Categories
Antivaccine nonsense Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

The anti-vaccine movement, cranks, and “pseudo-expertise”

Over the last week or so, I’ve been confronted full bore with cranks, staring down the barrel, if you will, of a crank shotgun, one barrel being the anti-vaccine movement in general (with J.B. Handley and his misogyny being the buckshot, so to speak) and the other being Suzanne Somers and her despicable cancer quackery. Indeed, over the last five years, I’ve subjected myself to some of the most outrageous bits of unreason, conspiracy mongering, and pseudoscience. Be it the anti-vaccine movement, quacks, 9/11 Truthers, Holocaust deniers, creationists, or any of a variety of other bits of pseudoscience, I’ve come to appreciate that what distinguishes believers in such nonsense seems to be, as Prometheus so aptly put it, the arrogance of ignorance. Even so, there seems to be more than that going on, and leave it to, of all things, an article in the L.A. Times by James Rainey entitled Childhood vaccines, autism and the dangers of group think. It’s an article looking at Amy Wallace’s excellent article for WIRED entitled An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All, which documented how the arrogance of ignorance has led the anti-vaccine movement to endanger public health, and the exceedingly (and typically) nasty reaction the anti-vaccine movement with which the anti-vaccine movement responded, particularly J.B. Handley’s misogyny.

There are two key passages in Rainey’s article that tell the tale, a tale that is no surprise to skeptics, in particular skeptical bloggers like my self:

“They will say, ‘Who do you think you are to tell me?’ or ‘Who does the government think it is to tell us what is best for public health?’ ” Wallace told me this week. “They say, ‘You can’t know my child like I know my child.’ ”

Wallace has run smack into an abiding, perhaps growing, phenomenon of the Internet Age: Citizens armed with information are sure they know better. Readers who brush up against expertise believe they have become experts. The common man rebels against the notion that anyone — not professionals, not the government and certainly not the media — speaks with special authority.

Where it stops, nobody knows. But already we see a wave of amateurs convinced they can write a pithier movie review, arrange a catchier song, even assess our planet’s shifting weather conditions, better than the professionals trained to do the job.

And:

The rise of computer literacy, high-speed Internet connections, blogging and social networks has emboldened the common man to tell his own story and, sometimes, to disdain trappings like a university degree, professional training or corporate affiliation. The citizen activists often frame themselves as truth tellers fighting against an establishment that is hopelessly venal. No matter that the corruption, routinely claimed, is seldom supported by more than innuendo.

This is indeed the cult of the amateur, as the title of a book mentioned in the article goes. There has always been a strain in American culture that is deeply anti-intellectual and suspicious of experts. That is not always a bad thing. Experts are not always right, and “the best and the brightest” have at times led us horribly astray. However, in the process, our nation appears to have somehow devalued not only expertise, but science itself. Science is the “other.” It’s not something that “everyday people” do, or at least it’s not perceived that way, which is all the more sad because anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence should be able to understand the very basics of the scientific method. The same is true of critical thinking. Indeed, in many areas of of life, the “average Joe” is admirably skeptical. For example, many people are more than capable of evaluating the sales pitch of a car salesman or, as my wife and I had to do several months ago, the high pressure sales pitch of a roofing salesman. Yet, in other areas these same people are credulous marks for any conspiracy theory that comes around.

In the case of the anti-vaccine movement, what drives this arrogance of ignorance is an old-fashioned American distrust of authority (often good, but not always) combined with a democratic tradition in which every person is assumed to be equal. The problem is that equal under the law and possessing equal rights (which is he American ideal) does not mean equal abilities or knowledge. We as a people seem to conflate the two and assume all too often that, if Paul Offit can pontificate about vaccines, so can we, even though we don’t have any special expertise in the relevant sciences. Too many of us assume that several hours (or even much, much less) spent in front of a computer studying at the University of Google renders our understanding equal to that of scientists and experts who have spent their entire lives studying a problem. Celebrities are no different, either. Indeed, fueled by ego and surrounded by yes-men and other enablers, celebrities seem even more prone to the arrogance of ignorance, be they Bill Maher, Oprah Winfrey, Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, Billy Corgan, or Suzanne Somers. Worse, they have a much larger soapbox from which to spread their nonsense. But they’re not alone. Whenever I want to demonstrate what drives this attitude, I like to quote anti-vaccine loon J.B. Handley:

I’m not intellectually intimidated by any of these jokers. Their degrees mean zippo to me, because I knew plenty of knuckleheads in college who went on to be doctors, and they’re still knuckleheads (I also knew plenty of great, smart guys who went on to be doctors and they’re still great, smart guys).

I chose a different path and went into the business world. In the business world, having a degree from a great college or business school gets you your first job, and not much else. There are plenty of Harvard Business School grads who have bankrupted companies and gone to jail, and plenty of high school drop-outs who are multi-millionaires. Brains and street-smarts win, not degrees, arrogance, or entitlement.

Except that brains and street smarts count for nothing in science if they exist without an understanding of science.

From my perspective, the progress made on developing Internet may well be the single greatest development of the last 30 years. When the Internet was first developed, it was used primarily by educational, government, and defense institutions. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s when huge numbers of people started to have access to the Internet, and today in developed countries most people take Internet access for granted. Personally, I don’t know how I’d survive without it. It’s made, for example, looking up articles for my research and writing journal articles and grants a snap. However, there’s a down side, and that’s too much information, so much information that it makes it very easy for someone without the background knowledge to separate the wheat from the chaff to develop a sense of pseudo-expertise. In other words, they may pick up a lot of facts and be able to cite a lot of studies, but they do not know the scientific context behind them. Worse, they don’t know how to recognize good studies compared to bad studies or understand that critically examining the evidence against your beliefs is even more important than examining the evidence for them. The result all too often turns into an orgy of cherry picking and confirmation bias.

The result, when combined with someone like J.B. Handley, who thinks that expertise can be so easily dismissed, is the anti-vaccine movement, creationists, Holocaust deniers, 9/11 Truthers, and quacks.

The other driving force behind the proliferation of pseudo-expertise is a very human trait that we all share, namely the tendency to confuse correlation with causation. Once again, this is one of the first lessons in science, not to confuse correlation with causation, but those of us in science forget just how against human nature this is. We are creatures that value personal experience over statistics and science. One good anecdote trumps reams of evidence. This produces, for example, anthropogenic global warming denialists who justify their rejection of climate science by their observation that this summer was unusually mild in their area or the alternative medicine maven who swears by homeopathy because the symptoms of their self-limited condition got better after they tried it.

