Medicine Science Skepticism/critical thinking

On “doing your own research”

Ethan Siegel at Forbes argues that you “must not ‘do your own research.’” While the title grates, Siegel is correct that most of us are not really capable of “doing our own research” about most scientific and medical questions because we lack the necessary background. We must therefore be humble and be very, very careful about “doing our own research.”

“I’ve done my own research.”

“Do your own research.”

How many times have you heard various antivaxxers, cranks, advocates of pseudoscience, and conspiracy theorists repeat these phrases, or variants thereof? In medicine, advocates of what I like to call pseudomedicine—a category that encompasses antivaxxers, COVID-19 denialists and conspiracy theorists, cancer quacks, and all manner of other quacks—are particularly prone to claim that they’ve “done their research” about, for instance, vaccines, and that’s why they think the MMR vaccine causes autism and that vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), autoimmune diseases, and all manner of other diseases (and, oh, by the way, their “research” has told them that vaccines don’t protect against disease and “natural immunity is better,” too).

Of course, “doing one’s own research” and then “making up one’s own mind” makes perfect sense when it comes to, for example, choosing a place to live, buying a car, picking a smartphone, and any of a number of decisions we make in our day-to-day lives, although it should be noted that even those decisions are not necessarily so straightforward or easy to research. When it comes to science, the fact is that the vast majority of us are not capable of “doing our own research”. I started thinking about this question again with respect to science-based medicine (and science in general), thanks to an article that bubbled up a bit over a week ago on social media by former ScienceBlogs blog bud from back in the day Ethan Siegel (who now writes for Forbes), entitled “You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science“.

On “doing your own research”

Before I go on, let me just take a moment to observe that the title of his article is absolutely atrocious and doesn’t quite align with what the article actually says. Nowhere does Siegel tell readers that they “must not do their own research.” It’s a title that seems designed to be clickbaity and to inflame, rather than educate. I’m going to guess that Siegel probably didn’t come up with this title, but rather some Forbes editor looking to make the article sound as controversial as possible. Mission accomplished, as you will see, but at the cost of misunderstanding what the article is about. Moreover, I don’t totally agree with everything in the article (that would be a rarity about any article!), but overall it’s a good summation of the perils and pitfalls of lay people “doing their own research” about medicine and science and why lay people, for the most part, are incapable of correctly “doing their own research” on matters of science.

There are few skeptics, if any, who would disagree with Siegel’s introduction, for instance:

“Research both sides and make up your own mind.” It’s simple, straightforward, common sense advice. And when it comes to issues like vaccinations, climate change, and the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, it can be dangerous, destructive, and even deadly. The techniques that most of us use to navigate most of our decisions in life — gathering information, evaluating it based on what we know, and choosing a course of action — can lead to spectacular failures when it comes to a scientific matter.

The reason is simple: most of us, even those of us who are scientists ourselves, lack the relevant scientific expertise needed to adequately evaluate that research on our own. In our own fields, we are aware of the full suite of data, of how those puzzle pieces fit together, and what the frontiers of our knowledge is. When laypersons espouse opinions on those matters, it’s immediately clear to us where the gaps in their understanding are and where they’ve misled themselves in their reasoning. When they take up the arguments of a contrarian scientist, we recognize what they’re overlooking, misinterpreting, or omitting. Unless we start valuing the actual expertise that legitimate experts have spent lifetimes developing, “doing our own research” could lead to immeasurable, unnecessary suffering.

Anyone with expertise who dips their toes into deconstructing pseudoscientific or crank claims regarding issues about which they are deeply knowledgeable will instantly realize that one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories is the cherry picking of studies, data, facts, and observations. The reason is simple. The people espousing pseudoscience tend not to look at the evidence base and then make their conclusions fit the evidence. Rather, they start with a conclusion and then go looking for facts, observations, and studies that support that conclusion, ignoring context and, often, uncertainty. It’s known as motivated reasoning, in which a bias towards a conclusion that conforms to what a person already believes leads that person to overvalue information that supports that belief and undervalue disconfirmatory information.

We all engage in motivated reasoning to one degree or another; it’s human nature. One of the main differences between most people and scientists and skeptics is that scientists and skeptics know motivated reasoning exists and make an active effort not to engage in it. It’s not easy, either, as evidenced by the lack of difficulty I have in thinking of scientists (and, yes, some skeptics) who have come to conclusions that appear to be based more in motivated reasoning than on an actual evaluation of the state of existing evidence. It’s easy to name the scientists who have let motivated reasoning guide them down the path of pseudoscience and quackery. All I have to do is to recount the list of physicians and scientists who have gone antivaccine (or become sympathetic to antivaccine viewpoints): Andrew Wakefield, Bob Sears, Kelly Brogan, Paul Thomas, James Lyons-Weiler, Christopher Shaw, Christopher Exley, Judy Mikovits, Theresa Deisher, and many others.

Siegel describes this process rather well:

There’s an old saying that I’ve grown quite fond of recently: you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into. When most of us “research” an issue, what we are actually doing is:

  • formulating an initial opinion the first time we hear about something,
  • evaluating everything we encounter after that through that lens of our gut instinct,
  • finding reasons to think positively about the portions of the narrative that support or justify our initial opinion,
  • and finding reasons to discount or otherwise dismiss the portions that detract from it.

Of course, that’s not what we think we’re doing. We think of ourselves as the heroes of our stories: cutting through misinformation and digging up the real truth on the matter. We think that, just by applying our brainpower and our critical reasoning skills, we can discern whose expert opinions are trustworthy and responsible. We think that we can see through who’s a charlatan and a fraud, and we can tell what’s safe and effective from what’s dangerous and ineffective.

Precisely. Many, if not most, of us have a far higher opinion of our critical thinking abilities than is actually warranted. (Some might argue that this description might also apply to me, and so it might, at least for some topics. One always has to take such a possibility under consideration and keep it in the back of one’s mind.) Many, if not most, of us also have a far higher opinion of our knowledge base than is actually warranted. Many, if not most, of us have a far greater confidence in our ability to spot grifters, cranks, pseudoscientists, and charlatans than we, in fact, possess, just as Siegel observes.

The trappings of expertise

This is, of course, exactly why advocates of quackery and pseudoscience so blatantly embrace the trappings of expertise. That’s why Andrew Wakefield, for instance, touts his credentials as a physician. (Never mind that the British General Medical Council yanked his medical license a decade ago) It’s why the deniers of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and those who embrace hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure went full astroturf and produced a video by “America’s Frontline Doctors” claiming that hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19 and that, because of that, we should reopen schools without concern that doing so might facilitate the spread of coronavirus and not bother with all those pesky mitigation measures like wearing masks and engaging in social distancing. After all, if there’s a cure, why bother with all the difficult methods of slowing the spread of the virus? Unfortunately, the viral video and was viewed tens of millions of times before social media companies removed it from their platforms. Worse, people believed it.

Taking a starring role in this rogue’s gallery of quacks was a Houston doctor and religious minister named Dr. Stella Immanuel:

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.

Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.

She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

In addition, there were several other doctors, including an ophthalmologist and founder of a cryptocurrency company named Dr. James Todaro; a emergency medicine doctor named Dr. Simone Gold known for promoting hydroxychloroquine; another emergency medicine doctor named Dr. Dan Erickson, co-owner of a chain of urgent care centers in Bakersfield, CA who made a name for splash in April with a poorly conceived and carried out “study” full of bad epidemiology that concluded that COVID-19 was far more widespread than thought and that the infection fatality rate was far lower than thought; Dr. Joseph Ladapo, an associate professor of medicine at UCLA and an ardent proponent for the “open up the economy” message who has downplayed the lethality of COVID-19; and Dr. Robert C. Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who argued for reopening the schools in the fall based on cherry picked studies and information and also made his political orientation very clear with a gratuitous swipe at teachers’ unions in his part of the video (Gizmodo later reported on a letter he wrote in the 1990s expressing anti-homosexual bigotry); and Dr. Richard Urso, an ophthalmologist who has been touting hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 and claims never to have seen a patient with a heart issue attributable to the drug.

Unsurprisingly, MedPage Today reported that there’s no evidence that any of the doctors in the video got near the “COVID front lines”. Over several days last week, the claims of these doctors were thoroughly refuted, in particular the claim that hydroxychloroquine is, in essence, a cure for COVID-19 that eliminates the need for social distancing and masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In fact, more and more, the evidence is trending strongly in the direction that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work.

