I do yeoman’s work reading the stupidity on the internet so you don’t have to do it yourself. Some of it makes me feel unclean–I hate that I contribute to the google rankings of some of these websites by even clicking on these websites.
The Age of Inventing Stuff about Autism is one of the most offensive of the anti vaccine cult websites, although that ranking changes depending on what is posted. It’s not just me who thinks they’re bad, but Skeptoid considers it one of the Top Ten Worst Anti-science Websites.
According to Skeptoid:
The anti vaccine cult pontificates
The Age of Autism published an article in 2012 entitled, The Trouble with the ANTI “Anti-Vaccine” Movement: How They Hijack the Issue; Distort the Facts; and Totally Miss the Point, by Julie Obradovic. It is a screed of disinformation, even propaganda, about how the evidence-based science behind vaccinations has somehow harmed the anti vaccine cult distortion of the facts.
Oh, sorry, I got confused on the title of the article. I guess the anti-vaccine lunatics are feeling upset that real science has demolished their arguments.
The article list outs 11 points where we, the scientists and healthcare professionals, have hurt the anti-vaccine movement. In other words, we did a good job invalidating the pseudoscience of this cult, but we have to do it repeatedly.
Let’s debunk each of their points (and in case it’s not real clear, “we” refers to the pro-vaccine side, and “they” refer to the anti vaccine cult members):
1. We think there is an anti-vaccine movement.
Just because one says they are not something, doesn’t mean it’s so. Ms. Obradovic is trying to use rhetoric to make her points instead of evidence.
If there were plenty of evidence that there is a major risk to vaccines, and the government and pharmaceutical companies were not being responsible, then she’d have a point. But when you have a movement that is not based on any evidence whatsoever, then you are a denialist, or in this case, anti-vaccine.
All denialists (evolution denialists, or creationists, for example) do the same thing. They attempt to redefine the argument as a right vs. wrong, rather than evidence vs. no evidence.
2. We think that anyone who disagrees with vaccines is an idiot.
Well, if the shoe fits…
Nevertheless, defending a pseudoscience that lacks any evidence whatsoever seems to fit a denialist attitude, one that would be considered “flat-earth” thinking.
Disagreeing with me about whether chocolate tastes good is an opinion. Denying evidence that shows the vaccines are generally safe, whereas not vaccinating children based on this denial, leads to children contracting deadly diseases–that is the definition of a “dangerous lunatic.”
3. We blame Dr. Wakefield for everything.
Although it is impossible to know, would the “vaccines cause autism” trope even be out there without Andrew Wakefield? Since Wakefield fraudulently created this claim, every responsible, peer-reviewed analysis of the data states has come to the same conclusion: vaccines do not cause autism.
Further discussion of this topic with no compelling evidence is not logical.
4. We just don’t get it.
This is an illogical comment. I find the anti vaccine cult to be filled with individuals who push pseudoscience and denialism attitude. Period.
Losing faith in physicians is a problem that has nothing to do with vaccines, and everything to do with the healthcare system, the expansion of the university of google medical education, and other factors.
Appeals to conspiracy is just a logical fallacy, considering there is no evidence. Most physicians use evidence-based decisions, and the evidence says “vaccines are relatively safe and those same vaccines prevent diseases, many of which are dangerous, even deadly.”
Pushing anecdotes about physicians is a ridiculous, a strawman argument. Yes, autism is difficult to diagnose. Yes, physicians may not all be cognizant of the autism spectrum. But this has nothing to do with vaccines.
5. We repeatedly distort or exaggerate the facts.
Distorting the facts? There are hundreds of peer-reviewed published articles that support the lack of a link between vaccines and anything serious. No neurological deficits. No blindness. No paralysis. No autism. That’s not an exaggeration, but just plain objective evidence.
The distortion field that surrounds the anti-vaccine cult is amazing. They invent a whole universe of disinformation, not based on any reasonably objective piece of evidence, yet want to point the finger of evil at the medical profession and scientists.
6. We pretend to be the gatekeepers of science.
This is true to a limited extent. Except, how many individuals when googling “vaccines autism” read every link? Does anyone click on the out-links to read the original article?
I can tell when readers click on out-links on my blog, and I bet less than 1 in 20 readers click on those links. And on places like Twitter or Facebook, most individuals just read the 100 character comment and don’t read the link. Is this getting scientific information?
