No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia

Vaccination Saves Lives

By skepticlawyer

It does, you know. Really.

That we have to be reminded of this now — in (almost) 2012 — is a sad testament to the failure of not only science education but something rather more old fashioned: the public health campaign. Remember those? Newsreels of children lining up for their needles, posters enjoining people to sneeze into a handkerchief, advertisements telling people to always, always use a condom? Remember this?

That advertisement, by the way, is generally considered part of the most successful public health campaign ever, anywhere.

Maybe we need a similar campaign, equally devastating, in favour of vaccination: for in one of those strange cultural perversities where everything old is new again, there has been a determined campaign against vaccination, with a specific focus on the MMR (measles, mumps rubella) vaccine, but also taking in others. This campaign is of recent vintage, in that it has its origins in the anti-establishment beliefs engendered in the 1960s. It used to be found primarily on the left where — as G. K. Chesterton once famously observed — if people stopped believing in God, they then started believing in anything. Now, however, as the right — especially in the United States — has been colonised by religious conservatives who reject evolution and science education — it too has come to be infected with the virus of fashionable anti-science, especially in the form of opposition to vaccines. This, of course, is often allied to a Chestertonesque collection of pseudo-medical weirdnesses — homeopathy, bio-energetics, reiki, chakras, what-have-you. Homeopathy is particularly daft: I’ve always found this response telling. Do click, you’ll get a chuckle. A non-sweary version is available here.

Doing skeptical work

So, along with many other people, I am wearing my skeptical hat, and battling the anti-vaxxers. Others, of course, are better at doing the scientific spadework, rebutting the claims of anti-vaxxers and their acolytes. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait has the story:

Yesterday, in Australia, one of the most vocal antivaxxers alive, Meryl Dorey of the grossly misnamed Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), spoke at the Woodford Folk Festival about her beliefs. However, she didn’t get quite the chance she had hoped for. Once the news got out that she was invited to the festival, the group Stop AVN went into action. A protest cry went up, and the venue was changed from her speaking solo, to her participating in a panel with a series of experts — actual, real experts — on vaccines. As I write this, I have a window open on Twitter, and I’m watching the tweets using the hashtag #StopAVN flow by. It’s a thing of beauty. Dorey’s arguments are being destroyed, 140 characters at a time.

The bottom line, repeated over and over again: Vaccinations save lives. That statement of fact is so simple, so powerful, that Stop AVN put it on a banner and had it flown behind a plane at the festival.

This campaign took no little amount of organising and financial commitment; I was on the fringes of involvement (in as much as one can be from the UK), but those who did the real work are to be commended wholeheartedly. For readers interested, Kylie Sturgess (of ‘Token Skeptic‘ fame) has an excellent radio interview with the four organisers, while Chrys Stevenson’s piece on the issue at Graham Young’s Online Opinion is also excellent (and represents a nice little news scoop for his site, which is good to see). Chrys comments:

Some readers, sensitive to the subtle nuances of revelatory prose, may detect a hint of biting sarcasm in my tone. You’re right. My contempt for a woman who makes her living scaring parents out of vaccinating their children is hard to contain.

Let’s get some perspective here. Sure, Woodford is a festival that celebrates alternative ideas. You want to use a magic crystal instead of regular deodorant? Knock yourself out! But Dorey’s alternative views are not benign. They endanger the lives of our most vulnerable citizens; infants, children, the elderly and people with medical conditions which compromise their immunity to disease. What’s more Ms Dorey’s dangerous doctrine is demonstrably false.

Increasingly, we live in a culture of fear and distrust. Don’t trust the government; don’t trust ‘Big Pharma’; don’t trust ‘so-called’ experts; don’t trust the media – they’re all out to get you. Ms Dorey exploits those fears to drive home the message emblazoned on the t-shirts she sells from her on-line store: Love them, protect them, never inject them.

What Chrys and Kylie haven’t covered in their respective pieces (although they have written about it elsewhere) is Meryl Dorey’s attempt to inveigle her anti-vaccination message into Australia’s indigenous community, addressed by our house cartoonist here. Aborigines are — as readers of this blog well know — notoriously immunocompromised. Advising Aboriginal parents not to vaccinate their children is a little bit like the deliberate manufacture and sale of shonky children’s play equipment. The appropriate legal phrase is ‘criminal negligence’.

Some legal and philosophical context

Since other people have done the science, and done it spectacularly well, I think it’s best if I confine my comments to that which I know best: law, classics and the origin of (bad) ideas. I think I can explain why anti-vaccination and various other campaigns extolling ignorance have become popular, and why the ‘people are proud of being stupid’ meme has crossed the ideological divide. First, however, some background.

I am old enough, just, to have both a cultural and familial memory of the world before vaccines. My father had polio as a boy, and I grew up knowing his withered leg and lumbering gait and constant foot pain came thanks to something with which I would never have to contend, because I had been vaccinated. I could run as a child in a way that my father would never be able to run, had never been able to run. When the ABC aired a television miniseries based on Alan Marshall’s great novel of childhood, I Can Jump Puddles, I spent much of it in tears. I had confidence in what medicine could achieve because of my father’s living example. Other people do not have that cultural or familial memory: I am constantly amazed at the extent to which we have forgotten what life was like before modern medicine. I addressed that problem in an earlier piece I wrote on anti-vaxxers:

The AVN (and analogous groups) have long argued that vaccines are not responsible for a reduction in communicable disease, rather, that this is a product of increased sanitation and good food. This is wrong in a really twisted way, because it’s a half-truth, and half-truths can be harder to fight than outright, bare faced lies. See, improved sanitation and better food does increase life expectancy, and does help to prevent certain infections. It does not, however, do anything to stop viruses of the type implicated in most of the ‘childhood diseases’. How do I know this?

There are historical examples of societies that practiced good hygiene and sanitation but didn’t have vaccines, and — if we’re lucky — we can find out a great deal about what good hygiene and food can do… and what they can’t. Now having a volcano shit itself all over them was rather unfortunate for the 20,000+ people living in Pompeii and Herculaneum, but it showed us a few useful things nearly 2000 years later, and archaeologists have been able to study them and ‘report back’.

