Vacation or no vacation, something’s bubbled up in the comments that I consider worth commenting about. If you remember (or even if you don’t), about a week and a half ago I wrote about how Dr. Bob Sears, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Choice for Your Child, has let the mask drop. I entitled the post Dr. Bob Sears: Stealth anti-vaccinationist? This time around, I was half-tempted to remove the question mark, based on the comment of a commenter by the ‘nym of Science Mom, who turned me on to this post by Dr. Bob in the forums of his website entitled Weekly Disclaimer about SM and Catherina by Dr. Bob – posted on 8/17/2009. It’s a hoot. Because the link is somewhat unreliable, I’ll post it in its entirety below the fold:
Those of you who are regulars here know them well, but I want to make sure those of you are new know about Science Mom and Catherina.
Although it would seem that with the frequency with which their names appear on these posts that they work for this site, they actually have no official affiliation with myself or this site. Although much of their scientific information seems to be accurate, I do not trust their opinions, their conclusions, or their advice. So, follow their advice are you own, and your children’s, risk.
Many of us don’t appreciate the way they redicule and demean anyone who is anti-vaccine. Most of us who are pro-vaccine, such as myself, are happy to offer advice or opinions to those who are not pro-vaccine, but we manage to do so in a respectful way. Because SM and Catherina don’t seem able to do this, I suggest you simply ignore their posts and pretend they aren’t there.
If you don’t agree with them, don’t bother trying to tell them so, no matter how solid you think your science is. Their science is better, or so they would think. I wouldn’t waste your time arguing with them anymore, unless you enjoy that sort of thing – then, by all means, go for it.
There are rumors that SM and Cath are “secret agents” for vaccine manufacturers, planted here to combat my “anti-vaccine” advice. Although I wouldn’t put it past any company to do just that (makes perfect sense – have a couple of “scientific” parents work the blogs and posts instead of doctors or professionals – some parents would listen more to another parent), I have no evidence that such is the case. SM and Catherina claim they spend hours on this site each week for almost two years now out of the goodness of their hearts. I would love to believe that, but I would also expect such good-hearted people to come across good-heartedly in their posts toward people who question vaccines. That clearly is NOT the case, so that makes me question what type of people they really are.
Anyway, just wanted to post this warning to any newcomers. I’m just going to pretend they aren’t there and answer everyone’s questions as usual. I’m sure ignoring them isn’t going to make them go away, but they are SO NOT WORTH MY TIME anymore.
Good going, Science Mom and Catherina! You so annoyed Dr. Sears that he’s using the dreaded Internet sign of being really, really pissed off, namely the infamous all caps. In fact, you’ve annoyed him so much that he’s started to reveal his conspiratorial bent even more, employing the most obvious of crank tools, namely the Pharma Shill gambit. Congratulations, SM and Catherina! When a proponent of pseudoscience or dubious science starts tossing about dark insinuations that you are in the employ of big pharma and are on the boards for the sole purpose of obfuscating Teh Evil, Suppressed Truth about vaccines (or about how alt-med really cures cancer or whatever), you know you’ve scored some points against him. You know you’ve really started to get under his skin, and, because he can’t attack you for mistakes or misrepresentations of science, he instead starts using the implied ad hominem. He says he has no evidence, but then goes on about how it would “make sense” for a vaccine manufacturer to use parents like SM and Catherina as “plants.” Can Dr. Bob get any more disingenuous? Especially when he’s spewing nonsense like this in response to questions about the Hib vaccine:
REalise that HIB is so rare – yes, it does happen, but the chances are so low. You’ll have to decide which risk to take.
Yes, Hib is uncommon now, thanks to the Hib vaccine. A mere 20 years ago, it was the scourge of children. Then, in the early the late 1980s, a vaccine against Hib was introduced. By the early 1990s, the vaccine was under widespread use. The incidence of Hib infection, as well as rates of death and serious neurological sequelae, plummeted. In fact, it plummeted by 99%. These days, many pediatricians who have trained since the early 1990s have never seen a case of Hib. Unfortunately, Hib can easily return, as happened in Minnesota recently. When vaccination rates fall, these diseases come back, first as localized outbreaks in areas with the lowest vaccine uptake, then in a more widespread fashion, as the measles has done in the U.K., thanks to the MMR fear mongering by Andrew Wakefield, aided and abetted by the British press.
