Battling antivaccinationists at FreedomFest

Like so many other skeptics, I just returned from TAM, which, despite all the conflict and drama surrounding it this year, actually turned out to be a highly enjoyable experience for myself and most people I talked to. As I've been doing the last few years, I joined up with Steve Novella and other proponents of science-based medicine to do a workshop about how difficult it is to find decent health information on the Internet, and how the "University of Google" all too frequently puts quackery on the same level as reliable sources of medical information because all that matters for most search engines when it comes to ranking search results is the number and kinds of sites that link to a given site.

One of the best things that happened at TAM was also one of the most unexpected. it could also have been the worst thing that happened there, but fortunately it turned into a major skeptical win. Yes, I know that's a bit of a spoiler, but the fun of this story is journey, so to speak, not the outcome. Wednesday evening, I happened to run into Evan Bernstein, who informed me of something that Steve Novella was going to do the next day, right after our workshop. Basically, I learned that Steve was going to debate an antivaccinationist. Evan didn't know any details other than that Michael Shermer had arranged it and that Steve had been tapped at the last minute. He didn't even know who the antivaccinationist was going to be or what the event was. Naturally, I was intrigued.

So, the next morning I asked Steve about it. I turns out that the event was FreedomFest, a right-wing/Libertarian confab that happened to be going on at the same time as TAM up the road a piece on the Strip at Bally's. Steve didn't know who the antivaccinationist was going to be either, which made me marvel at him. I don't know that I'd have the confidence agree to walk into the lion's den with less than a day's notice not even knowing who my opponent is. Steve invited me along. Clearly, this was was an opportunity that I couldn't resist. So we met up with Michael Shermer, and it was from him that I learned that Steve's opponent would be Dr. Julian Whitaker.

My eyes lit up.

To my surprise, neither Steve nor Michael knew who Dr. Whitaker was. Being more than happy to give them some background on Dr. Whitaker, I told them. Regular readers here might remember that I've mentioned Dr. Whitaker before. First off, he's a big fan of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, serving as the primary pro-Burzynski medical "expert" in that propagandistic paean to the brave maverick doctor, Burzynski: The Movie:

Dr. Whitaker is also big among the "alternative medicine" crowd for his claims to be able to cure diabetes "naturally," without food or drugs (of course!). In doing so, he claims that metformin doesn't work, antibiotics don't work (because, apparently, they don't succeed in saving every diabetic foot) and that, in general, conventional medicine doesn't work. If you really want to know all you need to know about him in a nutshell, Dr. Whitaker is apparently one of Suzanne Somers' doctors and was featured prominently in her cancer quackery book Knockout.

But how did this whole event come about? According to Shermer, apparently the doctor who was originally going to be Dr. Whitaker's opponent, a local pulmonologist, became ill at the last minute and couldn't appear. I rather suspect in retrospect that Dr. Whitaker probably now wishes that his original opponent hadn't been forced to bow out. (You'll see why soon enough.) The next question I wondered about was: Why was this pseudodebate going to be held at FreedomFest? That's easy. If you look at the FreedomFest program and scroll down to Dr. Whitaker, you'll note that he is the founder of the Freedom of Health Foundation, which is, as you probably guessed, an organization designed to promote "health freedom" (or, as I like to call it, freedom for quacks from pesky government interference directed at protecting the public).

So, the stage was set. Michael Shermer invited us to hop into his car, and we headed up to the strip to join the battle.

The debate

We arrived at Bally's about 45 minutes before the debate was scheduled, wending our way through the casino and hotel to easily find the convention area where FreedomFest was being held. Even though we hadn't registered and didn't have a badge, the organizer Mark Skousen was more than happy to let us wander around the exhibit area until it was time for the debate. It was an...interesting experience. Not unexpectedly, there were various publishers and authors pushing books that either claimed that President Obama is destroying America, blamed him for the economic meltdown, made apocalyptic predictions about our health care system in the wake of the passage of "Obamacare" (properly known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), and in general attacking anything "socialist," which apparently includes the entire Democratic Party and a lot of Republicans as well, all aided and abetted, of course, by the "liberal" media. Peppered in among the right wing literature, there were also various conservative and libertarian activist groups trying to get people to join up and stop Obama from destroying America. (I notice that Obama destroying America seemed to be a major theme running through a lot of the exhibits I saw at FreedomFest.) There were also a lot of investment companies that I had never heard of before, such as Sovereign Investment services (one wonders if it meant this "sovereign"), as well as that old popular standard, companies hawking gold coins or gold bullion as a hedge against the day the economy completely collapses.

Don't get me wrong. There were a lot of respectable exhibitors there, too, such as Reason Magazine and others, but there was a lot of dodgy stuff there as well. Naturally the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute, and Heritage Foundation were there to promote anthropogenic global warming denialism, among their other causes. It wasn't just politics and economics, either. There was also a bit of the old woo, as well. Prominent among the woo was a company selling hair loss remedies. (Given the setting, the jokes practically write themselves.) Then Michael Shermer showed us a booth selling pendants that supposedly provide "hidden meanings." We spoke with the proprietor a while. She was very friendly and cordial to us, but it rapidly became clear that this hiddenmeanings jewelry fused an unholy combination of The Secret, numerology, and Bible Code-like readings of—you guessed it—hidden meanings in the symbols and text that can be found in the symbol in the jewelry. Let's just put it this way. One of the slogans of the company is "It can mean Anything to Anybody at Anytime!"

I'm sure that's probably true.

As the time drew near, we ceased our odyssey through libertarian commerce and headed over to the Silver Room, where the debate was to be held. I immediately saw that something else was wrong. As we entered the room, we immediately encountered a woman passing out a newsletter, Dr. Whitaker's Health & Healing: Your Definitive Guide to Wellness Medicine. It was the September 2011 issue, and, emblazoned across the page was a large headline Vaccinations: The Destruction of Our Country. This does not bode well, I thought, as I thumbed through the newsletter, which packed pretty much every major antivaccine trope into a single article to produce antivaccine pseudoscience so dense that it collapsed into a black hole, beyond whose event horizon no science, reason, or critical thinking could escape. I could feel the pull on my neurons, which cried out not to be sucked down into the black hole. Fortunately, Orac is made of sterner stuff than that. I did, however, take a picture of the newsletter for your edification because I didn't want to give Dr. Whitaker my e-mail address to get his online newsletter:

As you might imagine, I immediately recognized Dr. Whitaker. He's not hard to miss, being a rather large, gregarious, and somewhat imposing man, who immediately came up to greet Michael Shermer, who introduced him to Steve and myself.

Then I saw the moderator.

My first thought was that she looked very, very familiar, but I just couldn't remember who she was. Then, hanging in the background given that I wasn't the featured speaker and was basically tagging along for support, I saw her introduce herself and Dr. Whitaker to Steve and Michael as Leslie Manookian. It was then that I knew that this was going to be a typical pseudodebate about pseudoscience. Before Steve went up on stage, I warned him that I thought Dr. Whitaker was probably pretty slick and might well be able to do the Gish gallop with aplomb. I also warned him that the moderator was a die-hard antivaccine propagandist, having made—you guessed it!—a propaganda movie that I reviewed last year, The Greater Good. I later learned that there were going to be two screenings of the movie at FreedomFest, one at 8 PM that night and one the next afternoon. Lovely, I thought. The health freedom wing of the Libertarian movement is flaunting its embrace of antivaccinationism at one of its big conferences. Marvelous.

And so the debate began. Manookian started out by saying she never questioned vaccines until "she met a guy." Apparently, this guy believed that his child had been rendered autistic by vaccinations, having regressed within a fairly recent time frame after a round of vaccines. She then "did research" and became increasingly appalled by what she found, which, from what I could tell, were mostly anecdotes and the usual pseudoscientific arguments used by antivaccinationists. As a result, Manookian became an antivaccinationist—sorry, a vaccine "skeptic"—so much so that she went on to make an antivaccine propaganda movie, to which I subjected myself in order to review.

She then went on to start the debate out by asking Drs. Whitaker and Novella why there is a "debate" about vaccines. At this point, my teeth immediately began to grind, to the point where I feared for my molar enamel. This is a typical framing of what I (and many others) like to call a "manufactroversy." Basically, the word manufactroversy is short for "manufactured controversy" and is basically a pseudocontroversy that is created to oppose conclusions overwhelmingly supported by the evidence and/or science. Examples abound, of course: Anthropogenic global warming, vaccines, much of alternative medicine, "9/11 Truthers," and "birthers." The bottom line, is that there is no scientific controversy over whether vaccines cause autism. The question has been asked multiple times and answered multiple times: No. Of course, being a scientist, I have to qualify that just a little bit by saying that "no" means that we can't detect an effect above the noise level of the epidemiological studies that have been done. In other words, even if there is an effect, it is so small that it can't be detected by current epidemiological methods, which can detect pretty darned small effects. For all intents and purposes, as far as science can tell, vaccines do not cause autism. Neither does the mercury in the thimerosal preservative that until 2001 was used in many childhood vaccines. They just don't; scientists have moved on, regardless of what antivaccinationists claim.

Dr. Whitaker started out with what was essentially the same old tropes, including confusing correlation with causation, harping about how autism prevalence has skyrocketed since the 1980s and 1990s. He made the claim that almost no child was developmentally disabled 30 years ago but now one in 88 children are diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder. During this segment, he also went on about how chronic diseases are skyrocketing along with autism and that it must be the evil vaccines. OK, I added the "evil" part, but it was quite clear that Dr. Whitaker thinks that they are evil. He made that very clear. So did Manookian, for that matter.

This was just the warmup. Steve, as you might imagine, easily demolished these arguments, pointing out that correlation does not equal causation. He also discussed how there have been several very large studies that controlled for relevant variables have failed to find even (as I like to put it) even a whiff of a hint of a correlation between vaccination and either autism prevalence or onset. He discussed how we as humans are hard-wired to infer causation from observed correlation, which makes it very understandable that people mistakenly conclude that vaccines cause autism? Why? Because, as we've discussed time and time again here, autism is often diagnosed in the age range when children receive a lot of vaccines, which means that by random chance alone we will often see diagnoses made in close temporal proximity to a round of vaccinations. Moreover, it was easy for Steve to point out that diagnostic criteria were broadened in the early 1990s, that schools started screening for autism, and that schools also got funding from the government to help autistic students. Again, Dr. Whitaker's arguments were softball pitches, easily hit out of the ballpark as Prince Fielder hit balls out of the ballpark three days earlier in the pre-Allstar Game Home Run Derby. In essence, Dr. Whitaker made the same sort of ignorant arguments that Dr. Jay Gordon regularly makes, as exemplified in the comments after this excellent post by Emily Willingham why the "autism epidemic" is almost certainly no epidemic at all.

There is one point that I would have added that Steve didn't. It's a general rule in medicine that the more you look for something, as in launching mass screening programs, the more you will find it. Always. Consider ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is a premalignant precursor of breast cancer, a certain percentage of which (not fully known) will progress to become breast cancer. Back in the early 1900s, DCIS was rare because by the time it grew large enough to be a palpable mass, it almost always had become invasive cancer. Now, thirty years after mass mammographic screening programs became prevalent, DCIS is a common diagnosis. Indeed, approximately 40% of breast cancer diagnoses are in fact DCIS, and a recent study found that DCIS incidence rose from 1.87 per 100,000 in the mid-1970s to 32.5 in 2004. That’s a more than 16-fold increase over 30 years, and it’s pretty much all due to the introduction of mammographic screening. This sort of thing should not be surprising to doctors, but apparently sometimes it is.

