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Quoth Vox Day: Vaccines are killing babies! Retorts Orac: Vox’s arguments are killing neurons!

Theodore Beale, a.k.a. Vox Day, thinks he’s discovered that vaccines increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. They do not, and his arguments are so painful that your neurons may apoptose just hearing it.

Remember Vox Day (a.k.a Theodore Beale)?

Newer converts to the glory that is Orac (or at least to the ego that is Orac) might not know who Vox is because it’s been a while since I’ve discussed his antiscience attitudes. By and large, this is probably a good thing, given that Vox denies evolution, has been antivaccine from way back, and apparently thinks nothing of suggesting that the U.S. emulate Hitler’s methods of ejecting Jews from Germany to take care of our illegal immigrant problem. Truly, Vox is an example of crank magnetism at work. Particularly amusing is the way that he trumpets his membership in Mensa and then proceeds immediately to demonstrate that high IQ doesn’t protect against belief in pseudoscience. Of course, what’s even more amusing is that Vox is an example, every bit as much as Jenny McCarthy, of the arrogance of ignorance.

And—wouldn’t you know?—he’s done it again.

I’m referring to an article by Vox that several of you have sent me. It’s appeared in WorldNetDaily and is entitled Sudden Infant Vaccine Death. Even more ominously, it’s got a blurb that says, “Exclusive: Vox Day pinpoints age when immunization shots are most dangerous.” Yes, Vox tries to prove that vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fails miserably.

Upon reading Vox’s article, all I can say is…wow. It’s been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time since I’ve seen such a concentrated mass of burning stupid in such a small volume of verbiage. Truly, Vox has a talent for inundating his ideological opponents with bile mixed with napalm-grade burning idiocy. Anyone who knows anything about vaccines will come away from this article fearing that he has lost many, many neurons. Orac, having delved into such nonsense over the last seven years, has neurons made of tougher stuff, but even they were hard-pressed to fight the intelligence-sapping power of Vox’s ignorance. I’ll show you what I mean, first by showing you his attitude, which is, as typical, pure antiscience:

Vaccine advocates – although propagandists would be a more accurate term – often correctly claim that there is no scientific evidence proving that vaccines have ever killed anyone or caused autism. Therefore, they claim vaccines can be considered the cause of nothing but a cure for cancer, an end to war and the elimination of all human disease except that caused by dirty, unvaccinated children who are homeschooled by religious bigots. To even consider the mere possibility of questioning the intrinsic and perfect goodness of vaccines, any vaccine given for any reason, is to be not only anti-science, but personally responsible for murdering anyone who died of a disease that would have been prevented by vaccination.

I lost track of the number of straw men set on fire at the part of vaccines being and “end to war.” I realize Vox is being sarcastic; so I consider it only appropriate to answer sarcasm with sarcasm. In fact, I consider the nature of his sarcasm to be very revealing. He intentionally misinterprets science-based assessments of vaccine efficacy and utility, painting advocates of science-based medicine (SBM) defending vaccines as anti-religious zealots who believe that vaccines are the solution to all of humanity’s problems. Actually, it’s not exactly subtle that Vox tries to paint his opponents as simultaneously anti-religion but with a religious fervor, apparently in which vaccines replace God as the object of worship. In doing this, Vox tries to portray himself as not only being pro-science, but in actuality the true representative of science.

He ain’t.

One amusing aspect of this article that I’ll touch on briefly is that Vox appears to be really, really perturbed about the Jenny McCarthy Body Count website. He really seems peeved that anyone would say such nasty things about Jenny McCarthy. Never mind that the site, which is, by the way, excellent, is very clear about what it is doing and how it is making estimates. Also never mind that, contrary to what Vox says, namely that the website claims that Jenny McCarthy is responsible for all the deaths listed on the site, the Jenny McCarthy Body Count site is very careful not to say that. In fact, what the JMBC site says in response to a question asking whether Jenny McCarthy is directly responsible for every vaccine-preventable illness and death listed, “No.” Rather, the claim is that, by promoting antivaccine views, Jenny McCarthy is arguably responsible for some of these illnesses, a far less radical claim.

Score another straw man for Vox.

Let’s get to the heart of Vox’s accusation against “vaccine propagandists.” Once again, Vox demonstrates his utter lack of understanding of clinical research ethics by ranting against the current state of evidence regarding vaccine safety because it isn’t the result of randomized clinical trials looking at vaccinated versus unvaccinated children. It’s a recurrent theme that pops up again and again in his article and on his blog; so I’ll quote it:

The reason that the vaccine propagandist claim is correct is because there is also no scientific evidence that vaccines have not killed anyone or caused autism, because there is absolutely no valid scientific evidence on the matter. Most of the “science” in the studies that are widely cited by those who insist that vaccines are safe are simply statistical reviews, which involve as much use of actual science as polling former Playboy models. In the very few cases where an actual scientific experiment has been performed, the populations compared have not been between a vaccinated group and an unvaccinated control group, but rather two different groups that are both vaccinated to varying degrees.

The vaccine propagandists defend the failure of scientists to gather scientific evidence by begging the question. They insist that it would be unethical to permit a control group of children to go without vaccination, due to their assumption that the risks of vaccination are significantly outweighed by the dangers of the diseases vaccinated against. Thus, they perpetuate ignorance on the actual safety or danger of the current U.S. vaccine schedule.

Notice how Vox denigrates large scale epidemiological studies that have failed to find even a whiff of a hint of a correlation between vaccines and autism or any of the other conditions that Vox is about to blame on them, in this case SIDS. To him they’re dismissed as “statistical reviews” and disparagingly compared to polling former Playboy models, thus combining anti-science with typical Vox Day misogyny in a single sentence. Vox needs a lesson in clinical trial ethics. Again. Sadly, it will probably fall on the proverbial deaf ears, but I’ll give it a try again, starting with two words: Clinical equipoise.

