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Quoth Vox Day: Antivaxers are more educated. Quoth the study Vox cites: Not exactly…

Vaccines and the antivaccine movement were in the news a lot in 2015. The year started out with a huge measles outbreak originating at Disneyland over the holidays last year and dominated news coverage in the early months of 2015. This outbreak had enormous consequences. It galvanized public opinion such that something I had never thought possible before, least of all in the hotbed of the antivaccine movement that is California, became possible. After a prolonged debate, the California legislature passed SB 277, a law that, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, eliminated nonmedical exemptions. Starting later this year, there will be no more religious or personal belief exemptions to school vaccine mandates.

Not surprisingly, as the bill wended its way towards passage, the antivaccine movement ratcheted up the rhetoric to ridiculous levels, its favorite analogy being, of course, comparisons to fascism. Some even went so far as to liken antivaccinationists to Jews in Nazi Germany, including everyone’s favorite obnoxious antivaccine pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears, who became a leading spokesperson against the law while using it as a marketing tool. After SB 277 passed, the antivaccine movement went even more bonkers, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Brian Hooker, and Barbara Loe Fisher teaming up with the Nation of Islam, which latched on to last year’s main antivaccine story that had managed to bleed over to this year, namely the “CDC whistleblower” pseudo-scandal. There was even a rather pathetic joint protest in Atlanta at the CDC attended by representatives of the Nation of Islam in concert with Barbara Loe Fisher and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Through it all, as much as I waded into the crazy in the name of science and reason, there was one crazy I didn’t encounter—until now. I’m referring to the arrogance of ignorance personified, someone who likes to brag about being a Mensa member while heaping contempt on science and making spectacularly stupid arguments about vaccines (and other things). Yes, we’re talking Vox Day (a.k.a. Theodore Beale), who is really, really psyched about a recent study:

The news that anti-vaxxers are whiter, wealthier, and better-educated than those who place blind faith in vaccines won’t surprise anyone who has actually engaged a vaccine enthusiast on the subject. None of them know anything about history, few of them know anything about science, and all of them are prone to simply repeating the usual vaccine scare rhetoric:

Oh, yes. I can see why Vox would like this study. In his mind it confirms his own view of himself, as being intellectually superior to all of us mere sheeple who accept the science behind vaccines, support vaccination as the single most effective means of preventing many deadly diseases, and devote considerable time to refuting the pseudoscience promoted by antivaccine loons like Vox Day. Of course, if he were so intellectually superior, he wouldn’t so horribly misunderstand epidemiology in order to blame sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) on vaccines with such spectacularly brain dead arguments, nor would he cough up such a hairball of asininity (to borrow one of his phrases) that involves a fundamental misunderstanding of herd immunity and how vaccines work. Of course, that’s part of the problem that he shares with his fellow antivaccinationists, as we will see.

So what about this study? It’s in the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health and entitled Sociodemographic Predictors of Vaccination Exemptions on the Basis of Personal Belief in California. It comes from investigators at George Mason University and Stanford University, and its goal was quite simple: To examine the variability in the percentage of students with personal belief exemptions (PBE) to school vaccine mandates in California and see if there are correlations with income, education, race, and school characteristics. Investigators examined PBE data from the California Department of Public health from 2007 to 2013, including school- and regional-level models. Their rationale is as follows:

Use of nonmedical exemptions has increased over time, especially in states that make them easy for parents to obtain. In California, the percentage of schoolchildren with a nonmedical or “personal belief” exemption (PBE; defined as including both philosophical and religious objections), climbed from 0.77% in the 2000–2001 school year to nearly 3.15% by 2013–2014—well above the median rate of 1.8% across all states. Media commentators on this phenomenon have suggested that the number of PBEs in California had doubled since 2007 and pointed to wealthy, highly educated parents as the primary drivers. Although some evidence suggests that higher exemption rates are associated with higher population proportions of Whites, college graduates, and higherincome households, few rigorous, multiyear studies have investigated data beyond 2007, hindering efforts to understand and respond to recent rises in PBEs.

I actually wrote about one such study six months ago, when I referred to the faces of antivaccine parents as “overwhelmingly affluent, white, and suburban.” The study basically found pretty much what I described. PBE rates correlate positively with the percentage of white students in a school, with charter status, and private schools, while schools with low PBE rates tended to be public, noncharter, and nonsuburban, with lower percentages of white students and higher percentages of students receiving subsidized lunches. The current study, which Vox likes so much, shows similar results but in a different way.

When presenting data, I like to say that a picture is worth a thousand words (not that that ever stopped me from describing a result using a thousand words, of course). So here’s the picture. What it shows is the overall, state-level relationships between PBEs and key variables from the analysis.

Vaccination data

As you can see, in general, 2013 PBE percentages were higher in regions with higher income, education, and White population. So, yes, there’s a correlation there. But it’s not quite as clear as Vox would make it seem, which is not surprising given that it’s obvious that he just read the news reports but didn’t actually look up the paper. He leapt at the observation in the New York Times article describing the study, which described it thusly:

Exemption percentages were generally higher in regions with higher income, higher levels of education, and predominantly white populations. In private schools, 5.43 percent of children were exempt, compared with 2.88 percent in public schools.

