I frequently employ the term Logical Fallacy to demonstrate a logical or rational failure of a particular argument, especially those who adhere to anti-science or even pseudoscience points of view, like antivaccinationists. Logical fallacies are used to win arguments, despite the merits of said argument. It’s also used to divert the reader (or listener) to a totally irrelevant point, but has the illusion of being logical.
There are several definitions of what constitutes a logical fallacy:
A logical fallacy is, roughly speaking, an error of reasoning. When someone adopts a position, or tries to persuade someone else to adopt a position, based on a bad piece of reasoning, they commit a fallacy.–Logical Fallacies
An argument that sometimes fools human reasoning, but is not logically valid.–Fallacious Argument
In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually an improper argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption. By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority). Fallacious arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure any logical argument.–Wikipedia
Generally, in discussions or debates, those who lack scientific evidence (which is based on the logical scientific method), have only one choice–resort to one of many logical fallacies. Over time, distinct types of logical fallacies that help define a failure of a pseudoscientific argument. Let’s look at one that is popular with the antivaccination crowd.
I always get suspicious when someone makes an argument with the statement of “it’s been proven to work”, “the link is proven”, or, alternatively, they state some negative about scientifically supported therapies. Typically, I hear these kinds of statements from the pseudoscience pushing crowd. For example, real science has debunked the “there is a proven link between vaccines and autism,” a common and popular pseudoscientific belief. Or that most alternative medicine (CAM) therapies work based on numerous logical fallacies that suspends reason, and accepts “belief” in the therapy, something that evidence-based medicine just doesn’t do.
So, I decided to put together a rather substantial treatise on science vs. pseudoscience. We’ll explore what exactly makes an idea scientific (and spoiler alert, it isn’t magic), and contrary to real science, what makes an idea “pseudoscientific.” So sit down, grab your favorite reading beverage, because this isn’t going to be a quick internet meme. I intend to show you exactly how pseudoscience, whether it’s creationism, vaccine denialism, alternative medicine, or whatever you want to debunk, lies. Yes, lies.
(more…) «How pseudoscience tries to fool…»
Over 5.2 billion people died in the 20th Century. Although the 20th Century ended a mere 13 years ago, from a statistics standpoint, we know we will probably die of different diseases (and other less natural causes) than our forebears. The causes of death evolve over time as medicine improves, science ameliorates risk, lifestyles change, environments shift, and politics reshape our world. British data journalist David McCandless (of Information is Beautiful) created this fascinating infographic based on a project, commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, a U.K. charity devoted to human health, called Death in the 20th Century, which shows us, graphically, the leading causes of mortality from 1900 to 2000, worldwide.
Some of the numbers are shocking. Humanity is the cause of nearly 1 billion (or just short of 20%) of the deaths in the 20th Century. These numbers include war, murders, religious intolerance, suicide, and other deadly crimes that humans perpetrate against one another. Maybe the 21st Century will knock that number down, though I doubt any of us are optimistic given the way this century has started.
But the most interest information is in the Infectious Disease section. Nearly 1.7 billion people have died from infectious diseases. Some of the more interesting numbers are:
- Diphtheria–0.76 million deaths
- Hepatitis B–12.7 million deaths
- Measles–96.7 million deaths
- Meningitis-21.9 million deaths
- Polio–0.13 million deaths
- Smallpox–400 million deaths (yes, 400 million)
- Tetanus–37.1 million deaths
- Whooping cough–38.1 million deaths
In the 21st Century, the numbers of deaths from these diseases will probably be in the few thousand worldwide. Why? Because of vaccines. Not better sanitation. Not better health care facilities. But because of vaccines.
And in the 21st Century, as more vaccines are developed and brought to market, many of these infectious diseases will be less of a problem.
Vaccines saves lives. Literally hundreds of millions of lives.
If there was any doubt about the success of vaccines this graphic shows it clearly. We can eliminate confounding variables such as improved sanitation, since many of these diseases (if not most) are not dependent upon the quality of sanitation, and are merely transmitted from individual to individual. We can eliminate the improvement in health care (other than the obvious one of the accessibility of vaccines) because improved health care wouldn’t prevent most of these diseases.
As a result of vaccines, we have eliminated polio, smallpox and diphtheria in the United States. Many other diseases, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b, are nearly eliminated. Though some people in the antivaccination world would make you believe that these diseases are not serious (the pox party is a perfect example of this belief), most of these diseases have known serious consequences for a statistically significant portion of those who get the disease. These adverse consequences may be as minor as hospitalization to as serious as life long chronic health issues or death.
In approximately one generation, modern medical science has radically changed the risks that children face to these diseases. For that, we parents should be grateful
Vaccines Save Lives.
- Roush SW, Murphy TV; Vaccine-Preventable Disease Table Working Group. Historical comparisons of morbidity and mortality for vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. JAMA. 2007 Nov 14;298(18):2155-63. PubMed PMID: 18000199.
- Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), January 7, 2011 / 59(52);1704-1717.
Sometimes I run across articles and posts just because someone I follow on Twitter or Facebook will post a link that I happen to catch. Of course, I miss about 95% of what’s posted because I just don’t have the time to read them all. One person’s postings gets checked more frequently, since she focuses on vaccines, autism, and health care myths of all sorts. I ran across her while reading comments that followed an article in the LA Times (the story has long been deleted from my overloaded memory cells). She was responding to someone who maintained parents of autistic children were cheating the government out of disability payments. Let’s just say she was much nicer than I was.
Today, she posted a link to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia‘s History of Vaccines blog, which I had never seen before. I could go on about how much information is out there in the internet, but I pick and choose what I read and don’t read. This blog will be on the “must read” list.
(more…) «The history of the anti-vaccination…»