Afternoon InquisitionAnti-Science

AI: Thanks, Assholes.

This afternoon I would like to send a special thank you out to Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, Meryl Dorey, Age of Autism and anyone else who encourages parents not to vaccinate their children. It’s just so great what you guys are doing. You’re so warm and fuzzy with your adorable plea to “green our vaccine” and your desire to hold our hand while you, “help the children.” All of your worthless advice is based on your oh-so-cute and imagined mommy instinct, bad science, fear mongering, conspiracy theories or apparently just a plain old desire to f*%$ shit up for the rest of us and now all your tireless work is paying off. You have helped to create a whooping cough epidemic the likes of which we have not seen in 50 years! Way to go. Give yourselves a round of applause. No go ahead. We will wait.

Your tireless efforts spouting off about toxins and conspiracies have prevented 0 vaccine related cases of autism but so far you have helped to frighten innocent parents away from vaccinating their children which in turn has helped to spread nearly 1500 cases of whooping cough and so far 5 infants have died in California this year. Reported yesterday from the LA times blog. Emphasis mine:

California public health officials on Monday strongly urged elderly adults, children and pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough, citing an epidemic in the state that is on track to be the worst in 50 years. Nearly 1,500 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, have been reported statewide this year, five times the number of cases last year, according to Dr. Gil Chavez, the state’s epidemiologist. Newborns under 6 months old are the most vulnerable, since even those vaccinated have yet to develop immunity, Chavez said. Five infants have died of whooping cough so far this year, all under 3 months old. Two of the deaths were in Los Angeles County.

The California Department of Public Health has been tracking whooping cough cases by county, patient age and ethnicity, Chavez said. They have seen more infections in counties such as Marin, where more parents have opted out of vaccinating children, he said. Latino infants are most likely to get whooping cough, more than twice as likely as white infants, while among adults, whites were more likely to get infected than other ethnicities, followed by Latinos, Chavez said.

California public health officials are now urging anyone in contact with children (including pregnant or soon to be pregnant women) to get the pertussis or whooping cough vaccination or booster asap. I’m sure that’s not enough to change Jenny M’s mind about vaccines. Now would be a perfect chance for her to use her media power to publicly renounce her earlier unscientific statements and actually do some good by encouraging vaccinations. Here would be a legitimate opportunity to actually prevent pain and suffering in children. But no, it seems she and her cohorts would rather watch more babies die before any of them change their opinion and admit that maybe, just maybe they were wrong.

Well, I’m going to sign up for my booster shot now. Thanks.

Is there anyone you would like to thank for screwing things up for the rest of us today?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. How about BP? Thanks, BP, for pursuing your dream of greater and greater profits with utter disregard for the safety of your employees or the integrity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem!

  2. Is there anyone you would like to thank for screwing things up for the rest of us today?

    Sure. I’d like to thank everyone who considers global climate change a problem to be solved by someone else.

    Actually there is some overlap with these two issues. We encourage people to get vaccinated now in part for their own health and their loved ones, but more importantly to do their part to contribute to herd immunity. I realize asking someone to get a little jab for the collective good is easier than asking them to give up their car pass up a trip to Dragon Con for the collective good, but it boils down to the same thing.

  3. Jim McCormick of ATSC Ltd. (UK) thanks so much for that so useful ADE-651. Will think of you every day by nephew is in Iraq, or Afganistan.

    Not to be confused with James McCormick, Acupuncturist, Cambridge, MA — Though nice to see you’re accepting BlueCross/Blue Shield.

    Thanks any nurses practicing Therapeutic touch (TT) and Christian Science Practitioners. — Hey can I sue you for Malpractice i.e. Praying?

  4. Although vaccination is definitely the best course of action and I will add my voice to yours in encouraging people, especially those who will be exposed to infants, to get boosters, I urge you to do a little more homework before posting things like this in the future.

    You have helped to create a whooping cough epidemic the likes of which we have not seen in 50 years!

    You do not have evidence to support this claim and, regardless of how much damage these people do in other ways, pointing fingers without evidence can only do harm:

    Even weeks after I wrote that post, there is still no statistical analysis to tie this outbreak to “opting out” rather than 1) lack of awareness or 2) lack of law requiring the booster or a number of other issues such as access to health care.

    The observation that there are more outbreaks in some counties than others is just that – casual observation, which is not scientific and for good reason.

    There is more information out there than a couple of newspaper articles and disease is much more complicated than these articles suggest.

    I can’t help but think about some of the talks many of us heard earlier this month and hope that they did not fall on deaf ears.

  5. @badrescher: You do not have evidence to support this claim and, regardless of how much damage these people do in other ways, pointing fingers without evidence can only do harm:

    I see your point, but you are holding skepticism and epidemiology up to an impossibly high standard. Disease spread in the real world is always a matter of probability and correlation at best. No single death can ever will ever be blamed on the lack of a single vaccination. It can’t be unless vaccines are 100% effective which they aren’t.

    What we do know is that the greater the herd immunity the lower the rate of transmission. This can be modeled mathematically and the models hold up in the real world. To this degree everyone who deliberately skips a vaccination has “helped to create a whooping cough epidemic the likes of which we have not seen in 50 years”. The statement is fine.

  6. @badrescher: Oh sorry Barb, I was pretty sure it was clear that I was referring to California where there have already been nearly 1500 cases reported and 5 deaths so far this year and a possible 6th.