Which is true enough, but the Nicholas Bakalar, the author of the NYT piece, missed a very key part of the study. It’s a part of the study that the writer for Ars Technica, Beth Mole, who wrote about the story didn’t miss. Basically, the study did not show that higher educational attainment predicts the likelihood of PBE percentage. Quite the opposite, in fact. The authors, in describing their model predicting change in PBEs over time, report:

Educational attainment did not independently predict 2013 PBEs. More educated populations had slower rates of change in PBE percentages from 2007 to 2013 (P ≤ .01). For example, in the school-level block group model, a 10% increase in the percentage of the population with a college degree was associated with a 0.025% decrease in the annual rate of growth from 2007 to 2013.

In other words, there was a negative correlation between the percentage of the population with a college degree and the rate of PBE growth from 2007 to 2013. Or, as the authors explain:

We found that areas of California with higher household income and proportion White population are associated with higher overall PBE percentages as well as greater increases in PBEs from 2007 to 2013. In contrast to some previous studies, we did not find an independent predictive effect of educational attainment level once we controlled for those characteristics. Although the marginal effects of income and race were modest in magnitude, the overall PBE percentage doubled from 2007 to 2013, and more than 17 000 PBEs were issued in California in 2013.

In other words, although there might be a correlation in the raw data between educational level of the population and percentage of PBEs, it’s not an independent predictor. Control for other socioeconomic factors, and it the correlation between education and PBEs goes away. To be honest, I was rather surprised by this result, not so much because I think antivaccinationists are more intelligent, but rather based on my personal experience of constantly hearing antivaccine activists proclaim how educated and intelligent they are I rather expected there to be a correlation. I also rather expected there to be a correlation because more educated people tend to be much better at motivated reasoning; namely constructing arguments and cherry picking data to protect their pre-existing beliefs. Of course, this is just one study, and the authors note that their results don’t agree with some previous studies. Even so, I can’t help but feel a bit of amusement at how quick Vox was to latch on to this study as confirming his self-image of being oh-so-much more intelligent than everyone else.

Of course, it’s hard to take anyone seriously, Mensa or no Mensa, who says such howlingly stupid things as:

The very simple fact of the matter is that vaccines are far, far less important in halting the spread of infectious disease than controlling entry and immigration from non-first world countries. This is obvious, since vaccine rates are still very high in the USA and Western Europe, and yet there is a massive rise in various diseases that is the direct result of global travel and large-scale immigration.

The idea that the current vaccine schedule is responsible for the huge decline in deaths from infectious diseases in the 19th century is not merely ahistorical, it requires a combination of ignorance and stupidity. This will become readily apparent before long as most children will continue to be vaccinated but disease rates will continue to rise thanks to the behavior and lifestyles of the New Americans.

Um. No. Overall vaccination rates might be high in the US, but there are pockets of low vaccine uptake in, yes, affluent white suburbs, particularly along the coasts. Guess what? That’s where the outbreaks are happening! As for Europe, Vox is clearly rather ignorant if he thinks vaccine rates are so high in Western Europe. Indeed, health officials in Western Europe are envious of us in the US because there are way, way more cases of measles there every year right now. I know Vox thinks it’s because of what he views as all those damned dirty apes immigrants flooding Europe, but in reality it’s almost entirely due to low MMR uptake.

Meanwhile, Vox is, in his usual brain dead fashion, parroting the myth of the “diseased illegal immigrant.” In fact, children from central America have higher vaccine uptake rates than children in, for example, Texas:

Fact check: UNICEF reports that 93 percent of kids in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are vaccinated against measles. That’s better than American kids (92 percent).

Furthermore, it’s absurd to claim that the U.S. has eradicated measles while Central America has not. In fact, measles outbreaks have resurged in some American cities. By contrast, according to the World Health Organization, neither Guatemala nor Honduras has had a reported case of measles since 1990.

Truly, Vox Day’s stupid, it burns. Same as it ever was.

In the meantime, waht are the implications of this study, which Vox so wildly mischaracterized? One implication is that simply disseminating information will not persuade antivaccine parents, but we’ve known this for a long time. In this area, what the authors of the study conclude makes a lot of sense:

Some have reasoned from findings that high-PBE communities are better educated that public health strategies should focus on disseminating more scientific data on vaccine safety and the consequences of vaccine preventable illnesses.27 Our results call into question the reported link between high-PBE communities and higher average educational attainment, and other research also points to the need for messages that extend beyond providing vaccine safety data. For example, although there is little doubt that misperceptions of vaccine risks drive vaccine refusals, also important may be beliefs among upper-income, White parents that protective parenting techniques are effective substitutes for immunizations.

If you follow the antivaccine movement as long as I have, you’ll soon realize the overwhelming sense of privilege among antivaccine parents. They don’t feel any obligation to contribute to herd immunity, while thinking nothing of sponging off of it, hence “Dr. Bob” Sears’ famous admonition to “hide in the herd.” They also have an exaggerated sense of what parenting alone can accomplish beyond any connection with reality. For example, many of them really do seem to think that just by feeding their children the right foods, engaging them in the “right” activities, providing them with the “right” supplements, and in general having them live the “right” lifestyle, they can render their child virtually immune to harm from infectious disease. (Calling Bill Maher!) Couple that with a belief that “natural” immunity from the disease is better than vaccine-induced immunity (which to them is artificial), and such parents believe that their children’s immune systems can handle anything, no vaccines needed, and that measles and chicken pox parties are a great way to give their children that “natural immunity.” It’s a dangerous delusion. I like to call it immunity by virtue: Live virtuously and you’ll be healthy and no microbe will harm you. Unfortunately, microbes don’t give a rodent’s posterior how virtuous your or your child’s lifestyle is.