Moreover, let us not forget that, at the level of a single person, correlation sure can appear to be causation. As I pointed out a month ago, one example is heart attacks and the flu vaccine. More than 3,000 people have heart attacks each and every day, which means that by random chance alone there will be probably several people a day who have a heart attack within 24 hours of being vaccinated for the flu. To those people, it may appear all the world as though the vaccine caused the heart attack, when in reality it really was just coincidence. It’s not enough simply to observe an adverse event happening after something, say, vaccination. You have to show that there is an incidence of that adverse event significantly greater than what could be predicted by chance alone. The same applies to the claim that vaccines cause autism. If you have a child who regresses within a day or so of vaccination, it will appear all the world to you that the vaccine caused the regression. In that case, it is then very difficult even for highly educated parents to accept the results of science, namely that epidemiological studies do not find an elevated incidence of autism after vaccination.

Combine the all-too-human tendency to confuse correlation with causation with the anti-intellectual attitude of a J. B. Handley and the arrogance of ignorance that pseudoexpertise derived from studying at Google U. produces, and you have fanatical adherence to a crank movement. It all boils down to a basic human need for a perception of order in the universe. We need causes when bad things happen; we need explanations. “You were unlucky” or “it was just an unfortunate coincidence” are not answers to the question “Why?” that satisfy. Blaming something is, be it blaming vaccines for autism or constructing elaborate conspiracy theories to explain how 19 men with box cutters could hijack commercial airliners and cause the deaths of 3,000 Americans.

Becoming an expert in anything is very hard. It’s been estimated that in general it takes 10,000 hours of practice and study to become an expert in surgery, for example. There are no shortcuts. The Internet may seem like a shortcut that levels the playing field between experts and the great unwashed masses, but in reality it only gives the illusion of expertise or, as I’ve called it, pseudoexpertise. Similarly, in the past, the lay person just plain did not have direct access to medical studies. Obtaining such studies would require a trip to a medical school library, which may or may not be far away, prolonged searching through Index Medicus, piling journal upon journal on a cart, and then spending tons of change to copy the articles desired. Now, virtually any abstract can be accessed through PubMed, and articles reporting federally funded research are deposited in PubMed Central within a year of publication, where anyone can access it. While this open access to knowledge is appropriate, given that our tax dollars funded the research, it inadvertently fueled the rise of the pseudoexpert.

Finally, it’s not all bad. The very same forces that produced the anti-vaccine movement and fuel the panoply of cranks provide the weapons to combat them. For example, I started out blogging using a free service called Blogspot, and I would almost certainly still be on Blogspot or on one of the other free blogging platforms that have proliferated had ScienceBlogs not spotted me for the awesome blogging talent that I am and asked me to be assimilated into the collective. Should ScienceBlogs and I ever decide to part ways, I can always go back to that. It is that easy access to blogs and the web that cranks take advantage of to spread their message that provides scientists and skeptics the weapons to combat cranks. Unfortunately, it’s a lopsided battle, and not in our favor.

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]

250 replies on “The anti-vaccine movement, cranks, and “pseudo-expertise””

Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy had a quote that I think fits in well with your comments:

I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.

Unfortunately, it’s a lopsided battle, and not in our favor.

I don’t think so. Despite the internet and so forth, some things will never change, like the fact that claims can be challenged, and the fact that not all claims are equally valid or strong. So on the one hand cranks are better able to publish their wacky ideas, but on the other hand skeptics are also better able to publish theirs.

Do you have any journal references for people who have studied the ‘University of Google’ phenomenon from a psychological perspective? I think I remember reading of an anthropological study of lay vs expert knowledge. (It is a concept relevant to the research I’m doing for my PhD but I don’t recall coming across anything about it in my reading so far, apart from some work on lay health beliefs).

Thanks to anyone who can help

Orac you mean my countless hours of playing operation as a youth don’t make me an expert surgeon?

Orac, that’s a great post.

There’s one other aspect to the behavior of “pseudo-experts” and that’s the adoption of what I call “pseudo-morals.” To whit: the pseudo-expert is generally not paid to attack vaccines, or evolution, or whatever. But the real expert, by necessity, is a professional and the salary money has to come from somewhere. So the pseudo-expert dons a cloak of purity, and attacks the real vaccine experts as pharma shills. The “pseudo” quality of this morality is on display in the screed by JB Handley.

No one has to take my word for it, DB, but nor have you conclusively proved that they should take yours.
As long as the willful suppression of contradictory evidence is ongoing, then you aren’t practicing science and you are merely serving the same elite few that just openly and without apology manipulated the entire world to the brink of economic disaster, while fattening themselves.
To pretend that science has only ever involved itself in humanitarian endeavors is to just blatantly lie.
Any lurker here might assume that peer review is a flawless enterprise- it isn’t. There are excellent references at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_review-
including the paper with the list of Nobel winners rejected by their peers (which I already mentioned here once).

You want people to believe you, maybe you need to be a tad more quick to clean your own house. But that would mean tearing yourself away from the twisted shenanigans going on in that incestuous bed you share with your pals in industry and government.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3326091/Peer-review-the-myth-of-the-noble-scientist.html

Susan Chu has the back of parents, not you.

Excellent post. It amazes me how so many people without any expertise know the answers to very complex issues–climate change, the economy, and medicine, for example. These same people don’t even have a basis on which to evaluate claims made by people who live and breathe these issues.

As a layperson on topics such as these, though, the question arises as to how can I form opinions based on sound evidence and reasoning on important societal issues? As a science drop-out, I think objective, scientific methods are the best way to go. (But then, how can I distinguish a well-grounded, valid and reliable study from one that’s not? And can I even understand such studies?)

ScienceBlogs has been a big help. I read the blog posts as well as the comments. If I don’t understand the actual science (which I often don’t), I try the best I can to evaluate positions and rebuttals based on how they’re framed. Lots of science-y terminology doesn’t determine a winner, but I see how well the arguments *seem* to be presented and whether a rebuttal *seems* to address and/or undermine the argument. (Another problem is that I can’t objectively evaluate the credibility of the bloggers or commenters. I don’t know the players well enough, nor do I have the background to decide who’s the best qualified.)

