Mike Adams issues a challenge over vaccines to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and hilarity ensues

I’m sure that a lot of you, like me, are watching the rebooted version of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, with Neil deGrasse Tyson taking over the hosting duties originally handled so ably over 30 years ago by Carl Sagan. I definitely enjoyed the first episode and am looking forward to additional episodes. The only thing that annoys me is that Cosmos is on at the same time as The Walking Dead, but that’s what DVRs were made for. The first episode, which is all I’ve seen thus far at this writing, was quite impressive, and the segment at the end in which Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about the time he met Carl Sagan when he was 17 served as a fitting “passing of the baton” to the next generation.

I had a few quibbles, of course, but they were just quibbles. The updating of the cosmic calendar was splendid, and it doesn’t appear that the series will pull any punches (at least not much) when it comes to religion-inspired pseudoscience.

That’s why what I saw yesterday almost ruined a computer screen and keyboard, as I was drinking my coffee when I came across it. I’m referring to an article published by everyone’s favorite quack with a vastly inflated sense of self-importance, Mike Adams, entitled Neil DeGrasse Tyson publicly endorses core philosophy of Natural News: Follow the evidence; question everything.

I’ll pause here to give you a chance to let your laughter die down. It’s certain to take anywhere from several seconds to several minutes, depending on how much you know about Mike Adams. The title is gut-bustingly funny enough, but what’s in the article goes beyond hilarious. It took me multiple attempts to get through this article; so if my writing is a bit choppy, please forgive me. I know I really shouldn’t take on a Mike Adams screed like this, particularly so soon after such depressingly serious and scientific topics. However, things have gotten a little surreal around here lately, so why not some Mike Adams? Besides, I can’t choose when Adams will produce a screed custom made for some not-so-Respectful Insolence. I could choose to ignore it, but there wasn’t anything else that caught my eye last night, so what the heck?

Adams, thus demonstrating his incredible hubris, proclaims himself to be a kindred spirit to not only Carl Sagan but to the host of the new Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson. That’s right. Mike is a scientist, too, dammit:

As a long-time fan of the sciences, I was thrilled to see the re-launch of the Cosmos series this past week, starring Neil DeGrasse Tyson as the host. I was an enthusiastic fan of the original 1980 Cosmos series starring Carl Sagan, and I grew up steeped in the study of the natural sciences.

Perhaps that’s why I was especially delighted to hear Neil DeGrasse Tyson announce — in the first few minutes of the new Cosmos series — “Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything.”

That is, of course, the core philosophy of Natural News. It has been the driving force behind this organization’s informed skepticism of mercury in vaccines, mercury in dentistry, fluoride in public water and the ecological safety of genetically engineered food crops. It turns out that if you really “follow the evidence wherever it leads,” as Tyson rightly encourages us to do, you inevitably come to find that much of what is promoted and propagandized as “scientific” in the modern world is actually based on distorted, corporate-funded anti-science profit agendas rather than genuine science.

Mike Adams might have grown up “steeped in the study of natural sciences” or not, but even if he did, it’s painfully obvious that none of it rubbed off on him, given his career today, particularly his utterly nonsensical rejection of scientific findings. Let’s just put it this way. Adams is antivaccine, regularly abuses dead celebrities as “examples” of medicine killing, and even rejects science itself as evil, something that leads inevitably to atrocities like the Holocaust. Meanwhile, no conspiracy theory is too crazy for Adams to embrace. Whatever science Mike Adams might have learned is long gone, subsumed in his pure denialism and embrace of every form of quackery known to humans. None of this stops him from proclaiming that he’s a real scientist, maaaaaan:

My work here at Natural News is steeped in cutting-edge science. Today, I run an atomic spectroscopy laboratory conducting elemental analysis as part of my food science research. The instrumentation here rivals that of many universities, and I personally conduct all the research myself, operating ICP-MS instrumentation and practicing high-level analytical chemistry.

So much so that:

Continuing in these scientific endeavors, I am in the process of authoring numerous scientific papers on breakthrough food science research, and I will soon be publishing truly pioneering information about heavy metals in popular herbal supplements. I’m also the first person to have announced the discovery and formulation of a dietary supplement formula which can selectively bind with radioactive cesium-137 isotopes in the gastrointestinal tract.

