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Data weeps: Does Brent Spiner have anti-vaccine proclivities?

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Unfortunately, Brent Spiner is not living up to Commander Data’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

Say it ain’t so, Data! Say it ain’t so!

Last night, I decided for the heck of it to check my Twitter account, something I only tend to do sporadically, although I do keep a constant stream of links to the latest Insolence flowing, to the gratitude and awe of my followers, when I saw this Tweet directed at me from someone with the ‘nym Zombie President:

@BrentSpiner I prefer @oracknows over Dr jay gordon any day.

Huh? I wondered what was going on. One thing you should know before I continue is that Brent Spiner is an active Twitterer (although after this incident I may have to refer to him as an active twit if his response to criticism shows that he is not educable). In fact, he’s pretty darned funny at times. I recall a few months ago that he did a rather extended story in Twitter, complete with an attack on his house, his forced retreat to a safe room, and all sorts of other twists and turns, all over the course of several days. Given that I’ve been a long time Trek fan ever since I was a little kid and that I used to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation almost religiously over the course of its seven year run, with Data being one of my favorite characters, I had more than ample reason to follow Spiner’s Tweets.

Seeing the Tweet above, I looked some more. I didn’t have far to look to find this Tweet directed at me from Bandon Decker, who Tweeted:

@BrentSpiner Have you considered following @oracknows ? I find he makes much more sense than @JayGordonMDFAAP.

Uh-oh. What was this about? I had to investigate. So I went to Spiner’s Twitter feed and found this Tweet:

Check out my new follow. Dr. Jay Gordon. He makes a lot of sense.

Oh, no, this didn’t look good at all, especially when it was followed by this Tweet:

RT @MaggieL : That’d be easier if we knew his Twitter name. You mean this guy: http://www.drjaygordon.com?…

Bummer. There was no mistake. Brent Spiner appeared on the surface to have drunk deeply of the anti-vaccine Kool Aid. But was it just on the surface, or is Spiner really an anti-vaccinationist? Let’s see if we can figure it out. I waded into the Twitter exchange that followed–and was appalled.

What I next noticed was a Tweet by SusietheGeek:

@BrentSpiner Are you an antivaxxer, or just against the flu vaccine? It’s a big deal to folks, so I would like to know where you stand.

An excellent question, exactly the one I was wondering. What was Brent Spiner’s answer? This:

RT @SusietheGeek @BrentSpiner Are you an antivaxxer–Not completely. But it’s worth investigating before letting drug cos. bamboozle us.

Oh, no! “Not completely”? That implies that Brent Spiner is at least partially anti-vaccine! Worse, he’s spewing the usual conspiracy mongering paranoia about drug companies, all the while thinking that Dr. Jay Gordon is a reliable source of information about vaccines. He’s anything but, and, in case Mr. Spiner ever actually reads this, I think it’s worth showing why with a “greatest hits,” so to speak, of my previous encounters with Dr. Jay, in more or less chronologic order since 2005:

And, in case that isn’t enough, here’s a bit more from others:

I realize that I’m killing the proverbial ant with a Howitzer, but, should Mr. Spiner ever actually read this post, I want him to know that Dr. Jay Gordon, although he fervently denies that he is anti-vaccine, routinely repeats many tropes and canards spread by the anti-vaccine movement, even going so far as to speak at Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine “Green Our Vaccines” march on Washington in 2008. Not that I have a lot of hope. A little later on, Spiner Tweeted:

Have not advised anyone what to do other than to investigate all available info. If you’d rather just go with the status quo, be my guest.

Ah, yes, the famous old anti-vaccine “I’m just asking questions” or “I’m just telling you to investigate.” But where did Spiner just suggest that his 1,186,804 followers go to “investigate”? To Dr. Jay Gordon’s website! in other words, Brent Spiner apparently considers Dr. Jay Gordon to be a reliable source of information about vaccines in general and the H1N1 vaccine in particular. Yet, as has been shown time and time again on this blog and in numerous other places, Dr. Jay Gordon, whether he considers himself “anti-vaccine” or not, routinely spews the most embarrassing bits of nonsense, for instance, his most recent dropping on that repository of quackery and anti-vaccine madness, The Huffington Post, A “National Emergency?” No, a National Anxiety Attack. Similarly, he was Tweeting his usual nonsense about Gardasil, swine flu, and vaccines right before Spiner discovered him. Such, apparently, are the ideas that “make sense.” At the very least, Spiner fell for this doozy:

@unifex Anti-vaccination is an uneducated point of view. Similar to unequivocally recommending ALL vaccines.