I also enjoy reading the Skeptical Inquirer for a generally less technical look at topics oft-discussed here and in the public.

I know enough to know that I don’t know enough. I’d love some tips on how to evaluate technical positions without having the knowledge and expertise of those who promote those positions. So, what’s a layperson to do?

Great article Orac. I often come across this anti-intellectualism/pseudo-expertise during my time online. I find I’m constantly having to defend reason and logic and am seen as a snob for doing so.

However it does sometimes pay off. I actually convinced a friend of mine that his niece’s autism wasn’t caused by vaccines and to go take his daughter to be vaccinated against H1N1.

Which journals have willfully suppressed Dr. Chu’s findings? I mean, that’s why she hasn’t published them right?

@#6 doctrinalfairness

That article is a load of sh*t. Saying unknown scientists won’t be published because they are unknown? Give me air. I published two papers as an undergrad/unknown, one of which was in an ACS publication. If that article were correct in saying what it did, then my papers would have been rejected outright.

So sorry, Orac. If I didn’t have serious doubts about Freud, I would call my error in posting my last comment in the wrong thread here a slip on the order of Fruedian.

Freud’s theories were never even scientifically testable, yet for decades they held sway and one can only wonder how much pain and serious physiological illness was denied due to the consensus at the time of the hysterical conversion of penis envy. The consensus of the experts demands rigorous review and those who stand to neatly profit by their authoritative statements can handle the onslaught of we ignorant Google people. Or cry all the way to the bank.

But already we see a wave of amateurs convinced they can write a pithier movie review, arrange a catchier song, even assess our planet’s shifting weather conditions, better than the professionals trained to do the job.

Movie review? Catchier song? A journalist unhappy with the blogosphere, perhaps.

To borrow a phrase from the alties: let’s not mistake symptoms for root causes:
– Jenny McCarthy is a symptom. Jay Gordon, MD FAAP is a root cause.
– JB Handley is a symptom. Mark Geier MD is a root cause.
– doctrinalfairness is a symptom. Susan Chu MD is a root cause.

Without a genuine MD as back-up, these loudmouths would STFU.

In the 1980s medicine –a highly technical field which must self-police– became “heatlhcare,” a business that can be managed by MBAs and others. Doctors subsequently seem to have surrendered the duty of policing their own to non-MDs. Today customer service measures, “performance in practice,” count for more than intellectual integrity.

When I was in med school the chiropractors hadn’t yet brought their lawsuit against the AMA for trade infringement. I remember a quip from a lecturing neurologist: “…’chiropractic,’ containing the root ‘chiro’ which in the original Greek meant ‘quack.'”

Do med schools today still hand students the same right and duty to name the boundary that defines us?

Consider Dr. Gordon. He tells us that pediatricians recommend the CDC vaccine schedule to their patients while secretly doing things quite differently for their own children. If he’s correct, we can conclude that US pediatricians have somehow become a group of spineless bastards profoundly lacking in personal honor or human decency. If he’s wrong, he’s propagating a lie that will erode the public’s confidence in his own profession.

You might think the AAP would have something to say about this.

Berner,
Take it up with the Vice -Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, he wrote the article, not me.
Or isn’t he enough of an expert, either?

I like this quote from Richard Dawkins-

“The human mind is a wanton storyteller, and, even more, a profligate seeker after pattern.”

It so explains our willingness to believe nonsense.

I’ve been fascinated to watch a couple of trolls in action over at SBM. Their ignorance is astounding. Even I, who have only just finished intro level A & P, can spot some of their errors. Two people who know nothing about medicine are arguing with a bunch of doctors. Arrogance of ignorance, indeed.

For more on this notion of Americans being anti-intellectual and distrustful of experts, see Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Americans. He covers the development of this mentality in colonial America quite well. But while that might explain it in America, what about all the British anti-vaxxers?

I like to think that the availability of this information is more of a net positive than negative. In fact, I think a bigger problem is the amount of research that is held back from the general public by the for profit academic publishing industry. If we can just teach students how science is really done, get them reading real published research and doing some of their own, hopefully going to at least a view academic conference presentations to see what kinds of questions are asked, and teach them statistics, then they will be a lot harder to fool. I hope that the reason we see so many cranks is simply that the internet makes them more visible, not that more people actually believe them.

@docrinalfairness: No, science is not perfect. But you might note that all those Nobel winners are recognized for their accomplishments now. When a new theory fits the evidence, when a study is well designed, repeatable, and repeated, then eventually a paradigm shift will occur. The anti-vax movement has yet to provide enough credible evidence from well designed, repeated studies to merit changing the scientific consensus.

Confusing correlation and causation (in *more* ways than one):NJ incumbent governor, Jon Corzine,who was defeated Tuesday,has been a strong advocate for children’s vaccination,requiring additional vaccines and invoking the ire of anti-vaxxers far and wide:groups had pressured him for a “conscientious exemption” law(which has gone *nowhere* in legislature).Radio airhead, Gary Null, aiding and abetting NJ activists,used the airwaves(of Public Radio, WNYE)for the past year to call for actions against the governor and recently asked listeners to vote for the republican,who supposedly supports the exemption. Null now is taking credit for the governor’s defeat through his and other anti-vaxxers’ “activism”, claiming that they were responsible for the 95K plurality in the vote(of course, not mentioning the low turnout,the economy,”tea-party-ism”, generalized anger disorder,and other factors common in our state).

Just commiserating: yesterday I got terribly annoyed with a patient of mine, a 76 year-old gentleman with a history of MI and active but stable angina, who let his woo-soaked wife convince him to come off his beta-blockers and lipitor in favour of cayenne pepper and garlic (literally, I looked up his supplement).

I spent the rest of the day grinding my teeth in frustration. When he has another heart attack, I won’t be able to sit her down and tell her it’s her doing, because that would be cruel. But I want to.

doctrinalfairness wrote:
“Any lurker here might assume that peer review is a flawless enterprise- it isn’t.”

Actually, any lurker here might note that Orac has criticized peer-reviewed journals and called out the pharmaceutical industry quite a lot. Heck, a truly committed lurker might even use the Search feature at the top of the blog before commenting, lest they be told to LURK MOAR.

