Vaccines: opinions are not facts

By Phil Plait | October 9, 2012 10:07 am

There’s an old phrase among critical thinkers: you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts*. The idea is that these are two different things: opinions are matters of taste or subjective conclusions, while facts stand outside that, independent of what you think or how you may be biased.

You can have an opinion that Quisp cereal is, to you, the best breakfast food of all time. But you can’t have the opinion that evolution isn’t real. That latter is not an opinion; it’s objectively wrong. You can have the opinion that the evidence for evolution doesn’t satisfy you, or that evolution feels wrong to you. But disbelieving evolution is not an opinion.

The same can be said for many other topics of critical thinking.

Deakin University Philosophy lecturer Patrick Stokes makes just this case in a well-written piece called No, You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion. For his basic example of this he uses the modern antivaccination movement, specifically Meryl Dorey and the Orwellain-named Australian Vaccination Network, or AVN.

Dorey’s name is familiar to regular readers: she spews antivax nonsense at nearly relativistic velocities, able to say more provably wrong and blatantly dangerous things than any given antiscience advocate after eight cups of coffee (just how dangerous the antivax movement is has been written about ably by my friend Seth Mnookin in Parade magazine). She never comes within a glancing blow of reality, and has been shown to her face that whatshe says is wrong, but stubbornly refuses to back down. She claims vaccines are connected to autism, that vaccines contain dangerous levels of toxins, that vaccines hurt human immune systems. None of these things is true. Reasonable Hank, who is outspoken about Dorey, has an exhaustive list of the awful things she’s said and done.

But some media pay attention to her, and in Australia the rate of pertussis is skyrocketing. Babies have died from this illness – not that Dorey actually believes that. Despite this, some media let Dorey rant on with her medical health conspiracy theories, citing "balance" when doing their stories. This is, simply, crap. Talking to doctors and researchers with years of experience in public health, and then Dorey (who has zero qualifications to discuss this topic) gives her de facto equal footing with reality. It would be like having astronauts interviewed about the space station, then talking to a UFO hunter.

Specifically, the article by Stokes I linked above takes the station WIN-TV to task for interviewing Dorey, and lays out just why this was a boneheaded thing to do (the ABC program Media Watch did an outstanding job destroying WIN-TV and Dorey, too). His bottom line: sure, you get to have an opinion, but don’t confuse it with fact, and don’t think you have a right to state your opinion in the media.

Predictably, and with predictable results, Dorey herself has jumped into the fray on the comments to the article. She has an uncanny ability to completely miss the point of what’s being said, and as usual is tone-deaf to what’s being said. It’s fascinating, in its own way.

I don’t think Dorey will ever change. I’ll note too that there are groups out there looking for the real causes of autism; the Autism Science Foundation is one. They even have a page up showing no connection between autism and vaccines. It’s wonderful and refreshing, and we should praise them for it. I have, like here and here. They’re good folks.

And remember another stock phrase in the critical thinking community: Keep an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out.

Image credit: Shutterstock (jimmi)


* The phrase is generally attributed to NY Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.


Related Posts:

Stop antivaxxers. Now.
Debunking vaccine myths
Antivax kills
BREAKING: BMJ calls Andrew Wakefield a fraud

Comments (99)

Links to this Post

  1. Dokter’s Weekly Report #12 | Dokter Waldijk | November 4, 2012
  1. BigBadSis

    The image you included in your post that cites http://www.vaccinateyourfamily.org actually routed me to http://www.vaccinateyourbaby.org/why/history/pertussis.cfm which gives some great information. (FYI, there is no vaccinateyourfamily website that I can find.) But if any of your readers want to know more about adult and adolescent vaccines and boosters in general, they can go here: http://www.adultvaccination.com/. Thanks for your article Phil. Well written as usual!

  2. Dan I.

    I suppose, if you subscribe to the idea that “every cloud has a silver lining,” the one relatively good thing the anti-vaxx movement has done is help us ELIMINATE a cause of autism.

    Their foam at the mouth rhetoric led to enough looking at the idea of a connection that vaccines are pretty much the only thing we’ve definitively ELIMINATED as a cause of autism.

  3. Ehcks

    Yes, “you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.” If your “opinion” is actually a claim of fact, and it’s wrong, what you have is not an opinion. It’s a lie.

    The saddest part of all this is that while they are killing themselves with this nonsense, they’re also killing others. Especially babies. They simply get away with murder by neglect.

  4. noen

    Well actually this all sounds very good to me. The fact that the antivaccination movement is receiving so much criticism is a good sign.

    But there are many other matters of fact that people have contrary opinions about. Vaccines and global warming are only the tip of the iceberg.

  5. This: “you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts” should really say,

    “You’re entitled to your own well informed opinions, but not your own facts.”

    Too many people confuse opinions with the random stuff they extract from their anus…

    And of course: http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.php

  6. mike burkhart

    To Dorey : I just had a flu shot and I feel great and am not on my deathbed. As I’ve said even tho I am a Christan, Evolution dosen’t bother me I find it facanting . One instresting thing is that Evolution has become a broder sciencetific term.Today it’s more then just a reference to Charles Darwins thoery , it used to describe the orgin and devlopment of anything ,In astronomy we talk about the evolution of the stars ,planets and the universe. Off topic :Any one who has the Clestria program on there computer ,add the Cygnus X-1 add on ,it’s a great animation of a Black Hole.

  7. Mary

    Are we really entitled to facts on this blog? Well here they are;

    0.5 parts per billion (ppb) mercury = Kills human neuroblastoma cells (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140).

    2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA limit for drinking water (http://www.epa. gov/safewater/ contaminants/ index.html# mcls).

    20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37). Think Alzheimer’s!

    200 ppb mercury = level in liquid the EPA classifies as hazardous waste based on toxicity characteristics.
    http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/mercury/regs.htm

    25,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose, Hepatitis B vaccine vials, administered at birth from 1991-2001 in the U.S.

    50,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose DTaP and Haemophilus B vaccine vials, administered 8 times in the 1990’s to children at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months of age and currently “preservative” level mercury in multi-dose flu, H1N1, meningococcal and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.

  8. mikel

    “Balance”, besides being gutless, comes at the expense of a much more important journalistic virtue, accuracy.

  9. Oh Mary (#7), thank you for proving my point so well.

    Tell me, what kind of mercury is that? Is it the same as in vaccines?

    Here’s a hint: everything you just pointed out is wrong.

  10. Robin

    @ Mary (#7):

    What is the source of mercury concentrations you claim for the stated vaccines? It’s very interesting that you don’t list a source after listing sources for you hazards to health and EPA numbers.

  11. Martin

    Twisting data doesn’t make a statement “fact”. For example, Mary above compared the compound called Ethylmercury with consequences of various doses of the element Mercury. Problem is that they are two very different things, both chemically and how your body reacts to each.

    EDIT: Ninja’d by Phil himself… I’m flattered! XD

  12. mikel

    Some more facts for Mary.
    1. There is a huge difference between elemental Mercury and ethyl Mercury so you’re comparisons are worthless.
    2. In the U.S. anyway, thimerosol has been removed from childhood vaccines with zero effect on autism rates.
    3. When the Merciury that was present in multidose vaccines was distributed to multiple patients and then diluted by a factor of thousands in their bloodstreams those scary numbers you threw out drop to insingnificant amounts of a chemical that is known to be excreted in a few days.

  13. JeffB

    “1. There is a huge difference between elemental Mercury and ethyl Mercury so you’re comparisons are worthless.”

    And even if there wasn’t, conspicuously absent from the symptoms of Mercury poisoning (which is a long list running the gamut from itching to skin detachment) is any of the things that vaccines supposedly cause.

    Special bonus: Let’s apply Mary’s logic to the rest of our diets. Arsenic, copper, zinc, and iron are also toxic metals. We consume three of them on a daily basis, and the fourth is more widespread in food than mercury and is even used intentionally. But long before we die of essential nutrient poisoning, we’d burst into flames from an energetic reaction between water and sodium. That is, if the chlorine we mix that sodium with doesn’t poison us first.

