"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, January 7, 2011

More Junk Science

Just like the argument about creation versus evolution or the Kennedy assassination, this is a subject that complicated and requires a lot of careful analysis, but most people are going to come down one side or the other without being able to explain why.

You may side with the parents and others who say that vaccinations are bad, because even though you don't have a degree in microbiology or medicine, what you have read and understand about how vaccinations are made and what they contain just doesn't pass the smell test.  Something stinks here and you'd rather err on the side of nature and history rather than letting the so-called "experts" do your thinking for you.  After all, well over 100,000 people die every year due to medical malpractice, we see how the "experts" have messed up on their estimates of everything from AIDS to the H1N1 virus.

Then there are the Rush Limbaughs of the world, and no I'm not here to bash Rush, because I used to listen to him all the time when I could.  I'm one of those people who didn't agree with every little thing he said, meaning I'm not a mind-numbed robot.  Those are the drones on the left.  Rush is mostly spot on when it comes to politics, and he sometimes chooses the right people to listen to on matters of science, but not always.  And after listening to a small segment of his show where he is talking to a mother of a child diagnosed with autism, I see he has chosen to side with the pro-vaccination side, maybe because it is pro conventional medicine/pharmaceuticals.  That alone is not a good reason to jump on this current bandwagon.  My point is that we are all biased toward a certain viewpoint and we must work hard to keep from deceiving ourselves and being deceived.

It has become so ingrained in me to question everything coming out of the media.  Doesn't matter which "side" it seems to come from.  This is mainly because people with journalism degrees can't be experts in every field that they are reporting on.  How can you ask the right questions about a plane crash when you don't know anything about aerodynamics and avionics.  The reason reporters can repeat the most egregious lie of "The gun went off." is because they know nothing about firearm design.  Add to that the problem of journalists having abandoned any pretense of being objective about anything and you've got a recipe for a general public that is misinformed and ignorant and they are totally unaware of even that.

One of the things I used to do in teaching apologetics, was to go over with my class, some story in a newspaper about something to do with scientific discovery or ongoing research.  I would read the headline and ask the class what they expected the conclusion of the article to be.  Most often it sounded like a variation of the headline, but in agreement.  Then we would read the story carefully and they would be amazed to see that there was no way one could logically conclude such a headline. I would read the first and maybe the second paragraph and ask what they thought that meant, and after the class came to a fair consensus of what the reporter was saying, I would then continue on.  By the time I got to the end of the article with all of the caveats and disclaimers, asking enough questions to get the class to really think about what the main point of the story was, they were often shocked at what the story really meant.

What is really sad about what passes for news today, is that the media really do believe that you are stupid.  And I suppose considering the election of 2008 and the ratings of the various television shows, combined with Jay Leno's "Jay Walking" segment, and Sean Hannity's "Man On The Street" interviews, I guess most Americans would rather just wallow in ignorance.  The current economic crisis proves that most people will not think about unpleasant things until the consequences force them to.

The media doesn't feel any need to present you with all the facts of a story and let you figure it out, but I suppose most Americans don't want to have to do all that hard work.  They will tell you a "study says," and you just accept it.   If it's not a study, it's "our investigation revealed."

Nowadays, because of the global warming hoax, not only can I not trust what "journalists" tell me about science, but I can't trust what a lot of people in the scientific community say about things.  I need to see the data for myself and understand how the data was collected and analyzed.

So, back to this news on the vaccines and autism.  I went and looked at one story referenced by someone on the pro-vaccine side.  What I found was a story that really didn't tell me anything from which I could figure out the truth on my own.  It told me what somebody else wanted me to conclude and left me with more questions than answers.  What is more fascinating is what I learned from what little information was in the story.

Before I go on with that, let me make it clear that if I had any children today, you could only give them vaccinations over my dead body.  Not because of Dr. Andrew Wakefield's "study," but because I've looked at what goes into the vaccines and I know enough about pharmacology.  With that said, my first question that jumped out on reading the story is, "How in the hell do you call a something involving only 12 subjects a study?"   That's not a study.  That's some anecdotal evidence.

Then there is this delicious money quote by the journalist, that is in the middle of the story as if it's a throw-away line:  "The series of articles launched Wednesday are investigative journalism, not results of a clinical study."

What does that tell me?  I'm purely guessing here, but it sounds to me like Dr. Wakefield thought he saw some things that led him to believe there might be some linkage between vaccines and autism.  He made the mistake of accepting money from some lawyers who had a vested interest in what he might come up with, given the track record of ignorant juries in medical malpractice cases.  His twelve subject "study" apparently wasn't his idea, the children being referred to him by the parents.  But does that mean that any suspicions about linkage should be dismissed out of hand?  Not in my book.

After reading the opinion of Katie Wright I get the impression that the pro-vaccination side went on a smear campaign to make anybody who questions the "conventional wisdom" of vaccinations to be suspect.  In the beginning of the CNN story, the question is asked about the motivations of committing fraud in science.  Some people tend to think it's always money, but that's not always true given the kool-aid drinkers of the global warming hoax.  Dr. Wakefield didn't stand to make millions of dollars taking on pharmaceutical companies. The lawyers who saw any potential in class-action lawsuits are too greedy to share that much of a potential purse, but even then, there's no indication that money motivated Dr. Wakefield as the story admits.

