have six kids, you’re selfish.” That is also a scientific fact.

DUCHOVNY: There are officials in China who would agree with you.

Nice burn.

Of course, both Maher and Duchovny denigrate the flu vaccine because it’s such a difficult vaccine. While I’m happy that Maher has finally admitted that influenza can kill people, I don’t think he quite gets it yet. Both he and Duchovny make it sound as though scientists just take wild guesses about which antigens to include in the flu vaccine every year, as if they throw three or four darts at a board with the various strains written on it and pick the ones closest to where the darts hit. As I’ve described before in more detail, there is a long process by which the flu vaccine strains are chosen every year, and they have to be chosen by around now (February) in order to have adequate stocks of vaccine ready for fall. Scientists at the WHO basically look at the circulating strains at the time and use what they know to make the best predictions they can as to which strains will be predominating in the fall and winter. Sometimes they predict well. Sometimes, as is the case this year, they don’t, thanks to antigenic drift in which a flu strain not expected to predominate came to predominate. By the time scientists realized this it was too late to reformulate this year’s vaccine, and this year’s vaccine is not that effective in comparison to years past.

Maher also includes a variant of the antivaccine trope that I like to call “argumentum ad Brady Bunch,” based on a 1969 episode of The Brady Bunch in which the whole family caught the measles and it was played for laughs. It’s the claim, echoed by antivaccine pediatricians Dr. Bob Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon that the measles just isn’t that bad. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Then notice how Maher is clearly stung by accusations of “selfishness,” adding a dig against religion by deriding how God said “Be fruitful and multiply.” Witness how he conflates the selfishness of parents who don’t vaccinate and ride on the herd to the “selfishness” of parents who have six children because population growth in unsustainable. It’s a breathtakingly inane argument even by Bill Maher standards, particularly given that the rate of population growth in Europe is virtually nonexistent (actually, many European countries are seeing declines in population) and in the US is very low, with even that growth rate being due mostly to immigration.

He’s also conflating different purposes of vaccination. Measles is one of the most highly contagious diseases there is, but the vaccine for it is very effective, which makes herd immunity even more important. It also demands a very high rate of vaccination to achieve herd immunity because the disease is so infectious, which is why 90-95% is the threshold typically quoted. Influenza, as infectious as it is, is still much less infectious than measles. Herd immunity can be achieved at lower rates of immunization. Here’s the other difference. In general, with the flu vaccine, we’re talking about adults, and there is no mechanism to compel vaccination. With children and measles, it makes a lot of sense to mandate measles vaccination as a condition of entering into a crowded place where lots of kids can pass various diseases around, particularly given how easily one child could infect many with the measles.

Never one to stop a good rant, Maher continued:

MAHER: What about when the herd eats sugar and corn syrup all day and their immune systems are down and they get the flu more? I don’t get the flu.

DUCHOVNY: The herd is not going to listen to any of that shit. [Laughter.] The herd by definition does not listen.

[More laughter.]

DUCHOVNY: But the herd also tells their doctors to give them antibiotics. for everything, and…that..I’m more scared of bugs that are antibiotic-resistant than I am of the measles. What about the herd there, herd?

Unlike last week, though, this time there was some pushback, first from Baratunde Thurston, comedian and author of How To Be Black:

THURSTON: I think you’re mixing up a lot of science.

MAHER [interrupting]: No, I’m not.

THURSTON [continuing]: I do. I do. Really. [Thurston trying to continue with Maher and Duchovny interrupting.] I think antibiotic resistance—I’ll talk to both of you [gesturing to Maher and Duchovny]. Antibiotic resistance is not the same as your skepticism about vaccines. It’s just not. We’ve saved so many lives from sanitation, clean water, and vaccines.

MAHER: This is the straw man I’m always fighting. I am not skeptical that vaccines “work” [air quotes]. I get it that they work. Lots of things work. Antibiotics work—at a cost. Chemotherapy works. It might get rid of my tumor…

THURSTON: But what is this cost you’re talking about for vaccines?

MAHER: OK. I said this last week. This is a scientific fact. There have been no long-term studies done on vaccinated versus unvaccinated, long term health outcomes. If you never give your immune system a chance to fight a disease…

THURSTON: That’s not a cost, that’s a question.

MAHER: That is a question that science has not answered.

THURSTON: But the studies that have come in so far have not proven any distinct issues.

ZANNY MINTON BEDOES [Editor-in-Chief of The Economist]: What we do know is that vaccines have prevented an enormous number of diseases.

MAHER: No one is saying that’s not true.

THURSTON: Here’s where I come in, and I don’t think—I did watch your show last week—I don’t think that it’s wrong to ask questions. I agree with you very much that vaccines can be better. There are better technologies than a 160 year old needle to deliver this.

At this point, I suspect that Maher knew he was losing; so he tried to bring it back to the question of whether it’s “selfish” to have six children. Thurston would have none of it:

THURSTON: If you’re knowingly increasing the exposure of a deadly disease within the population, that’s a very different thing than having another child.

MAHER: Measles is not really that deadly a disease.

Once again, nonsense.

Surprisingly (because Maher’s guests are usually fairly clueless about these sorts of things), Bedoes notes that she thinks the US has a good policy in not having mandatory vaccines, but rather vaccine requirements that children must meet if they go to public schools. She notes also that we have religious and philosophical exemptions, echoing my sentiment that, if we have such exemptions, they should be much harder to get, although my view has changed more over the years to the contention that we should not allow non-medical exemptions any more.

Bill Maher and his apologists frequently gasp in indignation whenever someone like myself or other skeptics call him antivaccine. Unfortunately, as I showed last week, antivaccine tropes fly fast and furious out of his mouth. His misleading claim about the lack of vaccinated/unvaccinated studies is not only misleading, but objectively not not true. It simply isn’t. Also, whenever antivaccine organizations try to do such studies themselves, inevitably they’re utterly worthless and/or actually show the exact opposite of what antivaccinationists had hoped. When vaccinated/unvaccinated studies are planned, they are actually attacked by antivaccine groups because these groups know that the studies won’t show what they hope they’ll show.

Yes, the claim that there’s never been a “vaccinated/unvaccinated” study is an antivaccine trope, tried and true. What Maher said about it would have been perfectly at home on the websites of antivaccine groups, such as Age of Autism, SafeMinds, VaxTruth, and the National Vaccine Information Center. Ditto his analogies about the immune system “needing a workout” by combatting “real disease,” an analogy so breathtakingly ignorant of actual immunology and infectious disease that Maher should really just hang his head in shame.

In fact, I mentioned irony above. It’s ironic that Maher had Kenner on his show promoting his movie about how industry and free market conservatives promote doubt about settled science through misinformation and cherry-picked science because, when it comes to vaccines, Maher does exactly the same thing using the same sort of dubious arguments about how “the science isn’t settled” and “what’s the price of vaccines?” Maher will never see that, of course.

After the last two weeks of incredibly embarrassing anti-science rants by Bill Maher, my retort to his wounded indignant cry that he’s “not antivaccine,” is simply to say: If you’re not antivaccine, then stop repeating long discredited antivaccine talking points as though they were scientifically valid. That’s what antivaccinationists do, and if you continue to do such things, then you shouldn’t be surprised when people conclude that you are antivaccine. It’s a reasonable conclusion based on your own words and failure to be educated over the course of many years.

Finally, I really hope that I don’t have to do this again next Monday.

Comments

  1. #1 lilady
    February 16, 2015

    Yeah, it’s a dirty job when you have to teach a TV personality some basic facts about vaccines, but who better than Orac, is up to the job?

    You don’t have to search too far (vaccinate-vs-unvaccinated studies, interfering with the body’s natural immune system and eating “healthy” in lieu of vaccines), to find that Bill Maher gets his science from anti-vaccine groups…or Dr. Jay Gordon.

    That crack about six children and deciding to vaccinate your children is a new low, even for Maher. Sure that’s the ticket Bill. Who cares if one of your children is maimed or dies from a vaccine-preventable-disease, as long as you’ve already birthed a replacement.

    Maher is really stupid…after dropping his anti-vaccine turds last week, he wades back into his bullsh!t one week later.

  2. #2 GnkoBiloba
    NYC
    February 16, 2015

    CDC Scientist Still Maintains Agency Forced Researchers To Lie About Safety Of Mercury Based Vaccines

    http://www.ringoffireradio.com/2015/02/cdc-scientist-still-maintains-agency-forced-researchers-lie-safety-mercury-based-vaccines/

  3. #3 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    February 16, 2015

    Like I’m going to trust a source named “Ring of Fire Radio”.

  4. #4 MikeMa
    February 16, 2015

    @Julian, Me neither. But even without watching, I can be quite sure its bull. Thimerosal was removed from vaccines years ago. The only vaccine in the US that still has it is the flu shot and that can be got without. As for the ‘forcing’ thing, well maybe to a devout antivaxxer, showing evidence is just like forcing.

  5. #5 Harold Gaines
    Wellington, KS
    February 16, 2015

    Slightly tangential, but is it possible that the Brady Bunch episode involved German measles (rubella)? I haven’t seen the episode in years, but, being a 1969 sitcom, rigor in medical terminology left much to be desired. Rubella is a much less serious disease than rubeola.

    Back in the day, I remember that “measles” was usually prefaced with “red” or “German”. The simple term “measles” could refer to either. My hypothesis is that this confusion still exists in our collective subconscious despite the seeming demise of the term “German measles”, hence the “measles isn’t serious” belief. Possible?

  6. #6 Orac
    February 16, 2015

    I don’t remember. A link to the complete episode on YouTube can be found here:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/appeal-to-brady-bunch-vaccine-fallacy/

  7. #7 Lawrence
    February 16, 2015

    Somehow, in the great pantheon of 1960s – 1970s television, I doubt that we would have seen an episode of a comedic show about disease that resulted in one of the characters dying or suffering some debilitating side-effect (like Marsha going blind).

