Antivaxer Dr. Gary Kohls strikes back against Orac in The Duluth Reader

You might remember a couple of weeks ago my taking note of a new antivaxer in town, a retired quack named Dr. Gary Kohls. He writes a weekly column in a local free newspaper in Minnesota The Duluth Reader, in which he lays down a regular heaping helping of antivaccine pseudoscience, conspiracy mongering, and quackery, so much so that when I did a search for “vaccines” on the Reader’s website, the vast majority of the hits were articles by Dr. Kohls laden with his misinformation about vaccines. That’s the reason why I referred to The Duluth Reader as a wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery. After my not-so-subtle application of not-so-Respectful Insolence, apparently Dr. Kohls was not too pleased. So this week, the antivaccine empire strikes back, or, more accurately, a sad, pathetic antivaccine quack strikes back. I was so amused that I couldn’t resist mocking Dr. Kohls.

The first article was from a week ago and entitled Internet Trolls Attack Anyone Exposing the Pseudoscience of Big Vaccine’s Over-Vaccination Agenda. This so resembles the title of the previous post, the one that attacked me and misattributed quotes to me advocating dishonest tactics to undermine antivaccine activists, misattributions that the editor of The Duluth Reader refuses to correct or retract Dr. Gary Kohl’s lies about me. Yes, I didn’t call them lies before because I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he didn’t realize that these quotes that he attributed to me were in reality from a single commenter on this blog. No longer. He obviously read my posts about him, and I’ll let you in on a little secret. I emailed my rebuttals to him. He didn’t listen. He didn’t change the obvious misattribution. So I now conclude that he’s lying because the definition of a lie to knowingly ay something that isn’t true. Yes, Dr. Kohls is a liar, in my not-so-humble opinion.

So let’s get to his attempt to strike back. First, he begins with a bunch of quotes. One of these tropes he attributes to Socrates, “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” Hilariously, this is a fake quote. There is no evidence that Socrates ever said that. Indeed, has documented that there is no evidence of this quote has “no traceable history prior to” 2008. So, basically, Dr. Gary Kohls is ignorant and careless enough to recycle fake quotes. Here’s a hint to him: Google any quote that sounds too good (to you) to be true. You’ll save yourself a lot of embarrassment.

Of course, one quote that Dr. Gary Kohls cites is this one by Dr. Walter Hadween: “Majorities are never a proof of the truth.” It turns out that it’s Dr. Hadwen, not Hadween, and Dr. Hadwen was an antivaxer. Seriously, Dr. Gary Kohls is not only an antivaxer, but he’s incredibly sloppy. Based on his not having corrected his original post about me, he also appears not to care about accuracy or truth. I suppose his further quoting of a blogger on tells that tale about as well as anything can.

Hilariously scientifically unaware, Dr. Gary Kohls ignores the criticism of his previous parroting of the “vaccines didn’t save us gambit” and doubles down on it:

Graph from (double-board-certified internist and nephrologist) Dr Suzanne Humphries’ book, “Dissolving Illusions” showing that the US mortality rate for measles had already declined to near zero long before the introduction of a measles vaccine (1963). The improved mortality rates were due to improved nutrition, sanitation, safer drinking water, better quarantine procedures, less over-crowding, less poverty and the availability of refrigeration – and NOT vaccines! Similar mortality and incidence charts also show that there were great decreases in the rates of diphtheria, whooping cough, scarlet fever, etc, before there were vaccines for any of them (Note: there never was a vaccine for scarlet fever)

I mean, seriously. This is a particularly brain dead and intellectually dishonest antivaccine trope, as I’ve described more times than I can remember, and I described it as such in my first post about Dr. Kohls. This is a common antivaccine deception that completely ignores morbidity and suffering. Yes, mortality from measles was declining before the measles vaccine, thanks to better supportive care. You know what, though? The best way to prevent mortality due to measles is to prevent measles! So what does Dr. Kohls do? He doubles down on this particularly brain dead antivaccine trope!  And citing Dr. Suzanne Humphries? She’s about as antivaccine as antivaccine can be. She is not an “expert” about vaccinations on any way.

That’s not really what Dr. Gary Kohls is about, though. Here is what seems to really chap his posterior:

Predictably, every time you give the name of a contrarian doctor or scientist in response to the 99.9% figure, what you tend to get referred to internet troll sites such as ‘Science-Based Medicine’ or ‘Respectful Insolence’, or the “Skeptical Raptor”.