Dr. Whitaker emulates Penn Jillette, but not in a good way

It was at this point that Dr. Whitaker lived up to the name of Penn Jillette's Friday night party at TAM: He brought the stupid. Oh, man, did he bring the stupid! First, he stated unequivocally that he thought that vaccines were the primary cause of autism, scoffing at the idea that it was primarily genetic in nature or that vaccines were not causing it. As bad as that was, worse was to come, and it did when Dr. Whitaker showed this graph:

I reproduced this graph from his newsletter because I instantly saw that it was the same graph:

I want you to sit back for a minute and drink in the utter silliness of this graph, the utter lack of science, the utter nonsense. It's been a long time since I've seen its like. I'm sure many of you can figure out what's wrong with it on your own, but my duty as blogger demands that I explain, and I'll give it exactly the time it deserves. Take a look. Notice how Dr. Whitaker extrapolates from a small dataset to produce curves that go right up to 100/100, or 100%. Steve's jaw (and mine and, I daresay, Michael Shermer's jaws) dropped in astonishment. That's right. Dr. Whitaker produced a graph that predicted that by the year 2032 all boys will be diagnosed with an ASD and that by 2041 all girls will also have autism. I kid you not. Lest you think that this wasn't Dr. Whitaker's intention, that he didn't know the implications of his extrapolation, I will quote from the relevant section of Dr. Whitaker's newsletter discussing the graph:

Let's do some simple math based on these solid statistics. Beginning in 1990, when the mass vaccination program took off, the incidence of autism and autism spectrum disorder in children exploded. The projections indicate that by the year 2031, virtually all male children will be diagnosed with autism or autism spectrum disorder, followed by all girls in 2041. Autistic kids will surely outnumber normal kids in the relatively near future. How will our society function if all kids age 10 and younger are so disables. This is the most frightening projection I can imagine, and it is simple math!

What is going on? The one obvious and absolute constant for these skyrocketing numbers of autistic and learning disabled children is vaccinations. Over the last 25 years, the number of vaccinations forced on our children has virtually exploded. Why? Are measles, mumps, chicken pox, and flu really that dangerous? In my opinion, irrevocable harm caused by vaccinations is infinitely worse than the diseases we vaccinated against.

Later, Dr. Whitaker writes:

There are only two things that can stop this madness. First, parents must have the right to decide what is injected into their children. Second, laibility must be borne by the pharmaceutical companies.

If these two things happen, we might recover from this nightmare. If they don't, armed guards will be escorting our children to vaccination centers, and, within a few decades, our children—and our country—will be destroyed. Many of you will live to see this devastation. But most of your children and grandchildren will be so damaged by vaccinations that they will not notice it. They will be lost to autism. That, my friends, is simple math.

So, is Obama destroying America, or are vaccines destroying America? I get so confused.

Apparently Dr. Whitaker doesn't recognize the difference between "simple" and "simple-minded." I do rather admire the apocalyptic imagery for its sheer loony excess, combining antivaccine misinformation and anti-government conspiracy theories into a highly toxic brew. Fortunately, Dr. Whitaker did manage to restrain himself from using imagery quite as overblown during the debate, although it probably would have been more entertaining if he had not.

To cap it off the stupid, Dr. Whitaker scaled the Y-axis to go up to 120. This was so bad that I almost felt sorry for Dr. Whitaker. When Steve explained why these graphs were so silly, the audience "got it" instantly, and it was at that point that Dr. Whitaker began to lose the audience, which became fidgety when he spoke. Some of the audience even started muttering about how bad he was, and I'm not referring to Michael Shermer and myself. We were doing more than muttering about how pathetic Dr. Whitaker's performance was. We were outright saying it to each other in those low voices people use when they have to say something but want to avoid disturbing others.

It was also at this point that I realized that I could actually do what Steve does. On balance, I knew how to answer all of Dr. Whitaker's arguments as well as he did. In some cases, Steve did better than I probably could have. In other cases, I think I could have demolished Dr. Whitaker's arguments even better than Steve did. What I lack is Steve's preternatural ability to stay calm and not openly reveal his contempt for such a silly argument. Maybe I need to learn that. (Or not. I am, after all, Orac.) In the meantime, I was content to serve as Steve's bulldog, which is why I went up to the table to see Dr. Whitaker after the talk and ask some pointed questions about how he generated the graph.

We didn't pull any punches, either. We asked pointedly where he got the data, how he generated the data, what mathematical model he used to produce the graph, how he fitted the curve, how he could justify extrapolating so far from such a limited data set, how he decided what curve to fit, and how he can justify a curve that goes to 100% when there is virtually no condition that 100% of the population will suffer from except for (eventually) death. His answers were—shall we say?—not exactly convincing, and we kept trying to get a straight answer out of him. With only one exception, we failed. That exception was that Whitaker said that the data were from the CDC (fair enough, although it would be interesting to know the reference). How his group had created the graph, we never really found out. All he kept saying was that he just projected from the existing data. He had no clue, however, what mathematical model was used, what computer software was used, or what assumptions were made. He took my email address and promised to get send me the information. I have yet to receive it, despite sending Dr. Whitaker a friendly reminder on Twitter (@WhitakerMD; so feel free to "remind" him). To be fair, I will post about this again if he ever comes through. In the meantime, I really need to train myself to be more like Steve in these situations.

And all the rest

But enough of my shortcomings. How did the rest of the debate go? Well, it actually went pretty much like the first part of the debate. Steve basically mopped the floor with Dr. Whitaker. There was nothing left, not even a stain on the chair—metaphorically speaking, of course. It was actually rather painful to watch, in the way that it's painful to watch one baseball team get pummeled by 12 runs, even when it's a baseball team I really detest, like the New York Yankees. However, there was no "mercy rule" in debate. Basically, Dr. Whitaker trotted out a number of antivaccine "greatest hits," and Steve pummeled him for it. For instance, Dr. Whitaker showed this graph:

Yes, this graph is yet another example of one of the oldest and most deceptive antivaccine tropes, one that I like to call the "vaccines didn't save us" gambit. Basically, this intellectually dishonest—downright deceptive, actually—tactic involves pointing out that mortality was falling from a given infectious disease before a vaccine for it was introduced. In this case, it was measles and a few other diseases. The implication that antivaccinationists want people to draw is that hygiene, sanitation, and the like were the "real" causes of the decrease. The long version of the rebuttal this gambit is here. The short version is that disease incidence does not equal mortality and that measles incidence plummeted after the introduction of the vaccine. The reason mortality was falling before the vaccine was for other reasons. Medical care was getting better, and a smaller percentage of people who got the disease died from it. In fact, Dr. Whitaker explicitly stated the false premise behind this gambit, saying at one point that incidence equals mortality. Quite appropriately, Steve called him out on it, and did it in a way that the audience understood it.

Other issues that came up included some dubious antivaccine studies that we've covered at various times before, including some dubious antivaccine studies that we've covered at various times before. Dr. Whitaker also called for a "vaxed vs. unvaxed" study, but completely misunderstood the issues involved. He apparently thinks that such a study would could consist of just looking at vaccinated versus unvaccinated children without controls for various confounding factors. However, at times he seemed to be calling for a randomized "vaxed vs. untaxed" study, because at one point he complained about studies not having placebo controls. Steve pointed out that such a study would be unethical. Dr. Whitaker also complained about randomized studies of new vaccines because the placebo control wasn't just saline but had all the other ingredients besides the antigens, including adjuvants, seemingly not realizing that, scientifically speaking, that is an even more appropriate control than saline.

Finally, the bulk of the last one third of the debate was more about politics than about science. Dr. Whitaker brought up a Supreme Court decision last year related to vaccines, specifically Bruesewitz v. Wyeth. He didn't call it by that name, however; but it was obvious that that was what he was talking about. Not surprisingly, he also misrepresented the decision as stating that parents cannot sue vaccine manufacturers for vaccine injury. This is, of course, nonsense. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, established a no-fault compensation system, paid for by tax dollars, for children injured by vaccines. It created a new special court, the Vaccine Court, through which claims for compensation have to go through first.

This law was necessary because a flood of lawsuits was threatening the very foundation of the vaccine program, and Congress feared that there would be no vaccine manufacturers left in the United States because liability concerns would drive them out. Reasons for the law aside, not only do parents who think their children have been injured by a vaccine have recourse to the Vaccine Court, where, win or lose, their attorneys’ fees are paid by the government, parents who do not prevail in Vaccine Court can then sue in regular courts. The law simply says that they have to go through this special court first. The Vaccine Court also happens to have easier rules of evidence (i.e., not applying Daubert tests to expert witness testimony) and in essence bends over backward to try to compensate children injured by vaccines. Not only that, but the Vaccine Court reimburses claimants for reasonable attorney and court costs and, as a result, has become a bit of a gravy train for a certain group of lawyers who represent parents in front of the court. In any case, although there are a bunch of nuances about product liability and other issues, when you boil it down to its essence, all Bruesewitz v. Wyeth says is that the law as written currently prevents parents who do not prevail in Vaccine Court from suing in state court. They have to go to federal courts.What Dr. Whitaker harped on is what antivaccinationists always harp on about this decision is a line from the dissent by Justice Sotomayor about vaccines being "unavoidably unsafe."

That was the CliffsNotes version of the ruling. You can find out more here and here.

The final question was a simple one: Should there be mandatory vaccination? Obviously Dr. Whitaker railed on about "health freedom" and how parents should have the right to control the health care of their children. I also rather suspect that this was the main reason most people attended, because the audience definitely got antsy when the discussion veered away from this topic after the question was mentioned. Steve wisely took the tack that this is a political question, not a scientific question. He then reiterated that the science is clear: School vaccine mandates lead to higher vaccination rates, which lead to lower rates of vaccine-preventable illnesses. It is thus up to us and the political process what we wish to do with these scientific findings. And that's what I usually say, too. Science informs policy, but it is the political process that determines policy. School vaccine mandates work, and at the very least it should be as hard to get exemptions, be they religious or philosophical, to such mandates as it is to follow the vaccine schedule. But that's just my view.

When all is said and done, I must admit that I was actually rather shocked at the outcome of this debate. I say that not because I don't have total faith in Steve's abilities and didn't expect him to acquit himself well, but rather for the same reason that I've always thought it was a bad idea to debate pseudoscientists. I realize that not everyone agrees with me about this, and, because Steve and I work together, I thought it was my duty to support him in any way I could. Be that as it may, I expected Dr. Whitaker to be much slicker and harder to handle than he in fact turned out to be. Quite frankly, he was painfully bad, and I felt really stupid for having overestimated his abilities so massively. On the other hand, it's always better to overestimate your opponent than to underestimate him. In any case, Dr. Whitaker made easily rebutted arguments, couldn't even Gish Gallop very well at all, was ignorant of the science, even bad studies that purport to show a link between vaccines and autism, and appeared completely flummoxed by obvious points that any halfway decent debater would expect his opponent to make. In short, he looked every bit as though he had expected a cakewalk and as though he is used to adoration, not challenge.

Steve gave him that, and more. From the reaction of the audience, I'm also pretty sure that he got through to some fence sitters.

Unfortunately, it's not a surprise that this sort of nonsense showed up at FreedomFest. Antivaccine quackery is not just for crunchy well-off liberals living in enclaves on the coasts. It's quite popular among the "health freedom" movement, and the health freedom movement is very much sympathetic to the Tea Party movement, as I've pointed out recently mentioning a post by Kent Heckenlively at the antivaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism in which he bragged about connections between the Canary Party (which is rabidly antivaccine) and the Tea Party in California. One also notes that in the comments after that post, Jake Crosby extensively parroted Tea Party talking points.