What this incident demonstrated very clearly is that, not only are most people unable to evaluate medical claims, but there are a lot of actual physicians out there who are similarly unable to evaluate certain medical claims. It is very telling that these physicians consisted of ophthalmologists, emergency medicine doctors, and doctors who don’t actually have any expertise in virology, epidemiology, clinical trials, or the treatment of COVID-19. This is not a knock on ophthalmologists, emergency medicine doctors, etc., but rather an observation I use to make a point. Even experts in medicine frequently go astray when they wander outside of their field of expertise, particularly when the belief that they want to accept is linked somehow with their sense of self. In this case, it was the politics. These physicians all support President Trump, and President Trump has promoted hydroxychloroquine, downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19, and strongly pushed for the schools reopening, even when there is still doubt about whether it is safe to do so in many areas where the virus is still running rampant.

Basically, like any lay person, when faced with beliefs that they wanted to embrace, “America’s Frontline Doctors” engaged in motivated reasoning and sought out observations, evidence, and cherry-picked studies to give them a reason to support the belief, regardless of whether science actually did support the belief or not. Worse, they very intentionally used their status as physicians to promote those beliefs and persuade lay people to believe them, too. It worked to some extent, as well, although it would have worked a lot better if “America’s Frontline Doctors” had left Dr. Immanuel out of their membership. Her history of claims involving alien DNA and that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches led the hashtag #DemonSperm to trend on Twitter and provided an easy approach to debunking and discrediting her and, thus, the entire group. (It didn’t help that she called doctors doubting hydroxychloroquine fake doctors and the negative studies of the drug “fake studies,” all while accusing those same doctors of being like the “good Germans, the good Nazis” who “watched Jews get killed” and didn’t speak up.) Indeed, it wasn’t long before Dr. Hamilton sent out an open letter to the parents of his patients disavowing Dr. Immanuel’s hydroxychloroquine claims and the claims of other doctors that facemasks are of “no value” in combatting the spread of COVID-19.

Not “one must not do,” but “one must be humble”

Getting back to whether one “must not” do one’s own research, Siegel includes examples other science whose conclusions are not controversial among scientists but are ideologically or politically contentious. These include water fluoridation, human-caused climate change, vaccines, and many of the conclusions regarding COVID-19, correctly noting that, when it comes to evaluating most scientific claims:

Except, for almost all of us, we can’t. Even those of us with excellent critical thinking skills and lots of experience trying to dig up the truth behind a variety of claims are lacking one important asset: the scientific expertise necessary to understand any finds or claims in the context of the full state of knowledge of your field. It’s part of why scientific consensus is so remarkably valuable: it only exists when the overwhelming majority of qualified professionals all hold the same consistent professional opinion. It truly is one of the most important and valuable types of expertise that humanity has ever developed.

But only if we listen to it. It’s absolutely foolish to think that you, a non-expert who lacks the very scientific expertise necessary to evaluate the claims of experts, are going to do a better job than the actual, bona fide experts of separating truth from fiction or fraud. When we “do the research for ourselves,” we almost always wind up digging in deeper to our own knee-jerk positions, rather than deferring to the professional opinions of the consensus of experts.

This is largely true, but I do have a little quibble that I’ll get to in a moment.

First, though, in terms of “doing your own research”:

If you “do your own research,” you can no doubt find innumerable websites, social media accounts, and even a handful of medical professionals who are sharing opinions that confirm whatever your preconceived notions about COVID-19 are. However, do not fool yourself: you are not doing research. You are seeking information to confirm your own biases and discredit any contrary opinions. Each time you do this, you exemplify the problem of anti-science bias that Dr. Fauci warned about in June:

“If you go by the evidence and by the data, you’re speaking the truth and it’s amazing sometimes, the denial there is. It’s the same thing that gets people who are anti-vaxxers – who don’t want people to get vaccinated, even though the data clearly indicate the safety of vaccines. That’s really a problem.”

That is, of course, the problem today. There is a veritable tsunami of misinformation about science out there on social (and, truth be told, old) media. Some of it is intentional disinformation (e.g., antivaccine misinformation to sell products to treat autism or denial of human-caused climate change in order to protect the fossil fuel industry); much of it is ideological (e.g., the promotion of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 by Trump supporters); and some of it is religious (e.g., the denial of evolution by natural selection as the major driving force producing the diversity of life). All of it appeals to different people for one reason for another, and all of it can be justified by its believers using motivated reasoning.

There once was a time when it was possible for people without formal education in science to make observations about the universe and formulate them into laws and hypotheses that characterize reality. That time ended a long time. The reason is that science builds on what was discovered. The more it builds, the more background information there is that has to be mastered in order to be able to make useful contributions. Although there can be lots of controversy in science, certain fundamental things are agreed upon because overwhelming evidence has led scientists to provisionally accept them as correct. For instance, you can’t suddenly posit a “theory” that says that atoms aren’t made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, because there is a massive body of evidence that has led to a scientific consensus that they are, in fact, made up of such particles, whatever scientists choose to name them. At least, you can’t do it and have scientists take you seriously unless you can produce evidence that is at least compelling enough to call such well-established science into doubt. Cranks don’t acknowledge this and, through arrogance, think that they alone are able to see what all of science isn’t. As a result, they tend to be upset that science doesn’t recognize their apparent genius.

Many years ago, I once examined the contention that a “real skeptic always sides with the scientific consensus.” As I noted at the time, in matters of science it is undoubtedly true that the scientific consensus is always the best place to start when evaluating unfamiliar issues. While it is certainly possible that a given scientific consensus regarding an issue can be wrong in almost any area, it nonetheless almost always represents the best current scientific understanding. It is also correct that legitimate authority matters. I emphasize the word “legitimate” because in pseudoscience arguments from authority are common, but rarely is the authority relevant to the point being argued. Often it’s not even legitimate, as in when anti-vaccine activists point to Andrew Wakefield’s work as justification for their claims that vaccines cause autism and other conditions. I also noted that not all scientific consensuses are created equal because, in different fields the strength of scientific consensus can vary quite markedly depending upon the topic or even the subtopic within the topic. For example, the scientific consensus supporting the theory of evolution, particularly common descent, is exceedingly strong. It’s one of the strongest of all scientific consensuses, arguably the strongest. Similarly, the consensus that natural selection is a major driving force behind evolution is very nearly as strong. However, as the discussion devolves into more detailed areas, inevitably the consensus weakens. Eventually, subsidiary areas of a discipline are reached where the consensus is weak or where there is no consensus, such as what the function of “junk DNA” is, whether it is subject to natural selection, and if so how much. (Real evolutionary biologists could probably come up with a better example.) These sorts of questions are often at the cutting edge of scientific knowledge, and it is not always easy to recognize what they are. It is also these issues at the edge of our knowledge that are attacked as proxies for the much more strongly supported core theory.

This brings me back to COVID-19. What makes scientific conclusions about COVID-19 somewhat different than conclusions about vaccines is that the pandemic is new, having only been going on since the disease and virus were first recognized in China in late 2019, and the science is rapidly evolving. That makes it a particularly ripe area for cranks to promote bad science and pseudoscience, particularly given that they can easily invoke the “science was wrong before” trope in real time as new findings come in. However, there are several conclusions that are now pretty firm, including that masks work to slow the spread of coronavirus; that the virus spreads through respiratory droplets, particularly in enclosed spaces; that social distancing works. To that I add that hydroxychloroquine is almost certainly ineffective against COVID-19. It’s possible to challenge these conclusions, but if you do so, you’d better have strong evidence.

In the end, the way to judge claims that go against the current scientific consensus boils down at least as much to tactics and how evidence is used to support such contrarian arguments. Scientific skepticism looks at the totality of evidence and evaluates each piece of it for its quality. In contrast, cranks are very selective about the data they choose to present, often vastly overselling its quality and vastly exaggerating flaws in current theory, in turn vastly overestimating their own knowledge of a subject and underestimating that of experts. In medicine in particular, denialists frequently emphasize anecdotes over epidemiology, clinical trials, and science. They also tend to leap to confuse correlation with causation. Similarly, crankery, denialism, pseudoskepticism (or whatever you want to call it) tends, either intentionally through ideology or unintentionally through an ignorance of the scientific method, to conflate and/or confuse emotional, nonscientific, and/or ideological arguments with scientific arguments. This is not to say that scientists and skeptics and supporters of SBM are free from their own biases, whether ideological or simply a desired result that they hope to find. Far from it. However, skepticism means applying the scientific method to claims, and whatever its faults, the scientific method is the best method thus far devised to minimize these biases.