The people of Pompeii were taller on average than people currently living in the same region of Italy. That suggests they ate a varied diet with plenty of protein. Once people got past the age of 5, they tended to get to between 60-70 years of age. Not a developed-world life expectancy by any means, but a pretty decent one, and much better, once again, than anywhere on the planet until the early 20th century. They had all their teeth — even old people — which suggests both knowledge of oral hygiene and a diet without sugar. Allied to our knowledge of Pompeii is the fact that we have no records of puerperal fever from the high point of classical antiquity. It only turns up later, when people stopped washing daily. The ‘natural’ maternal mortality rate is approximately 1 in 100. Evidence suggests the Romans dragged that down to 1 in 200. So far so good. Public baths, public loos, quicklime to sanitize the baths, all good.

The Roman under-five mortality rate? 1 in 4. The Medieval under five mortality rate? 1 in 3. The Romans win by a nose, but not by much. One in four children died before the age of five. Infant mortality was so pervasive, Plutarch informs us, that the Romans forbade full funeral rights for children who died under the age of two. The dead bodies were thrown out with the household trash (something Colleen Mccullough got right in her various Rome books). Hey, at least the Romans had municipal rubbish collection… that doesn’t appear again in our records until Muslim Spain at its height.

One in four. Hold that thought.

I can now add some detail for you: the Roman jurist and Praetorian Prefect Ulpian prepared the first life tables known to statistics, comparing cities before and after the Romans sewered them, using his government’s excellent census data. His figures correlate with those provided by Professor Mary Beard in her BBC documentary on Pompeii linked above: good public health and hygiene drags up adult life expectancy, lowers maternal mortality rates and allows people to recover from infections. It does nothing for the childhood diseases. As Professor Andreas Suhrbier, the immunologist who was Dorey’s opponent in debate at Woodford pointed out, vaccines are doing different work: they don’t stop you getting infected, they stop you getting sick.

In a world before vaccines, children simply died. In droves. It is this, more than anything else, that makes people from the past seem so callous when it comes to small children: from the Roman prohibition on infant funeral rights to the almost unlimited power conferred on parents to do with children as they wished to the myth of the ‘Changeling’, which allowed parents to kill disabled children (‘it was a fairy child’) without disturbing Christian doctrine. Much of the sentimental loving-kindness we now show towards children emerged thanks to vaccines, particularly after the smallpox vaccine (combatting the greatest childhood killer) began to take effect in the 19th century.

The origin of (bad) ideas

I mentioned above that attitudes embodied by the likes of AVN — what Chrys calls ‘a culture of fear and distrust’ in her piece — have their origins in the anti-establishment values that burgeoned in the late 1960s. As we all know, it became fashionable to ‘stick it to the man’, to cavil at authority and hierarchy. This, as Steven Pinker makes clear in his magisterial study of the phenomenon, was rather like the curate’s egg: only good in parts. Much of the opposition was opposition for its own sake, and often empirically unsound to a far greater extent than the ‘traditional’ position whose overthrow was sought. The catalogue of sixties oppositional failures is long and growing: we have since learned that incarceration reduces crime, that two parents, preferably married, produce better outcomes for children, that fashionable ‘free range’ educational theories only work for middle-class families. However, some of the opposition had real valency. The opposers exposed a long and growing list of institutional failures, both public and private. Those on the left pointed the finger at corporations. Those on the right pointed at government failure. This process is ongoing: the left feeds off Enron and Lehman Brothers; the right feeds off the Euro and the Millennium Dome. Certain sub-species of both point at the Iraq clusterfuck and simply shake their heads. The sort of people who paid attention to public health campaigns in the 1940s and 1950s and guilelessly trusted both governments and pharmaceutical firms to ‘do the right thing’ are probably no more.

I get this distrust; as someone operating out of the classical liberal tradition, I understand in some depth just how bad government can be, and the extent to which good intentions do not save it when its well-meaning programs go wrong. As someone from North Queensland, I know that government scientists deliberately introduced the cane toad (to control the cane beetle) into my state. No cane beetles were harmed in this process, but a great deal of native fauna was (and is). For the same reason, I also understand why people distrust corporations. There is something in the quip that big business hates free markets more than it hates socialism because the former make it bloody well compete. Monopoly and monopsony are not nice, no matter how you slice them.

However, as much as I sympathise with this distrust, I want to convey that it has proper limits. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, not all opinions are equal. Very often — despite distrust of authority figures — those in authority will be right. Liberal democracy schools us to distrust Platonic Guardians, and with good reason, but it should not school us to despise clever people or the possibility of truth. Even the great theorist of ‘bottom up’ spontaneous order and limitations on expert knowledge, F. A. Hayek, accepted an important role for what he called ‘constructed’ orders. He mentioned the military and schools: the army is not a democracy, and depends on its chain of command. Schools need rules and centralised authority. I’d venture to add that science isn’t a democracy either, and nor is law. A freshman can trump a professor in history class. This is most unlikely to happen in immunology or while studying the law of contract. Meryl Dorey’s assertion that she knows as much as an immunological specialist represents an attempt to trump a professor that would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

That the AVN is feeding off the worst sort of toxic oppositionism for its own sake is symbolised by one of the comments made at the conclusion of Dorey’s talk. (This comes via a horrified Clementine Ford’s twitter feed, by the way; so is preserved in a sort of digital aspic):

I didn’t donate to the vaccination progams for the 3rd world because I believe we’re overpopulated. Shouldn’t we be observing natural selection?

At that point, the eugenicist streak present in certain strains of the green movement links hands with a social darwinism that is fascistic in its repellent nastiness and historical pedigree. According to another twitterer, even Dorey backed away from that, although with her ‘never inject them’ rhetoric, one does wonder to what extent. And, as Ford observed elsewhere, ‘hippies are weird’.

So how does this wash up? With the realisation that none of humanity’s tools are perfect, but medical science is one of the best we have. Chrys observes in her piece:

I know there’s little chance that I’ll persuade the hard-core conspiracy theorists whose search for ‘the truth’ has them so bamboozled they don’t know which way’s up. But, for those undecided parents who might hear Ms Dorey at Woodford or elsewhere, please consider whether you really want to stake your child’s life on the highly unlikely chance Ms Dorey knows more about vaccinations than the overwhelming majority of the world’s doctors and scientists.