I will finish by pointing out that it's one thing for an antivaccine "party" like the Canary Party to link up with a local Tea Party organization. It's quite another thing when a national meeting in which many of the luminaries of conservatism, libertarianism, and the Tea Party movement go to pow-wow together starts giving a platform to antivaccinationists. It is disturbing in the extreme that what has become a major conservative meeting every year would allow such rank antivaccine quackery a prominent place in its program, with a "debate" and two screenings of a movie that is nothing more than antivaccine propaganda disguised as a "tell both sides"-style "balanced" documentary. It's not the first time this has happened, either. I found last year's list of speakers, and Dr. Whitaker was there, giving a talk entitled Vaccines: Good or Bad?, and in 2010 he presented a talk entitled "Treatment for Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Cancer; the good, the bad, and the stupid." This seems to be a relatively recent development, too. I checked the 2008 and 2009 speaker lists, and there was no Dr. Whitaker, nor were there any talks on vaccines. Given this recently added "feature" of FreedomFest, all I can say to Mr. Skousen is: For shame!


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Dr. Whitaker is a Scientology doctor. He claims he's not a member himself, which I believe, but he is one of the most prominent people behind the Scientology anti-psychiatry group CCHR (Citizens Commission on Human Rights) and their "Industry of Death" anti-psychiatry museum in LA. They claim, among other things, that psychiatrists were really responsible for the Holocaust, putting Scientology up there with the Holocaust deniers.

Scientology is full of medical quackery and Whitaker promotes a lot of their nonsense. For instance, they believe in massive doses of niacin and other vitamins instead of medical intervention and to "detox". Whitaker endorses these ideas in the mainstream world. He is also good friends with Rashid Buttar.

Several DAN! doctors are also scientologists, as they share common quackery.

For more on the connection between Scientology, autism and Whitaker, I recommend this article. It includes a mention of Dan Olmsted who used to work for a Moonie newspaper.…

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 15 Jul 2012 #permalink

Oh, I wish I could have been there!

I am also very curious about that graph. Typically on a graph you put larger graphics (points) to designate those locations that you have actual data. The line would only be the estimated fit for the graph. This is why the graphs actually have points that are not on the line, and you hear the terms "R-squared" and "nonlinear regression."

In other words: extrapolate past the available data with caution. Especially if you think going to 120 out of 100 is actually feasible. I actually like imaginary numbers, but that is ridiculous!

I want to know where those big fat points come from. Especially the ones that actually show a change of exponential slope above 90%. Why does it decelerate then?

It is really an example of making stuff up that has no relation to reality.

It's a Spinal Tap graph. "It goes to 11!"

(I couldn't put the umlaut over the a in Spinal.)

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 15 Jul 2012 #permalink

Is there footage!! Seems to have been an awesome encounter. Wonder what Whittaker and Manookian thought of the whole fiasco.

Maybe we should send a big thank you to the pulmonologist who dropped out (Why you would call a pulmonologist to debate vaccines beats me- would have thought someone trained in infectious diseases would have been better.

On the mortality chart wish they showed things like smallpox, polio etc. Vaccination is seriously non trivial especially in third world countries where, unfortunately, the anti vaccine cranks are creating doubts and confusion.

By Burrahobbit (not verified) on 15 Jul 2012 #permalink

Wow. That graph is really impressive in awe-inspiring way. The sheer stupidity is hard to top. The only way to make it more ridiculous would be if the curve looped back along time axis.

Especially the ones that actually show a change of exponential slope above 90%. Why does it decelerate then?

It doesn't. The points are in one year increments and the apparent slow-down is an artifact - second to last increase is more than 10 percent point and the last increase has to stop on the 100% mark - so for the last year there is just last few percent points to go.

Actually, the problem is that there should be a slowdown close to 100%. If the curve was plotted based on the data resulting from an actual simulation you would expect an S-curve - with plateau closing to 100% but never reaching it. Somewhat like vertically and horizontally flipped first half of the curve, rather than perfect geometric parabolic shape we have here. Hence, my educated guess is that this data was pulled out of somebody's nether regions - somebody took the rate of increase of autism incidence and geometrically extrapolated it resulting in this ridiculous curve.

Oh, one more thing - I just realised that all three curves were plotted independently from each other. Take a look at the year 2028. Autism incidence among boys reach 50%. So you would expect that general population incidence would be more than 25%, right? Nope, here we barely got to 20%. Apparently, within decade there is going to be twice as many girls as boys.

One of the slogans of the company is “It can mean Anything to Anybody at Anytime!”

Cripes, I could have shown up with a pallet of copies of the Bollingen I Ching and cut this fellow off at the knees.

Wait, but if autistics become 100% of new births, I won't be disabled anymore! Awesome!

Cecil Fielder

Dude. [/pedantry[

It's even stupider than that--according to the graph, autism diagnoses are due to reach 100% in the general population 3 years or so before they reach 100% in girls. Apparently by that time the epidemic will have reached such heights that MORE than 100% of boys will be autistic.

If Steve managed to explain what was wrong with that diagram without using the word "stupid", he's a better man than I.

Science marches on & anti-vaccinationists are still stuck in the late 1990's. Jeez, don't these guys get new talking points at all?

I would have loved to have seen that - and that type of audience, probably young, Ron Paul supporters (amongst the group) aren't stupid - they are pretty well educated and have a good grasp of the Science involved. The Canary Party might think they are allies, but if they ever got down to the "crazy" I have a good feeling which side those guys will come down on (the RP guys, I mean).

@MFII - Point of pedantry - in Spinal Tap, the umlaut is over the "n". :-)

By Rich Scopie (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

The saddest thing: you probably didn't convince a single anti-vaxxer, not even the moderator. Their minds are too closed.

By lordshipmayhem (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

"First, parents must have the right to decide what is injected into their children. Second, laibility must be borne by the pharmaceutical companies."

What is unscientific about this orac?

"However, at times he seemed to be calling for a randomized “vaxed vs. untaxed” study, because at one point he complained about studies not having placebo controls. Steve pointed out that such a study would be unethical."

Why is this unethical orac, there are plenty of people who don't vaccinate, is it unethical to prove that vaccines don't work?

"This law was necessary because a flood of lawsuits was threatening the very foundation of the vaccine program, and Congress feared that there would be no vaccine manufacturers left in the United States because liability concerns would drive them out."

So does it no interest you that the flood of lawsuits may be because there is a problem with vaccination per se?

"On the mortality chart wish they showed things like smallpox, polio etc. Vaccination is seriously non trivial especially in third world countries where, unfortunately, the anti vaccine cranks are creating doubts and confusion."

Burrahobbit maybe you should check out the happyness status of all those Indians who now have Bill Gates' new version of polio, twice as deadly since the vaccine campaign and a brand new name to boot.

Dr Whitaker brought the stupid, and much hilarity ensued.
The first thing I noticed about his chart was that it goes to 120 of 100 per 100. Which 3rd graders does Whitaker have on staff. Is one of them named Cartman, by any chance?

"He made the claim that almost no child was developmentally disabled 30 years ago"

Really? That's within memory of a lot of people. Me, for instance. I don't remember there being almost no developmentally disabled people in 1982.

My grandmother had two developmentally disabled cousins born in the 1880s. From her description, they may well have been autistic. My father had a developmentally disabled cousin born in the 40s.

I donate to a charity for developmentally disabled people in group homes, many of whom are in their fifties.

Did he really expect people to believe that claim?

What was that Mark Twain quote about extrapolation of data? How if we extrapolate the data from the rate of growth of the Mississippi Delta, in a few hundred years, the delta will be fully within the state of Nebraska?

By Katherine Lorraine (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

I love the "improved sanitation" argument against the success of vaccines. It works so well for explaining why Somali cattle no longer suffer from rinderpest.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Katherine Lorraine, he also said that if you extrapolated into the past, that it was once over a million miles long.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

@Old Rockin' Dave:

I was looking for the quote, but putting '"Mark Twain" + "Mississippi River" quote' in Google... yea... that don't work very well.

Also, are you indeed old and rockin'? Cause that's cool.

By Katherine Lorraine (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Assuming there aren't more than one Shawn Siegel prominently "researching" vaccines, the graph was made by this guy
His qualifications seem to be 2 years of google-U, so don't be surprised by the quality of his junior thesis.

@ Katherine:

Adding "extrapolation" to the search brings it up readily.

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.


If I had been Dr N, I would have first noted to the audience that the moderator was indeed not at all moderate. If you have a debate, the moderator should not be party to one side and ESPECIALLY should not be the creator of a biased film that trumpets that one side's beliefs.

But then again, what do you expect from these people- sense and fairness? It's not gonna happen: their entire position is scaffolded upon half-truths, semantic tricks and crappy graphs that dynamically illustrate meaningless concepts pictorially.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:
our very own Lawrence ( a/k/a Brian) went forth the battle other anti-vaccinationists- @AoA- to spectacular results: while Jake's post complains about LBRB's address, Lawrence gets to the heart of that issue.And beyond, i.e. AJW. Interestingly, they allowed his comments over several days.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Yeah among other things I don't buy, "there were almost no developmentally disabled children 30 years ago" is pretty high on the list. Anecdotally, in my cohort at my school district of ~50 kids, there was 1 who was classified then as "retarded" and I don't know what he specifically would be classified with now.

I guess by antivaccine standards, it used to be 2% Progress!

Chris @0357: It looks to me like somebody has fit an exponential to each of those curves separately, and belatedly noticed that the percentage of the population with some condition cannot exceed 100%. There is a well-known quote to the effect that anybody who thinks that exponential growth can continue indefinitely in a finite world is either an idiot or an economist. Dr. Whittaker, AFAIK, does not claim to be an economist.

As for why the axis goes to 120: That looks like a standard Stupid Excel Trick. Excel defaults to giving axes a larger range than needed to plot the data contained in the plot. It also explains why the projected points look exactly like the data: whoever produced the graph plotted the fit values as a function of time.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

I first saw this graph just before I was going to bed at a much too late hour. It just smacked of being made up by someone who is incompetent.

I loved this so much! Kudos to Dr. N, and thanks for writing this up Orac. I'm sure Whittaker was dismayed when he realized that this "last minute substitution" was an incredibly sharp and knowledgeable speaker/debater. Wish I could have been there.

Here's the full schedule from the Freedom Fest:…

"Dr. Whitaker is also big among the “alternative medicine” crowd for his claims to be able to cure diabetes “naturally,” without food or drugs (of course!). In doing so, he claims that metformin doesn’t work, antibiotics don’t work (because, apparently, they don’t succeed in saving every diabetic foot) and that, in general, conventional medicine doesn’t work."

Too bad you missed Dr. Whitaker's Saturday, July 14th Schedule to catch his lecture "Heart Disease and Diabetes: More Effective, Less Expensive, Safer Therapies".

The Pulmonologist that Dr. Novella replaced is Dr. Jonathan Baktari, who runs "The Vaccine Center" in Las Vegas, which looks to be a "Travel Medicine Clinic" for vaccinations necessary for foreign travel, and for dispensing vaccines for college entry. It doesn't seem that he takes insurance for his college entry students, and there is no insurance coverage for vaccines required for travel. He's hardly an "expert" on vaccines...but he can read the Recommended Childhood and Adult Vaccine Schedules and the CDC Yellow Book:

"“He made the claim that almost no child was developmentally disabled 30 years ago”

Really. When my son was born 36 years ago, there were a slew of developmentally disabled kids. I was able to get a place him for him in an infant stimulation program (he was 14 months old), at a school for the severely physically handicapped...which he was. I opted for that program rather than other programs because he needed a lot of the stimulation offered at that program.