As scientists, the reason we use the scientific method is not because we consider ourselves superior to the cranks, but rather because we recognize that we are human too and thus just as prone to falling into the same traps as they. As Richard Feynman once famously said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.” The scientific method is, above all, a methodology by which scientists try to avoid fooling themselves. Skeptics cross the line dividing skepticism and denialism and quacks the line between science and quackery when they forget that. Doubting a scientific consensus is not in and of itself the mark of the crank. It’s how and why that skepticism exists that distinguishes crankery from genuine scientific skepticism.

The problem with “doing your own research” is that rarely does a lay person (or even a physician or scientist venturing too far outside of his area of expertise) have the background knowledge and skillset to be confident of avoiding crossing that line, whether intentionally or not. It’s not so much that you “must not do your own research.” It’s that you really need to understand that you probably can’t “do your own research” and that the conclusions you reach “doing your own research” are highly likely to be more in line with your prior beliefs than scientifically correct.

As Siegel puts it:

But that requires a kind of transformation within yourself. It means that you need to be humble, and admit that you, yourself, lack the necessary expertise to evaluate the science before you. It means that you need to be brave enough to turn to the consensus of scientific experts and ask, legitimately, what we know at the present stage. And it means you need to be open-minded enough to understand that your preconceptions are quite likely to be wrong in some, many, or possibly even all ways.

Humility! What a concept!

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]

106 replies on “On “doing your own research””

Cranks tell their followers to do their “own research” and then guide them in the first steps of motivated reasoning: they set the path.

When they present their ideas, they discourage followers from reviewing expert opinion / consensus because experts are all “bought and paid for” by various unsavoury malcontents ( Pharma, Government, Media). AND they pad their own resumes and contributions in cargo cult/ cosplay fashion, surrounding themselves with the trappings of science both physically and verbally, aping the very people they repudiate.( Mike Adams wearing a lab coat in his “lab” or calling oneself a “senior research fellow”,. a “clinician” or “board certified” as Null does)

But sceptics can provide tips into discerning how this is done. Orac mentions a few above. Personally, I find that use of language gives them away: they want to impress followers with arcane knowledge and terminology from bio, physio, medicine or chemistry, often used incorrectly:[ “neurones ( sic) have synopses (sic)” ] as well as the “experts” they select as relevant.

Interestingly, recent studies have shown that anti-vaxxers fail to recognise expertise/ hierarchies ( and value freedom and purity), thus an anti-vax mother may think herself the peer of Drs Hotez or Offit on the subject of vaccines if not their superior.

I understand why it’s the case. But it bothers me that delegitimizing a person – like Dr. Immanuel, or previously Andrew Wakefield – seems to resonate with so many more people than showing the substance of the claim is incorrect. It’s a testimony to the way humans work, and not a good one.

@ Dorit Reiss

Why is it that I fail to find any argument to oppose the content of your comment?…

Beats me…

We are naive. We assume that if we just present evidence for our claims, people will be convinced just like we were. Some people’s brains don’t work that way. How can it be that about a third of American adults embrace creationism despite the fact that literally all the evidence supports evolution? Motivated reasoning is hard – if not impossible – to overcome in many cases.

There are some simple steps that (almost) anyone can take: use Pubmed to see which “experts” actually have a research track record in relevant fields. Actually listen to what data the “expert” is citing rather than just to the conclusion. Look up the actual publication, look at the methods section, and rank the quality of the evidence. Look at what “experts” on the other side are citing, and rank the quality of that evidence. Look for some of the common methods of data distortion used by quacks and crackpots: picking a single data point rather than describing the entirety of a dataset, mentioning only one study when there are multiple studies completed, stating definite conclusions based on studies of low quality, using mismatched groups for comparison, etc.

Dr Ladapo, for example, has 96 entries on Pubmed but none are relevant to infectious disease, epidemiology, pharmacology, and apparently not a single clinical trial of a medication for any indication. Dr Fauci has over a 1000, and the first page of results are all infectious disease related. Even without having expertise in these fields, and without much scientific knowledge, it shouldn’t be hard to know who is more qualified on this issue. If I wanted to know whether I need a cardiac stress test, I’d maybe go to Dr Ladapo.

@ David

“Even without having expertise in these fields, and without much scientific knowledge, it shouldn’t be hard to know who is more qualified on this issue.”

True. But the problem in this approach is that people that come from a different background sometimes have important things to say on some topics, even if the value of their argument stands merely at the level of that of a hypothesis. After all, the guy that proved — essentially — that molecules existed was a meteorologist

So, essentially, if you are a layman, you have little reason to believe people with the wrong track record. When you are an expert, you should know better than to treat people on the basis of merely their track record, and you should look in their arguments. When you have time for that, of course…

However, when cranks come up onto the scene, they enjoy blurring the lines that I have sketched in the above paragraph. They legitimately (at least insofar as their claims have not been thoroughly debunked) play the “look into my arguments” card, but they instrumentalise and mislead the audience. This is what is so infuriating and rigidifies every position…

It remains that I do not find official experts thoroughly rigourous when it comes to evaluating claims contrary to their preconceived ideas. Specifically when it impacts public policy. I do believe that playing the crank card to dismiss contradiction is sometimes done pretty much out of reflex or ideology.

For instance, at my local university, I witnessed PhD students and post-docs engaging in self-glorification by equating anything that was not left wing with crankery and flat-earthism. I do not believe this attitude is very sensible, and if that is a way to try to grow in the shoes of a would-be scientist, I do consider that attitude both immature and damaging in the long term. It does infuriate right-wingers, and rather legitimately so, when such attitudes impact public debates on things like bioethics. We just had a law that has been voted in France on this topic. Had it been in Switzerland, I’m pretty sure the backlash would have taken the form of a popular “votation” to explain to the government that one cannot pretend to speak on behalf of other people just because they got elected.

Similarly, when I read how debates go in the world of expertise, among experts themselves, I’m not really in awe when it comes to their ability to weigh in all the aspects of a decision. I’m thinking typically of situations where large civil engineering decisions are to be evaluated. Such as dams. I’m therefore not overly confident in the power of expertise. Even for experts among other experts, it can be an uphill battle that can look like food fights.

But of course, this is way above the Greg and Aelxa Hill kind of nonsense…

I also do not enjoy hearing testimonials of women not wanting breast cancer surgery being blackmailed by nurses into submission with psychological projections of the anti-science variety. Look, you do not know the woman, and she hasn’t given any sign she even knows what the word “science” means, and you start treating her like shit because you’re a nurse? Do you really want to push her into the welcoming and warm arms of cranks? Because there is no better way to achieve that than behaving this way…

When I dreamed up the topic for my doctoral dissertation, I hoped I could just go get some random dataset, run a regression, and that would be the end of it. But I knew better. I had to take a ton of courses and have professors with decades of experience tell me that I knew the basics of epidemiology and biostatistics well enough to begin to understand the data I was looking at. Then I had to take additional courses in social determinants of health, violence, psychology, etc. More professors had to weigh in on whether or not I was understanding those concepts correctly. And then I had to take additional courses in the techniques in biostatistics and geographic information systems because of what I wanted to do with the gun violence data in Baltimore. And then I sat in on seminars related to institutional racism, social inequities and history of Baltimore.
Put together, I did thousands and thousands of hours of research just to write five chapters in a doctoral dissertation that it itself got torn apart by five professors with experience in each of the topics addressed in the dissertation.
I have similar hours of experience in vaccine science, biology, medical technology, etc.
I am yet to see anyone with a Google U degree show me an actual evaluation of any of their screeds. Especially the antivaxxers… They seem to think that just reading a scientific paper or listening to a lecture on YouTube is enough to make sure that they understand what they’re reading, or that the conclusions they’re reaching are based in reality.

