Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Pseudoscience Quackery Science Skepticism/critical thinking

Science denial: A form of conspiracy theory

Regular readers of this blog know that many forms of quackery and science denial have conspiracy theories associated with them, but a further examination suggests that all science denial a form of conspiracy theory. In the middle of a deadly pandemic, it is a form of conspiracy theory with potentially deadly consequences.

Last week, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe host and founder of Science-Based Medicine Steve Novella wrote what I considered to be an important post about the danger of conspiratorial thinking to science-based medicine (SBM), noting that anything that threatens the institutions of science, such as science denial and conspiratorial thinking is a huge threat to science. He correctly noted one example of pseudoscience that is based on conspiracy theory, namely the antivaccine movement. Indeed, I once noted that all antivaccine views—and, no, I’m not going to qualify that statement, as I do mean all antivaccine views—are ultimately based on, or, in the case of the vaccine-hesitant at least supported by, a grand conspiracy theory that six years ago I dubbed “the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement.”

What is that conspiracy theory? Regular readers will recognize it immediately when I characterize it. In brief, the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement is that vaccines are dangerous (and, in many tellings, ineffective) but that “they” are hiding the evidence of that harm and ineffectiveness. Who are “they”? Obviously “they” include the CDC, the FDA, big pharma (of course!), the medical profession, the press, and pretty much everyone else outside of the select, small group of those who are enlightened and thus privy to this “hidden knowledge.” Although it seemed odd at the time to many, in retrospect it shouldn’t have been (and wasn’t) so strange how soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit antivaxxers made common cause with COVID-19 deniers. Of course, I’ve discussed the importance of conspiracy theories in medical quackery, especially the antivaccine movement and COVID-19 denial, several times before. This time, however, I’d like to broaden the discussion.

Obviously, I agree with Steve regarding the danger of conspiratorial thinking to SBM. Where we differ (and some might even view it as quibbling, more of a different in emphasis rather than substance) is that, to me, Steve doesn’t go far enough. If there’s anything that the pandemic has taught me, with the help of Mark Hoofnagle, it’s that all science denial is rooted in conspiracy theory. Steve mentioned, for instance, flat earthers and QAnon. QAnon, of course, is basically the ur-conspiracy theory for the age of Donald Trump, a conspiracy theory so adaptable that it can be all things to all people, even as others have pointed out that Q is very much akin to the old Jewish Blood Libel conspiracy theory, rebranded and revamped for the Facebook century, with more than a dash of the Satanic panic of the latter decades of the last century. Remember, at its heart, the QAnon conspiracy theory claims that there is a secret cabal of Satan worshipers (who are also pedophiles) who secretly rule the world behind the scenes from positions of power in the government, banks, news media, entertainment industry, and church. (Oh, and they’re also cannibals, killing children for the adrenochrome in their blood.)

In addition to the antivaccine movement, Steve also mentioned QAnon (of course!), alternative medicine supporters, and the flat earth movement. Now let me readjust the emphasis and introduce what I would like to refer to as the central conspiracy theory of science denial. It’s basically the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement, just much broader.

The central conspiracy theory of denial

I begin this section by restating the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement: Vaccines are harmful (and don’t work), but “they” are hiding the evidence of this. Now, let’s take the title of a book that was among the things that got me interested in investigating the claims and appeal of alternative medicine: Kevin Trudeau’s book, Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, originally published in 2005, which, unsurprisingly, was the year when I first started blogging in earnest on my first blog. The central premise of the book was, of course, that there are “all-natural” cures for basically all illnesses, be they serious or less so, including cancer, herpes, arthritis, AIDS, acid reflux disease, phobias, depression, obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, attention deficit disorder, muscular dystrophy, but that these “cures” are being intentionally “hidden” and “suppressed.” And who’s “hiding” and “suppressing” these “cures”? It is, of course, the usual suspects: The FDA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the CDC (in the case of vaccines and “natural cures” for vaccine-preventable diseases), the major food and drug companies, and, of course, the entire medical profession, all in an effort to protect the profits of these industries and the authority of governmental agencies and the medical profession.

Now let’s look at a sampling of various forms of science denial and the conspiracy theories associated with each of them:

  • Evolution denial (a.k.a.) creationism. Creationists deny the science of evolution. Among creationists, there are two major types: “Young earth” creationism (YEC) and “intelligent design” creationists. YEC completely deny evolution in favor of a strict literalist interpretation of the Bible in which all lifeforms were created by God roughly 6,000 years ago and all the science that says the earth is billions of years old is false. “Intelligent design” creationism (ID) concedes that evolution has occurred (to some degree or other) and that the earth might be 4 billion years old, but denies that evolution by natural selection (and other forms of selection) is the driving force that resulted in the current diversity of life that we now observe. Instead, ID posits that there was an “intelligent designer” who guided (and continues to guide) evolution. ID creationists like to obfuscate who this “designer” might be, but, however much they try to obfuscate, it’s clear that the “designer” is God and that ID is, at its heart, little different from YEC other than in sophistication. Personally, I like to liken ID creationists to antivaxxers who claim that they’re “not antivaccine” but rather “vaccine safety advocates” in that, like such antivaxxers are trying to hide that they are antivaccine, ID creationists try to hide that they are anti-evolution. In this model, as is the case for antivaxxers who proudly proclaim that they are antivax, I almost have more respect for young earth creationists, because they at least are being more honest that they are antievolution and that their resistance to evolution is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. In any event, the central conspiracy theory of creationism, be it YEC or ID, is that a shadowy cabal of atheists, biologists (a.k.a. “Darwinists” in creationist parlance), and “secularists” are “hiding” or “suppressing” the evidence that “Darwinism” is a “sham.” Usually, the motivation of these “atheists” and “Darwinists” is to deny and suppress religion.
  • Climate science denial. Currently, the scientific consensus regarding climate change is that the earth is warming (and has been since the industrial age started) due to human activity, specifically the CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” released into the atmosphere primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, leading to the “greenhouse” effect trapping heat in the atmosphere. More recent evidence suggests the possibility, even likelihood, of catastrophic increases in average global temperatures over the next several decades that will result in, among other things, the melting of glaciers and polar ice (with resulting elevations in sea level), more extensive droughts, more extreme weather, ocean disruption, and worse. Climate science thus concludes that the only way to avert potential catastrophe is to massively (and rapidly) decrease the burning of fossil fuels. Climate science denialists, as you might expect, deny the climate science that concludes that human activity is the primary driver of climate change and overall global warming. Their central conspiracy theory is that a cabal of “radical environmentalists,” governments, universities, and climate scientists are “hiding” and “suppressing” the “real” data showing that human activity is not causing global warming and/or “manipulating” the data to make it appear that human activity is causing increased CO2 levels and warming the planet.
  • Alternative cancer cures. Believers in alternative cancer cures claim that there are, as Kevin Trudeau claimed, “natural cures” for cancer, although they do not limit themselves to just “natural cures.” (After all, Stanislaw Burzynski’s “antineoplastons” are hardly “natural” when you come right down to it, even though they were sold as “natural” endogenous cancer fighting compounds and originally isolated from human urine; on second thought, I guess that’s “natural” enough.) The central conspiracy theory here is—you guessed it—that the FDA, oncologists, scientists, and—of course!— big pharma are “suppressing”/”denying”/”covering up” the evidence that these cancer cures exist and work, all to protect the profits of big pharma and the power of government regulatory agencies like the FDA. In fact, alternative medicine in general denies the efficacy of modern medicine and claims that there are “natural” cures being hidden from you or that various conditions we treat to prevent disease, such as hypercholesterolemia, are not really a risk to your health.
  • COVID-19 denial. COVID-19 deniers claim that COVID-19 is in actuality not a serious illness, that the pandemic is overhyped, and/or that it was intentional. I’ve written about the conspiracy theories that flow from COVID-19 denial before on multiple occasions. Most prominent are conspiracy theories that claim that the pandemic was really a “plandemic” intentionally caused by a shadowy cabal of governments, the World Health Organization, scientists, and (of course) Bill Gates, all in order to impose authoritarian controls on the world. (One such conspiracy theory, the Oblivion Agenda, even claims that COVID-19 is a bioweapon introduced by an unholy alliance of the global elite and aliens to “depopulate” the world in order to allow the elites to let the aliens in and thereby profit. I kid you not.) The other version of this conspiracy theory is the “casedemic,” which claims that the pandemic is a result of PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in which the cycle threshold is set too high and thus too sensitive, producing way more false positives than true positives. The motivation? Again, the motivation is control and profit on the part of drug companies, testing companies, and the government. How to explain the >400,000 deaths in the US (and climbing rapidly)? COVID-19 deniers claim that the vast majority of these deaths were really due to something else and intentionally misattributed to COVID-19.
  • Anti-GMO. Anti-GMO activists demonize genetically modified organisms based o the same techniques common to science denial: cherrypicked studies, misrepresentation of studies, confusing correlation with causation, pseudoscience, logical fallacies, fake experts, and more. Then, of course, there is the conspiracy theory behind it all, that companies that sell GMOs, especially Monsanto, are “suppressing” the “truth” about GMOs (namely that they are harmful to your health), all in order to profit and cement control over agriculture. Of course, it doesn’t help that Monsanto has engaged in questionable business practices; that history makes it very easy for anti-GMO conspiracy theorists to use Monsanto’s past actions to imply a “coverup” or that the science really does show that GMOs are harmful. (They aren’t.)
  • Germ theory denial. It’s been a depressingly short time since I’ve discussed germ theory denial, namely the claim that that microbes not the primary cause of infectious disease. As hard as it is to believe, germ theory denial exists in the age of the pandemic, with the usual claim being that it is the “terrain” (i.e., the health of the body) that determines whether one gets sick, not the microbe. While it is true that there is a germ of truth in that claim, germ theory deniers take it farther, to the point of arguing that you can somehow “turbocharge” your immune system “naturally” in order to make yourself, in essence, immune to any infectious disease. Naturally, physicians and big pharma don’t want you to know this.
  • Antivaccine pseudoscience. Coming back to the antivaccine movement, again, the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement is that vaccines are harmful/don’t work but that “they” are hiding/covering up/manipulating the evidence that demonstrates vaccines’ harm and ineffectiveness. Again, it’s the usual cast of characters, the CDC, FDA, federal and state governments, the medical profession, and (again, of course!) big pharma who are behind the conspiracy. Indeed, there have been two major variants of the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement that I’ve known since I started paying attention. The first was the Simpsonwood conspiracy theory and was promulgated by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in 2005; the second was the “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory and was promulgated by Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield in 2014, later amplified by Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree in the antivaccine propaganda movie VAXXED. Both conspiracy theories claim that the CDC “manipulated” the data” in order to “hide” or “suppress” the evidence that vaccines cause autism.And don’t even get me started on the antivaccine Bill Gates conspiracy theories.

Lest supporters of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), more recently rebranded as “integrative medicine” or “integrative health” think that they are immune and that many of their beliefs aren’t rooted in conspiracy theories, just take a look at some of the leading lights of the movement, such as Deepak Chopra or Mark Hyman, both of whom have engaged in conspiratorial thinking and embraced forms of pseudoscience rooted in conspiracy theories. For example, Deepak Chopra has long engaged in a form of evolution denial in which he denied that genes are deterministic that I used to write about regularly 14 years ago, the better to support his idea that the universe has “consciousness” and “purpose.” Mark Hyman, of course, co-authored an antivaccine book with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and that didn’t stop the Cleveland Clinic from hiring him to start a “functional medicine” clinic.