Stated briefly, for purposes of clinical trials, clinical equipoise demands that there be a state of genuine scientific uncertainty in the medical community over which of the drugs or treatments being tested is more efficacious and safer or whether a drug being tested with placebo is better or worse than doing nothing. Without that genuine scientific uncertainty over which option being tested in a clinical trial is better (or at least less harmful), the trial cannot be ethical because investigators would be knowingly assigning one group of subjects to a treatment known to be inferior, or at least strongly suspected to be. One reason (among many) why a prospective randomized, clinical trial that intentionally leaves one group unvaccinated to determine whether vaccines cause autism (or whatever condition or disease the investigator suspects to be associated with vaccines) would be completely unethical is that it egregiously violates the principle of clinical equipoise, regardless of the hand waving Vox does to try to argue that it’s acceptable from an ethical standpoint. The unvaccinated group would be left unprotected against potentially life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases, and that is completely unacceptable from an ethical perspective. Consequently, when it comes to studies of this type, we have had to rely on less rigorous trial designs to ask the question of whether vaccines cause various problems. While each individual trial of such types is less powerful and convincing than randomized clinical trials, the accumulated weight of such evidence can (and is) often enough. In the case of vaccines, it’s more than enough.

Vox, for all his self-proclaimed Mensa awesomeness, seems totally unable to understand that for some questions that is the best we can do because scientific rigor sometimes conflicts with human subjects research ethics. If we know (or have good scientific reason to suspect) that one treatment is better than another, it is unethical to randomize patients to the arm that receives what is, based on what is known at the time of the trial, likely to be an inferior treatment. We know that withholding vaccines is associated with a much higher risk of unvaccinated children contracting vaccine-preventable diseases, and we do not have good scientific reason to suspect, from a plausibility standpoint or from the standpoint of existing clinical evidence, that vaccines cause autism or any of the other conditions attributed to them. Let’s put it this way: We know that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and a whole host of ailments not from randomized clinical trials in which one group is prescribed one or two packs a day of cigarettes for 20 years and the other isn’t. We figured out that tobacco smoke causes cancer from epidemiological studies. If Vox accepts that smoking causes lung cancer, then it’s disingenuous of him not to accept that vaccines don’t cause autism and sudden infant death syndrome because the studies that say so are epidemiological in nature.

Of course, what’s really hilarious is that, to prove his point that vaccines cause SIDS, Vox combats good epidemiology with bad epidemiology. The bad epidemiology is dumpster diving in the VAERS database. The VAERS database is the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. This is a time-“honored” technique of cranks, to dumpster dive in VAERS looking for correlations. Mark and David Geier used to do it regularly. The VAERS wasn’t designed to look for correlations as what Vox is using it to look for, as it’s designed only as an early warning system for reporting adverse events thought to be due to vaccines. One reason is that anyone can make entries into it, not just medical professionals, and the results are only checked in the most perfunctory way. For example, as Jim Laidler described before, it takes entering something like a claim that a vaccine turned one into The Incredible Hulk in order to get the staff there to question the entry. In another incident, Kevin Leitch reported to VAERS that a vaccine turned his daughter into Wonder Woman, and the report was accepted even with the ridiculous nature of the report and despite the fact that he was reporting from a U.K. IP address.

Truly, Vox doesn’t understand the nature of the database upon which he is relying.

Worse, as I described before, the database has been corrupted by litigation, with a dramatic increase of entries linked to litigation claiming that thimerosal caused the plaintiff’s child’s autism. As for appropriate uses of the VAERS database, here’s what it says right on the Advisory Guide to the Interpretation of VAERS Data:

VAERS data are derived from a passive surveillance system and represent unverified [emphasis mine] reports of health events, both minor and serious, that occur after vaccination.


While some events reported to VAERS are truly caused by vaccines, others may be related to an underlying disease or condition, to drugs being taken concurrently, or may occur by chance shortly after a vaccine was administered.


Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.

In other words, VAERS reports are not evidence of causation, nor are a group of VAERS reports.

So what does Vox find in VAERS that convinces him that vaccines cause SIDS? He creates a graph purporting to show that there is a peak of VAERS reports in which death is the reported complication at age 2-3 months:

These fatal adverse events are happening to children of a very specific age. More than one-third of all reported vaccine-related deaths, nearly 40 percent, occurred between the ages of two and four months, which just happens to be precisely when the vaccine schedule calls for children to receive no less than 10 shots, including 2xRV, 2xDTaP, 2xHib, 2xPCV and 2xIPV. They may also receive an 11th shot, for Hepatitis B, as well.

From which he concludes:

One needn’t be a rabid opponent of vaccines to find this death spike at 3 months to be troubling and indicative of a need to rethink the current vaccine schedule. And everyone, pro- and anti-vaccine, should be concerned about the shameless vaccine safety propaganda that is so easily shown to be false. Laws are passed and governments engage in ad campaigns to help reduce the 200 children’s bicycle deaths each year, so clearly it is worthwhile to look more closely and scientifically into the issue of vaccine safety when an estimated 1,060 children are dying between 2 and 4 months of age each year from the vaccines being injected into them.

Confuse correlation and causation much, Vox? The obvious interpretation of this finding is that the reason most reported deaths occur between two and four months is because that’s the peak incidence of SIDS. This has been known for decades and hasn’t changed, even with changing vaccine schedules. Moreover, although Vox tries to dismiss “one study” that shows no correlation between vaccines and SIDS, in fact there are at least nine, some of which are summarized here. I’m not sure which study Vox is lambasting. I suspect it was this case-control study that actually found that the SIDS babies tended to receive fewer vaccines. From this the authors concluded:

The age distribution of SIDS cases in Germany shows a peak at the age of 3 months. This is the time when the first immunisations are given. If immunisation increased the risk of SIDS one would expect a higher immunisation rate among the SIDS cases compared to the control infants. In the GeSID the opposite was the case. More controls were immunised and the control infants started their immunisation schedule earlier. Even when the data were restricted to the 14 days prior to death/interview, there was no increase risk for SIDS from immunisation.