( Most) adults learn how to self-evaluate their level of ability compared to others during adolescence HOWEVER based on what I’ve seen from contrarians,I sometimes REALLY wonder how widespread those skills are ( easy to look up: metacogniition, executive function, person perception, formal operational thought, social cognition) An adult should be able to judge that a few hours of googling is not the equivalent of decades of study, experience and research. BUT they don’t ! Self-designated experts in vaccines or autism usually quote little about how vaccines are developed and tested and how ASDs develop neurologically: they stick to altie memes and talking points: a severely constricted and unrealistic range of study.

Dr Barrett ( Quackwatch) wrote that people who serve in less authoritative roles in medicine are more likely to be attracted to alt med themes. It may be a way to increase their self-esteem by believing experts wrong. We’ve seen a societal level of rejection of expertise affecting politics and business as well as in science for years, A majority of the anti-vax advocates I read have little to no background in life science YET they continue critiquing SBM ( RFK jr, Del Bigtree, Wright, Rossi, Taylor, Jameson, Dachel etc). Similarly, accomplished woo-meisters/ alt med cultropreneurs set forth programmed “seminars” for followers to mimic: scoffers at RI present little originality in their screeds. I’ve heard read it all before.

There is much more but I need to avoid a headache.

Orac, being an antivaxxer, I am also a huge fan of doing my own research, but I am also most humble about it. No ego here; no sirree Bob!

Some here have noticed my return after a long absence. I am back because I was quite taken by Prof Frazer’s assessment of the challenges in developing a ‘safe and effective’ Covid vaccine, and I am hoping the knowledgeable folks here would help me, do my own research into this. That and I was also banned once again at Skeptical Raptor.

Folks, again Prof Frazer explaines…

There are several reasons why our upper respiratory tract is a hard area to target a vaccine.

“It’s a separate immune system, if you like, which isn’t easily accessible by vaccine technology,”
Your skin, and the outer layer of cells in your upper respiratory tract act as a barrier to viruses, stopping them getting into the body.

And finding a way to neutralize the virus “outside” of the body is very difficult.

This is partly because only the outer layer of cells (the epthelial cells) get infected, which, compared to a severe infection of internal organs doesn’t produce the same immune response, so is harder to target.

It’s hard to produce a successful vaccine if the virus isn’t activating a strong immune response.

Considering these points, what bearing do they have on such findings as antibodies to coronavirus disappearing after 3 months? Also, is there any relationship to some of the candidate vaccines, and especially why we would see over 80% of the participants in Moderna’s trial suffering adverse reactions? Is it a case of the unique challenges of provoking a immune response requires a potent vaccine, and that leads to more adverse reactions? It is said that typical vaccines only result in 15% adverse reactions. Granted that you guys are lying through your teeth about such figures, Moderna’s 80% figure is still huge!

So what do you say Athaic, Science Mom, Chris, Narad — Orac?! Will you help me do my research?

@ Greg

“Orac, being an antivaxxer, I am also a huge fan of doing my own research, but I am also most humble about it.”

You weren’t exactly humble when we were discussing this danish study.

All antivaxers are egoists.

The purpose of blogs like this one is to help people with healthy egos sort through the research.

Proof of your egotism is your quoting of an actual expert who shares information that had also been covered on this blog as if you discovered it by researching on ABC News.

Very well, Dangerous One, can you please point me to where it was covered, Hopefully that info will also address my query of why antibodies to Covid are disappearing so quickly, and why Moderna’s trial had so many adverse reactions.

I’m not particularly dangerous. Not sure where that comes from.

SR has their rolling post which covers just about everything. Just because you were banned doesn’t mean you can’t learn by reading it.

I could post more but you’ll probably find some reason not to like all of those. Of course there isn’t going to be a word for word repeat of Prof. Frazer’s comments.

You can’t compare 80% from a phase I trial to 15% in the field. Phase I trials aren’t statistically capable of estimating adverse reactions of a completed drug. Of course it could be a deal breaker but so far it is not meaningful.

The claim that antibodies disappear after three months is far from proven and we don’t know all the circumstances that would make it happen. But that’s why we test vaccines, so we don’t have to make stuff up.


Thanks for the attempt Christine, but nothing you wrote or linked addressed my queries. Again, if Prof Frazer is correct and vaccine technology is not suited for preventing coronavirus infections, what is the purpose for the current candidate vaccines. Is it only to lessen symptoms. Also, whether it’s ‘real’ that Covid antibodies are waning quickly is a separate matter. The issue is, if they are, is this consistent with Prof Frazer assessment that coronavirus infections typically produces a weak immune response.

Discouraging sweeping conclusions based on Internet pseudo-research and calling for humility in assessing one’s capabilities is, unfortunately, going to be an effective tactic only when applied to people who already have the capacity to know their own limitations.*

The logic involved will only bounce off the carapaces of those who (for example) triumphantly point to the frothings of a crank as being indisputable because “she’s an M.D./PhD!!! she’s really smart and who are YOU to criticize!!!”** You can point out that many thousands of experts with equal or more impressive degrees, not to mention actual qualifications and experience in the relevant field(s) do not agree with the woo-nuttery in question, and the silence will be deafening.

Thwarting the preening false confidence that one is superior to them there fancy-pants academics and Pharma-deceived docs by virtue of a Google education has to start early, as in grade school teaching of the elements of critical thinking, with frequent reinforcement later on.

*Dirty Harry said it well.
**said frequently in defense of Suzanne Humphries, Judy Mikovits, Stephanie Seneff and Tetyana Obukhanych, among others.
***the conviction that nurses “blackmail” women with breast cancer into getting surgery is another form of delusional thinking probably best left for another discussion.

@ Dangerous Bacon

“the conviction that nurses “blackmail” women with breast cancer into getting surgery is another form of delusional thinking probably best left for another discussion.”

Sure. I just do not like what I’ve witnessed and heard. Very curious as to how you’re going to argue about this. Explaining that there are no stats on the topic?

I have an uncanny gift. IRL, strangers tell me all their little medical secrets after 15 minutes of idle talk. These things happen, and I do not enjoy seeing and hearing stories of patients utterly confused about what happened to them. When people have no clue what “science” means and repeatedly complain about that kind of behaviour, which I’ve also witnessed in other contexts, it gets hard to dismiss on the mere basis of lack of stats.

People do complain that they are made fun of, or worse (shouted at), by some nurses when they explain that they do not want this or that kind of treatment.

How widespread are such behaviours, I cannot know. That this does not happen, that’s going to be a hard sell.

@Dangerous Bacon So your assertion is that if a cabal of 100 PhD holding scientists were to say that the moon is made out of cheese, and if you had fewer PhD scientists that disagreed with that, the moon would be made out of cheese? Sounds like a popularity fallacy. Copernicus would like a word.

The only way to get one hundred PhD scientists to agree on anything is to present them with a literal library of high quality data. Copernicus had the data.

Early in the pandemic, I read an interview with an Israeli-American Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine. Although not an epidemiologist, he bragged that “I understand numbers.” He made the prediction that, with reasonable safety measures, Israel would suffer “no more than about ten” deaths from COVID. I was disgusted with this claim, and have been following the situation in Israel ever since. The number now stands at over 600, and shows no sign of letting up.


There is a very popular kind of comfy mask going around (especially amongst food service employees) that is possibly making things worse — The fleece ones that sell for about 12 money and usually have a very stylistic, colorful facad stapled onto the front (I was in awe of the swirlly purple one the Cap D. fish slinger kid was sporting) — they are recognized by a sort of ‘glossyness’.

It may be that the mechanism is that the hydrophobic nature of that material is taking all of the droplets and expelling all of them shredded and smaller in size. What could possibly go wrong?

Those things are designed for exercising in the cold. They are made of a loosely knit hydrophobic fabric and are designed to let water droplets through.

I don’t see this as a huge catastrophe. It’s not proven they make things worse; it’s based on a model. Once word gets around people will stop wearing them and the manufacturers will tweak them. Plus I’ve not seen many of them as it’s really hot out.

I’ve seen a huge variety of masks and face coverings and I’ll say I haven’t noticed any fleece gaiters on any of the runners/cyclists I’ve seen. Which is somewhat meaningless because it’s limited to the people I’ve noticed in my immediate area.

But it’s good that this study is out now so when fall/winter comes people will know that their fleece buff isn’t enough and they need a normal mask too.

I have worn these recently while biking to run errands. They are much easier to deal with than a mask with ear loops, but yes, hot. I’m disappointed, but will stop using them.

“I have worn these recently while biking to run errands.”