It’s unfortunate that Chrys has to appeal to authority, so accepted has ‘sticking it to the experts’ become. I hope this piece has driven home an important point: there are proven facts out there, in science and medicine and law. And the anti-vaxxers are not in possession of any of them.

[Thanks to Chrys Stevenson for the graphic of the plane banner featured at Woodford Folk Festival].

64 Comments

  1. kvd
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Total agreement with this post. Well said, and thanks SL.

  2. Mel
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    An inferior post by your standards, SL.

    “A freshman can trump a professor in history class. This is most unlikely to happen in immunology or while studying the law of contract.”

    Actually the freshman trumping the professor is a phenomena that happens with monotonous regularity in the hard sciences. As Max Planck quipped, “science advances one funeral at a time”. A recent example is how fellow scientists reacted to Daniel Shechtman’s discovery of quasicrystals (for which he has now one the chemistry Nobel prize). He was turfed out of his research team, deemed a disgrace and described as a “quasi-scientist” by the famous and much esteemed Linus Pauling.

    The Australian scientists who discovered that a bacteria rather than stress and diet caused stomach ulcers were similarly castigated prior to eventually getting awarded a Nobel for their discovery.

    “Liberal democracy schools us to distrust Platonic Guardians, and with good reason, but it should not school us to despise clever people or the possibility of truth.”

    You say this whilst having never failed to miss an opportunity to ignore or dismiss as insignificant the bizarre zeitgeist among your brethren classical liberals and libertarians to demonise scientists who make ideologically unacceptable findings whilst lionising a bunch of charlatans and grotesque populists, most of whom have the nous of a common field pea, as the true repositories of scientific wisdom. You know what I’m talking about.

    “At that point, the eugenicist streak present in certain strains of the green movement links hands with a social darwinism that is fascistic in its repellent nastiness and historical pedigree.”

    Oh please. The reported tweet sounds like something I’ve read on any number of testosterone fuelled classical liberal cum libertarian or Ayn Rand veneration websites. The number of greens who think along such lines is miniscule by comparison.

    And so and so forth.

  3. kvd
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Mel@2 lost in the logic here. Are you equating Meryl Dorey’s beliefs with the possibility that a ‘freshman can trump a professor’? And are you seriously calling Shechtman, Marshall and Warren scientific ‘freshmen’?

  4. Mel
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    kvd:

    “Are you equating Meryl Dorey’s beliefs with the possibility that a ‘freshman can trump a professor’? ”

    I’m not interested in Dorey as she is a very easy target.

    But sometimes the Doreys are right and the professors are wrong. As an example, the medical profession were saying the injection of horse steroids would not put muscle on a man long after every gym junky knew otherwise.

    “And are you seriously calling Shechtman, Marshall and Warren scientific ‘freshmen’?”

    You are being a tad too literal, my man. Linus Pauling was also much more than a professor.

  5. Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Mel, you know very well that I accept the science of climate change, and have always done so. I strongly suggest that you bear that in mind. I have also made it very clear in the post that I get why people don’t trust authority, scientific or otherwise. I’m surprised you didn’t mention thalidomide or various experiments where government bodies decided dropping LSD or some other drug in the water would be a good idea. Those examples are far more telling than gym junkies or disputes between already highly credentialled scientists.

    The distrust has been earnt, well and truly, but it also has limits. I have tried to set out what those limits may legitimately be, in a manner that accepts that distrust of authority will be ongoing.

    And as for prominent greenies with unpleasantly fascistic ideas, two words: Clive Hamilton. That man is not some habitué of feverish Internet swamps, either, but a highly respected academic and commentator. And I don’t notice much in the way of attempts to disassociate from him. Interestingly, he was also guesting at Woodford…

  6. Movius
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Stop The AVN do excellent work.

    I think Hamilton may have stretched his support a little too far with his article detailing the horrors of women in the army.

    I don’t think you can use AVN to ‘mainstream’ anti-science sentiment. They’d like to pass themselves off as a ‘regular’ conspiracy theorist group, but scratching the surface shows them up as the batshit insane Larouche/UFO-cult/chemtrails variety.

  7. Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Ah, chemtrails conspiracy theories. I’d forgotten them, Movius…

  8. John the Drunkard
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    I think you are underestimating the influence of the far-right. Anti-vaccination goes back at least as far as Jenner himself.

    The old religious objections to ‘interfering with god’s will’ by preventing or curing illness, or using anesthitics etc. segue smoothly into the Theosophical, ‘Wisdon of the East’ notions of 19th century reactionaries.

    Hippies and New Agers swallowed buckets of right-wing anti rationalism along with red-diaper politics. One corrective to the influence of characters like Dorey is to point out the reactionary nature of their outlook.

  9. IreneD
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, much necessary. Still, it’s embarrassing that the few other examples given of the dangers of reflexive opposition to authority are more than a bit flawed.

    “The catalogue of sixties oppositional failures is long and growing: we have since learned that incarceration reduces crime, that two parents, preferably married, produce better outcomes for children, that fashionable ‘free range’ educational theories only work for middle-class families.”

    Erm… Let me point out that:

    1) As has been shown at least as early as the 18th century by Beccaria, it’s not so much punishment that is effective in preventing crime, but the *certitude* of a prompt and proportioned punishment . Either failing to enforce the law (if criminals can bribe corrupt officials to not go to jail, for instance) or having laws so stringent that even the smallest offences on the books can send you to jail is likely to breed more crime. So does large areas of poverty in a rich society. And then, there’s the trouble with having part of the law enforcement sector and the prisons managed by private enterprises. Look at the huge prison population in the US for an example that incarceration doesn’t necessarily reduce crime.

    2) Having two parents conduces to a better economical environment for the child, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a better emotional one. Married parents generally have a more stable life than unmarried ones, leading to a more stable environment, but it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a healthy environment. It would be interesting to compare the outcome for the children of on the one hand married couples, and on the other well-off single parents and long-term unmarried couples. This is a problem with sociological studies that try to map a complex reality over a single dimensional axis.