    Now, if it had been an episode of Quincy? Well, that might have happened.

    Anti-vaxxers are just stupid.

  8. #8 Dangerous Bacon
    February 16, 2015

    The article on the Ring of Fire Radio website abut the “CDC scientist” is by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and starts out ” I am, now and have always been fiercely pro vaccine.”

    For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to read the rest of it.

  9. #9 Ren
    February 16, 2015

    On the one hand, I care about Maher saying these idiotic things because he has a big audience, and some believe him to be an authority on skepticism because of his anti-religious views. (Emphasis on “some”. It may even be “few”.)

    On the other hand, I’m more worried about physicians, with actual medical degrees conferred by institutions of higher learning, who should know better about immunizations. The one example that we are always going to is Dr. Jay Gordon. Yesterday, he was taken to task on twitter by several of his colleagues — and myself — for posting on his blog the package insert for the MMR vaccine without any sort of context. It’s the same BS that antivaxxers use, so he should know better. He then says that he’s come to terms with the California bill requiring parents who choose not to vaccinate to go see a physician before they can claim an exemption. When that bill was up for a vote, he was all against it, calling it bad policy. Now, he’s calling a bill to do away with exemptions bad policy. The man is all over the place, in my opinion. All the while, he should know better. If he does, he doesn’t show it.

    He also said this measles outbreak would be over soon. I’d like him to be right, for once.

  10. #10 pop socket
    February 16, 2015

    ” He (Bill) just hit it for a while after the epic slapdowns he received in 2009 over the same sort of nonsense over the H1N1 pandemic and flu vaccine.” Orac

    FFS, how can anyone who is sane and claims any kind of scientific education support the H1N1 scam. It was total bollocks and just generated a lot of money at public expense for pharma shills. There is nothing insane about pointing this out, the looks on those goons reflects the same kind of Narad deportment that comes with blind vaccine support when someone pops your balloon. Grow up and start getting with the program. Dork

  11. #11 Brent
    February 16, 2015

    Bill Nye is next week’s guest. I hope he tries to set Maher straight.

  12. #12 pop socket
    February 16, 2015

    ” He (Bill) just hit it for a while after the epic slapdowns he received in 2009 over the same sort of nonsense over the H1N1 pandemic and flu vaccine.” Orac

    FFS, how can anyone who is sane and claims any kind of scientific education support the H1N1 scam. It was total bollocks and just generated a lot of money at public expense for pharma shills. There is nothing insane about pointing this out, the looks on those goons reflects the same kind of Narad deportment that comes with blind vaccine support when someone pops your balloon. Grow up and start getting with the program. Dork

    • #13 Orac
      February 16, 2015

      Alright. Knock it off. You keep changing your e-mail address and that knocks you into moderation because WordPress sees you as a “new” commenter. I’ve been nice about it for a while and approved your comments. No more. Pick an e-mail address and stick with it for good. I will not approve any of your comments that get kicked to moderation any more because the reason they’re getting kicked into moderation is because you keep changing your e-mail address. Such posts will go into the trash, never to be seen again. Again, pick one e-mail to post under and stick with it.

  13. #14 Orac
    February 16, 2015

    Bill Nye is next week’s guest. I hope he tries to set Maher straight.

    My guess is no, because Maher almost certainly won’t bring up vaccines when someone like Bill Nye is a guest on his show. He generally only brings vaccines up when, like on February 6, the guests are sympathetic to his view, or when, like Friday, he has one sympathetic guest (David Duchovny, who also seems to share Maher’s proclivity of animal rights activism) and the rest that he probably perceives as unlikely to take him too strongly to task.

  14. #15 Eric Lund
    February 16, 2015

    Maher is really stupid

    I disagree. Maher knows what he’s doing: he’s attempting to link the pro-vaccine position to obvious lunatic fringe positions like anti-AGW. He may be letting his Dunning-Krueger flag fly with his arguments, but he is advancing those arguments in a way that is rationally calculated to support his irrational position (his mind is made up on the subject; don’t confuse him with the facts).

  15. #16 Narad
    February 16, 2015

    For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to read the rest of it.

    It doesn’t even make sense; there’s nothing new from Thompson, so the “still” would more accurately be “does too.” It seems to roll from the tired “has invoked the protection of the Federal Whistleblower Statute [sic]” mantra, which doesn’t mean anything unless the CDC has already engaged in a retaliatory personnel move, which seems quite unlikely.

    One might speculate that he’s trying to salvage Marcella Piper-Terry’s brain-in-a-blender “sources have confirmed” comment from a couple of weeks ago.

  16. #17 Narad
    February 16, 2015

    the looks on those goons reflects the same kind of Narad deportment

    Pretty good, coming from a compulsively repetitive, congenital sockpuppeter.

  17. #18 I am not a doctor
    February 16, 2015

    Fuck it. Let’s go full on nostalgia fetish.

    We can bring back the days when we all get to “fight real disease for true strength”. That’s a start, but we shouldn’t stop there. There’s another thing most of us have been missing out on — fighting a real war. Surely this is the only true way to build true strength of mind and body. This business of going to the gym and “working out” is some weak-ass bullshit and no substitution for the real deal. We need a real war, here in America so everybody has an equal chance to get true strength.

    Whaddya say, Orac? You can be Charles Hamilton and I can be Ms Scarlett. Sure, you’d be dead, but I get to wear a fabulous dress.

  18. #19 Sara
    February 16, 2015

    This story in Forbes by a sort of image manager makes the valid point that nonsense like Maher’s needs to be countered by anecdotes and specific personal stories of how children have been profoundly harmed by measles. The medical authorities quoted here reiterate that guidelines, statistics, and factual information are largely ineffective in changing public behavior. What may work better is ad hominem, anecdotal evidence from those who have experienced this supposedly “harmless” disease. Stories trump facts in making a persuasive case to the public, unfortunately. I’d like to hear Maher try to refute a parent’s detailed of serious complications from childhood.measles.

    In case the link doesn’t display, it’s the recent measles story by Carmine Gallo.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2015/02/03/stories-triggered-the-measles-outbreak-and-storytelling-can-stop-it/

  19. #20 Orac
    February 16, 2015

    I disagree. Maher knows what he’s doing: he’s attempting to link the pro-vaccine position to obvious lunatic fringe positions like anti-AGW.

    Oh, he definitely did that last week in response to John McCormack’s invocation of AGW “skeptics” as being legitimate skeptics as opposed to vaccine “skeptics.” His having Robert Kenner on the show this week strikes me as an explicit attempt to link the “merchants of doubt” in the tobacco industry, among AGW denialists, and the food and pharmaceutical industries in order to tar pro-vaccine advocates with the “merchants of doubt” label. True, Maher didn’t mention Kenner in the latter segment where he let his antivaccine freak flag fly again, but there’s little doubt that having such a guest on plants the idea of industry shills promoting fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of the audience, thus preparing them for the criticism of vaccination programs later in the show, because, you know, vaccines are made by pharmaceutical companies.

    Over the decade I’ve been following Maher’s antivaccine wingnuttery, time and time again he’s explicitly linked anti-pharma views to his “skepticism” of vaccines. It’s very obviously intentional.

  20. #21 Helianthus
    February 16, 2015

    CDC Scientist Still Maintains Agency Forced Researchers To Lie About Safety Of Mercury Based Vaccines

    If this is about Thompson again, wasn’t his study about the MMR vaccine?
    A vaccine which never contained mercury, thimerosal or unicorn bits.

  21. #22 Michael A Van Allen
    Montville, NJ
    February 16, 2015

    No pun intended, but I watch Maher’s show religiously. As a liberal atheist, I agree with almost everything that Bill said. However, as a biochemist, I would have to take off my supportive hat for my friend Bill, and tip it to Baratunde Thurston, who came off as cool, calm and collected. I love Baratunde’s intelligent, informed rebuttal to Bill Maher’s rant on vaccinations, antibiotics, and human reproduction. He smiled, and referred to Bill as “son” in a loving, affable fashion, much like my students.
    For entertainment reasons, I hope that Baratunde is on the show more often. It is not often – actually, this is the first time – which I am wanting a guess to return, because of his opposing views to Bill.

    http://www.MichaelVanAllen.com

  22. #23 Rich Woods
    February 16, 2015

    @lilady #1:

    Maher is really stupid…after dropping his anti-vaccine turds last week, he wades back into his bullsh!t one week later.

    At least this time one of his waders was taken off him.

  23. #24 herr doktor bimler
    February 16, 2015

    Again, pick one e-mail to post under and stick with it.

    You would think that a single false e-mail address would be enough. How are multiple made-up addresses supposed to provide greater anonymity?

  24. #25 Orac
    February 16, 2015

    I don’t know. He just keeps using different e-mail addresses with nonsense strings of letters before the “@.” I don’t know why I put up with it for so long. Basically, unless he can remember a string he’s used before, he’s not getting through again. Of course, if he does remember a string he’s used before (and that I’ve approved before) his comments won’t go into automatic moderation and will publish automatically.

    If he asks me nicely, I might tell him a string he’s used. Otherwise, I hope his memory’s good.

  25. #26 Dan Andrews
    February 16, 2015

    So much for the “advocates increased scientific knowledge” criteria of that ill-given Dawkin’s award from 2009.

    Be entertaining if Bill Nye got into a discussion with Maher about evolution, climate change (with Maher agreeing, of course), and then Nye turning it all around and pointing out the similarities between Maher’s anti-vaccination/anti-science stance and the anti-evolution/anti-AGW/anti-science stance of those he (Maher) pokes fun at on a regular basis.