  14. Ians

    @7, does it not strike you as odd that anyone who had any of those vaccines survived at all? If thimersol (ethylmecury) had the same toxicity profile as methylmecury then every single recipient of those vaccines would be dead. Since that is clearly not the case we can safely assume that you are not comparing like with like and are therefore factually inaccurate.

  15. Mike

    There’s a similar uptick in pertussis (whooping cough) in the UK linked to the anti vaccination fraud of Andrew Wakefield which received enormous attention from The Daily Mail and their columnist Melanie Phillips (who also doesn’t believe in evolution). None of these people have ever apologised for the pain and suffering they’ve caused or issued a retraction.

  16. Mary

    Robin, the source for the vaccine mercury level is the label on the vaccine vial. You do have to convert it from percentage (a number relative to a hundred) to parts per billion (a number relative to a billion). Since this is the first time in civilization newborns were injected with organic mercury it’s hard to compare this to historical poisonings. As far as ingested mercury and other metals, it is different than injecting this material into newborns and infants. One would have to extract the mercury out of tuna for example and then inject it into a newborn. Childhood vaccination is not the same as adults eating fish.

  17. Unsettled Scientist

    Mary, as has been pointed out, mercury is just an element, like carbon or sodium or chlorine. You can take toxic poisonous elements, like say chlorine gas, and make perfectly safe compounds with it, for example table salt (sodium chloride). So saying “mercury” is not very meaningful. We must examine the compound to know whether it is safe or not. Just because one compound is safe with an element in it does not mean another compound containing the same element is safe, and vice versa.

    http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1000114;jsessionid=16C814177982846CA160B694BC41DCF7#pbio.1000114-Institute2

    In the 90s, “While the ethylmercury levels exceeded the federal safety guidelines for methylmercury, which gains toxicity as it accumulates through the food chain, no guidelines existed for ethylmercury at the time. Its toxicity was largely unknown; however, there was evidence that very high doses of ethylmercury could cause neurological damage. It was also known that methylmercury can cause subtle neurological effects in infants born to mothers who eat large amounts of fish and whale meat. Studies have since shown that ethylmercury is eliminated much faster than methylmercury and is unlikely to accumulate. But in 1999, no one knew what dose to consider safe for the developing brain.

    “Given the uncertainty about ethylmercury’s toxicity, Neal Halsey, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, urged vaccine policymakers at the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to remove thimerosal from vaccines as a precautionary measure and to maintain public confidence in their safety. The agencies agreed, and vaccine manufacturers responded quickly; by March 2001, no children’s vaccines contained thimerosal.”

    If the thimerosal (mercury-containing) compound had been the culprit from the DTaP vaccines, its removal would have caused autism rates to drop. In fact the opposite has occurred. Even without exposure to mercury in vaccines, autism rates continues to rise.

    Vaccines have been studied perhaps more than any other supposed cause of autism without finding any connection. If we wish to be wise about combating autism in our children, we must listen to the scientists who study the condition and fund research they find compelling. We’ve all but ruled out vaccines and it is time to look elsewhere for relief from this affliction which impacts far more than just the person with autism.

    Let’s be smart, not reactionary. Let’s be brave, not afraid.

  18. JeffB

    No, it’s not on the label. As already stated, the labels say ethylmercury, or thimerosol. This substance shares as many properties with mercury as table salt – that is, sodium chloride – shares with metallic sodium and gaseous chlorine.

    Sodium chloride is a required compound for your body.Sodium is a toxic metal that reacts violently with water. Chlorine is a highly reactive and highly toxic gas.

    Your comparison of thimerosol to elemental mercury is the same as comparing elemental sodium and chlorine to table salt. By that argument, many people consume multiple lethal doses of two toxic chemicals on a daily basis, and even healthy salt-conscious diets will consume several lethal doses a week.

    And yet, aside from some hypertension we don’t have that much of a problem.

    Of course, that’s all wasted, because even that’s not on the label – thimerosol is now only used in adult vaccines, and not even in all of those.

  19. Unsettled Scientist

    Mary, my other reply to you will get unspammed once Phil sees it and realizes the link is safe. The mercury you talk about has been removed from childhood vaccines yet autism rates still rise. If that had been the culprit, its removal would have stopped the rise.

    You clearly see the difference between ROA (routes of administration, swallowing vs injecting a compound). How come you cannot see the difference between compounds and are stuck only talking about one element in a compound? Consider for a moment the difference between methyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol. One is very dangerous to consume, and the other served in countless bars across the world. A simple CH3 makes an enormous difference on how a compound behaves.

    Your last sentence is spot on. Childhood vaccination is safe, adult women eating fish while pregnant is not.

  20. Lisa

    Phil, Thank you for providing that link in response to Mary’s inaccurate information/comment. Here is the actual url you used for others to use: http://antiantivax.flurf.net/#Thimerosal

    I scrolled through and read all of the scientific data, proof, FACTS regarding all of the vaccines and love having this information should someone start confusing methylmercury for ethylmercury, for example. Great, accurate information to pass on to those who are being purposefully misinformed by others. Thank you!

  21. Barry

    What this article overlooks is the large body of credible research questioning vaccine safety and efficacy. In the course of post grad research I have been in contact with immunologists from around the world, and when they are operating independently, they tend to say the same kinds of things, namely that vaccines are a cocktail of materials that are toxic to humans in a variety of ways. For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmgw3KNjEJ4
    Professor Shaw is a senior post doctoral researcher in vaccine safety at the Uni of British Columbia, and has published a number of articles that question vaccine safety. He is far from being alone.
    The vaccine industry hires very competant PR professionals to trash the reputation of any well credentialled researcher who doesn’t toe the line. And may scientists are lacking the skillsets needed to communicate their research to a wider audience.
    I have now archived a great many articles from science based publications and the mainstream which detail the many and varied problems with the current vaccine regime. My view is that vaccine science is being massively let down both by corporations releasing ineffective and unsafe products and those who believe they should not be scrutinised. The body of negative publicity is building and will reach critical mass.
    What is vital now is an honest, open appraisal of what vaccines actually work, what additives are problematic, and what must be done to improve their safety and efficacy.
    At the moment the industry is in denial, hiding behind PR professionals and disinformation.

  22. We have a debate with the head of the Hungarian antivax movement going on right now on Hungarian blogs. The way he entitles himself to his own facts is just astounding… For example, he claimed – dead seriosly – that we can’t compare human diseases to, say, crops’ or pigs’, because, and I quote, “Among plants, only the element water is active, while in reptiles it’s fire and water, fire, water and air in birds, fire, water, air and earth in mammals – and, above that, aether as well in humans.”

    Yup, he blabbers about vaccines and viruses and toxins, and then he throws in the five elements from ancient Greece. And then the karma too.

    Oh, we also learned that Pasteur admitted on his deathbed that he faked his experiments and Béchamp’s theory abut microzimes is in fact true. So all those bacteria and viruses you see under the microscope – LOL, that’s fake! …or something like that – he never answered that question, for some reason.

  23. Barry–anyone in a real scientific endeavor would not provide a youtube link as their proof. Nor would they use Professor Shaw, who has essentially spammed PubMed with low impact journals with laughable publications that would barely meet the standards of respectable journals. He published an article in a non-peer-reviewed journal that took the CIA data for infant mortality and correlated with worldwide immunization standards, and published it in an attempt to convince people that more vaccinations lead to more infant mortality. Of course, he ignored all other confounding factors like quality of health care system, number of physicians, health insurance, and a hundred other factors. So, if you want to depend on Shaw, an ophthalmologist, as your savior of anti-vaccination, you might want to move on.

    And come on, do you expect us, many of who do have graduate research degrees, to accept your anecdotal statements of being in “contact with immunologists across the world.” Provide links to their vaccine denialism please. And it better be someone of a higher level of research than Shaw, because you failed with providing him as your great leader of the movement.

    There has been an open appraisal of vaccines. They work. They’re effective. Please provide strong evidence otherwise, and I’m sure we’ll be ready to talk. And since I’ve dismissed Shaw and his buddy in the department of Ophthalmology, please make sure it’s research published in a high impact peer reviewed journal. We also prefer secondary, meta-reviews rather than cherry-picked primary research.