DoctrinalFairness,

Touting around one experts opinion as though him saying made it fact is fallacious and you know it. It’d be like me rejecting the Dark Mattery theory because a physicist told me MOND was correct even though the evidence favours Dark Matter.

DF:

Any lurker here might assume that peer review is a flawless enterprise.

Your argument is a strawman, a distorted representation of your opponent’s position that is easily defeated. No one believes that peer review is flawless or that science always leads to the right answer. If science had all the right answers, it would stop.

Claims that pass peer review are generally more likely to be true in comparison to claims that cannot be independently corroborated or critiqued. That is your opponent’s position. Do you agree or disagree with it?

Susan Chu has the back of parents, not you.

Has she taught you about the argument from ignorance? The strawman fallacy? These are the lessons that allow one entrance to genuine scientific discourse. Sadly, you’re not there yet.

Titmouse @ 12 hit the nail on the head. A self regulating profession has neglected it’s responsibilities. How the hell is a quack like Andrew Moulden who is a conman or batshit insane allowed to practice medicine? My doctor decided rather than faxing a referral to the surgeon one floor up, I should just walk it up. I couldn’t go down the hall up the stairs and around the corner without passing the office of an MD specializing in Orthomolecular medicine and Chelation therapy.

Speaking of Andrew Moulden, last summer he resigned as head of the loony left Canadian Action Party and joined the loony right Christian Heritage Party. This shows that the somewhere around the back the loony left meets the loony right and the result is not pretty.

“As I pointed out a month ago, one example is heart attacks and the flu vaccine. More than 3,000 people have heart attacks each and every day, which means that by random chance alone there will be probably several people a day who have a heart attack within 24 hours of being vaccinated for the flu.”

yes, but how many of those 3000 heart attacks were 20yr healthy young women? So, if several young healthy people have a heart attack within hours after the flu shot, it SHOULD be considered more than just a coincidence. If we write off everything as a coincidence, then everything would be considered safe. Maybe it was coincidence so and so died of the flu- they were going to get pneumonia anyway? My young, healthy, husband never had the flu, but ended up hopitalized for 2 weeks with a chest tube.

Diane:

Two people who know nothing about medicine are arguing with a bunch of doctors. Arrogance of ignorance, indeed.

It is a wonder to behold. For sheer entertainment you should see how a couple of clowns are arguing with a Columbia Univ. virologist who teaches at the medical school: Adjuvant effect on H1N1 vaccine.

By the way, Dr. Racaniello has a podcast, This Week in Virology, that is both educational and entertaining (especially if you like bad puns).

Militant Agnostic,

When I was in med school, hospitals didn’t have bar codes on every gauze pad, syringe, or catheter. If I had to re-do a procedure, I went to a supply cart and grabbed another collection of stuff. I assume the hospital had an “overhead expenses” category in their budget calculated as a percentage of total revenue.

Then managed care began to squeeze every penny tight. No more subsidies for overhead expenses. Turns out that the cost of teaching doctors came out of that part of the budget. Well, at least the hospitals could count on the slave labor to keep the books balanced.

Then laws were passed to limit how many hours student doctors could work. Ok, now the teaching hospitals are in serious trouble.

Then DSHEA in 1994 created an industry of vitaministas flush with cash, all using the bashing of BigPharma to market their wares to the public. Thus the removal of donations from BigPharma for medical education.

Now BigPlacebo is a major source of funding for medical education. Schools depend on tens of millions of dollars from the supplement industry and NCCAM each year. Strip them of this money, and they’re sunk.

So the self-policing problem has become too large for doctors to fix from within. We need the wider scientific community to help us stand up for sound scientific standards.

I love trolls like doctrinalfairness. They make my Irony Meter redline when I remember that they’re posting all this anti-science on the INTERNET. On a COMPUTER.

C’mon Df-where do you think computers and electricity and the Internet came from? Sprang full-blown 6,000 years ago when God created the Universe?

Science works. You prove that every time you post.

I think on of the other things the pseudo-experts have is an overwhelming need to become known for their views – to be the hero/ine of their own novel, battling against forces larger than themselves, crying truth in the wilderness, and it’s all very romantic in their heads, I’m sure.

This drives their need to push their views hard, and, being frequently unemployed (or dedicated to their one true cause), they have the time to take advantage of the ‘webs and spray their nonsense far and wide. It’s exhausting for the real experts to keep up with them, because the pseuds don’t need to actually do any real research, and will happily retreat to calling the other side poopyheads when they can’t provide any facts to back up their claims.

On the science side, however, research is a requirement, and the practice of backing up all arguments and statements of fact with proof makes it harder to keep up with the quick fingers of people who all repeat each others’ distortions when challenged.

…Which is why, despite my being an annoying pedant, I really look forward to reading your blog each day. You speak truth to the idiots. 🙂

Freud’s theories were never even scientifically testable, yet for decades they held sway and one can only wonder how much pain and serious physiological illness was denied due to the consensus at the time of the hysterical conversion of penis envy.

That just comes to show you need to watch out for mainstream views that are not science-based. I’m sure there are still some like these.

Listening to experts is an OK heuristic, but there needs to be a scientific foundation to what the experts are saying. There are very experienced, learned experts in all sorts of claptrap no doubt, but their views are worth nothing if the discipline itself is not science-based.

@ attack_laurel: Exactly. I think of the coterie of pseudo-experts as a troupe of really bad, frustrated writers re-iterating the script of every terrible screenplay and the plot of every awful novel relating to the themes you outline above.And never forget, it’s *advertisement* for a person and/or product *always*.

Please direct a little beam of the brilliance of all of that Apollonian sunshine and explain for we ignorant cave people how the following safety research that has spawned YOUR BEST GUESS at the risk/benefit profiles for a novel adjuvant in pregnant women and children is legitimate?
Large volumes of words here have been devoted to the threat of Suzanne Somers inferior medical care and ignorance. In a similar vein, once again I request your expert analysis and defense of questions raised by the use of statistics and strange scientific method pointed out in the following observations…

>>Anybody who thinks clinical trials, as they are currently done and accepted by the FDA and EMEA, can give us clear ideas about safety, should read the recent FDA meeting transcripts on Cervarix.
Here’s the thing. There were signals that suggest increased autoimmune disease especially for neurological complications, and increased spontaneous abortion for pregnant women, but after a variety of ways of analyzing them, you can argue that none of the data is statistically significant. The sheer number of ways of analyzing the data is a real eye-opener!!