This ought to be good. I really, really hope that Adams submits his “scientific papers” to reputable journals. It will be hilarious to see his reaction to the real peer review process, something Neil deGrasse Tyson is well familiar with but Mike Adams is not. He thinks he knows, but he doesn’t. Of course, it’s quite possible that Adams will just self-publish and avoid the peer-review process altogether. In fact, that wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Of course, it doesn’t take long for Adams to get to his real purpose, namely a rant against vaccines. I’m half tempted to tell Mikey that he doesn’t help the case he’s making to Neil deGrasse Tyson that he’s a real scientist and that he isn’t antivaccine by repeating antivaccine tropes about mercury in vaccines and then running with them. Proclaiming that he has run into pro-vaccine zealots who are “no less anti-scientific than some of the more bizarre ‘voodoo science’ detox supplement proponents,” Adams launches into a long tirade about mercury in vaccines:

As such, in much the same way that Galileo fought against the faith-based dogma of the Church and its heliocentric mythology of the universe, today Natural News fights against dangerous dogmas and false “scientific” delusions perpetrated under the distorted label of “science.” If you really follow the evidence on mercury in vaccines, for example, there is no scientifically justifiable rationale for injecting pregnant women with mercury at any dose. Yet this action is precisely what is currently — and aggressively — demanded by the “scientific” community, in what history will ultimately be forced to admit is a great betrayal of the People by delusional science conducted primarily in the interests of corporate power rather than public health.

Adams is, of course, referring to the thimerosal preservative in vaccines, which contains mercury, and the general recommendation that pregnant women receive the flu vaccine during flu season. Of course, the concept that mercury in vaccines causes autism is a long-discredited hypothesis. There is no good evidence that mercury in vaccines at the dose used causes any harm at all. The worse reactions are pretty much local skin irritation. There’s a reason why it’s recommended that pregnant women receive the flu vaccine, and that’s because the flu can hit them especially bad.

Similarly, there is no evidence that mercury-containing amalgams used in dental fillings is dangerous. It’s been used for a long time, and has an excellent safety record. It’s inexpensive, and versatile, and substitutes are more expensive and don’t have the same long track record of safety. Yet Adams spends paragraphs ranting about amalgams, using in essence an argument from incredulity that says that because Adams can’t conceive of how mercury in different forms could be safe, as in amalgams, or how mercury at low enough doses can also be safe. The concept of how elements can behave differently depending upon the chemical compounds with which they’re compounded is alien to Adams. To him, heavy metals are always toxic, no matter how low the dose.

Indeed, Adams completely destroyed my irony meter:

The very nature of the table of elements, in fact, supports my position of mercury-free medicine, meaning I do not even have to be “right” myself because I have the full power of the laws of physics and chemistry to back me up. For some misguided scientist to claim that “mercury is harmless” is no less foolish than a person following “The Secret” to sit in a room and wish for material wealth to magically appear simply because they believe the so-called “Law of Attraction” will bring them whatever material items they choose to focus upon. Both beliefs are purely delusional. One is steeped in “science” and the other in distortions of popularized (but distorted) New Age thinking. Yet they are both false. Mercury is harmful to human biology at almost any dose — even at just a few micrograms injected into the tissue of a child — and there is no rational basis from which to argue otherwise.

Except that Adams doesn’t have the “full power of the laws of physics and chemistry” to back him up, not just because he isn’t a scientist, but because he’s demonstrated time and time again that he has no understanding of science. In fact, his history demonstrates that not only is he not a scientist but he has a long history of exhibiting extreme hostility to science. Indeed, he even demonstrates that hostility to science in this very post:

And it is an undeniable scientific truth that every scientist who today promotes mercury in vaccines and mercury in dentistry is also a quack. I state this undeniable truth with the same confidence and courage that Copernicus once exhibited as he wrote that the Earth orbited the sun and not the other way around. Even if the entire modern “scientific” community attempts to claim that mercury is harmless when injected into pregnant women, they remain wholly wrong despite their numbers, and their distortions contradict physical and biological reality. Just as much as the Church was wrong to imprison early astronomers, modern-day “science” is wrong to promote the injection of pregnant women and children with mercury.

“Undeniable truth”? Scientists don’t speak of “truth.” They speak of hypotheses and theories that can be supported by evidence. How did Copernicus come to the conclusion that the earth orbited the sun? He was willing to look at the evidence and, as Adams himself put it, follow it where it leads. Similarly, the way we know that the amount of mercury in thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is safe is because of science. True, arguably 80 years ago when thimerosal was first used as preservative in vaccines, there probably wasn’t the science to show that it was safe. However, eight decades, particularly studies done during the last two of them, have failed to find any link between mercury in vaccines and significant harmful effects. That’s science. No evidence of harm of the type claimed by Adams and the “toxic teeth” fear mongerers has been found linked to amalgams.

No, Adams is the one holding on to blind belief, unable to accept that mercury in vaccines at the doses used is not dangerous simply because he can’t conceive that it could be so. That’s as antiscience as it gets. In case you don’t believe me, I’ll conclude by reminding you of this Adams’ The God Within:

Watch again, if you can stand it.