  24. Mikey C

    Barry @21 wrote….” large body of credible research questioning vaccine safety and efficacy”.

    I call bulls#@t on this. Post links to some of this “credible research” or we can assume you’re just blowing smoke. Youtube vids don’t count.

  25. Wzrd1

    What many anti-vaxers neglect to ever consider is the Wakefield fraud, which resulted in the loss of his medical license in the UK. Where he performed needless tests to prove his pet disease existed in autistic children, where *REAL* research performed by those without the bribery and conflict of interest present disproved his “research”.
    Where he was paid by an vaccine injury attorney to “prove” vaccines caused autism, which said research has been debunked by hundreds of later studies by those not bribed by an attorney.

    Where they ignore, either through willful ignorance or by willful deceit bioavailability of compounds, half life of compounds in the body and the false claims that the elemental form of mercury is the same as various compounds. This information has been extremely well known and documented for many decades.
    But, some prefer to ignore that, either willfully or deceitfully.
    Frankly, this moves beyond the bounds of freedom of speech and into the realm of causing public harm, hence is not protected speech.
    Or to be more blunt, they should be charged with murder for each and every child that dies due to their propaganda. With a maximum sentence for each conviction.

  26. dessy

    @ Phil Plait – I have watched your ‘Don’t be a dick’ video and I try hard to follow it. Really really hard….

    But I just get go frustrated by the anti vax idiocy that I am struggling… most forms of woo just strip people of the contents of their wallets. Anti vaxxers endanger lives.

  27. Cairnos

    Adding to the element vs compound discussion, my body currently contains a whole lot of oxygen and about twice that amount of hydrogen (at least given all the hydrocarbons). Treating these as elements means that I (and all of you) should explode when exposed to the merest spark. This does not happen because the Hydrogen and Oxygen have ALREADY reacted to form water and therefore do not act like thier raw elements. In exactly the same way, elemental mercury does tend to react messily with our tissues, however ethyl mercury has ALREADY reacted and therefore does not act like mercury.

    Water does not explode – it has already done so.

    The mercury in thimerosol does not bind like elemental mercury – it has already done so.

    Extracting the raw elements from water so they can react again takes quite a bit of energy and (in normal circumstances) does not happen spontaneously.

    Ditto extracting elemental mercury from Thimerosol. (Actually I imagine it woudl be harder to get mercury from thimersosol than hydrogen and oxygen from water)

  28. Barry @21 wrote:

    What this article overlooks is the large body of credible research questioning vaccine safety and efficacy.

    I’ve read, closely, almost all the “research” that questions vaccine safety and efficacy. Almost universally, the studies are deeply flawed.

    Re Dr. Shaw’s scientific credentials, I direct you to the New Zealand Immunisation Advisory Centre (University of Auckland). Shaw testified in a case where the decedent’s mother claimed a Gardasil vaccine killed her daughter:

    http://www.immune.org.nz/commentary-coronial-inquiry-expert-witness-testimony

    Claim: In a review of the literature on the safety of aluminium adjuvants in vaccines (1) the authors Lucija Tomljenovic and Christopher Shaw conclude that vaccine benefits may have been overrated and risk for adverse effects underestimated and that this matter has not been rigorously evaluated in the medical and scientific community.

    Fact:Other reviews on the safety of aluminium adjuvants and vaccines in general (of which there are many) consistently support the safety of aluminium adjuvanted vaccines (2, 3). Tomljenovic and Shaw appear to have cherry picked the research to fit with their theory and omitted work by prominent experts in the field of aluminium adjuvants, most notably Professor Stanley Hem. There is no description of how the papers were selected for review or criteria for inclusion or exclusion. This is a serious flaw in any literature review and an unscientific approach to testing a theory. The paper also includes a range of erroneous assumptions. The World Health Organization considers the paper seriously flawed

    Scientific credibility of Dr Shaw:

    Dr Shaw has published two pieces of rodent research on the role of aluminium in neurological damage and several reviews (funded by anti-immunisation lobby groups) on the safety of aluminium adjuvants in vaccines (1, 7-9). These review articles are not original research and simply cite a range of material that appears to support a pre-established position. This is not scientific. There are many articles published that use a systematic approach to evaluating the safety of vaccines and review articles meeting a strict set of criteria for quality that address a particular research or clinical question. This repeated failure to use the scientific method to assess the safety of vaccines and aluminium draws the scientific credibility of Dr Chris Shaw into serious question.

    References

    1. Tomljenovic L, A. Shaw C. Aluminum vaccine adjuvants: Are they safe? Current Medicinal Chemistry. 2011;18(17):2630-7.

    2. Mitkus RJ, King DB, Hess MA, Forshee RA, Walderhaug MO. Updated aluminum pharmacokinetics following infant exposures through diet and vaccination. Vaccine. 2011;29(51):9538-43.

    3. Jefferson T, Rudin M, Di Pietrantonj C. Adverse events after immunisation with aluminium-containing DTP vaccines: Systematic review of the evidence. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2004;4(2):84-90.

    7. Tomljenovic L. Aluminum and Alzheimer’s Disease: After a century of controversy, is there a plausible link? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2011;23(4):567-98.

    8. Tomljenovic L, Shaw C. Mechanisms of aluminum adjuvant toxicity and autoimmunity in pediatric populations. Lupus. 2012;21(2):223-30.

    9. Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA. Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism? Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. 2011;105(11):1489-99.

    Barry Says wrote:

    The vaccine industry hires very competant PR professionals to trash the reputation of any well credentialled researcher who doesn’t toe the line.

    Citation needed. Who are these PR professionals? Which well-credentialled researchers have had their “reputations trashed”?

  29. Mike

    High school chemistry is not the anti-vaxer’s strong point.

  30. Peter

    Yes the AVN constantly regurgitates the same old lies and remains knowingly ignorant of the facts. Every time I read some new stupidity from the wiki article on them I’m surprised!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Vaccination_Network

  31. Stewart, Melbourne AU

    I’m just waiting for when the AVN, and Meryl Dorey in particular, are done as accessories to negligent homicide when a child dies because their parent didn’t vaccinate them on her advice….I wish there was a way she could be properly called to account for her arrant obliviotry before this happened….

  32. MattTheTubaGuy

    I am autistic, AND I had the hooping cough when I was a teenager.
    Hooping cough is horrible, it seriously makes you want to die when you are coughing, and it lasts for ages too. I was off school for at least two months, and it was several more months before I had recovered completely.
    I really don’t see what the big deal with autism is, even if vaccines DID cause autism (which is doesn’t!), it is certainly a much better fate than DEATH!
    I have completed 2 1/2 years of a BSc (astro/physics of course!), so autism isn’t all bad, we just think differently.
    I did leave uni last year with an incomplete degree, but for a completely different reason (My city has been hit by several major quakes and over 10,000 aftershocks in the last two years)

  33. C.H. Hendrickson

    Phil,

    I’ve emailed you a few minutes ago some stuff that might help you convince a lot of people to get their kids vaccinated, and I hope you’ll take a look at it.

    C.H.

  34. ND

    Mary,

    are you saying those ppm figures for the vaccines are your own calculations? Can you please post exactly what the label on the vial itself says, so other can verify what you’re claiming? Or what exactly is your source of the ppm figures?

    Besides, as has been pointed out, you’re conflating elemental mercury with compounds containing mercury. Not the same thing.

  35. VinceRN

    Perhaps I cut my skepticism with too much cynicism, but I think maybe Meryl Dorey is laughing all the way to the bank. Every reasoning post on this topic tweaks some nut like Mary, and I imagine enough of them send Dorey money to help spread the word to keep her living in comfort and travelling first class.

    Perhaps I’m too cynical though, I’ve been accused of that before.

    (Oh, and Mary, I think you are probably multiplying the ppm by the number of doses in the multidose vial since you are careful to point out it’s a multidose vial and that somehow makes it worse. It doesn’t work that way, but I expect you won’t believe me)

    Or maybe Marys’s just a troll seeing how much reaction she can get out of this and doesn’t know or care about the issue at all. (oops, there goes that cynicism again).