One can also look at other forms of denial not related to science and see the same characteristic of having a conspiracy theory at the root. My favorite example is Holocaust denial, about which I used to write extensively back in the day. The conspiracy theory behind Holocaust denial is, of course, that the Jews (and often Communists, whom antisemites often view as more or less synonymous with Jews as having been created by “international Jewry”), who suppress/falsify/manipulate the evidence showing the Holocaust didn’t happen/killed many times fewer than 6 million Jews for their own nefarious purposes, namely control, power, and money. (Holocaust deniers even refer to the “Holocaust industry” in much the same way that quacks and antivaxxers refer to big pharma.). Unfortunately for Holocaust deniers, their motivation is very transparent. As Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt once described, “the real purpose of Holocaust revisionism is to make National Socialism an acceptable political alternative again.”

Of course, then there are other forms of denial, such as the aforementioned flat earth movement, as discussed by Steve last week:

As absurd as all this is, and as jaded as I have become about the limitlessness of human gullibility, I was surprised by the popularity of the Flat-Earth conspiracy. This is the notion that the entire scientific community, along with the aerospace and commercial airline industries, not to mention everyone with a telescope, is engaged in a multi-century conspiracy to convince the world that the Earth is roughly a sphere when in fact it is flat. This is an excellent example of how conspiracies need to become exponentially more absurd as you challenge their premises. If the Earth is flat, then it would collapse under its own gravity. So therefore – gravity must also be a conspiracy. That’s right, gravity. The Flat-Earth conspiracy is so grand, in fact, that it functions as an ultimate conspiracy. An ultimate conspiracy is one so large that it essentially breaks truth. If the world can be lying about something so fundamental as the shape of the planet, then you cannot believe anything. “They” can be lying about anything and everything, there is no truth, there are no facts, and you can then justify every other conspiracy because no matter how grand they are, they pale in comparison.

But why do conspiracy theories and science denial fit together so well, hand-in-glove? Why do I argue that all science denial is conspiracy theory, when you strip away the camouflage and reveal its core? The reason is simple. Science denial, whatever the motivation for the denial, requires conspiracy theory, because of the very characteristic that Steve cites above.

Why is the central conspiracy theory necessary for science denial?

Let’s look at some examples of science denial and ask: Why is a conspiracy necessary for each of them? It is not for nothing that evolution is considered the central theory of biology, so important is it to our understanding of life. Let’s say that you “question” evolutionary theory, that you don’t want to believe that evolution, by natural selection and other forms of selection, is the central driving force that produced the diversity of life. How, then, do you explain the fact that, a completely negligible minority aside, biologists overwhelmingly support the theory of evolution as the central organizing principle of their scientific discipline and generally don’t argue that evolution by natural selection is critical, but how critical? Let’s look next at climate science. You doubt climate science and refuse to believe that humans are primarily responsible for the no longer gradual increase in global temperature over the last several decades? How do you explain the fact that, a completely negligible minority aside, climate scientists overwhelmingly support the hypothesis that human activity is the primary driver of global warming and generally argue not about whether human activity is driving global climate change but rather about how much and if it’s any longer possible to slow or stop the change in climate in time to avert catastrophe? Let’s circle back again to antivaccine pseudoscience. If you believe that vaccines cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome, infertility, alterations in your DNA, and even the death of teenaged girls (Gardasil, of course), how do you explain the fact that, a completely negligible minority aside, scientists and physicians overwhelmingly have concluded that vaccines are safe and effective and do not cause any of those problems?

It takes a conspiracy theory, of course, to explain why experts so overwhelmingly reject your worldview, because, surely, it can’t be because you’re just plain wrong, right? Surely, the reason why nearly all the relevant experts in the relevant scientific field reject your viewpoint and beliefs and the evidence reported in the the scientific literature in that field overwhelmingly rejects—or, at minimum, emphatically does not support—your beliefs is because there’s a vast conspiracy to suppress them and they are in on it. Again, surely it can’t be because you’re just plain wrong, can it?

Of course not.

Then, of course, besides an explanation for why science rejects your viewpoint, conspiracy theories, conspiracy theories make you the hero. Not only do you and your fellow conspiracy theorists possess “hidden knowledge” that the rest of the world does not (or foolishly rejects), but you are the hero fighting against a vast and evil cabal seeking to suppress that hidden knowledge. I like to point to the example of someone like antivaccine activist Kent Heckenlively. As I’ve put it before, every story must have a victim, a hero, and a villain, and a conspiracy theory lets someone like Mr. Heckenlively portray himself as the hero fighting the villain (big pharma, the government, etc.) for the “victims” (the “vaccine-injured” children). Indeed, Mr. Heckenlively even imagined himself Aragorn, son of Arathorn, in The Lord of the Rings, marching to the Black Gate of Mordor on a doomed mission that he didn’t expect to survive, all in order to distract the Dark Lord Sauron, so that Frodo and Sam could complete their mission. You see the same sort of fantasy in QAnon believers, who think themselves heros “protecting the children.” It’s a powerful combination, an explanation for why your views are rejected by science and the ability to paint yourself as a hero seeking to bring to light hidden knowledge and bring down a great evil.

It’s been argued that science denial has five characteristics:

  1. Conspiracy theories
  2. Fake experts
  3. Cherry picking
  4. Impossible expectations of what science can do or offer
  5. Misrepresentation and logical fallacies

More and more, I’m coming to the conclusion that the last four characteristics all flow from the first and that science denial is, at its heart, a conspiracy theory when you strip away all the other characteristics. I don’t claim to be the originator of this idea, either. (I blame Mark Hoofnagle for influencing me.) Of course, conspiracy theories are defined by their own characteristics, all of which apply to science denial as well.

True believers vs. grifters

Of course, even if you accept that science denial is a form of conspiracy theory, one must accept that there are…complexities. After all, there are real conspiracies in the world. The difference between conspiracy theories and real conspiracies is that real conspiracies are not, like conspiracy theories, unfalsifiable and ever-evolving in order to remain so. Real conspiracies can be discovered and proven through standard investigational techniques used by law enforcement and journalists the world over—and have been. For example, there really was a conspiracy to bring down the World Trade Center and Pentagon by flying commercial jetliners into them in 2001; it just wasn’t the Mossad and the US government who were behind the conspiracy, as “9/11 Truth” conspiracy theorists would have you believe. The petroleum industry did conspire to cast doubt upon the climate science. Big Tobacco did conspire to deny, obfuscate, and suppress the scientific evidence linking smoking tobacco products to lung cancer and other disease. Again, some conspiracies are real. Again, the difference between a conspiracy theory and a real conspiracy is that conspiracy theories are virtually unfalsifiable and real conspiracies can be uncovered and demonstrated by standard investigative techniques.

These examples also bring me naturally to grifters.

Wherever you find science denial, almost inevitably you will also find grift. The antivaccine movement is a great example, with a veritable panoply of pure grifters ranging from Andrew Wakefield to Joseph Mercola to Del Bigtree to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to Dr. Paul Thomas to so many, many others that I really can’t name them all. The denial of oncology brings to mind all sorts of grifters selling alternative cancer cures, Stanislaw Burzynski being the most prominent one who comes to mind. Homeopaths, naturopaths, chiropractors, and other quacks who deny SBM very frequently have something to sell, usually supplements or some other “medical treatment” not based in science. Thus, feeding antiscience conspiracy theories is a strategy by which grifters hawk their wares.

Similarly, those selling an ideology also take advantage of antiscience conspiracy theories, and vice-versa. In other words, many conspiracy theories are tactical. In other words, the origin of some conspiracy theories is not genuinely held erroneous beliefs, but rather they are the result of an intentional campaign of disinformation designed to produce a political or ideological end For example, fundamentalist religious activists who view the science of evolution as a threat to their worldview and their faith, willingly stoke conspiracy theories of evolution denial. Conservative free market fundamentalists, who abhor anything that would justify a larger role for government or increased government regulation, are more than happy to spread the conspiracy theory behind climate science denial. True believers in “natural” remedies are more than happy to spread conspiracy theories about the government, big pharma, and physicians “suppressing” alternative medicine. Sometimes the converse is true, as well, with science denying conspiracy theorists using ideology as a gateway through which those holding that ideology can be brought into the conspiracy theory. The most obvious example to which I like to point is how the antivaccine movement so skillfully co-opted conservative rhetoric of “health freedom,” “parental rights,” and hostility towards government mandates and regulations to attract conservatives to their opposition to vaccine mandates. Unfortunately, it’s worked spectacularly, leading in a political shift in the antivaccine movement to the right over the last several years and a disturbingly large number of Republican politicians pandering to antivaxxers or even being antivaccine themselves. Meanwhile, antivaxxers have been actively coordinating their activities and synchronizing their key messages in order to cast doubt on COVID-19 vaccines.

Science denial is a conspiracy theory

As Steve noted last week, science denial is not just a threat to SBM, but to all science and to, as he put it, “any notion of evidence, logic, facts, and reality.” The same is true of conspiracy theories. As I contemplated this post, I asked the proverbial “chicken or the egg” question: Which came first, conspiracy theories or science denial? Most likely it was conspiracy theories, which date back as far as recorded history can take us and very likely predate science. Whatever the answer, though, more and more I’m coming to the conclusion that science denial is a form of conspiracy theory and that we will not successfully mitigate science denial until we are able to understand and mitigate conspiracy theories because, even if you do not accept the proposition that all science denial is a form of conspiracy theory, it is without a doubt true that all science denial relies at least in part on conspiracy theories to support it. As we’ve seen in the COVID-19 pandemic, the conspiracy theory of science denial can have deadly consequences, consequences that, once the pandemic finally abates, will become apparent as the earth’s climate continues to warm due to human activity. Worse, as Steve also discussed, science denial has been turbocharged by social media in an unprecedented manner. Misinformation and conspiracy theories travel farther and permeate the consciousness of more people than has ever been possible for them to do before. Developing strategies to combat this tendency and bring people back to reality is arguably the existential problem of the 21st century.

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]

154 replies on “Science denial: A form of conspiracy theory”

What emerges out of the media with Internet as a catalyst is, of course, of a conspiratorial nature when it comes to science denial. On an individual level, it might not necessarily be the case. What I see when it comes to vaccines is that many people are motivated to deny science simply because they hold a grudge against authorities (and I find it hard not to share some). Many people are simple people who have no clue about the science or what science is. They are simply convinced that they are being bullshitted around. Then they meet the conspiratorial narratives and most fall for them. There is IMO a knot to be untied between the notion of science and the notion of authority, and conspiracy theorists are not the only one at fault there (though they are by and large the most guilty of that, by far… no contest…) But when we have Macron saying to doctors, that, hey! They are not the one in power! I do believe that there is confusion about what science is and what authority is that is rather widespread: when Professor Pialoux states that “our role [that of doctors] is to put pressure on him”, he is overstepping the boundaries of his authority, in a context where Macron did not deny the science. That kind of power grab is being attempted by all sides, and organized conspiracy theorists are only one of the players in that game. Other players in that game can be infected by the conspiratorial narrative (and are) but their motivations were not initially of a conspiracy theory nature. In many cases, I see, for instance, the rejection of any european authority as a reason to reject work done by the EMA on vaccines in order to renationalize regulatory authority on vaccines. It gets mingled with mRNA = GMO and Pfizer = American “arguments”, but the original claim was a nationalistic one.

