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Anti-vaccine lunatics need a dictionary

Last updated on August 24th, 2019 at 11:46 am

The junk science and outright lies that can be found on the internet is enough to make one wonder if it’s even possible to cut through this noise to present what is actually scientifically and medically sound. Every day, there’s new internet meme that makes some outrageous, and barely rational, claim. If you produce expensive urine, it will prevent cancers. Or experiments on monkeys prove that vaccines cause autism. Or Mayans, who couldn’t even predict that Spanish Conquistadors were going to invade, supposedly predicted the end of the world in 2012. Seriously, why do people listen? Maybe that’s why a lot of bloggers take the time to debunk this stupidity, in the hope that someone researching some pseudoscientific claim, finds a few skeptical blogs that use snark, science, and logic to discredit them. Some blogs use all three!

Well, internet stupidity gets even worse.

The Australian Vaccine Network (AVN), the leading anti-vaccine crackpots in Australia and lead by Meryl Dorey, is trying to subvert the word “skeptics” (or sceptic, if you use the British English spelling) so that it can make the claim that somehow their anti-vaccine foolishness is really being a “skeptic” (scare quotes intentional) about the vaccine paradigm. So the AVN lunatics started the “Real Australian Sceptics” website. First, why didn’t real Australian Skeptics already own this web address? So now, if you google “Australia + sceptic”, this idiotic website shows up first.

But they can’t even get the definition of skeptic right. They claim that:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a sceptic is defined as, “a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions”. Sceptics are generally considered to be people who take nothing at face value. They want to see the proof for themselves and don’t accept what they are told unless they can see the evidence with their own eyes.

That’s a rather simplistic definition, not one that’s used commonly today. And if you can’t see “evidence with their own eyes”, well then that pretty much ends all science. The Big Bang. Evolution. Germ theory. Most of medicine. According to Rational Wiki, real skepticism is “is the noble art of constantly questioning and doubting claims and assertions, and holding the accumulation of evidence as of fundamental importance. It forms part of the scientific method, which requires relentless testing and reviewing of claimed facts and theories.” In other words, it is not just doubting a theory, but is also being open-minded to real evidence based on testing, experimentation and reviewing of hypotheses and theories.

What AVN is really doing is pushing is “pseudoskepticism“, a form of denialism. Pseudoskeptics are “those who declare themselves merely ‘skeptical’ of a concept, but in reality would not be convinced by any evidence that might be presented.” For example, global warming skeptics are, in fact, global warming denialists. Denialism is a cultural phenomena whereby people or a group of people ignore all evidence that falsifies their beliefs, and they refuse to accept any theory or evidence despite overwhelming evidence. Mostly, they do this for convenience or political expediency. Importantly, denialists rely upon confirmation bias, that is, only accepting evidence that supports their belief, even if the preponderance of evidence debunks their beliefs.

AVN, of course, disputes this characterization by trying to using the same words to call pro-children vaccine advocates “pseudoskeptics.”

Instead of questioning accepted opinions, these pseudo-sceptics accept everything mainstream at face value and only question information that is not considered to be ‘scientific’ according to their own definition of that word.

Scientific skepticism requires open-mindedness, not being close-minded to evidence. In fact, a real scientist is always bringing their theories and hypotheses into the bright light of criticism. The pseudoscientist relies upon personalization of issues and ignoring evidence, without providing supporting evidence for their beliefs. And when pressed, the pseudoskeptic relies upon various logical fallacies to support their claims, and trying to hide it from the bright light of criticism.

A real scientist, as opposed what the lunatics at AVN say, actually does question everything, but if the evidence is overwhelming, they are open minded to accepting it. But if new, solid evidence is presented, then we examine it. If there were one piece of real published evidence that shows a causal link between autism and vaccines, we’d all apologize and figure out what to do next to save the lives of children. But ignoring the actual evidence, that there is not a link, is close-minded and denialist.

Let’s hope real skeptics (oops, sceptics) in Australia deal with Meryl Dorey and her vaccine denialism that is attempting to co-opt “scepticism” with pseudoskepticism.

Vaccines save lives. Vaccine denialism kills children. Meryl Dorey, you are a depraved, ignorant woman.

Michael Simpson

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