    Let Maher know that he looks just as ridiculous as they do when they parrot long refuted creationist and AGW-denial talking points based on cherry-picked data, misunderstanding of the basics, misunderstanding how science works, quote-mining, rejection of a consensus (or “it’s all falling apart as scientists flee their theory”), getting the conclusions of papers completely wrong, etc etc etc.

    Be even funnier if every scientist or science-educator who was a guest on his show did the same thing. Maher would probably switch his lineup to people he could more easily steamroll.

  26. #27 Orac
    February 16, 2015

    There is a peril in this approach. If you’re going to do that as a guest, you absolutely must know the origins of the antivaccine claims Maher regularly makes cold. You also have to know the refutations of Maher’s antivaccine BS cold. Most scientists don’t. Given his performance in his debate, I now think Nye could do it, but he’d have to prepare ahead of time. I don’t know if the rest of the famous scientists and science advocates who show up fairly regularly on Maher’s show would take the time to be able to handle him.

  27. #28 lilady
    February 16, 2015

    Rich Woods: I posted that comment just for you. 🙂

    I love being your straight (wo)man.

  28. #29 Jen Phillips
    February 16, 2015

    I don’t know if the rest of the famous scientists and science advocates who show up fairly regularly on Maher’s show would take the time to be able to handle him.

    I don’t know either, but I’m grateful that Anderson Cooper took the time to do enough research to hand Dan Burton his ass several times over on ac360 a few weeks ago. It’s 11 minutes long, but it’s a relentless thing of beauty:
    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/anderson-cooper-ex-gop-rep-throw-down-over-vaccine-autism-link/

  29. #30 Skeptical Skeptic2015
    February 16, 2015

    What about the issue of “regulatory capture” of the FDA by pharmaceutical companies (as described here: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/02/fda_inspections_fraud_fabrication_and_scientific_misconduct_are_hidden_from.html)? I would love to see a post here how much of the vaccine-related research is controlled by the pharmaceutical companies, and how much we should worry about scientific fraud.

  30. #31 Narad
    February 16, 2015

    What about the issue of “regulatory capture” of the FDA by pharmaceutical companies

    Twice in a single month must be some sort of record.

    I would love to see a post here how much of the vaccine-related research is controlled by the pharmaceutical companies, and how much we should worry about scientific fraud have my “point” made for me.

    FTFY.

  31. #32 Narad
    February 16, 2015

    Otherwise, I hope his memory’s good.

    Perhaps state-dependent learning will help out Phildo.

    Then again, given that he’s used at least five (I’m thinking six) pseudonyms already this time around, he’ll probably just try to get another one under the radar.

  32. #33 Annie
    February 16, 2015

    OT but still funny.

    As a response to this post by a mother whose infant son was exposed to measles (https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.hibbenwhite/posts/10155168515065632:0)

    …is this new conspiracy!

    http://www.mothering.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=14754&d=1424136926

  33. #34 Toby snelgrove
    Mayne islamd, BC, Canada
    February 16, 2015

    So sad. Such a brilliant man can be so myopic. Thruston was brilliant and unflappable. Sorry Bill wasn’t listening.

  34. #35 Chris
    February 16, 2015

    I used to watch Real Time on a regular basis then I just got tired of Maher. He seems to be anti-establishment and that’s the sole way he rationalizes his positions. The only thing I can’t explain is how he hasn’t become anti-govt. All other positions he has are against Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Oil, and Religion. If even say he’s against the media except he’s apart of it without realizing it. He’s the lazy mans skeptic. In other words he pretends to be a skeptic by the use of logical fallacies.

  35. #36 NewcoasterMD
    February 17, 2015

    @#11. Re: Bill Nye

    I still haven’t watched the Ken Hamm “debate” , but I’ve read a few of the reviews and articles the science guy wrote himself. He did a lot of prep before the event, studied Hamm’s techniques and favourite arguments, and made sure there was a very narrowly defined question.

    Bill Maher is very much in control on his show, does a pretty good Gish Gallop with his various anti vaxx tropes, and does not mind talking over somebody. I’ve never seen him “cut off someone’s mic , like Bill O’Reilley ( Damn confusing with all these Bills) but I bet he’d love to.

    Bill Nye won’t be able to convince Bill Maher, if the topic is even allowed to come up, but he might be able to score some points with the fence sitters in Real Times demographic.

  36. #37 Helianthus
    February 17, 2015

    @ Annie

    Thanks for the first link. This woman has style. Anger could be good for inspiration.

    As for the one from mothering. Must be sad to live with such a worldview.

  37. #38 sadmar
    Needing Stories
    February 17, 2015

    re #19
    Sara’s quote mis-states the role of narrative in communication: “Stories trump facts in making a persuasive case to the public, unfortunately.” There’s no ‘unfortunate ‘ about it, because it’s not a matter of ‘trumping’ at all – like they are two alternatives to the same end. A choice of ‘this’ or ‘that’. Facts make NO persuasive case to the public whatsoever. Because facts make no SENSE whatever without an organizing frame.

    So what we’re talking about is different kinds of formal structure. The range of options probably isn’t a linear spectrum opposite poles (as you might imagine a ‘fact – ‘story’ gradient). But I’m not going to try to model it, just note that some forms are more storytelling-ish than others.

    As I’ve noted on RI before, though this is under-researched AFAIK, the research that DOES exist suggests that in broad public terms anyway, narrative is essential for comprehension. Obviously, you can’t persuade people if they don’t understand what you’re talking about to begin with. So, at the receiving end of public communication, if you don’t have something story-ish, your facts don’t even exist.

    Of course, you can have a story w/o having scientific fact. But they’re not mutually exclusive. A story can present fact.

    Now, in the Forbes piece when Gallo says, “Stories are irresistible because human beings are hardwired for empathy,” he’s got it a little muddied because:
    • “irresistible” is hyperbole
    • we’re hardwired for more than empathy, emotionally, and there’s more than empathy involved
    • the empathy he’s actually talking about is a certain kind of empathy, that’s engaged by a certain kind of story, or story element at east, and that’s not the only kind of narrative that can be brought to bear in persuasion on the topic of vaccination against infectious disease.

    Or, by example, there’s nothing wrong with the heart-tugging of Roald Dahl’s story about his daughter’s death, but that particular emotion isn’t the only way to go about it, and none of the ways require setting science to the side. I can come with story, or follow upon story, it just can’t lead the parade or work on its own.

    There are plenty of facts in the Texas Childrens Hospital book, but it’s story based, and uses photos to establish empathy beautifully: http://tinyurl.com/oj7bhnl

  38. #39 sadmar
    backstage
    February 17, 2015

    re: Countering Maher – Dan #26, et al.,

    Maybe a guest could ‘hurt’ Maher, but not by being adversarial or challenging him.

    It’s a TV show, not an actual level-ground debate. There’s a director, producers, editors: the deck is stacked in more subtle ways than you can even imagine. Have you ever seen a guest on any show truly flip the tables on the host? The shows have a ‘script’ in that there framed so certain things can/will happen and others won’t. Orac’s got a lot of that figured out with the way ‘Bill’ is scheduling guests, putting them in a certain order, defining the topics they’ll dscuss…

    They would never let Bill Nye on the show to debate vaccines with Maher one-on-one. In any context any guest would appear in a segment that touched on vaccines, Maher would be moderating and the same thing would happen to the scientist as happened to Marianne Williamson: not enough time to develop points, too many interruptions from the other noise-makers, no opportunity to string points together into an argument that has any complexity.

    It’s basically a sound-bite toss. As Orac says, the science folks Maher will invite will be there for other reasons, so the guests will have other agendas they want to dscuss, and if they were inclined to take the time to attempt to undermine Maher’s position, they wouldn’t get it.

    It’s not that Maher never takes flack on his own show, but that’s actually ‘part of the act’ so it’s tightly controlled. It’s OK for Maher to take a shot, even stagger back a bit before battling back to a ‘draw’. It adds story and drama, lets him display his indefatigable pugnaciousness and appear to be fair, It’s all theater. (Not in that he’s insincere. Just that it’s organized.)

    HOWEVER, Maher is getting on thin ground, pushing the schtick too far. I can only imagine his producers are having screaming fits that he’s going to vaccines NOW, two weeks in a row. It’s coming off as obsessive, and this is how media figures and especially comedians can lose not just a job, but their whole careers. In fact, I can’t recall an “infotainment” star like Maher turning in such a trainwreck performance as he has the last two weeks. He IS an anti-vaxer in his heart-of-hearts, and just like the rest of that crowd coming to the same place from a different angle, he doesn’t grasp how Disneyland has changed everything. Throw his ego in on top of his convictions, any time he opens his mouth about vaccines now, he inserts both feet, loses control of the narrative, and starts careening off the rails.

    So it will be interesting to see the next few weeks of Real Time. I’d guess his producers are fielding warning calls from HBO, and will be trying to keep Bill off any vax related discussion.

    So the way an interview guest could hurt him is just feed him the bait to keep shooting himself in the foot, by bringing up vaccines in a discussion nominally about something else. Give him the rope, he’ll hang himself. The guest doesn’t need to debunk him with hard facts. Just not-agree, sound a note of reasonableness about vaccination in the midst of a worrisome outbreak, make Maher look rabid by comparison — not that hard. The viewers aren’t going to understand the fact-stuff anyway. They look for ‘tells’. Maher starts flailing whenever he gets in the natural-health/anti-vax pool now, and that’s what people will see, register, remember.
    Over the water cooler:
    “So what did Maher say about the vaccine thing, anyway.”
    “I dunno. Some gobbledygook. But he was coming unhinged.”
    “Was he funny at least?”
    “No. Just… kinda stupid and embarrassing.”
    “Too bad. He used to have a good show. Did you see John Oliver?
    “Yeah, wasn’t that awesome!”