When I read a Wikipedia article, for example, I review as much of the source information as I can to confirm the validity of key points that have been written. In other words, I try to think and analyze. I try to analyze what is written critically. Part of that is that I have decades of scientific education and research.
Does that make me an expert? Not necessarily, but it means I have critical thinking skills. It means that I don’t form an a priori conclusion before examining the amount and quality of evidence presented.
Furthermore, no one in the science community claims to be a gatekeeper of science. Science is a very clear philosophy of analysis that includes moving from observation to hypothesis to experimentation to publishing to formulating a consensus. It is not a rhetorical discussion or debate, as the author of this article seems to believe, it is a logical analysis of data.
I can’t resist. I think Obradovic is talking about the anti vaccine cult directly. Wakefield committed fraud.
What pharmaceutical fraud? In general, pharmaceutical companies are made up of ethical, moral, hard-working researchers and scientists. Propagating a fraud would take so much time and energy that the secret would be out in about an hour.
7. We fail to acknowledge the context of the controversy.
A serious belief in a conspiracy. There is no evidence of one.
8. We oversimplify the problem.
Let’s get this clear. The vaccine prevents the injury and mortal harm to children. It does not cause it.
In fact, the anti vaccine cult probably doesn’t really want ALL children to stop getting vaccines, because then the herd immunity would be destroyed that protects the unvaccinated children from communicable diseases. In essence, the cult wants their children to avoid the imaginary adverse effects of vaccination, but still benefit from the protection across the community. How selfish is that?
Again, absent any evidence at all about the risks of the vaccines, then to participate in society, vaccinations are necessary to prevent epidemics. If the anti-vaccine groups don’t want to participate in vaccines, do we then deny them the treatment to treat their children when they contract measles, mumps, or whooping cough? Ethically and morally, physicians won’t hesitate to help.
The basic point is that there is no significant problem with vaccines. It is invented by the vaccine deniers. Any discussion that goes beyond that is logically fallacious.
Seriously? First of all, communism is an economic theory, not a healthcare policy, but creating red-herrings are often the strategy du jour of the science denialism crowd.
Creationists, who probably could write this same manifesto with just a couple of word changes, claim that Darwinism lead to Hitler. And communism. It’s a wonder that Obradovic didn’t go full-Godwin’s Law, and just say Hitler.
9. We have no hypothesis.
The null hypothesis, “vaccines do not cause autism” has been supported by evidence, published over and over and over. However, the anti-vaccine cult has made the extraordinary claim (or hypothesis) that vaccines cause autism (and everything else, I suppose).
They need to provide the extraordinary evidence.
Where’s the evidence? A book which is not peer-reviewed? Where’s the clinical trial with appropriate controls?
The anti vaccine cult prefers to go for special pleading, that is, “ignore the evidence, we’re right because we’re right.”
PennyLane Handley, who co-wrote an article about some of the unscientific claims regarding autism, brings real science to the analysis of what may cause and does not cause autism spectrum disorders.
I think Ms. Handley pretty much clears up any misinformation about whether “we” have a hypothesis or not.
10. We have an excuse for everything.
Parsimoniously, the best explanation for the increase in rates of autism, may be better diagnostics. But employing that constant special pleading is ridiculous.
Science dismisses, utterly and completely, the hypothesis that vaccines have anything to do with autism based on evidence and analysis of said evidence. hat does not mean that scientists and medical professionals lack empathy or sympathy for autistic children and their parents.
Oh, and the mercury thing again. I’ve discussed it, and it’s nothing more than a strawman argument.
11. We fail to recognize their tactics aren’t working.
The problem is that the anti vaccine cult is causing problems in select areas of the country, mostly because their arguments are much easier than the nuanced, complex science that rejects their pseudoscience. The cult can say “vaccines cause autism.”
On the other hand, the pro-science side can say, “but here’s lots of complicated scientific evidence that says vaccine don’t cause autism”.
Then the cult claims “those scientists are lying and are paid off by Big Pharma.” We say, no we aren’t, we’re scientists. They say, “we win.” The antivaccination cult acts like immature children trying to get their way.
I could go on and on about their fallacies and distortions. But why should I? I have the scientific evidence, thus “we win.”
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in February 2012. It has been completely revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.