I dunno but I don’t think it necessary to wear them outside and distanced. Your own turbulence on a bike would really scatter within a given volume — not the same as inside. Also, there is that idea of ‘variolation’ where a germ or two over time might do the trick; I wonder if my sealed facepiece HEPA bag might actually turn out to be a minus over this in the long run; maybe I should poke a hole in it?

Yes, as claimed by Washington Post with a sample size of only one. Such great science.

While I don’t in the slightest disagree with the post, I feel compelled to point out that sometimes a conclusion is so obvious that even a non-specialist can arrive at it.

Take the efficacy and safety of masking, as demonstrated throughout east Asia during the pandemic. Where masking up has long been the social norm the virus has been kept under control, even in dense and crowded cities. Masked people are packing mass transit in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul and it doesn’t seem to be a problem, which of course means that it isn’t newsworthy. There’s likely quite a bit more to the story, like universal health care and zealous efforts at testing and tracing, but the contrast with the rest of the world is rather striking.

Hillary Leung ( Time, March 2020) discussed that masks are nothing new in East Asia and they played a role in managing the SARS outbreak in 2002-3. A scientist from Hong Kong explains their merits

Well, I can say I thing about this article….

What is a surgeon doing making any comments at all about research studies, infectious disease, epidemiology, COVID-19, mask wearing, the efficacy of vaccines, whether vaccines are safe ad nausem. ……. if the premise of the article is valid?

Everyone makes decisions on what they believe based on their personal history, formal education, work experiences, continuing education and reading, etc.

Without those who question and challage all so-called “consensus” there would never had been any progress in human society. Copernicus would have been a farmer tolling in the field to raise food for his family, instead of a mathematician and astronomer challenging the “consensus” that the Earth was the center of the Universe. No, let me take that back, he would have been a hunter-gatherer carrying a spear, since agriculture would never have been invented.

Consensus would have prevented agriculture from ever being developed. Shit, he would have been throwing rocks, since consensus would have prevented the invention of spears.

Progress also means challaging the idea that every new invention is positive and thus not to be challage. Just look at global warming, due to the idea that you can burn carbon that was sequestered away in the ground and no harm will come of it.

Well, the idea that you can pump people full of metals and elements that were previously sequestered away in the Earth, and not expect there to be without serious consequence, is just as false.

Whether Asbestos, Arsenic, Lead or Aluminum or Titanium….the human body never evolved in an environment where there was much of these elements, so does not have the systemsvto deal effectively with them. Which is why these substances can damage the human body and even kill over time.

But apparently Carbon is bad, but Aluminum is good. What strange conclusions.

Bad analogy Aelxa. At the very start of a branch of science everyone is pretty much equal. Your hunter gatherer would have known, on average, just as much as everyone else. Now imagine your hunter gatherer trying to tell a subsidence farmer in modern day Nepal how to grow rice and horseradish. Imagine that every little thing you point out has already been thought of by people who actually study in this field. Why isnt it a big thing? Well, maybe you are not as smart as you think you are, the questions you ask have already been answered to the best of current abilities.


I remember one scientist who was quoted back in the 19th Century that there was nothing left to discover, physics was completely figured out. And multitudes then had the same consensus.

Thank goodness for Einstein, et al for continuing to think beyond the known parameters of established physics of his day. Otherwise, we would still be living in the 19th Century.

You can call me incorrect all you want…back in the 1960s I was telling people if we kept burning carbon, the sea would start rising in their lifetime, and I was called a freaking crank back then. Opps, I guess I was right 50 years ago.

Right now, I can tell you the rage for putting Titanium in everything from kids candy to medications is perhaps even worse than Aluminum, which I banned from the house in the 1970s.

Titanium actually can make holes in your brain, not just scramble the electrical signals like Aluminum does….

It also, messes up the immune system….

Not to mention the kidneys….

If you do not like fish, let’s look at the effects on mice, remember so much of what we know is based on mouse studies, Like the ones we did at university……

So keep on eating foods cooked in Aluminum and injecting Aluminum, you have got an even bigger problem with Titanium, which was first produced as a metal in 1910. Even in 1980 it was an expensive and rarely used metal, now it is in everything they can put it into. That white icing on your wedding cake is made white with titanium, instead of Zinc which our bodies are usually low in and can actually use in metabolic processes.

@Aelxa Hill You do not know about physics history. Greenhouse effect was known before WW II. People just did not do anything with it. And physics did have obvious holes.

You know what Einstein did Aelxa? He used scientific methodology to make predictions based on his theories. Real observations showed those predictions to be correct. In other words, he carried out real science. What he didn’t do was postulate something in contradiction to all collected evidence and then claim an international conspiracy when everyone didn’t unquestionably accept his genius.

I imagine you read his mathematical papers and understood everything he talked about eh?

@Aarno Syvaenan

Entschueldigen Sie mir bitte, as my keyboard has no umlaeut I spelled out your last name.

Actually since your name is Scandinavian you should know that the first paper on fossil fuels causing global warming was published in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927).

Here is a link to a PDF of his paper……

The Irish physicist John Tyndall started in 1859 to publish papers on the greenhouse effect…..

But it was actually a women
Eunice Foote who demonstrated the heat-trapping Carbon Dioxide causes in 1856, as the article above points out.

And Frenchman Joseph Fourier published work on the greenhouse effect in a book in 1822 …….

He did not call it the greenhouse effect, but made a mathematical analysis showing the Earth’s atmosphere acts as an insulator keeping heat trapped inside near the Earth’s surface.

All these scientists were trying to figure out why the Earth had been warming up so much since the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1760……

I learned all this stuff back in the 1960s, except for Eunice Foote which is new information. So try to teach me something new, bubba. I have been studying physics and science since I was 7 and discovered the Refence Section of my town’s Public Library, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and other reference books in that part of the library. I was a child so I was not allowed in the Adult Book Section until I started university at 16, but was allowed in the Reference Section as a child.

The problem is “concensus” among many scientists and all of the public denied Global Warming until the last 20 years, and there are still Right Wing of-do birds out there who continue to deny it.

I spent 50 years telling people about the ocean rising in their lifetimes, and now it is here and everyone is talking about it but doing nothing. Fortybyears ago I urged people to see about buying up the largest carbon sink in the world, the Amazon, to protect it as the Amazon was the last domino in stopping Global Warming….

And now we are watching the Amazon go up in smoke, because China needs soybeans. God, people are so clueless. I moved on top of a mountain over 24 years ago, away from my beloved coast, because I saw the seas already rising swiftly. It takes alot of water to raise the ocean by 12 inches, and between 1950 and 2000 things were melting fast.


Yes, I read Einstein’s theories, did I completely understand them ? No. They were all theory, with no proofs. And they contradicted physics at the time and were hotly debated and it took a long time to prove any of his work.

No, I am not good at mathematics. But I read them and read other books written much later that discussed the theories and how those theories changed the world.

It was not until very recently that it was proved conclusively that the speed of time changed for a person in Space vs a person on Earth, and even for a person who lives 300 feet higher from sealevel than a person who lives at the seashore……

You are assuming things that are not true. Most of the effects of his theories are still assumed and not Proven.

As to whether you can take a space ship and leave Earth, and return younger than everyone you left behindvon Earth? Not Proven yet, someone needs the build a ship, leave for a decade or two speeding away from Earth,and then come back to prove it is true.

Physics is fun, but alot of theory is still that, theory.

Yes, I read Einstein’s theories, did I completely understand them ? No. They were all theory, with no proofs. And they contradicted physics at the time and were hotly debated and it took a long time to prove any of his work.

This is really a precious bit of white-hot stupid. The prediction for the precession of the perihelion of Mercury was confirmed in 1915. Guess what came somewhat earlier that year.

Actually since your name is Scandinavian

You can’t make this level of shit up.

as my keyboard has no umlaeut [sic] I spelled out your last name.

Did you know that Yosemite Sam was Jewish?

Time dilation has been tested and supported by data. Two ultra accurate clocks were used. One was placed on a high speed jet and flown at top speed for as long as was possible. The moving clock was indeed younger than the stationary clock.

The impetus for the development of the theory of relativity was the Michelson-Morley experiment. There were components of it bouncing around but relativity was proposed as an explanation of the unexpected results of the experiment.

