The (not so) Thinking Moms’ (D)evolution’s Declaration

One of the most inaptly named groups I’ve ever seen is called Thinking Moms’ Revolution (henceforth abbreviated as TMR). Given the reality of what TMR really is, the word “thinking” applied to TMR is, as they say, so wrong it’s not even wrong. As for a “revolution,” what TMR really represents is nothing revolutionary at all, unless you consider antivaccinationism, run-of-the-mill antiscience paranoia, and big pharma conspiracy theories to be “revolutionary.” I don’t know about you, but I do not. I’ve followed such activities for well over a decade now, and in light of that experience, perusing the TMR website, I am struck less by anything resembling “thinking” or “revolution” than by a smug sense of self-congratulation at how its members are allegedly not “brainwashed” like everyone else.

Don’t believe me? Then look at the web page in which the “Thinking Moms” introduce themselves. I mean, gag me with the proverbial spoon (as they used to say in the 1980s). We have members going by the handles of Dragon Slayer, Goddess, The Booty Kicker, Killah, Savage, Saint, Princess, Mountain Momma, The Professor, and several others that are equally nauseatingly self-congratulatory. How edgy. How “revolutionary.”

How tiresome. (Yes, I know I use a ‘nym, but my little affectation is so obscure that very few readers know its significance. Come to think of it, few readers care about its significance even after I explain where it comes from. Maybe I should rename myself “Quack Killah.” Yeah, that’s the ticket…)

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of cross-pollination between TMR and the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism. In fact, AoA is where I saw the most hilarious bit of arrogance yet from TMR, as it was published on AoA first. Apparently the “Thinking Moms'” opinion of themselves goes beyond thinking that they understand immunology, vaccine science, pharmacology, toxicology, and drug development better than…oh, you know…actual scientists. Apparently the “Thinking Moms” view themselves as revolutionaries on par with the Founding Fathers, so much so that they have posted their very own Declaration of Independence from Medical Tyranny. I was going to say that “words fail me,” but you know that would be a lie. If that were the case, this would post would be just a brief link with a suggestion that you all point and laugh. Instead, however, I see a great deal that reveals the mindset not just of antivaccinationists but of quacks and cranks in general.

First, it’s hard not to note that when the “Thinking Moms” say “declaration of independence,” they mean “Declaration of Independence,” as in the real Declaration of Independence in which colonists dissolved their ties with Great Britain and its king and declared the colonies independent. The TMR “declaration” apes the form of the real Declaration very closely:

When in the course of human healthcare it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Science entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of educated parents requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

See what I mean? One can imagine Thomas Jefferson’s bones doing backflips in his grave. In fact, a clearer statement of the arrogance of ignorance is hard to find. “Laws of science”? Really? Science has a lot of theories but precious few “laws,” and those laws have nothing do to with the causes the TMR seems to be about. Of course, what really compels these moms is that they think that science doesn’t respect their “educated” opinions as much as they think it should. I would counter that scientists probably give antivaccinationists like TMR far more “respect” than they deserve. After all, their understanding of science, as can be demonstrated very easily, is abominable. They insist that they know that vaccines cause autism against all medical evidence.

In fact, this attitude can easily be generalized not just to antivaccinationists, but to cranks of all stripes. For instance, how often have we heard “intelligent design” creationists demand “respect” for their views? Quacks do it as well, as do anthropogenic global warming denialists. They all endlessly repeat canards that science has considered and rejected based on evidence and experimentation as though they were new and still in dispute. To support their arguments, they cherry pick data, distort science, exaggerate risks and downplay benefits, and in general seek data to confirm their preexisting biases rather than consider data that might falsify their beliefs. We can see the same sort of conpsiracy-mongering thinking among promoters of “health freedom” who advocate all manner of quackery under the banner of a “freedom” that in reality means the freedom of quacks to practice their quackery without the pesky interference of laws and regulations designed to protect the public from them.