  36. Rock on MattTheTubaGuy!

    Phil, I just discovered your blog recently, heh, through zen pencils, and I wanted to say that I always find it entertaining and I really appreciate your humor as well as your critical thinking. Thanks for being awesome.

  37. ND

    “Or maybe Marys’s just a troll seeing how much reaction she can get out of this and doesn’t know or care about the issue at all. (oops, there goes that cynicism again).”

    I think that’s very optimistic cynicism.

  38. TheBlackCat

    Which well-credentialled researchers have had their “reputations trashed”?

    Let me clarify:

    Which well-credentialled researchers have had their “reputations trashed” by anything other than their own incompetence or lack of ethics.

    Wakefield’s reputation has been trashed, for example, but he is wholly responsible for that himself. Multiple financial of interest, violating research laws when doing experiments on children, and on top of that going on TV and demanding people pay him to learn the supposed proof he is innocence (by buying his book), are all solely his fault.

  39. Jesrad

    @Mary:

    Seems you’re typing fine in spite of the blood on your hands.

  40. Nigel Depledge

    MAry (7) said:

    Are we really entitled to facts on this blog? Well here they are;

    0.5 parts per billion (ppb) mercury = Kills human neuroblastoma cells (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140).

    2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA limit for drinking water ([url omitted]).

    20 ppb mercury = Neurite membrane structure destroyed (Leong et al., Neuroreport 2001; 12: 733-37). Think Alzheimer’s!

    200 ppb mercury = level in liquid the EPA classifies as hazardous waste based on toxicity characteristics.
    [url omitted]
    25,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose, Hepatitis B vaccine vials, administered at birth from 1991-2001 in the U.S.

    50,000 ppb mercury = Concentration of mercury in multi-dose DTaP and Haemophilus B vaccine vials, administered 8 times in the 1990’s to children at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 18 months of age and currently “preservative” level mercury in multi-dose flu, H1N1, meningococcal and tetanus vaccines. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials.

    This is not fact, it’s horse hooey.

    A mercury-containing compound is not elemental mercury.

    By way of comparison, how explosive is water in an oxygen atmosphere? Not at all, right?

    Yet two-thirds of each water molecule is hydrogen, which, as a pure element, is extremely explosive in an oxygen atmosphere.

    How come?

    Compounds containing an element have chemistry that differs from the pure element. You are comparing apples with elephants. Your comparison is not valid.

    As an aside, I note that your claims for the mercury content of vaccines are unreferenced. Is this, perhaps, because you cannot support those claims?

  41. Darwy

    @Mary #7

    I know Phil and the others have taken you quite handily to task already, I do feel compelled to point out a few things they haven’t (yet):

    “0.5 parts per billion (ppb) mercury = Kills human neuroblastoma cells (Parran et al., Toxicol Sci 2005; 86: 132-140).

    2 ppb mercury = U.S. EPA limit for drinking water (http://www.epa. gov/safewater/ contaminants/ index.html# mcls).”

    Are two of your citations.

    First; use of an in vitro model, such as the neuroblastoma cell line SH-SY5Y is fine – extrapolating those results to an entire organism isn’t. This is one of the problems with in vitro models – you’re only looking at one focused area of the organism, and ignoring the whole.

    Secondly; use of a drinking water guideline for ‘mercury’ exposure via vaccination is simply laughable.

    As has been pointed out, it’s not elemental mercury in vaccines, so it’s not even the appropriate guideline.

    But, even if it were, it STILL would have zero bearing on the presence or amounts of ‘mercury’ in vaccines – since it’s a different exposure risk. Chronic exposure sources, such as drinking water, food, etc have MUCH stricter guidelines than other exposure sources.

    Think about it: we’re supposed to drink 8 8 oz glasses of water per day. That’s a significant exposure risk, so the allowable limits for chemicals MUST be minuscule. You don’t get vaccinated daily; you don’t get vaccinated weekly, nor monthly. Vaccines are not a chronic source of ‘mercury’ ergo you cannot use the drinking water limit for them.

  42. Dr Stokes has been on Australian public radio talking about his article. The best interview is the one ABC Melbourne did, which I’ve put online here:
    https://dl.dropbox.com/s/2vpo8ttyeww9zqi/Patrick%20Stokes%20ABC%20Melbourne%20interview.mp3

    There’s quite a nice review article of vaccine safety issues here: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2006/184/4/vaccine-components-and-constituents-responding-consumer-concerns
    which I discuss along with some other ‘issues’ raised by an antivaxxer here: http://complexitydaemon.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/on-autism-antibiotics-and-vaccination/

  43. Nigel Depledge

    Mary (16) said:

    Since this is the first time in civilization newborns were injected with organic mercury it’s hard to compare this to historical poisonings.

    If this statement is correct, then your previous one is wrong. You cannot both have your cake and eat it.

    If your figures are correct and pertinent (which, obviously, they are not), then every recipient of every vaccine that contained thimerosal will have suffered mercury poisoning. Historical poisonings come in a variety of forms, and I’m sure some of them would have been injected.

    The commonest manifestation of mercury poisoning is chronic exposure to mercury vapour, which still occurs where gold is mined using mercury (gold amalgamates very readily with mercury, so mercury is used to extract it from the pulverised rock in some parts of the world where profit trumps workers’ rights).

    As far as ingested mercury and other metals, it is different than injecting this material into newborns and infants.

    How different?

    In fact, because elemental mercury and many mercury compounds readily cross biological membranes, it is little different.

    One would have to extract the mercury out of tuna for example and then inject it into a newborn.

    No. All you’d need is for a breastfeeding mother to consume lots of tuna or wild salmon. Or marlin.

    Childhood vaccination is not the same as adults eating fish.

    True, but not for the reason you seem to think. The vaccination is a limited number (perhaps 3 in a child’s first year) of acute exposures (even if thimerosal were still in use, which it is not), whereas the eating of tuna is long-term chronic exposure.

  44. Farah

    It would be like having astronauts interviewed about the space station, then talking to a UFO hunter.

    Don’t give them ideas!

  45. Nigel Depledge

    Barry (21) said:

    What this article overlooks is the large body of credible research questioning vaccine safety and efficacy.

    Not really.

    No-one has ever claimed vaccines to be 100% safe, and various vaccine producers are always interested in producing safer vaccines and vaccines that result in fewer adverse reaction reports.

    However, what Dorey ignores and what you overlook is that vaccines are mostly safe, and that not using widespread vaccination is insane while vaccines are available.

    I have sufficient confidence in vaccines that my little boy (who is now 17 months old) has had all of his immunisations on schedule. The worst he had was a little injection-site soreness, and a skin reaction to the sticking plasters that were used after his first set of shots.

    In the course of post grad research I have been in contact with immunologists from around the world, and when they are operating independently, they tend to say the same kinds of things, namely that vaccines are a cocktail of materials that are toxic to humans in a variety of ways.

    If this were true, then you would know it is nonsense. Substances are not toxic. Doses are toxic. The official definition of the term “toxic” is based on LD50 data, i.e. the concentration at which a substance kills half of a sample of model organisms (although this method is being phased out). Without consideration of the dose, the presence of a “toxic” substance is irrelevant.

    For example, some of the components of tobacco smoke are extremely toxic (or highly toxic under the European classification), but obviously smokers are not instantly keeling over and dying from a single puff of smoke. This is because these substances are present at extremely low concentrations (they do cause chronic effects, but that has a different mechanism, and chronic toxicity is not relevant to a discussion about vaccinations because of the large intervals between vaccine doses).

    [url omitted]
    Professor Shaw is a senior post doctoral researcher in vaccine safety at the Uni of British Columbia, and has published a number of articles that question vaccine safety. He is far from being alone.

    Yes. And?

    The vaccine industry hires very competant PR professionals to trash the reputation of any well credentialled researcher who doesn’t toe the line.

    Citation needed.

    (But you get credit for not writing “tow the line”.)

    And may scientists are lacking the skillsets needed to communicate their research to a wider audience.
    I have now archived a great many articles from science based publications and the mainstream which detail the many and varied problems with the current vaccine regime.

    Not good enough.