Poor baby flunked out of that program, as he was obviously profoundly mentally retarded as well. I visited a number of classrooms in a number of "special" day schools and was able to secure a pre-school program for him at the local AHRC chapter.

Too bad Whitaker wasn't with me when I visited the local warehouse/developmental center when I saw the locked wards where 3,000 children and adults resided. I then wrote an article for the regional newspaper about the deplorable conditions that existed there, when the State tried to avoid the Federal-court order to place these severely and profoundly disabled people in community based group homes, by tearing down the large institutions and building mini institutions on State land. (I got paid $ 100 for the article, which I promptly donated to the family of a young infant born with biliary atresia)

Another reason why the chart should not extrapolate to 100%. Don't these kooks ever pay attention to their own propaganda? I thought the antivaxers were winning! By 2030 no-one will be vaccinated and no-one will have autism!

Regarding the prevalence of autism 20-30 years ago:
we know that the current prevalence in adults of ASD is 1%, so the prevalence in kids a generation ago must have been that or even higher (some autistics may just have had developmental delay. We just were not identifying them properly.

Woo-meisters like debates:
the set-up enables them to manipulate data and people. Grand Poobah of Woo Null tells his enraptured audience that he won EVERY single debate he ever participated in and that now the Orthodoxy, Powers-Wot-B- whatever they call SBM these days, are frightened to debate him. Just like the media are frightened to explore the REAL issues that his 'network' steeps itself in ( actually his lead-in/logo says so).

Where would woo be without cheating? Manipulating data and conducting amateurish research are the pillars of woo, thus they are necessary in a debate and quoted ad infinitum. The Gish Gallop, flooding the debates with tons of material- related or not- to distract them, is a popular tactic; extraneous details are tossed into the mix and emotionally loaded speech is par for the course- histrionics keep the audience hyped up if they are unprepared. Linguistic tricks and *leading* language are common. Because woo has gone political ( I venture that Dr N's debate, sponsored by a rightist political movement, ran deep with this undercurrent), irrelevant details about "freedom" and "liberty" might pop up as well. They try to make the audience angered that they are being treated unfairly by 'the other guys' and thus, side with their woo-ful protectors.
Having a moderator that is either in-experienced or sides with you doesn't hurt.

Hilariously, commenters at RI who counter SBM use similar techniques to "bring the stupid"... I guess that they are capable of learning and emulating role models: unfortunately they've chosen the WRONG set.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Yeah, why should we let the Government make us get our kids vaccinated? They're our kids, after all.
And while we're at it, why should we let the Government tell us what side of the road to drive on? It's my car. My taxes paid for both sides of the road, didn't they? And if I get in an accident, it's my body, isn't it? And my kids too!

By GroovyKinda (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

“First, parents must have the right to decide what is injected into their children. Second, laibility must be borne by the pharmaceutical companies.”

What is unscientific about this orac?

He didn't say it was unscientific because it isn't a matter of science; he said it was political and partially, factually incorrect. He explains this quite clearly in his post. Please read before commenting.

“However, at times he seemed to be calling for a randomized “vaxed vs. untaxed” study, because at one point he complained about studies not having placebo controls. Steve pointed out that such a study would be unethical.”

Why is this unethical orac, there are plenty of people who don’t vaccinate, is it unethical to prove that vaccines don’t work?

The ethics of a randomised vaccinated/unvaccinated study is explained quite well here:… and explained numerous times here. You would also need to require citations for your claim that vaccines don't work as there are hundreds, if not thousands of studies and analyses that demonstrate quite definitively that vaccines do work.

“This law was necessary because a flood of lawsuits was threatening the very foundation of the vaccine program, and Congress feared that there would be no vaccine manufacturers left in the United States because liability concerns would drive them out.”

So does it no interest you that the flood of lawsuits may be because there is a problem with vaccination per se?

I guess your Google U edumacation is failing you miserably. The problem isn't with the vaccines; it's with the perception of them by parents and hysteria drummed up by lying, ignoramuses like Barbara Loe Fisher and Andrew Wakefield.

“On the mortality chart wish they showed things like smallpox, polio etc. Vaccination is seriously non trivial especially in third world countries where, unfortunately, the anti vaccine cranks are creating doubts and confusion.”

Burrahobbit maybe you should check out the happyness status of all those Indians who now have Bill Gates’ new version of polio, twice as deadly since the vaccine campaign and a brand new name to boot.

Again, please provide evidence of your drivelling claims.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink


Shawn Siegel is likely the person who made this comment:: "Any vaccine is over vaccination" (…)

Puts things in perspective.

The data in those graphs are not based on CDC data. The CDC does not collect incidence data on autism (but likely the author doesn't understand the difference between incidence and prevalence anyway). The CDC also does not issue data annually. Instead data reports are every two years.

My guess looking at the graphs is that they used an exponential and just capped it off at 1. The approach to one is somewhat disjointed. A sigma function would have been more smooth.

““He made the claim that almost no child was developmentally disabled 30 years ago”

What a load of crap. I guess that's why they closed down all those institutions, no one to fill them? Begs the question of why they built them in the first place.

there are plenty of people who don’t vaccinate

Unfortunately for your purposes, "plenty" is not the same as "enough."

My mother-in-law worked at a state school for developmentally disabled children, although that's not the language that was used at the time. (It's one of the few that's actually still open today, though she doesn't work there anymore, having moved when my father-in-law was relocated by the military.) The place opened in 1902, specifically to treat the developmentally disabled, which is quite clear when you read their charter.

That's the South Dakota Developmental Center. I happened to see it a couple of day ago, though only in the distance; I was in town for a funeral. They were quite overcrowded when my mother-in-law worked there, but reforms have changed that -- the very same reforms that lilady was involved with.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Has Thingy returned under the new name 'Bouquet'?

Renate, I thought the same thing!

Is this some new antivaccine trope I haven't come across?

Bill Gates’ new version of polio, twice as deadly since the vaccine campaign and a brand new name to boot.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

"Why is this unethical orac, there are plenty of people who don’t vaccinate, is it unethical to prove that vaccines don’t work?"

Its extremely unethical to have a randomized trial where some people are purposefully left susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases.

I realize that to a death worshiping Malthusian cultist like yourself, the prospect of someone else dying to a preventable disease is something that you'd pleasure yourself to as if it were actual pornography. However, any one with even the slightest bit of morality should recognize the problem with it.

Not to mention that the loss of a sufficient level of vaccination would destroy the shared benefit we all have from the whole thing and would actually put the rest of us at risk as well.

bouquet definitely had the distinct aroma of Thingy at first but I doubt they're one and the same. Thingy's too full of herself to change 'nyms, and she definitely knows how to blockquote.

So does it no interest you that the flood of lawsuits may be because there is a problem with vaccination per se?

The flood of lawsuits only shows that many parents perceive events to be vaccine-induced, not that vaccines actually cause such events.

Is this some new antivaccine trope I haven’t come across?

Bill Gates’ new version of polio, twice as deadly since the vaccine campaign and a brand new name to boot.

It's the same old non-polio AFP routine. The circulating reference appears to be to this.

Orac: "Again, Dr. Whitaker’s arguments were softball pitches, easily hit out of the ballpark as Prince Fielder hit balls out of the ballpark three days earlier in the pre-Allstar Game Home Run Derby"

The only problem with this is the propensity of antivaxers to keep recycling the same balls into play over and over and over again. You keep knocking 'em out of the park, your averages look great, you lead by an insumountable margin but your opponent is fanatically convinced that he's winning.

Speaking of which, I have no doubt that Whitaker and his fans are self-delusionally certain that he whupped Novella in the debate and that there was no answer for Whitaker's "100%" graph.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Been away a while, and wondered if the usual entertainment was still here. No (at least in this thread so far), but hey - we have a bouquet to brighten up the room! Where to begin, where to begin...

“First, parents must have the right to decide what is injected into their children. Second, laibility must be borne by the pharmaceutical companies.”

What is unscientific about this orac?

Uh, rights and liabilities have to do with law and politics, not science. Hope you weren't a library science major.

“However, at times he seemed to be calling for a randomized “vaxed vs. untaxed” study, because at one point he complained about studies not having placebo controls. Steve pointed out that such a study would be unethical.”

Why is this unethical orac, there are plenty of people who don’t vaccinate, is it unethical to prove that vaccines don’t work?

Did the word "randomized" not catch your attention there? This would involve not giving treatment to people who want it, and treating people who don't want it without informed consent. Get it now?

“This law was necessary because a flood of lawsuits was threatening the very foundation of the vaccine program, and Congress feared that there would be no vaccine manufacturers left in the United States because liability concerns would drive them out.”

So does it no interest you that the flood of lawsuits may be because there is a problem with vaccination per se?

That's right, any time there's a lawsuit it proves there is a problem per se. So the next time someone sues the City of San Francisco for a fall on a cable car, it will prove that falling over turns you into a nymphomaniac. (… )

Yes lilady he testified against AB 2109 for the Senate Health Committee. I lost track of the misstatements and lies about vaccines half-way through his testimony.

Dr. Whitaker has weighed in on California AB 2109 and also *mentioned* his upcoming debate at the Freedom Fest:

On his FB page, he only posted a picture of his "debate" with Dr. Novella, not a word about the content. I guess just showing up is good enough for the anti-vaccinistas.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

From Bouquet's post:

"However, at times he seemed to be calling for a randomized “vaxed vs. untaxed” study .

Uh, untaxed? Anybody but me notice what might be a "Freudian slip?"

Anyways, it was a standard joke in my manufacturing days that you draw your curve first, then plot your data - but don't try it on your peers, or they'll rip to shreds. Do it ONLY in reports to your boss's boss who's on some kind of tangent they read about somewhere but has no clue how stuff actually works - but does have an MBA. Hopefully it'll distract them/satisfy them long enough to buy you enough time to figure out what's really going on and actually fix it - or, if it's not feasible, that they'll forget about it and move on to the next fad.

By Infuriatingly … (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Right. The anti-vaxxers and woo-meisters just luv hatin' on the Gates and their foundation: they're gotten a lot of mileage on the topic- more fodder for blog posts and rants.

All the more reason to support the Gates.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Dr. Whitaker has his own Facebook page and he has a picture of himself (only), taken during his debate with Dr. Novella:

Too bad I don't "do" Facebook

puppygood @439 AM, and anyone else who likes a light serving of math --

To my eyeball, it looks as if Whitaker fit a straight exponential to the points and "just assumed" that it would continue forever, which is ludicrous.

We would have looked ever-so-slightly less stupid if he'd fit a logistic function, or sigmoid to the data. But all it would have done is added a slight patina of mathematical respectability to a dumb, dumb argument.

By palindrom (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Egads, in the 3:20 comment read "HE would have" instead of "WE would have".

I'm sure we all look stupid from time to time, but I hope never quite THAT stupid.

By palindrom (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

@ Science Mom: I see you *got there* first (Whitaker's Facebook page). No I am not Science Mom and I am not Orac, nor are they "lilady".

Not only are vaccines a giant conspiracy, so are numbers, a fact to be revealed in 2032, when 40% of males plus 20% of females equal 100% of the population.

By Spectator (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Heh. Sadly, for some reason I didn't notice that little part of the graph. Perhaps I was too blinded by the sheer flaming stupid of the rest of the graph.

Hm, got crossed with the similar blue graph lines for "Gen'l" and "boys". As others have noted, the ratio of boys to girls flips drastically in coming years. It must be so, it says right here on this chart ...

btw, the chart also proves Young Earth Creation; the world was created in the year 2000.