It’s easy to make fun of idiots like Vox Day because, well, he’s such an arrogantly ignorant putz, prone to having proposed racist Donald Trump-like ideas years before Donald Trump embraced them. Refuting this ideas that drive antivaccine sentiments is hard because people are inherently resistant to having their deepest held beliefs challenged.

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]

294 replies on “Quoth Vox Day: Antivaxers are more educated. Quoth the study Vox cites: Not exactly…”

anti-vaxxers are whiter, wealthier, and better-educated

It goes without saying that for Beale >fils the three are synonymous.

also important may be beliefs among upper-income, White parents that protective parenting techniques are effective substitutes for immunizations.

Wow, what a nice way of saying “privileged @$$holes who think only poor, dirty brown people get sick.” I wish I had that kind of tact. I mean, I probably wouldn’t use it that often, but it’s always nice to have options. I’m surprised the authors didn’t mention one of the most obvious reasons that providing scientific data has little to no effect on antivaxxers: their belief that pharmaceutical companies are somehow colluding with every public health agency, research institution, and scientific organization on the planet to fabricate evidence that vaccines are safe and effective and cover up evidence that they actually cause more harm than they prevent.

Unfortunately, there’s some truth to the image of MENSA as a mutual admiration society for underachievers who focus on their high IQ scores to compensate for a lack of actual accomplishments. I joined during a low period of my life, when I was working a menial job and wondering what I was going to do with my life after graduating with a useless BA in philosophy and my pre-med requirements incomplete. I was hoping to find some of the intellectual stimulation I missed from college, but it turned out to be boring and trivial. To be fair, I never joined any special interest groups, which are supposed to be where the real fun is. In fact, IIRC, there were several SIGs for things like ESP, alternative medicine, etc. – so clearly a high IQ is no insurance against the human capacity for self-deception (as if we needed any more evidence.)

Indeed, the defining charactetistic of anti-vaxxers is their arrogance.

This is seen in their dismissal of the scientific evidence in favour of their own beliefs, their belief that their parenting methods are somehow better and will protect their children from all dangers, and most of all in their belief that confirming the pre-existing beliefs through the Universe of Google is an acceptible substitute for critical thinking.

And the privilege, mostly the privilege.

I have had a quick read of the paper and caution all that this is firstly about California and that there are numerous co-founders at the school enrollment level. The authors have had an attempt to deal with these, but I expect they have not got everything. There is a real pattern of like-minded parents gravitating to the same schools.

The very simple fact of the matter is that vaccines are far, far less important in halting the spread of infectious disease than controlling entry and immigration from non-first world countries.

Not just howlingly stupid but blatantly racist to boot.

Because mine is the ‘superior intellect’…..

too bad the title picture wasn’t of Kahn (the original, of course), it would have been so fitting

Vox Day/Ted Beale…oh what a charmer. He’s not only smarter than everyone else, he’s better looking, richer, sexier…you name the positive adjective, he’s applied it to himself. IIRC he’s also a misogynistic Catholic creationist (but I haven’t looked at any of his blatherings in years. PZ Myers used to have go-rounds with him). Women are secondary intelligences, and only good for being barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.

TBH, I generally find that if Vox is FOR something, it’s the far more intelligent choice to be AGAINST that thing. He works as a good barometer that way. 🙂

MI [email protected]

Vox Day/Ted Beale…oh what a charmer. He’s not only smarter than everyone else, he’s better looking, richer, sexier…you name the positive adjective, he’s applied it to himself.

Don’t forget whiter. Heck, that’s the first this he lists in the quote.

When I was much younger, I thought MENSA might be a great thing to join. Then I met some members and read about some of the SIGs and figured it was rank with stupidity and arrogance. My impression continues to hold.

Perhaps the U.S. should institute something akin to Australia’s policy. Those who get their kids vaccinated (or who have a valid medical exemption) get a tax break. You do something for society, society does something for you.

What is the average education level of immunologists, pediatricians and infectious disease specialists compared to that of antivaxers?

Kind of bewildering that antivaxers who deride experts are simultaneously trumpeting their superior educational status.

@Dangerous Bacon #12: For the antivaxer, they will latch onto the Bob Sears/Jay Gordon/ quack doctors as proof that I must be mis-educated about vaccines, since Sears/Gordon are similarly educated to me. To them the outliers are the truth.

But Dr Hickie – you aren’t *enlightened* like those doctors, about the evils of Big Pharma and the benefits of selling supplements in your office, working with chiroquacks and not-a-doctors. Tsk. Therefore, you are mis-educated. (/snark)

TBH, while I am glad my daughter has left Arizona (although she has broken her parents’ hearts by moving to – shudder – Columbus, OH – where that OTHER university is), if she had stayed in Tucson, I would have made sure she became a client of yours if she had children.

From the Slate article on the Hugo Awards:

“A quick sidebar on Vox Day, one of a handful of this saga’s bold-faced names. In addition to writing sci-fi, he’s a video game designer and early proponent of Gamergate, which, he argues, resembles Sad Puppies in that “both groups are striking back against the left-wing control freaks who have subjected science fiction to ideological control for two decades and are now attempting to do the same thing in the game industry.” He is the second human being to be expelled from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), after he used the organization’s official Twitter feed to slam the award-winning black novelist N.K. Jemisin as a “half-savage.” He questions the need for women’s suffrage. And he believes that our national ills can be partially attributed to “the infestation of even the smallest American heartland towns by African, Asian, and Aztec cultures.” Yes, Aztecs. ANYWAY.”