Given that this “declaration” is patterned on the real Declaration of Independence, you know what’s coming next. That’s right, TMR wants you to know which “truths” it holds to be “self-evident”:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all children are created equal, that they are endowed by virtue of their birth certain unalienable Rights, that among these are the right to a healthy life free from the tyranny of untested preventative medicine and a life free from chronic inflammatory illness caused by an unaffected and apathetic pharmaceutical oligarchy that receives government endorsement and protection. To secure these rights, Governments and Institutions are created deriving their just powers from THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying it’s foundation on such principles and organizing it’s power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to preserve the Safety and Health of their children.

Won’t someone think of the children?

Of course, those of us who support vaccine science and widespread vaccination programs are thinking of the children. We’re thinking of real consequences of not vaccinating, such as the return of serious vaccine-preventable diseases that will cause suffering, morbidity, and mortality. The TMR is thinking of fantasy consequences of vaccinating, namely all the conditions and diseases antivaccinationists falsely attribute to vaccines, such as autism, “chronic inflammatory diseases,” and the like. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take reality-based thinking over fantasy-based thinking when it comes to health care any day. In fact, I’d retort that children are endowed by virtue of their birth with the right to medical means of preventing unnecessary suffering from diseases.

That means vaccines. It’s also utter nonsense that vaccines and pharmaceuticals are “untested.” They are, in fact, tested very extensively. TMR thinks vaccines to be “untested” because the testing that has been done hasn’t found what these mothers believe it should find, namely that vaccines cause all sorts of chronic health problems. No one has ever said that vaccines are 100% safe, but they are among the safest and most efficacious of medical interventions. In essence, by calling them “untested,” to paraphrase Adam Savage, TMR is rejecting scientific reality and substituting its own, in the process going completely off the deep end:

The Pharmaceutical Industry, Medical Institutions, and the American Government have repeatedly discredited organizations, research studies, physicians, and citizens opposing the notion that they, and they alone, know what is best for the people they claim to protect, repeatedly citing the science they themselves perform, promote, and proliferate. Science that lacks a fundamental component: A control group. All science currently published in support of the current vaccine schedule lacks a placebo/control group. Thereby nullifying its validity and bringing the motives of its promoters and defenders into question. Such science, brought under the scrutiny of the Thinking Moms is without merit and shall be denounced publicly.

Excuse me. I need to do something about the smell here. The rotting zombie of this hoary old antivaccine argument is stinking up the place. Do I really have to address this brain dead argument again? I suppose I do. Let’s see. Let’s go to PubMed where a quick search of “Clinical trial,” “vaccine,” and “placebo” brought up 2,171 articles. Now, of course, many of those articles will not be in support of the current vaccine schedule, but many of them are. It’s utter lunacy to claim that “all science currently published in support of the current vaccine schedule lacks a placebo/control group.” Clearly, TMR is confused. When we say that it would be unethical to do a placebo-controlled RCT of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children (and it would be), we don’t mean that it’s never ethical to use placebo controls. For instance, here’s a placebo-controlled double-blind RCT of the Hib vaccine.

I guess that means that at least one trial in support of the current vaccine schedule was a double-blind, placebo-controlled RCT. Not “none.” It is rather amusing, however, to see TMR’s arrogance of ignorance on display.

But TMR is just getting warmed up:

The Pharmaceutical Industry, Medical Institutions, and the American Government have repeatedly usurped and controlled the media message, presenting half truths and falsehoods about the thinking parents, and by extension, Thinking Moms, and other reputable consumer safety advocacy groups and individuals, professing our message is unsound and without scientific merit. At present, over 55 studies exist demonstrating a strong link between vaccines and autism (also known as vaccine encephalopathy). They are not permitted publication in medical journals or scientific periodicals because those journals are funded by the very industry those studies indict. Studies formerly published on PubMed and other scientific publications have been removed without proper and formal discourse between those displacing said studies and the American public. The censorship of intellectual property that pertains directly to the health and welfare of all children is a crime against humanity.