    Yes, you are correct there is much more to it and there is no proof that this outbreak is caused simply by parents who have been frightened into not vaccinating. Some people may not be able to afford health care and some may be uneducated as to the risks of not vaccinating.

    But if you are going to argue that voices much louder than yours and mine who are encouraging parents not to vaccinate is not contributing to this epidemic then I recommend it is you who does some homework.

  7. Is there anyone you would like to thank for screwing things up for the rest of us today?

    There isn’t enough time left before the sun bloats and scours the atmosphere from the Earth for me to finish that list.

  8. @badrescher: Wow. For a teacher and a science educator, you certainly are rather condescending. You may have a point but it’s completely lost in your tone.

    I find it pretty ironic that you are referencing the talks we heard earlier this month. I think perhaps you need to remember what Carol Tarvis said about how to approach people you disagree with and seeing people’s perspectives and where they are coming from.

    We’re all presumably on the same side here and can disagree without being condescending (I think).

  9. There is new technology that can accurately detect a propensity to develop ASD symptoms based on early voice patterns in children. This works well, even before most of the vaccine schedule is administered. Another nail in the anti-vax “too-much too soon” coffin.

  10. I’d like to say thinks to Steve Jobs. Now I can’t go a single day without hearing about the iphone 25 xl omg or having iphone envy. I don’t care what the problem with the latest iphone is, I really don’t care. I don’t need a smart phone. I may want one, but its too much phone for my needs, and honestly, that would be a waste of money on my part.

  11. @Masala Skeptic: Barb’s tone is harsh (she knows that – and she works with college kids) but it is no harsher than the tone of the original post.

    The talks at TAM from both Phil Plait AND Carol Tavris were not just about skeptic on skeptic interaction, but skeptic on believer interaction.

    When Phil covered this story in June, Barb corrected him as well, and he changed his original post to include this:

    “Note: some comments below are indicating that this outbreak is actually tied to the immigrant population in California. I want to be clear that I am not blaming the antivax movement for this particular epidemic, but that in many cases they can be directly or indirectly tied to lower vaccine rates. However, pending any evidence for this, which may yet be forthcoming, it is also premature to blame immigrants for this as well.”

    We can fight this battle without hyperbole.

  12. @Masala Skeptic: Funny, I didn’t get that idea at all from badrescher. Perhaps it’s because I agree whole-heartedly with her point. More likely because it’s still so damn hard to interpret ‘tone’ in these brief communications.

    That’s not to say there is any real justification to not getting vaccinated or that the observations noted in the article couldn’t be completely explained by parents’ choices not to vaccinate.

    I wish there were a Strunk & White for how to best ‘convey’ tone in blogs and e-mails. Personally I hope everyone starts to take sides and this whole thing digresses into a series of ad hominems. Much more fun than reason.

    Personally, I’d like to say thanks to the intelligent designer for giving us a predilection for low back pain, hemorrhoids, mortality, SIDS, anti-vaxers, moon-hoaxers, and the rest of the assholes that piss me off.


  13. I’d like to thank the fuckers at the CDC who misused $13 million that was meant to go to ME/CFS/CFIDS research. ( Not only was this obviously detrimental to the research program, but it’s had a far-reaching effect as far as turning many vocal CFS “advocates” into conspiracy theorists, feeding into the current hysteria (in the community) about this potential XMRV connection. Indirectly, the CDC’s assholery has led to my disconnection from a community of people who share my disability. And that sucks.

  14. I would like to thank anyone that gives these people a voice without first looking into the data and making sure it makes sense. Saying “The opinions expressed by the persons on this show are not necessarily those of the producers or this station” is not enough once the damage is done.
    Why have these antivaxer assholes not been hit with a class-action lawsuit yet?
    I would think that at least 5 would-be parents would have a case for a wrongful death suit now, not to mention all the people with pain and suffering. Why not make these people responsible for this epidemic actually be responsible people?

  15. Baby boomers. Thanks for the last 30 years. I really appreciate them. I love the systematic dismanteling of the world that your parents worked so hard to make. Yay, you were hippies, yay you used a lot of drugs and were able to run around pretending to be important. Good for you. I sometimes wonder if the world wasn’t driven insane by the great depression and the second world war. Then the people who had endured those terrible times tried to raise children. And a whole lot of those kids grew up to be total assholes.

  16. I just want to thank everyone who is vacationing right now in the Adirondacks, who drove up to our beautiful little mountain town to relax, see the sights, get away from it all, and hurl un-called for verbal abuse at your barista because they are taking too long helping the person in front of you, and you’re on vacation, goddammit! You don’t have time for this!

    Thanks for spreading the love. Assholes.

  17. Sorry, I know that my rant was about a small subset of the population that only directly affects me and people I know, and so technically isn’t “screwing things up for the rest of us,” and thus does not really relate to this thread. I’ve just had a terrible week, and I kinda lost it. I feel better now.

    Although, technically, these people exist everywhere, and I guess who I REALLY want to thank is whatever devious asshole decided that “the customer is always right.” Now everyone thinks that the best way to get whatever they want anywhere they go is my degrading, humiliating, and generally ruining-the-day-of, any poor sap slaving for an hourly wage who happens to be in their way. And they better like it, too. Sometimes I really want to find that asshole and, as Elyse once said, “kill them in the face with bears.” (or something like that. it was awesome, anyway.)