    Speaking of people Maher wouldn’t on his show to talk amount vaccines. Oliver would shred him, it would go viral, and Reel Time would be on life support. But neither John Oliver or Bill Nye are getting on that show. Heck, Maher might as well just rbing on Rob Schneider and get it over with.

  39. #40 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    February 17, 2015

    Baratunde is a very, very smart guy. I met him a few times before he went off to become all famous and stuff. Although he tends to stick to political comedy, he reads a hell of a lot and knows how to carry himself well. Good on him for taking Maher to task.

  40. #41 Skeptico
    February 17, 2015

    Re Bill Nye: remember he’s an anti-GMO twit, so not immune to fallacious reasoning himself. I’ll bet that’s why Maher is having him on the show.

  41. #42 pop socket
    February 17, 2015

    Got it.
    So perhaps Narad could tell us how the measles fairy story began as my cocoa is now cold

  42. #43 Nick Rios
    Austin, TX
    February 17, 2015

    What is the point of this post and of these self-affirming comment exactly? Is the objective just pile on Bill Maher? Or is everyone in here advocating mandatory government enforced vaccination through the threat of police and imprisonment? Ultimately that is the question. Parental rights over their own children. There is absolutely zero actual scientific points raised herein. I mean, why is there a TV show review on a science blog in the first place. I accept vaccines are the best science available right now. As does Maher. But I’m sorry herd, I don’t see criminal intent behind the anti-vaxxers nor do I see legal jurisdiction for the state to force medical decisions upon free citizens. That is the bottom line. I am all for educating the public and I am all for federally funded medical research. But personally that is the extent of this topic.

  43. #44 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    February 17, 2015

    @Nick Rios

    There actually is legal jurisdiction for the state to force vaccination on citizens. See Jacobson v Massachusetts.

    Second, no one here is arguing that vaccination should be forced, at penalty of police action, on citizens. At most, what people are saying is that entry into schools should require vaccination, with only medical exemptions allowed. If you do not want to vaccinate your kids, then they don’t get to attend public schools or child care. Saying that Maher’s critics are calling for police action and/or imprisonment is a strawman.

    As to why Orac wrote the post, Maher’s episode does include matters of science (i.e., vaccination). Maher is spreading misinformation, such as “measles is benign”. He should be brought to task for his errors, particularly since some people hold Maher up as a model skeptic.

  44. #45 shay
    February 17, 2015

    I believe some insurance companies do not cover home births. You’re free to have your baby wherever you choose; however, if there are complications and you require hospitalization, you pay out of your own pocket.

    A clear case of market forces at work! I think something along these lines should be implemented for vaccine-refusing parents.

  45. #46 pop socket
    February 17, 2015

    Had all my kids at home, so should I be able to claim the cost back off the health authority for doing the work myself?

    As a vaccine refuser we have to foot the bill for all the damaged kids out there and we do it without complaining. Measles is benign if it is managed correctly and that issue is not being aired enough.

    There is no evidence that unvaccinated kids are a threat to anyone. Unless you believe medical peer review – you pays your money you takes your choice.

  46. #47 pop socket
    February 17, 2015

    “I accept vaccines are the best science available right now.” Nick

    Well it maybe best science but on the lines of weapons of mass destruction it doesn’t make it true and that is the issue.

    Vaccine science is so bent and influenced, you only have to look at the likes of Brian Deer and the MMR to see that. It isn’t the same as other science, it is too corrupted.

  47. #48 Dangerous Bacon
    February 17, 2015

    Apparently Nick didn’t bother to read the parts of Orac’s article that _do_ deal with “actual scientific points” (i.e. about development of flu vaccines, herd immunity, vaccinated vs. unvaccinated studies etc.).

    Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to rush in with gripes about “piling on” and “tone” while ignoring substantive discussion.

    “Ultimately that is the question. Parental rights over their own children”

    I prefer to think that the utlimate good involves what’s best for children, not parental rights to “own” them (as one prominent antivaxer described it recently).

  48. #49 Helianthus
    February 17, 2015

    @ Nick Rios

    I accept vaccines are the best science available right now. As does Maher.

    You, yes.
    Maher, maybe not that much. He is on record for saying half-trues or, in some cases, for at the minimum misunderstanding how vaccines work.
    Notably, I’m thinking of his analogies implying that the immune system is like a muscle and needs exercising, while a vaccine “is doing all the work” – the first part may be half-true, but as someone who catches any passing cold virus, I can tell you that my immune system is getting all the exercise it wants. The second part is false. A vaccine is the equivalent of target practice for your immune cells, with either cardboard targets or live ones, so vaccinating is giving exercise to your immune system.

    In this context, a physician/surgeon/scientist like Orac could perfectly feel justified in adressing Maher’s shortcomings.
    Actually, it’s his blog. He can talk about post-modernism in Soviet Russia propaganda movies if he feels like it.

    Ultimately that is the question. Parental rights over their own children.

    Completely true, and that’s a big issue in the debate.
    Most antivaxers are all for being the ultimate judge in what medical treatment their children will receive.
    A good number, if not all pro-vaxers here could accept the idea with you can do whatever you want regarding your own health, but whenever your decision impact someone else, even (or especially) your children, the only metric should be the well-being of these other ones.

    In short, your parental rights don’t include the right to put your children – and other children – at risk.
    And science says that, by not vaccinating your children, you put them at a greater risk than by vaccinating them.

  49. #50 a-non
    February 17, 2015

    @Nick Rios,

    Nice “government is gonna getcha” rant. I tend to be sympathetic to the libertarian viewpoint myself, but not when those beliefs cause kids to get sick for no good reason. Vaccines don’t cause autism, they very rarely “damage” kids (pop socket’s blathering to the contrary) and they sure as heck beat the alternative.

    And as noted, nobody is suggesting that the police are going to storm your house and take away your children because you don’t vaccinate them. That’s the wacky anti-vax fear mongering at work.

  50. #51 LIz Ditz
    United States
    February 17, 2015

    Measles is benign if it is managed correctly and that issue is not being aired enough.

    bollocks

    It’s particularly awful in children under 5, with about 25% hospitalized.

    Why would any caring parent want their child to experience such suffering?

  51. #52 Orac
    February 17, 2015

    HOWEVER, Maher is getting on thin ground, pushing the schtick too far. I can only imagine his producers are having screaming fits that he’s going to vaccines NOW, two weeks in a row. It’s coming off as obsessive, and this is how media figures and especially comedians can lose not just a job, but their whole careers. In fact, I can’t recall an “infotainment” star like Maher turning in such a trainwreck performance as he has the last two weeks. He IS an anti-vaxer in his heart-of-hearts, and just like the rest of that crowd coming to the same place from a different angle, he doesn’t grasp how Disneyland has changed everything. Throw his ego in on top of his convictions, any time he opens his mouth about vaccines now, he inserts both feet, loses control of the narrative, and starts careening off the rails.

    What’s going on right now is really not all that unlike what happened in the fall of 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic scare. Maher went full mental jacket antivax back then over a series of shows and endured a lot of criticism for it. Guests on his show were even explicitly slapping his antivax nonsense down hard, guests such as Bill Frist (who is a physician), Bob Costas, and Chris Matthews. Matthews and Costas were in fact openly contemptuous of Maher on his own show, with Costas on one show sarcastically retorting in response to Maher’s claim that the right diet and healthy living would protect him from the flu, “Oh, come on, Superman!” and Matthews directly comparing Maher’s views on vaccines on another show to Scientologists’s views on psychiatry. I still remember how that one hit home; Maher looked mortified after Matthews made that remark.

    Even Maher’s people (or at least people Maher liked to think himself part of), skeptics and atheists, were giving him flack five years ago. Maher was awarded the Richard Dawkins Award for promotion of science based on his movie “Religulous,” a mistake on the part of the the Atheist Alliance International that resulted in a lot of complaints from skeptics who didn’t think someone who was so anti-science with respect to vaccines and “Western medicine” should receive such an award. One of Maher’s friends in the skeptical movement, Michael Shermer, took him to task publicly in an open letter on HuffPo(!), of all places. Criticism was everywhere in the circles that Maher appears to care about.

    I rather suspect Maher survived all that because, thankfully, the H1N1 pandemic didn’t turn out nearly as bad as its worst case scenarios, leaving the average person thinking that perhaps the government and health officials went a bit overboard. Still, Maher was clearly stung by the criticism from his own tribe, who (or so he thought) loved him so much for his anti-religion activities. As a result, he laid low for five years, during which I rarely heard of him even mentioning vaccines or indulging in the other criticisms of “Western medicine” he had been dishing out on his show.

    Then, a few weeks ago, he started up again, culminating in the meltdown stretching over the last two episodes of his show. I’d like to think that this time it’s different, and maybe it is. We have a measles outbreak now. People are concerned and not favorably disposed to antivaccinationists. We know the MMR vaccine is very safe and effective; and measles affects mostly children these days. This brings the issue of non-vaccinating parents to the fore.

    On the other hand, something else is different from five years ago. This time around, I don’t see nearly the level of criticism and condemnation directed at Maher as there were five years ago. It’s not even close. Other than myself and a couple of other bloggers, basically no one is complaining or criticizing, and mockery of Maher’s antivaccine views hasn’t even come near the mainstream press, as far as I’ve been able to tell. Certainly, by and large, Maher’s core supporters have not turned against him this time, as some of them did in 2009, or even really started to doubt him, with relatively few exceptions. I couldn’t help but note that when a link to my criticism of Maher from last week was posted on the CFI Facebook page, there were a lot of defenders of Bill Maher who were not at all pleased with me. Nor have any “big name” skeptics or atheists as yet called Maher out, as Shermer did five years ago.