It’s funny, but Dr. Kohls says that as though it were a bad thing. As the primary purveyor of Insolence, either Respectful or not-so-Respectful, I’m glad that I’m annoying the hell out of antivaxers. I’m quite happy that he is incensed at the material having to do with vaccines that is published on my other blog and on the blog of my good online buddy, Skeptical Raptor.

Poor, poor, Dr. Kohls. He is so unhappy at having to endure science-based criticism of his antivaccine nonsense:

Should you wish to debunk someone, anyone, who dares to disagree with mainstream thinking on vaccines, all you need do is inform Orac or the Raptor, and either will gladly oblige by writing up a boorish piece, long on insult and short on science.

Funny, but Dr. Gary Kohls says this as though it were a bad thing. Well, not quite. Dr. Kohls is full of bovine feces when he claims our posts are “short on science.” In fact, he’s also exaggerating when he claims we’re “long on insult.” As many quacks do, Dr. Kohls misrepresents our posts as being “short on science” (they’re not) and “long on insult” (they’re also not, as criticism of what you write and what you do is not necessarily “insult” and it’s definitely not ad hominem.)

Dr. Gary Kohls, who used a false attribution of quotes to attack me as a troll looking to do nothing other than attack antivaxers, regardless of the actual truth of the matter. Yes, basically, I’m calling Dr. Kohls out as an antivaxer and a liar, because that’s what he is. A couple of quotes of mine in particular seem to irritate Dr. Kohls. First:

Orac took aim at a well-respected nephrologist, who left a successful private practice to speak out about the damage being done by doctors taking a narrow-minded, aggressive approach to vaccination of patients:

As someone who comes from a strong basic science background, having been a chemistry major (who graduated with honors–so, there!), I think I can see [her] problem. First, she seems unduly proud of her science background, wielding it like a talisman against charges that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about (which she doesn’t). Unfortunately, as those of us in medicine know, what you did 25 or more years ago in college has little bearing on what you can or can’t understand now.

Yes, I wrote that about Dr. Suzanne Humphries. Read the link, though. I wrote it in response to Dr. Humphries’ bragging about her college degree. No, I’m serious. Here’s what provoked my statement above:

I am a Medical Doctor with credentials in internal medicine and nephrology (kidneys). I received a bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics in 1987 from Rutgers University. I mention the college degree in case any doubtful readers question my mental prowess. One can doubt my intellectual ability less if they first realize that I know how to figure out difficult things. I know how to look at something in depth for many hours or days until I understand the inner workings of it. This is what I learned to do in college. In fact the strenuous mind-bending exercise that was part of the physics curriculum made medical school easy. I found the study of the human body, chemistry and biology to be in comparison quite shallow, simple and easy to comprehend.

Dr. Gary Kohls also omitted context. (I know, right?) Here’s the rest of my response to Dr. Humphries’ hubris:

I can also see a bit of arrogance there, too. Let’s put it this way. I took advanced physical chemistry, graduate level biochemistry, and upper level physics, but I didn’t find medical school easy at all. One reason was that medical school required a whole lot of memorization in addition to basic science. Unfortunately, having been used to learning general principles and then applying them to problems, I found the memorization required to be rather difficult. Another problem I encountered was that, unlike chemistry and biochemical assays, I had trouble dealing with the ambiguity of medicine, of synthesizing incomplete and sometimes ambiguous clinical information in the form of patient histories, physical examinations, lab values, and tests and then applying what I had learned about the science of medicine to them. “Shades of gray” would be a good term to describe it, and I was used to more black and white. It took a major change in mindset before I began to understand. That change in mindset wasn’t easy, and it didn’t take overnight. Dr. Humphries’ problem is that she sounds as though she never changed her mindset from physics to medicine–and is proud of it.

The point is not that I didn’t just attack Dr. Humphries. I spend a considerable amount of verbiage, as I am wont to do, deconstructing what she herself wrote and explaining why it was wrong, why what Dr. Humphries was spewing was antivaccine nonsense, and why what she wrote was evidence of the arrogance of ignorance. Not only that, but I did it by admitting difficulties I had transitioning from being a basic science major as an undergraduate to studying medicine in medical school.