Also, they used a large number of studies from all over the world. On the surface, it may look like that larger numbers of study subjects will give you more information, but in reality it only serves to cloud the picture and/or cancel out signals. For example, different studies used different controls (NONE of which was a true inert placebo), including alum, and 2 different concentrations of an alum-adjuvanted hepatitis B vaccine that is not normally given in the same schedule as the study. And yet they ‘pooled’ all the controls for analysis.

Comparing with heterogeneous groups of controls will have the tendency to either dilute the signals, or, if there is a signal, the range of variation is so high that the data becomes statistically meaningless. Like this, from the transcripts:

In the meta-analysis, I believe for all events, for HPV ASO4 products, the relative risk was 2.33, but the lower bound was 0.5 and 13.97 upper bound.

How are you supposed to interpret this, a risk that varies from 0.5 to 13.97 – ie ranging between 50% reduced risk to 14 times increased risk?? Does this prove safety? The committee voted yes. To me it only proves how many different ways clinical trials data can be creatively interpreted…
http://www.newfluwiki2.com/showComment.do?commentId=142504

Please direct a little beam of that brilliant Apollonian sunlight on a few FACTS. Explain to all of us ignorant cave dwellers how the following safety research that has spawned YOUR BEST GUESS at the risk/benefit profiles for a novel adjuvant in pregnant women and children is indeed legitimate science?
Large volumes of words here have been devoted to the immense threat of Suzanne Somers inferior medical care and ignorance. In a similar vein, once again, I request your expert analysis and defense of questions raised by the use of statistics and the odd scientific method pointed out in the following observations…

>>Anybody who thinks clinical trials, as they are currently done and accepted by the FDA and EMEA, can give us clear ideas about safety, should read the recent FDA meeting transcripts on Cervarix.
Here’s the thing. There were signals that suggest increased autoimmune disease especially for neurological complications, and increased spontaneous abortion for pregnant women, but after a variety of ways of analyzing them, you can argue that none of the data is statistically significant. The sheer number of ways of analyzing the data is a real eye-opener!!

Also, they used a large number of studies from all over the world. On the surface, it may look like that larger numbers of study subjects will give you more information, but in reality it only serves to cloud the picture and/or cancel out signals. For example, different studies used different controls (NONE of which was a true inert placebo), including alum, and 2 different concentrations of an alum-adjuvanted hepatitis B vaccine that is not normally given in the same schedule as the study. And yet they ‘pooled’ all the controls for analysis.

Comparing with heterogeneous groups of controls will have the tendency to either dilute the signals, or, if there is a signal, the range of variation is so high that the data becomes statistically meaningless. Like this, from the transcripts:

In the meta-analysis, I believe for all events, for HPV ASO4 products, the relative risk was 2.33, but the lower bound was 0.5 and 13.97 upper bound.

How are you supposed to interpret this, a risk that varies from 0.5 to 13.97 – ie ranging between 50% reduced risk to 14 times increased risk?? Does this prove safety? The committee voted yes. To me it only proves how many different ways clinical trials data can be creatively interpreted…
http://www.newfluwiki2.com/showComment.do?commentId=142504

Answer the question adequately in a plain language explanation, befitting of your expertise, to an ignorant soul and then this “hopeless little troll” is outta here.

Otherwise remain smug in your comfort with unexamined evidence which very well may condemn huge numbers of people to decades of the equivalent of “the hysterical conversion of penis envy” when they had diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Nobody wants another Vioxx, after all.

Doctrinalfairness: The Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham? You mean the one who was publicising a book whe wrote at the time (18 months ago)? And who ended his article with:

Less formal arrangements will remind us that new science is always provisional – and that validation comes only after publication, when others try to reproduce the work.

So, has anybody tried to reproduce Dr Chu’s work?

@BC: You left out the rest of the statement in your comment: “It’s not enough simply to observe an adverse event happening after something, say, vaccination. You have to show that there is an incidence of that adverse event significantly greater than what could be predicted by chance alone.” This means that your example would not be written off as a coincndence because it would be out of the statistical norm.

Chris, thanks. I don’t think that’s what I was thinking of but still a useful reference and hopefully will provide a way into similar literature.

And Freud’s theories were eventually debunked by…science. The fact that Freud’s ideas are still pretty much synonymous with psychology to most of the public is pretty telling, I think.

DoctrinalFairness–re: Orac’s views on peer review, I quote Orac himself, from http://respectfulinsolence.com/2009/10/the_anti-vaccine_movement_strikes_back_u.php
“Peer-reviewed doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good research. It’s a minimum standard, and the “research” that J.B. cites has, without an exception that I’ve ever seen, been uniformly awful.”
Oh, but he was using the flaws of peer review to criticize JB, so I guess that doesn’t count.

While I agree with the thrust of his essay, Rainey seriously undermines his argument with the ridiculous sentence containing “But already we see a wave of amateurs convinced they can write a pithier movie review, arrange a catchier song…”

You don’t need to be a trained expert to write a catchy song [is there some Catchy Song U. out there that I’m not aware of? Is THAT how the Beatles got so good?], and my guess is that most professional film critics have not attended film school, given the lowbrow banality of most film criticism.

Methinks he shoulda stuck to science-related examples.

The other driving force behind the proliferation of pseudo-expertise is a very human trait that we all share, namely the tendency to confuse correlation with causation. Once again, this is one of the first lessons in science, not to confuse correlation with causation, but those of us in science forget just how against human nature this is. We are creatures that value personal experience over statistics and science. One good anecdote trumps reams of evidence. This produces, for example, anthropogenic global warming denialists who justify their rejection of climate science by their observation that this summer was unusually mild in their area or the alternative medicine maven who swears by homeopathy because the symptoms of their self-limited condition got better after they tried it.

Wow. Can I use this quote? Please?

We’ve gotten this far into discussing the cult of the amateur and the arrogance of ignorance, and the poster child/queen bee of this phenomenon hasn’t been mentioned yet?

Where’s the love for Sarah Palin?

I was at an engineering conference a few years ago and we had some motivational speaker tell us that by reading 3-4 books on a subject you can be an expert.