    Have you anything that is peer-reviewed?

    My view is that vaccine science is being massively let down both by corporations releasing ineffective and unsafe products and those who believe they should not be scrutinised.

    I’m not aware of anyone who believes that products for injection into people should not be scrutinised. Do you actually have any idea how tightly-regulated the pharmaceuticals industry is?

    The body of negative publicity is building and will reach critical mass.
    What is vital now is an honest, open appraisal of what vaccines actually work, what additives are problematic, and what must be done to improve their safety and efficacy.

    Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here.

    Go tell this to Meryl Dorey.

    At the moment the industry is in denial, hiding behind PR professionals and disinformation.

    Citation needed. Seriously, because you are calling my professional integrity into question.

  46. #7 Mary:
    Are you really so ignorant as to not know the difference between an element and a compound???
    Others have beaten me to the sodium chloride example, so here’s another. I’ll repeat a joke, which has been told here before:

    A man went into a cafe, and said, “Can I have a glass of H2O, please?”
    The next man behind him said, “I’ll have an H2O too.”
    The coroner’s verdict was death by misadventure.

    Just in case you don’t get that… H2O is water. H2O2 is hydrogen peroxide, better known as bleach. Both are compounds of hydrogen and oxygen; one is a substance without which we couldn’t survive for a day, but the other is highly toxic.
    DUH!!!!!

  47. TheBlackCat

    But you get credit for not writing “tow the line”.

    Hey, what do you have against boaters?

  48. Nigel Depledge

    Cairnos (27) said:

    (Actually I imagine it woudl be harder to get mercury from thimersosol than hydrogen and oxygen from water)

    Probably not, for the following reason:

    Mercury, being an element of period 6, forms covalent bonds using an electron shell that sits far from the nucleus, whereas oxygen bonds using electrons from its 2p orbitals.

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Neil Haggath (42) said:

    H2O2 is hydrogen peroxide, better known as bleach.

    Not quite.

    While hydrogen peroxide does indeed have a bleaching effect (it is the active ingredient in hair bleach, for example – hence the term “peroxide blonde”), household bleach is more commonly sodium hypochlorite, which is significantly more reactive than hydrogen peroxide.

    General Health Warning:
    DO NOT ever attempt to bleach your hair with household bleach – you are likely to suffer severe chemical burns and may blind yourself if it gets in your eyes.

  50. Right on, the anti vaccine movement is dangerous and should not come under protected free speech. For the record, I believe it was the Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman who coined the expression about opinions and fact.

  51. Jim Shaver

    I read that article in Parade magazine Sunday and was very pleased to see in a widely-distributed medium such accurate reporting of the scientific and historical facts about vaccines and the anti-vaccination movement, not the typical brain-dead “balanced” representation. I’m telling every parent I know to read that article.

  52. DanM

    In reading this thread, I am struck by the fact that the anti-science crowd is often eager to make a posting that puts their views on public display, but much less eager to respond when reasoned criticisms are posted as replies. Case in point: Mary #7 put some data forth, which (on the face of it, without actually looking into the details or engaging the thought process) could look meaningful (or even scary). Numerous posters (including Phil) responded with rebuttals based on actual science. But when she came back to post again #16, the only one of these responses she addressed was the one that did the least damage to her position. She entirely ignored all the other postings, despite their obvious relevance.

    How, in her own mind, can she justify ignoring rebuttals that seem to reduce her initial arguments to meaninglessness?

    Why do people continue to believe what they believe when they are well aware of all the questions they are NOT answering? How can any self-respecting intellectually mature individual simply ignore the data they don’t like?

    It boggles the mind.

    Ok, I should know better than to be surprised by reality deniers. But, somehow, my frustration with this willful blindness never goes away. Perhaps I should just deny the existence of confirmation bias

  53. JeffB

    A couple people bring up the things the anti-vaxxers “neglect” to bring up about Wakefield’s fraud…

    How about the fact that he was trying to sell vaccines. His research wasn’t about additives or even the effects of the vaccines, only the effects of administering measels, mumps, and rubella vaccines in one dose. The alternative were three separate shots that he happened to have rights to.

  54. ScottS

    Fascinating article and discussion here – thanks to all who have shared their knowledge and information.

    I must say I’m disappointed, though, that “Mary” has not come back to admit she was incorrect. I would like to think that one would do that in this situation. Too much invested, perhaps? Sad.

  55. TheBlackCat

    @ ScottS: You haven’t been involved in this sort of discussion very long, have you? It is extremely rare for anti-science types to admit their errors. Most are drive-by trolls like Mary, a few are more dedicated. I have been involved in these sorts of discussions for more almost 12 years and I can count the number of times I have seen them seriously admit fault on one hand.

  56. @Unsettled Scientist,

    “If the thimerosal (mercury-containing) compound had been the culprit from the DTaP vaccines, its removal would have caused autism rates to drop. In fact the opposite has occurred. Even without exposure to mercury in vaccines, autism rates continues to rise.”

    Thus, according to the “correlation must be causation” reasoning most anti-vax folks seem to employ, we should reinstate thimerosal since it was obviously keeping Autism rates down.

    Ok, I’m not serious, but it’s interesting how every time one of their arguments is proven wrong, anti-vax proponents either ignore the fact that they were disproven or move their goal posts to another location and then claim that they must be correct because *this* theory of theirs wasn’t disproven.

  57. Gary Ansorge

    …and since her post 16, Mary has not returned. Maybe Y’All actually succeeded in getting her to understand what she was saying was B.S….one can only hope…

    Gary 7

  58. Mary

    I also sign in as Mary and occassionally make comments here. I felt the need to point our that we are not the same Mary. This Mary does not share that Mary’s uninformed opinions and disregard for science.

  59. Matt B.

    Interesting how people confuse density with quantity. “Parts per billion” does not equal “parts”.

    I have a nutjob coworker who once put someone down for picking up a penny on the street, saying “It costs you ten cents a calorie to pick up a penny.” Aside from the fact that 10 cents/cal would translate to $200/dy for food, giving a rate (i.e. density) doesn’t tell you how much money it costs to pick up that penny, because you’d have to know how many calories it takes.

  60. Crissa

    Many trolls “tow the line”.

  61. Thomas

    “The vaccine industry hires very competant PR professionals to trash the reputation of any well credentialled researcher who doesn’t toe the line.”

    Competent? Hah! It took them 12 years to catch a hack doctor who was paid by lawyers to fake up some anti-vaccine lies. Hardly competent at all. You want to see some competent PR, check out the antivaxxer websites – they’ll not waste 12 minutes before posting poorly spelt rants about anyone who dares to dispute them. See what happened to Amy Wallace, or Elyse Anders.

  62. Rex

    The fate of Mary [the dumb one, not the last one] was a foregone conclusion. I am not a scientist and not even a well read amateur [which probably puts me unintentionally at about the same level as Merril Dorey] But even with my lack of scientific training I am aware that these arguments have been raised and refuted many times before in many different places.

    I understand the difference between elemental and compound mercury, I get the importance of dosage in discussing toxicity, and I understand the implications of the respective half life periods of ethyl versus methyl mercury. These are not difficult concepts for we non-scientific types.

    But what I do not undertand is why the Marys and Merrils of the world don’t also see this evidence. And this is an important point. Mary made an argument which was wrong and her error was clearly and undeniably demonstrated. This is not a matter of opinion, nor is there any degeree of subjectivity here. Mary’s statemetns are factually, scientifically wrong. She obviously believed them so this is not an issue of intellectual honesty. But her response on being shown to be wrong is to raise some semi related factoids which really don’t add to the argument.

    What she doesn’t do is stop and think and say “Gee, maybe I’m wrong”

    And that is an important point. Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to prove Mary’s and Merril’s facts to be in error. That’s the easy bit. Maybe we should try to understand why people like them believe these things, and why they hold on to those beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  63. I am 100% in favour of immunisation. My post on ‘Usual Childhood Diseases’ at http://www.vitalmis.com/blog/files/f9f0021f5da7711f53a88241d021241e-20.php says why.

  64. Dan

    I strongly recommend Paul Offit’s book “Autism’s False Prophets”.
    It’s a very thorough history on the subject and is highly readable.

