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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Science of autism and vaccines – 163 peer-reviewed articles say no link

autism and vaccines

Autism and vaccines are not linked or associated according to real science. This has been published in real scientific journals written by real scientists and physicians. Even though the science is clear to almost everyone, the false claim about vaccines and autism is constantly repeated by anti-vaxxers.

Let’s be clear – the lack of a link between vaccines and autism is settled science. There is overwhelming evidence, as listed in this article, that there is no link. Outside of anecdotes, internet memes, misinformation, and VAERS dumpster-diving, there is no evidence that there is a link. 

Ever since MrAndrew Wakefield published his fraudulent study, which was subsequently retracted, that actually did not show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the anti-vaccine crowd has embraced it as if it were a scientific fact. 

This Wakefield chicanery has spawned a cottage industry of other anti-vaccine zealots like Del Bigtree and his fraudumentary Vaxxed, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christopher Exley, Christopher Shaw, James Lyons-Weiler, Tetyana Obukhanych, and many others. 

This article presents 163 scientific articles, published in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals. Almost all of them are either primary studies that include large clinical trials or case-control or cohort studies. They also include numerous systematic reviews, which represent the pinnacle of biomedical research.

All of these articles, from some of the top vaccine scientists in the world, show that there are no links between autism and vaccines. None. 

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Legal challenges to remove religious exemptions to school vaccine mandates rejected by Courts

architecture art clouds landmark

This article challenges to stricter school vaccine mandates was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On December 3, 2019, Judge Denise Hartman, from the New York Supreme Court in Albany (see Note 1), rejected a claim challenging the removal of the religious exemption from school vaccine mandates.

Judge Hartman has previously, in a careful decision upheld on appeal, rejected plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction on stricter school vaccine mandates. In this decision, she provided a well-reasoned, thoughtful analysis of the constitutional issues.

Judge Hartman found that the change in the law in New York was based on public health, not hostility to religion, and fits well within the extensive precedent upholding mandates without requiring a religious exemption.

This lawsuit was the strongest, best-argued challenge to the New York law on religious freedom grounds. Unless plaintiffs appeal, this is likely the end for any serious chance opponents had at overturning the law, and even on appeal, their chances are likely low.

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Examining the anti-vaccine movement — a podcast from Brandy Zadrozny

zadrozky vaccines

I don’t usually do this, but I wanted to post the transcript from the outstanding Brandy Zadrozny podcast about how the anti-vaccine movement treated Tiffany Dover who fainted after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine 18 months ago. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss wrote an in-depth article about Dover soon after it happened, and we have updated it as we have gotten more information. Not to give away a spoiler, but she’s still alive.

I have posted the full transcript of episode 4 because it gives you a history of the anti-vaccine movement and the various “truthers” who pass fall information about it. I’m not going to edit the transcript, but I will add in my commentary here and there (it’ll be in bold type) and links for more information, something you can’t get from a podcast. This is very long, but it’s filled with great information. I have made minor edits to spelling and punctuation to make it more readable.

I’m someone who prefers reading content to listening to podcasts or watching YouTube because I like clicking on links or researching more. If you’re like me, then you’ll love this.

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Robert F Kennedy Jr pushes misinformation about the HPV vaccine

kennedy HPV vaccine

Robert F Kennedy Jr has made numerous false claims about the HPV vaccine, which is the cancer-preventing human papillomavirus vaccine. Of course, he has recently become a loudmouth anti-vaccine acolyte, who has been chastised by his own family for helping “to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”

For some reason, Kennedy has decided to target the HPV vaccine, providing the world with “25 reasons to avoid the Gardasil vaccine.” He would rather pass along “dangerous misinformation” about vaccines than focus on the health and lives of children by preventing cancer. I don’t understand his motivation, but it sickens me.

As a result, I must take the time to respond to his 25 false claims about the Gardasil vaccine with science and facts. I doubt Robert F Kennedy Jr will read this, but this is meant for people who might be on the fence about the HPV vaccine.

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Robert F Kennedy Jr makes good money pushing anti-vaccine nonsense

kennedy vaccine

Robert F Kennedy Jr. has used his name and anti-vaccine disinformation campaign to make some serious money. Kennedy and his anti-vaccine falsehoods have been a subject of my writing for years now, but I think everyone should know what he is — another grifter making money by championing anti-vaccine nonsense.

Kennedy was a fairly good environmental lawyer many years ago, still trading on his name and connections. I find it ironic that he was all about science when it comes to environmental issues like climate change, but he simply denies all science when it comes to vaccines. Of course, his family isn’t happy with his anti-vaccine drivel, and his wife, actress Cheryl Hines, was appalled by his anti-semitic references regarding Anne Frank and vaccine mandates. What is it with anti-vaxxers and anti-semitic fascism?

Let’s take a look at how Kennedy has profited from his anti-vaccine claptrap. I’m sure it will be enlightening.

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Robert F Kennedy Jr is no liberal — he denies vaccines and science

Robert f kennedy jr vaccines

Robert F Kennedy Jr is often portrayed as some liberal icon, but I just think he’s a science-denying anti-vaccines troglodyte that has little evidence supporting any of his points of view. The only reason some people “think” he’s a liberal is because of his family name.

I write a lot about RFK Jr because he’s one of the most famous anti-vaccine activists out there. And he seems to lack any open-mindedness to vaccines, despite being pro-science on some subjects like climate change. It boggles the mind that he accepts the scientific consensus on climate change, yet rejects the settled science of vaccines. Nothing annoys me more than so-called liberals rejecting or accepting scientific facts based on political expediency rather than evidence. That’s what Republicans do.

And just this past weekend, during an offensive speech to anti-vaccine protestors, he claimed that Anne Frank was better off hiding in a wall in a house in Amsterdam than dealing with vaccine mandates in the USA. By ignoring the fact that Anne Frank was eventually murdered by the Nazis, RFK Jr shows himself to be antisemitic much like his buddy, Del Bigtree.

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Meryl Nass – Robert F Kennedy Jr anti-vaccine acolyte – medical license suspended

Meryl Nass

Dr. Meryl Nass, MD, had her Maine medical license temporarily suspended for spreading misinformation about COVID-19. I might have ignored this one, except Dr. Nass has written misleading articles about COVID-19 and vaccines for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., one of our favorite anti-vaxxers.

State medical licensing boards are fighting back against COVID-19 disinformation, and Dr. Meryl Nass should have known better, but my expectations are obviously too high.

Let’s take a look at the case.

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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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