Many people reject scientific claims because if public discourse intimately ties science with authority, it is the only way to reject authority. And what we are seeing now is rejection of scientific authority by the holder of executive power on the count that boiling down everything to health issues does not take into account the wider political and economic context. This is not science denial nor conspiratorial thinking… It’s putting back people where they belong.

What is science denial? What is a conspiracy? A conspiracy is recognized in law as a group of people that organize themselves to intend harm to another. All groups undergo organization. This is hardwired into our neurobiology. What is Science denial? Science is a philosophy that postulates an objective reality. This reality can be measured and modeled. As knowledge advances our modeling gets better. All models begin with explanatory power. Science demands that the model have predictive power and need to be reproducible. Good models have predictive power. Eventually two incompatible models emerge. This is called paradox. Resolution of paradox brings a deeper understanding of reality. As a tool for understanding reality nothing has emerged that can even hold a candle to Science. Science does have its limits. We lack the tools and computing ability to predict the outcome of complex adaptable systems. Even something as simple as radioactive decay: over the half life, half the atoms will decay but we can’t determine which atom. Statistically speaking a percent of the population will develop cancer. But we can’t determine who will develop cancer (apart from those who carry well defined genetic syndromes; and even then, not everyone develops cancer).

We also need to deal with a caricature philosophy known as scientism. This is where non-scientific views are cast in a scientific format. This is problem is extensive in the “social sciences”, of which there is noting scientific.

Taking each issue: Creationism vs evolution. Creationism is not scientific; it is outside of science. The scientific version of creationism is intelligent design. Does intelligent design conflict with evolution? The answer is no. What does evolution tell us? That living systems evolved to deal with blind forces of nature. The forces of nature are “blind” in the sense they are not sentient. The better word would be “random”. Clearly any sentient being that can design the complex adaptable system known as life would design such a creation to deal with blind or random forces of nature. So there is no conflict. The conflict is on a different level: Is the universe the result of an accident or on purpose.

Climate denial: The climate of the Earth has clearly changed, ranging from frozen snow ball Earth to the lush tropical times of the dinosaurs, with shallow seas. This vast difference is the result of only 6 degree centigrade change (or about 11 degrees Fahrenheit). Currently the Earth is in a warming period. This has occurred before. The question is whether the warming period is man-made, man-exacerbated, or independent of human activity. Carbon dioxide is one theory. Others include Milankovitch theory. Solar radiance theory (the sun is 30% hotter). solar activity theory (with cloud formation). Thermodynamics tells us we must be having some effect. The amplitude of the effect is wat is debated, the time line and economic costs. These are not mutually exclusive theories. The climate models are not all that accurate. We may be seeing a multi-factorial response.

Alternative cancer cures: These fall into two groups. Pro-Big-Pharma and anti-Big-Pharma. Is there evidence of alternative cancer cures? Yes there is. Ivermectin inhibits beta-catenin. Inhibition of beta-catenin is an essential step in cancer formation among internal organ cancers of endodermal origin (lung, gastrointestinal tract). Knocking out beta-catenin pathway knocks out about 70% of these cancers. (It probably has no effect on genetic defect cancers (Lynch, BRAC1,BRAC2, Pole, etc). The combination of metformin and syrosingopine starves the same type of cancers at the metabolic level.

Anti-GMO: let’s put these into the “you are what you eat” conspiracy. The biggest food modification in the modern world is the introduction of high sugared diets. These diets cause metabolic syndrome (with all its attendant negative health effects: obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer). The science world will tell you all calories are the same. This is true at the energy generation level. But it is false at the metabolic level. Who is the science denier?

Vaccinations: Vaccinations have done a world of good but there may be side effects. The true scientist will look at it scientifically, by experimentation. The science denier will demand that everyone believe vaccines are good without side effects. What is the central claim? Vaccines cause autism. There is a statistical association. This is insufficient (despite the fact that virtually all medicine is based on association without further investigation). But statistical association falls into the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo proctor hoc. the next step is to demonstrate a known or feasible biological effect that may explain and predict the outcome. We know have such a model. Vaccinations induce immunological reactions, including neural immunological reactions. The development of the human brain may be affected by these immunological reactions. The question is whether the effect is meaningful or not.

A degree of humility is necessary for the advancement of science. The true science denier is the one who states everything is known.

@ Pathcoin

“Does intelligent design conflict with evolution? The answer is no.”

Are you serious? Of course it does!

There are many facets to science denialism. You state that “as a tool for understanding reality nothing has emerged that can even hold a candle to Science.” Unfortunately, where I live, this statement is already considered “scientistic”. When people openly recuse the usefulness of science, there is no point talking about “science denialism”.

The latter is IMO openly stating that scientific truth matters and at the same time being a proponent of falsities, masquerading them under the guise of science. When people openly recuse the explanatory power of science, we’re dealing with something deeper than mere science denialism. It’s ignorance and worse. And it nonetheless does goes hand in hand with a conspiratorial theory of scientists wanting to suppress, say, religion. Or common sense.

On the other hand, there also is a conspiracy theory of ignorance among scientists (and pseudo-scientists): the belief that truth is manifest and that there are evil powers conspiring to keep people in ignorance. That latter conspiracy theory is, again, multifaceted. But when dealing with medical disinformation, that conspiracy theory of ignorance can’t hold a candle to, say, Del Bigtree. Who’s way off chart with respect to these subtleties.

@ Pathcoin

To be somewhat less imprecise: intelligent design conflicts with the fact that evolution (known more or less before Darwin) is clear-cut evidence of natural selection (Darwin’s position). Intelligent design and natural selection are inherently conflicting positions. That’s the point at stake.

@ F68.10

Are you serious? Of course it does!

Well, if evolution proponents would just be reasonable and recognize that a god did it…
Not just any god, mind you. ID proponents have a specific god in mind.
Which is one social reason the two are in conflict. At least, in non-theocratic societies.

I find Pathcoin’s post full of strawmen, bait-and-switch, and other false equivalencies.

There are some good points – or rather, good reminders, more exactly. That’s the bait-and-switch parts (if I am using that right)

High-sugar food? Yep, it’s an issue. One we overlooked/were not serious about for too long. Heck, I’m even willing to use the term “conspiracy” (sans “theory”) to describe how the food industry kept pushing sugars in processed food.
Is is why anti-GMO people are anti-GMO? Not exactly. Not all of them. They are not against GMO corn because of the corn part.
Actually, your first post said very well what, IMO, makes people go for anti-GMO or some other alternative position. If I may quote:

Many people are simple people who have no clue about the science or what science is. They are simply convinced that they are being bullshitted around. Then they meet the conspiratorial narratives and most fall for them. There is IMO a knot to be untied between the notion of science and the notion of authority,

Alternative cures? I’m going to call Pathcoin dishonest. He is conflating new cures with fairy tooth science.
There are three type of medicines, as the saying goes. Those who have been shown to work (maybe fraudulently, but that’s not the point), those for which the question is still open, and those who have been shown not to work.
I will be willing – I hope – to consider a treatment in the second group as a valid cure if presented with good evidence about it.
But things from the third group? No evidence for, and actual evidence against a cure being beneficial? These are the ones we call “alternative”, in these parts.

As for climate change and vaccination… Not enough knowledgeable in the former to pinpoint the fallacious part. For the latter, this “There is a statistical association” – well, nope. There is an observational association, but any good statistical study didn’t confirm. Plus other clues that autism may start in the womb. False premise.

tl;dr: Pathcoin is accusing us of denying science by himself denying the science he doesn’t like.

@ Athaic

“Not just any god, mind you. ID proponents have a specific god in mind.”

Yep. Which is one reason I sometimes start chanting stotras on blogs. Just to remind them that the world is big. And to be a prick.

Fed up with this Jesus smuggling: I’m not stopping them from believing what they want; nor should they not expect severe contradiction.

Evolution does not conflict with Intelligent Design. Do not confuse creationism with intelligent design. Creationism is a theological doctrine and is outside the realm of science. The basic postulate of evolution is that a complex adaptable system (known as life) responded to non-sentient forces and these forces modified the system. Darwin felt there were a few common ancestors and from these ancestors all modern life forms descended Intelligent Design’s postulate is that the biological systems show irreducible complexity. Clearly if there is Intelligent Design, such a Designer would have the foresight to endow living things with the ability to adapt to the stresses of a constantly changing, natural world. The jump from an abiotic world to a biotic world with the emergence of the first living cell is larger than the jump from that organism to modern day living things. The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. At around 1.6 billion years (or 3 billion years ago) at the latest fully functioning organic cells are present. The universe is full of information. This information is manifested in physical things. The prime purpose of DNA/RNA is to transmit information. But integrity of transmission requires a functioning repair system. How does information between physical? The greatest unanswered question of modern science.

It’s so sad to see you digging in the dirt with your fingernails. It’s taking you forever to enlarge that hole you’ve dug yourself into. Can I rent you a shovel? We’ll waive the rental fee in return for live-streaming your performance.

@ Pathcoin

“Darwin felt there were a few common ancestors and from these ancestors all modern life forms descended Intelligent Design’s postulate is that the biological systems show irreducible complexity.”

Utter bullshit. Intelligent design conflicts with natural selection. The talk about “irreducible complexity” blah-blah-blah is precisely what natural selection refutes.

“How does information between physical? The greatest unanswered question of modern science.”

More utter bullshit. Nothing shocking that a ribosome gradually comes out in layers from a primordial soup or whatever. Postulating “irreducible complexity” simply is a way to willingly close one’s eyes.

(BTW: you’re misrepresenting Darwin here: evolution was known before Darwin as in the works of Robert Hooke. What Darwin put into form really is natural selection. Which does refute the notion of “intelligent design”).

@ To all

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! Are we really in the 21st century? Should we resume burning witches, bring back the Inquisition and get all fuzzy inside about exorcisms?

I’m starting to get seriously annoyed but this level of whackyness.

Clearly if there is Intelligent Design, such a Designer would have the foresight

Circular reasoning.

Pathcoin is, of course, a lying sack of shit (no surprise for a repeat offender). That ID is politically-motivated creationism dressed in a fresh frock isn’t a matter of opinion but a documented matter of fact—as documented by the IDists own founding documents.

There is no fight to be had here. The Discovery Institute blew its own arms and legs off in its very first salvo, so what was it gonna do after that: gum its opponents to death?

Sack off the dumb attention whore and move on already.

To address a couple of the most blatant holes in your reasoning:

“We also need to deal with a caricature philosophy known as scientism. This is where non-scientific views are cast in a scientific format.”

“Scientism” as defined by the woo crowd is excessive reliance on science. You see, insisting on facts and solid evidence is to be abhorred. Objections are often stated in eloquent language such as “your science is just religion hahahahaha”.

Anti-GMO advocacy has nothing to do with high-sugar diets. It’s a hodgepodge of the naturalistic fallacy, suspicion/hatred of corporations (often in the form of belief in massive conspiracies similar to those that involve Big Pharma), imagined health risks and misplaced environmental concerns.

One of my hot buttons is when skeptics get their understandings of concepts from woo slingers who have appropriated and distorted said concepts from legitimate intellectual discourse. Happily, i just discovered that Meriam-Webster has a pretty decent definition of “scientism” in the original pre-quack-twisted sense:

an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)

That’s a little too narrow, though, as it’s more than just methods. Google tells me:
Historian Richard G. Olson defines scientism as “efforts to extend scientific ideas, methods, practices, and attitudes to matters of human social and political concern.”