    In fact, in terms of purely psychological outcomes, I’ve heard some professionals argue that children raised in non-traditional families (single parents, gay couples, unmarried couples, divorced parents, etc.) will not have more neuroses, or less, but a different set of neuroses.

    3) Free-range education? I don’t know about Australia, but in other countries (notably in the US), it’s only a recent development. The fashion, for most of the ’90s and ’00s, has been more for “helicopter” parents, over-involvement of parents in their children’s life, strong attachment from the minute of birth onward and a vigilance of all instants even for older children and teens.

    The “free-range” movement cropped out as a reaction to what came to be perceived as a smothering, even sometimes paranoid style of parenting.

  10. Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Great post. The sort of unbalanced skepticism you are critiquing SL is intimately connected to conspiracy theory mongering. Certain mindsets and life experiences (particularly frustrations) make folk particularly prone to conspiracy theories.

    One of the curious features of modern conspiracy-mongering and ungrounded skepticism is how science is used as a talisman, not a process. That is, such folk typically wave around the aura of science while rejecting its substance.

    On the issue of child mortality: quite so. Whenever I hear an actor deliver the line “parents are not supposed to outlive their children” as some natural principle of life I think about how modern that sentiment is. A classic example of how our sense of natural is one of “accepted background constraints” rather than some direct tapping into the deep structure of the universe.

  11. Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    IreneD: (1) actually, the crime rate in the US has been falling and locking up the criminals is part of that effect. (It would be much more effective if they ended their mad war on drugs, but that is another issue.)

    (2) the negative effects of single parenting go away if you control for socio-economic status of the parent. That is, it is a bad idea for people of low socio-economic status to be single parents. For high socio-economic status, it makes little or no systematic difference.

    (3) Another expression is “bubble-wrap kids”.

  12. John H.
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    With modern travel and population densities if we didn’t have vaccines we’d have epidemics all the time. The alternative medicine movement sure produces some strange stuff which seriously damages its reputation. That is a shame because there can be considerable value in their ideas. For example, just yesterday I downloaded a paper arguing that cancer is not a disease of mutation but a disease of metabolism. This view has been gaining currency for some time and is very much the alternative view, with conventional medicine still thinking of cancers as being primarily about mutations. Yesterday I read a study on how transthyretin, produced by our bodies, appears to be very important in preventing amyloid plaques, which reminded me of studies from a decade ago showing Gingko Biloba upregulated transthyretin prodn.

    Conventional medicine has plenty of its own problems, including lousy statistical techiques, overly directed research, and forget that crap about it being all being evidence based and “scientific”(whatever that latter word means). As the public has become aware of how problematic some claims of modern medicine are, large numbers have run off to alternative charlatans. Out of the frying pan into the fire. The unassailable truth is this: modern medicine has done more to save lives and improve quality of life in the last 50 years than the last several thousand years of people playing with herbs and spices.

  13. kvd
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    As the public has become aware of how problematic some claims of modern medicine are

    John H it’s your game and I can read your frustration, but the ‘actual fact’ is that the public is rarely if ever over-promised by researchers. Rather by the over-hyped reportage of same. It’s a standing joke, and almost as reliable as the sun coming up, that each tiny new step made in cancer research is either misconstrued, or wildly overblown/extrapolated by the ill educated, semi-literate ‘reporters’ of same.

    Very few medical researchers are given any sort of public platform to carefully, tentatively, announce what might be an advance, or even a new insight. They get a 1 minute soundbite, complete with lab coat and glass beaker. And the talking head drones on inappropriately.

    Miss Meryl goes down a different track. She works on the ‘introduce doubt’ process. She is clever enough never to say that vacs don’t work. What she seems to call for is “all the information, so that you the parent can make an informed decision”. That’s quite a clever, quite devastating technique; she infers some sort of ‘alternate truth’ is being withheld, while never offering any factual support, just the introduction of insidious doubt.

    The same thing has happened through the AGW wars; introduce doubt, concentrate on errors, exaggerate claims.

    Meryl would say she believes in the freedom of information. What she’s really pushing is this trope of information withheld. Chemtrails.

  14. John H.
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    One of the most honest comments about the challenge of cancers from one of the top biomedical scientists today…

    “In my view,” he said, “cancer is a problem that will be part of human life for a long time, if not forever … and I expect that therapy will be slow to come. Even when new therapeutics schemes come, the plasticity of tumor cells will make it very difficult to effect total cures. For those who hope for rapid progress, this is clearly a pessimistic view.” But, disturbed by his own pessimism, he concluded, “But results will come, and we, as a nation, must maintain our commitment t6o finding everything we can about the disease and to try in every way possible to prevent or cure it. There is, of course, the real possibility that my whole analysis is wrong and that there lie out there magic bullets that will make a huge impact on cancer mortality rates in a relatively short time. To have judged so completely wrong would give me great pleasure.”

    Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore’s Life in Science, Shane Grotty

    The biggest benefits of alternative medicine are not the treatments or assumptions but rather that the movement encouraged people to take charge of their health in a more informed way. There has been a revolution in health awareness during my lifetime and given the aging population that is a very good thing. Ironically though while alternative medicine gave the motivation for greater awareness it is conventional medicine that provides the best information.

    It is already possible to track whooping cough incidence to areas with a lot of the anti vac crowd, Maleny just north of Brisbane. You can’t argue with people who believed in blocked chakras and perturbed auras. I think what will happen is that as it becomes obvious that failing to vaccinate is leading to increased rates of infection people will choose to vaccinate.

  15. Mel
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    SL:

    “And as for prominent greenies with unpleasantly fascistic ideas, two words: Clive Hamilton.”

    To my knowledge he hasn’t said anything that comes close to the “survival of the fittest” tweet you quoted. His most startling comment was the “suspension of democracy” line, however he claims he was misunderstood:

    “I HAVE never argued for the suspension of democracy to tackle climate change. In response to those who have, I have always insisted that, instead, we must reinvigorate democracy. ”

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/letters/here-or-there-its-as-simple-as-1-2-3-20091028-hkw6.html

  16. Mel
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo @11:

    “Great post. The sort of unbalanced skepticism you are critiquing SL is … ”

    Umm, Lorenzo, we’ve already clearly established that you pick up your analysis of scientific findings that you find ideologically unpalatable from moon landing hoax websites and stark raving mad banshees like Jo Nova, who in turn sources most of her opinions from Screaming Lord Monckton (Jo has written several posts in which she insists Monky is truly a lord with the papers to prove it).