‘Nuff said.

Vox Day. When I first encountered that name, it was not in connection with his anti-vax rhetoric but with his attempt to manipulate the Hugo awards:

Now I remember where I’m familiar with him from! George R.R. Martin did a series of blog posts about his and his ilk’s attempts to hijack the Hugos (because women are ruining science fiction, dontcha know?) that I read with horror and sadness.

Racist, misogynist jackass. I can now add stupid to that assessment. But, yes, he is white. Gives the rest of us a bad name.

About that ‘more educated’ factor..

Seriously.
If you look in detail at prominent anti-vaxxers ( who may or may not be representative of the entire movement), you’ll discover that they may have university- even graduate- degrees but in non-life science fields but like business, computers and education.

Examples like Dan Olmsted, Kim Stagliano, Mark Blaxill, Louise Kuo Habakus, Barbara Loe Fisher, TMR’s LJ Goes, ‘Professor’ O’Toole, Katie Wright, Ginger Taylor and Alison MacNeil** immediately spring to mind.
The scientists that they quote and emulate may have similar deficits – Brian Hooker, Stefanie Seneff and Boyd Haley- to name a few. ( See list of speakers at Autism One) However doctors have less of an excuse ( AJW, Tenpenny, Bark etc).

Because I work with adult prospective students I often have to look over required courses for degrees in business-y matters and can vouch that usually they have little to no exposure to relevant courses.

** those last three have degrees in social science unfortunately.
We’re not all like that. Some of us studied biology and statistics.

I agree with your article; but there is one additional aspect, something one runs across now and again. There are people who are extremely intelligent and well-educated, based on years of schooling and experience, who assume they can render opinions on subjects they have not invested time and energy in. For example, a PhD in electrical engineering or chemistry, subjects that take a lot of intelligence and time to master, who, assume that they know more than PhDs in epidemiology and infectious disease experts, equally intelligent and who have devoted years and immense effort into mastering their respective fields.

Medical doctors sometimes are guilty of the same error. Medical doctors are NOT trained in research per se nor epidemiology nor biostatistics. Years ago the field of Clinical Epidemiology was developed; but many doctors have NOT devoted time to learning it. Just to go down memory lane, back in the early days of AIDS a cardiologist in Houston, despite what all the epidemiologists and infectious disease experts were finding, was on radio talk shows frightening people with claims that AIDS could be transmitted by mosquitos.

So, while your article is correct, there are highly intelligent well-educated people who still DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.

Sure. This is something I’ve written about more times than I can remember. You have Brian Hooker, who is a biochemical engineer by training, waxing poetic about how he thinks simplicity is best in statistics and epidemiology, seemingly unaware that simple methods produce misleading results because they don’t control for confounders. You have idiots like Vox Day thinking they can learn about vaccines and epidemiology well enough to declare vaccines largely unnecessary just by reading Google and antivaccine websites. you see pediatricians like Dr. Bob Sears and Jay Gordon think that they can interpret epidemiology and immunology better than real epidemiologists or immunologists, with Dr. Jay thinking his “personal observations” and “30+ years of clinical experience” trump epidemiology and immunology.

It can even be in your own field. For example, we have the “CDC whistleblower” himself, William Thompson, who, although his primary training is in psychology, clearly has a lot of background in epidemiology and statistics, suddenly deciding that the Atlanta study was horrifically mis-analyzed and that there was a signal in there linking MMR to autism in African-American boys, even though there clearly was not. Even though he’s not an epidemiologist or statistician by training, there’s no doubt that Thompson had been deeply invested in studying epidemiology and statistics in his role as a CDC scientist working on vaccine studies. Yet that didn’t prevent him from going apparently full antivax.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the belief that vaccines cause autism is only slightly higher among US adults with college educations (7%) than among those with only a high school degree or less (6%)—but those who have done graduate work or achieved advanced degrees are less likely (3%) to believe that swill. So much for anti-vaxxers being “better educated.”

http://www.gallup.com/poll/181844/percentage-saying-vaccines-vital-dips-slightly.aspx

I have some weird people defending this Vox dude on Twitter and attacking me.

Anyway, if you read the paper, it really is quite interesting how they conducted this study and the results. As Orac has pointed out, it uncovers things we’ve suspected and dispels the self-aggrandizing myth of antivaxxers that they are more educated or know more. It’s right there in the abstract. If you’re too lazy to read even the abstract, then there’s no hope for you, MENSA or no MENSA.

Vox Day isn’t ‘stupid’ he’s just a very warped and disgusting human human being. No, the Stupid Award of the day goes to the authors of the study, and anyone else (oh no, Orac?) who imagines it offers any useful guidelines for ‘public health messaging strategies’. The demographic categories are so broad as to be meaningless in defining audience characteristics, and the assumptions being made about what they imply are simply ridiculous.

Some have reasoned from findings that high-PBE communities are better educated that public health strategies should focus on disseminating more scientific data on vaccine safety and the consequences of vaccine preventable illnesses.