In any case, note how Dr. Bob admits that their scientific information is accurate but that he nonetheless doesn’t trust their “opinions, their conclusions, or their advice.” He even goes on to imply that following their advice is “at you own, and your children’s, risk.” Then, after trying to slime them with the pharma shill gambit, he then launches into some classic woo doggerel about how mean SM and Catherina supposedly are for harshing the happy buzz on Dr. Bob’s forums with cold, hard science. It’s not surprising, because forums like those run by Dr. Bob are not there for debate. Rather, they are there to reinforce communal values, which in this case are strongly anti-vaccine, and, above all, to promote Dr. Bob as a wise, “reasonable” voice about vaccines. Pointing out that he is neither and that his advice can be dangerous (and that at the very least has no evidence that it is safer than the current vaccine schedule) especially undermines the latter purpose of the forums, leading to hissy fits by Dr. Bob. The only good thing I’ll say is that Dr. Bob didn’t ban SM and Catherina outright, although it wouldn’t surprise me if that is coming sooner or later.
It’s the usual M.O. of administrators of forums like Dr. Bob’s.
47 replies on “Dr. Bob Sears: Stealth anti-vaccinationist? (revisited)”
How long before he starts blocking their comments altogether?
That’s the thing that bothers me — you can acknowledge that a disease is rare because of vaccines, but not keeping it up until the disease is gone is banking on everyone else not doing what you do. It’s sort of a prisoner’s dilemma in that if you don’t do it and everyone else does, you get the best deal*. On the other hand, if everyone does this, it makes it bad for everyone in that the disease comes back.
I’d think any doctor would know this — that by saying ‘don’t bother with the HIb vaccines’, you are essentially hoping no one else is listening to this. Heck, Dr. Sears even says as much for MMR. Frankly, I’d rather take the small chance of a vaccine side effect than count on everyone else being altruistic.
* No disease and no possibility of vaccine side effects.
Wonder when he’ll start hatin’ on the polio vaccine.
Mebbe the pictures of tykes in iron lungs is puttin’ him off.
I’ve browsed through Dr. Sears site a few times, and always thought he was nutral on the whole vax issue. “I think you should vaccinate, but if you are really worried heres an alternative way to go about vaccination. If your still not comfortable then do what you think is best.” Always seemed pretty even handed… what changed?
Hmmm, it seems the implication is that Dr. Bob does not agree? If he does, why the qualifier?
So he doesn’t think that the better science supports vaccination? Then why does he call himself “pro-vaccine”? That would be a non-scientific view, if he were right.
It doesn’t make sense.
That’s not neutral. That’s pandering to people’s fears in a totally unjustified, evidence-free, and dangerous manner. He’s tacitly endorsing the myth that there’s anything to worry about.
“REalise that HIB is so rare – yes, it does happen, but the chances are so low. You’ll have to decide which risk to take.”
Too bad his patients will have to count on personal experience to decide, since he’s sure as hell not going to give them actual *information* for an informed decision.
I have personal experience. When I was four, meningitis almost killed me. Hell yes I’m vaccinating my kids.
As Scott notes, it’s not even-handed. It is totally pandering to the anti-vax fears.
Here’s the part that I always try to think about, in terms of his “alternative way”:
1) By delaying vaccination, he is, pretty much by definition, increasing risk. Admittedly, he tries to claim that he only delays vaccines for those diseases which are the lowest risk right now. True to an extent, but still increasing risk nonetheless.
2) That in itself might seem reasonable, but here’s the kicker: despite his assurances, there is no evidence of any sort that the alternate schedule is, in any way, safer than the CDC recommended schedule. No evidence at all. The best he can come up with in his book is, “It seems reasonable that separate vaccines given over time will be safer than all at once.” He claims it is “reasonable,” with no justification at all. The only way it is “reasonable” to think that is if you think there is a problem with giving them all at once.
It’s a stealth approach to anti-vax accomodation, but anti-vax nonetheless. Although, as Orac notes, he is becoming less stealth about it in recent times.
I visited Dr. Bob’s forum a few weeks ago after Jon Snyder’s takedown of ‘the vaccine book’ appeared on SBM. As I said in the SBM comments, if there were any doubts about Dr. Bob’s true feelings about vaccine safety, his comments on his own forum should put them to rest. That he’s still supporting Andrew Wakefield pretty much says it all.
ScienceMom and Catherina, if you’re reading this, I just want to say thanks for the time you spend in the trenches over there. You have the eternal gratitude of this Science-lovin’ mama.
Way to go, SM and Catherina. Please keep on being a thorn in Dr. Bob’s side 🙂 .