The primary conclusion of Michelson and Morley was that the speed of light is the same in all reference frames. At that time light was known to behave as a wave and the logical conclusion was that something was waving. The experiment was designed to find the direction of the waving relative to the motion of earth.

Once you accept that the speed of light is the same in either a moving or stationary frame (relative to an observer) time dilation is provable.

“The impetus for the development of the theory of relativity was the Michelson-Morley experiment.”

The historical record is different, but with ambiguity since Einstein was never explicit on this point. There is no record if he was aware of M-M at the time (he didn’t say) although those close to him said that they believed he was aware. Science results and papers back then didn’t flow as easily as today so it was very easy to be unaware of contemporary result.

What he was more clear on was that he was motivated by Maxwell’s EM theory. He was concerned that lines of E and M force would suffer a “disconnection” when a body was in motion. Although he never said it he appears to have guessed early on that a part of the solution was a constant measured speed of light (all EM, really).

Apparently his lack of reaction to hearing about M-M was because he had already believed it to be true and that Lorentz transforms were physical. Perhaps M-M gave him confidence that he was on the right track.

The history of scientific discovery is often more nuanced that the stories that are told about it afterward, especially far in the future.

@ F68.10:

I hope that this shows up in the right place even though OT., i.e. not the MM equation.

Good news first, I looked at obituaries for the recent weeks and no Joel Harrison in his town. Although not everyone puts one in, I think he might have arranged something in advance.
BUT, his county has had a great deal of Covid cases.

My other searches didn’t turn up any leads.

Two people who may have a way to reach him are Science Mom and Orac’s “friend” at SBM because his articles have appeared at both of their sites.
When a popular commenter didn’t contribute for a while, I think that Orac tried to contact her. Maybe if we beg?.

@ Denice Walter

“Maybe if we beg?”

Yes. I do beg. I’m not happy about how things turned out. I also do not wish to intrude on Joel’s private life, so I’m not going to insist. But if we can convince him to come back, assuming nothing dire happened to him, I’d be grateful.

“You also forgot to mention Heaviside”

I didn’t forget Heaviside. His story is beyond the scope of my narrowly focused comment. He’s a very interesting character in his own right. For example, simplifying Maxwell’s system of equations. It’s unfortunate that he isn’t better known.

But regarding the transform itself, it is no surprise that quite a few theorists came up with something like it or exactly the same thing. Necessity is the mother of invention and when the need arises the solution shows up in many places at about the same time. Just look at the dispute between Newton and Leibniz!

Einstein was notable for elevating the transform to a physical phenomenon from what was seen as little more than a mathematical description. He did a similar thing with quantization of light by making physical Planck’s mathematical device to resolve the so-called ultraviolet catastrophe.

Science is a community effort, something that is often forgotten when we notice only a few of the brightest lights. We see the pinnacle and forget the foundations.

@ rs

We share the same opinion concerning Heaviside. I would also stress that he was instrumental in the development of modern algebra. Some kind of hands-on precursor of the school of thought that gathered around Emmy Noether. He’s a vivid example of how mathematics are not merely driven by axiomatic considerations, but also concrete questions that beg for adequate formalism. I won’t go too much into this specific topic, but wave calculus still is a very foundational issue in modern mathematics. So-called micro-local analysis fascinates me.

Time dilation has been tested and supported by data.

I think Gravity Probe B has pretty much lain this to rest.

“Time dilation has been tested and supported by data.”

Moreover, GPS must constantly correct for it:

Everything from lensing to frame dragging that was depicted in the General Relativity model-generated scene from Interstellar has been observed directly (in radio wavelengths) now*.

That mass (and energy because equivalency) warps space was first demonstrated during an eclipse May 29, 1919.

*I was going to post Ethan Siegel’s breakdown on it but decided not yet until there is some clarification on this:

I get he is somewhat part of a ‘collective’ now on Forbes, but bruhh?

There is a lot of nonsense here which I will not address. Orac respects the expertise of professionals in other fields; many do not (see my comment above about the Nobel laureate who predicted no more than ten deaths from COVID-19 in Israel (it’s over 600)). Orac condemns the cranks in other fields, because he listens to the experts in those fields. You can cherry-pick examples of when consensus views were overturned, but you don’t read much about the cranks who challenged the consensus view and were wrong, do you? The scientific method should be applied universally, but there are those who, unintentionally or through bias, do not do so.

“Metallothioneins are small, cysteine-rich, metal-binding proteins that have various biological functions, which include essential metal homeostasis, heavy metal detoxification, and cellular antioxidative defense.”
It is odd that evolution gave us ways to metabolize and control metals in the body if our ancient pristine perfect eden of a world didn’t have these for us to run into.

The system for dealing with metals is no different than the body’s system for dealing with sugar….if you overwhelm it wit too much metal it can not cope .

Never in human history has the human body had to deal with huge toxic levels of metals in everyday life, like it has in the last 50 years. And metals that were rare or nonexistent in the case of Titanium.

We can track the Lewis and Clark expedition by the amount of mercury in the camp waste pits.

Julian, perhaps the average person is ‘stupid’,, but I think an important point is being missed. Sometimes it pays to be stupid. For example, a ‘smart,’ new parent can listen to the ‘smart’ experts and fully vaccinate her kid. That will earn her a 1 in 30 chance of having a disabled autistic child (that is said vaccines don’t cause), as well as sparing her child largely mild infectious diseases. On the otherhand, a ‘stupid’ parent that listens to the ‘stupid’ cranks and not vaccinate her kid, in the extraordinary event that the cranks are right, that parent would escape having an autistic child, and only face marginal increased risk that her child will come down with said largely mild infectious diseases. Julian, what is a smart — or stuoid!– parent to do?

“For example, a ‘smart,’ new parent can listen to the ‘smart’ experts and fully vaccinate her kid. That will earn her a 1 in 30 chance of having a disabled autistic child (that is said vaccines don’t cause), as well as sparing her child largely mild infectious diseases. On the otherhand, a ‘stupid’ parent that listens to the ‘stupid’ cranks and not vaccinate her kid, in the extraordinary event that the cranks are right, that parent would escape having an autistic child, and only face marginal increased risk that her child will come down with said largely mild infectious diseases.”

Your ability to cram a boat load of lies and just plain crap into a single paragraph seems to be your only talent. Demonstrating any level of understanding certainly isn’t in your toolkit.

The average person isn’t stupid. How can average intelligence be defined as stupid? What IS stupid is assuming intelligence is all you need. I meet average people every day and they are consistently unable to perform what I would call their day job at a factory through lack of training and lack of experience and incorrect thought processes. The average person has no comprehension of the complexity of life in its smallest parts.

You guys are like back seat drivers, without any driving experience. Looks easy, you’ve seen it done and read the highway code but put you in the driver’s seat and you’ll blame all the other drivers on the road for being out to get you.

Just a reminder: Greg doesn’t believe in reading books, and looks askance upon those who do read books.

In case you’ve forgotten what he’s like.

Your ability to cram a boat load of lies and just plain crap into a single paragraph seems to be your only talent. Demonstrating any level of understanding certainly isn’t in your toolkit.

Criticize all you want, Dean. What can’t be refuted though is the fact that there are now a lot of ‘smart’ parents wishing to God that they had been more ‘stupid’.

Kim Rossi (fka Stagliano) has a daughter who is both completely unvaccinated and autistic. Strange that. It’s as if vaccines have nothing to do with autism.
Oh, wait.

@Julian Frost

Remember, the incidence of Autism before 1991 was 1 in just over 2,000 children.

In the 1960s, it was 2 to 4 children per 10,000 children in the US…..

The more we use metals which used to be rare and chemicals that were non-existent before…..the higher the incidence of Autism goes.

The whole thing is a cumulative mess and cocktail soup of crap in our air, soil, foods water, and medications which include vaccines.

You can continue to think that this toxic soup is ok, but from 2 to 4 kids in 10,000 children in the 1960s having Autism, to now 1 kid in 36 kids having Autism is a Pandemic. And it is NOT better diagnosis that changed the numbers.

We have an epidemic of horrendous size when it comes to Autism, and to think each year the numbers change, soon it will be 1 kid in 20 children, then 1 in 10 children…..when do you expect to take action? When all children are born with Autism?

I know I should not feed the troll, but under what version of the DSM?