There are also several other such studies that find no positive relationship between vaccination and SIDS, considered more than sufficient to consider the likelihood of a link between the two to be as close to zero as science can estimate. In fact, if there is any correlation at all, it is a negative correlation, with vaccines being protective against SIDS. Vox can dismiss the studies all he wants, but he’s doing so not based on science. He says he read the studies, but he has no idea why he dismisses them. If he does, certainly he can’t explain what the defects in these studies (1, 2, 3) are that are so bad as to be fatal to the studies’ conclusions that at the very least immunizations don’t increase the risk of SIDS and at the the very most they might lower the risk. Indeed, there are even enough studies looking at the relationship between vaccines and SIDS that a meta-analysis could be done. Not surprisingly, this meta-analysis of published SIDS studies agrees and found the relative risk of SIDS in vaccinated babies to be 0.54.

Vox is just plain wrong about this (as usual).

Being wrong, of course, doesn’t stop Vox. Based on his wrongness, he even proposes a breathtakingly unethical study:

So, how can the lethality of the vaccine schedule be at least partially tested without requiring an unvaccinated control group? The answer is based on the charts above. By simply dividing the vaccinated children into four groups and then shifting the entire vaccine schedule back three months, six months and one year, then observing if the two 2-4 month SIDS and VAERS death spikes either shift back in parallel with each group or disappear, we would obtain valuable information concerning the danger of the current vaccine schedule.

If the death spikes shift back in parallel with the delayed administration, we would be able to conclude that the vaccines being given are simply too lethal when combined according to the current schedule. If the death spikes subside with increased age, as I suspect would be the case, we would be able to conclude that the problem stems from the combined vaccines overwhelming some of the smaller bodies and weaker constitutions of the children between two and four months. If this is the case, simply moving the vaccine schedule back a few months, perhaps even as much as a year, would save the lives of between 1,000 and 10,000 American children every single year, to say nothing of the non-lethal adverse effects it would also mitigate, if not necessarily eliminate entirely.

Two words again: Clinical equipoise. We have not just one but several studies that are quite clear that vaccines do not cause SIDS and even suggest that vaccines are probably protective against SIDS. Contrary to Vox’s brain dead attempt at dumpster diving in the VAERS database, we have no good reason any more to suspect that vaccines increase the risk of SIDS, if we ever did. On the other hand, we do know that vaccines protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases. If, as Vox suggests, we were to delay the vaccination schedule by up to a year, there would be some very predictable consequences, specifically that there would be more young children, vaccines delayed, developing diseases those vaccines are designed to prevent. Again, in his ignorance of clinical trial ethics, Vox proposes a trial in which there is no reason to suspect that any subject would benefit and many reasons to conclude that there would certainly be subjects who will be harmed. Somehow Vox’s Mensa brain can’t comprehend this very simple aspect of clinical trial ethics.

Vox’s error would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad how eager he is to demonize vaccines. He takes a look at the spike in infant deaths between the ages of 2-4 months, which has been well known as the peak incidence of SIDS for decades. He then notes that infants start to get vaccines around then, apparently ignoring or dismissing the fact that scientists asked this very same question a long time ago (whether vaccines at that time are associated with SIDS), did the studies, and found that the answer is no. Instead, he acts as though he’s made a major discovery that scientists have never thought of or ignored when he looked at VAERS and found that there is a spike in reports of infant deaths between 2 and 4 months when that’s something that’s well known and has been for a long time. He then notes that SIDS deaths decreased after 1994 and, while mentioning what is almost certainly the actual cause of this decline, twists facts, logic, and reason to find a way to blame vaccines anyway:

The 2-4 month death spike appears consistently even if one goes all the way back to 1990, the earliest date available. The situation appears to have improved considerably, as the worst years were 1991 through 1994, so it would be informative to learn if there was a change in the vaccine schedule between 1994 and 1995. It is also interesting to note that SIDS deaths are reported to have declined from 1993 to 2004, and by a proportion similar to the decline in VAERS-reported deaths. Of course, it’s also theoretically possible that the anti-SIDS sleep campaign which began in 1994 is responsible for decline in vaccine deaths, as perhaps stomach sleeping somehow exacerbates the problem of receiving a vaccine overload.

Pathetic. It was very likely that anti-SIDS sleep campaign that resulted in the decline SIDS deaths; yet Vox can’t admit that simple conclusion. He still calls them vaccine deaths and wonders whether stomach sleeping worsens the effects of “vaccine overload.” Hilariously, one of his own commenters points out that the spike in infant deaths between the ages of two and four months was known more than 120 years ago, with 60% of infant deaths occurring between those ages and 62% occurring between October and March, all consistent with what we know about SIDS now and consistent with what Vox is so amazed to find in the VAERS database now. Of course, back in 1889, which is when these numbers were reported, infants didn’t get vaccines that young. Vox, clueless as ever, fails to see the significance of this observation and blithely dismisses it as “out of date.”

Vox is easy to laugh at because he is so arrogant and utterly without self-awareness when it comes to his own weaknesses in understanding how science works. Unfortunately, he is also an excellent example of motivated reasoning, which is a term that explains how people have the tendency to use reason not so much to find the truth but to develop arguments to support ideas that they already believe. According to this principle, the smarter a person is, the better he or she is at selecting evidence and developing arguments to defend his or her beliefs, and this is one major reason why highly educated people tend to seem to be more prone to crank beliefs, such as antivaccinationism. The problem with the idea of motivated reasoning with respect to Vox Day is that, although he’s a perfect example of crank magnetism, unlike what his Mensa-ness would suggest, he’s just so damned bad at motivated reasoning. He tries, but his arguments are risible.

Oh, well. There are always outliers in any theoretical construct.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

94 replies on “Quoth Vox Day: Vaccines are killing babies! Retorts Orac: Vox’s arguments are killing neurons!”

Oh, sweet gosh, was that satisfying. Better than an hour in a hot tub. I read his blog every day (masochism FTW) and even I’m occasionally amazed by how thoroughly wrong he can be. (Which, I know, is saying something.)

Wow – I had not been aware of Vox’s “work” before – kind of wish I didn’t now….but what has been seen cannot be unseen….