I almost stood up and threw a penalty flag. (His claim to fame was running or owning the Orlando Magic.) He was in a room with *true* experts in their highly technical fields who could write graduate level textbooks. It took a lot more than reading a few books to get these folks to the level of “expert”

DF,

Do we agree that the H1N1 vaccine with or without adjuvant has a favorable benefit/risk ratio for pregnant women?

Remember, each question placed on the table for discussion needs an answer before a new question is added.

sophia8 writes:

So, has anybody tried to reproduce Dr Chu’s work?

Yes, thousands of doctors have been able to do so. You’re talking about her former work as a primary care physician (now retired), right?

Oh, her “work” regarding vaccines? Well, actually, she’s done no work that I’m aware of, she simply comments on studies done by others, bringing up various potential reasons one might doubt their conclusions. (I’ve never seen any validation of these reasons, it’s all apparently innuendo, from global statements that vaccine studies are “happy talk” by the manufacturers, to suspicion of an HPV ingredient because it originates with a microorganism-derived toxin. Of course, all vaccines are derived from disease-causing organisms, so Dr. Chu’s reasoning in that instance might be described as a bit overbroad, eh?)

Dr. Chu appears to be on her best behavior when posting comments that can be read by government officials on the H1N1 Public Engagement Dialogue message board. For example, in her last comment in August regarding H1N1 vaccine, she says “…efficacy is likely to be similar to seasonal flu in the near future.” In fact, in another August comment she advises CDC as to how best to persuade parents with thimerosal concerns to have their children vaccinated: “May I suggest that the CDC/HHS look into ways of proactively reaching out to this subgroup as a matter of priority?”

So it appears Dr. Chu herself is not rigidly anti-vaccine, but has perhaps gone a bit to the extreme regarding (1) adjuvants and (2) degree of skepticism regarding any studies whose conclusions appear to support adjuvant safety.

How entirely appropriate that doctrinalfairness’ reply to Orac’s post demonstrates so well some of the points he discusses, such as confirmation bias (Dr. Chu’s writings suggesting that the H1N1 vaccine is effective and people ought to be persuaded to have their children get it are nowhere reflected in df’s comments, while the Dr.’s skepticism re adjuvant studies is transmitted by df in amplified form) and pseudoexpertise (rigorous studies of millions of vaccinations are as nothing next to the knowledge I’ve absorbed from a wiki frequented by a retired primary care physician!! All ur vaccinez are belong to us!!).

KiethB @43

I was at an engineering conference a few years ago and we had some motivational speaker tell us that by reading 3-4 books on a subject you can be an expert.

After reading 3-4 books on a subject you can pass yourself off as an expert to someone with little knowledge of that subject. Maybe that’s what he meant – someone with that superficial knowledge looked like an exert to him.:)

The worldview of motivational speakers is usually pretty superficial – they are usually consummate bullshit artists who have leveraged having been lucky once into a career.

Nooooo! Not another thread hijacked by DoctrinalFeyness and her BFF Susan Chu! Beyond being ‘exhibit A’ for the topic of this particular post, she is, frankly, boring the shit out of me.

How:

While I agree with the thrust of his essay, Rainey seriously undermines his argument with the ridiculous sentence containing “But already we see a wave of amateurs convinced they can write a pithier movie review, arrange a catchier song…”

I agree. This is a dangerous false equivalence, not only because of the vastly different requirements of being an ‘expert’ in movie reviews vs. medicine, but because it suggests that policy by popular opinion is a valid way to go, regardless of the topic. Part of the reason we’re in this so deep is the stupid po-mo trend of giving equal weight to all views.

Orac, I’m one of those people who wasn’t fortunate enough to get a post-secondary education in science but who has lost many, many hours reading fascinating stuff via “Google University.”

I remember when my brother-in-law, remarking on my reading in science, said, “You must be quite an expert in all this stuff by now!”

“Quite the opposite,” I told him. “In fact, the more I learn the more I am aware how much there still remains to be learned. I don’t think I’ve ever properly appreciated the scope of my own ignorance before now.”

He shook his head. “Really? I pretty much know more than the average Western doctor does these days, and I’m more open-minded than they are, which means there’s no limit to what else I can master.”

I suppose my point is that the arrogance of ignorance isn’t a feature of Google University — it’s a bug in (some|many|most?) the humans making use of it.

Yours,
CBB

@Denise

of course, not mentioning the low turnout,the economy,”tea-party-ism”, generalized anger disorder,and other factors common in our state).
———————–
Along with the widespread dissatisfaction with Barak Obama – who inadvertently sabotaged Corzine by campaigning for him

Jud,
Truly amazing! Really!!
All along I have pointed to the fact that Susan Chu is NOT AT ALL AN ANTI-VAX lunatic. Which makes her an exception to your frozen categories- PRO vs ANTI VAX.
Perhaps you missed the numerous posts where I have questioned the motive of the polarization of the vaccination “camps” into two categories. Many people are coming around to know that these tactics are often rooted in political and economic disinformation campaigns that lead to things like fundamentalist religious thinking and racial hatred, you know- the REAL dumbing down of the masses.
While Susan Chu is quietly plugging away working for parents, nearly every one of you here is engaged in ridiculing people with questions and doubts about the safety of vaccines. We must shut up and take the jab. Period.
What struck me about Susan Chu from the first was that she is SOLIDLY pro-vaccination and has devoted a substantial number of years working as a volunteer to EDUCATE parents in every aspect of pandemic influenza. She might have retired to the Carribean and she did not.
Ironically, these numerous years amount to no expertise whatsoever in your pedantic hierarchy of value here. Someone like her has no place in the timeworn safe little schemata of (COMPROMISED) peer reviewed science.

Most parents that I know have amazing respect and regard for their beloved pediatricians, so it’s enlightening to also learn right here what little esteem they are actually held in with thier years of observing children directly.
I have NEVER presented MYSELF as an expert on anything.
Your dishonesty and smears of what I actually said all along blows my psuedo-mind.

@Chris

This is what your virologist said:

MF59 has been used in European influenza vaccines for years with no side effects.

This of course this is entirely false. Point for the clowns.

Trolls post to rile people up. They may present of front of being interest in fair debate, but this is a sham. Lurkers read and don’t post.

As a layperson on topics such as these, though, the question arises as to how can I form opinions based on sound evidence and reasoning on important societal issues?