Dr. Kohls was also righteously incensed by this passage in a post of mine:

And here is Orac having a go at a top notch molecular and cellular physiologist:

A real molecular biologist who did real research for various biotech and pharmaceutical companies, apparently competently, for 20 years, she suddenly embraced antivaccine pseudoscience, apparently based on her embrace of fundamentalist Catholicism.” “Catholicism appears to be what first led [her] to embrace her pseudoscientific hypothesis about fetal DNA in vaccines and autism, the tragic death of her child less than a month and a half ago is unlikely to do anything but cement in her mind the evils of vaccines made using fetal cell lines.

Notice the pattern. This is only a smattering of the handiwork of these two bloggers, but you begin to get the idea.

I was writing about Theresa Deisher. Notice how Dr. Kohls leaves out my lengthy deconstruction of her bad science demonizing vaccines and claiming that “fetal DNA” in vaccines causes autism and other health problems. As I explained in incredible detail, Deisher’s idea that fetal DNA gets into the brain and into neurons in appreciable quantities, recombines with host DNA, and expresses foreign antigens to provoke autoimmunity is incredibly implausible, and her evidence does not support it. Again, Dr. Kohls cherry-picks one statement, and it’s not even that “insolent.” It’s merely a statement of fact regarding why Theresa Deisher embraced antivaccine pseudoscience. In that post, I even included Deisher’s own evidence and described why it didn’t support her idea that fetal DNA in vaccines causes autoimmunity and autism.

In any case, Dr. Gary Kohls destroyed yet another of my irony meters. Note that he’s criticizing me for being a “troll” and launching ad hominem attacks. How did I first take notice of Dr. Kohls? He misattributed quotes to me in order to paint a picture of me as an Internet troll who advocated using dishonest tactics to make antivaxers look bad,. Even worse, when called out for that misattribution, what did Dr. Kohls do? Did he admit his error and correct his original post? Of course not! He ignored my requests to correct his article (as did his editor—The Duluth Reader is a wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery indeed). Then he attacked me and repeated Jake Crosby’s lie about my supposedly having a financial interest in Riluzole, the same lie he included in his original post, concluding:

But then, reason would dictate that Orac’s criticisms of individuals disagreeing with his views not be so personal and mean-spirited, because it’s always more effective in the long-run to present one’s case standing atop the moral high ground, instead of down in the gutter.

The collection of disparaging pieces by Orac and Raptor about anyone offering a different perspective about vaccination is so impressive in both volume and diversity it’s a wonder they have any time left for their day jobs. But rather than take umbrage, those at whom such vitriol is aimed should feel comforted by Socrates’ memorable adage,

“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”

Once again, according to, there is no evidence that Socrates ever said. It’s a fake quote whose provenance can’t be traced to earlier than 2008. So Dr. Gary Kohls is gullible enough to fall for fake quotes, too. That’s not a “slander” or an “ad hominem,” but rather a conclusion based on his using a fake quote. Again, Dr. Kohls, Google is your friend for these quotes. In any event, I cqn only answer Dr. Kohl’s attack on me as being about nothing but ad hominems with one word: Hypocrite. Yes, that’s what Dr. Kohls is, in my not-so-humble opinion. He views vitriol and ad hominem as perfectly acceptable when wielded by him, but draws himself up in fake outrage when criticism of antivaxers gets too heated.

Dr. Gary Kohls’ hypocrisy on this matter comes into particular focus if you examine his post from this week, Adam Schiff, the Persecution of Anti-Over-Vaccination Activists and the Nazi Book Burnings of 1933. Yes, the week after criticizing the Skeptical Raptor and myself for being too…vociferous…in our criticisms of antivaxers, Dr. Kohls plays the Nazi card and likens critics of antivaxers to Nazis, even going so far as to add, “Schiff has Apparently Forgotten the History of the Anti-Jewish Book-burnings in Nazi Germany that some of his Ancestors Surely Must Have Experienced.” His rhetoric is particularly over-the top. His basic thesis? Rep. Adam Schiff is in the pocket of big pharma, and his call to Facebook and other social media companies to make their platforms less friendly to antivaccine misinformation and pseudoscience is the equivalent of the book burnings, in which targeted books by Jewish authors and other authors that the Nazis deemed subversive, after Hitler took power.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Of course, the pharma shill gambit is one of the favorite ad hominem attacks used by antivaxers, as are over-the-top vitriolic attacks on their perceived enemies. Dr. Kohls did nothing more than engage in projection, and The Duluth Reader remains a wretched hive of scum and quackery.