Vox may be jealous of Jenny’s body count and wants a site of his own.

Am I the only one whose mental foot caught on this loose board in Mr. Beale’s idiocy:

Most of the “science” in the studies that are widely cited by those who insist that vaccines are safe are simply statistical reviews, which involve as much use of actual science as polling former Playboy models.

And yet he accepts the expertise of “Dr.” Jenny McCarthy. I guess some Playboy models are more equal than others, huh, Ted?

@TVRBOK: I also noticed it, but thought he was being ironic.

@ Julian Frost:

Well, if “ironic” means his head is made out of iron, you could be right.

Ugh. I seem to see this trend, and it might just be confirmation bias, but the people who crow loudest about their MENSA membership tend to be some of the most foolish, boorish people out there.

To tack on to what Orac mentioned about clinical equipoise, I’m going to take this moment to shamelessly plug my write-up of why a prospective vaccinated vs. unvaccinated clinical trial would be unethical. Here’s part 1. Links to the rest of the series are at the end of that post.

So I just read the post on Billie Bainbridge,I come over here,and decide to click on the link,and what do I see DRINK THIS AND CANCER COMES POURING OUT OF YOUR BODYDespicable.But what do you expect from a site that implies diseases like Hepatitis B or rubella are no big deal.

Does anybody know if Day is a germ theory denialist? I’m too lazy to Google it now.

Altho’ Vox is mad, his nonsense doesn’t really outdistance much of the nonsense i encounter nearly daily at those miasmic swamps of rapidly degrading biomass that cheerfully masquerade as informational sites…

(World-weary sigh) I have seen it all! Actually, they cover some of the same material and their ideas slather forth as well.

But here’s one that takes the cake/ biscuit:
last week Gary Null discussed a decent study that surveyed infections that may led to cancer – obviously HPV, HepB, C, h.pylori ( think he left out one) then revving up into his own rant, listed allof the NATURAL cures for these infections – which would of course- prevent cancer. Vitamin C, ozone, various herbs, juicing ad nauseum.

I suspect that Vox will also be given a run for his money by the denizens of TMR. Or AoA. MIke Adams, need I say more? Vox is more *condensed* idiocy.

There was not mention of vaccines or anti-biotics.


The last sentence of mine above should be above the previous paragraph.

At any rate, Orac’s neurons ( the synapses are probably made of plastic anyway) are totally safe..
as are the rest of ours
because we are made of stronger stuff
and nonsense just rolls off of us like water off a duck
It has as much effect as a homeopathic remedy written by a quack.
Anyway, I have work to do…

In my experience, the only adults who brag about their Mensa status are those who have completely failed to accomplish anything that offers real world evidence of intellectual ability. I think the organization may have value for bright young people, particularly those on or near the edge of the Aspergers spectrum, because they get a chance to meet others like themselves, which can help them to feel less isolated.

I’m sure VD could improve on his study design by adding a controlled exposure arm; just add a couple of sick kids to the nursery and finally get significant (statistically) infection rates. Or maybe run it in a Nairobi slum?

Todd W.: I seem to see this trend, and it might just be confirmation bias, but the people who crow loudest about their MENSA membership tend to be some of the most foolish, boorish people out there.

Seconded. Being in MENSA means you can take a test on which you can drastically improve your score with repeated practice, and proceed to bloviate about how your ability to get a decent score on a glorified math and reading comprehension quiz makes you a superior human specimen.

Considering that MENSA started as a eugenics group which thought that its members should be the future of humanity while those not in it were dooming the human species to a future of mediocrity and failure, you could say that this culture of arrogance is woven into the group’s very core.

I swear, I look at these sites and they prove my point! All the time. Today at Natural News, Mikey investigates phoney degrees and diploma mills….
Now I REALLY have to leave.

So far as I can tell, IQ is a measure of how readily a person can find patterns in data; it does not, again so far as I can tell, measure the ability to tell which patterns are meaningful or useful. The latter, let’s call it “wisdom”, doesn’t seem to have a readily-identifiable metric associated with it but I think it’s the far more useful and valuable (and scarecer) ability.

I turned down two invitiations to MENSA in high school* because the literature was chock-full-o-nutty stuff like crystal reading, faith-healing, spiritualism, ghost tours, UFOlogy, and similar folderol that I didn’t want to be associated with. (The above mention of eugenics behind the foundation of the group doesn’t surprise me given what I’ve seen.) To boot, most of the MENSA-recommended games I’ve played are too easily gamed-out; some to the point that a player can guarantee a win on the first turn. In my view, that’s a sign of poor rather than good design.

I agree; folks bragging about MENSA membership may be intellilgent but that doesn’t mean they’re wise.

– Steve

* Does that count as IQ-boasting as bad as MENSA-crowing? If so, sorry.

In the past, posts criticizing Herr Beale would raise his dander and so bring him to the debate. His appearances on Dispatches and Pharyngula followed a familiar pattern: dissection, disassembling, and utter destruction of his argument, followed by Ted declaring victory and running away. I suspect that will not occur here. If there is one thing that massive IQ understands, it’s recognition that it’s better not to engage in a battle of wits with the audience found in these forums. His ego can only withstand so much damage.

it might just be confirmation bias, but the people who crow loudest about their MENSA membership tend to be some of the most foolish, boorish people out there

As everybody who has ever played Dungeons and Dragons knows, intelligence != wisdom. We’ve seen far too many examples of this, not only in medicine but economics (the so-called smartest guys in the room are largely responsible for creating the financial crisis) and other fields.

Julian Frost @0812: People like Vox Day don’t do irony, at least not intentionally. So when they accidentally engage in irony, as here, irony meters get fried.

I’ll add to the pile-on about outspoken MENSA members. The louder they are about their alleged qualification, the less understanding they seem to have of basic science.

Some I’ve encountered seem to be incapable of looking at the larger context or recognizing patterns of the real world, as opposed to the patterns of popular fiction and propaganda engines. Sometimes, it’s like they think the immediate subject exists in a vacuum and bringing in outside knowledge is “cheating.”