You could say that “scientism” extends outwards to the point where “science” – whatever that is taken to be — actually is treated something like a religion. The problem with that is no two people are likely to agree where that point is. But, broadly speaking, the (legit) critique of scientism does not dispute the natural sciences on their own turf of methods, evidence and factual results. It may, however, say something like ‘your facts don’t have the policy implications you think they do’. Scientism can be a matter of being absolutely right as far as you’ve gone with the facts, but just not going far or wide enough — having a kind of blinders on, not giving proper consideration to other factors in drawing implications from your factual findings.

One example of this: GMOs. The finding of the natural science is that GMO foods do not pose any special health risk due the GM. That doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory with the reality of how GMOs are used. There are crazy CTs about the supposed evils of Monsanto, but also well-documented legitimate critiques of their corporate policies involving seed patents, pricing, monopoly practices, mono-cropping, soil depletion and so on. Having spent most of my life in the farm belt, I’d been hearing bad stuff about Monsanto from perfectly rational ag activists for decades before GMOs became a thing. Suspicion of that corporation is justified. And a lot of those problems have only been amplified by GMOs even though they in no way depend on the GM part, (again which I take not to be a problem…) Dismissing all the environmental concerns of these ongoing ag practices as “misplaced” is, uh, misplaced.

Scientism absolutely comes into play when scientists move from assertions about GMO safety to promoting GMO production and use to defending Monsanto’s corporate practices. All supposedly the product of “Science!” This involves blinders to knowledge gained in other branches of science, and matters of economics and politics that are outside the purview of science altogether.

You really aren’t making any sense. For example, OF COURSE intelligent design conflicts with evolution! Years ago, I used to write how and why on a pretty regular basis. As for the difference between real conspiracies and conspiracy theories, I alluded to that. Real conspiracies can be demonstrated using standard techniques of investigation. Conspiracy theories cannot and, further, cannot be falsified; they also evolve in response to disconfirming data in order to remain unfalsifiable.

“Conspiracy theories cannot and, further, cannot be falsified; they also evolve…”

CT don’t evolve. They are (un)intelligently designed.

Pathcoin’s post is sophistry, which is to say ‘trickery with words’. In that, it’s kind of a classic response to the polemic nature of your OP. By that I mean, as a polemic, it eschews certain nuance for strong statements leaning towards hyperbole, which then are easy to pick at. For example, any time you use the word “all” you’re just inviting contrarians to make objections that may be kinda valid as logic (ok, it’s not ‘all’) but trivial in terms of the real question at hand.

ID does NOT conflict with evolution. As F68.10 noted, it does conflict with scientific evolutionary theory, i.e. Darwinism. See the little word trick Pathcoin pulls there, presenting “evolution” as being of and only of “science”?

So on down the line of PC’s post, there are false connections between different orders of things: a position on an issue; science denial; pseudo-science justification; scientific method and the products of actual scientific studies; conspiracy theory; imagined arguments and real world social phenomena. So Pathcoin can dream up an imagined justification for a position, e.g. anti-vax,, based on principles of scientific reasoning, bolstered by a little cherry picking, and claim “Look Ma. No conspiracy theory!” and “less science denying than thou!”. Conveniently ignoring 1) all the collected evidence against any link between vaccines and autism, 2) what the vast majority of hard-core anti-vaxers actually believe.

See, this is where your OP is really and properly going — the relationship between science denial, conspiracy theory, and harm to society in the real world. You don’t need an “all” to establish that there actually is trouble in River City in that. But I have no problem with polemics. I know how easy it is to get bogged down trying to account for every nuance. I prefer the bold statement, because i understand it as “human nature” to engage in figurative language — including measures of hyperbole — for the sake of clarity in both stakes and direction, and I take it as the responsibility of the reader to recognize there may be some refinements to be added.

Actually depending on how one defines “Intelligent Design” it may not conflict with Evolution. If there exist some entity outside of time and space, then one could posit that such entity designed the universe, planet Earth, and life with exactly the elements necessary for evolution and, being outside time and space, would know exactly how things would develop, including, for instance, blood transfusions, vaccines, and everything else. On the other hand, belief in such “Intelligent Design” doesn’t change a thing, since anything we do or don’t do would already be known by the deity.

When it comes to religion, in some respects I envy believers, if their beliefs don’t contradict science (Islam doesn’t, believes that anything we scientifically learn is based on Allah’s “gift” to us of intelligence), and involves positive acts and relationships with fellow beings, and some consolation. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam ALL teach being non-judgmental, charitable, forgiving, etc. Unfortunately, many followers ignore. I actually think that if Mohammed came back today and visited ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Wahabis of Saudi Arabia, they would behead him. If Jesus had showed up at Holy Inquisition or later when KKK was about to lynch someone, they would have killed him. And if Rabbi Hillel and other Jewish sages were to show up in Israel, they would be imprisoned or deported. Rabbi Hillel taught how Jews should treat non-Jews, based on Bible, and extended through Talmud. See, for instance, Rabbi Reuven Hammer (2016 Apr 21). The Status of Non-Jews in Jewish Law and Lore Today. Available at:

In fact, if Karl Marx had returned to visit Stalinist Soviet Union or Mao’s China, he would have been arrested, tortured, and executed because neither, despite what they called themselves were Communist states, not even close. For anyone interested, I recommend Eric Fromm (1961). Marx’s Concept of Man.

As I’ve mentioned before, though focused on infectious diseases, everything fascinates me, so as a Jew, I’ve read biographies of Mohammed, most of Quaran, early Islamic history. I attended first two years of university Loyola University of Chicago and spend a lot of time with Jesuits outside of class, and with undergraduate degree in Political Science, minor Social Psychology, read a lot of Marx; but also Adam Smith, etc.

Back to Intelligent Design. Yep, most positing it are just looking to undermine evolution; but . . .

As for me, studying religions as a social phenomenon is fine; but I gave up a long time ago in accepting any. However, the Big Bang theory, since I believe in science of cause and effect, has a problem. Where did this highly compressed matter come from? And believe in recurring cyclical universe, same problem. And is universe or multiverse unlimited, does it curve in on itself. Are we all just in a delusion?

I’ll stick to science. ?

@ sadmar

Yes, this is the kind of sophistry I’m battling elsewhere. Some sophistry, however, are actually not science denying in itself, but genuine misconceptions. For instance, I’ve got someone on my hand on another blog genuinely insisting that social sciences cannot have any validity not because 1. social sciences are infected with ideology (which I feel is a valid point around here) but because 2. social sciences cannot predict individual outcomes.

For that person, a single individual “predictive failure” invalidates any statistically observed empirical evidence. I’ve isolated this point and am genuinely trying to get the point across that statistical truths are statistical in nature and not absolute. It is nonetheless true that if society does not get such simple points cleared up, they could be used for power grab (and in a sense I believe it already is the case to some extent when reading how epidemiological statements are generalized as absolutes by people in position of authority).

Some science deniers are genuinely fearful of overstretch of scientific truths. Others are really into bait and switch techniques like Pathcoin. Hard to distinguish which ones at first glance. And both kind can be equally dense, and damaging, though not as equally guilty of science denial.

Such a discussion occurred on the topic of prevention of child sexual abuse. And such are reasons around here to avoid any incursion of social sciences of an empirical nature in establishing statistically valid tools to prevent that kind of abuse.

@ F68.10
“Some sophistry, however, are actually not science denying in itself,”

I didn’t mean to imply that it is. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. Sophistry can be a sort of ‘sincere’ product of fuzzy thinking. We’re humans, so we’re adept t playing tricks on ourselves, subconsciousy. I doubt that’s the case with Pathcoin, though… at least not entirely.

@ sadmar

“I didn’t mean to imply that it is.”

I did not imply that you did. Merely recollecting some of my interactions on this topic.

What is weird is that I usually entice my rhetorical opponents to start picking up fact-spitting as a valid arguing strategy. Specifically when they have a valid point. When I fail at doing so, I tend to believe my opponent is more confused about the fundamentals and trying to shoehorn his perspective in the debate clumsily (perspective with which I need not agree) than he’s busy being a cunning science denier.

But I do love it when they have cunning plans…

Orac- do you consider the Holocaust denial conspiracy theory NOT to have been falsified in yours and many other historical and personal memoir writings? It seems to me that it has been falsified many times over to the ‘satisfaction’ of the victims, perpetrators and many other interested parties. The idea that conspiracy theories, in principle cannot be falsified seems wrong to me . The conspiracy theorist may not accept the evidence but that is a separate issue. Some conspiracy theories may not be falsifiable if they are beyond the normal standard techniques ( of which there are many) of investigation. By the way , it is not impossible for GMOs to be harmful: it depends on what is being modified and for what purpose. If the science and research shows the harm the final product will not reach the market place.

@ Leonard Sugarman

“The idea that conspiracy theories, in principle cannot be falsified seems wrong to me .”

I’m pretty sure you misunderstood Orac, here: he likely meant that real conspiracy theories, when they may hold a grain of truth, may indeed by falsified in the sense of Popper.

Popper distinguished between theories that were falsifiable and theories that are not. If the holocaust or whatever portion of the official theory were a fake, then that is open to investigation and refutation based on data and evidence. As is very usually the case in science. For now, the official theory of the holocaust stands to scrutiny. (Though I dislike governments enforcing official truth by law as we have around here…)

On the other hand, astrology is not falsifiable: you can always use clever wording and shift the goalposts endlessly to always pretend you’re right, no matter how much evidence you stack up against astrology. In this sense, holocaust denial is just as unfalsifiable as astrology. Astrology is a prime example of a theory Popper called unfalsifiable and hence unscientific, i.e. not amenable to critical inquiry other than stating that it should be discarded as bonkers because of its unfalsifiability.

And here is an ambiguity that shows itself in, say, holocaust denialism. It is falsifiable in the sense that, for an honest person, if ever damning evidence showed up, we would have to update our beliefs. It is unfalsifiable in the sense that for a dishonest person, no evidence will ever be enough for them to update their beliefs.

In fact, that double facedness of (some) conspiracy theories is problematic. Crazy people such as antivaxxers are clearly in the realm of unfalsifiability. If you equate any criticism of medical practice with antivaxx nonsense (a trend I’ve witnessed) there is no way really falsifiable questions will emerge from the carpet bombing of unfalsifiable nonsense coming from antivaxxers.

This is why unfalsifiable conspiracy theories are toxic: they hide real issues. For instance: satanic ritual abuse nonsense is a smokescreen impeding the investigation of real online child sexual abuse… Satanic ritual abuse is unfalsifiable. An isolated allegation of child sexual abuse is, in principle, falsifiable. If you equate the two, you end up covering, unwillingly, child sexual abuse. Hence the big issue with conspiracy theories.

“Does intelligent design conflict with evolution? The answer is no.”

Please get me the name and contact information for the one who did the “intelligent design”, because I need to write a very angry complaint about the idiocy built in that “design” that almost killed me twice this month.