    Thank you.

  18. I’d also like to thank internet trolls, who patiently wait in the wings. Never with anything nice or productive to say. Still it’s a comfort to know you are there, lurking. Means we are never alone and that someone is always paying attention to our posts. I imagine you under a virtual bridge with big ugly shoes.

  19. @Garbledina: I REALLY want to thank is whatever devious asshole decided that “the customer is always right.”

    Back when I worked with customers we were taught that the customer is not always right, but it is good business practice to pretend that they are. The difference is small, but it made the whole experience easier to bear somehow.

  20. @davew: Oh, I have been doing this for a long time… I’d say about 12 years now. I am well aware that they aren’t always right. It’s the pretending they are that is a problem for me. The cumulative effect on society is to reinforce bad behavior. If someone knows that if they cause a scene somewhere, not only do they probably get something for free, but that whoever is the object of their little tantrum will have to smile and thank them for it. I don’t like that. It feels unethical. But I need to eat.

  21. First, @Masala Skeptic, my tone was direct, not condescending. I do not sugar-coat or dance around issues, nor do I believe that I should apologize for not doing so.

    I did not insult Amy. There was no “snark” in my comment.

    On the other hand, Amy’s response further demonstrates my point in addition to ending with some snark of her own: “…I recommend it is you who does some homework.”

    I’m a big girl; I can take it, but I do not accept the accusation my tone is the problem, here.

    I find it pretty ironic that you are referencing the talks we heard earlier this month. I think perhaps you need to remember what Carol Tarvis said about how to approach people you disagree with and seeing people’s perspectives and where they are coming from.

    I see Amy’s perspective just fine and, again, there is absolutely nothing in my comment that is insulting or mean. I am not trying to convince Amy to abandon woo or embrace critical thinking. I’m asking her to consider whether she is qualified to discuss an issue and if she has all of the facts before she rallies the troops.

    Are you suggesting that I simply keep my mouth shut when I see behavior that I strongly believe is damaging to the cause? If so, I will let everyone know right here and now that I won’t. That shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.

    This comment by @Spider (#19) is a good example of why I won’t keep quiet:

    I would think that at least 5 would-be parents would have a case for a wrongful death suit now, not to mention all the people with pain and suffering. Why not make these people responsible for this epidemic actually be responsible people?

    What we do not need is for parents to start fighting court battles that they cannot win because of what is said by people (plural; Amy is not the first and I am sure she will not be the last) who identify themselves as Skeptics.

    Every wrong claim on our side chips away at our credibility. Our credibility.

    BTW, the talk I was most referring to, but that is reinforced by Carol Tavris’s and Bruce Hood’s, was Massimo Pigliucci’s.

    @davew & Amy: If you read the link, you’ll discover why your arguments are not valid. I linked to it for good reason. The issue is much more complex than what you’ve described and more than a simple comment will allow. If you choose not to read it, that’s fine, but then you’re not addressing my points with your comments.

    Also, I was not referring to a specific death, davew. I was referring to the claim Amy made. I will not nitpick the argument with you, either. If you have a degree in some field related to infectious diseases and can make a convincing argument that the evidence at this time points to anti-vax propaganda as a significant contributor to the outbreak, I’m all ears. Until then, I stand by my statement.


    Well, no matter whose ‘fault’ it is, the anti-vaxxers are running with the story and distorting the facts anyway.

    That is not an excuse for crying “Jenny”, imo.

  22. I want to thank the entire “mommy” culture for making women think that it’s not enough to be a good enough parent or to be as good as your neighbor, but that motherhood is a competitive sport and you should be perfect and always striving to be better than everyone else… or at least pretending you are while rubbing it in their face.

    I’d also like to thank them for making women think that the word “mommy” is an okay word to throw around casually in conversations with other adults, giving the impression that yes, it’s true, once you have a kid you absolutely do become that asshole that can’t shut up about motherhood.

  23. I’d like to thank the assholes who canceled “Firefly”. One season. One fantastic season. One really cool season. And some assholes canceled it. Way to go assholes.

  24. I’d also like to thank internet trolls, who patiently wait in the wings. Never with anything nice or productive to say. Still it’s a comfort to know you are there, lurking. Means we are never alone and that someone is always paying attention to our posts. I imagine you under a virtual bridge with big ugly shoes.

    Really? Are you kidding me? You’re calling me a troll?

    Here’s just a touch of snark: Don’t flatter yourself.

    And a touch more…
    NEWSFLASH: I don’t read your blog unless someone sends me a link or I come across a tweet with a title I can’t ignore.

    In this case, someone sent me a link, knowing that I had just written about this a few weeks ago.

    If you think I had nothing constructive to say, then you will likely make the same mistake again and, yes, if someone alerts me to it, I’ll be right here (or in my own space) to shout it to whomever will listen.

    I don’t that because I have some stupid vendetta against you. I do it because it MATTERS.

  25. @Garbledina: Oh, I have been doing this for a long time… I’d say about 12 years now. I am well aware that they aren’t always right. It’s the pretending they are that is a problem for me.

    I didn’t mean to trivialize the problem. The other thing I had going for me was excellent managers. If at any point there was a customer we couldn’t or just didn’t want to deal with they were right there with the fake sincerity and the perks. I could never be one of those managers. There is not enough Valium in the world.