How massive a straw man is that? Who “unequivocally recommends ALL vaccines”? I, for instance, have expressed reservations about Gardasil, not because I think the vaccine is unsafe but because I question whether its benefits are worth the high price of the vaccine and worry that it might detract from other childhood vaccines, particularly if it is mandated. I do like the typical fallacy of moderation that Dr. Jay is using. Basically, he’s trying to paint himself as being “moderate” and between what he claims to be two “extreme” positions, but that is a false impression. The only “extreme’ position is the anti-vaccine position he so frequently defends, all the while whining when he is called anti-vaccine. But here’s the problem. Science is far more on the side of the current vaccine schedule than it is on Dr. Jay’s. That’s because Dr. Jay has no evidence that vaccines cause autism or are anywhere as close to risky as going without is, and he has admitted as such. Indeed, he keeps telling us that his personal clinical experience trumps epidemiology and science. Well, he doesn’t quite tell us that, but he sure appears to believe it, because he keeps saying that vaccines cause autism but, when pressed, admits that there is no good scientific evidence to support that view and that he bases the view on his own anecdotal experience.

Such is the physician that Spiner considers to be “making sense.” He then Tweeted this:

RT @unifex Considering unfollowing @BrentSpiner due to #antivax position. –Over my position to educate yourself? Better unfollow.

And this:

They have a vaccination for Swine flu. Is there one for pig-headedness?

Good question. It sounds as though Mr. Spiner could use one.

I realize Data is a fictional character, but, even so, I wish that the spirit of Data would infuse the actor who played him and drive out the Malibu-inspired woo that has apparently lodged itself into his brain. I also encourage anyone with a Twitter account to gently try to educate Spiner regarding the error of his ways. In the meantime, I can’t help but think that Data weeps (after his emotion chip was turned on, of course) at the nonsense that Spiner has been laying down. In fact, I suggest a new hash tag for Twitter discussions of Spiner: #dataweeps.

That and #antivax.

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]

313 replies on “Data weeps: Does Brent Spiner have anti-vaccine proclivities?”

There are plenty of intelligent actors and actresses. I was very impressed by Felicia Day’s video about galaxy collisions. Amanda Peet is pro-vaccination, Patrick Swayze condemned alternative cancer treatments while knowing he was dying of cancer. Unfortunately there are plenty of gullible actors as well

Thanks for pointing all of this out. I was very disappointed in both Mr. Spiner’s antivax perspective, and his arrogant, insulting manner when I encouraged investigating scientifically accurate sites and not just any site on the Internet espousing vaccine info. While I tried to push him back to reasonable education and investigation, he continued to push the “big pharma is ripping us off” angle.Sadly, I decided to unfollow rather than to continue the debate to a point where it would have gotten ugly. If he isn’t interested in truly informing himself, I can’t force him to do it. I just don’t have to listen to his disinformation.

I’ll be interested to see what @BrentSpiner settles on. He was more pushing the education angle, it was just that his initial source seems rather a let-down. Hopefully his self education will show him that that way be dragons.

Holy smokes, guys, you’re killing the ant with a Howitzer and then nuking it from orbit. He’s never been serious on Twitter, why would he start now?

DaveC: Good point. The posts don’t carry his usual “less than serious” tone though. And the defensive responses just add weight to the idea that he’s now being serious.

I have typed out this response a few times now because I feel as if I am 5 again and caught my parents putting the presents under the Christmas tree with all the tags marked from Santa.

@7 Normally I would not take Brent seriously. However as he has decided to follow the Dr in question, this tells me he is serious as he is very picky about whom he chooses to follow.

Given the amount of followers he has, I am very disappointed with Brent and am conflicted on whether I will continue to follow him or not. I wrote a blog about it without mentioning his name because of the respect I have for him hoping this would help resolve my conflict and bring clarity. It did not help.

god. find your self a life! whats with freedom of opinion? he just said educate yourself, i´m shure spiner thinks that people maybe are smart enough to educate themselfs not just in one way! I just don´t want a swine flue vaccine, too. like the other 88 % in germany.