Similar to Orac – The first grifter that I saw using this “Universal Conspiracy Theory” was Kevin Trudeau with his late night infomercials featuring various Trudeau authored “What They Don’t Want You To Know About …” books scams.
Sure, there were and are other conspiracy techniques used to pick the pockets of the terminally gullible – see Matthew Lesco, Klee Irwin, etc., but Trudeau was the first I saw invoking a “Grand NWO Conspiracy By Everyone In Power and Authority” to harm the viewer by hiding the correct, secret, information which the knowledgeable genius Kevin Trudeau just happened to have and was willing to sell the TV viewers at 2:00 AM in the morning.
It was apparently so successful a grifting model that it was soon widely copied.
Trudeau eventually was jailed for 10(?) years and issued huge fines but he apparently had made enough millions of $$ to remain rich.
I blame the media culture, particularly TV, for promoting and normalizing beliefs in childish fantasies.
Having lived through it I’ve seen the rise in television programming embracing kookery from the mid 1960s through today.
You’ve got the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, et al, pumping out anti-science schlock like ‘Ghost Hunters’, ‘Ancient Aliens’, ‘John Edwards Corpse-Talker’, ‘Hillbillies Hunting Bigfoot’, “In Search Of”, etc., etc., etc. for the viewing public
Then you have the news media who play the “both sides” and equivocating gambits with science and fact to fill their air time with some story that they hope someone will watch even if it is BS.
Science and rational critical thinking have been under attack by profiteers for 60+ years with the not-so-surprising results that the public have become superstitious, science denying cretins.
Unfortunately, the evidence is the public has learned nothing over time and is just as gullible.
I despair.
(Sorry about my rant but, with others, I’ve been battling this dangerous idiocy online since 1997 on Usenet and was told by fellow scientists to stop as it was beneath us to address the kook’s views and activities)

Have fun.

I mean, it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of real conspiracies out there for those that want to bust them open (Enron, Vioxx, Catholic Church, the recent [failed] GOP insurrection, every MLM ever). Just look for filthy money and ugly power, and follow from there; chances are you’ll fall over several in no time at all.

It’s just much, much easier to chase after made-up conspiracies, is all. Especially for those that are already egomaniacal attention-whores, supplying them all the acclaim without demanding any of that pesky hard work and personal risk. #LikeFliesOnShit

(No prizes either for spotting where many of the world’s more squalid petty conspiracies are liable to be found. Those who screech loudest, n’all…)

Do you notice that real conspiracies ( the insurrection or 9/11) often have real life investigators and observant people pricking up there ears before they happen?
The participants in both of these events were known before they happened but may not have been acted upon by the appropriate authorities. Even now, the links between insurrectionists and their allies are being uncovered and social media is being used to lead to charges.
Too many selfies and Instagram posts perhaps. And horned helmets.

Crap, even I knew that something was afoot for the sixth because I read Natural News. I wonder if Mikey scrubbed his many sites clean?

To demonstrate:
Joshua Coleman facebook; 1/22/21 meet at the superbowl

tomorrow, the world?

Thanks Reality–I broadly agree with you and just wish I had a bumper sticker reply to all the people I run into almost weekly that begin spouting various “they don’t want…” crap. “Docs don’t know anything about nutrition” and “since BigPharma has made these vaccines for covid I am “skeptical” about having one” are the two I got this week in very casual conversation at the grocery store–only place I go these days. (The “” for skeptical are mine to denote my extreme wincing at the use of the word in this context.)

I think the things you describe are why some well-educated (non-science) people get pulled in as well. There’s is this drumbeat via media that “science can’t explain everything” and others like “doctors just give you a pill” (as if that’s a BAD thing!) and all the constant stream of testimonials that keep it going. I try to grin and bear it with people I’m close to and am just grateful that my immediate family all know better.

And to add to the complexity, you could be a true believer in the conspiracy and also turn the belief that drives you into a source of income. I do think Kennedy, for example, really believes his basic tenet that vaccines are bad, even if he’s willing to lie for the cause.

we were providing you an 8 step process to illustrate the amount of data that trackers use and profit from you website usage. We didn’t assume that you owned an iPhone or that you used Safari and we certainly didn’t think that you could read with any comprehension the thread.
But to your point, the same process is use in android as well. We didn’t believe we had to dumb it down any further (those who use android should know that Googley is getting everything you even think about thru your phone).
So your using Linux (you might as well use a Chromebook/Google) and is subject to security issues (as most open source software is, so to speak, open to hackers), so maybe on your Commador computer or you HP using Vista is missing the cookies and trackers.

And the biggest assumption we were working under was that you had the ability to understand and follow a thread.

I would really question your argument that RFK jr. is driven by income in his anti vax stance. He had a net worth of over 50 million and is a trust fund baby from the Joe Kennedy estate, with an estimated 4-5 million a year income and has authored 10 books, most were on the NYT best selling book list.He was the senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council for 31 years, He is also a partner in a law firm and is professor emeritus at Pace University. So I really don’t think the guy is hurting for money.

And yet, he takes a six figure salary from his organization, Children’s Health Defense, which is over 10% of their income, and he is the only officer they have that takes that salary.

In other words, he is not doing it for free, or for a nominal fee. I do think he’s a true believer, and if he wasn’t taking the salary, I would agree. But that kind of salary tells me that he is, at least, willing to make money off his involvement.

@ scott:

RFKjr benefits in other ways as well:
— publicity for his law firm, books
— admiration, respect from followers
— ;living up to his destiny as a Kennedy scion, without running for office

I think at least part of it is that he’s doing it for the attention. Now, he could have had plenty of attention as an environmentalist lawyer, but he chose to do this instead.
He is a Kennedy, intended for greatness, and since the universe has failed to provide that greatness, he picked something that would get him attention.

And it’s probably safer for him (and the people around him) than running for office. Less so for the rest of us.

Dorit, what is you fascination with people who make 6 figure incomes, plumbers, electricians, truck drivers etc make 6 figures.
So RFK jr. made 200,000, that is probably about two weeks of income he gets from his trust fund (from his grandpa and dad) it is a drop in the bucket in his over all income. Do the math, 200,000 is about 2-3 weeks worth of trust fund money.
RFK jr. is a lawyer, he can practice law in several states and can practice in federal district and appellate courts.
A fee of 200,000 is a nominal fee for a years work. Janet Yellen got 800,000 from an investment business for giving a few 20 minute speeches.
The Children Health Defense is not all about just vaccines but includes pesticides, fluoridation, acetaminophen etc.

A. Note that you are making assumptions about Mr. Kennedy’s financial situation, without actual knowledge. We don’t know how careful he in spending is or what his actual situation is. Further, even people who have money may want more, and may be interested in money.

B. For a non-profit that made a little over a million, a six figure salary is a lot. The fact that Kennedy is the only paid officer, according to the 990 – everyone else is volunteering – should strike you. If he did not care about money, why is he being paid?

C. Working for CHD does not mean he cannot work – or earn money – as a lawyer in addition.

In other words, you don’t have any basis to assume he does not care about the money he can make from his activism, and the fact that he is, in fact, paid – the only paid officer in his non-profit – suggests otherwise. Again, he can still also be a true believer. But you can’t assume he’s not also doing it for money, on these facts.

“Further, even people who have money may want more, and may be interested in money.

If he did not care about money, why is he being paid?

In other words, you don’t have any basis to assume he does not care about the money he can make from his activism,…..suggests otherwise.”

DR you made a lot of assumptions in your post.

I pointed out that if RFK jr. was doing that work and that if he was doing it for money, he really didn’t need the money.

I posted the lawyer information to show that the CHD was getting a top environmental lawyer on the cheap because they only pay him 200,000 dollars. You should know what lawyers charge and the expenses involved in filing lawsuits.

It reminds me of some lines in Casablanca.
Captain Renault
“In 1935 you ran guns to Ethiopia. In 1936 you fought in Spain, on the Loyalist side.”
‘I got well paid for it on both occasions.”
Captain Renault
“The winning side would have paid you much better”

If RFK jr. was interested in money as you suggest/imply, the other side would pay him much more.

I stand by the MISE: Money, Ideology, Sex, Ego.
I prefer to think he is driven by Ideology or Ego.
Your insistence, that RFK jr. is driven by meager amount money says more about you then about him.

People can have more than one motive. As I started, I pointed out that I think RFK Jr. is a true believer.

But the indication is that he also is happy to be paid for his efforts here. Doesn’t mean ideology or ego don’t affect him.

But again, the fact is that he does take over 10% – closer to 20% – of the income of the non-profit he runs. If he didn’t care about money, why would he? The other officers aren’t getting salaries and appear to volunteer for the cause, at least in 2018. He does not.

If RFK jr. was interested in money as you suggest/imply, the other side would pay him much more.

That’s assuming the “other side” – or one of the member of the “other side”, anyway -would be interested in paying him.
More precisely, in paying him more. A six-digit salary for a pundit/spokeperson position is not exactly that common.


do you have the same opinion of ORAC, as he makes money off of his pro vax position (even this website makes money from the trackers used). I am just saying that because someone makes money off a social/political decision or point of view does not diminish their position on the subject.


“A six-digit salary for a pundit/spokeperson position is not exactly that common.”

JFK jr. is not just a pundit, but is in fact an able/ well qualified lawyer and is head of the organization. A lawyer with his back ground and qualifications and experience, would be paid on the order of 1,000 to 5,000 an hour, which based on DR’s post would be between 40 and 200 hours of work per year. So as I said DHC is getting a good well qualified lawyer on the cheap.

A six digit salary for a pundit/spokes person is very common, Janet Yellen (ex fed chairperson) got 800,000 dollars for giving 3, (again just 3), 20 minute speeches, ex presidents get 100,000 to 500,000 per speech. Even Michelle Obama gets 200,000 for speaking. Conoleezza Rice, 150,000 per speech. Allen Greenspan 250,000. Lawrence Summers made 5 Million from the hedge fund D.E. Shaw.
Do those kinds of money diminish their position on policy?
And I believe those fees are written off by companies, so in essences other taxpayers are paying the fees.

Orac pays for his blog, rather than make money off it, so you are badly wrong.

I said several times it does mean RFK jr. is not sincere about his position, but you can’t deny he’s monetizing it, too. What diminishes his position is that it’s based on misinformation.

Correct. This blog costs me money to run. I pay all hosting costs plus Cloudflare plus a couple of useful WordPress plugins. No ads. No Patreon. No fundraising. Just me paying for my hobby. Heck, when one of my posts goes viral and there’s a traffic spike it costs me money.

@ scott allen

“do you have the same opinion of ORAC, as he makes money off of his pro vax position (even this website makes money from the trackers used). I am just saying that because someone makes money off a social/political decision or point of view does not diminish their position on the subject.”

Can you prove Orac is making money from web trackers. How is that, if true, remotely comparable to a six figures salary?

“Lawrence Summers made 5 Million from the hedge fund D.E. Shaw.”

I love D. E. Shaw. I really do.

“Do those kinds of money diminish their position on policy?”

Nope. What diminishes RFK’s position on policy is that he is spouting shit. Big time major league bullshit. Oh! And BTW he also makes dough out of it. And the purpose of making money in a liberal democracy is precisely because it furthers the development of society. Which is precisely the point of contention with RFK.


Plumber, electricians, truck drivers make $100,000/yr? Where?

The average yearly wage for those professions are closer to $50k (truck drivers) to $75k (electricians).

Your statement is both bull and shit.

Orac if as you say you are not making any money off of this site, I will accept that.
However you must be running your site wrong or signed onto agreements that you should have had a tech person look at , right now as I type, the following are sucking emails names and addresses, and sifting information from the posts and logging and selling the emails and other data from people who just visit.
They include
and that is just the top 8, there are more.

We maintain a unique email address for any site that we post to and is only used for that site and no other. It is a simple way for us to keep track of which site sells our information to which group, organization or business and what information they are saving. Since first posting on this site, emails have been received at the unique email address from over 130 different advertisers. If as you say, you’re not make money off of the site, and I have no reason to doubt your word, someone sure is, and if I were you, I’d be a little miffed.