    It is an interesting point you make about rewarding bad behavior and setting up people with customer-facing jobs for abuse. Would it be better if you were allowed to push back when you felt the situation merited? I don’t know. I can see arguments on both sides.

    I’m in a position now where my customers work for the same company I do. It makes things ever so much smoother.

  26. I would like to thank everyone who will walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The most important sentence in Amy’s post was “well, I’m going to sign up for my booster shot now. Thanks.” Infants require three pertussis vaccinations at 2,4,and 6 months of age. Though each vaccine conveys more immunity than the one prior, it’s not until the 6 month vaccine that immunity reaches about 90%. Two subsequent boosters at 15-18 months and 5 yrs of age maintain the high response rate. Unfortunately, adults are the problem.

    From the Journal of Pediatric Infectious Disease 2005:

    Duration of immunity against pertussis after natural infection or vaccination.
    Wendelboe AM, Van Rie A, Salmaso S, Englund JA.

    Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. [email protected]

    Despite decades of high vaccination coverage, pertussis has remained endemic and reemerged as a public health problem in many countries in the past 2 decades. Waning of vaccine-induced immunity has been cited as one of the reasons for the observed epidemiologic trend. A review of the published data on duration of immunity reveals estimates that infection-acquired immunity against pertussis disease wanes after 4-20 years and protective immunity after vaccination wanes after 4-12 years. Further research into the rate of waning of vaccine-acquired immunity will help determine the optimal timing and frequency of booster immunizations and their role in pertussis control.

    Ok … me again : though it might be difficult for us to sway the antivaxers and though the direct effect of the antivax movement may be hard to EXACTLY quantify in terms of morbidity and mortality, NONE of us who are skeptics deserve to say word one unless we have our boosters updated in a timely manner. Nowadays, the booster is usually in the form of Tdap ( tetanus and purtussis). The idea for this stems from the advice that we get our tetanus shot updated every ten years. So by combining the tetanus with pertussis we increase rates of adult pertussis vaccination , which is important because adults are usually the sources of a pertussis outbreak.

    The last school associated booster is usually completed by age 15 ( but over the last five years , usually by 11 or 12 ).

    So who amongst us over the age of 25 have not had a booster in the last ten years? And if you haven’t, PLEASE, as pediatrician who has had to treat this disease numerous times with up to three weeks of antibiotics, in hospital monitering, and supportive care with oxygen if needed, DO WHAT AMY SAYS and GET YOUR BOOSTER.

    Walk the walk.


  27. I would like to thank my roommate for being such a jerk about getting rid of his trash, and rather than doing the small amount of work necessary, turning it into a huge deal and making a whole bunch of work for everyone else.
    I would also like to thank the crazy old man at Starbucks for cheering me up.

  28. @Elyse: I think I’m one of those assholes :(.

    I don’t throw “mommy” around, but it is what I talk about 90% of the time. Maybe I need a Babies Anonymous group.

  29. @davew: Sorry if I seemed offended, I know you were just being kind. Sadly enough, I am the manager. I am the one who comes and smiles and takes the brunt of it so everyone else doesn’t have to. Thus my uncontrolled venting. Can’t do it at work. I do think customer service is important, and certainly think anyone doing it should have their default position be over-the-top nice, because I like making people’s day. But I do think there is a limit, and when someone crosses a line, I don’t think I should have to reward them for it. Meh.

    But even though I’m the “boss,” I work for a pretty large corporation who’s motto is “just say yes!” And I do. But sometimes it’s hard, because I’m not a robot. Thanks for listening.


  30. @badrescher: Wow, that troll comment wasn’t directed at you . If it was it would have the little “@” and then your name like this post here. But if you want to claim it, knock yourself out.

  31. @Elyse: A thousand times this, at least the first part. It broke my heart to see my best friend, who was also my first close friend to have kids, get dragged unwillingly into that competitive mommy culture. (She lived in the SF Bay Area, too, where it’s especially rampant.) She is a wonderful, thinking mom of two bright, healthy, happy kids and yet she was constantly beaten down by not having gotten them into this or that program that the other mommies did. Luckily she also has a great sense of humor as well as a great sense of self, so she’s surviving well.

  32. @badrescher: If you read the link, you’ll discover why your arguments are not valid.

    I read that link before my response, and I just read it again. I’d be happy to discuss anything I said that you think is in error.

  33. @badrescher:

    That is not an excuse for crying “Jenny”, imo.

    I never said it was. I was just pointing out that the anti-vaxxers are using the outbreak to further their agenda. No more, no less.

  34. I am conflicted about this thread. On the one hand, I feel like skeptics have a duty to keep each other on our toes, and hold ourselves up to constant fact-checking and scrutiny. I also feel strongly that, regardless of “tone,” the substance of an argument is what needs to hold our attention.

    On the other hand, we are all allies here and regardless of how right or wrong you are, there is a respectful way to question the validity of an argument, and then there is a public dressing down. One can’t expect to have a rational discussion with someone after you have basically called them a hypocrite in front of their peers. That is going to provoke a knee-jerk reaction to both you and your argument. It’s your prerogative, for sure. That doesn’t mean it’s productive. And this wasn’t exactly an expose of the antivax movement, it was a Skepchick Afternoon Inquisition, something that has a reputation for being tongue-in-cheek and lighthearted, to spark a conversation. To drag someone through the wringer in this instance is less like bringing a gun to a knife fight than it is bringing a gun to a game of Magic the Gathering. Sure, you have your 2nd Amendment rights, and feel free to flaunt them proudly, but don’t be surprised when everyone at the table is a little weirded out.