Prove me wrong ;-)

By Spectator (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

@ Spectator:

Aha! That flipping ratio** ( of boys to girls) indeed is part of the conspiracy - much like the flipping of the geomagnetic poles that shall occur right. about. now.- in 2012- it will serve to confuse people- catch them of fguard. I have heard tell that the Great Reallignment itself will happen in 2032..... in Glastonbury.
Prove me wrong.

** which is flipping lunacy.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Oh, I'm sure it works. Do me a favor and look at the source. Check for a blob of seemingly random characters right at the bottom.

Check for a blob of seemingly random characters right at the bottom.

Sorry, the site, not the PDF. I'll check it out myself later.


Well played, sir!

By Composer99 (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

(You are dealing with a totally inept computer techie here, Narad)

I see no "blobs" at the bottom of the article. The source of the article is here:

@DW - funny you should mention flipping of the magnetic poles. Someone close to me got into a tizzy about it after listening to late night talk radio (I think it was Coast to Coast) - and that was a couple years ago. Her head is usually screwed on tighter than many other people (including mine), but you never know.

Unfortunately at the time I didn't have much knowledge at hand, other than vaguely recalling from some science show that the "flip" had occurred several times before, based on geological evidence, without undue catastrophe to life, and that my only concern would be the danger to modern satellite telecommunications, etc. - and/or not being able to rely on a traditional magnetic compass.

Later looked into it further and found the actual process of "flipping" takes 1000 to 10,000 years - which is hopefully enough time for migratory birds, satellite engineers, etc.
to adapt.

But the real science of digging through rocks and measuring gradual changes in alignment of naturally occuring magnetic minerals is boring. All or nothing catastrophes make much better sound bites.

By Infuriatingly … (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

@ Infuriatingly Moderate:

As usual, woo-meisters and altie new agers take information based in reality and screw it up phenomenally,

Here is more crap**:
right now we are entering a new age that occurs only every 260K years - HOWEVER the New Golden Age itself will take about 20 years to REALLY get going when the planet's own heart chakra will open.. in Glastonbury. I have no idea why.

I have personally been told by a new ager told that the flipping of the magnetic poles will bring about many awful phenomena and widespread devastation so I'd better get prepared... but I forget what I had to do.. it must have been really flipping awful and I repressed it all...

-btw- since the hosts of the debate Orac visited are goldbugs and hoarders, I wonder of the New Golden Age will involve the Gold Standard?

** as imagined by a Ms Cooper

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Please tell me somebody recorded this, and that it will be available on YouBook or FaceTube or the like?

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

I knew that Bill Gates was using vaccines to reduce the world's population by 90% at his reptilian masters' bidding. I didn't realize that he personally had genetically engineered polio virus so that it doesn't show up as polio in any diagnostic tests so it can be mislabeled as acute flaccid paralysis. Just wait until VAPP SP3.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Katherine Lorraine, I don't have the exact Twain quote, but that was the essence as best as I remember.
As for being old and rocking, I am like in the Jethro Tull song, "too old to rock and roll but ...too young to die." I am actually comfortably ensconced in middle age, but I do get to rock out now and then.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

lilady, you can actually read the comments left at Dr. Whitaker's facebook page. Here is one of the comment:

I would have LOVED to have been there to watch you!!! I'll bet you were quite impressive...How'd it go? Did you get anywhere? Did you film it?

Any bets if he will post a video of that debate?

I think they mean Cardiff.
"The 21st century is when everything changes. And you've got to be ready."
--Capt. Jack Harkness

By Cynical Pediatrician (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

"...almost no child was developmentally disabled 30 years ago"
In 1880, no one was autistic, bipolar, schizophrenic, or a psychopath. Now millions of people fall into one of more of those diagnoses. The way they have mushroomed in the last 130 years means that, by my calculations, 189.3% of the world's population, and at least 89% of extraterrestrials, will fall under every diagnosis in the eventual release of DSM LXXII.
I love statistics. One day I will even figure out what they mean.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Denice Walter tells us "I have personally been told by a new ager told that the flipping of the magnetic poles will bring about many awful phenomena and widespread devastation so I’d better get prepared… "
It will be awful indeed. All the vril will fall right out of the entrance to the hollow Earth at the North Pole, with catastrophic consequences. The Loch Ness monster will swim over to Holy Loch, swallow a thermonuclear warhead, and swim through the underground ocean to blow itself up in Stonehenge. Unless we stop vaccinating now.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Yup, just as I expected; the anti-vaccinistas don't even care about his actual performance and information, just that he showed up and debated the big bad pharma dude. Between this blogpost and his less-than-stellar debating, I doubt he will feature the video (if there is one) on his FB page. Any takers?

By Science Mom (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

I notice that the first graph was provided "courtesy of Shawn Siegel". Don't suppose that would be this handsome lad:

He describes himself has having a "4 grandkids and a modicum of common sense". A modicum indeed.

Science Mom

I doubt he will feature the video (if there is one) on his FB page.

However, I am certain he will continue to use that stupid graph. Professional associations need to do more to purge their ranks of morons who somehow managed to memorize their way to a degree. This is a problem in engineering as well as medicine.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

I look forward to usual anti-vaxx suspects flinging that graph around willy nilly. When they do, their attempts to answer pointed questions should be hilarious.

By Sauceress (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

@Cynical Pediatrician: I suspect this is what DW was talking about.

@Old Rockin' Dave: You rock. Never mind scientific literature - Victorian literature (Bronte, Dickens, et. al.) made it very plain how "weird people" were actually treated. Plus the books that tried to turn suffering and death into a blessing ("Little Women", "Little House on the Prairie", et. al). They had no choice. In 2012 we do.

It saddens me that the generations who remember how the so-called "good old days" really weren't that good are dying out. Like my SO's grandmother, who died at 99 in 2001 and was totally PO'd at anyone who thought she lived through a "Golden Age".

By Infuriatingly … (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Infuriating: I think it was Otto Bettman, as in Bettman Archive, who wrote a book called "The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible". And all too often they were. When we imagine ourselves in medieval society (for example), we always see ourselves as knights and ladies and romantic (Hah!) minstrels, not one of the large number of shit shovelers, dirt diggers, and drudges who provided their luxury. For most people for most of history, daily life was dirty, itchy, and smelly, with disease and death lurking around every corner. It just was part of life, just as you say.
When I was growing up, there was no such thing as Asperger's Syndrome, so no one knew what to make of me. I was just strange, and picked on (Ironically, I would probably have done well in the shtetls and ghettos of my ancestors - a perfect Talmud scholar, devoting all his time to studying and disputation.). Autism was pathetic kids who didn't talk or do anything much else, who had to wear helmets to keep them from bashing out their brains. Bruno Bettelheim authoritatively told us all that it was all due to "refrigerator mothers", but of course there were fewer vaccines then. I and many people I know were just odd pieces from some other jigsaw puzzle. We didn't fit in and we couldn't be thrown out, just in case we might fit somewhere.
I don't know what all this has to do with antivaxers and other woo-peddlers, but sometimes it does make Orac's posts more fun, doesn't it?

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

The source of the article is here

When clicking on that, I am directed to a Russian-language craptacular under the "free-mobi dot net" imprimatur.

@Infuriatingly Moderate

Please tell me that Diana Cooper site is a poe. Wait a minute - you can actually buy stuff there - surely it must be pure scam, nobody can believe that much bullshit and live.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Great essay today - I don't think I would have the patience to engage in a "debate" of this sort and my hat is off to anyone who can enter the fray and remain upright.
On a local, personal note: There is a pertussis outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. I got my booster shot last week & posted on Face Book urging my friends to do likewise. Thanks to my daughter-in-law who's expecting a baby soon and wants all who come in contact to be current in their vaccination status. The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) ran an editorial today: "Get a Shot, Save a Baby", urging all adults to be vaccinated.
Again, I've been enjoying Orac's old and new posts since I discovered this site a couple of weeks ago and I very much appreciate the erudite & educated people who also contribute comments.

@ Infuriatingly Moderate:

I swear! I get all sorts of bizarre clippings, books, articles... sometimes just a *name* because people around me know that I relish this nonsense... about 90% of them are on the same side of the fence that I am on- *however* a few are serious- like he who warned me about the great metamorphosis headed our way.
.the Diana Cooper stuff was from a few months ago: someone gave me a new agey magazine article clipping about her work and mission...reading through her website, suddenly a tune comes to mind: Mr Donovan Leitch waveringly intoning... "Hail, Atlantis!"

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Cynical paediatrician
There are parts of cardiff where it's still 1980

Presumably they'll all be Elvis Impersonators too

Using this graph for year 8 Graph Interpretation Assessment, 'What's Wrong With This Graph?'. This is 120% GOLD!

@Infuriatingly Moderate - Mr Woo was "catching up" on his "Coast to Coast" (another protector of troof) and making it incredibly difficult for me to hear "Eureka" and "Perception" tonight while I was catching up on blogs and posts in the support group I run. He was sleeping through most of it. I was kind of happy for that - at least there was less of it for him to get wrapped up in, at least.

He listens to a regular gold-hawking radio show, too. They have assured him the economy is collapsing in three months for as long as I have known him and he is still believing them! You would think that after awhile he would notice that three months ended a long time ago. I don't mind as long as he doesn't spend too much on it, though.

What I do mind is all of the anxiety and upset it causes him. When the world is as evil as it can be portrayed in all of these alternative websites, radio programs, newsletters, etc., you end up feeling quite alone even if you do possess all that 'secret knowledge." You almost have to feel sorry for them. I know that it is a psychological trick to try to feel in control of an uncontrollable universe, but it almost seems like the more they try to imagine control of it the more they find imaginary dragons to slay in the first place.

Reality just seems a lot less frightening to me for some reason.

Denice Walter on Diana Cooper

reading through her website, suddenly a tune comes to mind: Mr Donovan Leitch waveringly intoning… “Hail, Atlantis!”

I was thinking more along the lines of Lambert Hendricks & Ross singing Twisted. I wonder if Ms Cooper refuses to ride on double decker buses because there is no driver on the top. I now what you get when you take every new age idiocy and toss them in a blender. My chakras are now thoroughly discombobulated.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Neq to this site and found this discussion very interesting.

Not as brilliant as so many of you but I couldn't help thinking about my mother herding all 7 of us to the community center in the 50's to get the little sugar cube that was to prevent polio.
Now polio is not so common anymore.

Measles, one by one we all got it. Not so common anymore. I still remember that awful smell of that pink stuff we got slathered with but can't remember the name.

I guess someone knew what they were doing.

Very much enjoy reading the discussion.

The first word was supposed to be "new". Fumble fingers.

Burrahobbit maybe you should check out the happyness status of all those Indians who now have Bill Gates’ new version of polio, twice as deadly since the vaccine campaign and a brand new name to boot.

Bouquet It so happens that I am Indian, and I live in India. I am yet to see "Bill gates new version of polio, twice as deadly...."

What I do see is a bunch of anti science idiots who are living in a comfortable, reasonably disease free world projecting their paranoid fears on the world with serious effects on the health of millions (see the effects of AIDS denialism in Southern Africa)

PS. How the hell do I italicise comment...

By Burrahobbit (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink


PS. How the hell do I italicise comment…

For a quote -
[blockquote]Stupid staement b the antivax loon[/blockquote]
Replace the [ with the less than symbol and ] with the greater than symbol.

