The Dunning-Kruger pandemic in the anti-vaccine world

Dunning Kruger

Along with unscientific claims, logical fallacies, and outright misinformation, we love to use the Dunning-Kruger label to dismiss the anti-vaccine activists’ claims. Many of us throw around Dunning-Kruger so much, that I thought maybe I should dig into it a bit more.

Despite the consistent, robust, and overwhelming evidence presented by the scientific community about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, the epidemic of the Dunning-Kruger effect has become the foundation of the anti-vaccine world, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. To be fair, this is not an issue just with the anti-vaxxers – many others use their Dunning-Kruger bias as a form of science denial of anthropogenic climate change, evolution, GMOs, and many other areas of well-established science.

Let’s take a look at the Dunning-Kruger effect and some research that shows us just how prevalent it is among the anti-vaccine zealots.  

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Anti-vaxxers don’t want to be called “anti-vaccine” — boo frickin’ hoo


A few days ago, some anti-vaxxer on Twitter complained that she didn’t want to be called anti-vaccine. She said it was a personal attack on her. And that she really wasn’t anti-vaccine.

Well, that’s just an incredibly laughable position that is unsupported by anything in reality. These anti-vaccine activists want to appear rational, thoughtful, and scientific, when, in fact, their position is anything but rational, thoughtful, or scientific.

We call someone anti-vaccine because they refuse to accept the vast scientific consensus about every vaccine on the market. No matter how many times we talk about a large, well-analyzed, unbiased study about a vaccine, they ignore it, and then they give preference to anecdotes and false authorities that confirm their pre-ordained conclusions about vaccines.

Now, just to be clear, parents who sit on the fence because they are confused about vaccines are not anti-vaxxers. They aren’t promoting anti-vaccine nonsense, they are trying to find good evidence to support getting vaccinated. I try to target this group lately because they seem to be working in good faith about vaccines. I’ve had numerous people over time that information I’ve prevented has moved them from “vaccine-hesitant” to pro-vaccine. That’s my mitzvah.

I’m going to write about true anti-vaxxers who present bad information about vaccines while complaining that they are being characterized as “anti-vaccine.” They deserve the label, and I’ll show you why.

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Genetically modified wheat gluten that can reduce sensitivity

genetically modified wheat

Gluten-free diets are mostly a quack food fad for 99% of the population, but now we might have a genetically modified wheat that has modified gluten so that it doesn’t induce sensitivity. Scientists have developed some new strains of wheat that will produce a genetically modified gluten that may not trigger a gluten sensitivity.

Let’s wrap our minds around that – genetically modified wheat gluten. I’m sure that won’t be problematic for those who have medically diagnosed issues with gluten. They’re going to be thrilled that they can eat real bread, pizza, or pasta. I’m sure they’re not going to be concerned with any label that says “this product contains GMO gluten.”

Of course, the real scientific consensus about GMOs is that they are safe for humans, animals, and the environment. And provide humans with more and healthier food. Like genetically modified wheat gluten.

On the other hand, I’m certain (but I have no scientific evidence) that the Venn diagrams of those who buy into the nonsense about GMOs also buy into the pseudoscience of gluten. Those people might faint because of the irony of a GMO wheat gluten

Let’s take a look at gluten, the real medical issues of gluten sensitivity, and then what is this new genetically modified gluten in wheat. 

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Big Milk says that the moon is not made of cheese — using logical fallacies

shill gambit

I just spent several days telling you about logical fallacies, let’s take a look at the argument that the moon is made of cheese. It’s kind of simple, instead of arguing about the evidence, the science denier will try to tell me that I shill for Big Pharma when I discuss the settled science of vaccine safety and effectiveness. Or I shill for Big Agriculture when I say that GMOs are safe or that glyphosate does not cause cancer.

So here is an imaginary (or is it?) conversation between myself and a member of the Moon Denier Society who claims that the moon landings were a hoax and that the moon is made of cheese. Apparently, I am a shill for Big Milk. I’m sure if I wrote that almond milk is bad for the environment, I received significant compensation from Big Milk. Fair disclosure, nope.

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Vitamin C for sepsis study may be fraudulent — data was too perfect

photo of orange fruit on plate

As you all know, I am a skeptic of almost all supplements, and I never thought that using vitamin C for sepsis was supported by robust and repeated data. Well, an analysis by an Australian physician, statistician, and Ph.D. student may have found fraudulent data, and it’s becoming a topic of conversation among physicians who have used the protocol to treat sepsis.

Let’s take a peek at this story since it is so amazing because this shows how science really works.

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Quackery grifting — easy money for pushing pseudoscience


I always joked that I could have a profitable business if I engaged in quackery. I’ve got all of this science floating in my brain which I could use to confuse the customer and have them buy my quackery. But I have morals, so I don’t.