    You are in no way distinguishable from the anti-vaccine and anti-fluoride booga booga crowd.

  17. Mel
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    LE@18:

    “I have absolutely no interest in fighting about this one with you and I don’t know why you have to keep baiting me about it.”

    None of my comments on this thread have been directed at you, so your claim that I’m “baiting” you is obviously a figment of your imagination.

    And, all petty disagreements about things we do not control aside, a happy new year to you too!

  18. Mel
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    From Wiki:

    “Water fluoridation has frequently been the subject of conspiracy theories. During the “Red Scare” in the United States during the late 1940s and 1950s, and to a lesser extent in the 1960s, activists on the far right of American politics routinely asserted that fluoridation was part of a far-reaching plot to impose a socialist or communist regime. They also opposed other public health programs, notably mass vaccination and mental health services.[52] Their views were influenced by opposition to a number of major social and political changes that had happened in recent years: the growth of internationalism, particularly the UN and its programs; the introduction of social welfare provisions, particularly the various programs established by the New Deal; and government efforts to reduce perceived inequalities in the social structure of the United States.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_fluoridation_controversy#Conspiracy_theories

    This confirms what I’ve read previously. Most of the big conspiracy theories are the product of conservative, classical liberal and libertarian types although some have been picked over the years by some left groups.

  19. derrida derider
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I agree with most of this post, but you’ve hit one of my betes noir here:

    “attitudes embodied by the likes of AVN … have their origins in the anti-establishment values that burgeoned in the late 1960s”

    Quack medicine – including organised antivaccination agitation – long predated the 60s. Distrust of science was alive and well in the 1950s in particular – and was associated, just as now, with the Right much more than the Left.

    More generally, the meme that the “permissiveness” of the 60s is responsible for all sorts of current-day social ills is a favourite of conservatives and is almost always utter crap.

    The hippies certainly had plenty of absurdities, but they were reacting to a society in which all sorts of conservative repression was very real. More relevantly, they profoundly failed in their aims to change society – as we can see by the prevalence of the new conformity and the new prudery.

  20. kvd
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I dunno if it is “distrust of science” so much as distrust of the misuse of science which opens the door to various conspiracy theories.

    If the Left could be vaguely characterised by a belief that if there is a problem, then the government is obviously not yet big enough, then it shouldn’t surprise that a counter argument exists which seeks to limit excessive government interference.

    So when science produces an advance, particularly in the area of public health, it then becomes the government’s role to make use of such advance. And the science becomes secondary to (and is infected by) the political process. The assignment of left/right labels to various conspiracies might be an outcome, not the cause imo.

  21. Mel
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    L@12:

    ” the negative effects of single parenting go away if you control for socio-economic status of the parent. That is, it is a bad idea for people of low socio-economic status to be single parents. ”

    In line with what DD said, I suspect this is in large part booga booga. In the good old days, if dad his porked his daughters and belted his wife and sons, social mores meant the family would stay together even if the wife wanted out. Today, such a dad is likely to be kicked out of home. It is very meaningful to compare outcomes for children raised in these two types of families but it isn’t that meaningful to compare contemporaneous single and dual parent families.

  22. Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    M@23 As I understand the data, children of double parent low SES parents tend to do better than children of single parent low SES parents. As you say, there may be other factors at work but I doubt they explain all the difference, since higher socio-economic status tends to mean more support networks.

    M@17 Since I support both fluoridation and vaccination, your claim fails on simple logic.

    Also, that quote you are so big on endlessly re-citing was originally published in a journal (where I originally read it, I just found an online version to link to it) and was about the process of science, not the content thereof. People are not all of a piece: they can be right on something and wrong, even weirdly wrong, on others.

    You seem to have a homeopathic notion of intellectual life. A single quoting infects absolutely everything else about them.

  23. Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    M@23 To just finish the first para in my previous comment, husbands can be kicked out at all level of socio-economic status.

    M@20 The far left is also rife with conspiracy theories: 9/11 “truthers” being an obvious example (not all “truthers” are on the left, but many of them are). A lot of the left were taken in by various conspiracy theories about the Petrov defection, the Whitlam dismissal, etc.

    Conspiracy theories tend to be products of political alienation, which is not specific to a single side of the political spectrum. (Hence they are so prolific in the Middle East: in part because political alienation is such a general phenomenon there.)

  24. Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    DD@21 Actually, speaking as a gay man, I think the “wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice?” side of the 60s ended up achieving quite a lot.

    That being said, there is something to the “problems from the 60s” arguments as various social pathologies did increase. Pinker covers that aspect fairly sensibly.

  25. Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    My wife and I had a serious and long argument about vaccination when our boy was an infant. When our son was born (1997) there was quite a bit of debate then about the safety of vaccinations. My wife was seriously concerned about it and we had a real battle about whether the baby should be immunised.

    To make matters worse, when I prevailed in that argument, he had a bad reaction to the MMR vaccination (as some kids do because you are, after all, injecting them with a disease). My wife, having given in and gone against the real concern she had, felt terribly guilty. To make matters even worse, it was the MMR vaccine to which he badly reacted, and he was subsequently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. As many will know, there was research, given currency by mainstream journals but now discounted, that the MMR vaccine caused autism.

    I don’t believe the conspiracy theories about western medicine. I think that the evidence speaks for itself. The diseases we vaccinate against have been vastly diminished if not eradicated. People’s lifespans are longer. Those parts of humanity without access to western medicine live shorter lives and miserable ones at that.

    For all of that overwhelming – if not conclusive – evidence, I don’t think that you can write off the people who question vaccinations as lunatics. Part of the reason for their doubt is distrust of authority, but there are other things present as well which distinguish them from other conspiracy theorists.