I don’t even know where to start! Who is the Twit here? Perhaps its an M.D. who gives a rat’s ass about what Brent Spiner says about vaccines, and talks like Data is a real person?!? My guess is that you only posted the blog to point out that there was some mild connection between a tweet to him with your name in it and his Tweets. Those of you describing people as “antivax” sound like you are brainwashed by some cult. I think Brent was merely advocating educating ourselves before we go out and have foreign bodies and “dead viruses” injected into our bloodstreams along with who knows what else. Sounds reasonable to me. I for one have NEVER gotten flu shots and have NEVER gotten the flu. My body’s natural immune system is a strong defense and fights illness and virus without running the risk of actually coming down with flu-like symptoms after receiving the inoculation. It is my belief that we in many ways have weakened our natural immune systems with the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and other such things. I am not at all saying that no vaccines are or ever have been beneficial, there are many beneficial vaccines such as polio, measles, etc. I am just VERY wary of any flu vaccinations or anything I’m expected to unquestioningly put into my system.

I can’t see what can be wrong if somebody encourages people to think of their own, compare opinions and consider also statements out of the mass media mainstream.
And I find it especially fine if it is done by a person who has some impact, as we see in your panicked reaction. Even if Brent seems to be serious, indeed, he never claimed tho know the final truth (and even if: stupid who believed) and didn’t even take position for one side. What’s the matter??

And then: Indeed, he is an ACTOR. And entitled to have any opinion he wants, and entitled to say it. He never claimed to be an expert.

“Those of you describing people as “antivax” sound like you are brainwashed by some cult.” Thank you for saying that! because of this block it seems like a religious war.
Some people maybe are a little afraid of this vaccine? And deservedly so!the qualifying period for this vaccine was not so long. Then Brent Spiner only said that: “Not completely. But it’s worth investigating before letting drug cos. bamboozle us.” Is that realy so wrong??? I don´t think so. He just said that the people should educate themselfes in all way´s not to follow him as a headman…you overact a liiitttlleee bit, don´t you think? you´ve got an other opinion but you defend it much more massiv. so, what gives you the right to say that other opinions are wrong?

loggi, Sodano and Madove:

Did you even read this article before you commented?
Did you actually take in what Orac was saying?
Are you actually 3 separate people?

“I for one have NEVER gotten flu shots and have NEVER gotten the flu.”

Really? A few of my buddies have managed to get from point A to point B while driving under the influence and not kill anybody. Do you think it would be safe for me to do the same?

“It is my belief that we in many ways have weakened our natural immune systems with the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and other such things.”

My knees buckle under the weight of your body of data.

“I just don´t want a swine flue vaccine, too. like the other 88 % in germany.”

Fine. Can we have yours?

loggi: “I just don´t want a swine flue vaccine, too. like the other 88 % in germany.”

Hmm… I thought Germany was one country that was a little more rational on things like this.

Can you link to the source that lists this 88% figure? Or is it just like the 65% of all statistics out there that are made up on the spot?

You got an other opinion than Mr. Spiner. I´m thrilled. And so what? Isn´t he able to have his own cause he is an actor? poor humanity.
This is a discussion about swine flue… can´t believe it! Everyone got the right to decide on there own. Nothing else does Spiner said!
And just before you ask me, too: yes I read the article. But if you think three people with the same opinion are the same because it´s not yours.. that´s poor…

Sandy, Madove, everyone who’s rsponding with insults rather than logic:

People are reacting because Jay Gordon is part of a movement that KILLS PEOPLE. Unvaccinated children can give diseases that wold otherwise have been wiped out to other children, especially when some ‘luminaries’ in the anti-vaccine silliness recommend sending these unvaxed hazards out in public with innocent bystanders. Some of these people even recommend that parents not disclose their children’s unvaccinated status to the individuals being so exposed.

Google pictures of people in iron lungs from polio. Read up on how people used to die of measles. Then compare that to the unproven claims, claims that even Jay Gordon admits there’s no evidence for, that childhood vaccines cause more harm than those epidemics of pain and death.

THERE IS NO PROOF THAT VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM. THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF PROOF (genetic patterns, studies on brain structure) THAT VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM.