If you just want to italicise some text like the title of a song
[i]Song Titile[/i]
Again, replace [ and ] with the less than and greater than symbols - use b to bold text and s for strike-through. Remember to use / to close the tags

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

Thanks Militant Agnostic

seems to work

By Burrahobbit (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

suddenly a tune comes to mind: Mr Donovan Leitch waveringly intoning… “Hail, Atlantis!”

You should be careful with this sort of thing, as you never know when you might run into someone who has put together a video of the song with footage from Spencer Tunick shoots and so forth.

There have been some vaccinated vs unvaccinated studies done. There's one quite old one I came across an account of recently, on malaria and typhus. The doctor leading the study was one Josef Mengele. Perhaps Bouquet could go look up that work first, before deciding that we should replicate it.

By Cath of Canberra (not verified) on 16 Jul 2012 #permalink

After an extensive search on U-Google I haven't been able to find any video of this debate. Did no-one film it? Those of us fighting in the trenches that are not scientists would have loved to have a video of this debate to refer anti-vaxers to. Hopefully someone did and it will show up some time soon.......please.

@ Redloh:

"Measles, one by one we all got it. Not so common anymore. I still remember that awful smell of that pink stuff we got slathered with but can’t remember the name."

Look up "Calamine" lotion :-)

There have been some vaccinated vs unvaccinated studies done. There’s one quite old one I came across an account of recently, on malaria and typhus. The doctor leading the study was one Josef Mengele. Perhaps Bouquet could go look up that work first, before deciding that we should replicate it.

I somehow doubt that bouquet even understands why "find a bunch of kids whose parents won't vaccinate 'em and a bunch of kids whose parents do vaccinate 'em and compare" would not be the randomized vax vs. unvax study that is being talked about.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

I do feel a bit sorry for Julian Whitaker though.

His situation brings to mind an ex-minor league pitcher who joins a carnival, going from town to town challenging the top local hitters with stunts and trickery. At one stop, he finds out the high schooler he was going to throw against couldn't make it, but a kindly stranger in town offers to fill in. The stranger turns out to be...Albert Pujols.


By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

I was in Beantown yesterday at the MOS and Fenway for the Sox vs Sox game so I missed this post. Whitaker's a quack and I sincerely hope that Steve got through to the fence sitters and they got a good look at the woo surrounding them and said, "OMG, WTF?"

@ Mrs Woo:

The gold hawkers! Tell me about them! I follow them because I manage my own money and advise several older cousins ( my late father did this previously- I inherited the "job"): oddly enough, a few of he woo-meisters I survey also tell their covens to stock up on gold and silver. A trend-caster tells his followers to do similarly ( Gerald Celente)- some of this stuff veers off into contrarian theories of economics ( econo-woo) of which there is, unfortunately, an endless supply. I could go on but I am expected elsewhere presently.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

of which there ARE, unfortunately, an endless supply...

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink


As far as I know, no one recorded the debate, and they didn't ask Steve to sign a release that I saw.

"there is virtually no condition that 100% of the population will suffer from except for (eventually) death."

Errm...the common cold?

Gerald Celente drives me absolutely up the wall! Mr Woo, of course, is completely taken with the guy (after all, he predicted 9/11 - he says he did, so it must be true!) and is now convinced that the Euro will be dead tomorrow and the rest of the European union will dissolve into a mess that will emerge being led by a new Hitler at this point.

Oftentimes I can laugh it off, but when he listens to some of these people too late into the night, or they say things that are too frightening, he ends up with terrible anxiety worrying about how his loved ones will all survive and I get so angry at them. I can't figure out how many drink their own Kool-Aid vs. how many laugh all the way to the bank at the fact there are people out there in the world trusting enough to believe in them.


According to the debate you so eloquently recounted here never happened:

"Dr. Julian Whitaker and Dr. Steven Novella (Yale) on “Vaccines: Good or Bad?” It would have been a good debate, but Dr. Novella was a “no show”!"…

I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the copywriter on the website just had a misunderstanding regarding who didn't show up.

By PsyberDave (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

@PsyberDave - Or it could be a case of Libertarians being very "free" with the the truth.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

OMG! They DID! Can't wait to see what kind of blogs that comment makes?


Really? That's some Chutzpah right there....

Well, I posted a comment on that article linking to the SBM blog article, and mentioning that even Dr. Whitaker said he debated with Dr. Novella on his Facebook page.

It looks like it may need to be approved. Perhaps some of you others have politely mentioned that the debate did occur.

My comment was still in moderation when I last looked.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

So is mine. Perhaps we should tell them that even Dr. Shermer does not believe libertarianism means you ignore the data.

I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the copywriter on the website just had a misunderstanding regarding who didn’t show up.

That's awfully generous of you but how can you not know that a debate happened? Although we shall see if they make a correction very soon.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink


So is mine. Perhaps we should tell them that even Dr. Shermer does not believe libertarianism means you ignore the data.</blockquote

Except apparently when it shows that deregulation causes a financial crisis.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

Blockquote Fail

should have been

So is mine. Perhaps we should tell them that even Dr. Shermer does not believe libertarianism means you ignore the data.

Except apparently when it shows that deregulation causes a financial crisis.

I hope I have not italicized the thread

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

My take on the "no show" is that to Freedomfest Dr. Whitaker "won" the debate, not that it did not happen.

They closed the comments on that article. I have a feeling that they didn't not like being corrected.

By Matt ford (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

According to the debate you so eloquently recounted here never happened:

“Dr. Julian Whitaker and Dr. Steven Novella (Yale) on “Vaccines: Good or Bad?” It would have been a good debate, but Dr. Novella was a “no show”!”

That was last year's FreedomFest. Look at the dates on the top. Interestingly, I wonder now if they tried to get Steve last year; I'll have to ask him.

I see the comments being open, but 0 made?

Odd, if Dr. Novella had been invited to debate Dr. Whitaker last year, you would think he would know about Whitaker.

Sorry, for the error. Though it is odd.

Have you guys checked Whitaker's Facebook page. He's "bought it big time", now that some posters have linked to Orac's blog and some of the RI Regulars are posting...

@ Mrs Woo:

Celente is a piece of work: he has often appeared on the Progressive Radio Network as a guest of the Idiot-in-Charge- who since 2008 has also become as economic expert.

Celente has been predicting hyperinflation and total collapse *just around the bend* for years now. Both of these geniuses encourage people to take money out of banks, stocks, bonds and other reasonable investments and talk up precious metals and rural land.

I'm not an economist but I have had formal studies and come from a family that *does* this forever ( 2 countries) and I've had to manage money since my father became ill ( 2000). I know that it's hard work and lots of study: to make moderate gains, you need to be cautious, do research and realise that it doesn't happen overnight- more like decades.

Medico-woo is paralleled by econo-woo: and their ideas make it all sound so easy. It's as unrealistic as some of the woo treatments for serious health conditions discussed by Orac AND it similarly manipulates the vulnerable as it capitalises on fear. During the lows of 2009, I heard advice that, if followed ( "get out of stocks, bonds, banks,; buy gold and silver"), would have lost people real money - stocks bounced back ( even a dead cat bounces if dropped from a high enough place) ; altho' I trembled and quaked as libor and vix rose through the roof ( Fall 2008 ) I hung on and everything came back with gains. I did the opposite of what these 'experts' were telling people: my cousin got out and has since lost the equivalent of a year's salary because she sold at the lows ( she had a similar growth fund to mine/ different company).

These people are grandiose and believe their own press. If Celente were correct and did really have the inside track, why isn't he a billionaire?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink


Did you look at his online store? He sells almost as much crap as Mercola.

I don't know one legit doctor anywhere who has a commercial website or sells his own branded line of supplements. Yet every day on these boards we find quacks doing just that.

I hope they don't delete your post and that others echo your comments. You were very polite and diplomatic.

On his Facebook page the first half of the comments about the debate are ass-kissing "you go Dr. J" until the tone suddenly, and dramatically shifts.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

I've been following his Facebook page and he has gotten a whole lotta grief...unfortunately I don't "do" Facebook.

Why don't you comment on his website...I'll know you got past "moderation" if you post using "Marc" as your 'nym.

(It is so tempting to dish out the snark...but I'll hold off...for now).

MSII, why did I hear you read the last few words of your post in Terry Jones' voice? :-)

By Scottynuke (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

Mr. Creosote? Which Python routine are you referring to?

I saw Terry Jones live once at the Montreal comedy festival. His act culminated with him throwing real fish (dead) into the audience. I'll never forget that.

I saw Eric Idle live too, more recently. I'm a major MP fans, like all self-respecting geeks.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

If I posted I'd love to confront him about his anti-psychiatry work with the $cientology front group CCHR. They have a museum on Hollywood Blvd. in LA called "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death."

I don't know enough about the vaccine controversy to post.

And as a supporter of Burzynski I'm sure he'd love to see my full screen name! (I should change that now--the real MS hasn't been around for months and I signed up here in the throes of his threatening days. I was really hoping to draw him out, as juvenile as that sounds.)

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

@Denice & Mrs. Woo
CBC Radio has a summer season show called The Invisible Hand

For their second episode the looked at the gold standard and they asked economists which would be better have in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse - Gold or Chickens - the economists all chose chickens. Here is a link to the podcast.

The collapse of major currencies seems to be predicted as often as the Second Coming/Rapture or the demise of the Canadian Football League. At least Harold Camping had the good sense to quit after being wrong for the umpteenth time.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

@Marc Stephens Is Insane

I should change that now–the real MS hasn’t been around for months and I signed up here in the throes of his threatening days. I was really hoping to draw him out, as juvenile as that sounds.

I think it's a great nym. It serves as a constant reminder. Also, for the uninitiated it may encourage further investigation.

By Sauceress (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

@ Militant Agnostic:

Unfortunately, those I survey revel i providing bad economic information as well as bad medical information. I have also heard/ read loyal followers ask for specific advice about investment, where to move, what business to start...pathetic.

@ iilady:
I couldn't get to the comments at his site: it just stopped at "3 comments"; could you provide a synopsis, svp?
however, the Facebook ones were great! Imagine that! Rene and Lord D duet!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Jul 2012 #permalink

@Militant Agnostic - that's great, I've got chickens! However, the woman interviewed is wrong - chickens are lousy for gardens. You are better off with guineas, and the best idea are ducks and geese for your garden - they are less likely to dig up plants and eat weeds once your garden plants are established. My chickens killed one of my scented miniature roses that I planted this spring - in less than two weeks.

@Denice - drives me crazy - hubby is inheriting money and trying to figure out which kind of farming to get into since we'll have to be entirely self-sufficient and work every day to not starve to death and support his entire family. With social security disappearing with the pending economic collapse and money being worthless, we need to have "other options" to not starve to death. To temper his craziness I'm attempting to get him to invest the money into land to lease to others for farming, because he will then make enough on the leases to make the difference between current income and what income will be with social security for both of us. Then he has it as a fallback if the world economy does collapse, but has a more reasonable option if life continues as normal.

@MSII - I like it just because it reminds me of all the craziness that happened with that. It is especially good to realize exactly how off the wall crazy some alt-med supporters can be. Legal threats with no basis, etc. - I still end up wondering if he was originally sic'd on bloggers by Dr. B or just took it upon himself. Would be wonderful to know that answer one day!

I've just posted another comment Denice, you're going to like it.

@ lilady:
That worked! . FIrst Dr N @ Bally, now he gets it at home on Facebook and his website. Woo hoo.

@ Mrs Woo:

I hear/ read so much self-sufficiency/ sustainablity nonsense; a common thread- GMO crops will take over so get back to natural products AND they just happen to sell 'heritage' or 'heirloom' seeds ( Adams) or products for dealing with disaster ( trusty flashlights; also Adams) . First scare them, then sell them.