Talk about burning stupid! It ought to be obvious that simply obtaining a college degree in something not only doesn’t equip someone to comprehend scientific data, it doesn’t have any relevance in whether someone will find that data persuasive in comparison to other sets of facts, beliefs, emotional appeals, yada, yada, yada. The relevant factor in education background viz science data is likely not ‘smart/dumb’ but rather socialization in appreciating/accepting the results of natural science research. The majority of smart, well-educated people ind stats dull as dishwater outside of perhaps their own professional field.

there is little doubt that misperceptions of vaccine risks drive vaccine refusals

Uhh, NO! The issue isn’t ‘perception’, it’s interpretation. Non-vaxing parents know, generally, what the data say about risks – they just don’t believe it, or have different criteria for assessing risk. If they’re worried enough about the possibility of having an ASD child, that emotion will lead them to over-value any claim of risk about that, and under-value any claim about VPDs, either for their kids or the community.

The factors that go into “the sense of privilege’ Orac discusses near the end of the OP are far too specific and complex to be ascribed to ‘whiteness’ ‘education’ ‘affluence’ or ‘suburbia’. Obviously, the majority of parents in those demographic categories DO vax their kids, and the study does nothing to address one thing we do now about vax-refusal and PBEs — they cluster in relatively small geographic areas that are demographically similar to surrounding areas with much higher vax rates.

also important may be beliefs among upper-income, White parents that protective parenting techniques are effective substitutes for immunizations.

This painfully tortured grammar is basically expressing an ‘all men are Socrates’ logic error. ‘The belief that protective parenting techniques are effective substitutes for immunizations’ being more common among upper-income, White parents than other demographics, but that hardly makes it a characteristic of those categories. In short, they’re not ‘predictive’ of anything.

There’s also a totally unsupported implicit assumption here that ‘belief that protective parenting techniques are effective substitutes for immunizations’ is a defining factor in the choice not-to-vax. We can probably say with some confidence that most anti-vax activists have such a belief, but we know they’re an extremist fringe, whose numbers are not large enough to cause vax rates to drop enough to threaten community immunity and generate VPD outbreaks. We can’t confidently say all, or even most parents who have enough doubts about vax safety to avoid taking their kids in for their shots believe they have superior parenting skills that will keep their kids disease-free. We can only say they’re more afraid of autism than they are of measles and whooping cough.

And I find it odd that the matter of ‘fear’ is absent from this discussion. It makes sense that fear of autism would have some correlation with higher SES, if only in that lower-income, non-Whites have a lot more sh!t to worry about. But while a certain level of privilege may be a necessary precondition of non-vaxing-level fear of autism, it’s hardly therefore causative in any way.

The question is, ‘what makes autism a driving fear for the parents who seek PBEs?’. I doubt there’s one answer, but I’ll speculate that rising general angst among the White middle-class at their declining economic fortunes and socio-cultural power has a lot to do with it. We see this angst projected into all manner of superficially bizarre phenomena these days — perhaps most notably in the Trump effect. In short, no-vaxing may not be about the reality of vaccines or autism at all, but how these things function as displacements for other concerns among a certain sub-set of the population facing similar apparent socio-economic crises they can’t really comprehend or address within their ideological frames of reference.

A goodly number of these supposedly super-educated antivaxers complain about vaccine “toxins”, touting a list of vaccine excipients that supposedly prove that ghastly chemicals are making their way into vaccines.

I found another list that should be quite shocking to anyone who thinks that “natural food” suppliers are going out of their way to produce toxin-free products. It’s the TruNatural list of approved product ingredients used by natural food manufacturers (like YumEarth candies). Among the approved ingredients:

Alginic acid, calcium pantothenate, cyclamates, caustic soda, glucono delta-lactone, magnesium stearate, propylene glycol alginate, quinine, sodium pyrophosphate, titanium dioxide, triclosan and my personal favorite, yellow prussiate of soda (sodium ferrocyanide).

http://www.yummyearth.com/files/TruNatural_Ingredient_List_-_09-20-11_update.pdf

Yummy!

Ah, yes, the racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit* who blithely lies about everything in sight and then insists he is being “dialectic” when called on it over on File 770. He is also a defender of Anders Brevik. As we say elsenet, if VD said that the sun was going to rise in the east, we’d go out and check for ourselves, even if we’d had no previous reason to doubt that statement.

*John Scalzi gets credit for that phrasing.

Ren:

Anti-vaxers believe they ‘more educated’ about vaccines than the sheeple who follow the advice of Pharma-Shill doctors. In this usage ‘education’ is a quality not a quantity. That is, it has nothing to do with how many of ‘them’ or ‘us’ have received a college degree. The study does not rebut this belief, ‘dispel this myth’. The anti-vaxers are likely smart enough to ‘get’ at some level that the simple fact that college degrees are more common among PBE seekers than the rest of the population means diddly-squat. (Education level may simply correlate with the skill-set and resources necessary to actually obtain a PBE…) But we know that their first principle of ‘the vaccines destroyed my perfect child’ will govern their rhetoric, and ANYTHING they can bend to support the cause will so be bent. That worldview is total command of the show with that crowd, and everything gets seen through that lens.

@Sadmar

You seem to be taking this whole thing quite strongly, if not personally. Wanna taco ’bout it?

I wonder if the belief itself that a child can BE ‘perfect’ is largely restricted to a particular demographic that includes suburbanites exhibiting university degrees, affluence and dreams of continued upward mobility.