I do not work for drug companies. I don’t have a degree or a medical practice, I don’t even have a college education. But I do have an interest in seeing children safe and healthy, and the anti-vax movement seems directly opposed to that interest. Jenny McCarthy wants your kids to get sick so that she can get sell her books and further her personal agenda, she has said that ‘some of these diseases may have to come back’ to improve her idea of public health. That’s not logical. That’s not even humane!

People keep saying that doctors and pharmacists are mindless, parroting monsters. From this everday person’s point of view, though, I think the anti-vax movement is projecting its own flaws on people acually trying to save lives. Thank you, Orac. And no thank you, Jenny McCarthy and Jay Gordon.

Orac said:

“Who “unequivocally recommends ALL vaccines”? I, for instance, have expressed reservations about Gardasil, not because I think the vaccine is unsafe but because I question whether its benefits are worth the high price of the vaccine and worry that it might detract from other childhood vaccines, particularly if it is mandated.”

WTF are you talking about Orac? I for one think that everyone should get all the vaxes they are scheduled to have, including Gardasil. That vax saves lives, and to say its too expensive and not worth it? *shakes head* That sounds like the sort of thing some anti-vax freak would say.

Gardasil should be mandated for all girls, and boys too. How the hell could it possibly detract from other childhood vaccines??? Trust me, cervical cancer is a terrible way to die. I know, because I saw my Aunt suffer from it, then die. Gardasil will save so many lives…it is worth every cent. Our Goverments can afford it, so why the hell shouldn’t they fork out the $$$$$$ for it? This is not about money anyway, its about preventing people from DYING. What price could you possibly put on that?

Oh, and by the way, I am not a Pharma shill…just in case you want to throw that one at me.

I have to say, for some reason it feels very disheartening to hear about Brent Spiner’s anti-vax tendencies. I get that he’s just an actor, not his character, but you can count me among his disappointed fans.

I find it very, very funny that the three clones seem to think that educating oneself means reading the unverified and unscientific ramblings outside the medical mainstream. There is plenty of debate that rages during every pandemic, but it’s within the battlefield of science-based medicine, which is far, far harsher to stupid ideas than the internet. And guess what? Your ideas are stupid.

There are hundreds, possibly thousands of people qualified to discuss the safety and efficacy of vaccines, but you are not among them and more importantly you are not smarter than them.

And, BTW, @Kid Sodano – You are clearly not educating yourself correctly if you think that antibiotics have an effect on viruses. Honestly, some people are just too goddamn dumb even for the internet.

P.S. Yes, I know my insolence was not respectful, but when someone brings some evidence to the table, then they get respect.

I find it very, very funny that the three clones seem to think that educating oneself means reading the unverified and unscientific ramblings outside the medical mainstream. There is plenty of debate that rages during every pandemic, but it’s within the battlefield of science-based medicine, which is far, far harsher to stupid ideas than the internet. And guess what? Your ideas are stupid.

There are hundreds, possibly thousands of people qualified to discuss the safety and efficacy of vaccines, but you are not among them and more importantly you are not smarter than them.

And, BTW, @Kid Sodano – You are clearly not educating yourself correctly if you think that antibiotics have an effect on viruses. Honestly, some people are just too goddamn dumb even for the internet.

P.S. Yes, I know my insolence was not respectful, but when someone brings some evidence to the table, then they get respect.

@bruce: yes of cause.. we are the same.. oh my god…
@julian: “Fine. Can we have yours?” thats a dump comment, don´t you think?

I work for a drug company and I know that ther are adverse effects that not be known yet! Also it is not be known what it can be exacly ! And I only talk of the swine flue vaccine, not of all vaccine. But also I remember why the Poli-Vaccine is not be used anymore! But was many years!
some people are afraid of that flue-vaccine and they got they´re right to educate and decide for themselfes. The panic is caused on the fact that it is flue time now, but we do not know enough about that special flue to outlook exactly how the behavior of it will be.

@Gold: I´ve got Links if you have someone to translate.
but I don´t know if I understand you right. Of course its a statistic thing… they do not ask hole germany^^ but it is the standard.

I for one have NEVER gotten flu shots and have NEVER gotten the flu.

anecdote ≠ evidence

I work for a drug company and I know that ther are adverse effects that not be known yet! Also it is not be known what it can be exacly !

You’re not making any sense at all. How can you know things that are not known?

@Gold: I´ve got Links if you have someone to translate.