‘Motivated reasoning’ is a term I had either never come across or forgotten, though the phenomenon is very familiar. You can find evidence to support almost any belief if you look hard enough and are able to ignore enough contradictory evidence.

BTW on the subject of IQ testing, I recommend Steven Jay Gould’s ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ for an excellent discussion of its history, use and abuse.

That should be Stephen with a ‘ph’, I beg his posthumous pardon.

Vox Day (VD) asserts – correctly – that SIDS peaks in the 2 – 4 month age range; unfortunately, he seems to have overlooked that SIDS has always peaked in the 2 – 4 month age range, even as far back as the 1960’s, when children were given – as we’ve oft been told – far fewer vaccinations.

Another “inconvenient truth” that VD has inadvertently (or “conveniently”) overlooked is that SIDS death rates have been falling over time and that the decline in SIDS incidence has been particularly pronounced since the late 1980’s – about when number of childhood vaccines began increasing dramatically.

Of course, none of this will change VD’s mind; you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

Finally, on the question of what IQ means (re: Mensa). The best definition I’ve heard is that IQ is whatever the IQ test is measuring. If it is a pattern-identification test, then the IQ measured is pattern-identification. If it is a puzzle-solving test, then the IQ measured is for puzzle-solving. In addition, IQ tests also indirectly measure previous exposure to similar tests and problems, motivation, ability to understand and follow directions and – in some cases – what the test-makers think is the “best” answer to the questions they’ve created.

Some years ago, I volunteered to be in a Psychology Dept. study where people of all intellectual abilities were given six different IQ tests. Like most of the other participants, I received six very different IQ scores from these tests and the differences were not within the “margin of error” for the tests. And while most of the IQ scores I received would put me comfortably in the “Mensa” range, one did not. What I’ve taken away from that experience is that we all have areas where we excel and others where we do not and that it is at least as important to know where we are “average” or “below average” as it is to know our strengths.


Once when I was evaluated by an education psychologist he told me that he gave me an 8-part IQ test. He said frequently on emergency psych intakes they would only use the first two sections because they usually gave a fairly good estimate. I aced them and there was no way to score me. However, when it got to rote memorization/sustained attention I ‘failed’ them, giving them a score. I often joke that I’m either an idiot savant or a retarded genius.

MENSA has always struck me as a whole bunch of insecure people looking for a way to make one quirk of their identity “special,” much like a lot of other organizations built around ability. I was told I qualified in high school but was much more interested in DENSA, if anything (though ended up unmotivated to really pursue membership in either).

I wish that more “alternative medicine” people read deconstructions like this. Usually people who report things like this on radio, etc., will just run with the headline, and if it is inflammatory enough, even invite the author onto their program to share their amazing discovery and why people should be wearing tinfoil hats and buying years worth of powdered food for the coming apocalypse… 😐

I’m so sorry to hear that Billie Bainbridge has died. The death of any child is a tragedy, but this one is all the more so because the slimeball “Dr” Burypatients raised false hopes for the family and scammed them out of thousands for his fake treatment.
The one small ray of hope is that the family are donating what remains of the trust fund to real cancer research; would that the entire £100,000+ had gone to research.

I think that what IQ measures ( and it measures several things) constitutes just a tiny portion of what people *are* and what they can *do*: the latter is more important. We have many complicated, intertwining skills and abilities: many threads, interwoven- some highly correlated, others not. It’s fascinating- a Celtic knot that looks more tangled than it really is.

You might be great at detecting patterns but not able to discern whether they are relevant or not so you waste your life playing with irrelevancies. I think that it’s important to look at the social cognition skills as well- maybe they’re more important in the long run.

I could name several gentlemen in my life who are/ were brilliant about business but entertain/ed NO ideas about what everyday items cost… just not something they choose to think about.

So it’s not just abilities but *focus* and *interest* that may determine who we are. Then there are odd but important skills that we really don’t think about much but that have important consequences- like whether you are good at WAITING or not…


Regarding the limitations of brilliance – I recently had to deal with a lab assistant who has a very high IQ (at least, he told me so – repeatedly) .

He was – as I was repeatedly told – extremely adept at finding patterns and solving puzzles, but he couldn’t find the pattern in my repetitive admonishments for him to get back to work and he probably still hasn’t solved the puzzle of why he was let go last month.


the only adults who brag about their Mensa status are those who have completely failed to accomplish anything that offers real world evidence of intellectual ability.

Vox Day also likes to brag about his gun collection. And his martial-arts expertise. Apparently he is the very embodiment of the Uebermensch, if not the literal reincarnation of Nietzsche. Alas, women are resistant to his charms and spurn the gift of his sperm, forcing him to the conclusion that they are collectively inferior and too stupid to be allowed to vote.

For some reason he likes to stick roadkill on his scalp.

The thing that really gets my goat is the way anti-science cranks, such as Vox Day, continually put themselves forward as the defenders of true science.

Orac quotes Vox Day (my emphasis)

no less than 10 shots, including 2xRV, 2xDTaP, 2xHib, 2x>/b>PCV and 2xIPV

How does the second dose of the shots at 4 mos cause the death of the baby from SIDS at 3 mos?

Apologies for botched html!

Please please please bring back preview!

Based on his wrongness, he even proposes a breathtakingly unethical study:

This is a chap who proposed once that the success of Nazi Germany in removing 6 million Jews from the population should serve as a model for the US in dealing with unwanted immigrants. I don’t think he understands the finer points of ethical reasoning.

@v Prometheus:

On OLD Olympus’ towering tops….. etc

Ha! Obviously your ex- assistant found the practical work too far below his theoreticalising acumen. Wonder where’s he’s not working now.

@ Composer99:

Oh yes! Seems that amongst the idiots I survey, they are the TRUE defenders of science- not the corporately- sponsored, university-ridden, governmentally-approved, money-grubbing tobacco science that we represent. It fails to match the hard research done by mothers on google, by fathers who have written autism books and by those with supplements for sale … lots more on this .