@ scott allen

“We maintain a unique email address for any site that we post to and is only used for that site and no other. It is a simple way for us to keep track of which site sells our information to which group, organization or business and what information they are saving. Since first posting on this site, emails have been received at the unique email address from over 130 different advertisers.”

Very weird… that’s absolutely not my case. I’m at 0 while you’re at 130… I find your statement hardly believable…

@Scott, (still claiming to be 3 kids in a trench coat?)
About that whole ‘Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn’ are attached to the site thing?
Did you see the links up under the “Share this”? Or maybe all the ways you can log in, if you look just under where you’re typing your comments? Could those be the sources of the code you’re seeing?

Maybe go look at some other WordPress sites to see if you’re seeing the same code bits?

Why do you assume nefarious action everywhere?


here is a simple way to see who and by how much you are being tracked (it is not the way we do it, as we use “tor”). but you’ll get the picture.

open your iPhone and go to “settings” then to “safari” tab in settings and scroll down and find “clear history and website data” and click.

Next scroll down more to the “Advanced” tab click on that, then click on “website data”
It should be empty if not go to the bottom of the page a click “remove website data” this should empty it.

Next open Safari and go to any website that you can post stuff on.
Then go back to “settings” and “Safari” in settings, but this time don’t delete history. but go to “advanced” and “website data” you will find a whole bunch of tracking sites. Count the number.

Next go back to the open website you selected and post something.
Then go back to “setting” and “Safari” in settings and then to the “Advanced” tab and see how many more “website data” tracking sites are now following you and getting your post to analyze.

@Scott Allen

scorecard, google analytics, and doubleclick are problematic. Twitter runs because, well, Orac posts a fuckton of tweets. Blocking that stops the ‘jumping around’ as the page loads. Yes, those other buttons do tracking but can be blocked with a script ‘blocker’ though his seem to be implemented through wordpress plugins and probably not worth giving a crap about because wordpress is handi-capable and not likely to report anything other than meaningful noise.

All of that is academic anyways as Orac utilizes Cloudflare which is really pretty horrid and has fingerprinted all our devices to about 1/2,000,000,000 anyways.

If people want to start paying me for a much more robust hosting plan, I’d consider ditching CloudFlare. Otherwise, again, this is my hobby, and I already spend several hundred dollars a year (at least) to maintain even this minimal site.

to Justatech
I don’t see nefarious action everywhere, and I understand the tracking and the “free” service (of posting to a blog or viewing a free website) has the price, of being tracked. I was just responding to ORAC and DR on the monetization of the website and that RFK jr. getting paid 200,000 was not that much money. The last couple of post were an attempt to understand why ORAC isn’t making money off of the “hits” and “posts” on his website, given the number of trackers attached (who are making money off of ORAC’s website).
I mean does “U-TUBE” really need to see what you or I post, or “Pinterest” or “Linkedin”

Sorry to spoil your vision but we are all retired with way too much time on our hands and we don’t have lawns to get yell “get off my lawn” so we post,

“and I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids”

To f98.6

You are not receiving those emails because your internet provider is screening/filtering them out or your computer is has set a high bar (filter) for you to see those emails.

@ scott allen

“You are not receiving those emails because your internet provider is screening/filtering them out or your computer is has set a high bar (filter) for you to see those emails.”


Do you operate your own postfix server on your Debian box?

Somehow I doubt it…

You are not receiving those emails because your internet provider is screening/filtering them out or your computer is has set a high bar (filter) for you to see those emails.

I’m sorry {and am probably going to get deeper into the mod que for this}, but this is retarded. Re_Tard_Nation. What TF are you trying to talk about (you sound like a raccoon)?? I haven’t accessed my email since viacom got Yahoo!, but I’m pretty sure your chunks of wisdom are not a thing.

scott, man, just go back for more training; you are embarrassing the rest of us.

Yeah no.
First, it’s fascinating that you assume 1) that I have an iPhone, 2) that I use Safari as my default browser and 3) that I read this website on my phone.

Why are you assuming I’m in the Apple ecosystem? Why not Android? Heck, why not a laptop or desktop, given the length of the posts and comment threads? For all you know I’m running Linux.

If you start with all those assumptions, then what other assumptions are you working under?

Rather than whining about being “tracked”, scott should avoid web sites whose practices he disagrees with. The fact that he continues to plague us with his presence (and being “tracked”) is strong evidence that he is not sincere. But I think we already knew that.

@ Orac

“If people want to start paying me for a much more robust hosting plan, I’d consider ditching CloudFlare. Otherwise, again, this is my hobby, and I already spend several hundred dollars a year (at least) to maintain even this minimal site.”

If ever I resume a normal life (highly unlikely) I’ll be more than happy to do so.

In fact, I do consider it weird that scientists and governments seem not to have fully waken up to the fact that there is battle of ideas going on and that it ought to be funded somehow.

Since things are quiet…
I’ve always wanted to ask RI commenters who know about the mechanics and costs of websites, e-commerce etc.
— Orac told us what he pays a year
— well known alt med providers maintain elaborate websites/ other outlets that present mis-information, host virtual shops, videos, etc and hire people to manage them
— a few examples to contemplate
Natural News, Progressive Radio Network,
— we know that some of them have been ostracised from FaceBook, and other social media and *have had to create their own alternatives ( Brighteon). Adams ( NN) has experience in the field ( see Wikipedia/ Rational Wiki on NN) but the others are dependent on hires.

What do internet presences like these cost?


What do internet presences like these cost?

It’s complicated. One can self-host with just connectivity and elbow grease. I don’t know about the cranks, but traffic/forum hosting can run a fair amount. Look at 990’s for pretend nonprofits.

^ CHD’s 2018 Form 990 lists something like $110,000 for IT services. I smell Grifford in the mix.

@ Narad:

I know that much:
I’m just looking for ball park numbers for large sites like those I cite. I have a little background about people being hired on two of the sites and I’m sure the IT people aren’t low cost or volunteer workers.
If someone would be so kind. You won’t be held legally responsible for guesswork.

It’s not really my forte but patreon or gofundme do not seem to be a good fit.

Microtransaction/payment is supposed to be all the rage these days but I don’t recall seeing it in actual use — even though PayPal has that service; It’s PayPal. So, there is that.

If you are getting so many hits sometimes that it costs you extra money with whatever tier CF then perhaps soon it will exist that people clicking in will naturally donate a few bits with whatever button. All the cool kids are supposed to be doing it; I just haven’t seen any concrete examples of success. Or implementation.

@scott allen

I rescend implicating that you are an incompetent troll. I now don’t believe you are a liscensed troll at all but have been unwittingly subscripted and are an innocent dupe being used for free. ‘Greg’, on the other hand, probably works for Sinclair or Cumulus.

Addendum, @scott allen

Those trackers that are there are most likely not at Orac’s behest but are probably baked into WordPress to subsidize the free nature of it. Shitty as that may be, Orac likely doesn’t care as he can probably get the stats from CF {especially if that is how he is getting billed}; platforms, and all. It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya.

Oh, well; this is an excersize for the user. Sux to be on a mac as you have absolutely no control over the stuff you’re bitching about.. for your own good, or something.

Have you looked at your “smart” TV lately? Ever wonder how an equivalent “dumb” panel costs 8k?

I fully respect Orac’s path of keeping things a hobby. And I’ll just stop blubbering about CF from here on out*. Afterall, I use their DNS myself for its responsiveness and lack of gaming the results for a miss-typed URL.

I don’t understand how any of this works. Pay for a plugin? Pay a middle man ‘payment gateway’? Who expects oofs like me to trust or know how to use that? It seems, no matter the route, some third party is getting that credit card number. And it’s yet another account to keep up with.

So, I’m looking at how a livestream on youtube is getting donations with the little graphic of marbles falling into a ‘tip jar’ with “superchat”; people are, you guessed it, poking in credit card numbers. Disclaimer: my ecommerce savvy extends to poking in the credit card number on the shopping cart page.

Idk what I was thinking; something anonymous and with many impromtu donations of maybe even less than a dollar. Ads! Wait, the little malware vectors suck and this model has got to change.

Bitcoin! Wasn’t that supposed to be the way? It might be in the future when we are a Type II civilization and able to utilize collected energy from an entire star to process billions of micropayments a day.

I thought I knew a little about Btc; It turns out that I know very little even though I installed and tried the program in its infancy — back when they were “easy” to mine and some guy spent 10,000 Btc for a delivered pizza. It was explained that ‘mining’ would be resource-intensive. No bother, it couldn’t be any worse than Electric Sheep. Right?? I installed the program, set a password and directory, and started it. Easy, peazy. Ohh, my poor fans! I let it run overnight and woke up to find I mined a few. This was on an upper-mid range graphics card for the day and, if I’d had any forethought, would have just slid those AMD afterburner settings all the way to min;underclocked and undervolted. As it was, I forgot about it as a novelty and the next time I looked at getting back in would be some 4 mid-high grade cards at over $2500 drawing some 1.2kW.

Teenagers know bitcoin, I guess I’m officially old man. Though it appears now that it is mainly a vehicle for speculation anyways. I don’t know what happened to that ‘wallet’; some hidden folder on some long gone drive, I guess.

I’d like to see a sort of ‘piggy bank’ ISP offering. They already have the credit card. That is, all things small donationwise would be prepaid to the ISP and if it goes negative then it shows on the next bill: “We accept ISP Bucks” Or some browser implementation charged up directly with the credit card company being the only mediator — not “payment processors.”

I doubt the ISP route is even legal, without being qualified as some kind of financial institution, and likely not worth the headache to trade for customer convenience and satisfaction. Perhaps Musk will try something with his Starlink ISP; afterall, he made his first billions with paypal.

*more and more of the world is behind it just waiting for some tech to push out a bad config and shut down half the web. Even today, I was frustrated to no end being roadblocked out of a site that I sometimes visit for their unique offerings of various text files in a particular temporal format.

What now? What did I change? Oh, yeah; The wifi dongle is in a different port.

Orac writes,

“Coming back to the antivaccine movement, again, the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement is that vaccines are harmful/don’t work but that “they” are hiding/covering up/manipulating the evidence that demonstrates vaccines’ harm and ineffectiveness. ”

MJD says,

In some aspects, is medical-science denial a form of rebellion to risk/benefit analysis?

@ Orac’s minions,

Are the written meanderings, encyclopedia of American loons #628, on the risk of natural rubber latex in vaccine packaging a beneficial aspect of science denial (i.e., not manufactured with natural rubber latex)?


“Are the written meanderings, encyclopedia of American loons #628, on the risk of natural rubber latex in vaccine packaging a beneficial aspect of science denial (i.e., not manufactured with natural rubber latex)?”

Honestly, dunno what to say. I find it a bit rough to be pinpointed out this way, but given what we hear nowadays, it’s somewhat necessary to list that kind of item down. I’m sorry.

(I wished the encyclopedia of American loons went global, honestly…)

Please don’t entertain the creepy rubber fetishist. He’s been told often enough to keep his kinks to himself.

@ has

I’m not entertaining him. I just do not believe it’s fun being in his position. That’s all. He kind of earned it, granted, but I do not find joy in that.

has writes,

“Please don’t entertain the creepy rubber fetishist. ”

MJD says,

Not very respectful, “has.”

My point is the risk/benefit analysis in medical science brings a degree of uncertainty that often gives life to conspiracy theories. As risk decreases, so will said theories.