    In my experience, most of them are people who have some personal experience which leads them to question these matters. In my wife’s case, her father was dying of cancer at the time. He was still relatively young (about 60 I think) and orthodox medicine had nothing left to offer him. As many cancer patients do, he turned to alternative medicine.

    Others, like us, have seen bad reactions.

    Others were taken in by the MMR vaccine/autism controversy.

    Many of those who question the efficacy and safety of vaccines do so because they’ve been brought to the brink by some health experience. That is a serious distinction from those who believe no jet crashed into the Pentagon or that the moon-landing was staged.

    I accept that people like this are dangerous, but I don’t accept that they’re evil or mad for taking a view against orthodoxy. For one thing, there are significant parts of complementary medicine now accepted within mainstream treatment of problems like cancer which were once derided. The idea of stress levels as a symptom to be treated is one thing which springs to mind.

    The thing is, that people do react badly, and there is a streak of utilitarianism about vaccination; what the old barrister described in “The Castle” as “the greatest good for the greatest number of people”. There is an overall societal benefit but at the cost of a very few bad reactions. Parenting is one of the most visceral, instinctive things we do. Is it really that surprising that some parents take the view that if there is no risk of their kid catching the disease, it makes no sense to get the vaccine just for the sake of “society”? I know there are flaws in that logic (not least the appraisal of risk) but it’s not so ridiculous that you can dismiss those who take that view as mad or evil. Imagine, if you’d never heard of vaccinations and knew nothing about the process or the success of it, accepting that it was a good idea to inject your kid with lab-grown strains of dangerous, potentially lethal viruses.

    The last thing I’ll say is that you don’t persuade people by demonising them or those whose arguments attract them. In my experience, persuasion comes through respectful discussion if it comes at all. It is the only way to remove ego from the equation so that a person can let go of a deeply held view.

    The problem with too many of these debates (and global warming is the worst) is that those in the orthodox camp demand total agreement and refuse to abase themselves in respectful discussion with dissenters. They try to win majority support rather than build consensus. That works in politics, so on global warming you can get by with a majority, but in the vaccination arena, broad consensus is essential, because a small number of people dissenting can spell serious problems across society.

    Those who want to kick the shit out of the AVN people and their like should take those things into account.

  26. Posted January 2, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Nick, thanks for that enormously thoughtful and perceptive comment. Sorry I haven’t been around – it is Hogmanay in Scotland and I haven’t been awake for very long! I’m going to pop a YouTube vid of Fenton the Dog up in due course, so there’s something for all ye to chuckle at :)

  27. kvd
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Look, I also thought Nick’s commentary was very thoughtful, and reflective of the great personal angst issues such as these can cause. But the question I’d put is how far are one’s personal beliefs able to influence the lives of those around us?

    I respect the right of anyone to hold views differing from my own, or from community consensus, but believe that right should stop short of proactively attempting to influence the health and wellbeing of the community generally. Think of the Roman Catholic Church’s position on birth control; or that southern African push to confine treatment or spread of Aids to homeopathy, and yes – the anti-flouro push. These are positions which are held strongly, and no doubt without malice as Nick says – but they potentially affect whole populations, and generations – in the case of the vaccination ‘debate’.

    Nick, I hope your family achieved some sort of peace in your own personal dilemma, but I’m not comfortable extending the ‘right to doubt’ to a general ‘right to proselytize’ plainly harmful views.

  28. Posted January 2, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    LE, I take your point about some people being so heavily entrenched in their positions that they cannot be moved. There may be some people like that, but I think there are plenty of people who will enter into rational discussion, if for no other reason than they don’t want to be seen as irrational. Getting people to the table is half the battle.

  29. Mel
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    KVD @30:

    ” … but I’m not comfortable extending the ‘right to doubt’ to a general ‘right to proselytize’ plainly harmful views.”

    People most certainly should have the “right to proselytize plainly harmful views”. The suppression of alternative views is a far more scary prospect than having to deal with the likes of dopey Dorey.

  30. kvd
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    That’s a fine sentiment Mel. But then you’ll have to justify laws against racial vilification as somehow more ‘worthy’ than action against purveyors of medical myths which can and have caused deaths and prolonged misery. Beyond me I’m afraid.

  31. Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    LE@28 One of the most suspicious things about the whole global warming issue is the way belief is used as status markers. So often the pattern is of the form: you have to believe X to be a good person. Which means, of course, failure to believe X makes you stupid, ignorant, maleficent, etc.

    There clearly is a case for some human influence on global climate. How much, and with what consequences, is much murkier. Which makes the righteous certitude displayed suspect: there is a great deal of premature certainty. But it is status-useful certainty.

    Righteous certainty clearly has an appeal. The massive sense of entitlement so many monotheists display on a range of issues (as Ultra-Orthodox Jews are currently displaying in Israel: it is also at the heart of problems in and with contemporary Islam) speaks to the appeal of such.

  32. Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    That should be ‘status markers’. Though there is clearly a market for status :)

    That status-protection becomes a key reality-principle is why there is a strong overlap with standard narcissist responses to criticism. The relevant sense of entitlement is similar in its psychological dynamics.

  33. Mel
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo:

    “Which makes the righteous certitude displayed suspect: there is a great deal of premature certainty. ”

    You are fantasizing again. I’ve never claimed that dangerous AGW is a certainty, nor do most other observers. All I’ve ever said is that the sustained scientific consensus on the subject makes it “more likely than not” and that accordingly action is indicated as an insurance policy. The IPCC itself gives percentage ratings for each of its predictions, none of which attract a rating at or near 100%

    I’m actually thrilled that most libertarians see AGW as a vast left wing conspiracy as this merely reconfirms the anti-intellectual and reactionary nature of this particular ideology. It is in many ways a repeat of the 1920s through to the 1950s, when right-wing small government anti-communist groups were at the forefront of the anti-fluoridation and anti-vaccination movements.

    Not coincidentally, libertarian favourites and GOP Prez candidates Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul have both pushed anti-vaccination messages while arguing that AGW is an elaborate hoax.

  34. Movius
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Comparing anti-vaccination nuts to global-warming deniers is probably valid if you are referring to how wrong they are (I think antivax is way more dangerous though. But that is irrelevant to my point.)

