Stupid, stupid burning bright

In case you didn't know, Science Blogs is owned by a company called Seed Media Group. They invite bloggers, host them, give them tech support, and use their blogs to post ad content. And that's it. Bloggers are offered small compensation based on blog hits, but for most bloggers, this ads up to very little. Blog content is independent in every way but one: blogging is by invitation only. Once you're here, you can write whatever you want.

But conspiracy theorists are likely to be unimpressed by this. Seed's ads are everything from major corporate sponsors to google adsense garbage that sometimes turns out ads for fake cancer cures and chelation therapy, but in the eyes of some, anyone who blogs here must be in the thrall some sponsor or other. This is of course impossible, given that the sponsors often offer contradictory services (Merck ads, anti-vaccine ads, etc). I have not infrequently had in depth and sometimes heated discussions with my fellow bloggers about various ads and whether and how they reflect on our images as individual bloggers.

The peace I've come to is this: to provide me with a place to blog, Seed needs advertisers. Despite this, they do not pressure me to write favorable pieces. There was a MasterCard ad up earlier today, and if I decided to slam the immoral usurious practices of the credit card companies, no one from Seed would say a word to me.

That's why Age of Autism's latest rant against Scienceblogs is wrong before it even begins. The entire post is blindingly stupid. I'm not stretching it too much to assume that one or more of my fellow bloggers are going to write a thorough fisking of the piece, so I'd like to share just a little helping of the stupid. In addition to the fixed, false belief that all seventy or so of us are in the thrall of Big Pharma, this guy can't think clearly enough to write a coherent rant. Writing style can reveal a lot about thinking styles, so let's look at an excerpt:

I was no exception to the rule, gaining a bit of "Science"Blogs infamy
myself: "The mindset of an Anti-Vaccinationist revealed:" one "Science"
Blogger's thread-title screamed, "courtesy of Jake Crosby of the Age of Autism
Blog." This was in response to my alleging a conspiracy "theory" and
stating those "14" or so "studies" were no more scientifically sound
than claims that the earth was flat. Ironically, the "Science"Blogger
then asserted I was part of a "cult," and also said, "David
every bit as much a member of the cult as Jake." I found it puzzling
that this typical "Science"Blogger accused me of conspiracy theorizing,
while concocting a conspiracy theory himself.

I like scare quotes;  they are great for making subtle points about
"experts" like Jake Crosby, the author of the piece.  But this idiot
abuses scare quotes so often as to render them meaningless. Look, if
your view of reality requires to place everyone else's ideas in scare
quotes, perhaps you are the problem.

laughably complains about ScienceBlog's "pre-programmed conclusions"
about vaccination and autism.  Even if all the bloggers were a monolith
(which we most assuredly are not), perhaps when lots of smart,
knowledgeable people think you're nuts, it's time to critically
re-examine your own beliefs.  Pre-programmed conclusions are the
measure of un-scientific thinking.  The scientific community has asked
the question about vaccination and autism many, many times, and the
overwhelming weight of the evidence has rejected the hypothesis.  It's
an interesting idea, but it has failed.  In science, when a hypothesis
is disproved  by the weight of the evidence, it's abandoned no matter
how interesting it was.  The quasi-religious thinking of the Jake
Crosbys of the world are what lead us to label them cultists.  Age of
Autism is a cult devoted to the fetishization of vaccines as the root
of all evil.  It's not just autism, despite the name:

Similar views are universally expressed about Gardasil, the HPV vaccine
linked to dozens of deaths and thousands of serious adverse events so
far and which does not even adequately protect against cervical cancer.

is is wrong in every respect.  The evidence for the efficacy of Garasil
in the prevention of cervical cancer is strong.  The evidence for harm
is essentially non-existent and limited to VAERS reports of events not causally linked to the vaccine.

thinks we are bad journalists.  That's fine, except that few of us
claim to be journalists in the traditional sense.  He lashes out a the
mean anonymous bloggers (likely with a particular one in mind), forgetting that the messenger is not the message:

This has led to the vitriol emanating from "Science"Blogs, so much so that it has directly prompted multiple responses from Age of Autism, mostly to a "Science"Blogger using a fake name, hardly ethical journalistically.

he only had a brain.  The fact that someone has a pseudonym (not a
"fake name", idiot) does not invalidate their message.  That's called a
"straw man" argument.  It's one of the tools of muddled thinkers and

Crosby's article is not a "revelation".  The
seventy opinionated bloggers at Sb are not in cahoots to achieve some
nefarious purpose---in fact, we disagree so often that our internecine
feuds garner more hits than our quality work.  Many of us agree about
the science behind vaccines because we understand it and don't have an
agenda beyond the promotion of science.

The AoA folks are a cult.
They start with a faith-based conclusion and find any excuse to promote
it.  With scientific support collapsing around them, they have to reach
for the toolbox (read "bung hole") of bad thinkers everywhere, pulling out dung heaps of logical
fallacies and conspiracy theories.  They rest their persuasive powers
on fear, propaganda, and gullibility.  And lest we mix up our logical
fallacies, the use of ad hominem statements does not invalidate an argument if
they are true. AoA is an immoral gang of thugs preying on the fears of
parents, happily promoting infectious disease.  They are a danger to public
health, and a purulent boil on the buttocks of the internet.