I wonder if the belief itself that a child can BE ‘perfect’ is largely restricted to a particular demographic that includes suburbanites exhibiting university degrees, affluence and dreams of continued upward mobility.

There used to be some talk about “premium babies”, referring to the children of the demographic you mentioned but especially when the couple (woman?) waited until later to have a baby. So, even more so if it was an only child, all those hopes of upward mobility and showing up the other mothers at the playground with a perfect child were pinned on the one poor tot.

DB:
Propylene glycol alginate? (that’s anti-freeze, right?) Sodium pyrophosphate?? (‘pyro’ means ‘fire’, are we swallowing matches?) Titanium dioxide??? (that’s METAL!), Sodium ferrocyanide???? (What? CYANIDE!! Toxin! Toxin!! Toxin!!!)

Sombody alert The Food Babe! The chemical fox has invaded nature’s hen house! Assemble The Army! Petitions must be started! Boycotts must be called for! YumEarth must must pay! (Checks made out to ‘Food Babe LLC’ accepted, cash transfers to Swiss account routed through the Caymen Islands preferred.)

We can probably say with some confidence that most anti-vax activists have such a belief, but we know they’re an extremist fringe, whose numbers are not large enough to cause vax rates to drop enough to threaten community immunity and generate VPD outbreaks.

Sadmar, are you saying that anti-vax activists in general are so small of a minority they can’t cause reductions in vax rates that lead to outbreaks, or that AV activists with that belief [i.e., good parenting is protective] are in such a small minority as to not cause outbreak-producing drops in vax rates?

Denise:
Not ‘restricted’. A lot of religious doctrine views infants as ‘perfect’ in some way… More prevalent maybe. Meg makes a good point.

Ren:
Nah, I just write that way. Theater major. I ‘spose I get more dramatic on vax stuff because it’s a serious public health issue, and team pro-vax is so clueless about diagnosing the different cultural phenonema behind low vax uptake rates, and forming effective persuasion strategies to make things better. Gotta go do some IRL stuff, so no taco’s today, much less a whole enchilada. Be well, and have a safe and happy NYE, my virtual friend.

@Orac

As for William Thompson, I’m not sure what motivates him. Some of his claims not only don’t make sense; but may not even be true. However, there has always been “scientists” who have taken stands that the overwhelming majority of scientists and the data refutes. Take the few scientists who claimed tobacco wasn’t associated with a number of health problems or the few scientists who oppose global warming. Several of the above, of course, received financing from industry. As for Thompson ? ? ?

@Denise Walter

I hope you are right about my making a splash at AOA. What do you base this on? However, I am but one cog in the wheel of science. Gorski, Mat Carey, Skeptical Raptor, and many more have contributed far more than I have; but I do try.

Denice, I live in the land of those folks and am technically one of them, and you are not wrong. Lots of Mandarin-learning, kale-fed organically dressed Noras and Noahs bearing the weight of their parents ridiculous expectations.

The issue isn’t ‘perception’, it’s interpretation. Non-vaxing parents know, generally, what the data say about risks – they just don’t believe it, or have different criteria for assessing risk

Exactly. Beginning a sentence with the phrase “The CDC says…” or “Studies show…” ensures that an antivaxxer isn’t even going to consider the attached information, because they know that the CDC is in bed with Big Bad Pharma, that scientific research is bought and paid for, etc. The problem is that, at first blush, this mistrust seems justified: pharmaceutical companies have been caught hiding and/or falsifying data, scientists are susceptible to bias and conflicts of interest, government organizations are influenced by the political realities that control their funding. No attempt to “educate” antivaxxers is going to be successful unless it acknowledges these facts head on and then points out the enormous difference in plausibility between, for example, Merck hiding data suggesting that taking Vioxx results in a small increase in the absolute risk of having a heart attack* (and still getting caught!) versus multiple competing pharmaceutical companies colluding with the public health organizations of multiple nations, paying off hundreds of thousands of pediatricians and nurses to keep quite about the catastrophic side effects they witness after giving kids vaccines, etc.

*I absolutely do not mean to imply that what Merck did was somehow “not that big a deal,” my point is that the only reason they got away with it as long as they did is because the increase in the absolute number of heart attacks in patients taking Vioxx was relatively small and thus, not readily apparent until someone actually ran the numbers. This is, of course, very similar to the antivax claim that the link between vaccines and autism (or whatever the boogieman of the week is) is overlooked by large epidemiological studies because it only affects a small subset of children.

The issue isn’t ‘perception’, it’s interpretation. Non-vaxing parents know, generally, what the data say about risks – they just don’t believe it, or have different criteria for assessing risk

Gonna have to disagree with you there. It’s both perception and interpretation. Yes, antivax parents misinterpret the science. However, in their bubble echo chamber, antivax parents also hear the stories of their friends who blame their children’s disability, autism, whatever on vaccines. They mistakenly perceive that seemingly ALL their friends have children whom they believe to have been damaged vaccines. That causes a perception that, damn whatever the CDC statistics say, there are lots and lots of “vaccine-injured” children out there. From there it’s a short jump to believing that the government and medical profession are “covering up” all those “vaccine-injured children” that antivaxers just know are out there because they’ve seen them and they’ve talked to their parents.

As for William Thompson, I’m not sure what motivates him. Some of his claims not only don’t make sense; but may not even be true.

There’s no “may” about it. Several of Thompson’s claims are demonstrably just plain not true.