    That’s why I think that, unless Maher goes full meltdown over several more episodes, he’ll likely be fine, just as he was before. He’s made his point and might do another couple of antivaccine segments (albeit likely not next week), but he knows when he’s pushed this issue too far. I do hope, however, that HBO is telling his producers to knock it off with the antivaccine nonsense. That’s the only thing Maher will listen to, the company paying to run his show telling him to knock it off. Only a credible threat that his show won’t be renewed after this season (which, I note, only just started in January, leaving a lot of episodes to go in season 13) is likely to shut him up about this.

  52. #53 Orac
    February 17, 2015

    I mean, why is there a TV show review on a science blog in the first place.

    Because it’s my blog and I blog about whatever the hell I feel like blogging about on any given day. Don’t like it? No one’s forcing you to read.

  53. #54 SelenaWolf
    Ontario, Canada
    February 17, 2015

    @popsocket #46

    “Measles is benign if it is managed correctly and that issue is not being aired enough.”

    The issue is not being “aired enough” because it is, quite simply, not true. In the decade prior to 1963 when the MMR was available, the CDC stated that, “nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age.” Yearly, “400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.”

    Read Preston & Haines, “Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late 19th-Century America”.

    Also read Guyer et al. “Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: Trends in the Health of Americans During the 20th-Century”

    “For children older than 1 year of age, the overall decline in mortality during the 20th century has been spectacular. In 1900, >3 in 100 children died between their first and 20th birthday; today, <2 in 1000 die. At the beginning of the 20th century, the leading causes of child mortality were infectious diseases, including diarrheal diseases, diphtheria, measles, pneumonia and influenza, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, and whooping cough. Between 1900 and 1998, the percentage of child deaths attributable to infectious diseases declined from 61.6% to 2%. Accidents accounted for 6.3% of child deaths in 1900, but 43.9% in 1998. Between 1900 and 1998, the death rate from accidents, now usually called unintentional injuries, declined two-thirds, from 47.5 to 15.9 deaths per 100 000."

    So, no, the only way to "properly manage" measles is through vaccination. Way too many children died prior to the 1960's.

  54. #55 Lawrence
    February 17, 2015

    @Selena – obviously, prevention is much better than “disease management.”

  55. #56 Helianthus
    France
    February 17, 2015

    To complete on my previous answer:

    Despite my obvious opinion on vaccination, I don’t support the idea to “force” vaccination on someone’s else children (or on anyone’s else, period).
    But I certainly support the idea that vaccination should be a prerequisite for attendance to public schools (and even private ones, if they are running in part on taxpayer’s money, as they keep wanting to in my country). Except for medical reasons, or if the child got his/her immunities the “natural” way, as I did.

    Similarly, I see most non-vaccinating parents as misguided and misinformed. I think likening non-vaccination to abuse is going too far. Thus, I’m against the idea of having non-vaccinated children removed from their parents.
    On the other hand, in the case of antivaxers parents who also follow other dubious medical beliefs, “medical neglect” may come to mind…

  56. #57 SelenaWolf
    Ontario, Canada
    February 17, 2015

    @Lawrence, while I cannot, often, debate the finer points of the science because – well – I’m not a doctor; as an historian, I can address the history. And, as an historian working in a cemetery archive, I see – every damn day – the entries in the burial registers. And the saddest are the children, pages and pages of the under-fives and under-tens who died every day from measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, typhus, etc. I’ve, always, felt (and more strongly since I became aware of the anti-vax “movement”) that every parent who refuses to vaccinate their child, should go to their local cemetery and read through the records. Kinda puts it in perspective.

  57. #58 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    February 17, 2015

    Just to dogpile on pop socket some more:

    There is no evidence that unvaccinated kids are a threat to anyone.

    Given that the chain of infection of this measles outbreak has been predominantly through the unvaccinated, you are dead wrong.

  58. #59 herr doktor bimler
    February 17, 2015

    Had all my kids at home, so should I be able to claim the cost back off the health authority for doing the work myself?

    Ask the NHS for your payments back? Hey, it’s worth a try.

  59. #60 JGC
    February 17, 2015

    Direct questions, pop socket:

    As a vaccine refuser we have to foot the bill for all the damaged kids out there

    Exactly what ‘damaged kids’ are vaccine refusers footing the bill for, and how has it been factually established that the damage you believe they’ve suffered is causally associated with vaccines? Be specific.

    “Measles is benign if it is managed correctly and that issue is not being aired enough

    By what rational argument should one prefer to manage a case of measles after an infection has occurred, rather than prevent it from occurring at all?

  60. #61 Narad
    February 17, 2015

    Had all my kids at home

    Oh, dear, is Phildo changing sexes again?

  61. #62 Old Rockin' Dave
    Out on a limb, and liking it.
    February 17, 2015

    I will go against what seems to be the consensus here. I am in fact advocating mandatory vaccination in anyone for whom it’s medically feasible enforced by law.
    If smallpox was still around, I wonder how many opponents of mandatory vaccination would reject forced vaccination and/or quarantine in the vicinity of an outbreak or for contacts of the possibly infected, even if it required the National Guard with fixed bayonets on street corners. There was a time not long ago when such situations were not rarities in the US.
    The power of government to enforce control of infectious diseases is greater than most people realize. Mandatory contact tracing of STDs is so commonplace that hardly anyone gives it the least thought. I worked one year in the infectious diseases department of a major public hospital. From time to time I filled in for the director of the directly-observed therapy of tuberculosis clinic, and during those weeks I had the awesome power to have noncompliant patients taken into custody by the NYPD and held for forced treatment. Few people would question the value of keeping TB or syphilis patients from infecting others, knowingly or not. I don’t. Nor do I see how the introduction of a vaccine into the process changes any of that.
    Governments first and foremost have the obligation to protect their citizens; a government that neglects that obligation is not a legitimate government and deserves to be replaced. Societies have the right to defend themselves against serious threats to health and safety; they can only do otherwise based on the overwhelming consensus of their members (ideally). Few people would put their presumed rights of choice above their own safety. Those who do are fools. Not many more would choose to let the vulnerable sicken and die in the name of their personal right of choice. Those who do are despicable. At some point the right to ignore your own safety infringes on the rights of others not to be infected with dangerous diseases.

  62. #63 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    February 17, 2015

    Oh, dear, is Phildo changing sexes again?

    That or co-opting other people’s work…again.

  63. #64 Old Rockin' Dave
    February 17, 2015

    popsocket (Is that nom de commentary a twist of “sockpuppet”?). I suppose you have your copy of “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles”. That’s what your advocacy of medically managing measles comes down to.
    I propose that the author write some books for adults.
    “Fifty Shades of Melanoma” comes readily to mind. Of course the author probably opposes Gardasil too, so here’s a natural: “Walter’s Wonderful Willy Warts”.

  64. #65 JGC
    February 17, 2015

    If smallpox was still around,

    Oh, but it is still around Dave. They just changed the name to “teenage acne”, the same way they changed the name for polio to “muscular dystrophy” or “acute flaccid paralysis”,

    [toggle sarcasm off]

    Re: Melanie’s Marvelous Measles”, I’ve got dibs on Peter’s Perfect Pertussis. It will, unfortunately, be a very short story.

  65. #66 Alex
    February 17, 2015

    Might it be plausible to cut Maher’s credibility down to size by persuading publicly-known faces of skepticism (like Bill Nye and Neil Tyson) to reject invitations to appear on his show? I can’t imagine them degrading themselves enough to appear on the Alex Jones show or Coast-to-Coast AM, but really, what makes Maher different? By appearing on his show and tying their “science cred” to his name, I suspect they make him look more credible than he has any right to.

    Anyone up for a letter-writing campaign?

  66. #67 sadmar
    Recovery Room
    February 17, 2015

    re; Orac #52
    Excellent post, good sir!

    I’ve never liked Maher – as in I’ve always found his TV persona to be an annoying jerk who often undermines good causes by hitting below the belt – so I’m not as familiar as I should be with the H1N1 flap to make good comparisons. It’s certainly interesting that he’s letting less grief now than then. That could be because:
    • He’s succeeding in establishing his public identity as anti-FLU-vaccine, and most folks don’t associate with him anti-vax in general
    • Though he’s now shown he IS anti-vax, critics are cutting him too much slack because they thing he’s just over-doing his flu rant, which is been-there, done-that
    • In terms of MMR paranoia and the measles outbreak, he doesn’t even make the bad-guy ladder for critics looking at that. If you give me (X) many minutes or column inches in national media to take down anti-vax stupid, I’m going after Jack Wolfson and Rand Paul, not Bill Maher.
    • Big name athiests are probably in hiding. Guess who’s a huge Bill Maher fan: Craig Hicks. Assorted ‘atheist’ voices are totally bungling their PR now. If they’re not properly condemning Hicks — and they’re not — how are they gonna rip Maher for going off the track on vaccines a little bit.

    If I gave the impression of predicting Maher will actually get himself in career trouble on this go-round, my bad, as I do think he survive just fine unless he melts down further. He’s botched it before and recovered OK, he’s enough of a pro to have the skills to do it again.

    It’s also true that my concepts and standards of ‘train-wreck’ are pretty ‘inside-baseball’ so the kind of professionalism meltdown I’m seeing isn’t going to apparent to most viewers, even if it goes on a little longer. Still, it’s shocking to me to see someone like Maher lose control of his show two weeks in a row. He does probably have enough savvy at the meta-level to cover, walk-it-back, retreat as he did before…

    Mainly, i just wanted to share with the minions a take from a very different POV that testifies Maher is actually unhinged, because there’s no other way ‘Maher’ the persona and ‘Reel Time’ the show go off in that particular direction. It doesn’t fit the act, doesn’t work as theater. It may be unlikely, but it’s possible he could do more, or go even father And you just don’t see that on big-time TV.