    Dan

  65. Nigel Depledge

    Aharon Eviatar (50) said:

    Right on, the anti vaccine movement is dangerous and should not come under protected free speech.

    AFAICT, no-one’s saying they should not be free to spout their drivel wherever they go.

    What I think is being said is that various media are giving the antivax lunatics a platform in the name of “balance” when all this does is give them the imprimatur of equivalent weight with the experts, without having earned it.

  66. Nigel Depledge

    DanM (52) said, regarding Mary (#7 and #16):

    How, in her own mind, can she justify ignoring rebuttals that seem to reduce her initial arguments to meaninglessness?

    Possibly she already knew that her argument was meaningless? Or the astonishing feat of cognitive dissonance?

    Why do people continue to believe what they believe when they are well aware of all the questions they are NOT answering?

    “If I ignore it hard enough, it’ll go away . . . ”

    How can any self-respecting intellectually mature individual simply ignore the data they don’t like?

    I think the answer’s in the question.

    It boggles the mind.

    Mine, too.

    Ok, I should know better than to be surprised by reality deniers. But, somehow, my frustration with this willful blindness never goes away.

    I know how you feel.

  67. Nigel Depledge

    Rex (62) said:

    She obviously believed them so this is not an issue of intellectual honesty.

    I am not sure this has been shown.

    Either she believes those arguments, or did a good job of making it look as though she did.

    But her response on being shown to be wrong is to raise some semi related factoids which really don’t add to the argument.

    Which means she is a typical troll.

  68. Matt

    At what point does promoting this kind of dangerous nonsense become criminal? people are already dying, why are there no proscecutions?

  69. Nigel Depledge

    @ Matt (68) –
    It’s too hard to tie a specific event to the propaganda of the antivax crowd. In biological systems, the data are typically very noisy.

  70. Jeanette

    This is a great article. Thanks for sharing Catherine. I can relate to this article as I am constantly educating families every single day while working as a School Nurse on the importance of immunizing their children. The district I currently work for used to have an immunization clinic that I would volunteer my time to work in one to two days a week. It’s sad that after 30 something years the immunization clinic was closed down this year due to State budget cuts. It was really great having that clinic in district as if any child’s immunizations weren’t up to date, we could just send them over to our School Based Health Center to get them updated with all their shots. I think it’s really hard to say why this current generation is so resistant to immunize their children. But I am sure the access to the internet has a lot to do with it as nowadays one can google just about anything. Yet what they fail to understand is that whatever they may google, it’s not necessarily the correct information. I really like the way this article mentions vaccines and autism. That is probably the number one reason I often hear from families on why they are choosing not to immunize their children. And because the rise of autism is bigger than ever before in our school districts nationwide, it certainly is no help when trying to educate families on the importance of getting their children immunized and that the vaccines do not cause autism. All we can really do is continue to educate and pray for all those families who just don’t really understand the great importance of immunizations. As we all know for years these immunizations have kept children healthy so that they stay well and can perform at their very best while in school.

  71. The Master

    SO how are you supposed to process information when you can’t trust the source? I no more trust any scientific study than I trust any governmental agency or media outlet. They are all out for at LEAST the all mighty bottom line. If not planning some thing “else”.

  72. Billy

    “SO how are you supposed to process information when you can’t trust the source? I no more trust any scientific study than I trust any governmental agency or media outlet. They are all out for at LEAST the all mighty bottom line. If not planning some thing “else”.”

    Like we’d believe you!

  73. Rex

    The Master [71] goodness me! Can’t trust scientific studies, the media or government. Are you sure you’re on the correct web site. Were you perhaps looking for http://www.conspiracyboxheads.com?

    And what is the “some thing “else”” “They” are planning? And is “they” the International Society of They, headquartered in Geneva? Or are “they” the ones planning a single world government? Or the ones conspiring to poison our children by flouridating the water? Or covertly engineering terrorist attacks against their own citizens? Or unlawfully installing a communist, Muslim, illegitimate, atheist, overseas born President? Hmmmmmm?

    Try and be quiet while the grown-ups are talking….

  74. The Master

    No what I basically saying is fraud is committed all the time. Pharmaceutical companies are in a BUSINESS. They do not exist for altruistic reasons. Knowingly, unsafe drugs are released and sometime it’s a matter of statistics. What will bring more profit? The overall sales minus the payout in damages or simply pulling the product?

    And secondly, yes believe it or not our government engages in covert operations all around the world. The US is no different than any other. The US engages in experimentation on humans. The ones I read about and heard from soldiers (yes our solders) range from the stupid, lke do florescent lights effect your immune system to the down right dangerous. How radioactivity kill humans (conducted after WWII).

    Recent examples of lying; WMD’s in Iraq which led to a 10 year invasion. Killing over 5000 soldiers (maybe more) Hundreds of thousands if Iraqi citizens, wasted BILLIONS of dollars of taxpayer money against a country that couldn’t possibly be a threat to anyone. For what? To secure OIL so the big oil can continue to make profits and tighten it’s grip on the world markets And that is ONLY ONE example we all know about.

    Like it or not, this happens. You don’t knwo and the government wants it that way. All in the name of “homeland security”. You should read up on PNAC and the Patriot act. It’s an eye opener.

    As for your accusations, I’m sure you know what the Euro is. Research why that exists and why Switzerland opted out of it. Government have been conducting false flag operations since there WERE governments. Nothing new about that. It also doesn’t matter who are president is once he meets with the Bilderburg group.

    I am not going to waste my time convincing you. I don’t think it’s possible to convince someone of these activities. But I will say, research for yourself. I did…. my world view changed. It changed greatly.

    “Try and be quiet while the grown-ups are talking….” Ahhh I almost missed that. Yeah… such a witty come back. I always find it funny when faced with simple basic facts and logic, the simple minded resort to childish insults. Such a pity.

  75. The Master

    @Bill “Like we’d believe you!” AHHhhh ha ha ha .. good one! LOL!

  76. The Master

    Oh and one more thing… This air on PBS last month. September 22nd to be exact.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW6mJOqRDI4

  77. Alvaro

    @ TheMaster:

    “No what I basically saying is fraud is committed all the time. Pharmaceutical companies are in a BUSINESS. They do not exist for altruistic reasons. Knowingly, unsafe drugs are released and sometime it’s a matter of statistics. ”

    I have never, EVER, understood the logic behind this “argument.” Under what scenario do you people think it’s a good business model to a) kill your customers and b) care so little about public perception that you are willingly putting out harmful products even though this is known both by you and the public, thinking people will continue to buy your 10th product after 3 of the first 9 were harmful?

    Making sure you make your products as safe as possible, and recalling anything that is shown to actually have unintended harmful consequences the secodn it’s discovered, is THE BEST BUSINESS DECISSION YOU CAN POSIBLY MAKE as a pharmaceutical company. The fact that they are in it to make money is why I’m pretty sure they’re not consciously peddling harmful vaccinations.

  78. Unsettled Scientist

    > SO how are you supposed to process information when you can’t trust the source? I no more trust any scientific study than I trust any governmental agency or media outlet.

    Good! Fortunately this is precisely how science works, none of us trust any scientific study. Never trust just one study, or even a handful of studies. What one must take into account is the total body of evidence. Doctors would not settle the issue of whether vaccines cause autism based on any scientific study alone. Any study showing one thing must be confirmed by many studies to follow it.

  79. Rex

    Unsettled Scientist – nice try, but I think the sort of critical reasoning you suggest is the same lack of trust The Master was propounding.

    And yes, The Master, my closing observation was a bit childish. But it wasn’t meant to insult you. Rather to amuse others. I couldn’t help it. I wouldn’t waste my time on an argument with you knowing the futility of trying.

  80. bbmcrae

    Again, the conspiracy of antivaxers and bad spelling, rambling screeds, and dodging direct questions continues. Something’s in the water! When will someone blow the lid off this thing?

    Also, PBS aired an 9/11 conspiracy video? Seriously? Provide a PBS link, please.

