California law to limit medical disinformation — anti-vaccine forces whine

medical disinformation

Because so many physicians were spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines and medical treatments, California is considering a new law that would give the Medical Board of California specific authority to take disciplinary action against them. Although the bill is good news for those of us who want to limit medical disinformation from some issues measures that may make it difficult to implement.

And of course, anti-vaxxers are opposed to it because they don’t like it when physicians are required to only provide science-based information rather than kowtow to whatever pseudoscientific nonsense is being pushed by science deniers regarding medicine and vaccines.

The new bill, AB2098, is wending its way through the California legislature, has been passed out of the California Assembly, and is now being reviewed by the state Senate.

Let’s take a look at this bill and see the reasoning behind it.

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Contaminated supplements – spiked with potentially dangerous ingredients

contaminated supplements

The supplement industry is huge and unregulated. Worldwide annual supplement sales exceed US$151 billion, yet contaminated supplements are part of the industry’s method to make their mostly useless products appear to have some clinical effect.

There is growing evidence that these contaminated supplements contain unlabeled ingredients that are found in regulated pharmaceuticals – all without telling the consumer about them. Or testing them. Or listing warnings for their use.

Let’s take a look at Big Supplement, and what’s going on with contaminated supplements.

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Anti-vaccine pseudoscience vs science, or fake vs fact

anti-vaccine pseudoscience

I toss about the term “pseudoscience” quite a bit because a lot of the anti-vaccine “information” that flows from their keyboards is, frankly, pseudoscience. Unfortunately for rational discussions, anti-vaccine forces tend to rely on the belief system that uses the trappings of science without the rigorous methodologies that value evidence — what is called pseudoscience. Those of us on the pro-vaccine side rely upon actual rational methodology, called science, to discover facts about vaccines.

Simply put, pseudoscience is pure, unfettered male bovine excrement, while science is rational knowledge. Too many times, anti-vaxxers, such as James Lyons-Weiler, Robert F Kennedy Jr, and Russel Blaylock employ pseudoscience that pushes false narratives and disinformation.

Pseudoscience is seductive to many people partially because it’s not only easy to comprehend, but also oversimplifies the understanding of the natural universe. Pseudoscience is the basis of alternative medicine, creationism, vaccine denialism, and other quackery that true believers try to claim is science.

Pseudoscience tries to make an argument with the statement of “it’s been proven to work,” “the link is proven”, or, alternatively, they state something negative about scientifically-supported ideas. It is appealing because it oversimplifies complex systems and ideas. I keep saying science is really hard work, that’s why most anti-vaxxers use their Google University degrees to proclaim that they’ve “done the research” while accusing pro-vaxxers of not doing the same. Ironically, the exact opposite is true.

Acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, and many other “alternative medicine” beliefs are pseudoscience. They simply lack robust evidence to support their efficacy. Science has failed to establish the clinical usefulness of most alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. But there’s an old saying, once evidence shows that these “alternative medicines” work, they’re just called “medicine.”

If anti-vaxxers had robust and repeated evidence that vaccines did what they claim, every single pro-vaxxer would take notice and embrace it. However, the fact that vaccines are very safe and extremely effective is settled science. That’s not based on this old dinosaur’s belief, it is based on the vast wealth of scientific evidence.

Because I can’t help writing about vaccines, the pseudoscience vs science battle applies perfectly to the vaccine discourse. Pseudoscience uses logical fallacies, anecdotes, and misinformation to make it appear there is evidence supporting the anti-vaccine beliefs. Real science has debunked the claim that “there is a proven link between vaccines and autism,” a common and rather dangerous belief of the anti-vaccine world. 

This article will explore the pseudoscience vs science debate (not a debate) by examining what exactly makes an idea scientific (and spoiler alert, it isn’t magic), and contrary to the logic of science, what makes an idea “pseudoscientific.” So sit down, and grab your favorite reading beverage, because this isn’t going to be a quick internet meme.

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The vaccine debate — there is no debate, the science is settled

woman shouts on man using megaphone

For years, I’ve seen anti-vaxxers demanding a vaccine debate between the well-known vaccine deniers, like Robert F Kennedy, Jr and Del Bigtree, and legitimate vaccine scientists and experts. I always laugh, and then I always recommend not participating.

The problem is that if you pay attention to any scientific topic, like climate change, evolution, and, yes, vaccines, you’d think that some science behind them was actually being debated by scientists. The unfiltered information about important scientific subjects allows the science deniers to use a false equivalency to make it appear that the minority and scientifically unsupported point of view is equivalent to the scientific consensus which is always based on huge amounts of published evidence.

From listening to the screaming and yelling, you would think that there is a great vaccine debate. Or an evolution debate. Or a climate change debate. 

There aren’t any debates on any of these (and hundreds of other) scientific topics. Just because someone, like RFK Jr or Bigtree, thinks that there is some “debate,” it doesn’t mean there actually is one. All that happens is one side, almost always the science deniers, use misinformation, lies, anecdotes, and pseudoscience while attempting to scream and yell as loud as possible, then claim they’ve won.

Science can’t be debated. And there is no vaccine debate.

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Bill Gates, vaccines, and Africa — anti-vaxxers myths run amok

Bill Gates vaccines africa

In case you don’t know, anti-vaxxers despise Bill Gates’ efforts to supply vaccines to Africa. Gates doesn’t do this personally, of course, but his foundation supports vaccinating kids in Africa so that those kids have a better chance at long and healthy lives.

One of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research and bringing healthcare (including vaccinations) to underdeveloped countries is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, located in Seattle, Washington.