  67. #68 sheepmilker
    February 17, 2015

    Old Rockin’ Dave @ 64

    Fffft! It’s so good to have you back!

  68. #69 Pragmatist
    February 17, 2015

    Alex #66. A letter writing campaign is a great idea.
    @ Helianthus #56
    I’m against the idea of having non-vaccinated children removed from their parents.
    On the other hand, in the case of antivaxers parents who also follow other dubious medical beliefs, “medical neglect” may come to mind…

    Fundamentally, I also don’t believe in taking the kids away from them, but charging them with medical neglect, imo, is justified. But what should the consequences be? I don’t know that answer.

    When I was active in pediatric nursing, we went through the debate re: who “owns” the children. It’s a tough one—but, in this case, the government “owns” the responsibility to protect the public health.

    My sense is that social pressure will ultimately help change things for the fence sitters. I sure hope so.

  69. #70 Johnny
    February 17, 2015

    I propose that the author write some books for adults.
    “Fifty Shades of Melanoma” comes readily to mind. Of course the author probably opposes Gardasil too, so here’s a natural: “Walter’s Wonderful Willy Warts”.

    See this review on Amazon for the titles of a few other fine titles from the same author.

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2ALP6J4FPWE2W

    Abby’s Absolutely Abundant Abscess
    Addie’s Adorable Adenoma
    Adelia’s Addled Alzheimer’s
    Andys Amazing AIDS
    Anne’s Incandescent Anorexia
    Annette’s Astonishing Aneurysm
    Annie’s Awesome Asthma
    Arnie’s Artful Addiction
    Barack’s Baroque Barbiturate Overdose
    Barry’s Bitchin Beri Beri
    Beatrice’s Bawdy Bronchitis
    Bella’s Beloved Bell’s Palsy
    Bennett’s Breathtaking Boil
    Bertha’s Blossoming Bulimia
    Billy’s Bodacious Botulism
    Bobby’s Bitchin Bubonic Plague
    Bobby’s Bubbling Buboes
    Bob’s Bodacious Bone Break
    Boris’s Big Blister
    Bradley’s Brilliant Bradycardia

    and it goes on like that. Every disease I’ve ever heard of, and several I’ve not.

  70. #71 sadmar
    Keep the un-faith
    February 17, 2015

    By and large, Maher’s core supporters have not turned against him, or even really started to doubt him. When a link to my criticism of Maher was posted on the CFI Facebook page, there were a lot of Maher defenders who were not at all pleased with me.

    Hang in there, doc! It takes time. Even geting a new idea up in public that requires no opinion reversal takes repetition, repetition,, repetition, and more repetition. On top of that, before Maher fans would ever utter a “Yup”, on a public forum they’d need the time to go through something like the good Kubler-Ross grief process.

    As a lot of skeptic-athiest folks are testy and combative ‘by nature’, there’s probably no way to discern ‘normal’ responses to attacks on one of their icons, with ‘denial-anger’ responses stemming from actually seeing the icon’s feet of clay.

    To the extent Maher’s worth the time and effort — and he very well might be — the thing to do is keep pouring it on.

    Thus, for my part, I’m especially interested in how two guests Maher has brought on to be ‘sympathetic’ have actually skewered him more on-point than the ‘adversaries’ — just in ways that might not jump out from the screen. Last week Williamson, and this week David Duchovney.

    I’m going to break down that DD exchange in detail soon, as the maybe-a-bit-subtle things happening there really expose — not just Maher as an individual – but the larger sicknesses at the core of anti-vax ‘thinking’, DD wasn’t actually dumping on the flu vaccine, just giving Bill a bit of room trying to get his agenda back in play over Maher’s repeated hi-jack attempts. But that’s all minor detail compared to the China burn. On substance that’s as strong.as Matthews Scientology reference (and DD kept counter-punching, in his own way). It’s just that Duchovney doesn’t have the force and sting of Matthews’ delivery, nor could he. He’s not a respected veteran journalist and pundit. If he has a pugnacious jab in him, which I doubt, he’s smart enough to know he couldn’t get away with it. So he stays within his “soft” self.

    Apologies for my reading fail in saying Maher wouldn’t let Bill Nye on the show, when Bill Nye came up because he’s scheduled to be on the show (face-palm). But I should have realized that Nye presents only a very limited danger-potentional for Maher, since he’s just too nice to get in Maher’s face, and score even a Costas-like shot that would get Maher visibly rattled. Make no mistake – he knew Williamson and Duchovney hit him, and he was back on his heels in both cases. But he covered well enough few would notice, especially given the confirmation bias of his fan base. I’d guess the same would happen if Maher gave Nye a little opening, which he probably won’t. But we’ll see. As Arte Johnson would say; “Veeery interessting!”

  71. #72 sadmar
    Nope
    February 17, 2015

    re Alex # 66: A ‘science’ boycott of Maher would actually be counter-productive. Nye or Tyson don’t give Maher cred he can’t get from other sources. He loses nothing if they refuse to appear, skepticism loses its small voice on the show, and the refuseniks look like asshats or cowards. If Rand Paul is willing to go on Real Time, how does it look of Tyson isn’t?

    There’s a huge difference between Maher’s show and a right-wing kook show. First, Maher may be a kook, but he only espouses kook positions on some things. More importantly, the format of the shows are very different. Right-wing talk shows are like Darrell Issa committee hearings: anybody outside the bubble who shows up is in for a beating and an attempt to humiliate them. For all the stage-managing and control Maher exerts, his show nevertheless gives the impression of a more free exchange of ideas.

  72. #73 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    February 17, 2015

    Old Rockin’ Dave @ 62:

    You tell ’em! I thoroughly endorse everything you said, plus I would like some serious scrutiny into how many of these “contraindications” are real and how many imaginary. I never heard of anybody being exempted from vaccines when I was a kid and I never heard of any untoward effects, either.

  73. #74 Narad
    February 17, 2015

    The power of government to enforce control of infectious diseases is greater than most people realize.

    And it’s less than you seem to presume. Tuberculosis is apropos of exactly nothing, even if you don’t “see how the introduction of a vaccine into the process changes any of that.”

    Why not just order BCG for everyone? Oh, wait, that’s because the exercise of the police power of the state is limited, even in the case of a compelling public-health interest, by the requirement of using the least restrictive means.

    You think vaccines would pass muster? Go take look at Washington v. Harper (or the third prong of the Sell test, that it necessary for a “court to conclude that involuntary medication is necessary to further [important governmental] interests”), and see how promising that looks as public policy. Prisons have a lower bar than general governance.

    I’d just as soon leave the dystopian fantasizing to the antivaccine nuts.

  74. #75 sadasd
    February 18, 2015

    I think it’s worth thinking about Maher in terms of changed attitudes and changed behaviors. Is anyone going to do anything different because of him? I suspect it’s a relative few – either people are cemented in their biases and seek him out for validation, or they ignore his screeds on vaccines so that they can reinforce their other prior biases about other things. He’s just white noise.

    It’s better to focus on those flying under the cover of “health freedom” or “parental choice”, and dissect them publicly. People react quite differently when they find out they’ve been deceived unwillingly, rather than calling them out for their own willful self-deception.

  75. #76 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    February 18, 2015

    I’d just as soon leave the dystopian fantasizing to the antivaccine nuts.

    I don’t think there’s anything the least bit dystopian about the public authorities doing everything in their power to safeguard the public health. I think that’s miles below the minimum we should expect from any functioning government.

    Anyway, 35 years ago, this was the way things were. Kids were required to go to school, public or private, and they were required to be vaccinated. There were no exemptions except medical ones. We seem to have survived that “dystopia”, and I think it should be implemented again–yesterday.

  76. #77 Narad
    February 18, 2015

    Anyway, 35 years ago, this was the way things were. Kids were required to go to school, public or private, and they were required to be vaccinated. There were no exemptions except medical ones.

    What, it’s Volk history time?

    That’s a year after Mississippi peculiarly wrapped up Brown v. Stone.

  77. #78 Orac
    February 18, 2015

    It’s better to focus on those flying under the cover of “health freedom” or “parental choice”, and dissect them publicly. People react quite differently when they find out they’ve been deceived unwillingly, rather than calling them out for their own willful self-deception.

    Hmmm. Yes and no. Personally, I find dissecting Bill Maher’s antivaccine nuttery to be a useful exercise to remind skeptics and atheists that they can be just as irrational as believers in the supernatural and proponents of pseudoscience. That’s probably why some of them react so poorly to it.

  78. #79 AKK
    February 18, 2015

    Just about 35 years ago I remember my best friend telling me that she didn’t have to get whatever vaccinations were being done in school because they were Christian Scientist. I remember being jealous that she got to avoid getting shots. So, at least in Colorado, they had religious exemption 35 years ago.

  79. #80 Ol.d Rockin' Dave
    Between arak and a hard place
    February 18, 2015

    Narad: TB is most appropriate. So are STDs. There is a compelling interest in eradicating or reducing the incidence of communicable diseases that cause death or serious harm.
    Compelling someone to undergo TB therapy is for that exact purpose. So is contact tracing of STDs. So is quarantine in serious epidemics, as well as banning public gatherings in such cases. Requiring someone to take medication for TB differs from compelling a vaccination in what way?
    What is dystopian is a society in which people have the ability, worse, the explicit right, to spread disease to the unwilling, the unknowing, and the vulnerable. In such a society it is those people who will be forced into involuntary quarantine; this is the exact inversion of civilized values.more deeply, but it’s still there. There are people who would codify that exact thing into law.

  80. #81 Old Rockin' Dave
    February 18, 2015

    I forgot to edit out a fragment. Ignore this: “more deeply, but it’s still there.”