Don’t forget to visit SM’s and Catherina’s own blog and put in a good word:
This ‘multiple science’ tactic is so familiar: you hear it all the time from people pushing pseudoscience. Just like there are all sorts of religions, there are all sorts of sciences. You have your science, I have mine. You have studies on your side, I have mine. You have your evidence, I have mine. It’s up to the individual to choose, to ‘decide for themselves.’ Anyone who pushes too hard that their “way” is better is like a fundamentalist proselytizer, so sure they have the one and only Truth. There are many truths. We shouldn’t be so judgmental.
Oh, they’re not anti-science, not at all. They think there should be LOTS of sciences. They’re multi-dimensional.
Dr. Bob says: “Although much of their scientific information seems to be accurate, I do not trust their opinions, their conclusions, or their advice.”
If what they are saying is based on good science, what’s not to trust? Because they are making better points than Dr. Bob and scaring away potential book buyers?
Pretty much the same way there is “western” and “eastern” medicine, or “alternative” medicine. Always these labels that indicates that it is seperate from mainstream, which are meaningless. I mean really, if it works, it is medicine.
Thank you, SM and Cath, for all that you do. I also appreciate your work on babycenter and (for the short time you were able to post before being banned) mothering.com.
I notice that Dr Bob’s reaction to you has changed dramatically since he was taken down on your blog and others. Before he would simply state that you don’t work for him but that you show pretty solid science. Now he seems to have gone off the deep end.
cair said: “for the short time you were able to post before being banned) mothering.com.”
I find it bizarre that mothering.com has this notice on their vaccine forum:
“On the issues of vaccinations we believe in informed consent. This means we look at both sides of the vaccine issue. However, one of our objectives, and for which members and guests come to our forum, is to bring to light the information that is not mainstream and readily available. Though Mothering does not take a pro or anti stand on vaccinations, we will not host threads on the merits of mandatory vaccine, or a purely pro vaccination view point as this is not conducive to the learning process.”
I was in an argument with an ant-vaxer on another parenting site, and she told me to go to mothering.com to debate with some “real” experts. Apparently, I can’t, I would be banned in a heartbeat!
I believe Sm (and maybe Cath? I don’t remember) were the reason for that disclaimer. It was a bit more nebulous before they came along and rocked the boat…sigh…now there are very few people to continue rocking the boat on mothering. But every so often you see some who last a bit before being banned.
cair, naw, I was never on smothering.com – that was too crunchy an environment for me.
Must have been someone else, but around the same time SM was posting (well, someone with the name science mom but I assume it’s the same person because she had the same stance and offered great science) there were two or so others that were doing the same.
Jennifer – thank you! It is quite inefficient to go post by post. Maybe if Bob decides to ban us for good, I’ll have more time to write on the blog, which has a longer half life than a board post.
Will you be at the Madison meeting next year? We could have a beer…or better yet, a whisky in Edinburgh 2011 🙂
Wow, what BS, seriously… I am on other message board and the mods and admins don’t take down posters like that… It’s rude and quite frankly immature. People don’t always agree, fine move on. What the heck is Doctor Bob scared of anyway?/ People getting vaccinated?
Mothering.com is another kettle of fish all together. I can’t read one thread without veins protruding from my forehead so for my mental health and to preserve my intelligence I avoid that site. However even if they try to be even handed, I am thinking that disclaimer is to avoid lawsuits… I can’t stand mothering.com whatsoever.
I know a number of people who work in Big Pharma, nice people. People who care (none live in mansions or have expensive cars… they do evil things in their spare time like raise money for research for diseases because they don’t want people to suffer). I also have a pro-vaccination medical student of a brother… Maybe I am too influenced by Big pHARMa (rolling my eyes)…
SM and Cath, I haven’t run into you before, but keep it up! I don’t understand why he fears you so much and felt the need to call you out.
Enkindu, mothering.com also has this “Forum Disclaimer” on most of their sub-forums (particularly vax related ones):
The opinions offered at Mothering.com and MotheringDotCommunity are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking care because of something you have read here.
Sounds like when it comes down to it, they don’t want to be held liable for the echo chamber they provide. Pretty bad when you have to warn people to not listen to the people you support.
There is a big difference in most Big Pharma employees and their corporate executives. While I would not put it past the executives to value the stock price over health (not unlike a great deal of other corporations) the average researcher cares a great deal about helping people. Most of the ones I know chose their field not because it was lucrative, but because they genuinely wanted to help people.
Unfortunately, to the anti-vaxers, all Big Pharma employees are equally evil. It’s all or nothing in their mind. I just recently saw a big anti-vaxer call everyone that works at a local research park “whack-jobs” on a mommy forum. This despite several members who worked there or have spouses or family members that do. The moderators (who are also anti-vax) didn’t step in until it got really nasty. Way to be supportive! It’s sad when people cannot see past their own prejudices.