On that note… I think I’ll have to go lie down for a while because someone just gave me a very expensive scarf and I have no idea why. Black, red and faded blue- matches my eyes.

Vox Day also likes to brag about his gun collection. And his martial-arts expertise. Apparently he is the very embodiment of the Uebermensch, if not the literal reincarnation of Nietzsche. Alas, women are resistant to his charms and spurn the gift of his sperm, forcing him to the conclusion that they are collectively inferior and too stupid to be allowed to vote.

For some reason he likes to stick roadkill on his scalp.

[snort] This is one of those comments I’m thankful I wasn’t eating or drinking while reading. So is that how all the fashionable, silly, misogynistic, ego maniacal, little white supremacists are coiffed these days? As if he wasn’t a big enough tool, he’s dabbling in epidemiology now.

For the most part, Mensa = Densa. In Vox Day’s case, airhead is probably a better term.

Black, red and faded blue- matches my eyes.

I am concerned about DW’s life-style.

Vox Day / Theodore Beale used graphs from the National Vaccine Information Center’s (NVIC) MedAlerts blog, created by Steven M. Rubin PhD. This is just one of many misuses of the VAERS data Rubin promotes (and Bob Sears has endorsed…)

The graphs appear to be from Age and VAERS data.

Interested readers may wish to peruse Pregnant women and vaccines for a sample of Rubin’s flawed reasoning.

These blog entries are republished as fact at Mothering Dot Com’s website.

NVIC is a menace to public health.

Mrs.Woo,or anyone else

How do you get smileys in the comments?

just trying for a winky 🙂 with a semicolon and a closing curved bracket

frowny with colon & opening curved bracket : ( (no space between)

How many ways can you be wrong about something?

Vax vs. unvax studies have been happening. We do them all the time for outbreak investigations. They’re called case-controlled studies.

Now, if they want a true randomized trial, then they don’t get to say who is vaccinated and who isn’t. That is decided by a coin toss. This makes the comments section of Vox’s post an exercise in futility because, if an antivaxer’s child is randomized into the intervention group, they will… How can I say this diplomatically?… Throw a female dog.

They wouldn’t go with it, is what I’m trying to write.

@ herr doktor bimler:

Not what you think.. I got hit in the eye with a tennis ball wot was hit by an actual tennis professional! No, I was not at RG, Paris, but taking a class so it wasn’t at breathtaking speeds- it just glanced off a racquet. Said tennis pro brought me ice and I noted that I did not see the proverbial dark curtain** descending ( not to be confused with the proverbial white light) so all is well.

The scarf was from someone else.

** detached retina

Vox says:

What is your IQ?
Over the so-called “genius” threshhold. Some people can’t seem to figure out that the 132 IQ Mensa requirement (Stanford-Binet) is a floor, not a ceiling.

You guys are so stupid. Even Prometheus, your self-proclaimed genius, is just a child in the eyes of Vox Day.

@evilDoug..frowning with your colon sounds painful and a bit insulting to the readers…….

Mr. Schecter:

You guys are so stupid. Even Prometheus, your self-proclaimed genius, is just a child in the eyes of Vox Day.

Such wit! Such brilliance! You brighten our day by you very cogent arguments.

Too bad you are illiterate in both math and science.

This is good

So to NOT be alarmed and very suspicious when US Army medical research scientists based at Ft. Detrick are involved in creating something with such deadly potential as a “vaccine” for use almost exclusively in the developing world (the tiger and aegypti mosquitos which transmit dengue fever are not present in most of North America and Europe) against the worlds no.1 and fastest growing infectious disease would be to invite charges of criminal complacency.

Add to this the history of US Army medical research scientists leaving Ft. Detrick and turning up at GSK (GlaxoSmithKline, a prominent member of the international drug$ cartel) which is the outfit funded by the Gates Foundation (see “African Babies As Guinea Pigs”) to carry out the Dengue vaccine trials and you have more reason to worry.

While one may sincerely wish that a dengue fever vaccine that actually works is being developed the track record of the parties involved, be it the Gates Foundation, GSK or the US Army has to leave any informed observer suspicious if not more than a little paranoid.

Bone-break fever, Bill Gates, Ft. Dettrick and GSK–one should hope for the best but keep a sharp eye out for the worst.

Vox says:

What is your IQ?

Jesus, you’re quoting the Vox Day “FAQ”? Nice work, Bob.

If my comment goes into moderation, please tell me!

Mr. Kulp, that is great news. I got dengue fever when my dad was stationed in Venezuela, and it was very painful.

There have been cases in Florida. See “TWiV 111: Live at Florida Gulf Coast University”. the “This Week in Virology” podcast.

Mr. Schecter, I just noticed that Vox Day is the subject of a blog post by PZ Myers at Freethoughtblogs titled “Vox Day is one sick puppy.” Perhaps you should go over there and defend your dear friend, Ted Beale.

Because it would provide much amusement to see how you will be treated by the denizens at Pharyngula.

My parents told me I couldn’t be a mensan because only girls can have mensas.

Having seen vocal mensa people, many of whom are narcissists, I think they had other reasons to discourage my interest.

A likely story DW, I expect you were brawling with Reiki Master Homeopath at the tennis club.

Hope you recover quickly – eye injuries are always scary, even it they turn out to be minor.

So, Mr. Schecter, you admit that Ted Beale is intelligent? Therefore, he should know what he is saying is false, making him a liar, and since he uses the name “Vox Day”, a blasphemer.

@ sciencemom.
“For some reason he likes to stick roadkill on his scalp.”
Are you referring to Donald Rump?

Forgive me if I’ve missed it, I’ve been out of the loop for a bit, but…

Orac have you been informed yet that Meryl Dorey has set up a website called ‘The Real Australian Skeptics’? It’s basically a blog for her rants, a logical fallacy (no true Scotsman), and a hook-up to AVN’s facebook page… Please promote, as she’s clearly trying to add to the misinformation and avoid whatever sanctions she can from government instructions to stop doing it.