  81. #82 Peter
    Los Angeles
    February 18, 2015

    Bill Maher’s problem is that he doesn’t understand how vaccines and the immune system work. He thinks that vaccines prevent the immune system from being exposed or challenged by a bug.

  82. #83 Old Rockin' Dave
    In the State of Confusion...
    February 18, 2015

    My comment #80 refers to a prior comment of mine that seems to have vanished into the dark recesses of Teh Interweb tube system.
    Narad, TB is very relevant. It’s a deadly disease that can be passed to the unknowing, unwilling, and vulnerable. People with active communicable TB don’t get a choice about being prevented from spreading it. They either comply, or at some point they are confined and forced to accept treatment. It’s not for their own good. It’s for everyone else’s.
    What would be dystopian would be a society that permits, even encourages, people to avoid appropriate treatment or prevention of dangerous diseases aimed at stopping their spread. It’s not so long ago that TB was menace to the population at large. Multidrug resistance may bring that menace back to life.
    If lethal infections are not a compelling public interest, I’m not sure what is.
    Nowhere did I mention prisons (although I have some small experience of corrections medicine). No one was sent to prison for noncompliance since it’s not a crime. The procedure for noncompliant patients was/is to bring them to the hospital for confinement in a locked and guarded unit until treatment was completed. Thankfully, I never had to do that, and I only knew of one case where that was done.

  83. #84 Anna
    Stamford CT
    February 18, 2015

    I could not believe the ignorance spouted by Maher as I watched his show the other night. I was so upset by his disregard for the body of knowledge about the necessity and benefits of immunization I decided to reacquaint myself with this knowledge. At historyofvaccines.org from the University of Pennsylvania’s website. Edward Jenner started the research on what was called variolation in 1749 to try to find a way to stop smallpox scourges that wiped out populations in Europe and American. Louis Pasteur 1813 established the first vaccine agency in France addressing problems of rabies and anthrax in sheep. And on and on. Decade after decade of scientific research, proven with data that immunization so save lives and protects the PUBLIC HEALTH. Diseases such as Tuberculosis, Diptheria, Measles, Whooping Cough, Polio, Yellow Fever, down to the 17 strains of influenza in the 1930. And on ad ad nauseous. This body of work cannot be denied.
    One aspect Bill Maher failed to mention were the
    COMPLICATIONS that result from measles both for the patient and for example a pregnant woman who’s baby can be infected in utero.
    His thinking seems to have been infected, by the now discredited and fraudulent Andrew Wakefield from England.
    Maher is always going on about “stupid”, and last night he amply demonstrated his own.

  84. #85 Narad
    February 18, 2015

    So, at least in Colorado, they had religious exemption 35 years ago.

    Massachusetts had a religious exemption in 1967, which was overturned in 1971 for a predictable reason. I’m not sure when they got around to removing the offending language to reinstate the religious exemption.

    The legislative history for North Carolina’s religious exemption is summarized here, if anybody feels like tracking the wording over time.

  85. #86 Narad
    February 18, 2015

    ^ California’s personal-belief exemption was created in 1995, BTW.

  86. #87 Narad
    February 18, 2015

    Narad, TB is very relevant. It’s a deadly disease that can be passed to the unknowing, unwilling, and vulnerable. People with active communicable TB don’t get a choice about being prevented from spreading it. They either comply, or at some point they are confined and forced to accept treatment.

    I know this. It has nothing to do with forcibly vaccinating people who don’t have “active communicable” anything.

    Nowhere did I mention prisons (although I have some small experience of corrections medicine). No one was sent to prison for noncompliance since it’s not a crime.

    You’re missing the reason that I did: it’s hard to forcibly medicate prisoners, who have fewer rights than the general populace. The notion that “mandatory vaccination in anyone for whom it’s medically feasible enforced by law” would be constitutional is plainly absurd, whether or not it’s tarted up with a smallpox scenario and “the National Guard with fixed bayonets on street corners,” wrapped up with “[t]here was a time not long ago when such situations were not rarities in the US.”

  87. #88 DLC
    Somewhere east of wacky land.
    February 18, 2015

    Bill Maher needs to be slapped down as often as he voices those silly ideas.

  88. #89 Kurt Simerman
    Indiana
    February 18, 2015

    I cannot remember being this embarrassed by a fellow liberal.

  89. #90 Chris
    February 19, 2015

    Mr. Simerman, libertarian is often not liberal.

  90. #91 Old Rockin' Dave
    February 19, 2015

    ” The notion that “mandatory vaccination in anyone for whom it’s medically feasible enforced by law” would be constitutional is plainly absurd…”
    Could you cite a relevant Federal court decision?
    I’m not a legal scholar, but if you are you should have the name of at least one, maybe even a link or two, to hand.
    To belabor my point a little more, there are some things the courts have permitted or denied based on their readings of Constitutional law that are right only in a strictly legal sense and not in any way right in any other way.

  91. #92 Jimbobogie
    Toronto
    February 19, 2015

    It’s good to know that, if Bill or any of his family get seriously ill or are involved in a serious accident they won’t bother taking up valuable space in a hospital.

  92. #93 Bricktop
    February 19, 2015

    While mercury has received much of the attention, aluminum (found in most vaccines) is also a major culprit in this shocking saga. Added to most vaccine are a number of substances either used during manufacturing or designed as an immune booster (adjuvant). These substances include albumin, aluminum (either as hydrated aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate or alum, also known as hydrated aluminum potassium sulfate), various amino acids, DNA residues, egg protein, gelatin, surfactants, monosodium glutamate (MSG), MRC-5 cellular protein, Thimerosal, and various antibiotics. Not listed on official lists are bacterial and viral contaminants, which can include their particulate, fragmented matter [94,95].

    Aluminum compounds serve to dramatically boost and prolong the immune reaction to the vaccination. Some aluminum remains in the site of injection for years. Aluminum was first added to vaccines in 1926. Aluminum compounds as well as other vaccine components boost immunity-including some undesirable components of the immune system such as B-cells.

    Because vaccine adjuvants are designed to produce prolonged immune stimulation, they pose a particular hazard to the developing nervous system. Studies have shown that immune activation following vaccination can last up to two years. This means that the brain’s microglial cells are also primed for the same length of time or possibly longer.

    A new emerging syndrome called macrophagic myofasciitishas been attributed to the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines and is especially associated with the hepatitis B vaccine and the adsorbed tetanus vaccine [100]. Victims of this syndrome suffer severe muscle and joint pains and severe weakness. Subsequent studies conducted since the syndrome was first described in France, indicate widespread, severe brain injury as well- confirmed by MRI scanning [101,102]. This brain syndrome has been described in American children as well.

    It is known that aluminum can accumulate in the brain and that this accumulated aluminum is associated with neurodegeneration. The evidence for a link between aluminum neurotoxicity and Alzheimer’s disease continues to mount. Aluminum, like mercury, activates microglia leading to chronic brain inflammation-a major event in both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease [103-110].

    Flarend et al. conducted a study (using radiolabelled aluminum [26Al]) in which either of two approved forms of adjuvants (aluminum hydroxide or aluminum phosphate) used in vaccines were injected at a dose approved by the FDA (0.85 mg per dose) [111]. The results showed that aluminum was rapidly absorbed into the blood from both forms. However, aluminum phosphate was absorbed faster and produced tissue levels 2.9 times higher than aluminum hydroxide. Blood levels of aluminum remained elevated for 28 days with both adjuvants. Elevated aluminum levels were found in the kidney, spleen, liver, heart, lymph nodes, and brain.

    Thus, aluminum from vaccines is redistributed to numerous organs including the brain where it can accumulate. Each vaccine adds to this tissue level of aluminum. A total dose of 30.6 mg (and not the 0.85 mg considered safe by the FDA) is available when we calculate the total aluminum dose available from 36 vaccinations. Of course, not all of this aluminum ends up in the tissues. However, aluminum can accumulate in substantial amounts from ingesting foods containing aluminum and from drinking water. When a number of aluminum-containing vaccines are administered to a child during a single office visit, aluminum blood levels rise rapidly and can persist at a high elevation for over a month. During this period of high elevation, aluminum infiltrates the tissues, including the brain.

    It is also known that aluminum enhances the toxicity of mercury and that aluminum, even from sources other than vaccines, increases inflammation in the body [106]. The question no one seems to be asking is this: Does the aluminum act as a constant source of brain inflammation? Research, especially focusing on aluminum-triggered microglial activation, seems to indicate it does [112]. Dr. Anna Strunecka, professor of physiology, found aluminum readily binds with fluoride to form fluoroaluminum and that this compound can active G-protein receptors that control a number of neurotransmitters, including glutamate receptors [46]. Administering multiple aluminum-containing vaccines at once raises blood and tissue levels much higher than when these same vaccines are administered separately. Fluoride in drinking water, certain foods, and dental treatments can react with the brain aluminum, creating the neurotoxic fluoroaluminum combination. Studies have shown that fluoride also accumulates in the brain.

    [46] Strunecka A, Patocka J, Blaylock RL et al. Fluoride interactions: from molecules to disease. Current Signal Transduction Therapy 2007; 2(3):190-213

    [94] Cutrone R et al. Some oral polio vaccines were contaminated with infectious SV-40 after 1961. Can Res 2005;65:10273-9.

    [95] Harasawa R, Tomiyama T. Evidence of pestivirus RNA in human virus vaccines. J Clin Microbiol 1994;32:1604-5.

    [100] Gherardi RK et al. Macrophagic myofasciitis lesion assess long-term persistence of vaccine-derived aluminum hydroxide in muscle. Brain 2001;124:1821-31.

    [101] Authier F-J et al. Central nervous system disease in patients with macrophagic myofasciitis. Brain 2001;124:974-83.

