The zombie anti-vaccine trope of the CDC coverup of vaccines and autism – tied to a so-called CDC “whistleblower” – has risen again from the dead. I thought it was time to bring back my zombie-killing snarky, sarcastic, and humorous debunking of that trope. Let’s have some fun.
I and about 20-30 other pro-science bloggers wrote articles about a strange story, pushed by all of the usual suspects in the anti-vaccine universe (starting with Natural News, Green Med Info, and the Age of Lying about Autism). Despite new information, press releases, claims and counter claims, nothing has changed in the facts about vaccines and autism as a result of this somewhat entertaining story that included fictional claims with real people.
Nevertheless, this story is provocative, laughable at some level, and filled with rather disreputable characters – it gives all us bloggers, who focus on the real scientific evidence behind the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, a great subject for writing.
As I surmised when I first wrote this article over a year ago, this zombie trope has risen again!
Since much of this story has strong fictional elements, I think we should examine this story as if it were a synopsis for a screenplay behind a proposed new superhero movie. You know, The CDC vs. the Evil Cult of Antivaccination.
Hey, I ought to copyright that, just in case someone does turn in into a movie. Because this synopsis has all of the important parts of a movie–unsavory characters, a fool, the superhero government agency dedicated to saving lives, and the geeky nerds who think science trumps lies. No cool spacecraft or benevolent aliens unfortunately. I’ll work on that.
Adams wants Tyson to join him in denouncing vaccines because of the mercury content. I kind of thought the mercury trope was dead, but I keep having to remind myself that these tropes tend to become zombies and arise many times. Anyways, you can read this, this, and this all of which pretty much debunks everything about mercury, vaccines, and autism.
Since Dr. Tyson has already given full-throated support to vaccinations (including during a zombie apocalypse, but that’s another story), the probability that Mike Adams is going to get word one out of him can be measure in billionths of a percent.
But let’s imagine they did have a debate. What do you think will happen? Vote early and vote often. You actually can only vote once per day, but I love that saying.
The lunatic Mike Adams, self-styled Health Ranger, pusher of pseudoscience, and publisher of the ignorant self-congratulatory, pseudoscientific website, Natural News, has issued an insane “challenge” to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, eminent astrophysicist, real scientist, and inheritor of Carl Sagan’s common-man touch about the wonders of science.
What is this challenge? Well, Adams claims that since Tyson, who stated, in the new series Cosmos, that “follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything,” then because Adams only follows the evidence in his “cutting-edge science” publication, Natural News, then Tyson ought to accept all of the evidence uncovered about vaccines.
OK, before you read the next sentence, please put down your coffee or other liquid refreshment, take a deep breath, exhale. Then Adams demanded that “Neil DeGrasse Tyson, will you publicly denounce the use of mercury in medicine and join the growing call for mercury-free medicine?”
What mercury used in medicine? Oh yeah, that old thiomersal in vaccines trope. The thiomersal which is an organo-mercury molecule that is quickly cleared from the body by the incredibly efficient kidneys. Or the thiomersal that was removed from vaccines despite no evidence that it did anything to anyone getting an immunization.
Even though Tyson is an astrophysicist, he really does follow the evidence. And believe it or not, Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said something about vaccines. He accepts that they work.
Getting over the laughable claim that Mike Adams thinks he follows any evidence, unless by evidence we mean pseudoscience that supports his ignorant beliefs about medicine, his challenge to Tyson is just plain ridiculous. Tyson, like any good scientists, accepts vaccines as safe and effective.
Vaccine myths are annoying, not just because they are dangerous to the public health, but because they are like the diseases prevented by vaccines, because the myths keep returning to infect the public, just when you’re not watching. It’s bad enough that social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google, reddit) continuously send out this pseudoscientific myths, but it’s the ersatz “news” sites that do the same. They retread old myths as if they are “breaking news”, which requires we skeptics and pro-science writers to jump out like a vaccine trained immune system to thoroughly destroy these antivaccine myths.
I have long ago accepted that there are just ignorant and plainly delusional people who will buy into any pseudoscience that shows up on their radar screen, without utilizing a single neuron for critical analysis. However, I also understand that there are people on the fence about vaccines (or any other issue with a pseudoscience counterargument), who will appreciate a thorough debunking of ignorant lies.
For example, I wrote an article a while ago about some nonsense meme on Facebook that contended that eating ripe bananas cured cancer because the bananas contained a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). It was based on some “Japanese scientific study,” which took significant effort to find. After a critical and thorough reading of the article, I concluded that: the study made no claim that bananas made TNF, AND even if bananas did, you couldn’t ingest enough bananas to get a bioactive dose of TNF, AND even if you could, you wouldn’t absorb any TNF through the digestive tract, AND TNF doesn’t do what the meme writer thought it does (TNF is badly named, and does not directly attack cancers). In other words, the myth lacks any truth, except, maybe that bananas are yellow.
This is by far the most popular article I’ve ever written with probably close to 100,000 page hits. The reason is that every 2-3 weeks, the myth about bananas arises out of the background noise of the internet, people (unknown to me) use my article to debunk the banana myth in the comments section, and the myth slowly dies. But it never really completely dies. It’s only 99% dead. It’s a zombie which keeps coming back to life.
Thus, the best we skeptics can do is keep debunking these social media fables and tall tales, and move along to refuting the next one in line. At least I can save time by not having to write the article again, we can just update with any new information and re-debunk (yes, I have the absolute right to invent words). Continue reading “Polio vaccine does not cause cancer–update”