@ F68.10,

Your sympathy is greatly appreciated, my RI friend!


“My point is the risk/benefit analysis in medical science brings a degree of uncertainty that often gives life to conspiracy theories. As risk decreases, so will said theories.”

True. But there is only so much risk one can squash. So that is what needs to be taken into account when criticizing medicine. (And I do not believe rubber is a priority… BTW did you watch Rubber, the movie?)

“Your sympathy is greatly appreciated, my RI friend!”

As long as you understand that we do not agree, you’re welcome. (I met people instrumentalising my courtesy as claiming I had agree with them. I’d personally torture them provided a legal framework made that socially acceptable. As long as you’re not one of them… you’re welcome).

@ has

“@MJD: Sincerely, piss off you abominably tedious monomaniac.”

Ehh… he’s very likely still monomaniac, but at least he seems to have understood a few things. Unlike Greg. Or Aelxa…

MJD says,

Not very respectful, “has.”

Not this f*cking routine yet again. The title of the blog does not mean that ∗you deserve respect, Doucheniak. Learn it, live it, deal with it.

That wasn’t really off-topic, though. If you believe in one conspiracy theory, you’re very likely to believe in others.

Obviously, FBI is in cahoots with FDA and CDC to damage this hero’s credibility. /s

You know, with all of these conspirators being in cahoots the solution is obvious. We need to find where cahoots is located, go in there and round up all the conspirators. The only problem is that I can’t find cahoots on any online or offline maps. The hiding of the location of cahoots is the true conspiracy!


Here’s where they’re all hiding!

I gave the place a call. There’s a block booking on Saturday morning, when they’ll all be there for a wash and a trim. Send in the black helicopters!

“He wanted to protect people from the microchips.”

But the spoiled vaccines were given to people. How would letting them surreptitiously warm up break the microchips?* The only thing screwed up was the disease prevention part, it would seem.

This group that disrupted Dodger Stadium operations also included anti-maskers. I could get that a true believer might not want everybody around them to be a thought-controlled bugging device and might go out of their way to say to others, “that’s bad”. But it’s pretty much that way now!! Watch what you say, is that person sporting a phone? Watch your facial expression (especially in airports) because AI is tracking you by processing what goes in them cameras. “Sorry, babycakes, that has never happened to me before; why is alexa over there making fart-snickering noises?”

But masks? One might think that people with my state of mind concerning mass surveillance would relish in a time where anyone can plop whatever over their mugs. Even at the bank.

Flat Earth? At least, fall for a plausible one like we are all in a computer simulation.

The sky is a shield to hide God from us? Let him hitch a ride to the moon where he can sit out there and have a nice, loooong chat with Him.

*idk, maybe if not kept super cold before being in contact with human tissue lets the itty-bitty batteries drain to failure. Or something.

Pseudo -scientists need to convince their marks that although their theory is vastly superior to standard SBM/ scientific consensus, it has been rejected because of malfeasance/ manipulation by nefarious powers that suppress truth for profit. The conspiracy needs to grow, as Dr Novella notes, to account for objections, until it reaches all-encompassing- and unbelievable- proportions, eventually involving the whole world.
Belief allows followers to imagine themselves as rebels, heroes, paradigm shifters and towering intellects who will become the new authorities but of course, they will be humane and never driven by monetary concerns.

Countering these claims has to uncover at least two dodgy aspects of their world building:
— most of the loudest proselytisers DO profit from their activity: they sell stuff and manage “charities” openly. Many live in estates and run corporations which are readily searchable on the net. Others- on a smaller scale, sell books, lead protests or manage websites, creating their own brand and accumulating followers which is rewarding in itself..
— the advanced science they present is actually simplistic speculation by amateurs that is easily shown to be inadequate. As Orac remarked, it’s less than Bio 101. Yet many followers haven’t a clue and support their brilliant leaders: thus we need to illustrate just how bad their ideas are
I take great pleasure in elucidating egregious mistakes that woo-meisters/ anti-vaxxers make as I have contributed here. If your guru gets simple stuff wrong can you trust their research?
Lastly, nearly all of these conspiracies ( alt med, anti-vax, RI trolls) rely upon secrets that they alone are privy to: secret papers, late night phone calls, conversations with people who are now deceased, insiders, whistleblowers which seem to not live up to their press ( Simpsonwood) or do not materialise at all.

“conversations with people who are now deceased”

hmmm. That does happen. Very hard to have a productive discussion/argument because they’re all like “been there done that can’t remember”.

People think tiny virtual keyboards on phones and autocorrect is obnoxious. People, meet ouija.

They developed this app with a voicebank to help spirits create words by using small bits of the alphabet (called phonemes).

Denice Walter, I have watched you post here many times, up to now I and others have thought you suffered from Dunning Kruger Effect. However in a post you claim to have 2 ferrel cats as your companions. Someone pointed out to you, the need to vaccinate these cats (also to de worm and spay/neuter them), as you claim you are for vaccinations of people. You have been warned about the diseases that untreated cats carry many diseases including Toxoplasmosis. It is a disease that is preventable in humans, but once infected can lay dormant or go undetected for years. Over 200,000 US citizens are diagnosed with the infection every year, most all come from handling ferrel, un vaccinated/untreated cats.
Toxoplasmosis if left untreated can lead to neurological problems (leading to the term “crazy cat lady”) and death, if the immune system is weakened.
So quit being a HYPOCRITE and get your cats vaccinated, then de wormed and spayed or neutered. Then get yourself tested for Toxoplasmosis.

@ Sophie Amsden

“Then get yourself tested for Toxoplasmosis.”

And why don’t you get tested for psychosis, you control freak.

Given Sophie’s animosity, one would assume that she is anti-vax. However, given her dislike of HYPOCRITEs and her recommendation of cat vaccination……

You have no idea what you’re talking about:
feral cats/ semi-feral cats refer to cats that live outdoors on their own that people feed and observe, usually at a distance. They are not “my cats” and do not come indoors. Some of them are taken care of by vets when trapped, spayed/ neutered and released. A few may “belong” to other people as they wear collars and are present intermittently.
I obviously know something about cat diseases and human susceptibility since I worked with immunocompromised people long ago.


I like to put the dried cat shit in the vacuum cleaner bag, poke holes in the bag, and then invite the entire city council over for din din. And then start vacuuming to show how clean I am. In this way, I’ll have lots of familiar friends and witnesses in there with me at the piss-poor facility the next time I imagine that Sophie Amsden has contracted my dad to kill me.

She said “semi ferrel”, you stupid bint.

I would be a pro vaxxer.
You are correct I HATE HYPOCRITES like Denice, telling everyone what and how to live their lives, to her standards. I came to this site about two month ago and really couldn’t take much more of her.
She is as bad as John Kerry our CO2 czar telling people we must cut back on CO2 output but then gets in his private jet that puts out 160 TONS of CO2 (and that’s just his jet) that’s equal to 20 families CO2 output.
Or Harrison Ford giving a lecture in France on how we must limit our air travel, but he owns (and flies) 9 different airplanes (2 of them are jets) and 2 helicopters and bragged about getting into his plane to fly down the coast to pick up take out from his favorite restaurant.

Or how we’re all in this Covid thing together, except the privileged few.

Sorry had to vent, I am just tired of being the one that is called on to make sacrifices.

Between this, other comments, and your “rub ‘n’ tug” comments, plus the pedophilia “joke” that I deleted, you’re on auto-moderate for now, as you have started to annoy the crap out of me.

Sorry had to vent

And then you vented on the wrong person. Feeling better?

There is a island in the Japanese, full of friendly feral cats. If you feel like yelling at people to go round them and treat them…

(1st time trying to embed a video – let’s see if this works…)


Although I suspect the locals didn’t wait to exercise some hygienics measures. So many cats…

l@ Athaic:

re feral cats:
I live in a small city just outside of a very large city: the former mayor took it upon herself to assist cats by having a shelter get many of them spayed/ neutered, then released, by fostering feral kittens for adoption and by managing cat colonies with food and medical care. Her efforts were impacted by the pandemic when some volunteers stopped working or donating money thus, many residents took up the slack by feeding them and watching out for their welfare.
So, although we aren’t quite that Japanese island, we have lots of cats around .In fact, there are managed colonies situated in local parks and on a wooded hillside behind the library. There doesn’t seem to be much outcry against them or their benefactor. .

@ Sophie Amsden

“You are correct I HATE HYPOCRITES like Denice, telling everyone what and how to live their lives, to her standards.”

Cut the crap: she’s not doing that. Claiming vaccines have benefits has nothing to do telling you how to live. Stating that it’s a legitimate issue to legislate on and stating one’s own opinion is not enforcing Shariah law either. Get real.

And I see nothing wrong being a smoker and telling people not to smoke. As long as you do not beat people up for that nor lock them up in mental wards. That doesn’t make someone a fascist.

Do you feel victimized by other people’s free speech, Sophie?

“plus the pedophilia “joke” ”

Holy hell, I apologize, blog. Though I ‘could’ have made such a faux pa, it would be out of character for me. Idk, it was all such a blurr; but I don’t know any pedo jokes and a quick glance at my search history (cleared daily because this ‘new’ firefox doesn’t respect the switches for it not to save all that in the first place) did not yeild any

I can’t even blame it on Ambien because, as far as I know, I didn’t manage to score any.

Ok, rub ‘n’ tug is pretty crass, I’m sure your “gentleman’s club” doesn’t do that sort of thing. Just delete that offensive crap; It’s your house. Or is it left there to demonstate the reprobateness of my depravity? As a sometime vulgarian, I’m having a sad.

Well, damn.

I’m very tolerant regarding commenters, but even I have limits. You’ll be on automatic moderate for a while, until I’m sure you won’t go that far again.


blockquote>I came to this site about two month [sic] ago and really couldn’t take much more of her.



You are more than welcome to go back out the fucking door.

Her efforts were impacted by the pandemic when some volunteers stopped working or donating money….

It is apparently supposed to be 30 below in Chicago, and the friend I was staying with before my father had the poor taste to suddenly become grievously ill and bring me to Florida is still doing the colonies she tends. And builds winter shelters for.

@Orac: Given Tim’s history of racist and sexually offensive comments, I don’t think anyone will mind if you don’t check the auto-moderate queue very often. Some folk are rude but that one’s just nasty.

@Tim: #GetYourOwnBlog

Wow. I spend a few months away from the blog and miss the arrival of a new loon. Hi, Sophie! I am only saying this because I care – there are a lot of decaffeinated brands on the market today that are just as tasty as the real thing.

@Denice: “the advanced science they present is actually simplistic speculation by amateurs that is easily shown to be inadequate.”

There are two types of people getting ahead in the world: those who work hard to raise themselves up, and those who prefer just to drag everything else down to their level. Behaviors that I strongly suspect correlate directly to their (in)ability to say “I don’t know”.

May I suggest the label “social deviants”.

Ah. That label has been misused a bit too much in human history, for me to use it comfortably.
“Social threat” would be more accurate, and would convey the point that it’s not that these people are thinking differently, which is the matter, but that they are putting people in harm’s way.
“Mob” would do, too.

Yeah, I’m with Athaic on this one. I took a whole class in college on the Sociology of Deviance (so much reading…) and a lot of the topics we discussed as being deviant, or previously having been described as deviant, weren’t anymore (homosexuality being a prime example).
(Topics in that class covered sex work, the drug war, ‘fringe’ religious groups in the US, the Mai Lai massacre, the Holocaust, LA gangs, and the Bandit Queen of India.)