There is nothing more commendable and moral than a person who has built incredible wealth and then decides to give it back to the world in a way that cannot be measured monetarily. Bill Gates’ foundation is working to eradicate polio and HIV in countries where they are some of the leading causes of death. And part of Bill Gates’ effort is to bring vaccines to all corners of Africa.

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Big supplement profits – making boatloads of money in the name of pseudoscience

big supplement

I occasionally have to defend vaccine profits (or the lack thereof), but everyone seems to ignore Big Supplement profits which are far larger than vaccine profits. And vaccines have real science backing them, which is not a statement you can make about Big Supplement.

Let’s take a moment and look at the revenues and profits of Big Pharma (and a bit of Big Vaccine) and Big Supplement. The former has to work hard and provide evidence of what its drugs do, while the latter basically can sit around and throw darts at various claims, then randomly assign those claims to some new or old supplement.

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Anti-vaccine activists love to use the Big Lie

big lie anti-vaccine

Anti-vaccine activists love to employ the propaganda technique known as the Big Lie, which is a method of stating and repeating a falsehood, then treating it as if it is self-evidently true with the goal of swaying the course of an argument. Eventually, it is hoped by the proponents of the Big Lie, that it will be taken for granted, and not really critically questioned.

If you don’t know much about the “Big Lie,” Hitler, and his Nazi propaganda machine, used the Big Lie to blame all of Germany’s problems, prior to World War II, on Jews, which may have contributed to the German people’s support, either actively or passively, of the Holocaust. And that’s what the anti-vaxxer does — provide the Big Lie until your average person can’t tell the difference between scientific facts and anti-vaccine propaganda.

OK, I apologize. I went full-Godwin with this. In case you don’t know, I’m referring to Godwin’s Law, named after Mike Godwin, who asserted that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, in an online argument, it’s almost a guarantee that someone will invoke a reference to Hitler or Nazis as the discussion gets more and more heated.

However, since the Big Lie was the cornerstone of Nazi propaganda, and it seems to be the same for the anti-vaccine gang, then is it really a Godwin? Probably not.

Let’s take a look at how the anti-vaccine world practices the Big Lie.

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YouTube terminated Natural News channel – Mike Adams whines

YouTube terminated Natural News

On 3 March 2018, Google’s YouTube provided us with some good news, because we all need some these days. YouTube terminated Natural News including their whole library of videos. If you search for Natural News on YouTube, you cannot find it. If someone republished one of Natural News videos, it has disappeared. If you have some blog post with an embedded YouTube video with one of Mike Adams’ rants, it will not be there.

In 2017, Google quit indexing Natural News in its searches because of some violation of Google policy by Adams, aka the Health Ranger. We, the science supporters, cheered, as we consider Natural News (and ilk like it) to be at the very bottom of scientific evidence. We all had good fun with it, including the ecstatic Orac, who wrote,

I am, however, very much enjoying my schadenfreude, and will continue to do so as long as Adams’ site is delisted and he continues his tirades against Google and his victimhood conspiracies.

Of course, Adams whined and whined about it with some creative conspiracy theories, although everything we were able to gather about the situation, Natural News violated one of Google’s policies that aim to prevent gaming of search engine optimization. Eventually, Adams corrected the issue, and you could search Natural News again. If that’s your thing.

At least I enjoyed myself for a couple of days. Maybe I can enjoy a year after YouTube terminated Natural News. Maybe a couple of years? Maybe forever?

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Anti-COVID vaccine has morphed into anti-all vaccines — shocking

anti-COVID-19 vaccine

Back in the ancient times of early summer 2020, we noticed a huge uptick in anti-COVID-19 vaccine sentiment online, even though these vaccines were just barely starting clinical trials. And because the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna used new technology, mRNAs, it led to fear and loathing of these vaccines.

I remarked to a friend of mine that if the anti-COVID-19 vaccine forces gained traction, it was going to cause trouble for other vaccines because the goal of the anti-vaccine world wasn’t to block mandates and requirements for just the COVID-19 vaccines, they want to stop all vaccinations.

Unless you believe in unicorns and rainbows, it is crystal clear to me, and many others. Orac recently wrote:

Ever since the anti-vaccine movement rose to previously unattained prominence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, resistance to COVID-19 vaccine mandates (not to mention to all public health mandates to slow the spread of the coronavirus, such as masks and “lockdowns”), and the increasing affinity between anti-vaxxers and fascists, those of us who have been following the anti-vaccine movement have become increasingly concerned that anti-COVID-19 vaccination has been metastasizing to cover all vaccines. Unsurprisingly, it’s been doing exactly that. The endgame of the anti-vaccine movement has always been the elimination of all vaccine mandates of any kind, and increasingly right wing politicians are pushing for laws and policies that bring us closer to such a world.

And guess what? It appears that all of our fears have come to pass.

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One vaccine clinical trial to rule them all — moving goalposts

woman holding books

If you spend time listening to anti-vaxxers, you would hear that they would support vaccinations if there were better vaccine clinical trial design. The problem with the anti-vaxxer demand for a better vaccine clinical trial design is one of several moving targets for their denialism, relying on a form of the Argument from ignorance, claiming that if we can’t absolutely “prove” that vaccines are safe, then it must be absolutely unsafe. It’s trying.

For example, there are literally thousands of articles, (an example here and was discussed here), that provide overwhelming evidence of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines using real science, real statistics, and real hard work. The antithesis of the fake science, bogus statistics, and 2 hours of Google.

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