Usually those who promote scenarios like this either sell products ( including books about it) or are trying to make a name by out-guessing all of the real economists out there- it's like woo-meisters: they know more about medicine than REAL doctors and more about psychology than REAL psychologists. These guys know more about the economy.

The number one rule for all investors is DIVERSIFICATION- don't have all of your eggs in one basket ( oh... that saying may be literally true as well as figuratively in your case).E.g. have money in banks, stocks, bonds, funds as well as real estate. Within stocks ( or bonds) there should be further diversification: suppose you buy all bank stocks and then there's a banking crisis? Thus, more than one sector/ industry. You invest in things that people use that withstand economic tides - people use certain products even in hard times. So you invest in a range that encompasses good times and bad. You also diversify by level of risk ( low to high) and locality- e.g. more than one country.

General information like this is available via financial television and books by reasonable people, i.e. not doom sayers. Read columns from someone like Paul Krugman.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

MSII: I was actually thinking of the narration of the middle of the Sir Robin scene on the MPATHG record...

Yes, I'm at THAT level of MP geekery. You should have seen me at the original Broadway run of "Spamalot."

By Scottynuke (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Well, our chickens definitely aren't money-makers. I don't travel well or often, so getting the eggs to a place where I could sell them for a reasonable price to cover expenses isn't happening. Instead I sell them at church for enough to cover the cost of the supplemental feed so the birds at least "pay their own way." Our flock is maybe 30 total birds including the guinea fowl. :)

What all of this does is prey on fears and uncertainty and the very human desire for control (even if there is no real way to have that control). The more you increase the fear, the bigger your sales are. I often wonder if the people making money off of all of this believe it, as well, or if it is nothing but a type of marketing scheme to them in the first place. When Mr Woo is laying awake at night trying to figure out how to afford gas and what to pay for it with when the dollar no longer exists and how he will function if he cannot have gasoline for a tractor to be able to plow, etc., and/or to get to town to buy what we can't make for ourselves here I get so angry that he listened to it in the first place. Can't get him to quit because he has listened to so many of them (and they all reference each other, making all of them look more "legitimate") that he has been convinced their spin is reality and he and only those who have listened to them and believe have this secret knowledge that our government is actually going to go down in flames and there will only be anarchy left.

At the same time, almost all great civilizations have had a collapse. Still, with history to teach us and a bit more knowledge, I suspect it is actually in all leaders' best interest to keep their economies as stable as possible and maintain order. Tanking the economy on purpose to grab power makes no sense to anyone with a rational mind. This is explained away, of course, by the money-woo people with the whole "Illuminati/Bilderberger conspiracy" thing where there are a small number of families who want all of the wealth and power of the world for themselves and have plans to kill a large percentage of the population and enslave the rest. The fact that such a thing will allow them to grow no more wealth and reduce consumers to sell things to just doesn't stand up as an argument to Mr Woo for some reason (or the fact that if someone was that power-hungry and money-grubbing they would have a hard time trusting anyone else to help them take over the world in the first place - basic human nature).

I suspect the best I will get him to do is to sink it into acreage. My big worry is keeping him from buying everything for a farm, because I really don't believe he has any clue how much work there really would be in cattle ranching. He's just guessing from various things he has heard and seen over the years from other families actually doing it. It's like people who believe they can know everything a doctor does from Google U - when you don't know enough, anything looks "easy."

@ Mrs Woo:

IIRC, Mr Woo is trained in a profession that is necessary and usually reasonably well paid .He has thus, a better chance than most as the population ages. Nurses perform all sorts of tasks and work in many diverse situations. Training in new areas is relatively easy to access for them.
Ask lilady for details.

Even if there is 'total collapse', his services would certainly be important. I wouldn't sink all my money in land, what if *less* people rather than more, want to farm? Young people are fleeing to the cities. If there is a crisis, could people *afford* beef?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

I just posted on Dr. W's website. Nothing about vaccines, I just questioned his credibility vis-a-vis $cientology and the anti-psychiatry movement.

I bet my post gets deleted.

I'm going to post more links to what his organization CCHR has done to enable a child molester in Australia.The fact that Eastgate "got away with it" is a travesty of justice in general and a black mark on the face of the Australian judicial system. And Whitaker endorses these criminals.

For anyone wondering who Jan Eastgate is, here's a link to Tony Ortega's anti-$cientology blog at The Village Voice. It does to $cientology what Orac does here to quack medicine. And the cult member sockpuppets who post there with their arguments are exactly the same as the alties who post here. They even use the same methods and tactics of argument.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Dr. Whitaker replied directly to me and I have posted a rather long comment replying to him, about the VAERS reporting system and the real time reporting on the Vaccine Safety Datalink database. I'm stuck in moderation.…

Can anyone preserve the comments on Whitaker's blog..."screen shots" case the blog or my comments "disappear"?


On his Facebook page the first half of the comments about the debate are ass-kissing “you go Dr. J” until the tone suddenly, and dramatically shifts.

His Facebook article about debating Dr. Novella has been deleted. He left in the article where he says he will debate Dr. Novella, and it only has the fawning comments from his admirers.

Dr. Novell has explained what happened last year on his blog. It seems that the Freedom Fest "organizers" watied until the last minute to contact him with details. Because "Freedom" means not planning for someone else's schedule.


I posted three nasty comments about the doctor's beliefs, and maybe some of his supporters will see what he's really all about. I'll take a screenshot because I'm sure my posts will be deleted.

I also posted on the Village Voice's blog encouraging others, especially all the ex-$cientologists who have been hurt to post as well. Should be fun to watch over the next few hours.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Ha ha! He blew me off! Told me to stay on topic about vaccine injuries. I can't believe none of my comments went into moderation; I've never posted there before.

I have a screen shot up to 12:30 p.m. ET. We'll see when the Village Voice crowd starts posting what happens.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink


You're out of moderation hell chez Whitaker.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

@ Marc...I saw your comments. You say you are not to certain about arguing the merits of vaccines.

Please, be my guest, to cut and paste any of my comments that have appeared on RI or on this other site that I post post on Whitaker's blog. (Just leave off the commentary about my/your public health experience) :-)…

@Denice - Mr Woo is an LPN, not an RN, and in his mid-60s. He raised four sons with no child support so never had a great deal of money for investment. He has a few investments here and there, but none that will make a regular income that he is comfortable with and, of course, since he is told they will all be worthless, is planning for them to be useless. Since he listens to finance woo, the only "real" things he can be sure will "save" his money is property ownership and precious metals. If he gets the "right kind" of land around here (well fenced, cleared with water available) it will usually be in demand for farm lease, either as crop land or cattle land. Crop land actually pays higher lease rates. No matter how bad things get, people will always need to eat. Now, whether they're eating cheap bread or range-fed beef or soybean meal depends on how poor they are.

I would love to talk him into reasonable investment. He is so far down the rabbit hole, though, I think that if I can get him to buy leaseable land at least he can have an income even if he chooses not to work it (when life continues to go on and governments continue to try to control their economies). It will maintain a real value based on the value of the dollar pretty much, and nothing else (unless a lot of suburbanization moves this way from Kansas City, about an hour away, at which point its value would increase).

I would love to have it in a diversified well-managed portfolio, but it's unlikely if not impossible to change Mr Woo's anxiety at this point. He has listened to too much from Gerald Celente, Alex Jones and the precious metals shills...


I'm sure I'm about to be banned over Dr. Whitaker's happy little self-serving website, but if not I'll pull out some nuggets of your wisdom and post them later this afternoon.

It's not that I don't believe in the merits of vaccination, I'm just nowhere near as knowledgeable, qualified or articulate as you and others here to argue on the subject.

I was waiting for the news on TV last night and switched over, only to find the new Jenny McCarthy reality show hadn't ended yet. Even though I only had to wait 2 minutes, I couldn't stand the sight of her (and speaking as a fully-functioning, red-blooded heterosexual male, that says a lot!)

Has anyone read the Playboy cover story? She claims she only agreed to pose nude in order to further her "medical" agenda. Plus it's a massive stroke to her precious little ego.

I did think she was super hot a couple of years ago on Two And A Half Men. Chuck Lorre really likes casting nutbars (beside Sheen): he had Jenny on TAAHM, and Mayim Bialik on TBBT. Is there an anti-vaxxer in the cast of Mike & Molly?

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

@ Mrs Woo:

Well, you have a good head on your shoulders and will probably manage despite his ideas. Best wishes to you.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Thank you, Denice. I really appreciated your input and just getting to vent. In a weird way, if you're logical and rational, constantly having these alternative viewpoints shared and declared "truth" repeatedly feels almost crazy-making. I think the reason I got to a point where I interact so much here is that it kind of reassures me that my rational thinking is not what is crazy in this house.

I just keep pondering a way to maybe help him let go of a little of this here and there when I can, and try to figure out how to protect him from this as much as I can. I would love to have a day when he decides that these people are all self-serving mouthpieces with no real knowledge and can quit listening. The reduced stress would be such a good thing for him.

I made a big oops when I said:

is Facebook article about debating Dr. Novella has been deleted. He left in the article where he says he will debate Dr. Novella, and it only has the fawning comments from his admirers.

It is still there, it just moved to the right side of the page. I apologize. I am going to blame the old laptop I use outside of the house.

As predicted, all my comments on Whitaker's site have been removed.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

My minions at the Village Voice are starting to treat Dr. W. to some insolence of their own. I'd suggest subscribing via e-mail or RSS because those comments will eventually come down.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

I "expanded" the comments on Whitaker's Facebook page and they are all still there...62 of them...including Rene's and Lord Draconis'...and some other "choice" ones, as well.

In case any of you were wondering where "Augustine" has been been...this is what he just posted at Whitaker's blog:


Dr. Whitaker,
Lilady is a vitriolic hateful skeptic who seeks to make fun and insult you. She does not come in earnest. She has a history or cyberstalking anyone who comes in her path. She is a pro mass vaccination ideologue.

She is a groupie of self aggrandizing David Gorski, MD who has continually insulted you.

(I wouldn't "touch" that comment with a twenty-foot pole)


Do you have a "friend" named Augustine? He or she is looking for you over at Dr. W's site.You've been outed...oh noes! You're a proponent of mass vaccination!

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Marc, I have a comment here on RI "in moderation" about Augie. I'm not touching that troll's comment with a twenty-foot pole. I'd appreciate it, if you just ignore my personal stalking troll, as well.

lilady 1:53 pm

Please, please, please tell me…that some one is preserving all the comments that I posted on Whitaker’s blog…and his replies.

Done. You can use "Save page as" on your browser to save the webpage (easiest) or for a screenshot of the page, press Shift + Print Screen and paste the image into paint/document.

By Sauceress (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

D'oh are communicating with absolute idiot when it comes to anything about computer functions. (Ask "Chris" how long it took me to figure out how to link to an article)

Dr. Whitaker has finally made a statement about the debate with Dr. Novella and an "explanation" about those *charts*...enjoy.…

(Someone please do a screenshot!!!) Thanks.

Which internet browser do you use lilady?

By Sauceress (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Sauceress...I use the latest version of Mozilla Firefox.

Oops, within the last five minutes, after his *swan song* about the debate and charts, Dr. Whitaker closed down his blog for additional comments....damn it.

Find some bare space on any webpage and click right hand mouse button on it. Choose "Save as..." using Chrome or "Save page as.." using Firefox. I don't know but expect similar with IE.