Put up the links, then. If Google translate isn’t up to the job, I can find plenty of people here is Frankfurt who can translate. Oh, and don’t worry about the statistics side: that’s what I do for a living.

Am I being too prosaic if I simply make the point that, so far, 108 people have died from swine flu in the UK?

That’s why the government here is is rolling out the vaccine as a matter of urgency – it will save lives.

loggi is probably right about the German reluctance to vaccinate. German tabloids have been peddling horror stories for months now AND they have not seen much of H1N1 activity in the whole year (1 death in a multi-morbid patient). The flu curve (influenza.rki.de – no http needed) was as flat this Summer as the previous years. Now the wave is coming I predict we’ll see a headline change very soon.

It’s something to mention that Brent Spiner could react poorly to his role of ‘Data’ being brought up so much. Wil Wheaton, for instance, is trying very hard to construct a career around something other than being ‘Wesley Crusher’. Brent Spiner might be more willing to embrace the woo partly because it breaks the way he’s been typecast as a scientific, cold machine from his time on ‘Star Trek’.

Wow. Do people Google for Spiner’s name and go trolling, or something?

All you sudden Spiner trolls: It’s *extremely* relevant to talk about what celebrities are saying about vaccines, because the US (and the UK, too, I guess, though I haven’t lived there for a while) is absolutely *gaga* about the opinions of celebrities, valuing them far more than the opinions and information they get from scientists. When celebrities take foolish positions, people follow because they admire the celebrity, and erroneously assume that famous=smart. When people can die as a result, it becomes a very serious issue (Damn your black heart Jenny McCarthy!).

Look at the damage Oprah and Suzanne Sommers have done and tell me that it’s stupid to worry about what celebrities say.

Can´t believe this discussion.
All that Spiner said was that there are more opinions than one. Do you realy read what HE twittert? EDUCATE!But you only reproached him for what he hasn´t say. Better educating yourself instead of writing here.
So, I do will have a vaccination but this is an idiotic discussion and it ridicule the right of free opinion. As somebody here said already.
bye!

The “Commander Data” character was one of the dumbest characters ever to appear in Star Trek.
I know Star Trek feels an overwhelming need to include a cast member who plays the ‘dumb human’ surrogate to ask questions on our behalf: Spock was “it” in TOS, Data in TNG, Seven of Nine became “it” in STV, they again went with a Vulcan in “Enterprise” in the form of T’Pol, but really, do these surrogates need to be so pedantic, blind and dumb that they really don’t honestly represent the Star Trek viewership at all? Seriously? Or are Star Trek viewers very nearly as dumb as their surrogates imply?

Ah, Winnipoo and the various fanboys (and girls) of Brent Spiner obviously haven’t actually, you know, read what I wrote and, you know, actually read some of the links. Let’s put it this way. Spiner only follows seven Twitter feeds. He is very selective. One of those, he just announced, is Dr. Jay Gordon, who to him “makes sense.” Dr. Gordon has a long history of association with the anti-vaccine movement (no matter how much he denies he is anti-vaccine), including being Jenny McCarthy’s son’s pediatrician. He routinely says the most ignorant things about vaccines and passionately believes in spite of the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary that vaccines cause autism.

No, Winnipoo, Spiner’s call to “education” is to read antivax sites. Also remember that, when asked point blank whether he is anti-vaccine, he said “not entirely,” which implies that he is mostly anti-vaccine.

I´m sorry I mean that there are adverse effects but we don´t know witch exactly . It was not enough time to test it in a long run.
http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/medizin/0,1518,656151,00.html
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,655762,00.html
first one got tree parts.
and I have to say that I´m not agree with all of it, but in most scientific aspects.

http://www.heute.de/ZDFheute/inhalt/12/0,3672,7912076,00.html
http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/70037/umfrage/impfung-gegen-schweinegrippe/
at home I´ve got more. I´m at work, so I don´t have the time to google the links. but maybe thats enough to understand that the people are not shure about that over here.
The links are from the media over here, I´ve got “official” too, if you want so.

till last month died ca. 3000 people worldwide on A/H1N1 thats official. and only in germnany died ca. 15.000 / Year on the normal Influenza…

“1 death in a multi-morbid patient” yeah.. we have tree, but 2 of them “count”. one have got previous diseases.

“”not entirely,” which implies that he is mostly anti-vaccine.” And there we go again with YOUR opinion!