@ Delphine:

Around here, It’s a rather mixed bag but we do have enclaves of exceedingly precious bohemian bourgeoisie- I actually went to a holiday party rife with them and their spawn-
as well as pockets of pop or movie stars and alt med
celebrities.

@ Dr Joel Harrison:

As a ‘splash’, I didn’t necessarily mean a conversion or suchlike – you certainly got them riled up.

BUT they did allow you several comments and didn’t censor you . Amazing for them. Perhaps they mistakenly believed that they had answers for your questions/ statements.

Uhh, NO! The issue isn’t ‘perception’, it’s interpretation.

And perhaps it is still only ‘belief’ that is relevant, sadmar #25. Defacto compulsory vaccination would cause those with certain beliefs to ‘feel’ and be violated; To become always burdened with perceived prescience that *this will all end in tears* –( Marvin, the paranoid android). It would be validating and force multiplying martyrdom when the statistical game does harm a child.
If a thing can be done, it will be done by someone (corporations are granted personhood status) eventually; especially if it is a particularly ‘evil’ thing to do. Vaccines have the potential to be a vehicle for genetic manipulation, introduction of malignancy, genocide, birth control, and pimples. Will it become forced to take a mind-altering vaccine against ‘addiction’, drug and alcohol ‘abuse’, preferring Android over IOS? Will Mike Adams’ somewhat debunked FUNVAX scenario actually become a reality — The audio is plausible? Of course, it will. Completely aside from concerns of disease, it will become so in the very spirit of THX 1138’s *drug evasion statutes*.

http://www.snopes.com/politics/conspiracy/funvax.asp

Those who get their kids vaccinated… get a tax break. You do something for society, society does something for you.

Nifty, Todd W. #10. And maybe it could be giving kids Xbox for recieving the shot; even if gotten surreptitiously. And maybe it could be like unto Indira Gandhi’s ‘Family Planning’ campaign where

In two short weeks we sent sales of Philips transistor radios into a death spiral with a campaign promising a free transistor radio to every man who signed up for a vasectomy. …

… many of the poorly educated country people and the beggars were so ill-informed of what they were losing in order to get the radio, that they didn’t see why they shouldn’t line up again to get a second one.

https://globalmediacabot.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/indias-family-plan-2/

I have no problem imagining the implementation of mass vaccination via mosquitoes and it, either intentionally or not, going horribly wrong, Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH #19. Other than that, “You can get AIDS from a toilet seat if you sit down before the other fellow gets up” — C. Everett Koop (Mrs.)

I am not sure why so many people are obsessed with their child being ‘perfect’. What does perfect mean? Both of my children were born only through many months (a year each) of painful, frustrating, emotionally draining fertility treatments. They are both perfect. They are perfect the way they are. They are both very different already, and that is perfect too. They will be perfect whether or not they excel at sports. They will be perfect whether or not they choose to play a band instrument. They will be perfect whether or not they are artistic or exceed at school. They will be perfect whether they are gay or straight. They will be perfect for me in all ways, in every way, because I am their mother. I only ask that they be happy for themselves with whatever they do. And have me a grandbaby. Adopt one or something, momma needs someone to spoil in her dotage. As for Vox Day, I really can’t think of a more vile human being. I read a lot about him in the Hugo awards flap, and he makes me sick. Racist, misogynist, ignoramus is a kind way to describe him.

Defacto compulsory vaccination would cause those with certain beliefs to ‘feel’ and be violated

Sorry, but calling school vaccine requirements “compulsory vaccination” is still bull$hit even if you tack on the token qualifier “de facto” – public education is not some basic necessity that’s being denied vaccine dodgers (in this instance I’m using the word “public” in the broader sense of “something that takes place around other people,” i.e., people who may be harmed by your refusal to practice reasonable public health precautions, since it’s entirely possible to receive an education without ever entering a school building.)

No doubt people who hold the belief that the sun won’t come up unless Huitzilopochtli is fed with the blood of sacrificial victims feel terribly violated by our society’s unwillingness to respect their beliefs, and no doubt it’s terribly stressful to be ” burdened with perceived prescience” that the human race is going to end due to our perverse refusal to let them rip the beating hearts out of POWs, but I can’t say I feel terribly sorry for them. Not sorry enough to actually let them practice human sacrifice, anyways.

I have no problem imagining the implementation of mass vaccination via mosquitoes and it, either intentionally or not, going horribly wrong

I have no problem imagining that you’re a child molester – what’s your point?

I bet Vox Day supports Donald Trump. Same simplistic answers to complex issues.

They may be more educated, but if they were well-educated they wouldn’t be antivaxxers.

The very simple fact of the matter is that vaccines are far, far less important in halting the spread of infectious disease than controlling entry and immigration from non-first world countries.

Does…does he not know what the word “infectious” means? Is he unaware that diseases can spread to the US from third world countries without any citizen of those countries actually coming here and coughing on us?

The membership of Mensa is the best evidence that IQ is woefully inadequate measure of intelligence.

Vicki a @27

He is also a defender of Anders Brevik.

Colour me unsurprised.

“Vaccines and the antivaccine movement were in the news a lot in 2015. The year started out with a huge measles outbreak originating at Disneyland over the holidays last year and dominated news coverage in the early months of 2015. This outbreak had ENORMOUS CONSEQUENCES.”

Let’s start with the most enormous:
1) How many died as a result of this measles outbreak?
2) How many lived but suffered irreparable harm?