I hope you’re not looking for a unicorn’s horn to distinguish the brew that is true?

A few things to keep in mind:

* As Mark Twain wisely observed, it takes more intelligence to lie than to tell the truth. Nonsense tends towards self-contradiction. Not to mention slashing its own wrists with Occam’s Razor.

* Crank Magnetism. Theres something about crackpottery that leads to metastasis, and before you know it troofers are also birfers. For example, John “whale.to” Scudamore is also a birfer who thinks Orly Taitz is brilliant.

* Unlike fantasy, reality is all connected. You may not be an expert in a field, but chances are pretty good that someone like Boyd Haley who’s selling a line of BS will violate Twain’s advice in ways that you can spot. They’re going to dispense some narishkeit that runs afoul of something where you are at least somewhat expert.

A wonderful example was the antivaccinationist attack on MMR. The Mercury Militia joined Wakefield’s bandwagon and blamed the MMR/Autism connection (what connection? Don’t ask) on thimerosal in the MMR. Spectacularly, they didn’t withdraw this story even when it was pointed out that MMR never contained thimerosal.

My favorite, of course, is homeopathy. I’m a semiconductor engineer, and the physics of high dilution is the bedrock of our field. Homeopathy directly contradicts calculations that I use daily to (accurately, thank you) predict the behavior of complex circuits — such as the ones in the computer you’re using to read this comment. Homeopathy or computers — only one of them can work.

doctrinalfairness writes:

What struck me about Susan Chu from the first was that she is SOLIDLY pro-vaccination

I certainly look forward to more of your solidly pro-vaccination quotes from Dr. Chu.

Oh, but he was using the flaws of peer review to criticize JB, so I guess that doesn’t count.

@Erika: So you have a statement from Orac saying that all peer-reviewed science is true by virtue of its being peer-reviewed? Let’s see it.

I think we can all agree not all peer-reviewed research is good research, and not all non-peer-reviewed information is bogus. Peer-review is simply a heuristic, like Occam’s Razor, or journal impact factor.

Jennifer B Phillips,
So revealing, this statement of yours…

>>Part of the reason we’re in this so deep is the stupid po-mo trend of giving equal weight to all views.<< Perhaps you've forgotten your history, but you aren't going to doom me to repeat it. Many loud, obnoxious and uppity women fought hard and long for your enjoyed right to vote and for the permission that was neccessary for your admission and inclusion into the cozy little exclusive circle of elite experts in which you presently belong. Women are still fighting to insure your reproductive rights, in case you hadn't noticed. A mere seventy years ago, you were considered little more than property. But lets hear some more of your nostalgic longing for the "good old days" before po-mo, when slavery and servitude were legal, OK?

I hope you’re not looking for a unicorn’s horn to distinguish the brew that is true?

It’s simple, the pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon. The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!

Jennifer B Phillips,
So revealing, this statement of yours…

>>Part of the reason we’re in this so deep is the stupid po-mo trend of giving equal weight to all views.<< Perhaps you've forgotten your history, but you aren't going to doom me to repeat it. Many loud, obnoxious and uppity women fought hard and long for your enjoyed right to vote and for the permission that was neccessary for your admission and inclusion into the cozy little exclusive circle of elite experts in which you presently belong. Women are still fighting to insure your reproductive rights, in case you hadn't noticed. A mere seventy years ago, you were considered little more than property. But lets hear some more of your nostalgic longing for the "good old days" before po-mo, when slavery and servitude were legal, OK?

DoctrinalFairness Blurted out:

Perhaps you’ve forgotten your history, but you aren’t going to doom me to repeat it.
Many loud, obnoxious and uppity women fought hard and long for your enjoyed right to vote and for the permission that was neccessary for your admission and inclusion into the cozy little exclusive circle of elite experts in which you presently belong.
Women are still fighting to insure your reproductive rights, in case you hadn’t noticed. A mere seventy years ago, you were considered little more than property. But lets hear some more of your nostalgic longing for the “good old days” before po-mo, when slavery and servitude were legal, OK?

Please explain what PoMo has to do with the Suffrage movement, or equal rights. Seriously, I’d love to see this one! It seems to me that PoMo often backs cultures that don’t value equality.

Actually, no don’t bother, it’s clear from this post that you’re either a troll or a Wahle.to level nut.

In addition to the distrust of authority, assumption of equality, and confusion of causation with correlation, I’d add in another factor driving the arrogance behind ignorance: the ubiquitous cultural emphasis put on the virtue of ‘having faith.’ How could you forget the Mommy Instinct? Mommies just know, via an intuition that looks suspiciously like ESP, or revelation for God. Believe what your heart tells you, and follow those self-affirming Other Ways of Knowing beyond the evidence. This will mark you as sensitive, humble, and enlightened.

In religion, seeking only confirming evidence and looking for someone whose word you can trust is a feature, not a bug. The conspiracy theory which divides people into good guys and bad guys is already familiar. “For those who believe, no evidence is necessary: for those who don’t, no evidence is possible.” When you think about it, that smug little aphorism pretty much sums up the attitude of the True Believer — and goes contrary to the approach of science.

If you follow the pseudoscience debates, whatever the form of woo, most skeptics will eventually be asked the trick question: “Do you believe in God?”

If you do, then you’ve accepted that miracles happen, the universe is based on magical forces of one kind or another, and it’s important to believe that there’s more than the material, physical world: now, you’re only quibbling over where to draw a line. They’ve got you. If the answer is ‘no,’ then they’ve got you again: few audiences are sympathetic to atheism, and it’s clear that you’re just too damn skeptical for anyone’s taste, or your own good.

If the answer is ‘no,’ then they’ve got you again: few audiences are sympathetic to atheism, and it’s clear that you’re just too damn skeptical for anyone’s taste, or your own good.

This is often true, but doesn’t apply to the Bill Maher type of pseudoskeptic (yes, I know he claims not to be an ATHEIST, but many of his ilk do go the Full Monte on that score) who claim that they are, in fact the ‘real skeptics’–they claim not to accept *anything* on faith, and insinuate that those who do accept science-based medicine are doing exactly that.

But lets hear some more of your nostalgic longing for the “good old days” before po-mo, when slavery and servitude were legal, OK?