I was concerned with Mr. Spiner’s opinons because he has a lot of loyal followers who may give his opinion scientific credence, and because he was specifically endorsing Dr. Jay Gordon, who is definitely a bad source of vaccine information. I have no trouble with educating yourself about vaccines; however, you do have to use your critical thinking skills when choosing which sites to depend on for your information. And there are several points to consider here – childhood vaccines and the annual flu vaccines. I have done the research and get my kids all the vaccines that our pediatrician recommends, but I haven’t always gotten them the flu vaccines annually. This year, with H1N1 going around in our community and the severity of the condition, I am trying to get it for them. Supply is spotty, however, so I am having trouble. Lumping all these vaccines into one category is not helpful – flu vaccines are always rushed, and in most cases they are the experts’ best guesses what viruses will go around in a given year. I consider that when deciding if and when to get them for my kids. The H1N1 vaccine was created in a hurry, but it is a known virus going around right now, so the vaccine for it is much more likely to be helpful than a typical flu vaccine. So I do call for people to educate themselves, talk to their pediatricians and make the best decision for themselves and their kids. And if you don’t have a pediatrician you can talk to and trust, then you need to find a new one.

loggi’s numbers seem, sadly, not to be that far off the point. Several German articles report that two thirds plan not to vaccinate. Interestingly, this insurance company found that about one quarter of their customers with “Abitur” or “Realschulabschluss” (two forms of school diploma; the first a prerequisite for attending university) plan to get vaccinated, as opposed to 55% of those “ohne Schulabschluss” (drop-outs).

“Educate yourself” has become the new “teach the controversy”, wonderful…

Dear Mr. Spiner —

If you are truly interested in “educating yourself”, then you should educate yourself about one simple fact and its meaning:

The simple fact: Jay Gordon repeatedly claims that his own personal clinical experience is more significant and revealing of scientific truth than actual scientific studies which may well involve the rigorously studied clinical experiences of practitioners in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions.

The meaning: Jay Gordon has no clue about science. If you wanted to find out how many people in the greater Los Angeles area had heard yet about the new TNG movie, would you conduct a survey and ask hundreds of randomly selected Los Angelenos whether they were aware such a movie was about to open? Or would you base all your decisions on the word of one film executive who said “Well, I heard about it right away and my personal experience is more important than any old survey”?

Part of “educating yourself,” Mr. Spiner, is learning that some of the people who claim they can give you greater knowledge only think they have greater knowledge. I will be the first to admit, Jay Gordon really sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. He really knows how to look like he has a consistent, well-thought-out position based on the facts.

But it’s not consistent. It’s not well-thought-out. And it’s not based on the facts.

I thought Germany was one country that was a little more rational on things like this.

Leider nein. There is a very active naturopathy movement in Germany. They are, however, more rational than the US in that they at least require manufacturers of “supplements” and other such scams to prove that what’s inside the box is what’s listed on the label. So if you buy, say, echinacea made in Germany or for the German market it is at least likely to contain echinacea instead of random plants or ephedrine or other random potentially dangerous substances.

I happened upon Brent Spiner’s Twitter feed several months ago – someone who follows me is also his follower. Having rather liked him in his role as Data and thinking him a brilliant actor, I was sorely disappointed to find his tweets shallow, inane and incredibly self-centered. Sorry to say that his infatuation with Jay Gordon isn’t all that surprising.

Re Data as Sherlock Holmes: Remember, AC Doyle believed seances were real and other such nonsense. Few people actually live up to their reputations.

Disappointing as Spiner’s appreciation for Gordon is, telling him Data weeps sure doesn’t seem like it’s going to convince him he’s wrong. And tweeting him to tell him he’s wrong is more likely to make him more polarized in his beliefs.

‘Educate yourself’ is being used by anti-vaxxers in the same way as ‘balance.’ It sounds reasonable, who could object to finding out the facts for themselves? Except when people don’t know enough to evaluate either the sources or the information for themselves, then a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.
Unfortunately people DO associate Spiner with Data – that’s how our brains work. So when he suggests something that sounds reasonable people will listen, and that’s why it needs to be pointed out how wrong he is in this case.