  81. The Master

    I knew about this documentary before it aired but here’s where I learned it was broadcast.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/332051?fb_action_ids=10151262276519532&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

    BTW, what is wrong with questioning the validity of data from sources who have a vested interest in the out come? They should be the MOST suspect. Like the oil companies putting forth studies disputing that automobiles do not contribute to global warming. Would you trust those studies?

  82. Unsettled Scientist

    > I think the sort of critical reasoning you suggest is the same lack of trust The Master was propounding.

    Lack of trust is a foundation of science. Nullius in verba, the Royal Society’s motto, is Latin for “Take nobody’s word for it”. The important point is to combine lack of trust with critical reasoning. I’m just pointing out to the conspiracy theorists that “take my word for it” is not a part of science. That’s not to say there are no trustworthy sources, they definitely exist.

    People who are told that vaccines cause autism need to approach that source with at least equal skepticism. Sadly it seems many people are willing to exercise skepticism for “big pharma” but not “big alt-med.” It seems that many people, if they are told a story about the man trying to make a buck, forget their skepticism and are able to be sold vitamins and herbs and even chelation treatments for their sick children. They are blind to the fact that the anti-vaxxers are in fact selling, they are in a business that requires their customer to shirk accepted scientific knowledge. To many, the profit motive of pharma means vaccines are bad, but the profit motive of alt-med is not to be questioned. Nullius in verba.

  83. The Master

    @Unsettled Scientist – Hold the bus! I never said anything one way or the other about alternate medicine. So don’t lump me in that group.

    I BELIEVE in one thing I consider paramount, the body “knows more” about healing itself than modern medicine. Taking good care of yourself is the first priority. That being said, there is some validly to SOME holistic approaches but clearly not most.

    Now…moving on.

    The sticking point for me was watching my son lose certain social skills he did possess before his vaccinations. My other two children are fine. Both female.

    Diagnoses of Autism on the Rise, Report Says By BENEDICT CAREY Published: March 29, 2012
    “Over all, boys were almost five times as likely as girls to get such a diagnosis — at a rate of one in 54, compared with one in 252 for girls.”

    I don’t believe in coincidences. I am highly skeptical of anything that the media presents one way or another but when you witness it first hand, you form your own ideas. My opinion is based on first hand observations and research of available data.

  84. Unsettled Scientist

    @The Master, I wasn’t talking about or to you. You didn’t mention chelation therapy either, but clearly you identified with my comment. The anti-vax movement is chock full of alt-medders, and I was speaking in general terms about using skepticism in the framework of critical reasoning.

    Be careful extrapolating your personal observations as some scientific proof. A famous saying is “Science is about not trying to fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” We see patterns where they don’t exist. It’s a phenomenon known as pareidolia.

    You know what they call holistic medicine that works? Medicine. It’s a fallacy that holistic approaches aren’t part of modern science-based medicine.

  85. The Master @ #82 said: “The sticking point for me was watching my son lose certain social skills he did possess before his vaccinations. My other two children are fine. Both female. Diagnoses of Autism on the Rise, Report Says By BENEDICT CAREY Published: March 29, 2012 “Over all, boys were almost five times as likely as girls to get such a diagnosis — at a rate of one in 54, compared with one in 252 for girls.” I don’t believe in coincidences. I am highly skeptical of anything that the media presents one way or another but when you witness it first hand, you form your own ideas. My opinion is based on first hand observations and research of available data.”

    I’m sorry for what happened to your son.

    But how do you know the loss of your son’s skills was caused by vaccines and not by some other internal or external factor?

    The fact remains that although the diagnosis of autism is on the rise, unvaccinated children are also diagnosed with autism. And my understanding is that the rate of autism is pretty much the same in vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

  86. Mark Schaffer

    What I DO know about “The Master” is that it is lying about it’s identity. This makes everything it writes suspect. Much of what it wrote about is based on simple paranoia.

  87. Nigel Depledge

    The Master (71) said:

    SO how are you supposed to process information when you can’t trust the source?

    Science is the only field of human endeavour in which publications must first run the gauntlet of peer review.

    Therefore, information coming out of the primary scientific literature is intrinsically more reliable than other sources. This does not mean it cannot be wrong.

    I no more trust any scientific study than I trust any governmental agency or media outlet.

    Why?

    Science is also the only field of human endeavour in which methods are published in detail and are therefore available to critique.

    If you don’t trust a scientific experiment, what do you trust? How do you ever step off a sidewalk to cross a road? After all, science has been shown to be more reliable as a source of finding stuff out than a person’s own eyes.

    They are all out for at LEAST the all mighty bottom line.

    Have you ever heard of Charles Darwin? Galileo Galilei? Isaac Newton? Marie Curie?

    Some of the world’s most renowned scientists funded their own work. Up until the mid-20th century, that was the basic model for how science happened. Even in these days of government grants, the living stipend is not large. For the amount of training and expertise required, science pays a small fraction of what a person could get as an accountant, doctor or lawyer. For example, if my scientific expertise were instead law expertise, I could be on 3 or 4 times my current salary (before tax).

    In short, your argument about money holds no water.

    If not planning some thing “else”.

    This is merely insidious speculation (as well as being ungrammatical).

    I can see that one has reason to distrust mass-media outlets. I can see that one has reason to distrust political (government) sources. But your attempt to imply an analogy between media, government and science is pathetic. You don’t even make a case, let alone provide any reasons to distrust science.

    And here are a very few reasons to trust science:
    1) The computer with which you view this page exists and functions.
    2) You have almost certainly benefitted from modern medical science at some point in your life. For example, have you ever contracted smallpox? No? Evidence that science was right about smallpox.
    3) The “green revolution” that feeds most of the western world is a product of science. Sure, some things were overlooked (environmental persistence of DDT, for example), but the fact remains that western-style agriculture feeds billions and generates a surplus.
    4) Some scientific predictions you can easily test for yourself – for example, the movement of solar system bodies : if you don’t trust the predictions, you can get a telescope and see for yourself if they are correct.
    5) In principle, you can test any scientific result for yourself; but a good deal of modern science requires some pretty sophisticated instrumentation, as well as the expertise to understand what the instruments are doing, what they measure and how they measure it, so there are logistical and practical difficulties there. But the principle is nevertheless sound.

  88. Nigel Depledge

    The Master (74) said:

    No what I basically saying is fraud is committed all the time.

    What utter nonsense!

    If you have some evidence to back up this ridiculous claim, let’s see it.

    Otherwise, shut up while people who knopw of what they speak are talking.

    Pharmaceutical companies are in a BUSINESS. They do not exist for altruistic reasons.

    Well, yes and no.

    Obviously, the company execs and the shareholders are in it for the money. But the rank-and-file scientists and production workers genuinely believe they are helping people.

    I know this because I work in the biopharmaceuticals sector, and, for about a year not so very long ago, the company for which I work was owned by a Big Pharma company.

    I can see that the production workers might not know the difference between a drug product that is genuinely beneficial and one that has an overwhelming drawback (Vioxx is the example that springs to mind, but I cannot think of another recent one), but many of the scientists will know. And they will not remain silent about it.

    Vioxx was an interesting case, because some of the trials showed up the adverse effect and some did not. I don’t pretend to know the inner workings of how Vioxx came to market (it’s a small molecule, so not my area), but it seems at least plausible that the results from those trials that showed up the adverse reactions were dismissed as statistical outliers. Of course, once you market a drug to millions of patients, your statistical power goes through the roof, which is one reason the FDA insists on post-launch monitoring of a drug’s performance.

    Knowingly, unsafe drugs are released

    Actually, I can think of only the one example. You need to justify your use of the plural here.

    And going back more than about ten years is irrelevant, because the regulations get tighter all the time.

    and sometime it’s a matter of statistics.

    How so?

    What will bring more profit? The overall sales minus the payout in damages or simply pulling the product?

    Well, I may only be a simple scientist with a PhD, but it seems bleeding obvious to me that not killing your customers is better for profit. Duh!

    Bear in mind, of course, that as soon as any drug product is found to have an unacceptable side effect, not only is that drug’s licence revoked, but the FDA will go into that company’s premises and closely re-examine all of their other activities too.

    And secondly, yes believe it or not our government engages in covert operations all around the world.