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Yesterday, I wrote about Jake Crosby, the token college kid on the spectrum over at the happy home for wandering anti-vaccine zealots, Age of Autism. Specifically, I felt sorry for him because of his rather tortured bit of conspiracy mongering that postulated deep, dark connections between Adam Bly…
Every so often, I like to try to get into the mind of an antivaccine crank, a quack, or crank of another variety, because understanding what makes cranks tick (at least, as much as I can given that I'm not one) can be potentially very useful in my work trying to counter them. On the one hand, it's…
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By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Sep 2009 #permalink

The seventy opinionated bloggers at Sb

Seventy opinionated "bloggers", please. Or seventy "opinionated" bloggers, if you really insist.

You tell 'em, PalMD! Anti-vaccine autism parents drive me battier than most wackaloons on the Internet because 1) I am violently allergic to the pertussis vaccine and these people are raising my likelihood of getting REALLY DAMN SICK, 2) I have two kids on the spectrum and therefore talk to lots of "Autism Mommies," at least half of whom are anti-vaccine curebies who torture their kids with various unproven "therapies" and restrictive diets in an attempt to...I don't know, give them a different central nervous system? And then judge me for not doing the same to MY kids (ummmyeah, PT and OT yes, GFCF and chelation NO!), 3) I regularly lose friends over this crap and even lost a professional writing gig over it recently. Sigh.

There are two parts to putting out a biased interactive website. The first is to put out only one message, the second is to censor all attempts at putting out views counter to that first message.

ScienceBlogs doesnât censor comments (as far as I can tell). There are plenty of anti-vax wackos who are allowed to post their nonsense and have it be completely taken apart with facts and logic.

In contrast, AoA, HuffPo, and all the other anti-vax sites do censor comments and pro-vaccine comments are not allowed. Links to pro-vax sites are not allowed. It is a complete and total echo chamber where only ditto heads are allowed to post comments that are lock-step with the party line.

More news on the stupid front: Anti-vax protesters, by loudly rallying outside governors' offices in both NJ and CN,have inspired another group to plan a rally next week outside NY Governor David Patterson's office in Albany, protesting mandatory H1N1 vaccination.And.... they're *health care workers*, including nurses,home health aides, day care workers.There is also a telephone campaign in progress for sympathizers.(( Oh Disease Promoters,you work in mysterious ways,causing vexation upon us, the thinking!))

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 23 Sep 2009 #permalink

MFA Mama: You say you had some professional issues with pseudoscience...I have a client that wants me to promote some whacko cancer diet. I've so far basically ignored the's a big job and a forgetful client, but I researched the "treatment" and it's pretty much bunk. I wish I could remember the name.
Basically, I'm trying to decide if I should bother going forward. The guy is pretty nice in most respects but he does hold some goofy ideas like HFCS being "TOXIC to the BODY". Any thoughts?

There are cults, and then there are "cults".

My personal definition requires, among a few other things, that there be a sex scandal related to the inside core group. Without having followed AoA in the required intimate detail, I dunno: is AoA a 100% certified "cult"?

... our internecine feuds garner more hits than our quality work.

Not having seen either of those labels in any SB tag list, I find that one hard to verify. Numbers please!

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 23 Sep 2009 #permalink

The fact that someone has a pseudonym (not a "fake name", idiot) does not invalidate their message. That's called a "straw man" argument. It's one of the tools of muddled thinkers and propagandists

ummm, i believe that is called "poisoning the well" or even an ad hom (one is a subset of the other). Using a pseudonym doesnt represent or misrepresent what someone is saying and then attack the misrepresentation.

well, you're probably right, pedant. In this case, I looked at it as a substitution argument.

I "think" Bob O'H is making a "joke" about the overuse of "scare" quotes in the "original" article, not being "pedantic". (And boy, do I feel dirty after using so many quotes.)

That being said, I do find it kinda funny that although Mr. Crosby finds ScienceBlogs to be utterly abhorrent, he doesn't provide any links to let his readers do read the posts for themselves.

I just went to AoA. The first comment inquired as to the evidence that that vaccines caused AIDS. The very next commenter provided some material. This is the first and the last time I visit that blog and I'm surprised that anti-vaxers and AIDS denialists have not joined forces to date. Next thing they will be claiming that vaccines caused the fall of the Roman Civilization.

Igor, that's silly. Rome fell due to water fluoridation.

It was the British Empire that was brought down by vaccination. They teach all the little kids to sing a song about it on Edward Jenner day.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 23 Sep 2009 #permalink

My bad, I'll make sure to double check my sources next time.

I thought this: "...a purulent boil on the buttocks of the internet." was w1n, until I read:

"Igor, that's silly. Rome fell due to water fluoridation.

It was the British Empire that was brought down by vaccination. They teach all the little kids to sing a song about it on Edward Jenner day."

I srsly cannot stop laughing. Post of the frakkin day and over here it's not even 12 midday ^_^

Are "you" "saying" that "scare" quotes are "not" a "good" thing to use "a lot?"

You know, while typing that I could hear myself talking (in my head) like James T Kirk. Khan!!!!!!!

I really do wonder about people who see conspiracies in everything. Is this a relatively new phenomenon (to this degree) or is it just the wider dispersion of the internet that makes it seem so prevalent. I'd hate to live in a world as dark as these nutjobs make it to be.

StB@16 - the NHS has a "taint" - eeeewwwwww