In my community we have people waiting patiently on long lines and in bad weather to take advantage of the limited supplies of H1N1 vaccine. They’ve educated themselves about the risks this influenza strain poses, especially to children, younger adults and pregnant women. They’re taking wise precautions, noting that for one thing the pediatric death toll in the U.S. from late August to October already exceeded the usual number of child flu deaths in an entire average flu season.

The public response here has been heartening. It’s too bad that others, who haven’t taken the trouble to learn about medical history and how vaccines work will need to learn the hard way – when severe preventable illness strikes them or their families and friends.

That’s an awfully nice picture of Brent Spiner acting the role of Data acting the role of Sherlock Holmes. Surely I can’t be the only one who remembers that Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies, while Holmes once said, “No ghosts need apply.” Writers and actors are not the characters they create, however noble we fans may find those characters. This is a bit like being disappointed to learn that Picasso’s eyes weren’t both on one side of his face.

Dear Mr. Spiner (and his supportive fans in this thread),

I couldn’t agree more, that people should educate themselves about vaccines. They should read the labels and packaging, asking their doctor questions if there is anything they do not understand. They should also pay a visit to the CDC and FDA web sites to read their information on vaccines, which is presented in a very easy-to-read format. If they are going to visit sites that talk about vaccines outside of CDC and FDA, then I recommend Science-Based Medicine, which has had quite a number of posts on influenza in general, H1N1 in particular and vaccines. Another site I’d recommend is a layperson’s attempt to dispel some of the common myths and misconceptions around vaccines: antiantivax.flurf.net (can be accessed by clicking my name).

Dr. Gordon does, indeed, sound like he’s making sense. His web site and posts give the impression that he actually has facts to back up the ideas he spews forth. Yet, when pressured for evidence, he quickly admits that he has no science or reliable facts to back up his claims, only his personal experience. Unfortunately, personal experience just doesn’t cut it when we’re discussing matters of science and health policy.

So, yes, educate yourself, but go to the science. If medical journals like JAMA, NEJM or Lancet are too difficult to understand, go to organizations whose primary purpose is to ensure the protection, safety and health of the people, like the CDC. Check the sources of the information you read. Ask for citations. Take an intro course or read a good immunology textbook. Talk to your doctor, particularly if you might be at risk for adverse reactions (e.g., allergic to eggs). Don’t take some celebrity’s word for it. Hell, don’t even take my word for it. Above all, use critical thought, even if what you find goes against your preconceptions.

Dr. Jay has no evidence that vaccines cause autism or are anywhere as close to risky as going without is, and he has admitted as such. Indeed, he keeps telling us that his personal clinical experience trumps epidemiology and science. Well, he doesn’t quite tell us that

Oh but he DOES. He has said it straight out that his experience trumps any scientific studies. Although it’s kind of confusing, because he has also decreed that his approach of using his experience is actually a better way of doing science than using systematically controlled studies, so it’s not clear what he meant when he said that his experience is more important than science.

Esther, having spent some time assisting Mr. Spiner at a science fiction convention, I can attest that the “shallow, inane, and self-centered” aspect of many of his tweets is something of a put-on; he has a very dry sense of humor, and is quite intelligent. He is not, however, a scientist, and I can only hope that Orac’s (and others’) attempts at steering him in the right direction are fruitful…

This is a bit like being disappointed to learn that Picasso’s eyes weren’t both on one side of his face.

THEY WEREN’T?!!

From what I’ve heard, Picasso was a jerk too. Doesn’t change his talent though. And Spiner’s gullibity on vaccination doesn’t change his acting.

Hello. I’m not actually a hyper-logical genius; I merely play one on TV.

You may have heard “there’s no such thing as ghosts.” I don’t entirely disagree. But you should check out my psychic friend John Edwards. He makes a lot of sense.

I’m not telling you what to believe. I’m just saying, educate yourself.

You block the people who got a other opinion? YEAH! that shows how shure you are on this block! The links that I send you are out of two named papers over here! Just to show why the public in Germany is afraid of this vaccination, because some people was interessted. Thats not a Pro or Contra, that the people don´t know what to do is a fact over here and only a information! But you seemed not interested neither in other opinions nor in the fears of people in other nation. That shows a lot!
And of course you get your own links wrong! ONLY 25% with abi are WILLING to get a vaccination!! that´s the “high ones” if you want so. And as lower the college education goes the people are more WILLING to get a vatioccinn. Thant´s against your Opinion not in favour of it!!
Sorry. This Block is a shame cuz it only reflected the opinion that YOU like. Thats a waste of time for all smart beeings!