    With climate change you have the additional problem of dealing with pseudo-scientific/mystical defenders of the ‘consensus’. Thankfully there is no vaccination equivalent to “Global Warming is mother Gaia’s way of punishing humanity for its selfish exploitation of Earth’s resources.”

  35. Posted January 3, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Mel, you’ve got a bit of a persecution complex. Lorenzo wasn’t talking about you. He was talking about a class of people in which he did not seek to include you.

  36. Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    M@37 :)

    NF@38 What set me off was LE’s statement:

    have had to deal with a good deal of flak, and have lost some friendships on the basis of it.

    I have seen this sort of thing elsewhere and it bespeaks both the shallowness of some people’s concept of friendship but also the level and type of importance given to particular beliefs.

    M@36 You have managed to react to things I did not say and did not intend. Perhaps you should have a nice cuppa and a quiet lie down.

  37. Mel
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    L@39

    Umm, Lorenzo you have engaged in some harebrained theorising to pathologise folk who accept a particular contemporary scientific belief, whilst deriving you own counter beliefs mostly from a small pool of obvious quacks and charlatans (Jo Nova etc ). I think I’m more than entitled to a gram or two of mirth and merriment at your expense ;)

    ps.

  38. Posted January 5, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    M@40 The issue is not the science, the issue is the reaction to particular beliefs. People who get incredibly worked up over climate change are typically remarkably sanguine about lots of other areas of science. (Including even environmental matters of more immediate killing-things urgency.) Some are even quite dismissive of the predominance of scientific opinion elsewhere (genetic modification comes to mind).

  39. John
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I agree that this is an increasing problem. Increasingly mainstream conservatives are being misled into opposing vaccination, circumcision and fluoridation notwithstanding that the scientific support for the health benefits is obvious. Currently it is spreading at a grassroots level but it wouldn’t take much to change things. A multimillionaire anti-circumcision whacko donating $1million in 2008 and tiny groups of doctors who opposed circumcision volunteering for policy committees made a huge impact in that arena. Small changes with big impacts like that could continue in that and the other 2 big areas of preventative medicine.

  40. John
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    What you should know:

    Fluoridation is safe and positive for oral health.
    http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/

    Circumcision has proven benefit in protecting against HIV
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/surgical-vaccine-helping-stop-hiv/story-e6frg6so-1226098865549

    Vaccination doesn’t cause autism. The Lancet eventually retracted the paper that found that.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/health/research/03lancet.html

    People who oppose these things will claim the opposite but that is bunk.

  41. Mel
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    L@41:

    “People who get incredibly worked up over climate change … ”

    The people who get the most worked up a the people from whom you source your opinions, namely people like Aunty Jo Nova and Uncle Noel Sheppard.

    I also note with amusement that you are still dishonestly claiming that James Hansen “did some computer work” for Rasool-Schneider.

  42. Posted January 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    vaccination, circumcision and fluoridation

    John, circumcision is rather different to the other two, not in part because the pro-circumcision position was historically backed by lots of the sorts of pseudo-science that is used by the anti-vaccination/anti-fluoridation crowed, and driven by cultural/religious beliefs. I’ve also seen what appears to me to be (what reads to me as justified)criticism of the studies you citied. Additionally the ethical issues of infant/child circumcision in the West (compared to the voluntary adult approach in the studies) are much more significant than the ethical issues of imposing fluoridation or vaccination which only cause very short term or imperceivable non-health related impact on people’s lives.

  43. Posted January 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    M@44 You do realise that relentless personal abuse of dissenters hardly disproves my point?

    And James Hansen’s computer work apparently was used by Schneider and Rasool. (I have slightly adjusted the wording to make that absolutely clear.)

  44. Posted January 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Of course arguing over the precise wording of an incidental comment is pretty tame stuff compared what is personally at stake when two climatologists fight it out in court.

  45. Mel
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    L@46

    Umm, yes, Lorenzo, so your claim was a dishonest. James Hansen developed a program to examine light scattering caused by particles in the clouds on Venus. This program was then used by Rasool-Schneider with absolutely no involvement by Hansen.

    Hansen set the record straight here: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2007/20070924_Grandfather.pdf

    L@47:

    As you are undoubtedly aware, Timmy Ball has (unsuccessfully) sued people in the past. He has also found himself in trouble on other occasions owing to his potty mouth.

    What goes around comes around, I guess.

  46. Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Oh no, no, no…. it’s turning into a GENTLE MACCHIA THREAD.

    Stop it, please.

  47. Patrick
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    I get it with abortion – there are lives at stake, and by-and-by-the-way if you are American a fundamental constitutional principle shredded and ruined, so little wonder that people feel so passionately about it.

    I just don’t get it with climate change. There may be lives at stake at some indeterminate point, and for this we have wasted how much of our public consciousness and effort?

    Is it because we perceive there to be ‘easier’ ‘solutions’ (i.e. more technical, legislatively and technologically) than for, eg, starving Africans or tortured people around the world? Is it because the ‘solutions’ dreamt up by the average climate drone involve telling rich westerners what to do and not poor darkies? Is it that disillusioned socialists get to resuscitate their technocratic dreams of an ideal society?

    Or what? Why? Why??

  48. Posted January 6, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Patrick, I maintain that this is fundamentally a disagreement about economics; the science is just a side-show. The problem is generated because the people who are economically illiterate are right about the science, while the people who are scientifically illiterate are right about the economics. These are two large things to be both right and wrong about simultaneously, hence the irritation. One day I will expand on this at length: but I will have to be feeling very brave. It is actually much harder than abortion or Israel/Palestine, both of which depend on arguments from history: in favour of both Israel and abortion. Because there is no history on which either side in the climate change debate can call, we are reduced to uncomfortable analogies no-one is willing to make. History and theology backed slavery, for example, but Messrs Ricardo and Smith did not.

    This, if nothing else, should make the scale of the problem clear.

  49. Patrick
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Or, history backs not launching large government programs designed to change behaviours … ;)

    I don’t disagree with the rest of your case.

    But I am more concerned about why they become disputes, not why they are hard to resolve. I think that Palestine and abortion are more about morality and affiliation than history – they are effectively psychologically driven disputes. What I don’t get is why climate change appears to also be a psychologically driven dispute.