    This does not answer the question.

    The US is no different than any other.

    Rubbish!

    The US has more resources for interfering in other nation’s internal affairs than any other country on Earth.

    The US engages in experimentation on humans. The ones I read about and heard from soldiers (yes our solders) range from the stupid, lke do florescent lights effect your immune system to the down right dangerous. How radioactivity kill humans (conducted after WWII).

    Do you have any recent examples – say, from the last 20 years – that aren’t trivial?

    Recent examples of lying; WMD’s in Iraq which led to a 10 year invasion. Killing over 5000 soldiers (maybe more) Hundreds of thousands if Iraqi citizens, wasted BILLIONS of dollars of taxpayer money against a country that couldn’t possibly be a threat to anyone.

    Oh, come on!

    The “evidence” that the US and UK governments had that Saddam was in possession of WMDs was the sales invoices for crying out loud!

    But I agree that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified.

    For what? To secure OIL so the big oil can continue to make profits and tighten it’s grip on the world markets And that is ONLY ONE example we all know about.

    But this is an example that undermines your contention that science is as untrustworthy as the media and government. On those rare occasions that a scientific fraud is perpetrated, it is invariably uncovered by other scientists.

    You have yet to provide any reason at all why science – as a body of human endeavour – is untrustworthy.

  89. Nigel Depledge

    The Master (74) said:

    I am not going to waste my time convincing you. I don’t think it’s possible to convince someone of these activities. But I will say, research for yourself. I did…. my world view changed. It changed greatly.

    Eh?

    So, if it is not possible to convince someone, then . . . how did you become convinced?

    “Try and be quiet while the grown-ups are talking….” Ahhh I almost missed that. Yeah… such a witty come back. I always find it funny when faced with simple basic facts and logic, the simple minded resort to childish insults. Such a pity.

    You have presented neither facts nor logic, merely unsupported assertions.

    If you want to try and tell me how “easy” it is to get an unsafe drug into the marketplace, I challenge you to read the guidelines published by the International Conference on Harmonisation. All of them. It may take you a while, as collectively they’re about three feet thick.

  90. Nigel Depledge

    Unsettled Scientist (78) said:

    Good! Fortunately this is precisely how science works, none of us trust any scientific study. Never trust just one study, or even a handful of studies. What one must take into account is the total body of evidence.

    This is a good point – I missed this side of “The Master”‘s comment first time I read it.

    This is what the Cochrane Institute is all about.

  91. Nigel Depledge

    The Master (81) said:

    BTW, what is wrong with questioning the validity of data from sources who have a vested interest in the out come?

    In principle, nothing.

    However, with respect to the pharmaceuticals industry, it is the most tightly-regulated industry on the planet. Any scepticism must be considered in light of the regulatory environment in which the industry operates. And it is in every Pharma company’s interest that the public can see the regulations working, because without faith in the regulatory agencies, the industry collapses and you’ll get a widespread resurgence of formerly-banished diseases.

    Every couple of years, the site at which I work is inspected separately by both the FDA and the MHRA (the UK counterpart to the drugs arm of the FDA). We can also be inspected by the EMEA (the pan-European equivalent of the MHRA) if they so choose. If, at any point, an inspector sees something (s)he does not like, that inspector has the authority to shut us down immediately.

  92. Nigel Depledge

    The Master (83) said:

    I BELIEVE in one thing I consider paramount, the body “knows more” about healing itself than modern medicine.

    And what is the basis for this belief?

    Some magic sky fairy?

    Your “feelings”?

    Or what?

  93. Nigel

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to these comments. I hope the people who wrote them take the time to read them.

    Cheers

    Peter B

  94. Marisa

    My go to response when I see articles like this…if vaccines are so safe, why does the US Government have a Vaccine Injury Compensation Act that has paid over $2 Billion to families over the past two decades who have been victims of a vaccine injury? And why does the CDC sponsor a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System on which the CDC itself acknowledges that only a small fraction of cases are actually reported?

  95. Rex

    Nigel and Unsettled Scientist – thanks for the scientific insights in readable form, I enjoyed both your contributions. However I respectfully raise a point I made earlier. It’s not possible to convince a person of one thing, if that person simply wants to believe something else. Any evidence which doesn’t fit their framework of reasoning is rejected and any which does, no matter how tenuous, is embraced with the fervour only found in the true fanatic.

    We can just ignore The Master – he or she is just a conspiracy theorist who doesn’t have the capacity to see the illogicality of their own argument. [ie – “I don’t believe anything or trust any study, but look at this film and it’s conclusive proof”] It’s pretty obvious from his/her posts that he/she subscribes to a range of whacko conspiracy theorists and arguing with this type is an exercise in futility.

    But when I see a post like Marissa’s [4] I just despair. We have seen here a structured argument over several weeks in which some of the nonsense being pedalled by anti-vaxers has been systematically demolished. And still after all that evidence Marisa comes up with this.

  96. Marisa @ #94 said: “if vaccines are so safe, why does the US Government have a Vaccine Injury Compensation Act that has paid over $2 Billion to families over the past two decades who have been victims of a vaccine injury?”

    What’s the source for the figure of “over $2 billion…over the past two decades”? My source says the figure is less than $850 million.

    More importantly:

    1. No competent proponents of vaccines say they are perfectly safe – every medical intervention is risky to some extent. But the risk from vaccinations is generally around 1000 times less than the risk from the disease. While every death or serious injury from vaccines is a tragedy, I think it’s a risk worth taking in comparison with the risk from the diseases they protect against.

    2. Since 1988, my figures suggest that fewer than 1000 claims were successful. Now consider how many vaccines would have been administered in this time – my guess is potentially over 1,000,000,000 (for a population of around 300 million, I’m guessing around 5 million births a year, for 20 years, with ten vaccinations each; then add in vaccinations given to older children and adults). Comparing 1000 payouts against 1 billion vaccinations, and that suggests that vaccinations are incredibly safe.

    “And why does the CDC sponsor a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System…”

    Do you not know?

    How about this quote from Wikipedia: “…a way for physicians and researchers to identify possible unforeseen reactions or side effects of vaccination for further study.”

    Marisa said: “…on which the CDC itself acknowledges that only a small fraction of cases are actually reported?”

    Reference please.

    I note the same Wikipedia page says: “…VAERS has several limitations, including underreporting, unverified reports, inconsistent data quality, absence of a control group that is not vaccinated, and inadequate data about the number of people vaccinated.”

    To me unverified reports are just as much a problem as underreporting. Particularly if it’s true that most reports to VAERS are being made by personal injury lawyers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_Adverse_Event_Reporting_System#Use_in_research_and_litigation)

  97. Unsettled Scientist

    Rex,
    I write not to convince those who are rigidly set in their perceptions. If someone is a conspiracy theorist I am not trying to convince him or her that this particular conspiracy theory is wrong. Nor am I trying to change anyone’s mind, I lack that power. If someone changes her/his mind then s/he deserves the credit for thinking through the issue and coming to a new conclusion. I write for the people reading this thread looking for information which may be new to them. Counter bad information with good information.

    Marisa,
    Nobody here is claiming that vaccines are 100% safe (nor are they 100% effective). In fact it is the knowledge that they are not safe and effective for everyone that makes it more important for the rest of us to get vaccinated. This creates an effect called herd immunity. If I am not carrying the virus then I cannot transmit it to the unprotected. The vast majority of flu vaccines (perhaps all of them?) are grown in an egg medium, so people with egg allergies cannot receive them. A small percentage of children don’t build an immunity to the diseases against which they have been vaccinated. Each disease has a different threshold for herd immunity, so when the population stops getting vaccinated those with the highest threshold start to infect people first.

    Dr. Sonnenberg, PAFP President-elect, on getting the flu shot:
    “Inflenza is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States. More common than breast cancer. Unfortunately, we don’t have a vaccine for breast cancer.”

  98. NoseyNick

    Phil, your http://www.recipe4hope.org/?page_id=10 URL for the Autism Science Foundation logo seems to be broken. http://www.recipe4hope.org itself works though, or http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/ of course. I’ll be donating shortly.

    Cheers
    NN

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