But “educating yourself” is really really hard to do right. Immunology is hard. Relative risk is also hard. Really hard. You can read the inserts all you want, but for most of us, they sort of read like a fortune cookie or an ink blot. You find what you want to find. Most of us are not equipped to properly translate those inserts.
So when people are “educating themselves” they are looking for people who are saying things they want to hear.
I think trusting the scientific consensus is a good way to go.

@loggi

Umm…if you included more than one link in your post, it went into moderation automatically. Part of an automatic spam filter. Your post should appear once Orac has a moment to review it. Patience.

I’m not telling you what to believe. I’m just saying, educate yourself.

You don’t “educate yourself” in chemistry by reading up on the wisdom of the alchemists. Oh sure, it’s great for a laugh, but it isn’t teaching you chemistry.

@#59 Pablo

The only thing that alchemy was useful for was it’s glassware. However, I do plan to get the alchemist phrase “Solve et Coagula” tattooed on me somewhere even though I’m a chemist. It’s just too bad-ass not to.

If you put Lt Cmd Data in a, y’know, bomb, and threw the bomb at your neighbor for letting his dog poop in your yard literally, the bomb would explode.

Brent Spiner’s reference to John Edwards makes me wonder if he’s attempting to pull the non-fundie equivalent of a Poe on us.

Because if he also thinks psychics are legitimate, I think we can safely call him a whackaloon.

Recent polls show that only 12% of Germans definitely plan to be vaccinated against H1N1, with 19% saying that they will probably have the vaccine.

The above quote is from the BMJ article. It says something different from what loggi said: According to the poll cited, at least 31% of Germans surveyed are very likely to get vaccinated. The numbers for “maybe” or “unsure” are not listed. That is not at all the same as 88% saying that they definitely won’t get it.

The only thing that alchemy was useful for was it’s glassware.

I enjoy reading stuff about the old guys, though. Pericelsus is probably my favorite. I’ve related this story before. Doctors are actually very familiar with Pericelsus because he is the one credited with the concept, “The dose makes the poison,” talking about how everything will kill you if you take too much.

If you look up Pericelsus on Wikipedia, you read that he died of “natural causes” at age 49. I have an old source (1880s) that suggests otherwise. See, Pericelsus was among those alchemists who thought they had found the elixer of life in alcohol, and it appears that the guy who is famous for the “dose makes the poison” concept actually drank himself to an early death!

Oh that crazy Bombastus!

This is the funniest set of posts ever aggregated in Orac’s house.

You HAVE to watch “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s a wonderful TV show and it’s just plain . . . you!!!!!

I look forward to the next post focused on an actor’s fictional character. I vote for Bambi or Ross from “Friends.”

Best,

Jay

To the people who have the “he’s just an actor, who cares what he says” attitude: It’s not a case of expecting him to be more intelligent than the average person–it’s more an issue of his popularity giving him (an average person, if not a bit above) the ability to influence other average people when he is, in fact, no real authority on vaccination. (Just as Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, and Bill Maher have no special credentials that lend them any credence when they talk about such things.)

Mr. Spiner’s opinions have weight simply because of his immense popularity, and popularity translates into power. And as most sci-fi geeks already know… With great power comes great responsibility. 🙂

In this case, I’m torn. Mr. Spiner has every right to his opinions and, like everyone else, he has every right to voice them via his social media outlets of choice. His celebrity status, however, makes me wish he’d stay out of the fray where issues of public health are concerned.

But, Dr. Jay, my post is actually at least as much about you as it is about Brent Spiner. You’re also being disingenuous, as it was quite clear that my invocation of Data was a literary device (if you can call anything on this blog “literary”) to make my point.

I do love “The Big Bang Theory,” though.

But you should check out my psychic friend John Edwards.

If he’s so psychic, how come he didn’t foresee that he would get caught cheating on his wife?

I do love “The Big Bang Theory,” though.

I like it as a show fine. As a friend of mine has said, it reminds me of how we were in college.

But that is also my problem with it. They act like college _students_, not working adults. In particular, for young faculty, who are supposedly brilliant go-getters, they don’t work very much, and spend way too much time doing stuff like hanging out at comic book stores.

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