  35. @davew:

    I really don’t get the obsessive customer-worship. I’d be more likely to frequent a place where the staff tells some self-righteous jerks to get lost, because I don’t like being around those people and I like seeing them get their comeuppance.

    It also shows that the employees are being treated as people and not just there because humans are cheaper than robots for pushing the hamburger button on the the cash register.

  36. @badrescher: what the….Barb, you clearly missed the point of the AI. That question in bold at the end is an open call for discussion.

    So, Amy was mentioning additional people who piss her off, not calling you out.

    Odd that you thought it was directed at you…..

  37. @Scott: I know you probably didn’t mean to, but you just simultaneously took the side of those of us in customer service by championing our humanity, while reducing our job to “pushing the hamburger button on the cash register.” I feel like your heart was in the right place, but must confess that feels a little condescending.

  38. I’d like to send out a big thanks to the young Mennonite mom standing about 3ft. away from me who said “I don’t THINK it’s measles.” WHAT!!! Are you kidding me? People seem to forget that there are those of us on some pretty serious immunosuppressive drugs. Thanks for the possible exposure. And I’m sure my kids will thank you when I get sick.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about your kids as long as you are able to discuss other topics. If you don’t want to talk about mommy stuff, then limit your exposure to other mommies or find like-minded mommies. I have not run into the competitive mommy thing yet, probably because I home school. But I would like to thank everyone that asks “Aren’t you worried about socialization?” Thank you for that patronizing question before you even see how my kids interact with other kids.

  39. I would like to thank the jerkoffs who helped dying ideas like homeopathy back into the mainstream consciousness during the 70s. When I can count more natural and homeopathic treatment centers than there are private and general practices in a single town, I do believe that we have a problem.

    And for the sake of knowing how it is at home, I learned that there has been a rise of pertussis in Wyoming. There were 20 cases in 2009 and five so far in 2010 as of July 1. While the concern isn’t nearly as high in California, there’s still a great urge to get vaccinated and get booster shots and to keep away from people with the symptoms. I also saw a pro-vaccine PSA last night regarding pertussis.

  40. @Sean: As I was perusing my health benefits for mental health coverage I realized that Alternative Treatments are covered, but a shrink is not. This didn’t help my already teetering patience.

  41. @Garbledina: Hear, hear. I hope this comment gets read – it says exactly what I was thinking, but more eloquently.

    And my own thoughts –

    This could have been an interesting thread if Badrescher had stuck to her counterpoint and skipped the personal attack. She doth protest too much in her numerous claims that she’s not insulting Amy.

    The fact that Amy may not have anticipated every possible counterpoint to her point doesn’t mean her perspective isn’t worthwhile, which is what comments like “didn’t do her homework”, “not qualified”, “doesn’t know the facts”, “doing harm”, “damaging to the cause”, “chipping away at our credibility”, and “deaf ears” clearly imply.

    What rubs me the wrong way is badrescher’s reproachful tone – she seems to have complete certainty of her own correctness and authority to scold her peers. A little humility when presenting your own perspective goes a long way toward having a productive conversation.

    I don’t know Badrescher, but she’s clearly intelligent and has an interesting and useful point. This could have been an interesting conversation if it weren’t mired in personal insult and reproach.

    PS. Denying a personal attack is especially difficult when the attack is in writing…scroll up for evidence.

  42. @Chelsea: You can’t be serious. Now I wonder if my parents’ policy with BlueCross BlueShield would have covered the $1,100 we still owe a hospital in Casper for surgery on my are for when I compressed my ulnar nerve and lost feeling in part of my hand if I had gone with something alternative.

  43. @badrescher:

    So, let me get this straight; you say people with a valid, legitimate claim to damages shouldn’t go into a court case because it might hurt the skeptic community’s credibility? And you say it’s a case they can’t win?
    Are you an attorney or a judge? Because you just got done calling someone out on making a claim for which they’re unqualified, and now, unless you’re a legal professional, you’re making a judgment for which you are unqualified.
    So these people that have lost a loved one or gone through pain and suffering shouldn’t seek some kind of restitution? Which loved one have you lost to this idiocy? Because if you haven’t, then you haven’t got a clue how they’re feeling. You haven’t the right to tell them whether or not they should try to do something about it. And you certainly don’t have the right to tell other people whether or not they’re truly skeptical, or to “guide” the skeptics of the world. Nobody does.

    My statement was wondering why nobody has tried it yet. I’ve yet to hear a qualified opinion of why it shouldn’t be tried, nor a qualified opinion as to why it should be. See, I’m not a legal professional either. That’s why I want to know. That’s why I asked the question.

    Anybody got the answer?

    P.S. My name is Spidor. The mis-spelling is intentional. Get over it.

  44. Lots of good points. Lots of anger. I think we can all agree on a couple of points:

    1) Vaccines = good
    2) Antivax = bad

    I appreciate and share Amy’s anger at the anti-vax kingpins. As a physician who has dealt with anti-vax parents I can tell there are few things that piss me off more than running into them in clinic.