Andrew Wakefield. They’re talking about Andrew Wakefield here. This argument is the height of silliness. As I’ve described before and extensively documented by Brian Deer, Wakefield’s work was profit-driven and fraudulent, but even more importantly it was wrong. His study has not been replicated, and multiple large studies have failed to find a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Also amusing is the bit about how Wakefield’s studies have been retracted by journals “without proper and formal discourse between those displacing said studies and the American public.” Here’s a hint: Peer review does not involve the American “public” because the American public doesn’t have the knowledge and background to evaluate the science. Neither does TMR, apparently.

I do like the “counting studies” gambit, though. Here’s a hint to TMR: I can easily find 55 studies that demonstrate that homeopathy works. I really could if I put my mind to it! In fact, I could find hundreds of studies if I really wanted to. Does that mean that homeopathy does, in fact, work? Of course not! Quality counts, as does the preponderance of evidence, not to mention the fact that homeopathy violates the laws of physics. I have to wonder, though. Did it ever occur to TMR that maybe–just maybe–the reason these studies can’t get published in the medical literature is not because of some vast pharma conspiracy (which is, of course, the same excuse that alt-med quacks use for why they don’t publish their results) but rather because their science is crap?

The rest of the “declaration” exhumes even more rotting corpses of anti-vaccine canards. TMR complains about Simpsonwood being embargoed. Simpsonwood? That’s so…2005. Hannah Poling? That’s so…2008. The whole thing reads like a self-congratulatory declaration of the arrogance of ignorance salted with the antivaccine movement’s greatest hits. I mean, really. Get a load of this:

For the support of this Declaration, we, The Thinking Moms, and by extension, representatives of a THINKING POPULATION, with full reliance on Real Science, shall take it upon ourselves to educate, investigate, and rigorously pursue any and all treatments for our children who suffer iatrogenic illness. We promise to share the fruits of our labors with others, to honor one another and all our children. We uphold among ourselves a conduct and spirit consistent with a Divine Purpose that focuses exclusively on two fundamental goals: the restored health of our children and the restoration of our nation. We will no longer be ignored. When the Pharmaceutical Industry, Medical Institutions, and the American Government prove themselves to be of an openly investigative, non-political mindset that focuses on the health of children rather than the distribution and allocation of profits they may petition us for involvement and inclusion in our community.

Got that, you sheeple? The “Thinking Moms” are the representatives of a THINKING POPULATION (all caps faithfully reproduced) who represent Real Science. I swear, I would have capitalized “Real Science” as a means of mocking the “Thinking Moms'” pretensions that they have even the slightest understanding of science, but TMR did it for me–and did it utterly without any irony whatsoever. And for that, we thank you.

When I read something like this manifesto, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Yes, it’s easy to laugh at the hugely inflated egos behind the arrogance of ignorance so richly on display here. We see it not just in antivaccine activists, but quacks, creationists, and anthropogenic global warming denialists. We also see the same sense of grievance because their crank ideas are not taken seriously by scientists because the scientific evidence doesn’t support them. It’s easy to laugh at it. But then I see this part:

In practical real world application over half of our precious children will become ill and several will die, for the fallacious notion of the good of all. These are the principles of a corrupt, immoral, and bankrupt nation.

Yes, TMR really appears to believe that half of our precious children will become ill from vaccines and that several will die. That is the antivaccine mindset. That is what we’re up against: an irrational belief not founded in science that vaccines are harming children and that there is a huge pharmaceutical industry plot to cover it up. That’s the part that makes me want to cry. We see the same sort of thinking (if you can call it that) in Gary Null’s “health freedom” attacks on science and the pharmaceutical company, augmented by Mike Adams’ lunacy and Joe Mercola’s more calculated commerce-driven attacks on science.

In the end, TMR’s Declaration of Independence from Medical Tyranny reads like the tantrum of a child who, when gently told time and time again by his parents, that there is no monster under his bed, screams, “There is, too!” and insists that his parents not only just protect them from it but hunt it down and kill it. Science gently (perhaps too gently) tries to tell people like this that there is no vaccine boogeyman or thimerosal boogeyman, and moms like TMR demand against all reason the government cater to their non-science-based fears.