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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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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Americans are ignorant fools about evolution

Americans are ignorant fools about evolution – there is simply nothing more frustrating than evolution deniers, sometimes called “creationists” that have infiltrated the discussion about evolution.

The body of work that constitutes evidence for evolution is literally mountainous, making up over a million peer-reviewed studies and books that explain what we have observed in current living organisms and the fossil record.  In addition, over 99.9% of scientists in the natural sciences (geology, biology, physics, chemistry and many others) accept that evolution is a scientific fact (pdf, see page 8). If science worked as a democracy, it would be a landslide vote in favor of evolution.

The scientific theory of evolution is quite easy to understand – it is the change in inherited characteristics of a biological population over time and generations through the process of natural selection or genetic drift. Setting aside the creationist misinformation about what constitutes a scientific theory, evolution is a scientific fact, about as solid as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.

There is no scientific debate about evolution, although there is continuing discussion about all of the possible mechanisms that drive evolution beyond natural selection and genetic drift. These discussions are based on the observations and evidence that evolution lead to the diversity of organisms we see today, arising from a common ancestor from about 3.8 billion years ago.

Despite the ongoing scientific research examining other mechanisms for evolution (which are all scientifically based, and none that include magical actions of mythical supernatural beings), the matter of evolution is settled. There are no scientific disputes about the fact that evolution has occurred over a period of 3.8 billion years until present time. None.

Other than literature published in self-serving creationist journals, it is impossible to find a peer-reviewed article that disputes the fact of evolution published in a real scientific journal over the past 25 years, if not past 50 years.

Despite the scientific facts, American politicians, almost exclusively conservative Republicans, continue to push legislation to force public school districts to teach creationism. Even though rarely successful, unfortunately, Louisiana and Tennessee have recently implemented antievolution legislation. These right wing politicians are convinced that evolution and creationism are equivalent, and they defer to a ridiculous political and cultural “debate” while ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus.

Once again, many or most Americans are ignorant fools about evolution – thus, politicians, at least in some areas of the country, think they have the political cover to do whatever they want with regards to the teaching of creationism.

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Americans are ignorant fools about evolution–Part 2

We have fossils. Evolution wins.One of the more crazy anti-science groups are the evolution deniers, sometimes called “creationists.” The body of science that constitutes evidence for evolution is literally mountainous, making up over a million peer-reviewed studies and books that explain what we have observed in current living organisms and the fossil record. Based on this nearly irrefutable evidence, over 99.9% of scientists in the natural sciences (geology, biology, physics, chemistry and many others) accept that evolution is a scientific fact (pdf, see page 8). If science was a democracy, evolution would win in a landslide of epic proportions.

The scientific theory of evolution simply states that there is a change in inherited characteristics of a biological population, over time and generations, through the process of natural selection or genetic drift. Setting aside the misunderstanding, by intention or ignorance, by creationists about what constitutes a scientific theory, evolution is a scientific fact, about as solid as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun or that gravity causes objects to fall to the earth.

There is no genuine scientific debate about evolution, although there is continuing discussion about all of the possible mechanisms that drive evolution beyond natural selection and genetic drift. These discussions are based on the observations and evidence that evolution lead to the diversity of organisms we see today, arising from a common ancestor from about 3.8 billion years ago.

Despite the ongoing scientific discussion regarding other mechanisms for evolution (which are all scientifically based, and none that include magical actions of mythical supernatural beings), the matter of evolution is settled. There are no disputes, among scientists, about the fact that evolution commenced when the first living organisms appeared over 3.8 billion years. None. Other than literature published in self-serving creationist journals, it is impossible to find a peer-reviewed article that disputes the fact of evolution published in any real scientific journal over the past 25 years, if not past 50 years.

Despite the scientific facts, American politicians, almost exclusively conservative Republicans, continue to push legislation to force public school districts to teach creationism. Though this legislation is rarely successful, Louisiana and Tennessee have recently passed antievolution bills. The right wing politicians, mostly in southern US states, are convinced that evolution and creationism are equivalent, and they conflate a ridiculous political and social argument with a scientific debate.  Continue reading “Americans are ignorant fools about evolution–Part 2”