@Julian
It’s legit, though the description of application to vaccines is much narrower than reality.

do a web search for Limulus amebocyte lysate
or alternatively for pyrogen testing

All injectable products are subject to testing.

Someone must have mentioned creationism, SeeNoevo has arrived to write more ignorance.

The questions themselves demonstrate that SeeNoevo didn’t read (or just as likely didn’t understand) the article.

BTW, if anyone’s interested, you should check out Vox Day’s idiotic attacks on me on Twitter. (@voxday) They’ve drawn the attention of William Shatner. 🙂

With regard to William Thompson, I get a slight impression of the paranoid delusions I’ve seen in the relatively early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I sincerely hope for his sake that that isn’t what is happening. It tends to go away, but an awful lot of other “things” go away along with the paranoia.

They’ve drawn the attention of William Shatner.

OK, I laughed at that, though I have no idea why.

Perception and interpretation feed each other. Confirmation bias is an obvious example of this. The tendency toward “crank magnetism” is another example. One tends to see what one already “knows.” Science is, in part, an attempt to separate the two, but that’s hardly the most common mode of thought for most people. And there is very little effort to educate people to think that way outside of formal education in the sciences (and I’d argue even that has become diluted by more and more rote memorization).

shay si[email protected]

One can only imagine what Vox Day’s reaction was to the new Star Wars movie.

Given that he retweeted this I’d say it’s exactly what you would expect.

People complaining about the new #StarWars movie need to realise social justice is more important than making sense or entertainment.

Does anyone know if Vox Day adopted that pen name as a homonymn of the Latin Vox Dei, which would, I suppose, mean “The Word of God’?

(I am not a Latin scholar, and have certainly never had my version of “Romans Go Home” corrected at swordpoint.)

I’m not religious in the first place, but “Vox” certainly doesn’t speak for any God i’d choose to worship.
I

@Gilbert – I’m constantly surprised at the number of Americans that seem to think their government has nothing better to do than plan mass murder of it’s own citizens. However, given the attitude to guns in America, I’m really surprised that you haven’t realised that the only defence against ebil vaccines is to get vaccines of your own.

@Chris Preston: Someone must have mentioned creationism, SeeNoevo has arrived to write more ignorance.

The questions themselves demonstrate that SeeNoevo didn’t read (or just as likely didn’t understand) the article.

(raises hand shamefully) That was me, since Vox Day falls into the same puddle of ignorance/religous fanaticism. Sorry. I forgot that word was a dog whistle to SN.

@Orac: now I’m really glad that today will be a 1/2 day…I can check on the Twitter feed mentioned when I get to my home computer. I appreciate a good laugh.

Can some Latin scholar tell us whether or not Vox Day’s nom-de-plume is meant as a homonym of the latin Vox Dei, which would be (I think) “Voice of God”?

If so, that would seem, uh … a little presumptuous.

I never had the grammar of my Latin graffiti corrected at swordpoint.

From what I understand, Vox Dei is, indeed, the inspiration for that dipshit’s nom de plume. Sigh.

Orac writes (#59),

They’ve drawn the attention of William Shatner.

@Orac,

As the Science Officer of the U.S.S. Respectful Insolence, do you put your phaser on stun, or attempt a mind meld, when approached by an anti-vaxxer?

Johanna — Thanks. And sorry for the double post — I’d posted last night but it looked to have been lost.

There can be only one Voice of God, and that was, of course, Don La Fontaine.

Incidentally, Lake Bell’s indie comedy “In a World” is pretty good.

A bit off topic but, I took my new kitten to the vet on Monday. She’s finally reached 5 pounds, the minimum weight at which my vet will vaccinate for rabies. Unlike vaccines for children, rabies vaccines (at least in my municipality) are compulsory. Do the anti-vaxxers object to vaccinating their pets? Or, are they not special enough?

Narad #48, Sarah A #49; Does the idea of mosquitoes as flying syringes seem untenable to you?

In a daring experiment in Europe, scientists used mosquitoes as flying needles to deliver a “vaccine” of live malaria parasites through their bites.

http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2009/07/30/flying-needles-mosquitoes-deliver-vaccine-through-bites

… mosquitoes to become what the scientists call “flying vaccinators.” … The Japanese group decided to add an antigen-a compound that triggers an immune response-to the mix of proteins in the insect’s saliva…

“The science is really beautiful,” says Jesus Valenzuela of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, who developed the SP15 vaccine.

http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2010/03/researchers-turn-mosquitoes-flying-vaccinators

^^The articles do mention ethical qualms. However, those can be put aside so long as the syringes only affect mammals, birds, amphibians, and fish.

Patented, genetically modified mosquitoes flying about injecting Common Good. What could possibly go wrong??

A holocaust need not be intentional, NumberWang #55 — Can it not be argued that vaccines will, if only very slowly, weed out those who do not tolerate them? We become monoculture without a comparison or fallback ‘control’. At least, you correctly identify ‘corporations’ as our ‘government’.

I grow evermore disillusioned that nobody has addressed my “completely aside from concerns of disease”; Would a compulsory vaccine to prevent drunk driving not fit in with your plans?

Would a compulsory vaccine to prevent drunk driving not fit in with your plans?

That would be a great idea as a condition for obtaining a driver’s licence. If you see a problem with that, then I’m afraid you don’t have a clear concept of rights and responsiblities.

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