Translation: I’m askeered of them; they make me feel incompetent and you need to hate them too if you love me.
Translation: They don’t work for me, they wouldn’t because they have too much self-respect and that pisses me off. They provide scientifically-accurate information which, of course flies in the face of the swill I am peddling to unsuspecting parents in order to sell books, services and products. My evidence-free recommendations come with absolutely no risk to your children; truuuussst meeee.
Translation: It hurts my feewings that they make fun of my utter ineptitude and those that adore my utter ineptitude. When I say ‘pro-vaccine’, that’s code for anti-vaccine, in part because I don’t really know what pro-vaccine is, I think vaccines are bad, bad, bad but I crave the approval of my legitimate colleagues (even though they haven’t transcended to the enlightened stage of ‘brave maverick doctor’) and it’s a good angle to hawk my goods and services. Catherina and SM are big, fat meanies and you should ignore them because they make more sense than I do and this is MY forum dammit.
Translation: Our alternate ‘science’ is inherently better because it is based upon our gut instincts, even though their science is based upon the more rigourous scientific method. I am intellectually ill-equipped to argue with them, so are you but if you’re a glutton for punishment, blather away.
Translation: Since there is no way I would be doing this without a profit motive, they MUST BE TOO. Have I mentioned Catherina and Science Mom are big, fat meanies? Because they are that too; big, fat, special agent meanies sent here to destroy me. Oh, did I say that out loud?
Translation: Catherina and Science Mom are harshing my celebriscience woo buzz; I’m sooo ignoring them now.
I’ve related before about how I know people who actually chose to work for the (drug) company they did because they honestly thought that company had the best chance to solve the cancer problem. BTW, he is now a big executive in that company.
Not everyone has the same opportunity to make a difference, and it is true that some people who work in the industry do so because it’s a job, and they have the skills the company needs. However, there is a long way between that and being part of a conspiracy.
Besides, regardless of what Big Pharma wants, this doesn’t make any sense unless you include the doctors and the CDC. As I hinted yesterday, do we think so little of pediatricians that they would be so happy to compromise their dedication to medicine and give up their valuable free time in exchange for a free dinner from a sales rep and some pens?
I hope I didn’t insinuate a Big Pharma executive (like your friend) by nature valued the dollar over health. I just meant that just because a corporation may do some underhanded stuff does not mean the whole thing is corrupt from top to bottom, similar to other industries. There are many corporate executives that strive to do the right thing.
What most laypeople don’t understand is that alot of the marketing done by Big Pharma reps consists of trying to get a doctor understand the virtues their medicine over competitors or generics, not to get them to give prescriptions to people that don’t need them.
I find it amazing that anti-vaxers believe doctors can be bought and sold over a free meal and some knick-knacks. With years and years of school and establishing a practice, you are going to have to fork out gigantic sums of money to get even one doctor to risk everything by selling out their ethics. The amount of money simply does not exist in Big Pharma balance sheets to support a conspiracy the size they claim.
For that they go to the populace themselves. “Ask your doctor if PharmaSedaPhudanine is right for you.”
It is the equivalent of getting kids to whine until their parents give them ice cream, except it is with adults.
Pablo, that would not work outwith the United States though, since direct to consumer/patient advertising is generally not allowed in other countries. It also does not really apply to vaccines either.
Even if it does work, it really is irrelevent. If people are stupid enough to fall for advertising, there isn’t much to do about it (especially, as I described it, advertising that amounts to getting kids to whine to their parents until they get ice cream). That doesn’t take a conspiracy.
I was thinking the same thing (how many MMR commercials do you see by Big Pharma?), but
1) the anti-vaxxers do in fact accuse the standard PSAs of being pharma shills (look at the attacks on everychildbytwo), and
2) I’m not sure but haven’t there been Gardisil commercials by the company?
Yeah, but that would req
Yes, it is amusing that he would engage unsupported insinuations about somebody else having a conflict of interest, when he himself has a clear profit motive–sales of his book, and presumably much of his appeal to prospective patients, depends upon maintaining the impression that is some kind of authority regarding the risks of vaccines and the best schedule on which to give them, and that he has expertise that is not possessed by other doctors who merely pay attention to the science.
But then, the best way of deflecting attention from your own sins is often to accuse others of what you are yourself doing.
“Though Mothering does not take a pro or anti stand on vaccinations, we will not host threads on the merits of mandatory vaccine, or a purely pro vaccination view point as this is not conducive to the learning process.”