DF, who is more arrogant:
– The person who asks, “what does po-mo mean?” or the person who decides what it must mean without bothering to ask?
– The scholar who spends years in study or the self-taught who denounces scholars as “elitist”?

RE: #60

Thank you — I was hoping someone would be a student of the classics.

Haven’t you guys ever read The Emancipation Proclamation?

Didn’t you notice the subtitle: Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”

@DoctrinalFairness

Many loud, obnoxious and uppity women fought hard and long for your enjoyed right to vote and for the permission that was neccessary for your admission and inclusion into the cozy little exclusive circle of elite experts in which you presently belong.

How exactly is not discriminating against people by gender in any way like requiring people to have the required knowledge before voicing an opinion on a topic? The function and location of your reproductive organs doesn’t have anything to say about your level of expertise, but your academic work and the validity of the ideas you put forward sure do.

If some ufologist wants to interrogate me about how likely aliens are to visit Earth, I can give a pretty good framework because I’ve completed a good deal of the required coursework and have a basic understanding of the physics involved. Someone who insists that magic magnets on the perimeter of a flying saucer generate perpetual zero point energy doesn’t, hence his/her opinion on the subject is pretty much invalid.

Likewise, I don’t even try to open my mouth in front of a chemist because I’ve done pretty much no work in the field and whatever I say is probably going to be wrong. That’s a huge part of scientific thinking. You have to recognize when it’s time to speak up and when it’s time to shut up for a moment and listen to someone who clearly knows better.

My favorite, of course, is homeopathy. I’m a semiconductor engineer, and the physics of high dilution is the bedrock of our field. Homeopathy directly contradicts calculations that I use daily to (accurately, thank you) predict the behavior of complex circuits — such as the ones in the computer you’re using to read this comment. Homeopathy or computers — only one of them can work.

The Health and Science section of Tuesday’s Washington Post included two letters from readers extolling the virtues (no side effects!) and effectiveness (it has protected me through six flu seasons!) of homeopathy.

I suppose the letters were in response to some article that I missed.

ow could you forget the Mommy Instinct? Mommies just know, via an intuition that looks suspiciously like ESP, or revelation for God. Believe what your heart tells you, and follow those self-affirming Other Ways of Knowing beyond the evidence.

I was going to mention this, too. Some of the problem, especially with mothers, is in the parenting books that keep saying, “Follow your instincts, they are usually right.”

I’ve pointed out in the past that there is a grain of truth, at least in how it is presented. When it comes to a lot of things about raising a child, “mother’s instincts” are indeed, usually pretty reasonable. Of course, the reason that is true is because for those things, it’s tough to go wrong. Kids are pretty darn resilient, and will do just fine in most situations.

However, in addition to the problem that this applies to a lot of general stuff but there are exceptions (listen to your pediatrician!), another problem I’ve pointed out is that too often, there are moms who take this too far, and hear “trust your instincts, you will usually be ok” as “you are always right and everyone else’s is wrong.”

When they start taking that attitude with real experts, that’s a problem.

I’m really interested to know what contribution post-modernism made towards ending slavery and servitude.

Thats it TBruce, twist my words. Like it or not, we LIVE here and now in a very imperfect PO-MO era. Those who long for the not so long ago days when every bit of truth, beauty, goodness and wisdom was determined and largely possessed by white men is not my idea of a great future, either.

credentialed, I owe you a very detailed apology, but it will have to wait a week, I am sorry.

Actually, no don’t bother, it’s clear from this post that you’re either a troll or a Wahle.to level nut.

It has been clear for a long time now. “She” made a passing reference to vaccines being part of a depopulation agenda very early on here. And the crazy has just been piling up ever since.

It has been kind of an interesting freak show though.

“there is nothing truthful, wise, humane, or strategic about confusing hostility to injustice and oppression, which is leftist, with hostility to science and rationality, which is nonsense.”
–Michael Albert

Part of the lure of the cult of the amateur is the feeling that one can “take control” in challenging facets of our lives like health care, while showing those smarty-pants experts a thing or two.

Kudos to DoctrinalFairness for also demonstrating something that’s probably new to most of us – embracing half-baked antivax theories is a way of promoting civil rights:

“I have questioned the motive of the polarization of the vaccination “camps” into two categories…Many people are coming around to know that these tactics are often rooted in political and economic disinformation campaigns that lead to things like fundamentalist religious thinking and racial hatred”

See, if you insist on rigorous science in evaluating immunization and other elements of evidence-based medicine, you’re the equivalent of the Taliban.

Quackery – it’s now one of our cherished civil rights.

One of my all-time favorite bits of self-immolating stupid is this one:

“In the business world, having a degree from a great college or business school gets you your first job, and not much else.”

In the science world, having a degree from a great college or university won’t even get you your first job, unless your first job is making culture media or pushing the buttons on an a machine. To get beyond a technician-level job in science – to get to where you are doing real research – requires much, much more.

A bachelor’s degree – and good grades and recommendations – can get you your first graduate school position, and not much else. There are plenty of people who got a BS in chemistry or biology from Stanford or Yale who are selling pipette tips and thermocyclers for some company in New Jersey today. Even those working in “research” with just a BS are working as technicians, not researchers. It pretty much takes a PhD (and a post-doctoral fellowship) to get to the point where you actually decide what you will be researching.

So, all of those people who are publishing research have gone through multiple “weeding-out” processes: getting into (and out of) graduate school, getting their PhD, doing a post-doctoral fellowship, getting grants, having their research criticised and reviewed by peers at meetings, seminars and editorial boards. All of those people that the Google U. grads are so dissmissive of have put in years of study, work and research to get to where they are today.

Apparently, it doesn’t take as much work or intelligence to succeed in the business world – who knew? But our “expert” goes on to tell us:

“There are plenty of Harvard Business School grads who have bankrupted companies and gone to jail, and plenty of high school drop-outs who are multi-millionaires. Brains and street-smarts win, not degrees, arrogance, or entitlement”

So, it would appear that the education needed to succeed in business is no more than a few years of high school and the “smarts” needed are no more than would allow someone to run a top-flight lemonade stand. Or so our “expert” seems to claim.

Yet, because this “expert” can successfully run a business, he feels he has scientific knowledge and “smarts” superior to someone who is successfully running a research program?

And who was it that was being “arrogant”?

Prometheus

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: