Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines

hierarchy of scientific evidence

I am a scientific skeptic. It means that I pursue published scientific evidence to support or refute a scientific or medical principle. I am not a cynic, often conflated with skepticism. I don’t have an opinion about these ideas. Scientific skepticism depends on the quality and quantity of evidence that supports a scientific idea. And examining the hierarchy of scientific evidence can be helpful in deciding what is good data and what is bad. What can be used to form a conclusion, and what is useless.

That’s how science is done. And I use the hierarchy of scientific evidence to weigh the quality along with the quantity of evidence in reaching a conclusion. I am generally offended by those who push pseudoscience – they generally try to find evidence that supports their predetermined beliefs. That’s not science, that’s the opposite of good science.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of instant news made up of memes and a couple of hundred character analyses flying across social media make it difficult to determine what is real science and what is not. Sometimes we create an internal false balance, assuming that headlines (often written to be clickbait) on one side are somehow equivalent to another side. So, we think there’s a scientific debate when there isn’t one.

When I write about a topic, I attempt to write detailed, thoughtful, and nuanced (with a touch of snark) articles about scientific ideas. I know they can be complex and long-winded, but I also know science is hard. It’s difficult.

Sorry about that, but if it were so easy, everyone on the internet would be doing science – and we see that most of what we find on the internet that claims to be science is not. Unfortunately, there are too many people writing on the internet who think they are talking about science, but they fail to differentiate between good and bad evidence.

But there is a way to make this easier. Not easy, just easier. This is my guide to amateur (and if I do a good job, professional) method to evaluating scientific research quality across the internet.

Continue reading “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism and vaccines”

MMR vaccine sytematic review – science finds no link to autism AGAIN

MMR vaccine systematic review

With so much sense and nonsense about coronavirus, I set to the side an important MMR vaccine systematic review that I’ve been wanting to review for a few weeks. Well, it’s time to focus on that.

Ever since MrAndrew Wakefield published his fraudulent, and subsequently retracted, study that seemed to 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. Of course, they ignore over 150 published scientific articles that show that there are, in fact, no links at all.

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. 

And now we have a new, large, impressive MMR vaccine systematic review that once again provides affirmative evidence that there are no links between ASD and the MMR vaccine. None. Continue reading “MMR vaccine sytematic review – science finds no link to autism AGAIN”

RFK Jr denies vaccine scientific consensus but accepts climate change

vaccine scientific consensus

I have long criticized those who deny the vaccine scientific consensus but get angry about those who deny the climate change scientific consensus. In other words, they pick and choose what science they like or don’t like based on random things, mostly political expediency.

Robert F Kennedy Jr (and to save me typing too many letters, we’ll just call him RFK Jr) is a perfect example of this contradictory belief system. If you met him and told him that you deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-caused (anthropogenic) climate change, he’d argue that you are wrong. 

RFK Jr said recently:

“All of the modeling for climate change” points to future “storms on steroids, droughts, famine, the disappearance of the ice caps, the disappearance of the glaciers on every continent, and that there’s going to be major disruptions, not just to humanity, but ultimately, to civilization.”

That modeling didn’t come from his imagination, it came from scientists, who have established the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. It is not based on faith, belief, or Uncle Harry. 

Of course, there is a similar overwhelming scientific consensus regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness, yet RFK Jr and his ilk reject it based on faith, belief, and pseudoscience. It’s clear that RFK Jr picks and chooses whatever science supports their pre-existing beliefs – that’s not science, that’s just illogical thinking.

More than that, how can one trust someone who denies one scientific consensus and accept another? I almost would rethink my position on climate change just because I don’t trust RFK Jr.’s opinion on it. 

But, I’m a good scientist – the scientific consensus on both vaccines and climate change (and hundreds of other scientific ideas like evolution, GMO safety, the Big Bang, etc.) is immense. To quote the esteemed David Gorski, MD Ph.D.:

Hostility towards the concept of scientific consensus is a good sign of pseudoscience.

This article will take a look at how denying the vaccine scientific consensus is equivalent to denying the climate change scientific consensus. Of course, I’m sure that there is a whole bunch of people who deny both, but since this is about RFK Jr., it’s his contradictions that matter. Continue reading “RFK Jr denies vaccine scientific consensus but accepts climate change”

Vaccine settled science – it is not based on faith or belief, just evidence

I decided to write about vaccine settled science, based on comments I saw on Facebook after someone posted an article I wrote about recently polling on American attitudes towards vaccines. The headline of that article said “atheists support vaccines,” but that was not even close to what the article was about.

In fact, the article described how recently polling showed that nearly 90% of Americans thought that the MMR vaccine was safe and effective. In other words, most Americans think that vaccine science is settled. 

Anyway, the comments to the post digressed wildly from the point, because anti-vaxxers wanted to claim that science is based on faith and belief, just like a religion. And that evolution is based on faith, and creationism is really a science. And that atheism is a belief. 

The forum admins shut down the thread because it began to have nothing to do with vaccines. 

Nevertheless, science is not based on faith or belief, it’s based on evidence. Creationism is a pseudoscience with zero supporting evidence.

And atheism was not the point of the article, which convinces me that too many people read headlines and not the article. This saddens the old feathered avian dinosaur who spends several hours researching and writing these articles.

This article will talk about vaccine settled science, but also what constitutes science. And it has nothing to do with faith and belief. Continue reading “Vaccine settled science – it is not based on faith or belief, just evidence”

Tetyana Obukhanych – another anti-vaccine appeal to false authority


The old Skeptical Raptor took a bit of a break to recharge their batteries to tackle all of the pseudoscience that will be coming out in 2020. In lieu of new content, I will be republishing the top 10 most read articles on this blog during 2019. Here’s number 1 – the queen of the false authority of the anti-vaxxers – Tetyana Obukhanych. 

One of their favorite pseudoscientists of the anti-vaccine religion is Tetyana Obukhanych, someone who appears to have great credentials. Unfortunately, once you dig below the surface of her claims, there is no credible evidence in support. 

One of the most irritating problems I have with the anti-vaccine movement is their over-reliance on false authorities – they overrate publications (often in worthless predatory journals) or commentary from someone who appears to have all of the credentials to be a part of the discussion on vaccines, but really isn’t close to being a real vaccine scientist.

Nevertheless, credentials don’t matter – an “authority” on vaccines must follow the evidence that vaccines are safe and effective unless those “authorities” can provide robust, peer-reviewed, published evidence that vaccines aren’t. Someone like Tetyana Obukhanych almost never does.

For example, Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, two researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia, have, for all intents and purposes, sterling credentials in medicine and science. However, they publish nonsense research (usually filled with the weakest of epidemiology trying to show a population-level correlation between vaccines and adverse events) in low ranked scientific journals.

Following in the footsteps of Shaw, Tomljenovic, James Lyons-Weiler, and Christopher Exley, let’s take a look at the background and education of the anti-vaccine hero, Tetyana Obukhanych. Continue reading “Tetyana Obukhanych – another anti-vaccine appeal to false authority”

Christopher Aluminum Exley “publishes” vaccine pseudoscience again

Christopher Aluminum Exley

Christopher Aluminum Exley, who is just a pseudoscientist who makes his money by creating false narratives about vaccines. He is another in a long line (see Tetyana Not-An-Immunologist Obukhanych and Christopher Retraction Shaw) of false authorities beloved by the anti-vaccine religion because anti-vaxxers have no scientific evidence supporting their “claims.”

So what has Christopher Aluminum Exley done now? Well, he has written an opinion piece, not a real science article, and convinced some obscure journal to publish it.

No, it’s not new “science,” it’s just a rant from someone who has made it his mission to increase the risk of diseases in children and adults by creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines.

