Natural News has had a long history of vaccine denial, which always garners laughter from the scientific skeptic crowd. Occasionally, however, Natural News takes its anti-science beliefs to a whole new level, one that requires a double-pronged rebuttal and refutation.
Recently, Natural News published an article that criticizes mandatory vaccinations of healthcare workers both from the scientific and legal point of view. In that article, Natural News is wrong about mandatory vaccinations – again.
Although it may seem like I write only about the lies and ignorance of the antivaccination cult, I truly despise all kinds of pseudoscience. It’s just that refusing vaccines that prevent real diseases, based on antivaccine misinformation (OK, lies), relates directly to the health of real children everywhere. Most (but certainly not all) other pseudosciences are not that dangerous, just terribly annoying. The sudden onset of gluten sensitivity across the world is one of those annoying trends.
With respect to ridiculous health beliefs and fads, I declare 2014 to be the Year of Gluten. I swear that there is more popular discussion of gluten than organic food, though I suppose that organic, GMO-free, gluten-free food would be the next billion dollar idea.
Like avoiding carbohydrates, fats, GMOs, and whatever else, gluten free diets have some relationship to real science and medicine, but it has exploded into a fad that has far exceeded the real medical issues surrounding gluten sensitivity.
I’ve been a consistent critic of Natural News, the website run by the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, Mike Adams. Without a doubt, Adams pursues pseudoscience and woo with the passion of a child chasing down the next video game for his Playstation 4. In Adam’s newest conspiracy of bad science, he claims that manufacturer of vaccines need Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care in the United States and globally. Why? Because Adams claims that vaccine manufacturers require an unending supply of aborted fetuses for testing and production.
For those of us who are keen observers of some of the crazy conspiracies foisted onto the internet, Mike Adams always seems to be hovering near ground zero. Adams has claimed he’s a better scientist than Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Yes, he made that claim without any sense of irony. Typical of your average everyday real scientist, Tyson thinks that evidence should lead one to a conclusion, you know, what we call the scientific method. Typical of any pseudoscientist, Adams thinks that he can invent a few lame experiments to confirm his preconceived beliefs.
Mike Adams’ anti-science beliefs includes just about every important scientific fact of our modern world. He is an AIDS denier (meaning he doesn’t think that AIDS is caused by HIV). He is anti-vaccination. In the political world, he is an 9/11 truther, and he is an Obama birther. He thinks chemtrails exist. He has advocated violence against GMO supporters.
If you have a list of nonsense conspiracies, you can tick off Mike Adams as supporting all of them. But this new one he’s pushing? It takes Adams to a whole new level of strange.
About that “vaccines need Planned Parenthood” scheme
Planned Parenthood is a wonderful non-profit organization that provides all kinds of health care, at little or no cost, to women across the USA (and in many cases, across the world). They provide education, birth control, and health examinations for women of all ages. They are one of the leading advocates of the HPV cancer-prevention vaccine, one of the most important tools we have to prevent certain kinds of cancer.
And yes, Planned Parenthood provides abortion to young women who have run out of options for their reproductive healthcare. They are the leading provider of abortions in the USA, filling a need in many areas where abortion advocates are threatened and terrorized by the so-called “Pro Life” movement.
In fact, Planned Parenthood provided over 9.5 million discrete health care services for women, only 3.4% (or 324,000) were abortions (pdf). In other words, Planned Parenthood serves an immense need in the country to provide high quality healthcare to women who may lack access to it. They are a wonderful organization, and in a perfect world, they would be above any criticism. And their sole reason for existence is not to perform abortions, but mainly to be a healthcare resource for women.
Adams, relying upon the debunked story about Planned Parenthood selling aborted body parts, claimed, without evidence, that Planned Parenthood “abortion facilities (who) supply aborted fetuses to researchers are offered a fee by the research facilities so that the baby’s organs can be harvested immediately and on-site.” Adams only evidence to support this claim is the nonsense story about the selling of aborted fetuses.
Mike Adams really goes for it all by claiming that,
Most people who have seen the disturbing images of dismembered fetuses resting on blood-covered Petri dishes are able to reach the conclusion that the sale of tiny lungs, brains and limbs of babies for profit is a sick practice. The act of abortion is gruesome enough, given all of the twisted and unethical methods that are used, but to go ahead and sell the cut up remains of what once was a living and breathing form of life is borderline sociopathic.
So vaccine manufacturers put fetal material in petri dishes to grow vaccines? That would be no
Some vaccines are produced using cell culture, a method to grow cells in a culture medium independent from the original organism, from two aborted fetuses. The two cell lines used for this manufacturing are the WI-38, fetal lung fibroblasts originally cultured in the early 1960s, and the MRC-5, fetal lung fibroblasts cultured independently in 1966.
Why do we use these cell cultures for vaccine manufacturing? Well, it’s fairly simple – the viruses, say chickenpox (varicella), grow best on actual human cells. Using these cell cultures, scientists can control certain aspects of the virus. For example, to attenuate (or weaken) some of these viruses before being used in the vaccine, they grow the cells (and the infecting viruses) at a relatively low temperature. The virus then becomes adapted, through natural selection, to the low temperature culture. When the vaccine is used, and it is injected into the 37ºC body, the virus is weakened and does not replicate. So it induces the immune response without the virus become a pathogen and injuring the body.
The following vaccines are manufactured using either the WI-38 or the MRC-5 cell strains:
Hepatitis A vaccines
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
Zoster (shingles) vaccine
Adenovirus Type 4 and Type 7 oral vaccine
Debunking Mike Adams. Again
Let’s just stick with evidence-based knowledge to list out the facts about this whole nonsensical story:
There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood is selling aborted fetal tissue to vaccine manufacturers.
In fact, vaccine manufacturers use two cell lines, both 50 or more years old, to produce some vaccines. Other vaccines aren’t grown on human fetal tissue, but are grown in other cell lines like chicken and other animal cells. There is no evidence, at this point in time, that vaccine manufacturing needs another human fetus cell line for new tissue, but it could happen. I can’t imagine the controversy when that day comes.
The reason for using human cells is to produce safer and more effective vaccines.
Sometimes, researchers avoid using animals for production of vaccines – supply of animals can be subject to a lot of issues, but more importantly, the viruses may not grow sufficiently in a non-human cell to be useful in a vaccine.
Adams claims that Christians should refuse to take vaccines that are based on human fetal cell lines. He argues that,
..people, especially Christians, should boycott the products in order to force pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines in an ethical manner instead of using cells from aborted babies.
One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.
In other words, individuals should, when possible, use vaccines that don’t rely upon these fetal cell lines. But if it’s impossible to do so, the parents still have a “moral obligation” to protect the lives of their children. Adams is attempting to invent religious dogma, without actually considering the ethical consequences of his proclamation, to avoid vaccines.
I feel like Mike Adams is low hanging fruit for criticism. He’s basically off on another planet of verifiable information. Vaccines save lives, and sometimes to save lives, we need to use half a century old cell cultures from aborted fetal tissue – this thoroughly debunks the “vaccines need Planned Parenthood” trope.
Editor’s note – this index of articles by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has been updated and published here. The comments here are closed, and you can comment at the new article.
Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations. I know a lot of writers out there will link to one of her articles here as a sort of primary source to tear down a bogus antivaccine message.
Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also 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.
Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. Of course, she has written articles about vaccines and legal issues in other locations, which I intend to link here at a later date. This article will be updated as new articles from Dorit are added here.
As many of us pro-science bloggers have written, the malodorous, fetid cesspool of pseudoscience, Mike Adams’ Natural News website has been blacklisted, stripped, blacklisted, and delisted from Google searches (as of 26 February 2017). Of course, this has resulted in a series of comical headlines regarding the Natural News conspiracy theories – it’s all about how Google is out to destroy Natural News, because of whatever fantasy that comes from the brain of Adams.