The irony in that statement reaches comic proportions when you realize that the mods there are oblivious to the contradiction. But it isn’t just pro-vax threads that Mothering.com will not tolerate; it’s pro-vax posters. At MDC, “the learning process” means “learning why vaccines are bad”. I managed to get in more than 400 posts before the inevitable point of my banning arrived — beat that!
The pity is that many who visit that site really are looking for good information, and by far, most of the PM’s I received were from lurkers and posters who were afraid to confront the mob, encouraging me to continue my efforts. As I recall, Science Mom’s experience was similar.
Two classic ploys from Dr. Bob, straight out of the altie playbook – insinuate that those who oppose your beliefs are tools of Big Pharma and are guilty of interrupting the warm fuzzy vibes of ignorance that you want to prevail on the site.
Apparently character assassination is a mark of good-heartedness in Dr. Bob’s view.
What a prince.
Like Emma Peel?
I’m totally impressed.
Thank you Orac for another excellent blogpost and all of the well-wishers. Hi Dymanic, I made it to almost 1000 posts on Smothering before getting the boot.
Here is another ‘Bobism’ that has always stuck in my mind and I dredged up:
I think I object most to the climate of fear that he perpetuates amongst his readers and creates a reliance upon him (his services and products too) via FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt). Of course, the dissemination of pseudoscience goes along with that; but hey, he’s a DAN!, that’s got to be in their playbook.
What does Dr. Bob even mean by that? Is it a way of trying to say he’s like the average Joe and not an “evil” scientist? He won’t confuse you with big words and statistics and you know, data?
Or is he saying that he doesn’t work in a lab and do his own research on vaccines? Then who tested his alternate schedule? Oh, wait, that’s right, nobody…
Almost certainly this. Scientists are heartless (Atheist!!!11) automatons who think only of their precious data and the piles of money supplied by Big Pharma. Dr. Bob is a kindly uncle who only has *your* best interests at heart. You should put your trust in him.
Catherina @ 19:
Madison for sure, Edinburgh is a possibility. I’d to hoist one with ya 🙂
I used to say, “Never trust a doctor trying to sell you vitamins.” Now I say, “Never trust a doctor trying to sell you vitamins or cookies.”
“Popumz.” Jesus H Christ on a stick.
Dr Benway – The reference in that banner ad is porbably to Dr. Sears pere, AKA Dr. Bill. Who also pushes the JuicePlus+ MLM and uses many of the same “aw shucks” scaremongering tactics in his own writings, mind.
The ad refers to “Dr. Sears, America’s Pediatrician”, which I assume refers to Sears Jr. Also, this page on the AskDrSears website pushes JuicePlus+ directly. (Why not “Juice++”, I wonder?)
@Matthew Cline – “America’s pediatrician” is what Dr. William Sears has called himself since before Dr. Bob was in med school, I’d guess. here’s a Salon magazine piece referring to him as such.
As I said before, Sears Jr. learned quite a bit at Daddy’s knee.
Once again I enjoyd very much reading You post Orac!
Too bad SM & Catherina probably can’t any Finnish (or can they?), I have some “mothering” web sites I’d love them to join! Keep up the good work!
German, English, French – I read more languages, but I could not write any and Finnish seems extraordinarily difficult. I gave a talk in Helsinki earlier this year and just reading the road signs made me dizzy (a bit like in the Highlands of Scotland) – intriguing language – maybe when I do retire 😉
Father and son are both well known, alt-med leaning pediatricians? A bit confusing.
Matthew – there is Dr. Jim, too – Orac wrote about an episode of “The Doctors” here in which Dr. Jim turns to the camera and says “we know that mercury can cause autism”. One practise to avoid…
check out this beauty by Dr Bob:
Wrong – Measles and Mumps are NOT returning by Dr. Bob – posted on 8/19/2009
There has been no overall increase in either of these diseases since 2007. The only increase was the Mumps outbreak back in 2006 (?). Measles jumps up a tiny little bit in 2007, but came back down again in 2008 (hey, after my book came out).
And as per your MMWR link cbe: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5831md.htm
2009 (to date): 46
Hey, that’s a 226% increase in measles cases from 2007 to 2008, AFTER his book came out. I guess he’s using some alternate maths as well.
I’m wondering, what about pertussis cases?
The county where I was born and raised had 13 cases of pertussis in July. Doesn’t sound like much until you realize the county population was less than 20 000. So we are talking 1/150 coming down with pertussis. That’s a serious outbreak.
Dr Sears is not responsible for an increase in measles cases. That’s absurd and you know it.