As we do here at the secret lair of the feathered dinosaur, mocking and ridiculing the anti-vaccine “heroes” makes us happy. I hope it does the same for our loyal readers. Continue reading “Christopher Aluminum Exley “publishes” vaccine pseudoscience again”

Measles immune suppression – Tetyana Obukhanych cherry-picking

Recently, I wrote an article about measles immune suppression, a serious complication of the disease, and one of the great reasons to get the measles vaccine. According to two peer-reviewed articles, one published in the prestigious journal Science and the other article in a sister journal Science Immunology, researchers described that measles infections destroyed some immune memory cells, causing the individual to lose protection to some diseases.

Of course, the anti-vaccine zealots’ favorite false authority, Tetyana Obukhanych, decided to deny the solid scientific articles that established one of the well-known complications of measles. It’s not like anyone should take her babbling pseudoscience seriously, but just in case someone does, it’s important that we point out that Obukhanych is wrong once again. Continue reading “Measles immune suppression – Tetyana Obukhanych cherry-picking”

New measles myth from vaccine denier Sherri Tenpenny – not a disease

Yes, you read that right, a new measles myth from the anti-vaccine religion is hitting the interwebs – they’re trying to claim it’s not a disease. Now, there’s a small element of fact in their claim, but the anti-vaxxers are using it to create confusion about the disease.

Of course, you know they wouldn’t bring you scientific facts. They just employ fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to fight the scientific consensus and settled science of vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Now, let’s get into it. Continue reading “New measles myth from vaccine denier Sherri Tenpenny – not a disease”

Anti-vaccine arguments that don’t convince pro-science humans

anti-vaccine arguments

There are so many annoying anti-vaccine arguments that make me laugh and cause my rational brain to explode. The anti-vaccine religious acolytes don’t understand one basic thing – we scientists would accept their claims if they presented actual scientific evidence. They haven’t.

Most scientists and skeptics are open-minded to new ideas and evidence. Yes, they may be resistant, especially if the evidence is preliminary. I was in graduate school during the early 1980s when Luis and Walter Alvarez proposed that the mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs and about 99.99% of life on Earth during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event was caused by a huge bolide impact.

When they first proposed it, scientists laughed. Today, it is widely accepted as a scientific fact. But it was accepted because of powerful evidence that kept supporting the original hypothesis, not because of “beliefs.” Being “openminded” doesn’t mean that we accept any silly claim made by random people – it means being openminded to reviewing the evidence, then,  determining if that evidence supports the claims being made.

The anti-vaccine religion screams and yells to push their lies about vaccines because they don’t have evidence. It gets tiresome, and some of us just laugh when we hear it. Yesterday, for example, I wrote about how the anti-vaccine pseudoscientist, Christopher Exley, was banned from receiving funding because his research is both incompetent and false. Yet, the anti-vaccine crowd whined that some nefarious Big Pharma conspiracy was keeping Exley from his money. 

So I’m going to be a nice old carnivorous dinosaur (remember, birds are dinosaurs) and give advice to the anti-vaxxers – I’m going to list the anti-vaccine arguments that aren’t scientific and are worthless. If you want to convince those of us who value science, don’t use these anti-vaccine arguments. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine arguments that don’t convince pro-science humans”

Google University equals research for anti-vaccine pseudoscience

Google University

I’m sure everyone has run into the type – a science denier who thinks their two hours at Google University makes them as knowledgeable as a real physician or scientist. This arrogance manifests itself in ridiculous discussions with anti-vaccine religious nutjobs who claim to have “done the research,” and who believe their pseudoscientific research is more valuable than real scientific research.

This Google University education from vaccine deniers, really all science deniers, can be frustrating. I frequent a couple of large Facebook groups that try to help on-the-fence anti-vaxxers understand what constitutes evidence and what doesn’t with respect to vaccines. Recently, one of the anti-vaccine true believers kept saying she knew more than a nurse with a public health master’s degree. The arrogant anti-vaxxer kept claiming that she “did her research.”

Hang on. The old dinosaur needs to slam his head on the desk.

Because of this absurd overvaluing of their Google University research, I want to review a handful of points that every science denier seems to use that makes us laugh. All but one applies to any type of science denial, but we’re sticking with vaccines. Because we can. Continue reading “Google University equals research for anti-vaccine pseudoscience”