One of the most revealing things about this story is that Dr. Wakefield's "study" got published in Lancet.  Lancet is supposed to be a prestigious, peer-reviewed medical journal.  For you lay people out there, let me explain.  If you write a paper that you want published in a respected scientific journal, it first is submitted for the editors and publishers to read.  Then it is sent to several scientists who are considered experts in the particular field of study that the paper deals with.  They are supposed to analyze the paper regarding the data, experimental model, controls used, validity of the variables; i.e. all the details that would reveal whether or not the study had any merit.  Is the importance of that fact starting to gel in your mind?

Now we are told that the paper was "retracted" from Lancet last February.  Really?  This certainly raises questions.  Now we are told that Dr. Wakefield's paper was fraught with errors.  Did his paper not get reviewed before publication?  Who caught all the errors, and why did they catch them and not the editors or other staff at the Lancet?  Why should we think that the Lancet is still a prestigious scientific journal if this kind of stuff can get past them?

Another paragraph quoted from the British Medical Journal says this:
"Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work.

Wow, let's take that piece by piece.  First of all; What damage is being done to the public health?  Seriously.  Is there a critical epidemic of Measles and Mumps going on right now that we don't know about?  Or does this mean that the credibility of those who would have us in constant fear of a "pandemic" if we don't rush out and get every vaccination that comes down the road will be in the crapper?  Then there is the problem of "unbalanced media reporting."  No kidding.  You mean that the media should report the facts and let the people decide while trying to stay away from sensationalizing stories?  Pardon me while I laugh.  But the statement doesn't stop there.  The BMJ also claims "an ineffective response from government."  BWAAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!  No, stop, you're killing me!  The Brits have socialized medicine and it is a complete disaster being run by the government, but they should have done something about a flawed paper that made maybe 20% of the population rethink the idea of getting vaccinations.  Then to make sure there is enough blame to go around, they include "researchers, journals and the medical profession."  These people were too incompetent to catch the problem, too incompetent to adequately reveal the problem, and too incompetent to explain the problem and counter with why the public should trust them to take their advice on getting vaccinations.  I went to the Lancet online and discovered that just by reading their abstracts on vaccinations recently, they seem to be nothing but cheerleaders for the process.

Now, I'm supposed to trust them when they tell me that the paper by Dr. Wakefield is not only flawed, but I should trust them when they tell me that vaccines are safe and effective.  The whole CNN story leaves me thinking that until I read the paper by Wakefield and see the data for myself, I shouldn't trust anything that the Lancet or the BMJ has to say.  I'm a "journalist's" worst nightmare.  I actually have critical thinking skills and put them to use when I read a story.  Too bad more people don't do the same.

Once I got through all 17 paragraphs of the CNN story, the only thing I could conclude was that the British Medical Journal wants everyone to believe that Dr. Wakefield committed fraud, even though they didn't present one example or shred of evidence to that effect. They believe that the Lancet, the government, and journalism are all incompetent.  The BMJ thinks that the collective health of the public is in danger due to all of the above factors without any evidence to support it.  Thank you BMJ, you now have all the credibility of Keith Olberman or Saudi Arabia being on the United Nations council for women's rights.

1 comment:

  1. My kids got the minimum number of vaccines required to attend school in our state, and since I was a breastfeeding mom I delayed all of their vaccines by a minimum of 6 months after the "suggested" ages -- I find it horrifying that newborns experience a minimum of 2 vaccines before they're even 24 hours old (including Hepatitis B, which is a sexually-transmitted illness so why are they giving the vaccine to babies?!). And that was before I knew hardly anything about the potential risks of vaccines. But I did know that breastmilk carried immunities, so plain old common sense suggested that breastfed babies didn't need vaccines until they no longer received breastmilk as the bulk of their diet.

    The fact that the system Does Not Work was made clear to me when we lost my elder daughter's shot record during a move, and I simply snagged a blank one (a stack of them was sitting out in the open in an exam room, presumably for the pediatrician's convenience) at a doctor's visit and filled in what I could recall, with approximate dates. Nobody EVER blinked twice at it, when she later used it to "prove" she had gotten all her shots. Then there was my younger daughter -- it took the school system sending a "your child needs this shot" memo to me every 3 months for TWO YEARS, with me returning it (every time!) stating "she doesn't need the chickenpox vaccine because she contracted chickenpox when she was 16 months old" before they managed to update her information. Ludicrous.

    The irony? I later learned that I live in the most liberal state in the nation (Oregon) when it comes to opting out of vaccines, and I could have pretty much said no to all of them without much hassle! I could have simply stated I had a religious objection (without even stating which religion!) and they would have had to let my unvaccinated kids into school.


Please don't make me disable comments because you couldn't maintain decorum and civil discourse. You can disagree all you want to, just don't get nasty.