@Chris: Oh, if silly Sid would ONLY go visit Pharyngula (gets comfy chair, a glass of wine, popcorn and prepares to watch the fun…)

I passed the test to get into MENSA- it’s a bunch of smart people sitting around bragging to each other about how smart they are. Nobody outside of the group cares.

@Kelly M Bray, June 6, 10:54 pm

I would argue that it shows a rectitude holey appropropriate to ‘odore Beale.

@ Silly Sid Offal: Just because the skinhead identifies himself as a libertarian is not a valid reason for you to come posting here with your inanities.

I notice that some of the posters on the skinhead’s website are quoting Russell Blaylock and the ” VAERS dumpster diving” Geiers. I also notice that the skinhead “neglected” to post or link to this chart:

Also, why did the skinhead neglect to read or to link to, this recent article about other factors, such as “bed sharing” a practice that has doubled in recent years, implicated in smothering deaths of young infants?:

@ Militant Agnostic:

No, no, no: I don’t brawl, I’m a *lady* : I’ve found that casting disdainful glances and saying, “Really!” is much more effective at discouraging woo in my presence. Actually, the tennis clubs I know are remarkably free of it

Thank you for your kind wishes, I’m alright: I just
got worried because- as I have been informed- eye injuries are the most common injury at tennis clubs.and we all know of those who had more serious problems. The awful thing was that I wasn’t even playing, I was on the sidelines during a lesson.

Re: Beale & MENSA

I’m reminded of something from an aeon ago at Boy Scout summer camp. There was a counselor who always wore an old, faded shirt with no rank on it. Being the rank-conscious little jerks we were, some of us pestered him about whether he was an Eagle Scout or not. His response (paraphrased after 40 or so years): “If you can’t tell by how I act, what I know and what I do, it doesn’t really matter whether I have the badge or not.”

Beale’s use of MENSA as an argumentum ad verecundiam (really ex equus pyga) is truly pathetic.

…just a child in the eyes of Vox Day

Sid, for the sake of argument let’s assume that Ted actually does have a genius level IQ, that in fact it’s superior to the IQ of anyone else posting comments to RI.

Surely you’re not arguing that therefore he must be correct about anything he claims with respect to vaccine safety, or an association between immunization adn SIDS? Genius or idiot, his claims stand and fall on their own merit.

And the dull thuds you’re hearing is them hitting the ground at terminal velocity…

It doesn’t surprise me that Mr. Schecter is a fan of Beale’s. The arrogance of ignorance is contagious, Or perhaps it’s better characterized as “birds of a feather.”

Vox says:

“If the death spikes shift back in parallel with the delayed administration, [the vaccine combination is lethal]. If the death spikes subside with increased age, [the vaccine timing is lethal].”

Did he ever mention that if the death spike doesn’t shift or subside, that that means he’s full of **redacted**?

Josh, I was unaware that this website has a sexual orientation.

Josh, have you anything to um, add to the discussion…or are you just on a gay-bashing mission?

Trolilng for a date, Josh? I think you’d be better off with Grinder than RI for that.

— Steve


I read Null’s bit too – I did a /facepalm when I read about him recommending ozone for cancer. Why someone would promote an airborne pollutant for curing cancer is beyond me.

@ Josh

School’s out, is it? How was 7th grade? Are you looking forward to 8th grade?

Josh, are you also a member of Mensa with that very succinct comment on everyone who comments here? Oh, and yes, many of us do find joy in the wonders of real science and accepting all varieties of persons without blanket judgements.

You do know that there a are multiple definitions of “Gay”, right? It is also used as a last name (with hilarious results when one silly Christian news source automatically changed an athlete’s last name to “homosexual”).

@ Darwy:

Oh no, he promotes the SPECIAL ozone not that dirty one!

But seriously, that wanker is really working on capturing a larger audience and their money with his new venue the Progressive Radio Network- you see, if you google that- not his name- you don’t get wiki or Quackwatch criticism on the first page- also, this system of internet “radio” enables him to get international clients beyond just selling his crappy books.

And believe me, his business plan goes beyond business: he imagines himself to be a leader of the People or suchlike…

I can’t say Vox Day’s IQ matters much. If this and other arguments I’ve seen him make are any indication, he’s a complete idiot.

To quote Forrest Gump (who is, in several key respects, smarter than Vox Day by far), “stupid is as stupid does.”

I have an IQ that is way above the MENSA lower limit. But then I remembered what Groucho Marx said about clubs and I thought better of it.

“Sid Offit” (Robert Schecter) whinges:

“You guys are so stupid. Even Prometheus, your self-proclaimed genius, is just a child in the eyes of Vox Day.”

Even if we assume that “Vox Day” (VD) is a genius, that doesn’t make him correct. Genius is no protection against error – in fact, it may predispose to error, since many “geniuses” are so enamoured of their own brilliance that they fail to “check their work”.

And regardless of my IQ / intelligence, my arguments stand on their own. If “Sid” or VD can find any flaws in their reasoning, I’m sure they would have put them forward, ahead of elementary-school retorts of “You guys are so stupid.”.

Keep it (under)classy, “Sid”.


Does anyone else find it ironic that “Vox Day” (Theodore Beale), who often labels those who disagree with him “Nazis”, wants to see vaccine studies that trash the Nuremberg Code?

Even Prometheus, your self-proclaimed genius, is just a child in the eyes of Vox Day.

I honestly read Sid’s sarcasm as directed *against* Vox Day.

@ Robert Schecter (Sid Offit)

You really want to be remembered here as the guy who approve Vox Day opinions? Do you know what his opinions are, to start with? All of his opinions, not just his love for Mensa membership and his views on vaccines?

@ Josh

No, not gay, just merry.
But thanks for the compliment.

The gods of ironic placement are at it again. At the bottom of Vox Days column (rant) on white racial purity was an ad………

Meet Chinese Lady
Feel Lonely? Seek a Loyal Chinese Girl to Warm Up Your Soul.

I have to buy a new irony meter now

Even Prometheus, your self-proclaimed genius, is just a child in the eyes of Vox Day.