By Sauceress (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Here's Whitaker's latest response:

I realize that this entire discussion is one that's fraught with opinions and emotions--and I thank those of you who respectfully cited your views. But comments that did not stick to the discussion at hand, or included profanity, have been removed since that's not within the climate of this blog.

Now, for everyone here who has inquired about the “Projection: Autism Incidence in US Children” graph I cited in my debate with Steven Novella, MD, at FreedomFest, here's my response:

I understand that the projected rate of 100 percent seems unreasonable. However, the graph is based on estimated autism rates of 1 in 5,000 in 1982 (a rough estimate based on the fact autism rates were not routinely recorded back then) and 1 in 91 in 2009 http://pediatrics.aappublicati..., for an average yearly increase of about 14 percent. (Current statistics reveal that 1 in 88 children are now affected.

The graph reflects the assumption that the current rate of autism diagnoses continues in this upward trend unabated. According to these numbers, autism spectrum disorder will saturate the pediatric population by 2040. Anyone who does the math will come to the same conclusion.

Again, the fact that it goes to 100 percent is certainly alarming and hard to believe. Confounding factors include the likelihood that not all children will be vaccinated, the potential for changes in autism diagnostic parameters, and the possibility that rates of increase will decline. (On the other hand, rates may also increase.)

For those who take issue with this projection, check the relevant data I’ve provided and do your own projection.

Once again, I wanted to thank everyone who participated in this spirited discussion.

Best of health to each of you,
Dr. Whitaker

What a load of crap. Clearly this guy does not understand the nuance needed to produce proper projections.
His response translates to 'it went up so it'll keep going up until it's really high! It might not be perfect but if you want a better one go do it yourself.'

He clearly does not understand the huge problems with that graph. It is not that it goes to 100% that the only bit that is unbelievable, the fact that it shows all children being autistic before all of the girls become autistic.

I wonder if he will answer the question of who gets to pick up the bill for sick kids if the parents get a vaccine exemption.

@ AdamG

Julian Whitaker - ignorant moron and proud of it.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

@ AdamG:
He cites a scare-mongering graph to please the
woo-bent then, when he gets called on it, maintains that it's hard to believe. And closes down criticism simultaneously.
Game, set, match.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Game, set, match.

Yes, clearly much was learned from this "spirited discussion"

Dr. Whitaker has finally made a statement about the debate with Dr. Novella and an “explanation” about those *charts*…enjoy.

Oh my, that's just so precious. I feel some RI coming on.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Not sure if this has already posted, but I wanted to share a link I picked up over at the "Loosing in the Lucky Country" Skeptics site.

Parents make a dash for jab cash

Opponents to childhood vaccines say it is unfair to be denied Federal Government cash because of their beliefs, and are exploiting a loophole to claim more than $2000 a child after registering as "conscientious objectors"

I thought all the comments slamming these sleazy antivaxxers were worth reading to brighten up one's day.

By Sauceress (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

@lilady: Oh, little Augie is over there? Wish I'd seen that earlier - I would have gone right over there and asked him if he'd learned anything...(evil grin..)

Well, perhaps we all shouldn't rest upon our laurels YET...
supposedly alternative media ( Info Wars, Natural News) has *blown the lid off* Big Pharma's bribery network ( @ Natural News, today) and whistle blowers *par excellence* Gary Null and Steve Kohn ( David Lewis' BFF) are revealing the details of the FDA's surveillance of scientists ( @Progressive Radio Network)- their investigation has gone viral....

I hope this won't lead to a cut in this year's bonus.F@ck!
Where's that grey ops fellow, now that we NEED him?

@DW - I feel so sorry for my primary care physician - I'm pretty sure that no one has been telling him about this. He doesn't even drive a nice car (he explains that it comes from putting kids through college and the type of doctor he chose to be - family physician as to why he doesn't drive BMWs, etc.). He volunteers once a week at a free clinic and two different two-week intervals overseas.

They're missing a huge market here in rural Missouri. I know they aren't "reaching" him - every single medication I get is generic!

Wow - maybe I should alert Lord Draconis?

Hm. shows a whopping $10.00 for our esteemed host. I'm really worried about his bias now.

@ MI Dawn: I'm so glad that you didn't dish out the snark at Augie. I just *knew* the little b*sta*rd has been lurking here for months, waiting to stalk me on another blog.

@ Sauceress: Conscientious Objectors? Is that like the Conscientious Objectors that refused to be drafted...then wanted to claim benefits under the G.I. Bill, after World War II?

One of my favourite comments there was from:
Show Me The Money of Brisbane (Posted at 11:06 PM July 14, 2012)

I am an objector to all Family Incentive Payments - I don't have a child so I feel like I am being unfairly punished. I would like to know where I can get my $2000++ for objecting to the Government forcing me to have a child. Thank you.

By Sauceress (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Stupid government. I am in full favor of firing everyone in washington and replacing them with vultures. At least the vultures look better, smell better, and can make better decisions for freedom. Then again we have a few vultures in washington already.

I did not write this post, just by the by, and I have the static IP to prove it.

Nor the one stamped 9:45 pm.

@ Sauceress: Good grief, I hope the Government Incentive doesn't encourage "Show Me the Money" to breed. Think of the gene pool, if these conscientious objectors actually decide to have a child...heh...heh.

Would someone please give me a two-sentence summary of who or what an Augustine is? As a relative newbie I don't think I've ever encountered any posts from that 'nym. I could use the search box and go back and reach older posts and figure it out myself, but it would be so much easier if someone else would do it for me... :-)

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Looks that moronic racist Ham from Dismal Seepage is impersonating Narad.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

It does go to further highlight the robustness of the system, I suppose.

The "real" Narad:

You mean someone posts under your 'nym and makes you look crazy? Can't this blog platform prevent that, by requiring unique user names? Like once someone uses Narad no one else can ever use it. They'd have to use Narad2 or something.Or just use "guest" or "anonymous". That would protect the first person to "register" a 'nym.

It's sickening that someone would do that. It makes all posts suspect of not being genuine.

Are you really in Canada? Care to narrow that down? We might be neighbours (with a "u"!)!

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

MSII, you can Augustine in action here. He is often called "Little Augie" due to his juvenile behavior. He seems to be obsessed with transgendered people. We have no idea why.

[blockquote]I understand that the projected rate of 100 percent seems unreasonable. However, the graph is based on estimated autism rates of 1 in 5,000 in 1982 (a rough estimate based on the fact autism rates were not routinely recorded back then) and 1 in 91 in 2009 http://pediatrics.aappublicati…, for an average yearly increase of about 14 percent. (Current statistics reveal that 1 in 88 children are now affected.…[/blockquote]

So, he's basing his graphs on an 'estimated' autism rate - because there wasn't hard data.

That's textbook stupid right there.

...and someday I'll get my text right.

But today isn't my day. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.

MSII, this thread has some wondrous bits with Little Augie's transgender obsession.

Wow--thanks for those Auggie links. That's one big can of mixed nuts...

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

Marc...You just got a small taste of Augie and the Pothead Troll.

You really need to get up to speed here, about the sockies, the trolls and other assorted characters :-)

One thing I've learned here in a few months, sort of covers everything I seen:

It's a big, strange world out there with a lot of different people.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

We should do some kind of mock awards presentation once a year. The Astra Star Child Strangest Thread, Best Use of All Caps in a Spittle-Filled Screed, The Hulda Clark Humanitarian Award for Most Useless Electronic Gimmick, The John Of God Award for Original Screenplay for a Comedy or Fantasy, and of course The Marc Stephens "You Can't Say That On The Internet" Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Bullying.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

We could also include the The Silliest Graph. This year's winner would be Shawn Siegel for creating the graph, and Dr. Whitaker not understanding that if every kid is autistic by a certain year, then the 100% intercept for the girls would not come several years later!

Another contender would be Obomsawin.

That would be Best Use of Graphics or Visuals to Justify Ludicrous Claims

The Eric Merola Visual Achievement Award for Commercial That Looks Most Like A Documentary

The Joe Mercola Online Merchandising Pinnacle Award for Most Products Sold at a Website

The Jim Humble Innovation Prize for Most Misused Household Cleanser in the Quest To Heal

The Jim Sheridan Holy Cross for Best Exploitation of Religion to Promote a Cure

I could go on...

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

The Mark and David Geier Family Trust Endowment for Best Actor in a Supporting Role

The Jenny McCarthy Golden Bust for Least Significant Actor Stirring Up Vaccine Hysteria (Rob Schneider has already won this year)

The Mayim Bialik Post Graduate Scholarship for Having Beliefs that Most Conflict with Science Education

The Gary Null Legend Award for Most Ironic Name

The Mike Adams Siver Screen Award for Sensationalistic Website of the Year

The Jake Crosby Rising Star Award for Nerwcomer Under 25 of The Year

The Max Gerson/Starbucks People's Choice Award for Most Imaginative Use of Coffee

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

On the topic of doctors with strange Libertarian beliefs, I just heard from a friend that one of his high school friends from the small Texas town on the Gulf Coast where they grew up (near where she still lives) is suing her doctor because he had been ranting to someone else about Obamacare and how he wasn't going to make as much money because of it, then when she told him she wasn't going to have health insurance for a month because she's changing jobs and her new job doesn't start until a month after her last day of the previous job, he allegedly flips out and says he can no longer have her as a patient because she's going to be temporarily a dirty jobless person or something. She says he actually told her "we don't serve your kind here" or words to that effect (these are two white people, BTW).

So the friend-of-a-friend wrote down everything he said and called a couple of lawyers and also found another doctor right away. It strikes me as amazingly unprofessional for a doctor to be parading his political beliefs in the office like that, but this is rural Texas, so not completely unexpected.

The only explanation I could think of for refusing a patient and then getting into a huge argument with them for not being employed for a month, is that maybe with the recession going on as long as it has, and people being out of work and living in their cars, etc., that if you're the type of "up from your bootstraps" person who blames others for their misfortunes, eventually the cognitive dissonance is going to grow to the point where you either have to a) start showing some compassion for the less fortunate, or b) double down on the Tea Party Kool-Aid and start looking for traitors and freeloaders around every corner.

By Jake Hamby (not verified) on 18 Jul 2012 #permalink

@Jake - the ridiculousness of that is that she said she as going to be without insurance for one month. Being a cash payment for a month is not a big deal. Yes, there's the possibility of needing one doctor's appointment or having an emergency that you might have to pay off (and that is a scary thought), but many get by a lot longer as cash pay only without it being a big deal. My doctor's office gives cash patients a discount if they pay their entire bill at time of service because they save money with cash vs. insured patients because of the reduced cost of processing the paperwork.

Sometimes I suspect that libertarians come from people who only believe they have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. If you've ever had to choose between unemployment vs. working two jobs to make ends meet and leaving your too young to babysit themselves children at home alone and worry about whether or not you'll lose them to social services and get through it, you still learn from that experience that sometimes bad things happen to perfectly good people and that there is more than temporary circumstance that measures a person's worth.

Maybe the lawsuit will wake him up a little.

Lilady, MSII, Augustine has been posting a lot over at ERV

Another poster seems obsessed with polio like symptoms in India, I wonder who that could be?

By sheepmilker (not verified) on 19 Jul 2012 #permalink

OT but I must say it is very refreshing coming here and not having my intelligence insulted by the likes of Augie, Dr Smart or crazy thingy. This new platform is great :)

By delurked lurker (not verified) on 21 Jul 2012 #permalink

It's good to see that science based people don't shy away from a debate with quack&woo – I wish climate scientists would the same braveness and not chicken out of similar debates on anthropogenic global warming.

By Tony Mach (not verified) on 22 Jul 2012 #permalink