I just read a blog post by Melanie Trecek-King in Thinking is Power, a wonderful website that pushes critical thinking skills, something that I find is totally lacking in the quackery world. Anyway, I thought I take her nine steps and give it the old feathered dinosaur take — you know, a little snark, a lot of science, and a little bit of teaching. But read her article too, since I’m “borrowing” her ideas.

Before I start, it has become clear to me that all of the people pushing their quackery are also grifters — they sell their quackery for profit. Joe Mercola and Andrew Wakefield double down on their pseudoscience, just to add money to their coffers.

Please, don’t use this list to start your own profitable pseudoscience business. Use it as a method to weed out the quacks, woomeisters, and pseudoscientists.

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Vitamin D supplements — evidence about safety and effectiveness

vitamin D supplements

The claims about the usefulness of vitamin D supplements are all over the internet. And they seem trendy, especially with COVID-19, even though much of the evidence is extraordinarily weak.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the old and new information about vitamin D supplements. It’s about scientific articles that either support or refute a claim, that’s it. It’s not about what we believe or we do not believe, it’s about evidence.

I don’t think vitamin D is worthless. It is an important micronutrient for human health, and if someone has a chronic deficiency, supplementation may be medically necessary.

On the other hand, proponents of megadoses of vitamins, called megavitamin therapy or orthomolecular medicine (pseudoscientific terms to sound like they are based on real science), seem to work on the unscientific belief that if a little dose helps, a whole boatload dose will help a lot more. Most of these ideas have been debunked and are considered quackery and fads.

I wanted to take a look at the science of vitamin D supplements while examining their actual benefits to health compared to the possible dangers of excess supplementation.

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Vitamin D deficiency could increase susceptibility to severe COVID

spilled bottle of yellow capsule pills

A new study seems to indicate that individuals with vitamin D deficiencies are more susceptible to severe COVID-19 outcomes. This does not mean that lots of vitamin D can prevent COVID-19 or prevent severe COVID in people with normal vitamin D levels, but it does indicate that this could be an easy way to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19.

I know I have a reputation of being “anti-supplement,” but I usually always write “supplements are useless unless there is a chronic medical condition that requires the supplement.” If you’re not getting any vitamin C in your diet, you can be at risk of scurvy, so taking vitamin C supplements is appropriate. If you are pregnant, folic acid supplements are important to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in your fetus.

The evidence for vitamin D and COVID-19 has been all over the place. Sometimes, I feel that vitamin D is the new great supplement to treat everything. I tend to be skeptical of supplements because they are overhyped. And too many people believe if a small amount does this, then a whole bunch of the supplement ought to boost your immune system or something. All it does is make us have very expensive urine.

Let’s take a look at this new paper. I think it sets out an evidence-based understanding of what vitamin D may do to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.

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MSG myth — one of the most persistent in the pseudoscience of food


Food additives, like MSG, are some of the most passionate issues amongst people who eat (which would be everyone). AspartameHigh fructose corn syrup. GMO‘s. Salt. Sugar. Trans fats. Polysorbate 80. But I believe that the MSG myth is one of the most pervasive in the food pseudoscience world (yes, I’m going to make that a thing).

Of course, these additives cause angst in people because of their scary chemical names. Or because of stupid claims on the internet. Or just because a few random neurons are firing.

People want to claim that all chemicals are bad, even though everything in nature is made up of chemicals. Everything. And there is no such thing as a “natural chemical” since sugar made in a chemical plant is the same thing as sugar derived from honey. The “chemical” 25-hydroxyergocalciferol sounds scary, except it’s the metabolic product of the conversion of vitamin D in the human liver.

But let’s get back to MSG – how many times have you seen “No MSG” in a sign Chinese restaurant? Is it because China, who has been using MSG in their cuisine for centuries, has been conspiring against Americans since the first Chinese restaurant starting serving up kung pao chicken to unaware Americans?

It’s time to look at the MSG myth – is it real, or does it need a good debunking?

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Why does pseudoscience in medicine and vaccines seem so popular today?

pseudoscience medicine

These days, it appears that pseudoscience in medicine, everything from homeopathy to anti-vaccine beliefs to cancer treatments to chiropractic to naturopathy, has taken hold of many people’s choices. It’s become so frustrating to read stories about people forsaking science-based medicine to use some quack treatment to treat their cancer.

I think there’s a basic reason for it — science is hard. Whether it results from the lack of education in science to a misunderstanding of science is irrelevant, too many people think that science-based medicine doesn’t work. Except it does.

I’ve written about pseudoscience over a hundred times, but I never answered the question of why it grabs the attention of people. I’m going to try to answer that here.

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