The Sociology of Deviance — a lot of it anyway — is really “the sociology of groups that have been labeled as ‘deviant’, maybe unfairly, and for whom we might even have some sympathy”.

Given that I’m clearly classified as a “social deviant” and a “social threat”, I’ll decline to comment: I feel some kind of conflict of interest.

@F68: Don’t sweat it, I’m sure you’re the good sort of “deviant”. Have you considered “kink” perhaps?

But I really am struggling here for a sufficiently robust noun (never mind the adjectives to support it) to capture the people who are a social cancer by their own active and vigorous choice. And outrageously proud of it too.

I mean, I do like the term “disease perverts”, but that only works for antivaxxers. How the heck do you describe these 1776 LARPers, who fail in burning down the world only for want of a minimum competence?

@ has

“But I really am struggling here for a sufficiently robust noun (never mind the adjectives to support it) to capture the people who are a social cancer by their own active and vigorous choice. And outrageously proud of it too.”

Off my mind: “immorality enabler” and “immorality enthusiast”. “Machiavellian devil” is a bit stronger, but it sometimes fit the bill. But I fail to see a word for people who are doing evil and are both unaware and proud of it. “Unredeemable whacko” perhaps…

@ has and F68.10:

Grad students used to refer to themselves as standard deviants in stat class. But we were only joking,’

re apropos nouns,,,
I always liked disease promoters for anti-vaxxers
How about failure enhancers or disaster providers for more general problem-makers?

Something with Miachiavellian would sound good

“You know, with all of these conspirators being in cahoots the solution is obvious. We need to find where cahoots is located, go in there and round up all the conspirators.”

It’ll be tough to round them all up in these days of restrictions/lockdowns, but here’s an obvious place to raid. Note that they even admit they’re a haven for scoundrels.

*Cahoots (or Kahoots) has been a popular name for “gentlemen’s clubs” as well.

“gentlemen’s clubs” aka “rub-n-tugs”. Momma always told me not to go there. She doesn’t tell me that anymore.

They say we won’t take vaccine because Tuskeege the truth is there is NO vaccine to take!

Yes. For many members of minority groups, the problem right now is that they’re not given access, not hesitancy. We need to bring vaccines to where the people who need them most are.


One group that need the vaccine most is organ transplant recipients; yet, they are NOT even mentioned on CDC, California State Department of Health, etc. An organ transplant recipient, regardless of age, race, or SES, is on powerful immunosuppressantants, so that their immune systems are weaker than even most over 70 with some comorbidites. Prior to receiving their organ transplants, they had significantly reduced quality of lives and even afterwards a simple common cold can lay them low for up to a month. Nope, I am NOT a transplant recipient; however, I have sent e-mails to CDC, California Department of Health, my hometown Public Health Department, and Letters to Editor of local newspaper. Also, tried phoning.

Maybe those of you reading this comment will agree and phone/contact your respective city/state health departments.

Joel, could you please clarify. My understanding is that vaccines are not terribly effective for the immune compromised. They are protected by only being in contact with people who have immunity. I have a close relative who is immune compromised and is diligent in maintaining isolation until her T-cell count rises from ~0.


I’m white. I walk with my buttocks exceedingly tight. I’m in the second most populace city in the state and they are doing 500/day?? If they don’t step it up, I’m looking at 2027 for mine.

So the protesters have to go to special effort not to wear the same uniform — but it’s the normal people in ordinary clothes who are sheeple. Interesting.

Mark your calendars!
You can register for a free, 2 hour long, on-line seminar about the Covid vaccine featuring ” world renowned experts”- RFKjr, Del Bigtree, Mary Holland, David Rasnick**, Drs Cowan, Northrup, Tenpenny and Palevsky where they put the ” biologic” “on trial” next Wednesday ( see AoA, CHD)

So they can scare more people away from vaccinating as the virus continues to replicate, mutate and kill people more efficiently. Good work, disease promoters!***
** hiv/aids denialist and vitamin salesman
*** anti-vax leaders and followers can blithely forge ahead knowing that they is no way that specific instances of illness and death can EVER be attributed to them because they remain protected by the herd of fellow/ sister believers spouting the same pseudoscience!

”world renowned experts”- RFKjr, Del Bigtree, Mary Holland, David Rasnick**, Drs Cowan, Northrup, Tenpenny and Palevsky

If only we had a vaccine against malignant narcissism, as it appears to be contagious.

Say what you will about Tom Cowan, germ theory denialist extraordinaire, he apparently is the go-to guy if you want to boost sales of your woo products. The company selling EMF rocks and “grounding bags” is reporting huge demand after being featured on an interview with Cowan. From their website (which features testimonials by two chiros and a PT):

“Grounding Bag contains the healing pulse of the earth to repel EMF ground and recharge you. You will not find these magnetic, Tesla crystals sold anywhere else. They are the #1 solution to man-made EMF challenges, Guaranteed.”

“Doctors tested and recommended. They are sold at doctors’ clinics throughout the country.”

They’re also available at the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy*. Who knows, you might run into Jay Gordon there and get your grounding bag autographed.

*the store was looted back in June, the owner theorizing that people were looking for prescription drugs, since they ignored the supplements. He’s lucky they weren’t _holistic_ looters.

I thought that I felt the ” healing pulse of the earth” once but later discovered it was a 3.1 quake.

When you hear thunder, carefully lower your grounding bag to the ground and slowly step away. Maintain at least 100 meters distance until the danger passes.

“repel EMF ground and recharge you”

At the same time?

“At the same time?”

It is my fondest wish in life to meet the people who peddle this twaddle, just so I can beat them to death with a gold leaf electroscope.

It is one thing not to know how our universe works, quite another to fill that void with such ego-stroking nonsense. PT Barnum may or may not have said “there’s one born every minute”, but whoever it was was clearly a flaming optimist.

“At the same time?”

I wouldn’t discount it that much. Suppose the bag is foil lined in and out separated by some insulatory material and there is something doing beta emission within the bag. The Arc of the Covenant comes to mind, not that there is any written record of refined strontium-90 documented in Pentateuch scripture.

How the hell does one even loot a “Homeopathic Pharmacy”? Slightly smear its windows with your greasy breath? TOTAL DEVASTATION

How the hell does one even loot a “Homeopathic Pharmacy”?

Bring drugs and money and leave them there?

Who knows, you might run into Jay Gordon there and get your grounding bag autographed.

Preferably autographed with a direct imprint of his face.

Amethyst Tree Of Life Orgone Pyramid with Quartz & Tesla Coil | Crystals & Healing Stones Orgonite for EMF protection, Positive energy generator & Meditation

Obvious false advertising: that’s not a Tesla coil.

This is a Tesla coil.

People who fall for the first seriously need slapped by the second. Our real universe is fantastic enough without having to make up such dismal wanky toss.

As a child I remember reading that you could store a razor inside a pyramid and it would never go blunt. It’s almost a cheerful sign that someone can lie so barefacedly. Less cheerful that the people listening don’t nudge each other, laugh, wink and walk on.

store a razor inside a pyramid and it would never go blunt.

Or/and use the pyramid as a wine cellar.
A scientific vulgarisation magazine I was reading in my teens advertised one of these. Mixed-up in the same page with other more-or-less bona fide scientific gadgets. Naïve me was confused for a while.
“These are just funny-shaped boxes! How does that even work?”

Terry Pratchett had fun with this belief about pyramids slowing/stopping time, in the novel (of course) “Pyramids” .
He also sneaked a variation of the “keeping the razor sharpened” belief in a later book.

They tested that one on an early season of Mythbusters, and after it was thoroughly busted (the control was a cube), they all agreed to never do another “oogy boogy” myth again.

@ Narad:

If it gets below 30+ here. people get extremely upset and head, quaking, to the Canada Goose shop or Uniqlo for down jackets. I’m not entirely joking: being 27 F day time is significant.

I don’t see many cat shelters around although I think that the scouts make and sell them. The park cats and library cats just live out of doors like raccoons and foxes.

If it gets below 30+ here. people get extremely upset and head, quaking, to the Canada Goose shop…

That’s heatstroke weather where I live. Oh Fahrenheit!

-I had a walk on a lovely sunny day last week when it was -11C (12F). I notice that the cat is a bit hesitant to go outside once we hit -17C ( 1.4F?).

@ rs

Yep, vaccines elicited lower immune responses in immunocompromised; the immune responses level depends on the level of compromised immunity. However, it is not an all or none situation. Vaccines do increase protections for immunocompromised. Since a vaccine elicits specific antibodies and t-cell, even if fewer, the risk of serious condition, hospitalization, and death is reduced. As far as my experience, doctors responsible for organ transplant recipients emphasize getting flu shots and so does most research. We give flu vaccine to 80 year olds, despite their weakened immune system and studies find fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

Thank you! I’ll have to ask her what her doctor recommended now that the vaccine rollout has begun.

Still waiting for my chance here in New Mexico. I did get my second dose of Shingrix last Friday. I had soreness at the injection site for 2 or 3 days, which might have been exacerbated by moving a lot of boxes around at home getting ready for a remodel.

It seems to have settled down now.

Speaking of science denial (you can fit in lots of off-topic stuff that’s still in that category), the Kansas City Chiefs at least temporarily lost a couple of players when they tested positive for Covid-19 after being exposed to an infected barber, according to My favorite quote from the story:

“On Dec. 18, the NFL sent a memo with several updates to COVID protocols, noting that “non-club service providers such as barbers, personal chefs, chiropractors, masseuses and stretching assistants who are employed by individual players” frequently contribute to positive cases”.

Note how chiros got classified with barbers and masseuses. I love it.*

*the passage is a bit cruel to members of those other occupations, who mostly provide useful services.

There was an article in the NYT today about how the Seattle Seahawks managed to go the whole season with no COVID, despite the league as a whole having a lot of cases.
Part of the answer was that everyone who worked for the team, players and all the ancillary people, wore wristbands that recorded exactly how close everyone got to each other and for how long, and then the coach made it a competition to see which sub-team could have the least contact (wide receivers won).

If you want to have useful people like chefs and stretching assistants, you’ve got to tag ’em.


One day, you’ll have to explain to us why you really are so much concerned by these topics. And why you do act in this way.

I must say, I’m baffled.

F68-10 writes,

“And why you do act in this way.”

MJD says,

Understand, respectful insolence is a means of communication that induces polarization through the adversarial process. In simplification, Orac is respectful insolence and it’s very entertaining. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at RI but hope to get better.


“Understand, respectful insolence is a means of communication that induces polarization through the adversarial process.”

Umm… well… no. I do not see things that way. Some things need to be called out. We cannot afford to continue, in the Internet Age, to have a society that keeps shrugging all nasty ideas under the carpet as if just about anything did fly…

I’m saddened that it ends up so confrontational, but I guess people haven’t waken up to the misinformation issues that plague the Internet. I give it at least 20 years before the western world starts finding comfortable way to deal publicly with uncomfortable topics.

Until then, all bets are off.

F69.10 writes.

“I give it at least 20 years before the western world starts finding comfortable way to deal publicly with uncomfortable topics.”

MJD says,

The Respectful Insolence blog is pioneering at finding a way to deal publicly with uncomfortable topics i.e., auto-moderation.

@ Orac,

I’ve been in auto-moderation for ~ 6 years, when will MJD be released?

Note: Prior to Donald Trump leaving office I should have asked for a RI Presidential pardon in the spirit of freedom of speech. Orac, would you have honored such a pardon?

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