    At the same time badrescher is absolutely correct to point out that the specific cases in California CANNOT be linked (at least on available information) to the anti-vax movement. I don’t have access to the raw data but based on everything I have read any causal link between anti-vax and the current B. Pertussis outbreaks is purely speculative.

    Even if we never establish a link it is exactly this sort of outbreak that we would hope to prevent with more universal vaccination. I’m most irate that there are many communities that have set themselves up for this sort of outbreak (or worse).

    I don’t think we can currently point to the 5 infant deaths and say “see, that’s what happens when you don’t get vaccinated.” I do think, however, that we can say it might not have happened (or at least this bad) if there had been higher levels of vaccination. I think this is more accurate and ultimately we don’t want to get into a battle of ideologies with the anti-vax we want our facts to speak for themselves. If skeptics are wreckless with their facts than we might as well be idealogues.

    @Spidor: I see your point. I’m a physician, not a lawyer so I don’t know how winnable such a case would be. I am, however, a little uncomfortable with advocating legal action using potentially wrong information to further the pro-vaccine cause. If the families want to sue, great, but I’m not sure I’d want this to be the index case for advocating vaccines since the causal link is dubious. There’s plenty of evidence already on our side already. If a more definitive causality can be established, however, I’d be the first one in line to testify and support a legal case on behalf of the suffering families.

    Finally, I think halincoh (great meeting you at TAM, btw) has made the best argument so far. Even vaccinated infants have an increased risk until their pertussis series is complete at six months. It’s herd immunity that really protects them before that. That means making older kids and adults are properly vaccinated. This may be an even greater issue than infant immunization.

    Despite my anger at the anti-vax idiots and all the other fools and scammers propogating harmful ideas I can sleep soundly tonight knowing that my pertussis is up-to-date (10/8/2005). Many cheers,


  45. @Garbledina:

    I apologize- I definitely didn’t mean to put down your work.

    What I was trying to say was that the same kind of lousy management that would aggravate or humiliate employees to placate a customer is also the kind that would think of those employees as interchangeable hamburger-button-pushers.

    I wanted to contrast that with organizations that took into account human needs of their employees, including the need not to put up with jerks.

  46. SloFox:

    At the same time badrescher is absolutely correct to point out that the specific cases in California CANNOT be linked (at least on available information) to the anti-vax movement. I don’t have access to the raw data but based on everything I have read any causal link between anti-vax and the current B. Pertussis outbreaks is purely speculative.

    While that is true, there have been studies that point to a trend that lower pertussis uptake based on state exemptions translate to higher incidence of pertussis:

    Nonmedical Exemptions to School Immunization Requirements: Secular Trends and Association of State Policies With Pertussis Incidence

    Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH; William K. Y. Pan, DrPH, MS, MPH; Neal A. Halsey, MD; Shannon Stokley, MPH; Lawrence H. Moulton, PhD; Ann Marie Navar, MHS; Mathew Pierce, JD, MPH; Daniel A. Salmon, PhD, MPH

    JAMA. 2006;296:1757-1763.


    Parental Refusal of Pertussis Vaccination Is Associated With an Increased Risk of Pertussis Infection in Children

    Jason M. Glanz, PhDa,b, David L. McClure, PhDa, David J. Magid, MD, MPHa,b, Matthew F. Daley, MDa,c,d, Eric K. France, MD, MSPHe, Daniel A. Salmon, PhD, MPHf, Simon J. Hambidge, MD, PhDa,b,d,g

    PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 6 June 2009, pp. 1446-1451 (doi:10.1542/peds.2008-2150)

    But these are general trends, and cannot be related to specific outbreaks.

    The problem is that herd immunity needs to be increased, but it does not help that the vaccine is only 80%, wears off after time and not everyone keeps up with boosters (and the Tdap came out just months after my last tetanus booster).

  47. @SloFox: Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your calm and rational explanation of the situation and agree that there is no actual evidence directly linking the deaths or the outbreak with the anti-vax movement. (not yet anyway) My original intent of the post was meant to imply that the efforts of the anti-vax movement assisted in this negative outcome by threatening herd immunity via fear mongering and that they have been consistently screwing it up for the rest of us by spreading false information and frightening parents and that their energy could be much better spent. I realize now that I could have been more clear but I did want to express my anger towards the anti-vax efforts. I hoped to inspire a lively conversation as well. I may have succeeded on at least one level. ;)

  48. For whatever it’s worth, I think badrescher has been fairly civil and polite in her posts in this thread, and not condescending at all. Moreover – she’s right. The outbreak in California can’t (at this time) be causally linked to anti-vaccination activity, and “blaming Jenny” puts the person doing so at risk of appearing to be knee-jerking.

    As skeptics, I think we have an onus to be more accepting than normal people of our expertise and claims being called into question, simply for the reason that we do it so often ourselves. We need to be prepared to accept that criticism when it’s applied to us, especially since many of us are simply laypeople with a penchant for research, and we are still susceptible to the same kinds of errors in reasoning that lead to the types of beliefs we so strongly criticize. It’s understandable that this type of thing can sometimes be construed as an attack (and experiencing that fact may be educational), but we of all people should know that attacking ideas and claims (even brutally) is hardly the same thing as attacking the person making them.