I honestly read Sid’s sarcasm as directed *against* Vox Day.

I found it hard to believe that it wasn’t directed against Vox Day, but this is Sid we’re talking about. This is the person who replied to a picture of a little girl disfigured by a vaccine-preventable disease with “She’s so pretty,” because it’s better that up is down and 2+2=5 and disfigurement is pretty than for Sooper Geniuses like Sid and Vox to ever concede any point, whether it be “IQ alone doesn’t mean your ideas are right” or “Disfigurement is bad.”

Fine, the people on it are gay.

You’ve got better gaydar than I do, then. I usually have to meet the person. And I always thought I was a Kinsey zero. Thanks for telling me this is a delusion and I’m really a lesbian.

“Vox Day” (Theodore Beale) […] often labels those who disagree with him “Nazis”

I’m sure that there are points of differences between his philosophy and the Nazis’, but it is a mathematical certainty that he has designed his own uniform and arm-bands.

As I recall Sid Offal made that “isn’t she pretty” remark about a beautiful young Somalian girl who was horribly disfigured with small pox pustules.

Offal also commented on his blog about the ten infants who died in California from pertussis…

“…..One particular result of the imagined disintegration of vaccination rates is, according to Mnookin, a pertussis outbreak which occurred in California in 2010.

But when we step outside of the world of fantasy and into the one of reality we find it’s The Enclaves of Affluence thesis that disintegrates. Here’s why:

The brunt of the epidemic was borne, not by the affluent, but by Hispanic Americans, a group whose median income is about half that of non-hispanic whites. According to ABC News

Three-quarters of hospitalizations occurred in infants younger than 6 months, and of those, three-quarters were Hispanic

And nine of the ten deaths in California were in Hispanic children. This even though the group comprises only 37% of the state’s population…..”

Offal will deny that he has prejudices, but his statements are a testament to his inability to understand the world outside of his privileged whitey-tighty enclave in California.

@dingo199, June 7, 5:56am

I think I probably found out about it via Lucky Losing. 🙂

“If we know (or have good scientific reason to suspect) that one treatment is better than another, it is unethical to randomize patients to the arm that receives what is, based on what is known at the time of the trial, likely to be an inferior treatment”

One can readily imagine your opponents (if they read this) interpreting this as an admission on your part that no pharmaceutical company believes that the products which it tests do any good. In other words, that you agree with them.

If you’re going to devote this much time to writing the same article over and over again, best not do it while your angry; it just makes you a hostage to fortune….

Nonsense, Ian. Of course anyone doing a clinical trial either believes or hopes that their treatment is better. The issue is that for a clinical trial to be ethical there has to be genuine scientific uncertainty about whether their treatment is better that necessitates a clinical trial to answer the question. That reasoning can’t be based on pseudoscience, misinformation, and quackery, which is what the belief that vaccines cause SIDS and autism is based upon.

As for how I spend my time, well, that’s my business and not yours. No one’s forcing you to read. Don’t like it? Think I repeat myself too much? Don’t read.

Mr. Kemmish plays an interesting semantic game in his comment, pivoting on the definition of “suspect”.

The phrase “good scientific reason to suspect” doesn’t mean “might possibly be”, it means exactly what it says: that there are scientific data that indicate the treatment under investigation is inferior to the current treatment (or no treatment).

For example, the currently available data show no link between vaccines and SIDS (or autism), while showing that vaccines do significantly reduce a child’s risk of serious illness, permanent disability and death. As a result, it would be unethical to randomise children in a trial of the “treatment” of not vaccinating children in order to test the hypothesis that vaccines cause SIDS or autism.

A simpler example can be made with homeopathy (possibly the only known use of homeopathy): since there are no data suggesting that homeopathy is any less effective at treating any illness or disorder than placebo, it is perfectly ethical to randomise subjects into “homeopathy” and “placebo’ groups (although logic would argue that the two are indistinguishable by any known test). However, it would be unethical to randomise subjects in a study where one group received homeopathy and the other group received a treatment that was known to be even marginally effective.

I hope that clears things up for Mr. Kemmish and anyone else who might have been confused.


[ooops! I got a “you are posting too quickly” warning – I must type s l o w e r. ]

@ Prometheus:

The “posting too quickly” warning seems to arise completely randomly. It has nothing to do with the actual rate of posting; I’ve gotten it when my previous post was 3 days prior.

I would pay good money to see our resident troll go over and try Pharyngula’s readers. Remember August of last year? When a certain plastic container of weak acetic acid intended for feminine hygiene (my opinion) decided to go and throw legal threats around? It was darn good reading.

If we know (or have good scientific reason to suspect) that one treatment is better than another, it is unethical to randomize patients to the arm that receives what is, based on what is known at the time of the trial, likely to be an inferior treatment

One can readily imagine your opponents (if they read this) interpreting this as an admission on your part that no pharmaceutical company believes that the products which it tests do any good. In other words, that you agree with them.

Sure, they could interpret it that way – only if they’re total idiots, of course, but that hardly rules the usual suspects out.

If a pharmaceutical company believed that the product it was testing “did no good,” that means the product would be inferior to the current standard of care – except for those conditions where no effective treatment is yet known, and a product which had a small theoretical chance of panning out as an effective treatment might still be worth putting through trials.

So, yes, Orac’s opponents – and would I be guessing right that these include a certain tone troll who whinges about the same article being “written over and over again”? – they might well think what Orac said about clinical equipoise equates to “ZOMG Big Pharma knowz that its products don’t do nothin’!!” This is because said opponents are dumb as a sack of hammers, and when they’re too stupid to understand what people are actually saying, they just sorta pick words at random and invent something unrelated. These are the kind of idiots who actually think that Paul Offit said “We should inject babies with 10,000 vaccines at once!!” (if you’re reading this, and you actually do believe that Paul Offit suggested any such thing, my condolences on your mental defects.)

So, Ian, thank you for reminding us that Orac’s opponents include plenty of idiots who flunk reading comprehension. We actually get plenty of reminders, but we still appreciate your efforts to bring the idiocy to our attention.

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