  50. Posted January 6, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Progress on vaccination:

    in 1974 protected just 5 per cent of the world’s children and today protects 75 per cent

    Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature p.320.

    P@52 One sign of a “psychologically driven dispute” as you put it is there is then no such thing as error, there is only malice. (So, people aren’t wrong, they are dishonest.) Which does not give much scope for compromise or common ground since the demand is people accept that they are being evil/wicked/maleficent.

  51. Posted January 6, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Or, history backs not launching large government programs designed to change behaviours …

    Yes, let’s get rid of the legal system!

    What I don’t get is why climate change appears to also be a psychologically driven dispute.

    It’s about money, power and influence. It’s apparently acceptable these days for those seeking either to use whatever means at their disposal (including techniques of psychological manipulation and social engineering) to acquire more. I’ve also noticed that for many people actions perceived as being harmful to the common good are taken as assaults on the individual when considering the appropriateness of the emotional response. These observations go for all sides of politics.

  52. Patrick
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    D, fear not, I’m not trying to be partisan! I’ve made psychologically-driven comments of my own on all those issues, I’m well aware of that :)

    Nice point about the legal system but are you sure about the detail? Did the legal system evolve as a government program to change behaviour or (for want of a better description) as a community response to social needs? Remember how multi-faceted early law was – trade fair judges, admiralty, local barons, etc?

    Your description certainly applies to many recent aspects of law such as consumer regulation, but I think it would quite a stretch to argue that applied circa 800 or even 1500AD.

  53. Posted January 6, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I think Patrick may have been referring to the Israel and abortion issue, desipis. The idea of a state of Israel — although longed for by many Jews for hundreds of years — is only something that is a little over a hundred years old for the rest of us, and extremely noxious for many (all?) Arabs, both then and now. The idea that anyone should actually do anything about giving the Jews a piece of real estate is very much tied to the Zionist movement in the 19th century.

    Likewise, the idea of life from conception is very new; the early Christians frowned on abortion and tried to outlaw it, but in ways that would strike modern anti-abortionists as rather odd. Constantine, for example, moved against abortion by enacting a law mandating that a woman had to tell her husband or partner that she was pregnant. This was anathema to a pagan, where matters ‘before birth’ were women’s business, while matters ‘after birth’ were men’s business. In pre-Christian Roman law, this meant women had sole jurisdiction over abortion, and men had sole jurisdiction over infanticide [the patria potestas of Roman law, of which you may have heard]. Interestingly, a man lost his patria potestas (control over infanticide) if he were unemployed or unable to ‘bear the burden of the marriage’ (to use Ulpian’s phrase), and infanticide if the child could not be afforded by the family then fell to the woman.

    This odd attitude to abortion survived until very late — Aquinas, for example, is far more forgiving of abortion than he is of divorce or homosexuality, for example, permitting the former before ‘quickening’, while arguing that consensual homosexuality is worse than rape! In modern times, when various Catholic countries have had their ugliest fights, they have always been over divorce, not abortion. Italy, Malta and Ireland have all had referenda over divorce, but have meekly rolled to domestic movements legalising abortion (Italy) or facilitating abortion tourism (Malta, Ireland). Statutes criminalising abortion are all 19th century, everywhere, and countries with Roman law based criminal law and an early reformation (Scotland, for example) never developed a proper abortion law. The 1967 Abortion Act (UK) is more restrictive than the earlier Scots common law, with its Roman law origins.

    Trying to argue for life from conception depends entirely on the achievements of modern science (it gives you something to look at, as Christopher Hitchens pointed out), in much the same way as the idea of a state of Israel depended for a long time on the existence of a British Empire on which the sun would never set.

    Climate change is a much stickier conundrum, and I think Patrick and Lorenzo are entirely right to point out its psychological components. Of course there are other things going on as well, and I do think the science v economics shit-fight is at the heart of those.

  54. kvd
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Oh go on LE, you know you want to ;)

    Actually, beginning at #50 above, these comments have been very thoughtful and most interesting. My compliments to the various writers.

  55. Mel
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    LE:

    “I have been planning a post on this for some months. Do I dare?”

    Oh God please don’t otherwise I’ll need to get my partner to strap down and apply a Hannibal Lecter mask ;)

  56. kvd
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Too funny, Mel! Well said :)

  57. John H.
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I have a theory about the climate change thing that it gets so nasty precisely because it is not certain

    Exactly. We hate uncertainty but the more you learn … . Just finished reading … .Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin or Error, Kathryn Schulz ….

    Awareness of one’s own qualms, attention to contradiction, acceptance of the possibility of error: these strike me as signs of sophisticated thinking, far preferable in many contexts to the confident bulldozer of unmodified assertions.

    p. 309

  58. Posted January 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Mel wins the internetz for today :)

  59. davidp
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    A good post, and I’m glad that Meryl Dorey’s attempted evil is being opposed.

    Our urban, highly mobile (locally and internationally) society is a real infection spreader, which is why school kids get so many colds. The near eradication of rubella related congenital injuries is a more recent victory for vaccinations. It took changing to vaccinate boys (originally only teenage girls were vaccinated) to finish the job. Fortunately rubella vaccination protects boys from inflammation leading to sterility, so it benefits the boys as well as the babies.

    “I know that government scientists deliberately introduced the cane toad (to control the cane beetle) into my state” is misleading – the “Australian Bureau of Sugar Experimental Stations” (a government farming/industry organisation) introduced them against significant opposition by some naturalists and scientists, including Australian Museum Curator, Roy Kinghorn http://australianmuseum.com/Cane-Toad

    “Farmers are the best conservationists in the world” – Tony Abbot, Griffith NSW, Dec 2011.
    Farmers wanted cane toads.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Vaccination Saves Lives | Cranky Old Crow on December 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    [...] Vaccination Saves Lives Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  2. [...] SkepticLawyer is in fine form on vaccination: Vaccination saves lives. [...]

  3. By The last roundup of 2011 at Catallaxy Files on December 31, 2011 at 8:00 am

    [...] presses on with the vaccination debate. And laughing at [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*