    [102] Bonnefont-Rousselot D et al. Blood oxidative status in patients with macrophagic myofasciitis. Biomed Pharmacol 2004;58:516-9.

    [103] Good PF et al. Selective accumulation of aluminum and iron in the neurofibrilary tangles of Alzheimer’s disease: a laser microprobe (LAMMA) study. Ann Neurol 1992;31:286-92.

    [104] Esparza JL et al. Aluminum-induced pro-oxidant effect in rats: protective role of exogenous melatonin. J Pineal Res 2003;35:32-9.

    [105] Yokel RA et al. The distribution of aluminum into and out of the brain. J Inorg Biochem 1999;76:127-32.

    [106] Campbell A et al. Chronic exposure to aluminum in drinking water increases inflammatory parameters selectively in the brain. J Neuroscience Res 2004;75:565-72.

    [107] Bishop NJ et al. Aluminum neurotoxicity in preterm infants receiving intravenous feeding solutions. N Engl J Med 1997;336:1557-61.

    [108] Campbell A. Inflammation, neurodegenerative disease, and environmental exposures. Ann NY Acad Sci 2004;1035:117-32.

    [109] Shirabe T et al. Autopsy case of aluminum encephalopathy. Neuropathology 2002;22:206-10.

    [110] Armstrong RA et al. Hypothesis: Is Alzheimer’s disease a metal-induced immune disorder. Neurodegeneration 1995;4:107-11.

    [111] Flarend RE, Hem SL, White JL, Elmore D, Suckow MA, Rudy AC, Dandashli EA. In vivo absorption of aluminum-containing vaccine adjuvants using 26Al. Vaccine 1997 Aug.-Sept.;15(12-13):1314-8.

    [112] Platt B et al. Aluminum toxicity in the rat brain: histochemical and immunocytochemical evidence. Brain Res Bull 2001;55:257-67.

    http://www.heartmdinstitute.com/prevention/immunity/vaccinations/168-danger-excessive-vaccination-during-brain-development?showall=1&limitstart=

  93. #94 Chemist
    February 19, 2015

    Bricktop – citation needed for the stunningly ridiculous statements: “Some aluminum remains in the site of injection for years. ” and “A total dose of 30.6 mg (and not the 0.85 mg considered safe by the FDA) is available when we calculate the total aluminum dose available from 36 vaccinations.”

    I can only hope other readers of this blog (or Orac himself) with better insights and knowledge of the scientific literature related to vaccines can counter the wide ranging, spurious diatribe that the comment #93 represents.

    In the interim, I will endeavor to understand whether the quoted material supports the seemingly categorical perspective put forward.

  94. #95 herr doktor bimler
    February 19, 2015

    In the interim, I will endeavor to understand whether the quoted material supports the seemingly categorical perspective put forward.

    You could be wasting your time. Bricktop is a copy-pasting troll, plagiarising from Blaylock. Probably also sockpuppeting as Richids here.

  95. #96 sadmar
    How things change
    February 22, 2015

    @ sadasd #75

    People are cemented in their biases and seek Maher out for validation, or they ignore his screeds on vaccines so that they can reinforce their other prior biases about other things. Is anyone going to do anything different because of him?

    Wrong question. If you look at short term attitude and behavior change, all the research shows mass communication has almost no effect, and audiences respond with “selective perception” i.e. sociology-talk for “confirmation bias.” Yet advertisers, who have their sh!t researched up the wazoo, spend billions a year. Pepsi knows they lose sales slowly but eventually quite dramatically if they stopped advertising. But nobody at Pepsi thinks any ad they run is going to convince a Coke drinker to switch. It’s a long term process of drips from multiple faucets dropping over and over until you get a nice stream. Maher’s just one faucet, but he has millions of viewers. One toxic anti-vax drip from Bill multipiled through all those TV puts more poison into the public discourse than 50 Olmsted columns.

    But the big reason you expose Maher is along the lines Orac mentions in #78, but for a much wider audience than skeptics and atheists. Nobody sees it coming! AoA is obvious/i> propaganda. If you’re not in the fold, your defenses go up the minute you see that kind of stuff. Wrap it jokes or ‘liberal gadfly theater’ and no ones the wiser.

    I always SMH when decent folks tell me how much they like The Incredibles. It’s cute, charming and entertaining, very well made… and utterly fascistic to the core. I especially cringe when nerdy-sciency types praise it, as it’s so cruelly anti-intellectual.

    Gang: we’re Syndrome, daring to think we change the world for the better with intelligence and technology. But no, says the movie, that is left for the Supers, physically superior by birth, who have been dragged down into the gray masses. The scientist, recognizing his genetic inferiority turns to EVIL, and only by freeing the Supers from their mundane lives that the may hold their Naturally Superior position can humanity be saved!

    Did they sneak that one by you, or anyone you know? Did it change your mind about science? No, of course not. Now think of all the kids who saw it, and remember the story, and have never thought about it, and then a Super-Mom tells them about evil science nerds trying to destroy all the special children with a diabolical plot to cause Autism with thimerisol.

    It’s when you’re not thinking about it that it gets you. It happens later, not now. And one guy like Maher can’t do it alone. BUT, show folks how Maher works, they start to get wise, and hopefully get more properly skeptical about other “harmless entertainments”.

  96. #97 Brian S
    February 23, 2015

    Bricktop appears to be spamming that comment multiple places, including a gish-gallop attack (along with one other antivaxx commentor), spamming the comment thread for a negative review of an antivax book (“dissolving illusions”, ugh) on Amazon.

    Permalink

  97. #98 Helianthus
    February 23, 2015

    From Bricktop

    Aluminum compounds as well as other vaccine components boost immunity-including some undesirable components of the immune system such as B-cells.

    Something must be missing in the last sentence.
    Because, if not, now B-cells are an undesirable component of the immune system. That’s a bit revolutionary, as statements go.
    B-cells are in charge of producing antibodies specific to the invading pathogens.

  98. #99 Narad
    February 24, 2015

    ” The notion that “mandatory vaccination in anyone for whom it’s medically feasible enforced by law” would be constitutional is plainly absurd…”
    Could you cite a relevant Federal court decision?

    Sure. Hang on for a few sentences.

    I’m not a legal scholar, but if you are

    Nope, more a seat-of-the-pants type.

    you should have the name of at least one, maybe even a link or two, to hand.

    .

    Does this help?

    To belabor my point a little more, there are some things the courts have permitted or denied based on their readings of Constitutional law that are right only in a strictly legal sense and not in any way right in any other way.

    Fun fact: That “shouting fire in a theater” bit comes from “three generations of imbeciles are enough” Buck v. Bell.

    Your draconian fantasy ain’t happening.

  99. #100 Narad
    February 24, 2015

    Something must be missing in the last sentence.
    Because, if not, now B-cells are an undesirable component of the immune system.

    It’s the whole “Th2 skewing” script over again.

  100. […] (and disappointingly), similar anti-science rhetoric is coming from prominent left-wing figures like liberal talk show host Bill Maher. As a liberal […]

  101. #102 justthestats
    February 25, 2015

    H1N1 scam. It was total bollocks

    H1N1 was a scam? I want my sick leave back then. I imagine a whole lot of others do as well.

  102. #103 justthestats
    February 25, 2015

    @herr doktor

    You would think that a single false e-mail address would be enough. How are multiple made-up addresses supposed to provide greater anonymity?

    I suspect either he thinks that makes him harder to ban, or he just doesn’t bother to remember what he put in before.

  103. #104 herr doktor bimler
    February 25, 2015

    he just doesn’t bother to remember what he put in before

    I imagine that Pop Socket Phil has set his browser to delete all log-in details and browsing history at the end of each furtive session.

  104. #105 Emma Crew
    February 25, 2015

    @justthestats So do a lot of folks I know, and a friend wants her husband back, while another family I know of wants the mom and the baby from her then-6-month pregnancy back.

  105. #106 Narad
    March 29, 2015

    You would think that a single false e-mail address would be enough. How are multiple made-up addresses supposed to provide greater anonymity?

    It would defeat Gravatar tracking; any time one comments on a site that has it enabled, Gravatar gets an MD5 hash of the E-mail address (and of course, they’re displayed right in the open with the comment itself) so that it can follow the address around, which is the business model.

  106. […] dodge. Most recently, we’ve seen this tack taken by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (and, of course, Bill Maher) himself, the man whose unhinged conspiracy mongering screed was my “gateway” to […]

  107. #108 Amy
    earth
    May 11, 2015

    Why didn’t you just post the video of Bill Maher…..it would have been more interesting than listening to your very one sided view of things. You sound pretty proud of yourself in your one-sided, arrogant argument. What about the science in all the vaccine injuries? Does it really make much sense how many shots have been added to the schedule over the years? Do you think the pharmaceutical industry has your best interest at heart? You are a fool if you do.

  108. #109 Chris
    May 11, 2015

    Why don’t you read the article above? If you did you will notice it included these words:

    “Unfortunately, unlike last week, Maher’s crew didn’t post just the vaccine segment, but rather other segments of the show, although Maher did post a relatively low resolution version of the whole show on his Google+ feed. So I’ll just tell you the relevant time marks as I go through this, and you can go look at the video if you wish.”

    It was obviously so embarrassing they decided to not post online a video from a premium pay channel.

  109. #110 Lawrence
    May 12, 2015

    @Amy – maybe not the companies, but how about all of the employees, most of whom vaccinate their kids – and the FDA responsible for the rigorous clinical trials that can take a decade or more before a single vaccine makes it to market (and routinely rejects treatments that don’t past muster) or the WHO, CDC and all of the other regulatory agencies worldwide who have an interest and track vaccine safety?

    Are you really going to claim that vaccine safety isn’t taken seriously, when literally millions of people are involved in making sure that they are?

New comments have been disabled.