    I feel like badrescher is being unfairly put on the defensive here by being accused of being rude or having a bad tone. Her post was absolutely no more than a stern correction, and that’s something that we’re hardly in a position to have our feelings hurt over. I also feel like a valuable criticism is being glossed over by concentrating on the tone instead of the content. (That’s a fallacy that I can’t remember the name of at the moment. )

  49. Dear Baby Jesus…cheers for everything.
    I don’t generally shout at babies and it’s probably not your fault…but things sometimes get a bit intense these days.
    p.s. I do enjoy your birthday though.

  50. I’d like to thank everyone who’s taken advantage of the beautiful summer weather to go out into what little nature we have left here in DK and enjoyed it. And made the experience more unique by leaving all their rubbish behind to rot so it won’t be as special for the next people who go.
    Thank you.
    Thank you very much, shitheads.

  51. I agree that “greening vaccines” is about as ludicrous as wanting to “green” landmines, handgrenades or nuclear wepons, because – as Dr Herbert Shelton once pointed out:

    “Belief in immunization is a form of delusional insanity.”

    While this indeed seems to be the case, it is IMO also true to say that vaccination is an organised criminal enterprise dressed up as disease prevention.

    The sooner we all realise that we have been conned, the sooner we can leave this over 200-year-old medical superstition behind and emerge from the dark ages we have been kept in.

  52. @SloFox:

    Don’t get me wrong; at no point in time did I say “Hey! Let’s all us people that support vaccinations sue the bejabbers out of everyone that doesn’t!” That would be stupid.

    This is , as you said, up to the families affected. But that’s part of what bothers me about @Badrescher’s comment; it turns an issue that is up to the families into a potential liability for a movement. I believe that none of those families care one bit about a movement when comparing it to the loss of their loved ones.

    My question isn’t “why don’t WE sue.” My question is “why hasn’t anyone affected by this sued yet.”

    I’m not encouraging. I’m not urging. I’m not suggesting. I am legitimately asking a question concerning the lack of legal action against antivaccination proponents by people painfully affected by its fallout. In a nation where people spill their hot coffee in their own laps and then sue the restaurant from which it was purchased, it amazes me that nobody has filed action against anti-vaxxers. I’m very curious to know why this has not yet happened.

  53. I would like to thank the wimpy moderates, who retain religious labels because it’s “part of who they are,” even though they don’t agree with it. The biggest example of this in my life is Catholicism. Claiming the Vatican needs to improve, but still giving it up to the offering place on Sundays (to a Catholic church, who pays up, all the way to the Vatican eventually) is INEXCUSABLE.

    You wouldn’t pay dues to the KKK and decry its antics, would you?

    These are also the people who go OMG APE**** whenever people lambaste pedophile priests and the Catholic machine that hides them. (Oh, but you can’t attack Catholics! We’re good, we’re your neighbors!)


  54. So I posted my comment and walked away yesterday and haven’t come back until this morning (having a life is seriously cutting into my internet time).

    The back and forth on who’s right and wrong on tone is really interesting to me. I think one of the biggest challenges that we as skeptics face, is how we communicate our message. This is true not just for how we talk to believers but how we talk to other skeptics as well.

    It’s easy to think we’re all on the same page because we all use the term ‘skeptic’ to define ourselves. It’s a very dangerous assumption too, particularly because we have so many people who are new to the community and who are either just starting out in participating or are watching in the wings. How does a n00b who is watching and considering say, starting up a new blog, feel when reading this sort of high-tension arguing on a blog post?

    Yes, we absolutely have to hold each other up to scrutiny and to debate. And perhaps identifying as skeptics means that we get held to a higher standard of evidence. However, we also have to remember that there are human beings on the other side of the words.

    I’ve been a communicator and consultant for many years and one of the fundamental things I’ve learned is this: if someone feels offended by something you said, it is what it is. Going back and saying “I wasn’t mean” or “I didn’t do anything wrong” doesn’t work in making them unoffended. Perception is everything and if you are looking to build a bridge, your first position should always be to look at your own communication and understand what you could have done better.

    That is NOT to say that you should hold back your opinions, your tone, your methods, simply because someone might be offended (as someone who writes for this blog, I don’t think it would be internally consistent to say that :)) But it is important to remember the consequences of your tone.

    And when dealing with people who are presumably allies, isn’t easier to say “I’m sorry you took it that way, I didn’t mean it to be offensive or rude. Here’s what I really meant…” rather than to get defensive and cause a fight? Doesn’t that bring the conversation back to the point at hand rather than getting into the meta-discussion of who meant what and who said what about whom?

    There’s been a lot of talk about how skeptics should talk to believers and it’s all valid stuff. I also think it’s equally valid to talk about how we should talk to each other. We may not always agree but there’s no reason to not try to have a reasoned discussion like human beings, particularly when we’re on the same side.

    Also, fuck y’all :) KIDDING!

  55. @SloFox:

    Miiiiiiiiiiiiike!!!!!! I never got to say goodbye to you. Stay in touch! Again, more evidence that the best part of TAM is meeting each other.

    Furthermore, it’s simply a nicer, more natural way to interact. Words are fantastic, but sometimes words without eye contact can be misconstrued , as this thread demonstrates.

    let’s all meet each other, then we can determine if we really piss each other off … or not.