I was assured in 1991 by a child neurologist that my non-verbal kid was not autistic because he laughed. Though sometimes it was just random. Then several years later he was diagnosed with Autism Level 2 under DSM-6.

Please tell me what changed during that time? I know my kid actually did speak… after at least ten years of speech therapy. It is not perfect but much better than before, but other than becoming an adult instead of a toddler. He is also literate. What changed? Did something happen to make a nonverbal child who improved te become a verbal literal autistic adult? The young man or the definition?


What changed? According to the Study of Autism from 1931 to 2014, the definitions kept changing and the recognition of Autism itself became widespread among physicians and therapists.

My son was classified as “Emotionally/Behaviorly Disturbed” until he was finally diagnosed by Duke University when he was in Middle School. Despite medical records of brain damage after vaccination causing cardiac and respiratory arrest, they kept insisting he was just defiant and uncooperative. Though he was totally non-verbal through Kindergarten to the Third grade, and he had had on-going Speech Therapy from before he was one year old, since he had been talking before he got his six month vaccination that caused his arrest.

Children can also work hard to overcome their disabling condition, as long as you work with them.

Of course vaccines do not cause autism. This has been ptoved agian and again. Qnd measles is so mild that it can kill. Repetation of lies do not make a truth.

@Aelxa Hill:

Remember, the incidence of Autism diagnosis before 1991 was 1 in just over 2,000 children.


The more we use metals which used to be rare and chemicals that were non-existent before…..the higher the incidence of Autism goes.

Do you know what has an even tighter correlation to the rise in autism diagnoses?
The consumption of organic foodstuffs.
Correlation is not causation.

And it is NOT better diagnosis that changed the numbers.

The definition of autism was broadened, awareness of autism has increased, people are now diagnosed as autistic who would be given a different diagnosis, and a lot of people who were autistic were only diagnosed as adults. I dispute your conjecture.

According to the Study of Autism from 1931 to 2014, the definitions kept changing and the recognition of Autism itself became widespread among physicians and therapists.

You just contradicted yourself.

I swear I didn’t want to get caught up in this usual VCA kerkuffle again! I came back simply to discuss Prof Frazer’s arguments about the difficulties in producing a Covid vaccines/ Why doesn’t anyone want to humour me and discuss the matter?!

Yet, on the point that being ‘smart’ is overrated. hear me out. As explained, you can be a ‘smart’ parent who followed all the rules, and still be left with a severely autistic child that is tearing up your home and life — and in so many ways!– that upon reflecting. it will always inspire the WTF acronym. Likewise, you can be like many here whose educational pursuits landed them advanced degrees in the medical/science field, and only to now find yourself no different than a typical street dealer thug, peddling your poisons and lying about the harms that they’re causing. What! — you call yourselves ‘doctors’ and you say you are making people feel ‘better’ and ‘healthier’?! Well street dealers say the same damn thing!

Again — what is the point of ‘intelligence’ if it is not going to benefit the person or species in any meaningful ways?!

PS: Some of the street dealer drugs may indeed have their merits.

Gerg gergles:

PS: Some of the street dealer drugs may indeed have their merits.

Judging by his output, I expect that he’s very familiar with these “merits”.

@ TBruce

“Judging by his output, I expect that he’s very familiar with these “merits”.”

Well, they do sometimes abide by the “Do no harm” mantra:

Dealer: “Yes, I’ll wait, yes… You need something else, bro?”

Bernie: “Do you have anything against nightmares?”

Dealer: “Nightmares”?

Bernie: “Recently, I’m always having the same dream: I swim in the Seine river, and, suddenly, I swallow a rat. Then I choke, and I drown, and at the bottom, there are oysters. They grab my ankles, so I then puke the rat on the oysters, the rat attacks the oysters, I swim back to the surface, hit a barge with my head, and then I wake up.”

Dealer: “Shit… It’s no use me giving you anything!”

Bernie: “That’s true? Fuck! That’s great. Thanks. See ya!”

Dealer: “See ya…”

@F68.10, I really need to review my French. It would help if I didn’t have so much noise in the background.

But, it’s a cute moment.

Brings to mind “L’Inconnue de la Seine”.

@ Alexa: “The more we use metals which used to be rare and chemicals that were non-existent before…..the higher the incidence of Autism goes.”

It’s nice that you think that, but may I suggest that you look into what materials were in use in the late 19th and early 20th century in developed countries in food, cosmetics and household furnishings?

There was so much arsenic in green wallpaper that it made people sick from just being in the room. Facial cosmetics contained lead for centuries. And food! For starters I’d suggest The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum.
In Victorian England cheap bread was often full of things like plaster or alum to stretch the flour.

“Chemicals” weren’t invented in the 1950s. In some ways we live in a more healthful environment than our ancestors.

@Julian Frost

If you read the epidemiological study covering Autism from 1931 to 2014 you would see the discussion on how the diagnosis of Autism changed over the years. Since the diagnosis parameters changed over the decades, they made adjustments to take that into account, looking at the reported behaviors instead of the diagnosis placed on the child, in order to make certain they were comparing children with the same behaviors.

Multiple excuses have been written to account for the increasing incidence of Autism, such as persons who had other diagnoses were now being diagnosed with Autism. They found that as not true.

The genetic excuse also does not fly. While 98% of people with Autism have the MTHFR variants C677T or A1298C, 60% of people without Autism also have these variants.

If there was an identified gene causing Autism in every person who has the gene, a simple blood test would be used as a diagnosis protocol, instead of days of testing, interviews with the child and parents, and written observations by parents, doctors and teachers.

The diagnosis of Autism has increased from 1 in over 2,000 children in the 1960s….to 1 in 36 children in 2020. I grew up in the 1950s, believe me if ever 1 in 36 persons had had Autism in the 1960s, it would have been highly noticeable. If 1 in 36 persons had any mental problem it was have been highly noticeable, and it was non-existant.

The BS about organic food is that, just BS, food back in the 1960s was not sprayed with any of the chemicals used today. In fact, the conventional food back then was almost organic in the way it was grown. Minimal chemicals of any kind other than artificial fertilizer.

Vaccination before 1970 was minimal, I got only Small Pox and Polio vaccines that had no adjuvants.

@ Aelxa Hill

“If there was an identified gene causing Autism in every person who has the gene, a simple blood test would be used as a diagnosis protocol”

You really are able to spew a shitload of bullshit. The fact that autism is genetic does not mean that there is a single nor identified gene responsible for it.

The same discussion applies for quite a number of diagnostic categories, and it just so happens that it is a whole panel of genetic combinations that are considered responsible for the genetic component of these categories. Not one single gene… at all.

And I also have a beef with this concept of “genetic” psych categories. I feel everyone is putting quite a lot of personal interpretation in what “genetic” means. Not a big fan of the way twin studies tend to be interpreted… Nonetheless, the claim that there is a very consequential genetic component in autism does not imply in any way that there is a unique identified gene…

Moreover, if we identify a gene that is considered associated with this or that condition, it just may happen that that association may be statistically significant, but not clear-cut enough to legitimate diagnostic procedures based on genetic information. It would yield to many false positives…

This is therefore a whole shitload of bullshit that you are spewing.

If you read the epidemiological study covering Autism from 1931 to 2014

Where is that again? It certainly wasn’t the link you provided in the first place, but perhaps you’ve fixed that.

@Just Tech

Perhaps you need to read more carefully, I have already mentioned in two different comments about Arsenic used to make green paint which was used in wallpaper in the 1800s making people sick and killing them.

Then I mentioned Asbestos being known in the late 1800s and early 1900s to make people sick and give them Cancer, yet it was not banned until 2009.

Now we have Titanium, which has studies that already show it literally makes holes in brains. Yet the FDA allows it in everything we eat that is white colored…from candy to medications.

Try re-reading all my posts before commenting.

If Autism was genetic then people would have family members for generations who had Autism. Their were none in my family or my husband’s family.

And you can talk to multitudes of people whose children have Autism, and very, very rarely are there any people in previous generations who had Autism.

My son was fine and even had a 20 word vocabulary at 6 months, he got his six month vaccination and was damaged beyond repair and has Autism.

@Aelxa There is no one gene causing autism, the estimate is 300. lists a few of thewm.

Greg on 11 Aug:

For example, a ‘smart,’ new parent can listen to the ‘smart’ experts and fully vaccinate her kid. That will earn her a 1 in 30 chance of having a disabled autistic child (that is said vaccines don’t cause), as well as sparing her child largely mild infectious diseases.