Why is Mike Adams going after Google so directly? Despite some the wishes and hopes of the scientific community, Natural News was not delisted because of its awful pseudoscience. As I had written on the initial article about this story:
I have no clue why Google blacklisted Natural News. It may have been some SEO (search engine optimization) change by Google – the dark arts surrounding SEO is only understood by secretive wizards who try to explain to mortals like me. The blacklisting may be permanent, or it may be temporary. There are literally dozens of reasons that cause Google to remove a website from it’s search results – bad spelling and grammar, fake links, and many others.
In other words, I was pretty certain that the story of the blacklisting had little to do with fake news or pushing pseudoscience, but more to do with something strange to do with their website. And several Search Engine Optimization folks, who have nothing to do with scientific skepticism, they just write about the alchemy of SEO mysteries. Because I swear the existence of sasquatch is more real than some of the rules surrounding SEO. Continue reading “The Natural News conspiracy – Google is out to get them and hilarity ensues”
Natural News, a website run by Mike Adams, the self styled Health Ranger, is a festering cesspool of junk medicine, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. There isn’t one positive thing I can say about the website, but there’s very good news – Google blacklisted Natural News. If you use Google (who doesn’t?), then perform a search for “Natural News” or the title of any story on that website, the actual website (naturalnews.com) does not appear at all in the search results. The only results that seem to appear are articles about Natural News. And a wonderfully snarky RationalWiki article.
It’s been clear to me for a long time that those on the anti-vaccine side realize they lack evidence – their only choice is to go for the ad hominem personal attacks. These attacks come in all forms from accusing people of being shills for whatever company to creating some massive conspiracy that includes those of us who are Jewish and pro-vaccine. Just a note, this dinosaur is Jewish – but I’m flexible on consuming pigs.
The anti-vaccine cult can’t help themselves. Let’s see what they’ve done in the past few hours.
For the past three years or more, ever since I (pretty accidentally) got drawn into the vaccine discussion, several of you asked an opinion over the legal aspects of dealing with anti-vaccine harassment. One recurring question is “can I sue for libel over this.”
I want to take advantage of a number of recent and particularly ugly attacks to provide a primer on when you can, in fact, sue for libel over something said online.
I also want to make clear that – as many of you heard from me – I think that almost always suing for libel is the wrong strategy. First, I think tort suits are a bad way to deal with discussion, even ugly discussion. And at least in part, if you step up, you should know the discussion can include ugliness. And sometimes from both sides.
Second, even if you are a private figure, tort suits are hard, expensive, and public. And if the other side is willing to put aside ethical standards – and if you get to the point where you think about suing for libel, you’re usually dealing with someone with, at best, flexible ethics – that’s going to be part of the lawsuit process as well, and you can expect things to get worse before you win. And after you win.
Third, in many cases our law is rigged against those speaking on public matters, intentionally, because we value free speech. That can protect you if you’re sued by an opponent, but it will work against you if you are the one suing.
Further, suing an anti-science attacker can really work for them. You give them publicity they would not otherwise have. If they win, they can really push the slur against you. After all, it’s not libel, you lost, they can claim it’s true even if they won because the law is rigged against the plaintiff. If they lose, it’s because of the conspiracy, and because the system is rigged against them – and they still had the publicity and cost you time you will never get back, grief, and probably resources. It really is a bad deal for you, no matter what.
But I also see the other side. I hear you when you tell me that you should not have to put up with harassment when it crosses a line. I understand that you have not given up your private rights by becoming involved in this discussion. The law values and protects reputation, and harm to your reputation can cause a variety of other harms to your livelihood and your family – and your emotional well-being.
Being a vaccine advocate does not mean you cannot use your legal rights, especially when you are under direct attack to your good name. And if you’re already being sued from your side, a counter-suit, if you have a claim, might make sense.
At any rate, it’s probably worth going over the basics of the law.
But upon further review, and doing my own research, I have come to the conclusion that Mike Adams is pretty much wrong but not for the reasons you might think. I think Adams got lazy and didn’t do a thorough investigation, as befits someone who claims to be the Health Ranger.
I hope that Mike Adams forwards an official Shill Check™ to me for performing this valuable duty to science and the Truth™.