    Fuck y’all too Maria! :)

  56. I’d like to give my perspective on the tone-debate as a newbie and relative outsider.
    I was taken aback by the escalating tension. I read badrescher’s first post as a serious and earnest criticism, if heavy-handed. Some of the criticisms were excessively personal in tone, but that wasn’t necessarily intentional. I think it was understandable for Amy, in her response, to defend herself, but again, I saw that response as clearly, if unintentionally, personal. Both posts seemed incautious but well-intentioned. It was when I read Masala-Skeptic’s next post that I was really surprised. I found it, ironically, highly condescending and combative, and very uncharitable toward badrescher. Amy’s next post was very confusing. The first thing I thought was that it was indeed directed at badrescher, if only because of its timing. Since badrescher’s comment didn’t seem at all trollish to me, that was startling. “But if you want to claim it, knock yourself out.” was not a helpful response to an honest doubt, I think, and from that post, It makes sense that things would heat up further.
    Of course, this is only the way this one fly on the wall took things, but my point is that charity is important in interpreting people’s motives in writing. I completely understand being offended by any of these posts, but responding by returning the offense is not helpful, and returning the offense is what I saw. Being misunderstood ought to make you more careful, but this conversation seemed to get less and less careful. I saw a whole lotta misunderstanding, and very little caution.
    Then again, I hope this post wasn’t too incautious ^^ It is personal and specific, but that’s because the issue is about very specific sentences with names attached, and I honestly think all of the parties I mentioned were in the wrong to some extent. I agree that saying “I’m sorry” and “I didn’t mean it to be offensive or rude” would be great responses… from everyone involved.

  57. @Tora-chan: Right, and that’s exactly what I didn’t intend (to sound condescending etc.)

    My bad :) I’m still working on tone (hence my last post). It’s easy to forget that on the internet, things are perceived as combative when they’re not meant to be. It’s awfully hard, particularly when you’re dealing with a computer screen, a limited amount of time and lack of focus.

    Sorry, I appear to have also derailed this thread :) I’ll stop now!

  58. Emoticons help :) us to pretend to read faces and body language even when we can’t. :( Sometime I am confused :8. Sometimes I’m not. :)

  59. “if someone feels offended by something you said, it is what it is. Going back and saying “I wasn’t mean” or “I didn’t do anything wrong” doesn’t work in making them unoffended. Perception is everything and if you are looking to build a bridge, your first position should always be to look at your own communication and understand what you could have done better.”

    See, I disagree with that. While I certainly agree that there is a great deal of responsibility on the part of the communicator to keep things from being offensive, I also think there is a responsibility on the part of the recipient to not get offended by things that don’t warrant offense. A good example of this would be the oh-so common tendency of various quacks and purveyors of woo to respond to legitimate criticism with an accusation that they are being unfairly persecuted or attacked. In that sort of case, the onus isn’t on the communicator to mollycoddle their feelings, it’s on the recipient to recognize that making medical claims and selling medical products places oneself into the realm of being criticized for those claims and products, and they aren’t justified in being butthurt over that.

    That isn’t to say that tone isn’t important, or that one’s tone shouldn’t be examined, or even that badrescher couldn’t have put her points in a better way. What I am saying is that with how incredibly often we’ve all seen someone loudly taking offense with someone’s “tone” in order to distract from or avoid substantive criticism of their claims, it seems as if placing responsibility for that entirely or almost entirely on the communicator is misguided.

    The short version of all this is that just because someone is offended doesn’t mean that they have a legitimate reason for taking offense (in fact, they may simply be engaging in a red herring), and if they don’t, the person who offended them isn’t culpable for that offense or responsible for mitigating it.

    Like I said, this is all a long explanation of an obscure informal fallacy that I can’t remember the name of. It’s basically a form of red herring where the conversation is turned into what a mean person the individual making the legitimate argument is. Since this fallacy exists, and since some people are dishonest and will use feigned offense to duck legitimate criticism, placing the responsibility entirely on the communicator would eventually result in a milquetoast appeaser who can’t unequivocally call out a claim as false because doing so will always offend somebody.

    For the record, I’m not saying that you’re trying to duck criticism, or that you’re dishonest, or that you’re feigning offense. I’m just outlining how this philosophy in regards to communication breaks down when one party isn’t communicating in good faith – as is often the case. I think this case is a legitimate misunderstanding, and I can see why badrescher would assume that the same rough-and-tumble approach to criticizing ideas and claims that applies to the common subjects of said criticisms also applies to criticizing the ideas and claims made here. I can also see why that may have been really jarring and possibly condescending or offensive for people who are used to being the criticizer rather than the criticizee.

    I mean, the very first words in Rebecca’s video on Barbara Loe Fisher are “She’s a horrible woman.” I’m not saying that you’re responsible for Rebecca’s words, but that does seem indicative of a culture where moderation of tone in criticism isn’t considered a major social responsibility.

    That said, this is derailing the thread to a certain extent. If anyone wants to PM me (can you do that here?), feel free to do that. Or we can just revel in the tendency of internet conversations to drift off topic to a huge extent. Either way is cool by me. :)

  60. I would like to thank the right-wing extremists for holding back progress, educationally, technologically, and socially, and in every other way. From the governor of Virginia proclaiming Confederate History Month to politicians in Arizona banning ethnic studies classes and persecuting English teachers with foreign accents. And now they’ve gone on a smear campaign against Shirley Sherrod, misrepresenting her speech at her local NAACP convention. And I won’t even mention the Texas State Board of Education. Some people just don’t care about truth. Scoring political points is the only thing that matters to them.

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