Greg on 12 Aug:

I swear I didn’t want to get caught up in this usual VCA kerkuffle again! I came back simply to discuss Prof Frazer’s arguments about the difficulties in producing a Covid vaccines

Watch out for the cognitive dissonance, Greg.


“Watch out for the cognitive dissonance, Greg.”

Hypocrisy mass has reached Chandrasekhar threshold:

@Aelxa Hill Autism in a genetic condition. And speaking about metals, usage of mercury have gone down lately. So environmental mercury do not autism. As well known, it causes Minamata disease.

Another link dump? OK then.
First link is published in a Springer journal, mentions the quack diagnosis Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants (ASIA), and cites Exley, Shaw, and Tomljenovic.
Second cite has Joanna Filon as lead author, a sample size of 30 and a control group of 30, and cited the Geiers, Deisher,and JB Adams.
The title of your third cite is “Increased Release of Mercury from Dental Amalgam Fillings due to Maternal Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields as a Possible Mechanism for the High Rates of Autism in the Offspring: Introducing a Hypothesis”. It cites David Geier.
Fourth cite is from “Translational Psychiatry”, a name that suggests quackery. Sample size 34.

In this study, we directly measure both toxic and nutrient metals deposited into each participant’s deciduous teeth during gestation and early in infancy (first 9 months of age) to determine if such metals have a long-term association with changes in bioenergetics in children with ASD.

Fifth cite has David and Mark Geier as authors.
Sixth cite only mentions autism in passing.
From the seventh cite:

For all but two of the associations between thimerosal and autism, results were most consistent with a pattern due to chance, demonstrated by ORs of small magnitude (most between 0.9 and 1.2), above and below the null, and with confidence intervals spanning the null, suggesting that thimerosal does not increase autism risk (Fig. 6). This assessment is consistent with previous reviews, including the Institute of Medicine review from 2004, which concluded that “the body of epidemiological evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism,” several other reviews, and a meta-analysis published in 2014.One exception to the pattern of no association was an estimate of thimerosal from multiple vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorder with regression; this result was markedly protective/inverse but imprecise and inconsistent with biologic plausibility. The second exception was from a study of thimerosal from hepatitis B vaccination in the 1st month of life, limited to males, that showed an elevated association. This result has not been included in prior reviews. Alternate explanations of this elevated result include (1) the failure to adjust for temporal trends, (2) random error and a consequent bias away from the null given that only 30 cases were included, or (3) that non-mercury constituents of the hepatitis B vaccine could increase autism risk.

Or in other words, no link between thimerosal containing vaccines and autism.

Cite 8 conclusions:

Some air toxics were associated with ASD risk and severity, including some traffic-related air pollutants and newly-reported associations, but other previously reported associations with metals and volatile organic compounds were not reproducible.

Cite 9 has Boyd Haley and the Geiers as authors.
Cite 10 is Autism spectrum disorder prevalence and proximity to industrial facilities releasing arsenic, lead or mercury. Nothing to do with vaccination at all. At this point I gave up.

You’ve just link-dumped a bunch of articles that either don’t help your case, or even hurt it.

Don’t miss out on a chance to pre-order this book due out next year, RI’ers:

“Ending Plague continues the New York Times bestselling team of Dr. Judy A. Mikovits and Kent Heckenlively with legendary scientist, Dr. Francis W. Ruscetti joining the conversation.”

Looks like Frank Ruscetti can be added to the list of formerly respected scientists, now suffering from Emeritus Syndrome.

In July, Kent and Mikovits released The Case Against Masks.Right, as the pandemic raged, they rail against masks. In addition, one of his posts ( The Bolen Report, in the past few weeks) includes a video which he shows how much Carbon Monoxide accumulates (with a meter) when you wear a mask ( guess why it accumulates!) as he narrates how masks are ‘great’ in order to evade YouTube censors because he’s giving untrustworthy information .

“…one of his posts ( The Bolen Report, in the past few weeks) includes a video which he shows how much Carbon Monoxide accumulates (with a meter) when you wear a mask”

This is why surgeons typically fail to survive residency.

@Denice Walter

“…he shows how much Carbon Monoxide accumulates (with a meter) when you wear a mask….”

He must be placing that mask on the tailpipe of a car to get a Carbon Monoxide reading, humans exhale Carbon Dioxide not Monoxide.

And if CO2 accumulated inside masks, then anyone in the OR during any operation would be falling asleep in the middle of the darn operation. But we have real studies that prove this is not true.

How anyone can believe a You Tuber video is beyond me, it is as bad as using Wikipedia, though Wikipedia is nowhere as bad as U Tube.

You can’t interpret sarcasm, can you?. You take it literally?
I am laughing at an idiot anti-vaxxer who is trying to prove masks dangerous and game You Tube so his bullshit doesn’t get him banned because it’s dangerous.

Heckenlively also scares people about the “deadly dangers” of vaccination,

See search function: Kent Heckenlively

Just a stray observation:
while alt med advocates/ anti-vaxxers often mime SBM by citing RCTs, peer reviewed studies, statistical analysis, scientific journals etc they never seem to discuss consensus except to disparage the rampant corruption/ poor results in consensus They can’t. They are brave maverick, paradigm shifters who are soon to transform the landscape of scientific inquiry by their bold results. Virtually no one agrees with them. Their general public audience is unaware of this fact.

If you survey the questions that amateurs ask or the studies they suggest, they do not resemble those in professional circles at all: they ask questions ( or propose studies) that have already been rejected, deemed unrelated or that have nothing to do with what is being investigated at present. SBM builds upon previous results: a proposal for new research needs to mention of the earlier studies that support and lead up to the newer question. Anti-vax mothers decry funding for research in the genetics of autism or early indicators of autism because these areas negate their raison d’etre:’ Vaccines cause autism’ because both events occur prior to the most suspected vaccines. Similarly, natural foods advocates may be interested in what food toxins cause cancer while SBM focuses on quite different, complex models involving genetic influences. As Orac can tell you..

The models naive scientists propose reveal their level of understanding the system they discuss.

Let’s see:
the Geiers, Shaw, Exley, Hooker, the Whisteblower, the “skyrockecting” rate of autism, Gerg…
am I in a time warp?

I know that 2020 is awful but must we travel back to the 2010s?

From the ‘can’t make this stuff up’ department:

John McAfee knows a thing or two about viruses, but not the kind face masks are meant for — so he was apparently arrested in Norway for wearing a thong over his face instead of a proper cover, according to a report.

“He was not arrested for wearing the thong as a mask. He was arrested for refusing to replace it with a ‘medically certified’ over the ear mask. I refused as well. But they chose to arrest John, and leave me be.”

In a subsequent tweet, McAfee announced that he was “back in Belarus and, with the exception of a black eye, no worse for wear.

@aelxa hall
Aluminium is third most common element, so every living thing has a way to handle it. If you want to reduce aluminium intake, you should check were you can get your aluminium.
Kennedy himself has paper:
Volume 2015 |Article ID 545674 | 9 pages |
Assessment of Hair Aluminum, Lead, and Mercury in a Sample of Autistic Egyptian Children:
Environmental Risk Factors of Heavy Metals in Autism
Farida El Baz Mohamed, Eman Ahmed Zaky, Adel Bassuoni El-Sayed, Reham Mohammed Elhossieny,
Sally Soliman Zahra , Waleed Salah Eldin, Walaa Yousef Youssef,1 Rania Abdelmgeed Khaled,
and Azza Mohamed Youssef
“There were significant differences regarding the amount of sea food eaten per month by mothers
during pregnancy. Also, there were significant differences regarding exposure to other environmental
risks in pregnancy as maternal exposure to immunoglobulin D (anti-D), dental amalgam, painting, old
house age, and maternal smoking. But there were no significant differences in infancy regarding vaccination,
Table 1.”
Kennedy tells the Truth, does he not?

In other news … ( I didn’t want to put it in the newest post) has a new section, Walk away from Wikipedia which isn’t anything new but it has a Wiki Fact Sheet that includes the low down on various sceptics including people we know WITH PHOTOS. Yes, a certain well-known sceptical surgeon is pictured TWICE ! Once wearing surgical gear.
Be very afraid, sceptics! They have a petition up ; next thing you know, they’ll be calling the management.

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